Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Week 25

March 6, 2011

Dear Family and Friends,

When we saw this comic it just said Philippines and bugs to us. Most of the time we never know what is crawling on us and the thought just makes you want to scratch all over. Last night as we were reading scriptures we found that we had numerous little friends all around us so we searched for their entry. We found it and then sprayed the ‘heck’ out of them. Great plan till we realized that we were in the bedroom and so going to sleep was quite difficult. After saying prayers and coughing through most of the prayer, we both hoped that we would see each other again in the morning. Good news, the bugs are gone and we are still here! We know that the Lord will protect us but we sometimes wonder who will protect us from ourselves. We will look back on this and just laugh for a long time.

Greetings once again from Greenwood Heights in Dasmarinas, Philippines. We are doing well and enjoying the work. As we look back on this week it has been just one of those ordinary weeks. One of the blessings we had this week was to visit a recent convert and begin to help her with her Family History. This was a good experience for both of us. We were fortunate to have the full-time missionaries with us to help us with the translation part. We will go back again this week to see how she is doing. One of the problems that we encounter is that many Filipinos don’t know their father and even fewer know their grandparents because the life expectancy is not as long as in the United States. Many die in their 50’s while their children are still young so when the children grow up they have very little recollection of their parents and grandparents. It is a sweet experience as they first begin because they often say they don’t know anything and then as they continue they begin to remember ‘little’ things and we can see them catch the spirit of the work. There is so much more to do here. A funny thing happened while we were at this member’s house. Mom was sitting at the table with the member and one of the missionaries was leaning over watching them write down the information. Something dropped from the ceiling and landed on mom’s hand. She quickly shook it off and one of the Elders saw her do this. He asked her if she knew what it was – it was gecko poop! So mom can now say that while she was in the mission field she had to endure all kinds of crap! We had a good laugh about this one.

We have a Family History training session on Saturday March 26 for the Branch Presidents and Branch Family History Consultants. We will be working with another couple from the Family History Center in Manila. We hope this will help to kick-start the Family History work in the District. Our branch is doing well. We are focusing our efforts even more now on finding the lost ones and helping them return to the fold. The retention rate is really pretty good here but there are still those who sometimes fall through the crack. These people face a whole different set of challenges with their activity than we do. Many are far enough away that they can’t afford the trike fare to and from church – sometimes the decision is do I buy rice for this week or use that money for the travel cost to church. We have found however that the situation may be different but the problem is the same no matter where they are – can we trust in His promises. That is a difficult thing to teach them. We encourage them to trust in the Lord and we pray that they will do what is best for themselves and their family. They are a remarkable people.

We thank all of you for your love, support and prayers. We couldn’t do this without you. Thank you for your letters. We hope that you are all doing well are healthy. We understand that the ‘flu’ bug has hit almost everyone now – we do hope that you are getting better and felling well. Happy Birthday again to Grandma Zelma. We love you. As always, BE good, DO good and be men and women of Christ – and always remember to say your prayers.


Mom and Dad, Grandma and Grandpa, Janene and Grant

Week 24

February 28, 2011

Monday’s Family Home Evening was a riot. In the afternoon we receive a text message from one set of Elders asking if they could bring the teaching assistants with them to FHE since they were in the area working with them Monday. We said they were always welcome. Janene decided she would make some Curry Chicken in addition to the turkey we had planned. It was a good thing that we did since we had a final tally of 21 people for FHE all packed in this tiny little apartment. We had fun but it was a little tight. We used a free download of a Jeopardy game from the internet and we played Jeopardy for our activity. We made up questions for 4 categories, Church Trivia, Prophets, Book of Mormon and Preach My Gospel. From the comments, we think they had fun. One of the assistants did his best to eat as much of the mashed potatoes as he could (4 helpings). We thought it would be good to teach them about the priesthood and priesthood keys for our lesson. We both thought that since many of the Filipinos would be going back to a small branch they would need this type of information because they will be leaders of their branches. It was a very spiritual time. We have been blessed to have these young men and sisters in our lives.

Wednesday morning was quite an experience in the palangke (open market). It was fun and exciting but very crowded. There is a ‘wet’ market (fish and meat) and a ‘dry’ market (fruits, vegetables and other dry goods). There were a lot of rice dealers there. Sister Briones taught us how to pick out the fresh vegetables and the best fruits. She showed us how to find a fresh pineapple. It was a fun learning experience.

