Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Week 88

May 14, 2012

Greetings once again from the Philippines. 

This has been a wonderful week of service and learning.  We began our week with a trip to Rizal on the west side of the island. 

It was a quick trip (if one considers 3 hours one-way a quick trip.) because we went down to do an apartment check and then turned around and drove back to see if we could make it back before it became dark. 

 The roads are fun during daylight hours and they become very adventuresome at night. As we have said before, the carabao do not have headlights or tail lights (although some have found a use for discarded CDs and DVDs – reflectors on carts and trikes). We made it back safely even in a rainstorm about 9:30 that evening. We were blessed and protected. I still have not developed a real interest in ‘off-roading’. 

We continue to meet regularly with members at the family history center at the District Center. We have been having fun helping the saints with their family history. 

This weekend was the District Young Single Adult Conference. Mom and I were the principle speakers for the Friday afternoon session. 

We spoke about ‘cleaving unto every good thing’ and used the iron rod demonstration to show them what it means to cleave to something. Then we talked about what the world considers ‘good’ and what ‘good’ means in a scriptural sense. We had an interesting time. The YSA participated and responded well in our training so we like to think that they had a good time also. As they were separating into their afternoon activities, the YSA rep came to us and asked if we would be at their Family Home Evening that night. We had not planned on attending but then something told us to ask if they need us there. Yes was their answer. We were honored to be a part of their Family Home Evening and talent show. They asked me to give the closing remarks for their conference.

Saturday was our Narra Branch National Day of Service. We had fun cleaning up the road by the chapel. It was a big project. 

first ones there
Everyone had a good time and worked really hard at clearing out trees and over-grown brush. The Filipinos are amazing to watch use their machetes. They are very skilled. 

Do you like the 'magic' ladder? heehee

There is nothing quite like that feeling of unity as we work in a group for a common cause. After lunch the missionaries had a wonderful baptism. What a great day – a service project and then a baptism.

Elders Chiong and Peterson and Narra Branch members
  After the baptism, it was decided that the priesthood brethren would go over to the branch president’s house and help him build his new home or bahay kubo. I was fascinated to watch the brethren put on the pawid shingles (pawid is a woven bamboo shingle – it looks like a grass roof). One of the brethren told me that the roof is guaranteed for 2 years and then it will need to be replaced. 

I wasn’t much help except to haul cement block, dirt and help mix cement by hand. But it was a great learning experience to see how this beautiful little home was built. One of the brethren asked me if we built houses like this back home – I responded that the weather was way too cold to have a house like this.  

The bahay kubo should be finished next Saturday. What a great experience this was. 

 On Sunday one of our missionaries came up to me and asked if I would confirm their new convert that was baptized yesterday. It was an honor for me to do this. She had asked specifically if I would do this for her. I explained that I could not do this in Tagalog but she said that she could understand the English. This was a very special experience for me to be a part of this new convert’s life. 

Well, transfer week is upon us once again. We expect to have numerous changes here in our Zone. Our Zone leaders have been on Palawan for 7 transfers (over 10 months) so there will probably be some changes there. We also have one Elder that has completed his mission and will be going home. We are also hopeful that the other Narra area will be reopened on this transfer. So there will be some more changes in store over this next week. 

We are doing well. It is truly a wonderful opportunity to serve here in the Philippines. We so love this country and most especially these wonderful and delightful people. They make us smile and appreciate life. President Stucki told us that 94% of the Philippine people have a belief in God. That is remarkable! We are so blessed to be here. We hope that we have done some good for them but it seems more and more that they have blessed our lives much more than we have blessed theirs. We love being missionaries and doing His work. 

We hope that all of you are healthy and happy. We continue to pray for each of you every day. Thank you again for your love, prayers and thoughts. We do miss you and are excited to see you again. Please give all of the kids lots and lots of hugs from us so they will be well prepared when we get home and smother them with lots and lots of hugs! We love you all! 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

Monday, May 14, 2012

Week 86

April 30, 2012
  • Currently
A Shower 86°
RealFeel® 105°
  • Today
An afternoon t-storm or two Hi 89°
® 109° 

Dear Family and Friends, 

I had to include Saturday’s weather report with this letter just to add drama or seek sympathy. It is hot and humid!  Sometimes I think it would seem cooler if I didn’t know what the temperature was! But what better day to travel in the air conditioned van for hours to attend a baptism at the riverside of Sabsaban Falls in Cabar. 

Morgans and Petersons
What a beautiful place to have a baptism.
Last Sunday while we were at the Branch Conference in Cabar we told the Elders that we would come to the baptism on the following Saturday. The Falls is a public swimming, bathing and laundry area. 

They rented a bowery to conduct the service...

