Dear Family and Friends,
We are very excited that our internet service is working again. We lost service last Monday and the servicemen came on Saturday to fix the problem (sorry, but no letter from last week). Apparently the antennae needed to be lowered – I don’t understand the technical stuff but when they repaired the antennae about four months ago the antennae wasn’t high enough so they had to put an extension on it. Now they needed to lower it. Well, it works and that is a good thing. We are so thankful for the computer and the ability it gives us to see you and speak with you. I don’t know how the earlier senior couples managed without the computer. We are very blessed. The grandchildren are growing up so fast. We love to see them and love when they show us the things they have been doing. We were so delighted to see our little Nara have ice cream for the first time for her first birthday and we are excited that Noah will baptized in a few weeks. We miss you all so much.
We attended Zone Conference in Manila this week. We enjoy the opportunity to be with the Elders and Sisters and to be taught by the mission president. The quality of the missionaries is excellent. I love to watch them as they grow and mature in the gospel. We had several new missionaries attend their first zone conference. I remember being that ‘young’ and that ‘lost’ many years ago. Then I watch the Elders that are on their last transfer and see the growth that they have made. They are remarkable and it makes me want to do better and be better. These young missionaries will be tremendous blessing to their home wards. (Back row - Popoy, Shiver, Tao, Sis. Betts, Buzbee making a face, Richwine, Dad & Mom, Spiva, Duero. Front row - Ms. Tating, Ms ?, Sis. Tating, Sis. CaubalajoBugtai, Cobbley, Arquiola)
This has been a typical week. Nothing really exciting but very rewarding. We are still struggling to learn the language. We had a great meeting with the full-time Elders in our Branch. They have a big challenge. At this last transfer both Elders were transferred out of the area and 2 new Elders were transferred in. They call this ‘shot-gunning” We know exactly how they feel. They don’t know anyone, they don’t know the area or the investigators. So it is like opening a new area for the first time. We met with them and told them what little we knew about the area and the members. Elder Arquiola (R key o la) has shot-gunned three different areas. That should give you an idea of the quality of this young man. He is a remarkable Elder. So we coordinated our visits with them and hope that we can help them out somehow.
We had some excellent visits this week. On one visit, we met a family where the father is widowed with 4 children. His mother passed away about 2 years ago and within a month after that his wife passed away from cancer leaving him with 4 children. He was happy to see us. He had just lost his job also and was struggling with life. The positive thing is that 3 of the 4 children are eligible for baptism. So we hope that as the children are taught he will remember the feelings he had about the gospel when he was baptized and this will help him with the challenges of life. We also met with another Sister. It was an adventure to get to her house as we went down into a ravine-like area. It was raining and we were wondering if there would be a way back out. We survived just fine. This sister also has a daughter that has not been baptized and her husband is a good potential investigator. So maybe we have 5 new investigators for the Elders.
We have also started to work on a Family History project with the members of the Branch. Since 2011 is the 50th Anniversary of the Church in the Philippines, we wanted each of the members to record their conversion story. We will type the stories and attach a family picture to the story and give one copy to the family and we will keep one copy to present to the Branch President. This will be a big project but we feel that it will have a big impact on the spirituality of the Branch. We told the Branch President about the idea and asked for his approval to do it. He was excited and started telling us right then about his conversion to the church. It is always good to remember and reflect on those types of events.
We were also pleased to find out that 8 of the 9 individuals that attended the Temple Preparation class will have their interview with President Howard Wednesday evening. We are excited. The Branch President also asked if I would be able to do some training for him and his counselors. I was delighted with his request. I reviewed the duties and responsibilities of a Bishop/Branch President and divided it into 4 separate discussions (Presiding High Priest, President of the Aaronic Priesthood, Common Judge and Welfare/Unit Finances) and have made a Power-point presentation for each topic. I have been able to give the first 2 training sessions on the past 2 Sundays and the training has gone extremely well. If this works well, I will approach the District President and see if he would like me to present this training to all of the Branch Presidents. I have been somewhat surprised at what they don’t know due to their lack of experience. We take a lot for granted because we have ‘grown up’ in the church. It reminded me of the challenge Elder Porter gave me when he set me apart as a Stake President – he counseled me to just keep teaching the basics.
Our Branch now meets at 1:30 in the afternoon, so in addition to our regular meetings with our Branch, we have been visiting the other 4 branches and attending their block meetings in the morning. This has been a fun experience. They are so excited to see us and they always ask us if we have been assigned to their branch. They all want senior couples in their branch. Sometimes I ask myself ‘why’ but then it becomes clear as we attend the branches. Yesterday I attended one of the most ‘spirited’ priesthood meetings ever. We were discussing the Sacrament and everyone seemed to have something to share. With each comment the members would stand up and say his opinion and they would get louder and louder as they went on. They would then turn to me and ask me what I thought and would I please comment. Fortunately I was able to understand most of what they were talking about so I could give my response. They were so respectful, eager to learn and willing to be taught. I would love to have Priesthood meetings like that at home. I asked mom if she could hear us (we were downstairs and the RS was upstairs) and she said that the Relief Society sisters were so loud that she wondered if we could hear them in our meeting. These people are wonderful.We also attended the Saturday session of District Conference in Naic this past Saturday. Elder Teh (Tay) from the Second Quorum of the Seventy was the visiting authority. President Howard likes to have all of the senior couples attend the Saturday evening session of the District Conferences. He likes to use the senior couples to train the members so he asks us to be ready to speak at any time. They are good training sessions. Elder Teh gave the members some excellent counsel about scripture study. It was a good reminder and excellent counsel for everyone. After the meeting he came and talked with us for about 10 minutes. He thanked us for what we are doing for the members and the Church. Sometimes I don’t feel that we are doing enough.
The weather is delightfully cool. The wind has been very strong over the past 3 days. I understand that a bad storm has hit the southern part of the Island and many have lost their life and many more have lost their homes. We have rain and wind but not much else. The temperature is cool enough at night that we have not used the air conditioner for almost a month. This is nice. The humidity is still very high but the temperature is nice.
Well, that about sums up the week. Nothing terribly exciting but it has been a rewarding week. The pace of the work of the gospel here is incredible. President Howard shared with us some statistics about all of the missions in the Philippines and South East Asia area. The Manila mission leads in every category and sometimes the work is 4 times what other missions are doing. The mission had 229 baptisms in the month of December. It is incredible and breath-taking to be a part of this work. It reminds me of the last verse of DC Section 123. The Lord tells the Brethren to cheerfully do the work that is within their power and then stand back and watch the arm of the Lord. It is truly happening here. The missionaries are happy and we can see the arm of the Lord. We hope that all is going well with you. We hope that the Lord is blessing you with health, prosperity and gratitude. We love you all. So, as always, remember to DO good, BE good and BE men and women of Christ. Always remember to say your prayers. It is ture!
Mom and Dad, Grandma and Grandpa, Grant and Janene