We thought it was fun to watch a gentleman make lumpia (egg roll) wrappers. We bought some potatoes, bananas (you have to cook these bananas), lumpia wrappers, petchay (looks like small bok choy), pineapple, carrots and some kalamansi (a small citrus-like fruit about the size of a big marble). This was a neat experience. There were so many people in one little place. It is an entirely different way of life – the people usually buy only that day’s food since they don’t have space to store the food or a refrigerator to keep the food cool, or the money to purchase more. While we were there several people came up to us and asked us for money to buy food.

We had a great Zone Conference on Thursday. We enjoy meeting with the Elders and Sisters and participate in their training. The Assistants to the President showed clips from the movie, Remember the Titans. It was an effective motivational tool for the conference. President Howard begins each Conference by asking the missionaries if they would like to share a spiritual experience with the group. The experiences vary from finding investigators to teaching investigators to just personal experiences. He is trying to teach them to recognize the Lord’s hand in their lives. We love to hear these experiences. Sister Howard wanted to give each of the missionaries a small Valentine treat so she gave each missionary a Valentine cookie and a small Valentine. When we arrived at the mission home on Wednesday evening she gave the senior couples a stack of Valentines and asked if we would finish them for the next day’s zone conference. The sisters made the Valentines and the brethren were to write something in the card. Needless to say the men were creative. My messages were very generic but one of the seniors wrote some funny things such as: Even your pimples are cute, When the UFO’s come to take away all of the ugly people they won’t take you, Look me up in 2 years, Your voice is sweeter than a Philippine bull frog, and many more. We had a good time that evening. The next morning at Zone Conference Sister Howard explained to the missionaries to not take the Valentines seriously it is just for your fun. She did, however, ask if anyone wanted to share their Valentine message – only 2 missionaries wanted to share the message. They all had a good time.

Saturday we attended three separate baptismal services. A total of 12 individuals were baptized in our Zone. The San Gabriel Branch had 9 baptisms. The Branch President said that there were 16 scheduled for baptism but they postponed 7 until March. Our Elder Bugtai (he is the missionary with Cerebral Palsy) performed one of the baptisms. He was so excited. The baptism started late because they filled the font full so he would not have to get the person way down into the water to immerse him. After a little confusion in the font about which arm to raise and which direction to face, he was like a different person as he said the prayer and performed the baptism. As they were coming out of the font Elder Bugtai turned to the congregation and smiled and waved to everyone (back to his old self). He is delightful. We attended the Sacrament meeting on Sunday to witness the confirmation of the 9 new members. The Branch Presidency had everything planned out well. They had the Branch business, the confirmations, the Sacrament and 3 speakers including a rest hymn and they ran over time by 10 minutes. We were impressed – both mom and I said to ourselves that this Branch President is a Stake President in training. He is a great man. Also Sunday evening we were blessed to go to Manila to a member fireside where Elder Teh of the 70 and Brother Gibson 1st Counselor of the General Presidency of the Young Men spoke. The chapel was packed to overflowing. But we were able to ask Elder Teh if we could sit in the Choir seats – soft chairs! The fireside was wonderful and we continue to be so impressed with Elder Teh.

The work continues to go forth at a wonderful pace. The Philippine people are hungry for the gospel. We enjoy being with the saints and listening to their testimonies. They love to sing and we love to listen to them sing the hymns with excitement. We are blessed to be here. We are doing well. No new bites or stings so far. We love you all and pray for each of you. Thank you for love, prayers and support. Thank you for your letters. We miss the grandchildren and wish we could be with them. Please give each of them a big hug and a kiss from us. Hope that you are all doing well. We pray for your happiness and success. And I can’t forget, BE good, DO good and be men and women of Christ. And always remember to say your prayers.


Mom and Dad, Grandma and Grandpa, Janene and Grant

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Week 23

February 21, 2011

Magandang umaga po (Good morning),

This past week has gone by so quickly. Tonight we will have our monthly Family Home Evening with the missionaries and then Zone Conference on Thursday. Our time is broken into 6 week increments to coincide with the missionary transfer schedule and the time between transfers seems to get shorter and shorter. The weather is warming up again and we are headed into the dry season starting in about 2 weeks. My mind wants to believe that winter is now over and spring should be coming but the grasses and fields are turning brown like summer is now over. It will be interesting to see how the dry and rainy season work out here. I am wondering if they will plant after the dry season. This is all new and exciting to us. This is a beautiful country.

Most of our week was spent on trips to Manila as we welcomed a new senior missionary couple into the mission. We spent most of Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday in orienting the Spencers. The Spencer’s are from Oregon and will be a great blessing to our area. Sister Spencer was born in Naic just 30km away from us. She left with her family when she was 18 years old and has not been back to the Philippines until now. The people will love her. The Spencer’s live just a short distance from us in our subdivision. They have been assigned to maintain the missionaries’ apartments. That will be a big job. It’s nice to have them close by.

