Sunday, July 26, 2015

25 July 2015

I am actually writing this on Sunday evening even though I put the title/date as of yesterday.

In our Life Skills Workshop which we teach to the Missionaries who are going home, we ask the question:  "What did you learn on your mission"?  It is surprising that few can or will answer the question until we give them some examples.  Some simple examples might be the following:  I learned how to budget my money; I learned how to manage my time;  I learned how to have faith in Jesus Christ; and I learned how to feel the spirit.   Once we give the examples, then we start to get some really good answers.  The point of the exercise is to help them see the value of their mission not just in people they have converted and helped bring into the gospel but also in the things that they have learned themselves that will be a blessing to them for the rest of their lives.  The value in this discussion is helping them to see that the mission they have completed honorably has been a training ground for the rest of their lives.  When they couple the things they have learned with the gifts and talents that God has given them, they are ready to learn how to partner with the Lord in creating the rest of their lives.

Sadly there are some who don't understand these principles and subsequently miss out on the great things that God has in store for them.  We recently read of a new program from the church for returning missionaries.  It is called "My Plan" and will be an online training tool available to all missionaries.  You can go online and learn of the whole program if you have interest.  I just want to quote here a statement from Steven Peterson, President of the South Weber Utah Stake, who has been involved in piloting this program.  He said, "too often we say of returned missionaries, Oh, he'll be back to normal soon.  If normal is what they were like before, I hope that they are never normal again.  If you forget what you learned on your mission , what was the point? The fact is that the mission is the MTC for the rest of your life.  The mission shouldn't stand out as a unique opportunity. It just prepares us for everything else we have to do."

These words are going into our next Life Skills Workshop because they are so powerful.  If we could only realize that God has given us talents and opportunities to learn and grow and that if we will take his hand, he will help us become what we want and what he knows we can be.

I am just going to post a few pictures from the week and a little bit about some people we met and that will be it for this week.

We were driving to Pili for church last Sunday and saw this beautiful terraced rice field and so we stopped on our way home to take some pictures.

It is hard to see how beautiful this was from these pictures but we thought it was so great to see.

The old man leaning on the truck is the owner.  They also
gave us some Coconuts.  The one in hand has been cut
open and we drank the water from it.  Very healthy and good!
Kathlene got out of the car to take the pictues and there were some people there who she started talking to.  It turned out to be the owner of the land and his family.  The rice field has just recently been prepared for planting which was to take place the following Thursday.  We had a really nice time visiting with him.  He spoke very good English as he had worked for the government in Agriculture prior to retiring a few years ago.  He was pleased that we thought his farm was beautiful.

Missionaries from the Pili District who we trained on Thursday in District meeting.

We had some English tests on Monday and invited these Sisters and Elders to join us for lunch.  The American Elder on the right in the back worked in the office for the last 6 months and we knew him very well.  Both he and his companion are going home in 2 weeks.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

18 July 2015

I am learning that even the slow weeks go by fast!  I have a hard time getting ready to write something new each week because it seems like the same thing I wrote the past week.  I worry that it is going to be too boring for anyone to read.   So, even though the past week was slow, we were still involved and trying to do what we could to help.  Our week in a nutshell follows:

But first, a word from our SPONSOR!

For those of you who are reading the Book of Mormon along with us, we just finished Alma Chapter 53 today.  I really love this part of the BofM, not because of the wars but because it teaches us about what our own country is and will be like and the kind of people we need to be to deal with it.  There is wicked Amalekiah who goes to the Lamanites when he doesn't get his own way; the King Men who desire to overthrow the government and set up a king; and in the middle of all this wickedness is the great leader of the Nephite armies Moroni.  A study of Alma tells us what kind of man he was. Here are some of the words from the BofM which describe him.  "Strong and mighty (I think not just physically); perfect understanding; did not delight in bloodshed; soul did joy in liberty and freedom; heart did swell with thanksgiving; labor exceedingly for the welfare and safety of his people, and finally verse 17 in Chapter 48, "Yea...if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men."  There is such power in these verses.  If only we could all be as Moroni in whatsoever thing we are responsible for.  But Moroni is not the only great man in the BofM.  He is one of many who we should look to for a pattern in our lives.  One of the great teachings in this book is that wickedness will be there regardless but what we do with our own lives is what is important to the Lord.  My prayer is that each of us choose whomever we want from the BofM and decide to pattern our own life after the good and great things that we see in the one we have chosen.

