Friday, February 27, 2015

28 February 2015

Hello everyone,

We went to a baptism today with President and Sister Reeder in Pasacao.  This is a little branch that 
is about an hour West of Naga right on the sea coast.
 There is a beautiful little chapel there and the area is quite hilly and very tropical.  We didn't see the ocean today but will be going back in the near future and will make sure we get out to the coast which is only minutes from the chapel.  
The service today was very special.  Two young women were baptized and the service was nice although we couldn't understand much as most of it was in Tagalog.  But sitting in front of us were 4 little girls ranging in age from maybe 8 down to 3.  They were not all from the same family, although I think 3 of them were sisters.  
This is the girl who kept staring at us/me. 
They were just beautiful little girls and were all fixed up nicely.  Two of them kept turning around and looking at us.  We had shaken their hands earlier and spoken to them but we must have been a sight they don't see very often, because one of them was always looking back to stare at us.  I really enjoyed seeing them and the interaction with them and my heart just opened up and my first thought was, "I can just imagine that the Savior really loves these little children".  I remembered in the Book of Mormon in 3rd Nephi when the Savior saw the people and their love for him and he said, "my joy is full".  I think His fullness of joy came because of Love.  Love for his Children!  Love is what makes everything right.  It is the forgiveness; the service; the acceptance; and the healer for all the ills that we face with each other and Charity is the true love of Christ.  I felt and received a glimpse of that today with these beautiful little Philippino children in Pasacao.
New Branch President finding out his children are on the unbaptized list.

We actually had a very busy week this past week.  We started out the week on Sunday going to the Iriga 1 and the Iriga 2 Branches.  There is a nice chapel in Iriga  (about an hour from Naga to the south) and we attended the first Branch and then stayed for the meetings of the 2nd Branch.  During Sunday school of each block, we met with the missionaries and the Branch President and councilors.  The Iriga 1 Branch President is very new.  He had only been in his position for a week.  It was quite a shock for him to see that on his "unbaptized" list were two of his own children who had been baptized.  This is a common problem that we see every week now. Each Branch has many people who have been baptized but the records were never updated.  When the President learned this, he put his hands to his head and said, "How can this be?"  It was really kind of sad to see him so anguished. We are learning that our most basic issue in regards to the church records, is seeing that ordinances are recorded when they are done.  Going back and fixing issues is easy if we have the information but without information it is virtually impossible.  Many of these people will need to be rebaptized and confirmed or have priesthood ordinations redone.  It is sad but that is the struggle here. Hopefully now, one can see what we are doing.  We are trying to train missionaries, as well, in how to work with the Branch leaders and help them.  We are also impressing upon them that when they go home from their missions, they will be leaders, and they need to know how to jump in and help immediately.

We also attended a District meeting in the Pamplona district about one half hour from Naga to the West.  We were there to train the missionaries on what we are doing and how they can help.  We had a really fun day with them.  Sister Hoopes made cookies for them which they just loved.  Look close and you can see their cookies in hand or mouth.

The Elder and Sisters invited us to lunch with them and we went thinking it would be fun to have a new experience.  This is called an Eatery and the sides are open with tables inside.  

Each meal (?) came with a huge plate of rice which we gave one of our to the Elders.  The American sister told us to chose the beef which we did.  It was a small bowl of beef (?) cubes and then a hot broth poured over the top.  The broth was vinegar based and that mingled with the smell of the place helped me to lose my appetite quickly.  The cost per meal was about 45 Pesos which is about a dollar.  The missionaries said this was the only place to eat in Pamplona.  Boy am I glad we are in Naga where there are real restaurants and a mall.

This past week was transfer week and we were involved on Tuesday with a class for missionaries going home called Life Skills.  It was taught by Elder and Sister Gardner who are going home in May so we will be teaching it from here on out.  It was most of a day and was very good.  It focused a lot on how to choose and apply for jobs; write resume's; speak along with some goal setting.  It is really designed well for these missionaries going home to 3rd world countries.  We look forward to teachings these classes in the future.

