Sunday, December 27, 2015

26 December 2015

This is our last post for the year of 2015.
In Daet for Christmas Conference on December 23, 2015.

That means that we have been in the Philippines for nearly 1 year.  The time has just flown by and it has been a great experience serving here.  This holiday season has been special and we have enjoyed the association with missionaries and members as you will see in the remainder of this post.  We have been greatly blessed here and feel that our children and families at home have been blessed.  We have enjoyed the opportunity to visit with many of them on Skype the past couple of days.

Our past week has been busy!  It was filled with Christmas parties nearly every day.

Pres and Sister Flores with their son and grandson delivering
the Christmas gift below.

Everything this week started with a dinner with some friends on Monday evening.  We had invited President Flores and his wife and son to dinner with us.  He is the second councilor in the Mission Presidency and also works for Facilities Management which is officed in the church next to us.

This is a traditional dish in thhe Philippines.  It is not usually
made of bread, however.  It is usually the real thing.

One of the Districts doing a dance and song.

We started on Tuesday with a Mission Christmas Conference in Naga for 4 of the 6 zones.  We had well over 100 missionaries here from the southern areas of the mission.  The Conference was to start at 10 but at 9:00 am, the power went out all over the city. This happens frequently and we never know how wide spread the outage is.  If the power goes out at 8 or 9 in the morning, we usually assume that it is a planned outage.  We didn't know the power was out in the Canaman Chapel until we got there about 9:40, and the generator in the Canaman chapel does not work so there were no fans and no air movement at all.  We were anticipating a very long a hot day, however, the power came on about 11 which really was a miracle for us.  We had power for air conditioning, fans, projector, etc.  There were also some missionaries late due to travel issues as the traffic was really bad that morning.

 The day included a welcome by the Mission President; a talent show by all the districts and zones; a movie (Johnny Lingo) and a special Christmas message from Sister Reeder. We started with the welcome by President Reeder and then went straight to the talent show.  That was really a lot of fun. Then after lunch we moved into the chapel to watch the movie and have the Christmas message from Sister Reeder.  It was a very nice day.

We were blessed along with the Watson's to go to Daet the next day for the 2nd Mission Christmas Conference.  We left at 7 in the morning and it takes just over 2 hours to get there.  By attending this Conference, we were able to see and be with every missionary in the mission over the course of 2 days.  That was a special treat for us.

Sandy and Tess Lopez.  We were at their place for dinner on
Christmas Eve

We were invited to the home of some members for Christmas Eve dinner.  These people are wonderful friends and we were at their home last summer for Brother Sandy Lopez's birthday party.  The three couples including President and Sister Reeder were invited to come early and eat and then we left.  The Lopez family was still expecting 30 or more to come after us and stay most of the evening.

This picture shows the spread of food they had for us along with President
and Sister Reeder.
Friday, Christmas Day, we had Elders come in the morning to use our Ipads to Skype home and we were invited to dinner by our wonderful next door neighbors at 2:00.  Elder and Sister Watson had prepared a wonderful turkey and ham dinner with italian salad, rolls, stuffing and more I can't even remember.  President and Sister Reeder were there again as well.  I was so stuffed, I could hardly walk.

But there is more....We also had an adult devotional on Christmas day night at the church.  Sister Hoopes had prepared a dessert and while we didn't think they were eating, it was exactly that.  A big meal for all of the adults to come and eat.  I didn't stay very long.  The food looked and smelled good but I was still too stuffed to eat anything.

We still have one more Christmas party which is the Naga 3rd Ward party scheduled for Dec. 30.  It will be for all adults and children and will also include food.  We'll make sure to eat less that day and be ready for some special Filipino food that night.

That is all for this week.  We have had terrible internet and been really busy.  I am at least 2 days late with this and no thought for the week of Christmas 2015.  I guess it will just have to do.

All our best for the rest of this year.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

19 December 2015

A busy week!!!

Transfer week coupled with a Typhoon coming through made for a hectic and somewhat unsettled week.

9 Elders out to play basketball for the last time at 5:00 am on
Tuesday morning.  All are going to the workshop that day and
going home on Wednesday.  They love their basketball.
We heard on Saturday that a Typhoon was headed our way and would hit Naga sometime on Monday afternoon.  With transfers happening on Tuesday and Wednesday, everything was up in the air as to what would happen with the Workshop on Tuesday and then flights to and from Manila on Wednesday.  Finally, on Monday, President Reeder told us that it appeared that the Typhoon would move further south and that we should plan on the workshop as usual.  Actually, everything worked out all right other than we lost power for an hour on Tuesday which really hindered our workshop but it came back on and we were able to finish.

