Friday, May 29, 2015

30 May 2015

This is starting to become a chore to write this every week.  The problem for me is two fold - it seems like I am sitting down to write this almost every other day; and that our weeks are all starting to be the same.  So, I will try to describe a little of the things that are different from the weeks previously and put in a few pictures.

Some of the District Leaders at Tuesday's meeting
President Reeder asked me to teach a section at the District Leader Training on Tuesday of this week. He invited both of us to come and spend the day with these leaders from the entire mission.  I think there were 26 or so District Leaders there along with the Assistants and us.  My assignment was to teach Section 3 of the Red Handbook (Handbook 2) which is, "Leadership in the Church of Jesus Christ".   I wondered about how to teach it because it is really focused on Leaders in a church Stake or Ward.  However, I quickly realized two things:  1.  That I am teaching these young men how the Lord wants them to lead in their current assignment as a District Leader and, 2.  That they will all go home eventually and will become the next generation of leaders in their Wards and Branches.  So, I decided to teach them right from the handbook and emphasize parts that affect them now and things they should remember for the future.  Another thing I quickly realized is how different the Lord's view of Leadership versus the world's view.  With that in mind, here are some thoughts...  "All Church leaders are called to help other people become true followers of Jesus Christ.  To do this, leaders first strive to be the Savior's faithful disciples, living each day so that they can return to live in God's presence.  Then they can help others develop strong testimonies and draw nearer to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ."  (Handbook)  A few more principles from the handbook teach that all leaders should prepare spiritually; participate in councils (I think this is really the Lord's way); learn how to minister to others; and teach the Gospel.  There is more but this is sufficient to show how the Lord does things.  I now see things so differently than I used to.  There is great wisdom in the scripture where the Lord says, "When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren" (Luke 22:32)  That is how we are to lead in the church; in our families; and in our communities.  We need to work hard to become "true" followers of Christ.  Believe Him and Love Him by keeping His commandments. Then our job is do everything we can to help those around us.  This is what the Lord calls Leadership!

Last Sunday we were in the Pamplona branch and I met with the Branch President who is a man that I have talked about before on this blog.  I really love him.  He works 6 days a week with a small business and then has Sunday for all of his church work.  I presented to him Sunday some thoughts about how to improve his MLS (membership records) information gathering and data entry by the correct use of forms.  After talking to him about it, he said to me, "I can see that this is the Lord's way".  I really do love this man!  I find most of the Branch Presidents to be really good men but some catch the vision much quicker than others.  This one is great.  He just needs help because he has no time to do it all.  Maybe some week I can talk about some of the things we are doing here to help these Branch Presidents collect information and get it entered.

Sister Hoopes has been very involved with helping Sister Reeder with sick missionaries this past week.  There are so many problems here with so many different things.  We spent a good portion of the day on Monday visiting and working with a sick missionary.

The path to the missionaries living place.  It is behind the wall
on the left.

There is always something for us to do here.  I spent the morning yesterday being trained on the Church's new program to manage vehicles.  It is called CARS.  I don't remember what the acronym stands for but it is a complex management system for all the vehicles.  Since being assigned to be the vehicle coordinator, I have had to get much involved in knowing about and dealing with vehicle issues.  Thank goodness we only have 6 vehicles to manage.

I spent time this morning in a vehicle coordination meeting with all of the office Elders who drive the vehicles.  There has really been no records kept of oil changes or any maintenance on the vehicles.  That all changes now as we will be maintaining records on the computer.  It will require considerably more work for me but I actually enjoy it.  Monday is the first of June and I will have all the reports in and start entering the data that afternoon.  My big challenge will be getting access to the office computer since it is Monday and it is a big day for all the Elders to do their emails.

We are going to a baptism in Pasacao this afternoon.  The Elders saw us on Thursday at their district meeting and invited us specially to come.  Maybe they want Sister Hoopes to play the piano but whenever we go to these things, we are treated like royalty.  I am not kidding.  They act like it is some special thing to have us come. I don't understand it yet.

Until next week.

ps:  I received this early this morning from Elder Watson who is from Canada and is working in the Iriga area.  They have a house but have problems with power going out all the time.  I thought you might enjoy his note to me.