Cotnogan Branch Pres with daugher.

While at the Life Skills training on Tuesday, we met the Branch President of the Cotnogan Branch where we have not yet been. He had come with his daughter who has a mission call to New York, Rochester. She came to be set apart by President Reeder before entering the MTC in Manila last Friday.  She is not going to Provo as she does not yet have her VISA for the US. Her Father has been the branch president in Cotnogan for 23 years.

The transfer day was fun as all the missionaries and their new companions met at the church and Mission offices to head back out to their areas. Some were catching buses and others Jeepnies. This is a tricy loaded with two sisters and luggage.  Sister Hoopes saying goodbye.

Final note for the week:  One of the office Elders asked me last night if Sister Hoopes really liked to cook.  (she almost daily takes them cookies or something to eat)  I responded that she did not really like to cook or cleanup.  But she loves to feed and take care of the missionaries.  His companion chimed in with, "those cookies today were sure good".

Friday, February 20, 2015

21 February 2015

Well, we have now been in the mission field for a month.  It has been a big change from our mission to Germany.  Maybe the biggest change from Germany  is what we are doing.  In Germany, we were assigned to a specific ward and we went to church there nearly every Sunday.  We got to know the members well and worked alongside the missionaries.  In this assignment we are not going to be in our home ward very often.  In fact, it will be seldom.  We are going out nearly every Sunday to branches to get to know the leaders and offer to train and assist them.  We are not really working with any missionaries other than in groups as we are doing a lot of training of missionaries as well.  We realize that we have to look at this differently and find other ways to find fulfillment.  I hope that you can see from the following that we are enjoying what we are doing.  So, please stay tuned as there is more to say and report.

We have been reading a book that Amy and Jon Forsberg gave us just before we left.  The title is "The Continuous Atonement" by Brad Wilcox.  It is a marvelous book on the Atonement of Christ and the significance of it in our own lives. He quotes from the Book of Mormon in Alma a scripture which we just read.  It is Alma 34:10 where Amulek said, "For it is expedient that there should be a great and last sacrifice; yea, not a sacrifice of man, neither of beast, neither of any manner of fowl for it shall not be a human sacrifice; but it must be an infinite and eternal sacrifice".   The sacrifice for our sins and to redeem us (make us like Jesus) must be an "infinite and eternal sacrifice" (Alma 34:14) "and that great and last sacrifice will be the Son of God, yea, infinite and eternal".  We all know about the Plan of Salvation but I wonder how often we think about the sacrifice made for us by the Son of God and that he did it out of love.  I challenge every one to think and study about the need for an atonement and why Christ was the only one who could do it.

We drove to Sipocot (see po coat) on Tuesday to get an
Elder who is from China (Cheng Du) where we visited on our trip to China over 10 years ago.  He is due to go home in 6 weeks but his VISA was not renewed by the Philippine government so he has to leave now.  We were happy we could spend some time with him.  He is a Zone Leader and a very pleasant young man.  He has been a member for 5 years and has a very interesting story.  While there, we spent a little time with the other Elders and Sisters working in the area.

These Elders were all in this basement apartment.   Looks beautiful down there until it rains.   Like Sister Reeder said,,she's learned to just ask the missionaries "How High is the Water in your apartment?   Now you can see why.  We haven't really been here in a rain storm but it doesn't take long to get flooded, especially if you rent the bottom apartment.   The good news is......these Elders moved to another apartment  closer to the church yesterday.  We didn't go in this apartment, and are certain we would have been appalled.   I thought it better that I didn't go look.  Our Chinese Elder told us it was the worst apartment in the mission.  We have seen some bad ones so this must be pretty gruesome.

