"This has been a rewarding week or us. We have had some choice experiences as we have met with members and recent converts and have attended our District Conference. It is still hot and humid. It seems that every afternoon we get a rain-shower which cools us down about 10 degrees however the humidity goes from 80% to 100% and we just don’t seem to dry out. The country is very beautiful with the different plants and trees. On the road leading out of our subdivision is a small house. I noticed one day that there was a monkey in the tree in front of the house. As we looked closer we found that the residents have the monkey as a pet. The monkey is tied to the tree and there are usually people around the tree playing with the monkey. We haven’t been brave enough to stop yet. (This is just a random picture of a monkey that I found...I thought it added to the letter :))
We met with a number of families this week. One sister was so happy with our visit. We talked with her and her daughters. As we left she asked when we would come again. They love to have people visit them. As we leave the neighborhood kids flock around us. They ask our name and they will take our hand and press it to their forehead – this is the ‘papal blessing’. Since we are white and tall (and old) they show great respect to us. In the home we get the chairs to sit on while they sit on the floor. It really is a humbling experience.
This week we had our District Conference. Elder Sinamban, an Area Seventy, was our visitor.
The conference started with a combined Auxillary & Priesthod training by Elder Sinamban, then we divided into groups for specific leader training. I thought this was a very effective way of utilizing the visiting authority to teach as many people as possible in the short time he was here. The adult session was different – Elder Sinamban asked the congregation for questions that they had in their home, family or callings and he listed them on the board. He then assigned different leaders to answer these questions. He asked that I answer a question about how as leaders we should respond to criticism. It was fun and I think we all learned a lot from each other. We also had a ‘new member or recent convert’ meeting early Sunday morning with President Howard. The President asked if I would take some time to address the new members. That was an enjoyable experience.
The members love to sing. They sing loud and with great emotion. Sometimes the melody isn’t exactly correct but it is beautiful. In the Sunday General Session they had a District Choir sing. They had members of all ages in the choir. They also sang in Tagalog which is not very common. They normally sing in English. I thought it was very beautiful to hear them sing the hymns of Zion in their native tongue – there is something special about that. They also had the youth participate as choristers – a young woman led the opening hymn, an Aaronic Priesthood holder led one of the two rest hymns and a young 10 year-old primary girl led the entire congregation in the second rest hymn. I was very impressed and my heart was touched by this little girl. She looked like a little angel up there in front of everyone.
Sunday evening we drove to Manila for a missionary musical fireside. There were about 500 people in attendance including the missionaries. The missionaries did a great job as they sang and testified of the truths of the Gospel. They had the entire congregation stand and sing Praise to the Man. That was impressive because they all sang out with their loudest voices. There are very few reservations about singing the hymns. It sends chills down my spine.
We attended 2 baptismal services on Saturday. There were 2 young men baptized in the GMA Branch and a mother and her 2 daughters baptized in the Carmona Branch. We were delighted when they had those who were baptized share their testimonies with the members at the service. It was very nice to hear their humble testimonies. I can’t help but feel that the Lord has prepared this land and people for the gospel at this particular time. It is a real privilege to be here and be a part of this great work.
The Church in the Philippines will celebrate their 50 year anniversary in 2011. The church has grown from 1 member in 1961 to over 650 thousand today with 650 chapels and 2 temples. What a blessing.
I have decided that driving over here is more than a sport – it is just plain fun. I can’t believe that it works?! We were on our way to church yesterday morning and we stopped at a stop light to turn left and I looked across the street at the oncoming traffic – there were 7 lanes of cars, jeepneys, and tricycles that were facing us and they were all going to merge into 2 small lanes – it is remarkable that it works out. I am finding that tricycles and jeepneys can be my friends. If they are turning left all you have to do is stay in their shadow and you can turn safely behind them and not have to wait in line to turn – it’s like a big strategic game with lots and lots of moving pieces. The way they keep the travelling speed down is to place large humps in the road at various locations – you only have to hit one of those going fast once to remember to slow down.
We had the opportunity to taste a singkamas – a large brown turnip. Janene said that it tasted like jicama but a little lighter and sweeter. I thought that it tasted like leather – I’m sure that you could dry it and make rope out of it (that would make a nice scout project). We have tried a local squash that was really good. We also purchased some green beans but they were really tough – they are the old string beans we used to grow in the garden (they still had strings and they were very tough). They also grow a string bean that is about 3 feet long – we were told later that this longer string bean is much more tender and doesn’t have the string in it. So far my favorite is the grapefruit like fruit. It is really good but sweeter than and not as juicy as the grapefruit that we have in the states. The mangos are great unless you get one that is a little tart. For the most part the mangos are delicious – just like Kim and Chris said they would be.
Please take care and be happy. Things will all work out. Remember to stay close to the Lord and He will bless you in all aspects of your life."