Dear Family and Friends,
Another week has gone by so quickly. It has been an interesting week with some new and fun experiences. The rain continues to pour down from heaven. This is just so much rain that it is almost unbelievable. We were to begin our Temple Preparation class this week but no one came at the appointed time – not even a member of the Branch Presidency. Our appointment with one of our families in our old area was not home when we visited. But, we had our first Zone Conference with President and Sister Stucki. The Zone Conferences are now held in a chapel that is most centrally located to the zones and the President comes out to the zones rather than the missionaries going into the Mission Home in Manila. It is a change but it will be good for all of us. The Zone Conference was wonderful and a very spiritual experience.
We went to Manila this week to meet with the Area Office to learn about building a new chapel for the Maragondon Branch. They already purchased land for a new chapel but it isn’t located in a convenient area for the members in Maragondon. The Maragondon Branch is divided by a river and the best way to cross the river is over a suspension bridge. The new chapel is not that far in distance but in order to get to the chapel a number of members will have to go around the river to Ternate City and cross there.
That will cost way too much money so they probably won’t come to church. They are asking for an exception and to have the Church built on another plot of land that allows the members across the river to use the expansion bridge and walk to church. We learned a lot more from the building/facilities division about buildings and qualifying for buildings. Right now we will have to plot all of the members on a map and also calculate the travel costs for the members to the current site and the proposed site. Fun, huh? I came away from our meeting with the facility director with the feeling that a new building is not what they need. They need a new meeting place now that will give them room to grow and when the strength is there in a few years they should build a new building. I know that is not the answer they want to hear but after all the number crunching is done I don’t think that the numbers will support a new building at this time. We’ll see how it all turns out and I’m sure that it will be a test of the member’s faith.
Thursday we worked with our Elders again to visit members and investigators in our branch. We had a great time. The mission has a new goal that each missionary companionship receive and contact 10 referrals each week. After 4 or 5 really good visits one of the Elders asked if we could visit the Branch President because he had a referral for them. We said that was fine and asked him where the Branch President lived. He told us that he lived as far away from the meetinghouse as possible. “Okay, so how do we get there and how long will it take?” The Branch President is a farmer and manages a rice/pig farm for one of the members from another branch. They live way out in the rice paddies. We drove down this little road and turned up another alley/road and then onto a dirt road. This wasn’t looking good. Soon the dirt road ended and we were on a path. “Elder, this doesn’t look good”, I said. “It’s ok Elder Morgan, I’ve been here before and it will be ok” he said. Twenty feet later as we went over the first terrace of the rice paddie, we were stuck!!! What was he thinking – this is a rice paddie in the middle of the rainy season – better yet, what was I thinking?
The Elder and I got out to push as Mom steered. We pushed it back to the terrace and high centered the car on the terrace! O great! We were covered with mud almost to the knees and had mud splatters all over us. The missionary was so excited – “I love my mission. Where else could one do this. This is so cool!,” he said. Then came the “I’m so sorry Elder and Sister Morgan. I’m so very sorry but then I’m not because this is so cool.” Well a gentleman walked by and looked at our predicament. “You’re stuck”, he said. Where are you going? We told him to visit Johnny Aquino. “Well, Johnny will get you out”, he said. So, Elder and I left mom in the car and we went walking to find the Branch President’s house. It was about a mile away – we were so stuck in the mud – and we still had a mile to go! What was I thinking when the Elder told me to keep going?
Well, the Branch President’s family was excited to see us. We explained our situation and they laughed. He said that he had to finish with his cement work first and then he could help us. He told us that the Carabao (water buffalo) was about 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) from here so he sent his oldest son to go get the carabao. I told the Branch President’s wife – “You probably don’t get many visitors here do you?” – she had a good laugh but was excited to have us there. When I told her that Mom was back in the car she wanted to go check on her but she waited for us. Next thing we knew the son came riding up on the back of this big water buffalo with another one following close behind.
President Aquino hooked up the cart and placed a milk crate in the cart for me to ride on. He said that he didn’t have a car but he did have a Carabao FX edition for us.
Well, he hooked up both beasts to the car and pulled us out of the mire. When we got back onto the solid dirt road he told me to come and visit again but that we must stop here and walk the rest of the way. What an experience! And I must admit, like the Elder, I love my mission, this is so cool!
We finished off the week by conducting a training session with all of the Branch Presidents and the District Presidency. They asked me to train them about balancing work, family and church. We had a good time. I hope that the training was useful to them. The spirit was there and I felt that what we taught was beneficial. This will be more of a challenge to make this district into a stake but it will be worth all the effort. The District President is a great man. We have 7 units in the district – so there are plenty of members. We need more active priesthood and more full- tithe payers to make this work. We will begin with activating brethren and getting families to the temple.
Well, as we said before, this week has gone by too fast. We are fast approaching our one year mark in the Philippines. The time is going by quickly but we are enjoying the work and the people. We miss you all so very much and wish we could hug and spoil all of the grandkids. Thank you again for your love, support and prayers. They mean a lot to us. We are so grateful to have such a good family. You are the best. We love you all. Write when you have time. Remember to BE good, DO good, and BE men and women of Christ. And, as always, always remember to say your prayers.
Mom and Dad, Grandma and Grandpa, Janene and Grant