After picking up our  Chinese Elder and saying goodbye to his friends and companions, we headed over to the Sisters apartment.     Their water filter was leaking and their hot plate stove didn't work right.  We exchanged filter system, determined that their hot plate burner was NOT going to work correctly and they needed a new one; and observed their issue with termites,etc.  Elder Z said goodbye to the sisters and here comes the Elders again to deliver money to the sisters.  So he had to say goodbye AGAIN!   We left and about 10 minutes down the road we get a call from the sisters reporting that there were no filters in their water filter system.  So we turn around and head back to Sipocot.  We take the filters out of the leaky filter system, put them in the newer filter system and say goodbye AGAIN!  What a hard day for Elder Z, who did not want to go home anyway.  Too many goodbyes makes leaving really hard.

We were very blessed to spend time with Elder Z.  Such a meek, humble missionary, so pleased to be around fellow members of the church.

Thursday we made our weekly drive to a District meeting.  This one was in Iriga and there are 12 missionaries in this district.  It was very large as 2 districts were combined during the last transfer.  We really enjoy our time with these young men and women.  They are great examples to us.

We did our training and participated in the district meeting and then left for Buhi which was a half hour further south and east from Iriga.

A picture of Mt. Iriga, an extinct volcano although the picture makes it look like smoke coming from the top.  This is on the way to Buhi.

We were in this branch last Sunday for the entire block time and then met with the Branch President after the block.  On Sunday, we got there quite early but the Branch President was there and welcomed us.  He said several times, "I am so happy you are here".  He was referring to our coming to help with member records.  But he also asked us to speak in Sacrament meeting which wasn't a surprise. And Sister Hoopes was asked to teach primary which she did and said it was a good experience.  

 They had several investigators there including a young family there. This area really has a lot going on with many baptisms planned for the next few weeks.  We know
they have a baptism today in a swimming pool but we are not planning to go as it is a long way and would require us to return later tonight.  We try not to drive at night due to poor road conditions, etc.  And we have to be back out to Iriga tomorrow at 9:00 am for their block meetings.

Right is the Branch President of Buhi.  We spent time on Thursday afternoon training him on the use of the computer for Member Leadership Service.  He said to us again, "I am so happy you are here".  Even though they have a computer and printer, they don't have internet in this church and he has to download everything to a flash drive and take it to a public internet service to update any information.  They are building a new building in Buhi which is supposed to be done in May.  This is a picture of it under construction.

This will be large enough to house 2 branches and/or wards if they get to that point.  They are teaching a lot of people and having great success.

We have really enjoyed going to these little branches and working with the people.  They treat us like we are special and we know we are not but do enjoy being around them and helping where we can.
We had an enjoyable evening with the Reeders and Gardners yesterday.  We went to a restaurant in the downtown area called The White Bean. 
we have heard that it was really good so we were anxious to go and were able to get the other couples to go with us.  It is a small but very nice restaurant.  I got Chicken Parmigiana which at home is my favorite dish and I think it is my favorite dish here also.  In fact, this the only place where we have seen it on the menu. Usually, anything with chicken has the bones in it.  This didn't and was very good.  They also had a Pumpkin soup which we ordered and it was excellent.  Very much like we would get from members in Germany.  Others had Mushroom soup, Chicken Carbonera; Caesar salad; vegetable Panini... We plan to go back here again and often.

This next week in Transfer week and we are involved with a class on Tuesday for Missionaries going home.  A life skills class.  We will be teaching it the next transfer after the Gardners go home in May. 

Until next week.

Friday, February 13, 2015

14 February, 2015


We attended church in our own ward this last Sunday and met a couple who are called as Area Family History consultants and President Reeder had told them we were coming and that we liked Family History. We met with them later that day to discuss Family History but also were invited to their home on Thursday night for a Homecoming Party for a son returning that day from a mission to Australia.  This picture is taken in their home with the Father on the far right with the returned missionary next to him. This is quite a remarkable family. They have 8 children, (6 boys and 2 girls) and all but the 2 youngest at home have served missions.  Three of the kids have been on missins at the same time.  This boy returning home still leaves 2 out on missions.  The parents are both returned missionaries and the parents for Bro. Gamil served a mission as a couple.  They have a world map on their wall to show where everyone served.  Bro. Gamil has been a bishop and also a younger brother currently serves as Bishop in another area and another brother is the Stake President.  The home that night was visited by numerous relatives, friends and members who came to greet the returning son. We were very impressed to be there and see the love and closeness of this family and the emphasis that is placed on missionary work.  I believe that  members of the church in the mission field such as here in the Philippines actually exhibit more faith and trust in God than we ever do where the church is strong.  I wish that we could all be more like these good people.  They are a great example to everyone.

