Today is a national holiday in the Philippines. Instead of waking up early this morning to the usual Monday morning hustle our neighborhood is very, very quiet. Today is All Saints Day. This is a holiday similar to Memorial Day. The Philippine people don’t celebrate Halloween but they do celebrate All Saints Day. Today the families will go to the cemeteries and pay tribute to their ancestors then have a big party/picnic (from what I understand the picnic is in the cemetery). They will then have a fireworks display this evening. I hope that the rain will stop long enough for the party!
Last Monday was also a local holiday due to the local elections. The elections were somewhat interesting. There was a complete alcohol ban from Saturday through 3:00 Monday afternoon. I assume the ban was started to maintain order but I somehow think it was started to avoid any unfair influence by any of the candidates. The candidates hire trikes an Jeepneys to carry political ads and they would have parades in the streets with very loud music and lots of balloons. That made traffic even more enjoyable. But my favorite campaign tactic is when the candidates would have cars and jeepneys equipped with big speakers drive through the neighborhoods at all hours and play loud music and campaign ads. So goes a democracy. It has been a fun and enlightening experience.
Last Monday night we had the first monthly Family Home Evening with the missionaries from our zone. It was good to have them in our home. We fixed a lot of sweet pork, Just phil (fruit salad), and rice and by the looks of what was left over they really enjoyed the dinner. Mom taught a great lesson on adversity and then we just sat around and talked. They would have stayed forever. I brought out the ice cream and toppings and they devoured the 5 quart ice cream bucket in minutes. One of our Zone Leaders texted us later that night and told us that he loved us. The missionaries are so fun because almost all of them have asked us very politely, “So what do you do every day?” And, “what do you eat if the members don’t feed you?” We answer that we try to follow the same morning schedule of studying and preparation that they follow and then we work with less active members and recent converts and yes we have to cook for ourselves (but sometimes we don’t feel like cooking and we just have cold cereal). The cold cereal comment usually brings looks of wishful thinking from the American elders. They think we are so lucky to have cold cereal anytime we would like it but of course they don’t realize that cold cereal consists of a choice between Cheerios, Mini-shredded wheat, Sugar frosted flakes or some type of Coco-Puff cereal (Milo). I found some Australian granola when we first arrived – I’m still eating out of that carton (believe me a little goes a long, long way). We have been blessed with some really great missionaries here, particularly in our zone. We were blessed to have had 16 baptisms in the zone in October. (Picture names; back: Elders Stirland,Spiva,Shiver,Montierth,Harris,Buzbee, Webb
front; DelaCruz, Condeza, Bergonia, Santillan, Popoy)
On Sunday morning the Branch Mission Leader came into the baptismal service and began passing out the programs. When he came to me he paused and said, “Elder can I talk to you for a minute?” My name was on the program as the speaker. He forgot to ask me earlier – such is life in the Philippines. The same thing happened the night before – we walked into the baptism and one of the elders asked if I knew that I would be speaking at the baptism (they had seen my name on the program). Well I was taught as a member of a High Council that I should always have 2 or 3 talks prepared to give at any moment. So far it has worked.
The Philippines is a great land. When I think that this island is probably the only Christian nation in the Asia area, I can’t help but think that the Lord has some great plans for this people. I am surprised almost daily at the faith of this people. I often see buses with big signs on them about God and most jeepneys have some quote on them from the Bible or a large sign on the rear bumper that says ‘God is good’. You would never see this in the US. That type of advertising has been banned as unconstitutional. Here it is so very common. Elder Cook said that this land would be a beacon for the Asia areas and I believe him. We are very fortunate to have 3 sister missionaries in our mission from Afghanistan and 2 from India. Never thought I’d see that but the church is definitely a worldwide church. Sunday we taught our first Temple Preparation class. We have 7 people attending. I think all of them will make it to the temple. They are good people.
Tomorrow we will be going into the Temple with the youth to do baptisms. That will be a fun experience – we have some really great youth in the branch. Ever since we started taking pictures at the activities and then putting the pictures on a poster board so everyone can see them, (they love to have their pictures taken) the youth love to come up to shake our hands. And I always hold onto their hand until they look me in the eye and smile at me. I really love to go to the primary children shake their hands. These kids are so cute.
We are doing well. We are happy and healthy. The work is going well. Maybe the Tagalog language will kick in pretty quick! The weather has cooled a bit – temperatures have been consistently around 85 and it has rained almost every day for the past 2 weeks. The locals are wearing jackets because it is cold and they don’t want to get sick. I think it feels wonderful. We found out that there will be another 2 senior couples coming to our mission.
(picture; rain outside their window)
We hope that this letter finds all of you healthy and happy. Remember that the promised land is where each of us are – the promises of God are yours no matter where you are. Thank you Zelma, for teaching us to ‘bloom wherever we are planted’. We love you all. Please take care and write soon. Be good, Do good, and be men and women of Christ.