We have been blessed this past week. As you know from previous letters, Sister Howard has been very, very sick and was scheduled to be medically evacuated (med-evac) back to the US on Tuesday or Wednesday but her kidneys shut down and she was placed on renal dialysis. Her condition became so serious that she was not stable enough to be moved. The whole mission intensified their prayers but she seemed to be getting worse. Our most recent update came last evening (Easter Sunday) and President said that she was now responding to him. Her fever is going down and her white blood count is getting better. The physicians seem to think she has pneumonia along with acute respiratory distress syndrome. President Howard said that it was a good Easter. We continue to pray for her and know that everything is in the Lord’s hands but we are happy to see some improvement.
We were able to take the Cagas family to the temple on Thursday. We all had a great time. They are a wonderful family and we are delighted to see their enthusiasm for the Temple. Last week we had met Sister Cagas’s younger brother and sister. We found out that her father, 3 brothers and her sister are staying with them and would like to move here. They would like to build a room on top of their home so they can stay here. We both had to laugh since now they went from a family of 5 to a family 10 and they are all staying in one small home. We asked Sister Cagas where does everyone sleep - she laughed and said all over the floor (their one room house is just slightly larger than our garden shed in the back of our home). They are a remarkable people and they are very family oriented. Sister Cagas said that her goal is to have her whole family be baptized within the next few months. The missionaries have already started teaching them. The father isn’t very interested but the kids love the gospel. The missionaries told us that Brother Cagas would stop the discussions and explain to the kids that this is really important and they need to pay close attention to these things. He would also bear his testimony about how he came to know the truth of the gospel. The missionaries said they were there just to tell them the facts and then Brother and Sister Cagas supplied all the rest. We can see that the Lord is preparing them for some important things in this area.Well, this has been Holy Week and has been a ‘different’ week than we have experienced before. This has been a very quiet week. With school out for the 2 month summer break, many families have gone to the Provinces to spend Easter with family. Sunday was Palm Sunday and we were fascinated to see the street vendors making reeds and palms for the Sunday celebration. I think that next year we will buy some of the reeds and palms because they really are unique. Many of the small shops have been closed and so the relative quiet has been very nice for a change. Thursday was Good Thursday – I’ve never heard of that holiday? Of course Friday was Good Friday and everything was closed. We went to the large mall to the grocery store Wednesday and it was so busy that we just put our items back on the shelf and came home but we were curious that the stores had signs that said they were closed on Good Thursday and Good Friday but would be open on Saturday and Easter Sunday – that one was a little difficult to understand. :) We met with a less active member a couple of times this last week –she wanted to know if the Church did anything for Holy Week. We said that most activities were done as families but that we would have a special Easter program on Sunday. She kept saying to us that “in the Catholic Church we do this and this…” After several times that she said this, mom leaned over and gently touched her knee and said, “But you’re not a Catholic anymore are you?” She said that she wasn’t but that it was fun to walk in the procession with the priest and she liked to do that. She then began to tell us about the procession on Good Friday even down to the men that would ‘scourge’ themselves as they walked.
Saturday was our National Day of Service in the Philippines. This is in conjunction with the Church’s Jubilee celebration this week. Each Branch was asked to provide 500 hours of service to the community. We picked up trash on one of the streets in the city of Bulihan. We had a good time. We had about 25 people come to the service project and that is good for our branch. We were cleaning the area in front of one of the small stores and I made sure that I would at least say good morning to everyone that walked by. Most of the kids want to know what my name is – I would answer ‘Joe’. It kind of shocked them that I would call myself Joe because they think it is funny to make fun of Americans by calling them Joe. Well, one of the owners of this little store was so grateful that we were cleaning up the street area in front of her store that she gave our little group a cold drink. The drink looked like root beer and had a vanilla scent. I looked at one of the members and said what is this? They smiled and said it was ok to drink. I asked again, “What is this?” They assured me it was ok and it was vanilla flavored. I smelled it and tasted a little of it – it wasn’t bad and it was cold. So I drank it. After I finished the drink the members told me that I had just drunk a Philippine drink called gulaman (it is a drink made with water and seaweed gelatin and is flavored heavily with vanilla). It wasn’t too bad but I don’t think that I will knowingly have another one. :) (FYI- dad wants us to know that in the picture above, he is the big white guy in the middle front!)
That about sums up this week. We are enjoying the work. There is certainly much to do. The Lord has blessed us and we are grateful for His love and many tender mercies that he shows to us. We will have all of the missionaries at the apartment tonight for our monthly Family Home Evening. We always look forward to them coming into our home. We have 2 elders that will be going home next Tuesday. There always will be changes. We have some wonderful missionaries here and we love each one of them. We hope that each of you are enjoying good health and that you are happy. We love you and pray constantly for you. Thank you again for your love and support. We miss each of you. We love you and thank you for your goodness and kindness. Please know that we are thinking of you. As always, BE good, DO good, and BE men and women of Christ and ALWAYS remember to say your prayers.
Love,Mom and Dad, Grandma and Grandpa, Janene and Grant