This is most of the family in Naga.  The oldest son lives in Sandy, Utah with his wife and 2 kids and 2 are still out on missions as mentioned above.  The wife/mother is not in this picture as she is behind getting the food prepared.  Sounds familiar.

The man in green is a brother in law to the returned missionary.

Mom and Dad with son just returned home this day.

Here is Sister Gamil with Sister Hoopes and President Reeder. Sister Reeder is holding a plate but didn't get in the picture.  She is on the left.  She actually has some food on her plate. This was a large table filled with food of all kinds.  Jacob might remember a food called Adobe.  It is pork with a sauce that tasted of vinegar, ginger....  Sister Gamil made it especially for my wife.  We don't know why??? But it was very good!  Pres. Reeder is helping himself to the Adobe in this picture.

We had a big week.  We went to a baptism on Saturday in Sipocot which is a branch about an hour from Naga to the North.  We were planning to go on our own but President Reeder called and invited us to go with them.  We had a very nice day and witnessed 9 baptisms in the Pamplona Zone.  All of them were baptized in the Sipocot church house.
There are 10 in white.  One is a missionary who will baptize 7 others.  Another man was baptized 2 months ago and today baptized 2 adult sons.

I was standing back taking pictures watching and looking around and I heard my name called.  I looked back and the Branch President was calling for me to come get in the picture and then asked, "Where is your wife?"  She was in playing the piano so they ran to get her and we are both in the picture.  When I got up there, I whispered to President Reeder, "Why am I up here?"  He said, "Because you're a celebrity".  The  Philippino people do treat us like celebrities.

On Tuesday I went with Elder Gardner to the Northern most end of the mission (almost) to install some screens on apartments for Elders.  I think it is to keep mosquito's out but one of the issues in an apartment had been a bat coming in during the night and landing on an Elders face.  Thus the screens make sense.  Otherwise, there are too many other places for mosquitos to get in like through open doors.  On Wednesday, I went with Elder Gardner and some other Elders to move some furniture to a new apartment.  It was a fun day for me.  Not the moving, but when we got to the Elders new place, out walked a blond guy.  I said to him in English, "You don't look Philippino" and he said, "I am not, I am from Germany".  He is from Muenchen and lives here with his wife and daughter and he is the landlord of the new apartment.  We spent the next hour talking in German which was really fun for me and he enjoyed it although he speaks passable English. I hope I get to see him again some time.                                                          

While in Daet, which is the Northern most city in our Mission ( I think there is a branch further north) we drove out to see the ocean.  Always a powerful site, regardless of where you are in the world.
 As I said, it was a pretty busy week.  We also went to a District meeting in Buhi, a small branch in the Iriga zone.  We met with the missionaries and did some training on the things that we will be doing to help the branches and how the missionaries can help as well.

That's all for this week.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Zwei Jahre aus Deutschland

Just a little post in remembrance of our departure from our last mission to Germany, two years ago today.  Every day we are flooded with fond memories of our mission, our members and our missionaries.  We even speak a little Deutch every day, mostly by mistake, as we know that we should be speaking some foreign language.  Our tongues do not speaking tagalog but our brains think we should say something foreign so out pops German.  These pictures are from the party the Ward going away party just before we left.  The last picture is of our good friends, the Guenters waving goodbye from their home.  Happy anniversary to US.