The past 7 days, which were slow, went like this:

(My slow week included the following version in parentheses - Kathlene
Iriga District BP and Clerk Training after I finished.
They look kind of worn out.  I was 1.5 hours.
Saturday afternoon:  To Iriga for District Branch Presidents and Clerk training.
(Prepared for piano lessons during clerk training, no one came so I taught a girl waiting there with her mother)
Sunday:  We actually stayed in our home ward this day and enjoyed it a lot.
(I held choir practice, cooked dinner)
Monday:  Pres and Sis Reeder invited us to lunch at their home with the Watsons.
(I made cinnamon rolls and forgot the cinnamon, 2 piano lessons in AM and 2 piano in afternoon) Tuesday:  English test in the morning - free afternoon.

Wednesday:  Planned for donut making lessons but had to buy a  car battery and take to the Watsons in Baao.  Donut making lessons took place in the later afternoon.
(Prep work for Donut making)

Thursday: To District meeting in Pamplona with Donuts for the Elders and Sisters.  I included this picture for the benefit of some of the parents who are following this blog.  These are the district leaders of the Pamplona District.
(Fried fresh donuts in AM before District Meeting.  Worked on genealogy until after midnight).)

The Elders and Sisters of the Pamplona District along with the Zone Leaders.

Friday:  A holiday here and all the Elders were away.  We invited Pres and Sister Reeder to our place for Chicken Parmesan and pasta salad. (I cooked and made dessert in addition to dinner, thank goodness piano lessons at CES were canceled, due to the holiday)

Today:  English test in the morning which I am going to do and baptisms this evening in the church next door. (Fixed dinner for two Sister Missionaries and prepped Elder for English test)

In addition to the things I have listed for each day, we have been doing our laundry; ironing shirts; cleaning the apartment; shopping and feeding Elders and Sisters.(Oh yea, fixed food!, who had the slow week??? I'm still looking forward to it!)

I guess we deserve a slow week now and then.
Lunch with our Naga  3 Sisters.
PS: My commentary was written AFTER Jon wrote the blog!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

11 July 2015

Val and Linda Currie Dec. 2014
We had a sad event this past week.  Val Currie, our good friend and the father of our daughter-in-law Kristin died of a stroke.  This is very sad to us as we were quite close having gone on several trips together and attended family functions at each other's places.  Val will be remembered by all as a great family man and a great church leader.   His love of his garden and yard will be remembered by everyone who knew him but I think Val's greatest legacy will be the things that he taught either by word or example.  I know that he would encourage all of his children and those who love him to follow the example that he set - that is one of obedience to God's will; faith to do the things we might not fully understand; courage to do what is right; patience; kindness and love and hard work.   It is my prayer that those close to him will remember his love and acceptance of them and strive with all their hearts to follow the path he set.

This week was also BIRTHDAY WEEK!!

We actually had two birthday parties this past week.  The first was a week ago today and was for Sister Hoopes.  She turned 65 so it was a big day.  We invited the 6 office Elders and President and Sister Reeder.  Then later, Sister Hoopes sent a text to the local Sisters (2 of them) and invited them but 4 showed up. We still don't understand the confusion but it was great to have all of them.  Along with President and Sister Reeder, we had 14 of us in this little apartment.  And, of course, Sister Hoopes had a BBQ dinner for all of them.  We actually picked Sister Reeder up at 11:00 am at her home and then did some shopping and came
Six Elders on our little couch.

back to our apartment where the food was prepared.  We had potato salad, hot dogs and hamburgers with home made buns; and chocolate cup cakes.  We had a lot of fun and the Elders and Sisters hung around for a long time even though seating was very limited as you will see from some of the pictures.

The Elders were late getting there and we knew they were in the office as we had seen them so I went down to remind them of the time and they were all gathered around a desk talking about something.  I said, "we were expecting you 15 minutes ago and the food is ready and sitting on the table.  So come now or lose out because we already have more sisters than we were expecting."  They were still another 5 minutes before they got there but they brought a big card which they gave to Sister Hoopes.  I can only assume that they were there working on that card and that is why they were late.

The flowers and cake in the picture above came from some other friends in the ward who came to visit on Saturday night after things had quieted down.  It was so nice of them to come and recognize Kathlene's birthday.

On Tuesday night, we attended the birthday party of one of the members we know who works closely with the FM group.  He and his wife have been in other pictures of ours and have become really good friends.  His 50th birthday was on Tuesday, July 7 and we were invited to their home for a celebration.  We went with President and Sister Reeder who knew where they lived.  There must have been food for 50 people and probably that many came.  You can see from the pictures the spread.  Those of you familiar with the Philippines will recognize the tasty dish in the middle of the table.  Apparently that is very traditional and, of course, we had to try some.  The food was really good and while we didn't eat a lot of any one thing, we did try most things and went home absolutely stuffed.  And, by the way, there were people coming the whole time we were there.  They would come and get a plate of food and disappear somewhere.  We don't know where because there wasn't any place at the table to sit.  There was a small living room but I think most went back outside.  It was a muggy night and with no air conditioning, it gets pretty uncomfortable for us Americaners.