 Yesterday, after a really hot busy day we got home in the evening to no power, but that is expected, and no water.  When the water did finally come on they pressured about 3 miles of line without  bleeding it so when we turned on the taps we would get huge blasts of air…didn’t know that in time.  I desperately needed to do one load of wash to hold us until P-day.  I turned the water on manually into our  washer to fill the tub and blew the hose off the faucet.  Me and the room got a good soaking.   I finally filled buckets in the house and dumped them into the washer tub and did the wash that way.  When I see Jon Denver next I am going to sing his song about the sweet simple life down on the farm then punch him in the face!  If you find this incident funny in any way we are no longer friends!! 

Sorry but I did laugh a little.  Just glad it isn't us out there.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

23 May 2015

This has been a busy, busy week.  A rundown by day follows:

Sunday: May 17 - Up early and on our way to Buhi with President Flores who is a councilor in the Mission Presidency and his wife.  Buhi is where the new chapel is being completed and we were informed that the first meetings were to be held there on the 17th.  President Reeder was speaking at a Stake Meeting in Goa and so could not go but President Flores asked if we could take him and his wife down.  It was a great day to be there and see the new building and be with the members and missionaries again.
There was a lot excitement and great turnout.  Usually they have about 80 to Sacrament Meeting.  Today about 160.

From the back of the new chapel before meeting started.  

At Buhi chapel with some members in front.

Monday: was Pday and get ready for the rest of the week.  It was a good day for me as I prepared myself for the career workshop on Tuesday.  Sister Hoopes was involved all day with the English testing.  All had to be finished that day because they were going home on Wednesday.

Career Workshop during a writing/thinking exercise.

Tuesday: Career Workshop which is nearly all day.  I will give more about this later but we went home for a couple of hours late afternoon and then back to the Mission Home to help clean up after the dinner.  Ate some leftover Chinese food and got home later that evening really tired.

Wednesday: Back to the Mission home to help with the processing of the 17 new missionaries which just arrived that morning.  We were there through lunch and then able to take a little time off.

These 10 Elders along with me and Elder Watson made a great Choir.

Thursday: On our way to Bato for a combined district meeting of Bato and Nabua districts.  The 10 Elders from these districts were asked to sing at a Funeral on Friday in Bato for a Sister Missionary who had died.  She is from Cotnogan which is a small branch near Bato.  She was serving in the Philippines Angeles mission which is in northern Luzon.  She just got very sick and died while serving there last week.  They think maybe a ruptured Gall Bladder. We practiced a song with the Elders and me with Sister Hoopes accompanying on the broken down piano.

Pres & Sis Ardern are in this picture along with the Reeders.
The family is also here with a picture of the missionary who died.

Friday:  Back to Bato for the funeral service which included the Area President, Elder Ardern and his wife who had flown into Naga the day before.  We stopped on our way and picked up the Watsons who wanted to go with us that day.  The Funeral started at 8:00 am and so we got up at 5;30 and were on the road about 6:30 in order to get there on time.  It made for a long day even though we got back in pretty good time that afternoon.  Sister Hoopes ended up playing the piano for everything including a choir of youth from Iriga.  They were planning to sing acapalla but that would not have been good.   Sadly, the piano didn't play the right note all the time and the pedal made noises but the music turned out very nice.

This young man volunteered to sing a solo part in our song.
I am thanking him for his service.

We see this mountain named Mayon which is an active volcano every time we go to Buhi.  It is usally covered by clouds.  This time we actually stopped and got a great picture.  It is just outside our mission so we will probably never get any closer than this shot.  You can see the smoke coming from the top of the cone.

My thought for this week is regarding the teaching of the missionaries in the Career Workshop.  I have mentioned before that we are trying to inspire each missionary and give them courage and knowledge about what the Lord desires for them both temporally and spiritually. We use the talk from Elder Todd Christofferson from last October as the basis.  I have never seen anything better.  It is a powerful message of how the Lord will work in our lives once WE choose what we want and ask Him.  We teach them how to show by their actions what they want to be or have.   One young man, a Philippino, came up and thanked me for the workshop.  He said he had always wanted to be an electrical engineer,  He said, "I was afraid to go home from my mission". Now I am not afraid anymore and I know what to do.  This is a message for all of us.  Quit being afraid and go do what you want to do.  Show the Lord what you want and ask Him and he will help you.  If any of you want our Power Point presentation, just ask.

"The Lord will not make us something that we do not choose by our actions to become". (Elder Christofferson)

That's all this week.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

16 May 2015

Today is Grandpa Hoopes' birthday!  Something we would probably not think of other than I think about it every year.