Friday, February 6, 2015

7 February, 2015

Another Saturday already.
Last Sunday, we went to church in Baao.  It is a small Branch south of Naga about an hour.  We had met the Branch President the week before at a District Conference and he had invited us to come and visit his Branch.  He has no clerk and if he did he would need a lot of training.  I volunteered to help them and so we went to church on Sunday.  They are new as a Branch  (8 months) but have a very adequate computer system and internet.  They meet in an old house and it is frankly too small.  Their numbers have grown dramatically in those few short months and they now have over 80 people coming to Sacrament Meeting each week.

After Sacrament meeting, I met with President Botor to review his records.  After looking at and printing the Branch membership records and a ward directory, we printed his Action and Interview list.  This list had several people on it who should have been baptized or another section showed YM who should have been ordained and weren't.  In several cases, he said, "We did that" and I responded but it is not recorded.  He was able to get some information and we updated several records and printed some Certificates and he was just ecstatic.  I left him with a list of things to work on and we will go back again and help him get things entered in the system.  I also met with the missionaries and invited them to help him find information.  They were really great and eager to assist.

While meeting with President Botor, he told me about a member whose records they could not find.  Either he was never recorded or somehow lost and this man became really angry (he hadn't been active anyway) and said if it wasn't important to keep track of his records then the church obviously didn't care about him and he left the church.  I have thought a lot about this man.  Certainly there are several issues here.  One is keeping the records straight but there is a deeper issue.  This man had not been active so he had already withdrawn himself from the church and then was looking for an excuse to completely leave.  We were reading in the Book of Mormon in Mosiah 2:36 where King Benjamin tells his people that after they have been taught so much, "that ye do withdraw yourselves from the Spirit of the Lord" then "the same cometh out in open rebellion against God".  This is exactly what happened with this man and it is the way that all apostasy occurs. We saw this in the early days of the church where many had a testimony and felt the spirit and then withdrew from the spirit and came out in open rebellion.  It is still the same today.  If we are not careful, we withdraw from the Spirit and ultimately rebel again God.  It usually happens quite unconsciously but nevertheless occurs.  Simple things like praying, reading the scriptures will help to keep us in touch with the Spirit.

The day before on Saturday afternoon, we picked up Sister Reeder and drove to a District Conference meeting in Pamplona.  President Reeder had driven out earlier in the day.  We had a very enjoyable time visiting with Sister Reeder on the way out.

This picture was taken after the evening meeting. There are 3 sets of Sister Missionaries in the Pamplona Zone. 2 are American, 1 is Tongan and 3 are Philippino.

Two of these Elders are the Zone Leaders.  The Elder next to me is Philippino and the Zone Leader.  His companion next to him is from Mainland China.   The next is American from Providence, Utah and the last is from Samoa (we think).

  After the meeting, the Elders all loaded up in the local transportation called Jeepney.  These were originally leftover from World War II.  They are very unique to the Philippines and are everywhere.  There must be a place where they still manufacture them as there are so many.  They can't all be leftovers from the war.

This Elder couldn't fit inside so he was riding on the back.  He told us that it was no longer allowed for them to ride on top (I think Mission safety rules) but they could hang on back.  We see Jeepney's with the inside filled, top covered and people hanging from the sides and back.

While driving home that night, this truck was driving quite slow in front of us.  We realized why when we got closer.

Friday, we drove to a Zone leader training meeting in Sipocot.  This is the same area where we were on Saturday but a little further North.  There were about 32 Missionaries there and we did a little training on the MLS system and the importance of keeping the records correct and current.  We also talked about how the Missionaries could help the Branch Presidents as well as finding people to teach at the same time.

We tried to get everyone in this shot and did but it was tight.  About 60 % are Philippino's.   An amazing army of Elders and Sisters for the Latter Days.

 Countryside on the road to Sipocot
From the road to Sipocot

Just outside our apartment!  This our our local Geico insurance Gecko.  (Sorry ANPAC, we've switched) There is one that lives in our apartment (maybe this one) but they are our bug insurance.  I hope that is true!

Uggh.  Enough for this week!