Sunday we were in Buhi again for the dedication of their new chapel.  We were met in the parking lot by the Area Authority from the 70 who was there to perform the dedication.  There were many members who came from other Branches in the District to show their support.  It was a beautiful day in a very beautiful setting.

We attended a Zone Training in Iriga again on Thursday. We went to Iriga because President Reeder told me that they are going to make another push to get the Iriga District to become a Stake and asked me to help with the Membership issues as those issues have been a big hindrance in the past.  We went to teach the Missionaries more about what we will try to do with the different branches and how they can help.

These Elders (left) are in Bato - a small branch in the district.  The Elder on the left is just new and is from Henderson, Nevada.  We met him a week ago when he first got in the mission but

Enjoying cookies from Sister Hoopes.  Masarap!!!
yesterday we heard his story.  His parents are both from the Philippines but met at BYU Provo and got married.  He was born in Provo and they now live in Henderson.  He speaks NO TAGALAG which is so funny.  He is a bright and talented (plays piano) young man; is happy and just has an excitement about him.  It is just amazing to see how the Lord works in these instances to provide missionaries for these wonderful people in the Philippines.

We wish the Currie family well and pray that they will be blessed with peace and comforted by the Holy Spirit through this difficult time. We understand the funeral service will be on Thursday of next week but that will need to be verified by anyone wishing to attend.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

4 July 2015


Kathlene is doing great for her 65th birthday.  We only wish we could say the same for our country.

Kathlene just after we were married

This weeks blog post is a copy of a letter which I wrote to a friend in Perry.  His parents just left for the MTC and his son is currently serving a mission in Mexico.  My intent was to put together a letter which would help him see the different assignments that we have and get a feel for our daily activities.  It, of course, is not a comprehensive list of what we do each week but it is a good list for what we have done for the last two weeks  and it does make it sound like we are busier than we really are. Every now and then we have a day that is free and most of our evenings are free.  That gives us plenty of time to rest and catch up with the writing duties.  

Kathlene just last month in Daet on the coast

Dear Friend,

I am finally sitting down to write something to you.  You sent us a letter which we were grateful to get and I wanted to respond quickly but it was at a time when we were very busy and I just couldn't get myself to sit down and write to you.  We do a blog each week so that is a grind getting that done and then last weekend was my family reunion with my brothers and sisters.  Since I am the oldest and parents are both gone, I thought I needed to send them something so I spent quite a bit of my time putting a letter together for them.  Then we got really busy this week but it was planned and we had been preparing for the week for a long time.  

Group from Monday Career Workshop
We have been teaching a workshop for the missionaries who go home and it is a full day workshop.  This past week, there were 35 going home and so it was split into 2 days and we still had 18 on Monday and then 17 on Tuesday.  Then on Wednesday we help with the new missionaries arriving.  So, we have had 3 huge days right in a row and it gets a little tiring.  We are neither one as spry as we used to be.  Then I spent most of the day today working on car reports for the end of the month.  Tomorrow we will be attending a District meeting and teaching missionaries and then we have an afternoon at the CES center every Friday teaching piano lessons and conducting.   And that is not all we do.  Saturday will be Kathlene's birthday and we are having a party.  Of course, it will be at our place but Sister Reeder is coming along with the office Elders.  Others are too busy working.
Sister Gregorio who the Forsberg's have been writing to.  She
went home on Tuesday.
If you are reading our blog then a lot of this is superfluous but I will try to tell you a little about what we are doing here.