I am starting off this week with a little lesson. Sister Hoopes was asked if she would demonstrate making BBQ Pork sandwiches for the Relief Society Sisters last Saturday evening. There were about 18 Sisters there along with some children to hear how the BBQ is made and also to have a taste.  The activity was promoted by our Bishop who had sampled the BBQ Pork sandwiches during the previous week.  The picture to the right is of his wife and youngest of three girls.  This little one is just over 2 years old.  The little girl wanted me to hold her which I am not supposed to do, so I just lifted her by her arms and then sat her down again.  I probably did this twice.  Then I held the door open for them to leave and shook hands as they were leaving and this little girl said out loud in ENGLISH "I love you". I was absolutely stunned!!  I know the family speaks English at home and the older sister is taking piano lessons and speaks English very well.  It was not just the English but the thought that she would say that to me (or us) after only a few minutes of interaction.  It was one of the sweetest and most special moments I have had while here on this mission.  We have had our own children say that now and then and have had grandkids say it but this was somehow different.  I have thought a lot about why she might say that and what it meant.  Perhaps she says it to everyone and they probably do it in the home and, if so, what a special thing.
I was talking with Elder Gardner before he left a couple of weeks ago and he said to me, "We love you" and I looked at him somewhat stunned and asked him why he would say that.  He said back to me, "I know we don't know each other that well but I can feel your spirit and I love you".  I wonder if this little girl felt the spirit that night.  I know I did.  It was a wonderfull feeling for me and I will treasure this little girls simple statement of love to me.  I know I had the same feeling for her.

Sister next to Sister Hoopes is Relief Society President and the other is her daughter.
This was after the BBQ activity.
This past week has been really slow for me as we hardly went anywhere and I did very little.  Sister Hoopes is now officially assigned as the English Tester for the Mission.  The mission provides an English language course for all non English speaking missionaries which they are to study throughout their mission. Then when they go home, they take a computerized test which is graded and returned with a certificate of English proficiency.  The church has found that the better these missionaries speak English, the better the jobs they can get.  In fact, they estimate that they can earn up to 4 times more if they speak English well.  There is a large group of missionaries going home next week and so this week has been completely taken up with the English testing nearly every day.  

We did not have any tests on Thursday so we decided to run to Libmanan for District Meeting and check on their progress with the records.  The missionaries there are really making a difference both in finding information but in also putting it into the computer.  This is probably the most progress we have seen yet in getting membership records updated.

Dinner guests on Sunday.  A young couple from the US was in church and Sister Hoopes invited them along with a friend of theirs and the 4 missionaries who had already been invited.  We were 9 for dinner and had to really stretch to fit everyone in.  The sister from the US had served in this mission about 4 years ago and she and her husband had come back for a visit.
Elders going home this next week.  Couldn't believe they had their suits
coats on all morning for Zone training.  I made them go outside to get their picture.
Absolutely great young men.  We will miss them.

I have missed our sunsets at home so when I saw this, I had to get a picture.

We spent several hours with Pres and Sister Reeder on Tuesday afternoon.  We had time to visit and relax a little.  It is always great to be with them.  We also worked on our presentation for the Career Workshop which is coming up again on Tuesday.  We have 23 in the class this time and don't know how we are going to do it.  More than double last time.  The Reeders have asked us to help that evening and also again on Wednesday with the next missionaries coming in as it is also a large group. So, even though I say it was a slow week, we had a lot going on and I am grateful for that.

Have a great week.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

9 May 2015

"And now I would that ye should be humble, and be submissive and gentle; easy to be entreated; full of patience and long-suffering; being temperate in all things; being diligent in keeping the commandments of God at all times; asking for whatsoever things ye stand in need, both spiritual and temporal; always returning thanks unto God for whatsoever things ye do receive."  Alma 7: 23 (Book of Mormon)
We attended Zone Training yesterday with the Canaman Zone which is in Naga but at the Stake Center.   Their training was on teaching Christlike Attributes.  I was reviewing Preach My Gospel and found the above scripture on these Christlike attributes which I really liked and thought I would use it as a message for today.
I have tried to think of any better advice that could be given to someone with challenges in their life or even those for whom everything is going well.  We need to remember God in all things and strive to be more like him every day.  This scripture is a great lesson in how we should lead our lives.