The whole crew for the workshop.  Elder and Sister
Watson joined us for the day.
You might wonder why power is so important during the workshop.   The entire day is on a Power Point Presentation and while the laptop can run on battery, the projector requires power.  In addition to that, the presentors require AIR CONDITIONING!!!!!  Even though we might have emergency power (which doesn't work in the chapel we were using), it does not cover the air conditioning units.  So, we were all very grateful for the power to come back on.

Then on Tuesday evening, we heard that the Manila office was sending the new missionaries by bus on Tuesday and that they would arrive at the Naga Mission office on Wednesday morning at 7:00 am.  Nothing more was heard until about 7:00 am Wednesday morning and then the message was that the new missionaries were NOT coming by bus.  It was canceled due to signal 2 storm warning, too dangerous to travel by land. So back to plan "A" travel by plane.  The new missionaries arrive usually by plane about 10:30 Wednesday mornings and the missionaries going home fly back to Manila on that same plane.  President Reeder did not even know until about 9:30 whether the new missionaries would actually get there on the plane and whether he could send those going home out on the plane.  But it all worked out okay.  Those going home got out and those coming in came in.  Everyone just has to learn to be patient and "go with the flow" and let it all happen.  It usually works out fine.

8 Elders for breakfast on Wednesday.  There were more
over the course of an hour.  Some are office Elders
and the rest are new Trainers coming in to get their
new companions later in the day.

We had a great day on Tuesday teaching some wonderful missionaries who went home.  Most of them we have gotten to know very well and we just love them and will miss them.  Then another great day on Wednesday with the new missionaries who just arrived.  We also got to spend some time with the trainers of the new missionaries.
With all the delays and changes, it resulted in an impromptu French Toast Breakfast, with NO trimmings.  Elder Teichert, aus (from) Cokeville.  Declared the French Toast breakfast, "Christmas come Early".

President Oliva of the Cotnogan branch.  This is in
his office.  His plaque and certificate for his award
are on the desk in front of him.

We had big plans for Friday that didn't materialize.  We were going to go with the Watsons to Buhi and then cross the lake on a boat and go to the new Ibayugen Group Christmas Party planned for Friday afternoon.  But it rained so hard on Thursday that we chickened out and visited Cotnogan instead. The Watson's had received some money from their ward members to be used for Christmas presents for needy kids and they had purchased a large amount of toys.  We delivered some of those to President Oliva of the Cotnogan branch on Friday.  I am including some pictures of him.  He has been the Branch President for 24 years and is just a wonderful man.  He is the Captain of the local Barangay.  That is like being the mayor of a small town.  It is an elected position and he is really loved by the people in this little community.  He won an award on Friday night as the best Barangay captain in the province and  he won 100,000 Pesos for the Barangay.  It is interesting to hear him talk as he told us that all of the programs he has instituted in the Barangay are church programs.  For example, he said that they have a Fast Offering program.  It is not called Fast Offerings but it is a way for people to donate extra food which is given to someone who needs it.  They also have a Word of Wisdom program to help people with drugs, alcohol and tobacco.  He takes no credit for himself but said all of the successful things that he has done have come directly from the church.
The plan for the community. 
I was very impressed with a 10 year plan for the community which he put together.  Many of the things on the plan have been completed and others are still goals.  This is truly a great man in this community.  Thanks to his membership in the church, he has been able to bless not only the members but the entire community of Cotnogan.

Watson's and Sister Hoopes along with Pres. Oliva.
We were reading the other day from the Book of Mormon about the people and conditions after the Savior visited and taught the Nephites in the land of Bountiful.  It is interesting how the people were all one at that time.  That is, as Mormon tells us, there were no "ites".  No Nephites, Lamanites, Zoramites, etc.  They were all one people without any distinctions to differentiate them.  It struck me that while we don't have the distinction of "ites" in our language and culture, we do have a myriad of groups of people. Unfortunately, everyone is now classified by race or color; by immigration status; membership in groups or gangs; and now splintered even more by religious affiliation.  We used to all be one in this country, we were all Americans.  The Evil One has intentionally gone about creating splinter groups with the intent to create hostility and even violence among all groups of people.  Some are openly calling for death and violence upon other groups. All this is contrary to what the Savior taught. I pray that we may see what is happening and bring the Lord back into our lives and the lives of our beloved brethren. The return of the Savior to live with us again is contingent upon learning to love all people.

We took some packages to the Elders Apartment who were
not home.  They asked us to leave them here.  This is where
they hang clothes to dry.  An unfinished top of the house
they live in.

Stairway up to the unfinished part.  I am trying to catch
water dropping down.

We drove up on Mt Iriga for a view of the city below.  This is
the remains of a hut which was mostly destroyed by the
Typhoon this past week.  It overlooks Baao.

A rice paddy being planted.  The baskets hold the new rice
plants which he is dropping off at specific intervals.