We are excited that Sister Briones (our tutor) is taking us to the palenke (open air market) on Wednesday morning. She has been teaching us about the Philippine foods and customs as part of our tutoring sessions. This will be a fun experience for us. We want to learn how to cook the various vegetables that we see in the markets. The people are so good to us.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to speak in the Carmona Branch. I was determined to do this in the Tagalog language but it didn’t happen the way I wanted. The meeting started late and there were three speakers (including a High Councilor) on the agenda so I began in Tagalog but realized that it was so slow that about half-way into my talk I had to speak in English. That only left the High Council speaker 15 minutes. I apologized to him for taking his time. The people were very kind. Br Jun told me that my Tagalog was very good. Maybe there is hope for me.

We were excited to see that Sister Cagas spoke in our Branch on Sunday. She did very well. She was very nervous but her smile told us that she was proud that she could do this. She shared her testimony about how grateful she was that she could go to the temple. After the meeting she told me that this was her first talk in church. The light in their eyes is just wonderful. The temple has been a great blessing to them. Their little children will wave to us now. It is really sweet. We are hoping that we will have another Temple Prep class starting again soon.

As you know, we gave the van to the Spencers since they will be doing all of the apartment checks and maintenance. We now have a small Toyota Corolla. I told the office elders that I could only get 8 people in the new car – they laughed (I was half-serious). We took the van to the local Shell station to have the oil changed so the Spencers wouldn’t have to worry about that. They also washed the car for free since we also had an oil change. We have never seen anyone wash a car like this before. They raised the car on a lift and rinsed the under carriage and then hand washed the under carriage of the car with a small sponge. They washed the inside of the doors and all of the windows inside and out. It took a long time but that was the cleanest that car has ever been. Regular price for the car wash is 180 pesos ($3.50). We probably made their day when we gave them a tip that was probably the equivalent of their entire days salary. It was worth it to see their faces light up when we told them they did such a good job on the van. They were very friendly also since I tried to speak in Tagalog to them and they saw that I had a Tagalog grammar book with me to read as they worked on the car. We were able to give a Book of Mormon to one of the gas station attendants the next day. We don’t remember if we told you about the gas stations over here but you do not pump your own gas. As you drive into the station the attendant directs you to the pump and then checks the oil and water and washes the windshield as the gas is pumped. It is full service like the good old days. We always make sure that we tip them because of their excellent service. I don’t know if that is good or bad but we appreciate the service and who knows that maybe we have helped them put food on their table that night. We are still amazed at how they survive on so little.

This next week is looking to be a busy week. The missionaries have projected 13 baptisms for Saturday. We have Zone Conference on Thursday and a trip to Trece Martires to help the Elders with a marriage license and birth certificate. This along with all of the routine things will make for a busy week. We love this work. It is very fulfilling and rewarding. We love you all. We pray for you each day. Thank you again and again for your prayers and love. Thanks to all the grandchildren for the Valentines. We love them. Please take care. Remember to DO good, BE good and be men and women of Christ. And always remember to say your prayers.


Mom and Dad, Grandma and Grandpa, Grant and Janene

Week 21

February 14, 2011

Dear Family and Friends,

HAPPY VALENTINES DAY! We love you all and pray for your well being and happiness each day. Hope this letter finds you warm, safe and happy. This last week has been a most remarkable week for us. We had 14 missionaries complete their missions this week and on Tuesday, we were able to attend the temple with them and participate in their ‘going home’ testimony meeting. If all the young men and young women could just be at this testimony meeting and see these young missionaries as they have completed their mission, I think every Aaronic Priesthood holder would have no doubts about serving a mission. This mission has been blessed with very good missionaries. It is hard to say goodbye to many of them knowing that we will likely never hear from them again. Our Elder from Fiji stuck like glue to my side during most of the evening and I don’t remember being hugged quite that hard before. We will miss him.

