November 6, 2011
Dear Family and Friends,
Good evening from Manila. Again, it is difficult to believe that another week has passed. We are doing well and the office work is starting to make more and more sense. There just always seems to be something going on. We had the opportunity to attend a Sacrament Meeting in the San Gabriel Branch last Sunday and it just happened to be the Primary Program. The program was excellent and they included a lot of music. It was a fun meeting. It was so delightful to see all of the little Sunbeam children lined up on chairs in front of the row where the Branch President sits. They were forever standing up and sitting down – almost like they had springs on their chairs. It was quite funny and then it occurred to me that when they sat on their chairs all we could see was their little foreheads – they were so tiny that they couldn’t see over the wooden partition – so of course they had to stand up to see. The program brought tears to my eyes as they sang. They also had quite a few musical numbers that were duets and quartets with the children and the teachers. The people just love to sing. Our Branch Primary Program is this coming Sunday. We were asked to supply the treats for the children after their program.
We have been busy this week with our Mission Tour. Elder Ardern from the Seventy toured the mission this last week. We were able to be with him on Wednesday. The conference was great and Elder Ardern’s comments were wonderful. We had to bring the four Elders in from the island of Coron for the Manila Conference and they stayed overnight with us here in the office. They were happy to be on the mainland again and especially to eat at a ‘fast food’ place since Coron has no fast food establishments. It was a wild night with those 4 and our regular 4 elders in the office. Coron is a small island off the north coast of the island of Palawan. Last Sunday a branch was created there. Missionaries have been on the island for 3 months now. Their first sacrament meeting as a group had about 20 in attendance. Last Sunday they had 72 in attendance. There isn’t a regular chapel there so they meet in a makeshift building/meetinghouse. The Elders there are really excited about the work.
We thought that you would enjoy these pictures. One of the Elders on Palawan shared these pictures with us of one of their baptisms. They are in a small group (not a branch yet) in TayTay. They don’t have a building yet so they meet under an open shelter outdoors. So there isn’t a ‘real font’ so they just find a suitable place with water. As you can see, there was a special visitor at this baptism.
We are looking forward to some of these adventures when we are assigned to Palawan. It should be fun and exciting.
Well, back to the mission tour. Elder Ardern spoke a great deal about the power of the Book of Mormon, obedience and also about the responsibility we have to keep or retain those new converts. The mission has a great retention rate up until 6 months after baptism then things begin to tumble after that. So we have a lot of work to do. Elder and Sister Ardern visited the mission office after the Manila Conference and it was nice to show them around the office and hear his words of encouragement and gratitude for senior couples. We are blessed to be here.
Thursday afternoon we went to the Area Office to deliver some items to the Area Presidency and were asked to stop into the Manila MTC to pick up a package for one of our missionaries. We were happy to do this and as we were about ready to leave, the MTC receptionist came outside to find us. She said that there was more to the Elder’s package. She brought out this plastic ice cream container and it was filled with a fruit (Durian fruit). She said that we needed to keep this frozen otherwise it would stink really bad. I put it in the trunk and off we drove. Of course the temperature is still in the 80’s here and so it wasn’t too long until we understood what she meant. This awful smell began to fill the whole car. It brought tears to my eyes and made me cough and cough. It didn’t help to roll down the windows because the smell of the road exhaust and pollution just added to the stink. It also didn’t help to be driving on the EDSA (one of the main roads in Manila) which is always bumper to bumper traffic. What a fun experience. There are very few smells that I have smelled that would even come close to the smell of this fruit (thank goodness)! When we got back to the office, we texted the Elder and asked him to come and get his package as soon as possible. The Zone Leaders said that he couldn’t come and get the package until his preparation day. We told them what it was and the Elder showed up at the office about 2 hours later. I had to tease him about the smell. He said, “My home town is the only place where they grow this fruit. It is delicious and so good.” I said that you had to plug your nose when you eat it - right? “No sir, it is very good just like it is. My mother sent it to me to remind me of home.” Now we couldn’t deny him that! I wish that there was some smell that I could compare this to, but there just isn’t anything that would come close (not even a ‘muddy’ diaper).
It was fun to see the pictures of the kids in their Halloween costumes. What a fun time for all of you. Sounds like the ‘cousins’ party was a great success. We hope that everyone is healthy and happy. Hopefully you didn’t eat too much Halloween candy. We are well. The routine of the office is setting in and we are becoming accustomed to the work and the stress. They are still continuing the work on the new mission office building and we hope that it will be finished before year end. The new office couple should arrive on December 12th and we will begin the training and possible move to the new office. We were talking about going into our new area – it will be the fourth area where we will have to ‘start over’ again. So goes the work. We are so very blessed to be here in the Philippines. The mission has a goal to baptize 300 in December and all projections indicate that this goal will probably be exceeded. The work is going great. We are excited to get back out to teach and visit people.
Thank you again for your prayers and support. We love you all. We miss you a lot. Please give everyone hugs for us. Remember to 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
The qualities of the Durian!
Durian is famous for its odor. The opinions about the qualities of that odor are quite opposite! Most Asian people say that the odor of the durian can be compared to a perfume. Other people, especially foreigners, say that the fruit, when the skin of the fruit is opened, stinks. "It smells like h- ll and tastes like heaven", is how some foreigners describe the fruit. Listening to foreigners, the conclusion can be as follows: "...you can stand the taste of the durian fruit, but not the smell..."
Most airlines don’t allow the durian fruit on board. In Singapore, the Asian country with the most rigid policy and rules concerning the care for the environment (in the Pacific and probably in the world!), the durian is forbidden on subway-stations and trains. One historian declared: "To those who are used to it, at the first time the durian fruit seems to smell like rotten onions, but after they have tasted it, they prefer it to all other fruits."