These guys are planting the new plants in the mud.  It is amazing
how fast they put them down and how exact their
planting is.  

Last minute preparations! Our audience awaits!
Sister Hoopes:
Well, today was the ward Sacrament Christmas program.   As far as I can tell, it was the very first one in Naga Phippines.   I know it was the 1st for the Naga 3rd ward and the Naga stake.  Anyway, I consider it a great success.  Our ward choir was large and well supported.  Members never complained about practicing, only Elder Hoopes!!! They sang solo's when asked, accompanied with the violin, met in groups and offered so much support.  This was new for them to have someone to be able to play music and for them to learn and sing parts. It was such a joy for me to help them participate in a beautiful program with a beautiful message.  "Never has there been a happier people" sharing a Christmas message.   Merry Christmas to all.  May the Spirit of Christmas be with you all week long!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

12 December 2015 Typhoon Melor Update


This is an update of a Typhoon which we have been monitoring.  It does appear to be heading right for us.  In fact, the model shows the eye of the typoon going right over Naga.  It is supposed to be here sometime Tuesday mid-day.

Please do not worry.  This country is used to this stuff and this one is not that big at this point.  We are well stocked with food supplies and water.  We have a generator and will be just fine.  We may be out of internet for the day on Tuesday and maybe into Wednesday.  We don't know yet but if we can, we will post updates or send emails as we can.

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All of the missionaries have been or are being alerted and there are procedures in place for what everyone is to do.  We are in a solid concrete building with great roof and we are on the second floor in case the water does get higher.

Actually, we are not worried and were hoping we might get to see a typhoon while living here.

We will let you all know what is happening when we can and know more.

Friday, December 11, 2015

12 December 2015

Here is a summary of this past week's activities which I will elaborate upon in due time.

1.  First Christmas party in the Philippines. (there are more to come)
2.  A SNOW BALL fight in the office and parking lot.
3.  A District meeting in Ocampo.
4.  A broken down oven and new range.

But first, a message from the Book of Mormon.

We received our Christmas package from Jennifer.  All our
presents are under the tree and our new stockings are hung
from the drapes with care or they will fall down.

One of the scriptures which jumped out at me recently is in 3 Nephi 11:29.  The Savior had just appeared to the Nephites who were in the area of Bountiful near the temple.  He taught them many things but one of the points he brought up is in verse 29.  He said, "For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another."
It is the middle of December and this is new rice planted
just last week.  This is the field we monitor.  The cycle starts all over again.
We think it is just so beautiful.
 In discussing this verse, we thought it was interesting that it is one of the first things that the Lord pointed out to the people when he appeared to them.  Therefore, it must have been important then and it is probably even more important today.  Do we not see the spirit of contention in so many aspects of our lives today?  What about political issues and major world issues now happening?  What about sporting events?  What about even driving down the road?  What about how we treat each other within our families?  It is Satan's desire for us to find fault and be angry with each other but that is not of the Lord.  He wants us to love and forgive each other.  Elder Russell M. Nelson declared "It matters not to Satan what the contention is all about - whether it is about worldly wickedness or the doctrines of the kingdom.  It only matters that contention and conflict be created in the hearts of men, because it is a corroding canker of the spirit that unless checked by repentance can lead to spiritual death."  It is more necessary now than ever to strive to love and forgive every day; to repent when necessary and make the changes in our lives to live as the Lord desires of us.  I promise we will all be much happier and better prepared for the return of the Lord in the Latter Days if we will strive to keep the spirit of contention out of our lives.


The first Christmas party in the Philippines was at the Mission home with President and Sister Reeder.  It was their annual party with those who associate regularly with the President and included those who work there; all of Facilities Management; Councilors in the Mission Presidency, Stake President and all of their families.  It was a large group of people.  All participated by bringing some food items and a talent to display.  We enjoyed great food and some entertainment.

Sister Reeder, Hoopes' and Watson's talent was singing a
different version of Away in a Manger.


Notice the snow on the driveway.
 Wednesday started out to be a quiet day but Sister Hoopes quickly discovered that the oven in our range was not working right.  It is a propane stove and we could turn the oven on but could not turn it off without turning it off at the tank.  We called FM who quickly came and then called a repairman who took it all apart and spent the day trying to find a new gas valve but to no avail.  The stove was declared "unfixable" by that afternoon.  While waiting for the repairman to come, Sister Hoopes decided it was time to defrost the freezer and as the ice started to melt, she scooped it out into a bowl and then announced she was going down to introduce the Elders in the office to "snowballs"!  I was going