Elder and Sister Gardner went home this past week.  We had lunch together on Monday with the Reeders and Watsons and then on Tuesday, we drove the Gardners to the airport and said goodbye.  Sister Reeder was with us.  We were sad to see them go but knew they were anxious to get back home.  They have been our friends and our mainstay for the past few months.  They picked us up at the airport when we got to Naga and showed us around the area.  They got our apartment all set up and ready for us and were the ones we turned to whenever we needed to know something.
Saying goodbye at the Naga Airport on Tuesday

Monday after lunch

Lunch at the White Bean which is located in downtown Naga in a hotel.  It is a nicer place and a little more expensive.  The food is good and they have some different things on the menu than just Philippino food.  I usually get the Chicken Parmesan when I come and it is quite good.  I haven't found any other place here that has a full chicken breast in any form.

 We invited the Facilities Maintenance folks to our apartment on Thursday for lunch.  They got the famous "stack enchiladas" that we have eaten at our house for years.  (ever since Kevan introduced us after his mission)

They love Sister Hoopes' food; bread, cookies, BBQ pork sandwiches and now enchiladas.  It is amazing she can make it all taste so good even though the ingredients are not all the same.

Our Bishop is the head of the group and at the end of the table.

Serving treats at the end of Zone training

Probably our favorite food is Creamy Mushroom soup and Greek Salad at Shakeys 

Our Typhoon fizzled again and all we have is rain.
We sent out a card last week to family inviting all to join us in reading 2 chapters a day from the Book of Mormon.  We completed chapter 16 of 1 Nephi today.  Still time to jump in and catch up. We encourage all of you to do this for yourselves and your families.  It will bless your lives.

Friday, May 1, 2015

2 May 2015

Iriga last Sat but this size doubled just after this picture was taken
Another Saturday and this past week was very much like the last few.  I suspect I will be saying that very often now.  Piano lessons have become one of our biggest and most time consuming events.  Last Saturday afternoon, we went to Iriga which is about an hour south and had over 50 people show up.  There were many youth and children along with some adults.  The branch president from Baao brought 3 of his 4 children all on a motorcycle.  We went back to Iriga again yesterday to do piano lessons again but not so many people this time.  I was also able to meet with a branch clerk while piano lessons were going on and provide some training for the membership records.
Smaller group in Iriga yesterday

We went to Libmanan on Sunday and met with the Branch Presidency and clerk and were able to teach and train on the system.  We made an appointment to go back on Wednesday and meet with the missionaries.  In this branch, the missionaries now have access to the computer and they were able to enter information which they had collected on people who had moved, died, had ordinances, etc.  It is really the first time I have seen some significant progress and it was a really good feeling.

We also had piano lessons in Pamplona and Libmanan this past week along with meeting with the Missionaries in their district meeting.

On the way to Buhi

On Thursday, we went with the Gardner's and Watson's to Buhi.  The Gardner's used to work out of Baao and Buhi was a Branch that they visited often.  As the Gardner's are going home in a few days, they wanted to go back and see some people and the new chapel being built in Buhi.  We had a very nice day with these great friends.  It will be hard to say goodbye to the Gardner's on Tuesday.  The Watson's came just a week before us so we will be able to see them a lot before we go.

New chapel in Buhi

New chapel nearly finished inside-dedication in May
This is the active Volcano outside of Cotnogan. A small cloud is covering the symmetrical pointed cone.  It is called Mayon. It is the most prominent land form of the Bicol Region.  It's last eruption was August to Nov. 2014, which included lava flows. Yes, it is still smoking. We can't visit it because it is just outside our mission boundaries, although our little branch in Cotnogan geographically is in the Legazpi mission boundaries.
I checked out the new piano, its a Kawaii digital. OH DARN, they're everywhere.
 There is a member in Buhi who all the missionaries call the "Buhi Lady".  She weaves her own material on weaving looms and then makes bags, blankets, etc.  All the missionaries who work there own some of these things.  We even bought a bedspread for our place along with another purse/bag for Sister Hoopes.

We picked up an order for Elder Shepherd who will be going home this month. He had stopped by our apartment the night before because he had left his medicine in the office for a very infected toe. I soon had his foot soaking in hot water and chicken enchiladas in his tummy, and his order in hand.
The weaving looms with some of her material out.
Girls' day out.  Shopping at the central market.
(Sis Hoopes) I keep hearing about the market but I hadn't been there yet.  It had everything, but of course, many shops had the very same thing.  I bought a pineapple, but because our fridge went out, our food started to rot and I threw it away.  It's too risky to eat questionable food over here. We have another Elder in the hospital with ameobia's.  This is the 4th from that area.
Lunch at the White Bean.  This is the "go to" place for mission couple's in Naga.  We'll be going again on Monday as a farewell party for the Gardner's.

If you look close you can see the chickens stuffed in this Tricie.  Probably on the way to market. Yes,they're alive!