Petersons, Elders Morales & Kummer, Morgans
 ...and then went down to the water to perform the baptism. In most places that were quiet enough for a baptism, the water was only knee-high to a Filipino – and that is not enough water to immerse someone. So we ended up going up to the pond by the falls. The manager was very kind. He talked to the people and said that we would be having a baptism and so they came out of the water and quietly watched the service. 

Elder Kummer
 Needless to say, the baptism was very well attended. They were reverent and kind and the missionaries even had some referrals from the crowd. It was a wonderful experience. These are some of the first baptisms to come from that area in a long time and the Elders and Branch members were very excited. It was a very refreshing experience on a very warm day. How blessed we are. 

Our youth in the District have their temple trip this week. Last week we have spent a good amount of time in the Family History Center at the District Center helping members prepare names for the temple. It has been such a good experience to work with them and it looks like the interest is such that we will continue our training 2 or 3 mornings each week. Our Branch Relief Society President, Sister Jona, had set up the workshops. She talks to the sisters and then brings them to the Church. She just doesn’t take ‘no’ for an answer.  One day she asked mom to help her find her grandmother’s information but they just didn’t have enough information. One could see that she was a little disappointed but Sister Jona doesn’t quit! After mom had helped some of the people she asked Sister Jona to come sit on the chair next to her and they began to ‘remember’.  After putting some dates together they came up with an approximate birth date – sure enough they found her grandmother. The excitement on Sister Jona’s face was delightful. She hugged mom. Sunday we had a combined lesson on Family History and the Branch President asked if we could help the Branch with their Family History. He wants every branch member to find one name to take to the temple. The next few months could be very busy. 

This week has been busy with travel to the Elders apartments for apartment checks, planning meetings with the Petersons and Family History. We had a memorable experience on Wednesday evening. While we were in Puerto for a meeting with the Petersons, President Peterson released a young Sister missionary from her mission. We met her at the airport and took her to the church and then took them all out to get some dinner. After dinner, Sister Peterson asked if we would take them to their home in Kamuning (it was on our way back to Narra). We were glad to help. To set up this experience you need to know that most of the Filipino missionaries seldom write home to their parents because 1). There is no postal delivery system to individual residences and 2). Most of them cannot afford 70PHP (about $2) to mail a letter. Most likely, this Sister had not talked to or heard from her family for 18 months. We took her to her house which was located in this small town and we kept driving deeper into the wooded areas on this little dirt road. She told us to stop and we saw her little home. When we opened the door, about 20 people came running out of the house. When the Sister stepped out of the van, they mobbed her and began jumping up and down and screaming. It was so fun to be a part of that. What and experience. The mother just smiled and kept saying, “That is my daughter”. Family is so important to them. What a welcome home celebration! 

We finished off the week by speaking at another Branch Fireside. It has been a great week. Every day we are more and more grateful for this opportunity to serve here. We love the people and this beautiful land. We love being missionaries. We have been blessed in so many ways. The ants are still here, as are the giant spiders but that is OK. 

about 6 inches across!!!!
It just doesn’t get any better than this (right now anyway)! 
We love each of you. Thank you once again for your faith, love and prayers. You are a big part of our being able to serve right now. We hope that you are all doing well. We pray continually for your well being and success in all things. We know that you can do it! We miss you all and are excited to see you soon. Please take care and write when you get a chance (no telling how the internet will work or if it will work). 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      

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Week 85

April  23, 2012

planting rice

Once again, greetings to all from the islands of the Philippines. 

So, how is everyone? We got word that this April had been one of the hottest months ever recorded in the State of Utah. This should be a hot summer. Are you just trying to make us feel better so we won’t freeze when we come home? It really is okay if the temperature is not as hot there as it is here. We will understand. 

We have had another busy and rewarding week. We have begun to do some Family History work with some of the members here. Our Branch Relief Society President asked mom if we could come and help one of the sisters in the branch identify some ancestors so she could go with the youth on their temple trip. We were happy to help out. Two sisters came Tuesday morning and then the Facility Manager worker in the building also came in from his work and sat down to do some Family History. We stayed for about 4 hours. I asked the Relief Society President if she thought there was enough interest in Family History that we could come 2 or 3 times a week and help the members. She thought there would be and said that she would get the sisters to come. We had another similar session on Thursday morning. 

We have three new District Leaders in our Zone and President Stucki asked that I provide training for these new leaders. Normally, new leaders attend a training session in Manila prior to their being called as a leader. The Mission President and the Assistants usually provide this training but they can’t do that over here. Well, I sat down with the Zone Leaders and we planned a training session for our new District Leaders. Wednesday morning we had our first-ever District Leader Training in Narra Zone in Quezon. It went well. The comments from the new leaders and their companions were all very good, so we hope to have done what President wanted us to do. 