Some of those involved in the SNOWBALL fight.
to go and assist but as we were walking out the door, the repairman came to work on the stove. I stayed to show the him what the problem was while Sister Hoopes start a snowball fight in the office. As soon as I could leave, I started down the stairs and as I got to the bottom I heard the back door of the office open and slam shut and then an Elder came running from the parking lot from behind the office and went out the gate and turned onto a sidewalk running full speed.  I thought that was a little unusual until I saw another Elder running from the same area with a "snowball" in hand.  Walking a little further with camera now in hand, I discovered Sister Hoopes providing "snowballs" to other missionaries to throw and even heaving a few herself. Elder Salmon from Canada was clearly familiar with snowballs, he was the one on a run and one of the Americans, Elder Christensen knew exactly what to do with it.  The Filipino Elders had never seen or experienced snow. One little ice cream carton of snow did not last long in the Philippines but hopefully the memory of the snowball fight in Naga City Philippines will last a life time and bring back memories of home to the North Americans.


All the Elders waiting for Sister Hoopes to pass out the brownies.
Nothing big to report here but after we decided to go to Ocampo, we discovered there were 2 packages for one of the American Elders waiting in the office.  We were able to deliver those packages and thereby relieve anxiety with family about whether he would have a Merry Christmas or not.  We had a great day with the District in Ocampo. We always do a little teaching on the English test process and how they can study better and then also some teaching on how to work with Ward Leaders on the membership records.

Both American Elders.  Elder Davis (left) from New Mexico and Elder
Sessions from Mountain Home, Idaho.
Pres and Sister Reeder came over Friday morning and we went
shopping for a new stove.  This one is pretty basic but it works
all right.  At least the first fresh pineapple cake turned
out just fine.  (the brownies for Thursday were cooked
next door)

Saturday, December 5, 2015

5 December 2015

Elders Wright and Leota
I will start this week with a message and a few pictures of missionaries for the benefit of their families.

For those of you who have been following this blog, you have already noted that we try to include some inspirational message each week. We write much as Jacob of old did when he said, "we labor diligently to engraven these words upon plates, hoping that our beloved brethren and children will receive them with thankful hearts, and look upon them that they may learn with joy and not with sorrow, neither with contempt, concerning their...parents".  (Jacob 4:3)

Elders Teichert (Cokeville Wyoming) and Ramirez
We are not trying to infer here that we are writing scrpture. But we do LABOR to put down some of our activities; thoughts and insights each week for our beloved brethren and children.  I think that covers about everyone who might have occasion to read this blog.  Actually, the original intent was to do something weekly so our families (brothers and sisters and parents) and more especially our children could follow the things that we are doing and experience in a simple way some of the things we experience.  I would be so happy if I knew that my children did receive these writing (teachings) with thankful hearts.  I hope they know that we have served two missions for the express reason of blessing THEM!  We came to serve and bless our children and beloved brethren!!!!!!

Our space is tight for 8 adults.  There are 2 Americans here
besides us.  Sister Baird from Heber City and Elder Beard from
West Valley.
Our Turkey.  A Norbest brand from SM grocery store
in the mall near us.  There were 3 at the store and now only

We did a Thanksgiving dinner on Sunday for two sets of missionaries who are assigned to our ward and we included the Bishop and his family.  It was planned to be a surprise for the missionaries and it really did turn out that way. Bishops wife and children came to our apartment a few minutes before 3:00 in the afternoon.  The missionaries were to meet with Bishop Bigtas at 3:00 in his office.  When they all got there, he promptly escorted them to our apartment where they found that their special meeting was a Thanksgiving dinner.  It was a lot of fun.  Elder Beard, who had the week before asked: "Did I  miss Thanksgiving?" was one of the missionaries.  We were able to tell him that he had not missed a Thanksgiving dinner after all. As a young Elder, a Missionary Couple had served Bishop Bigtas and his companion a Thanksgiving Dinner when he was a missionary 20 years ago. Perhaps some of our guests will remember their 1st Thanksgiving Dinner 20 years from now.

And apple pie for dessert!!!!

The girls had to sit at the counter due to lack of space.
They were so excited to come for Thanksgiving
Dinner with us.  

Our week was filled with English tests on Monday all day again.  In addition, the Watsons moved in next door.  We were able to help a little and then show them around the city on Thursday. On Friday, we went with President and Sister Reeder to the Daet Zone Training meeting.  Daet is over 2 hours away. We left at 6:15 in the morning and didn't get back until about 5:00 pm.  It was a long but great day with the Reeders and with the missionaries. We love being around all of them.

Monika wanted her picture with me.

Then Camila, the quiet one wanted a picture with me.

The Watsons moved in on Monday and immediately started "making merry".
They put lights up on their window and hung an angel from the ceiling.
We are excited to have them as neighbors!!
This is a card the kids brought to dinner Sunday.  Drawn by Isabel Bigtas.
Isa is 8 years old.  Speaks English very well.  It is her primary language.

Camila is 6 years old.   Speaks only English.
I think this says it all for this week.