Our branch planned a temple day for Saturday February 12th. We had 7 members that were going to the temple to receive their endowment. I asked one of the families (the Cagas family, pictured below) if they were still planning on going to the Temple and the sister said that there were some problems. My heart sank to my feet as I heard this. Her work would not give her time off so she asked if I could go and speak to her supervisor to obtain permission for her absence from work. Since I was from the Church (and I’m big and white) she hoped that I would have more influence. I agreed to go with her on Thursday morning to meet with her boss. I then asked if her boss understood English. She replied; “I don’t know. She is from Korea.” OK, so now the Cagas family’s ability to go to the Temple depends on my ability to speak Tagalog to a Korean – how will this work out? I went home and prayed for help and I prayed even more that I would know what to say and how to say it. This sister came very close to losing her job because two of their children have been in the hospital over the past 2 weeks – the baby had pneumonia and another child was sick with Dengue fever. They have had a full plate since they decided to go to the Temple. Well, on Thursday morning I asked the Elders in our branch to come with me to visit this family. I wanted to talk with them some more about the Temple experience so they would be a little better prepared. I must admit that I still had doubts about them being able to go on Saturday. We had a very good visit and the Spirit was so sweet in their little home. I asked them if they remembered the time in class that I talked about the opposition they would encounter once they decided to go to the temple. They said they remembered well – I looked at them and said, “You have had your share of opposition haven’t you?” Both began to cry. I told them I wished this would be the end of the opposition but it probably would not be the end. I thanked them for choosing to do what is right and read to them from the Doctrine & Covenants that the Lord chastens those whom He loves. When the opposition came they chose to stay close to the Lord. They are such good people. Of all those who went to the temple with us, this family probably experienced more opposition than anyone, as much as I have ever seen in my lifetime. At the end of our visit, the sister told me that we didn’t need to talk with her boss (I automatically thought that she had been fired because she had taken so many sick days already) because her supervisor changed her to the evening schedule for the next 2 weeks so she could get the kids healthy again. O me of little faith! But, I was ready to talk with her boss. I had memorized some things to say but I’m so glad that the Lord answered our prayers in His way. (Bautista family on temple day- doing family group sheets)

Friday we were back in Manila for a Sisters conference. Sister Howard held a half-day conference for all the sister missionaries in the mission.

Mom and Sister Peterson helped Sister Howard with the conference. (Pictured above, Sisters making Valentine cards for all the missionaries. Pictured on the left, making valentine cookies) I thought that it was a good idea and I know that the sisters enjoyed the time together. We drove our van to the conference so we could take the 2 sisters from our zone, the 2 from Naic zone and Elder and Sister Peterson (we had 8 people in the van). On the way back home we stopped at KFC (yes that’s Kentucky Fried Chicken Philippine style – served with rice). Some of our sisters had never been to KFC (3 of the sisters are Filipino and 1 is from India). While they were eating I went next door and bought CinnaBons for everyone. We laughed as they ate the Cinnabon. None of them had ever had a Cinnabon before. They loved them. The rest of the ride home was interesting since they were all high on sugar.

May I tell you about Saturday’s “Temple trip”? We had to be at the temple by 9:00am. We all met at the local Jollibee (it’s a fast food joint like McDonalds) at 6:00am. We were scheduled for the 11:00pm session and 1:00 sealing session. (PICTURED TO THE RIGHT, SEALING DAY SNACK OF RICE CAKES) I was pleased that they had translation equipment for the members. About 1/3 of the way into the session, Richard turned to me and said that his headphones were not working. I told him we would stop and get another set, but he looked at me and said it was Ok because he understood. I knew we would be alright from then on. I don’t have the words to describe the sealing session. I would have given anything to have recorded the expressions on the faces of Brother and Sister Cagas as the children were brought into the room. Their little boy, Gerard, walked over to the altar and kneeled down and seeing his mom and dad holding hands, he placed his hand on top of their hands. The other two children (Angela pictured on the right) were so good as they performed the ceremony. The little baby, Precious, (she is the one with Down’s syndrome) was just gurgling and was very happy to be in the temple. Normally she is very quiet but today she was singing. As they had the family stand and look in the mirrors the little boy was fascinated with the mirrors. He loved looking at himself and would rub his hand up and down his white outfit. As we arrived home Saturday night we took the Cagas family to their home. I helped the kids out of the car and Richard took my hand and said, “Thank you Elder. If not for you I not be endowed.” We really didn’t do that much for them but I am so very grateful that we could be here for them. I watched them as they walked up the alley to their little home

Here was a family that was truly happy. They don’t have very much at all, but they have each other forever. Isn’t this gospel the greatest thing ever?

Late last night we received a call from the office elders and we were told that a new senior couple will be arriving on Tuesday. Their flight plans had been changed so they are arriving a week earlier. We will be helping them. (Elder and Sister Spencer)

We hope that you are all doing well. We love you all. Thanks for your letters, love and support. We love this work. We miss all of you but we have found great satisfaction in this work. We love to read the Book of Mormon together. This is a great work. We hope that the kids are enjoying their school work. All of you will be awesome missionaries one day. Keep working hard and be good. We love you. Take care and write when you have time. As always, remember to BE good, DO good and BE a man or woman of Christ. And, remember to always say your prayers.


Mom and Dad, Grandma and Grandpa, Grant and Janene