Elder Kummer and woven backpack

After the meeting we all went down to the local pizza place and had lunch. It still amazes me that we can buy lunch for 10 people for less that $25 (including drinks) and even have food left over. We love to leave small tips especially when the people don’t expect them. As we paid the bill, we gave them some extra cash and he tried to give it back to us. “Sir, the bill was only this much and you gave me more. This is your change.”  Then we try to explain to them that we were grateful for their service and want them to keep it. When they earn about $2 a day that tip is a real blessing to them. 

We woke early (04:30) on Friday morning to travel to Puerto for our quarterly interviews with President Stucki. Puerto is so busy right now. School is out for summer and the Underground River has been named as one of the 20 top vacation spots in the world (National Geographic name it as one of the 7 new Wonders of the World) so there are tourists everywhere. What a mad house! We tried to find a hotel room for Thursday evening so we wouldn’t have to travel on Friday but we had no luck – everything in the city was booked. It made for a very long day, but it was well worth it.  We have not had an opportunity to interview with President for a long time due to transfers, other problems that just come up with missionaries and then just not enough time – so we were grateful to sit down with him for our interview. There is something about being able to account to someone for your stewardship. We love President and Sister Stucki. 

We had another nice experience with a giant spider. Now, if we could design a saddle for them we could charge admission and then . . .    On one of our many adventures. Mom had me stop because she could see these ‘things’ hanging from the power lines. As we got up closer, we discovered that those ‘things’ were large spiders hanging from the lines. We took some pictures but then again, the pictures just won’t really show the real story - how many spiders there were and how big they were. Saddles – the image is beginning to take shape now – not such a bad idea! 

Speaking of bugs, the other night there was this large (larger than the size of a quarter coin) brown beetle on the floor. It was lying on its back so mom picked it up with a tissue and threw it in the wastebasket in the bedroom. Later that night while we were in bed, we kept hearing this strange, intermittent, ‘buzzing’ sound. We couldn’t figure out what was going on and thought that maybe we had a ‘critter’ in the house with us. After a few minutes we realized it was coming from the wastebasket. The bug was trying to fly out but was stuck around some papers and the wings were vibrating against the papers. A couple of sprays of the ‘Raid” air freshener was all it took to make the beetle stay quiet.   Oh, life as we know it in the Philippines. 

President and Sister Stucki stayed the weekend in Palawan and we were grateful to have them come to Narra on Saturday morning.  Our District President had his monthly training with the Branch Presidents. Mom and Sister Stucki went to our apartment while President and I attended the training meeting. I was able to speak to the leaders for a short period and then President Stucki interviewed each of the Branch Presidents.  I don’t know if we will be able to measure the effect this experience had in the lives of our Branch Presidents. I know that it was a great experience for each of them – to know that the Mission President would come this far to talk with them and see how they were doing. Those few minutes will last for a long time in their memories. 

 We were off to Cabar on Sunday for their Branch Conference. We picked up only 9 District leaders on the way so they could attend. The ride was a little more comfortable this time – not that the roads were better, but it wasn’t so crowded in the van this time. Mom says that she often feels like a ‘bobble head’ doll as we travel down these roads.  One would think that as often as we travel the roads that we would become so familiar with the bumps and holes that we could avoid them – no such luck since the frequent rains changes the locations and depth of the holes.   

 Well, the Conference in Cabar was great. We have come to love this small branch. It is so remote and just so true to what we think of as the ‘Philippine Church house’.  The members had prepared for us. They had flowers for each of the guests and beautiful floral arrangements to decorate the chapel. The choir had prepared several musical numbers for us. About midway through Sacrament meeting, the power went out – so we had no fans or keyboard or microphone. Everything went well. They asked mom to share her testimony and she did great. One of the Elders came to me and asked if I was going to speak. I told them that they had not asked me to speak and he sighed a big sigh of relief. He wanted to be somewhat ready to translate for me if needed. He was relieved. After the Sacrament, the Branch President announced the program and said that I would be speaking – I would have given anything for a picture of the Elder’s face – he was nervous. Well, when I got up, I began to speak in Tagalog and thanked the Branch members for their kindness and for the flowers and then said I would try my best to speak in Tagalog. We were blessed with the gift of tongues. Don’t know that I could do that again but it was a wonderful experience. The Philippine missionary told me that I don’t need and interpreter anymore – I told him he was very kind to say that but I still can’t speak fluent Tagalog. 

Well, there is so much more that we have experienced but those things will have to wait until another day. We are happy and healthy. We hope that all of you are also enjoying good health and are enjoying life in your ‘wilderness’. We have said this many times before but again and again we thank you for your love, support and prayers. We have been blessed to be in this beautiful land with these wonderful people. We feel that they have blessed our lives much more than we have blessed their lives. Please take care of yourselves and 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