Our initial assignment was to work on MLS as the record keeping here in wards and branches has been atrocious and the only time I can really meet with anyone in the ward or branch is on Sunday so our Sundays are spent in different branches and wards every single week.  But they really do treat us well and we love going out around.  I was feeling down about MLS records one day and Pres. Reeder said, "It's okay.  You have 18 months to fix it".  We laughed because I don't think it can get fixed in 18 years.  I could if I could
The new group on Wednesday starting their
orientation to the Mission.
work in each unit for about 6 months and really focus on it but I can't.  So now I have changed my focus and am trying to fix their issues for the future so that the problems of the past are not repeated.  I have discovered that they don't use any forms to capture info for ordinances.  They tell me that they write it in a log book and they do have these log books but I have yet to find a single date of baptism or AP ordinance in the log book.  If they could find a date it would be easy to fix the past problems but they can't so I tell them their system doesn't work.  The church way is to print a blank form and fill it out as the BP(Branch Pres or Bishop) does the interview.  Oh, I can tell some stories and I have only been here 6 months.  They are actually really funny but very sad too.  Still, when these BP's see the forms and how they should work they all say that they think this is a better way. I just don't know how long they will keep it up.  Also we are teaching missionaries every chance we get.  A lot is designed to teach them so they can help the BP's but in reality it is intended to help them see what they have to do when they get back home.  Over 60% of our missionaries are Filipino and another 20% from the Pactific Islands and they will be leaders as soon as they get home in their individual units
Kathlene is teaching piano lessons to several kids right here at the church next door and then we go to Pamplona and also to Iriga on some Saturdays to teach as well as the piano lessons every Friday afternoon at the CES building.  She also has the responsibility to oversee the English testing for all of the non English speaking missionaries going home. The church provides them with a course to study during their mission and then pays for them to take a test and get a certificate of English competence.  The better they speak English the better jobs they can get after.  It has been really good but takes a lot of time - a least an hour for every person and she has to work around the Elders in the office and also get all the missionaries scheduled and in here.   The last 3 weeks were a real chore.  Now, I am helping with them as well since I don't usually do a lot during those times so I can help with a sample test.  It also seemed helpful to talk with them before the test and just help them feel better.  Almost every single Filipino is scared to death to take the test but they are preparing more and doing much better.

Sisters from the Canaman District.  They were chatting in a
circle until I pulled out the camera.  Then they all posed.
Sister Hoopes said, "We don't want to be seen
in our natural state".
I mentioned the cars reports as I have been assigned as the Mission Vehicle Coordinator.  The church is just implementing a new reporting system and it has been challenging as it doesn't work very well yet and I have tons of questions but Manila doesn't seem to care very much so I am not going to get uptight about it yet - other than to do the best that I can. An Elder hit a parked car going home last week and that has been a huge issue.  I don't have any idea how things work here and what was expected.  We have dealt with it but I still don't know all the steps that have to be done next time.  I just told all of the Elders that I don't want any more accidents.  None at all.  I don't want to go through that again.

The Sisters said, "We love it when you come to our meetings
Sister Hoopes because you always bring treats".
We have also been asked to attend a District Leaders Training meeting and speak on Leadership and we will be going to the Zone Conferences the end of this month to help with presentations.  Plus any special needs like sick missionaries (Sis Hoopes has been helping Sister Reeder) and sometimes they need help getting a missionary from somewhere to somewhere.   So, our jobs are quite varied but we are doing great. 
Just a note on the Life Skills Workshop:  We have now taught it 4 times and find it to be one of the most satisfying experiences that we have ever had.  It used to be on how to go home and find jobs, applications, etc.  We have completely changed it to learning what the Lord wants for them temporally; the need to decide what they want; and then how to get the Lord to help them.  We have taken the morning session completely from the conference talk by Elder E. Todd Christofferson in Oct of last year.  "Free Forever to Act for Themselves"  It is the best I have ever read on this subject but you have to read it carefully.  Look for anything regarding Temporal.  The talk is for both temporal and spiritual.  I use the quotes for temporal right out of the talk and then discuss what they mean and how they go about doing that in their lives.  If you need help, I will send you an underlined copy but I think you should read it and be getting ready to teach it.  You will have great opportunities in the future to help young people learn what they need to do to be successful.  Sometimes to get out of the ruts of their parents.  I am feeling bad about when we leave.  There will probably be no one to teach them and I think that will be a tremendous loss to so many who need it.  I am hoping there will be a chance to teach it at home when we get there next year.

Another activity is feeding the missionaries.  Of the 6 - 1 is
going home and 2 are leaving the office.  The
replacements are in the picture for the 2 being
Time is going by fast.  We have been here nearly 6 months already and we know the date we are coming home.  It is June 16, 2016.  Will probably be speaking on Fathers Day next year. Can't believe it.

Sounds like you are all doing well.  Glad to hear about your folks.  Pres Eddington talked to us about the same type of mission in Perry.(work from home as FT Missionaries)   We didn't bite on it as we couldn't see how we would know when we were missionaries and when we weren't.  Besides, we kind of wanted to get over here to help the Reeders if we could.

Tell your missionaries hello from us.

We love and miss all of you),

Elder and Sister Hoopes