Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A wonderful day at Magat Dam

It was an absolutely gorgeous day last Saturday as President and Sister Carlos and the two of us took a short 'break' from our traditional bedlam to visit nearby Magat Dam.  It always sounded scary to me as the name is pronounced like the little flesh eating bugs we have in the US and for some odd reason, that wasn't appealing to me.  Well. my friends, it was a marvelous day!  The weather has been cold to the Filipino's and wonderful to us the past month but this day was a little warmer, a little dryer and the sun was shining as we entered the area.  This dam is amazing...it covers 17 square miles and is the largest man made dam in Asia.  

Magat Dam is a multi-purpose dam which serves as a source of hydroelectric power and as a source of irrigation water for about 210,000 acres of agricultural land.  I believe I mentioned in an earlier post about this being an agregarian society.

The hydroelectric power plant is a four-unit powerhouse with a rated capacity of 360 megawatts.  The hydroelectric plant is a peeking power plant which means that it only operates when there is a high demand for electricity in the Luzon power grid to which the plant is connected.

The water stored in the reservoir is enough to supply about two months of normal energy requirements.   [thanks to Wikipedia for these facts and figures]

When we arrived, we found the pier and climbed aboard a 'boat'...I use the word boat very loosely as it was more like what I imagined I would see in Vietnam.  Brenda and I got on first and she spotted water in floor of the the front section where the driver was going to sit.  She repeatedly asked about the water, fearing a leak and when she got no response from anyone, just closed her eyes and accepted...Jerry was our 'driver' and I use that word loosely also...

Our boat
One of the industries in this area is the raising and selling of live tilapia.  We see tilapia farms frequently.  Many of our members and investigators will have a small tilapia pond on their property where they raise, use and sometimes sell in roadside stands the local fish.

An enclosure for tilapia

This man is 'tending' his farm

A cute home on the banks of the dam

Another farm area with a floating shed for storage

What a gorgeous sight

No caption needed-us girls...
While shopping in Santiago one day, Brenda spotted a lady carrying a great purse.  Not being too bashful [an understatement for sure!], she ran up to her and asked her where she got that great purse!  When the lady told her she had made it, Brenda offered her money on the spot and that sweet lady took her things out of 'her' purse, took 300 pesos [about $6.50 US] from Brenda and my friend had a new purse.  When she got back here and we all saw it and heard the story we all wanted one or two and while we were there, we visited her and bought the ones we had ordered.  They are made from the reeds of these waterlilies.  She harvests them, cleans and dries them out and weaves them into a great purse.  I am bringing a couple back for my 'stash' for my girls to choose from when we get home but will use one of these for a while.  They are really pretty!!

Aren't these unusual..and made completely by hand!!

These are water lilies that grow in and on the banks of the dam

Jerry, our navigator

This is a home for a family-in the middle of the dam.  See the dog and chicken?

President and Sister

You know these two...
Days like these are few and far between.  This was the first 'P' day [or preparation day..a day to stop your regular activities and catch your breath] that the Carlos' have taken since they arrived in June of 2010...I truly believe they needed a day off,  even if it was only a few hours.

After a relaxing time, it is back to work for these four missionaries because the work continues...oh, and by the way, I am two for two on my new glasses project-the second man was at church last Sunday, I am told, and we will go visit him tonight.  Welcome February...have we really been 'out' for six months????  As the saying goes..'time flies when you are having fun'...and we are!  We work hard, sleep hard, work hard, sleep hard, etc....and occasionally take a breather...

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Glorious, glorious, glorious...

Spencer and me last July..what a kid!

The most glorious day occurred in our family last Sunday night in Utah and Monday morning for us.  We were invited to attend [by SkyPe] the ordination of our first grandson to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood and to be ordained to the office of an Elder in that priesthood!  What a grand experience it was for us to see those men gather around him and to have his dad place his hands on Spencer's head.  The blessing he gave was wonderful and because of that ordination, that sweet boy that Grandma Cheezie always called 'Pence' will be eligible to fill out his papers, submit them to the church and follow us into the mission field.  It will be so exciting to see where the Lord needs his skills and his personality.  We had an Assistant to the President here whose name is Elder Hale.  He became such a beloved missionary because of his love for everyone, his radiant and willing smile, his work ethic-he was always there to help with anything with NO hesitation-his contagious laugh, his humility and most of all, his love for his Father in Heaven and his Savior.  Randy and I always felt drawn to him and just this past week I realized how much our Spencer is like Elder Hale...he is kind, compassionate, loves his family and the Lord.  Spencer has always been such a 'yellow'...if you know the color/personality test you will know he is fun, happy, non-confrontational, gets along with all people and in short...a joy to be around.  When Spencer enters a room, everyone is attracted to him.  We are so pleased with his choices in life and will wait for the call that we need to be on SkyPe for the opening of the envelope!  Randy and I told Spencer to let us know and we will get up in the middle of the night if needed to attend that event!  I will be most interested to find out where he is going-he is a physically fit guy [currently holds the state record in javelin in Utah] so a physically hard mission [like the one we are currently serving] would be a piece of cake for him.  There are many such missions in the world, mostly in third world countries, but time will tell...I will give you all an update when that day arrives.

Our Zone Leaders had a great training lesson on Tuesday.  We have either Zone or District meetings on Tuesday morning and I am always amazed at the communication and teaching skills these young men have.  They are basically just kids and come here for two years to serve the Lord.  In that time, they gain so many wonderful life skills.  These two, Elders Griffin and Rausa [we lovingly call them 'Mutt and Jeff' because of their height difference] taught us as the Savior would.  We love these two young men and are so grateful they are our leaders.

Elder Griffin and Elder Rausa
When Randy was in his District Presidency meeting last Thursday afternoon, I teamed up with the Sister Missionaries and because we then had a vehicle, were able to cover quite a few visits together.  One home we stopped by was the Delphinodo family.  The nanay has been an active and supportive member for a long time but the tatay hadn't been to church in about 8 years.  The sisters had been by and visited but I had not met them.  We sat on the porch of their humble home and the sisters shared [in tagalog] a message with them and then turned to me.  I only speak in English so the sisters usually need to translate if the members/investigators don't understand much English.  I had been tuned into their discussion and had the basics of what the sisters had shared so I knew they were asking him about his faith.  I am not sure if it is because I am an American...I am so tall to them...I have light skin, hair and eyes...or what but many times I have had the ability to be very bold with the members and not offend.  I felt that I needed to corner this man and those of you who know me know I am not the confrontational type.

I simply asked him why he didn't attend church.  He muttered some answer and I took his chin and turned his eyes to meet mine.  I told him the Lord loved him...the Lord needed him...his wife loves and needs him..and finally asked him if he was praying and reading the scriptures.  With downcast eyes, he shook his head 'no, sister'.  I again turned his eyes to meet mine and asked him why he was not reading his scriptures.  'I cannot see them Sister'.  When I asked him if he WANTED to read them, he hesitated for along time and shook his head yes.  Then I gave him a challenge with a promise...'if I provided a way for you to read them, would you promise me that you would pray and read them every day, finish the first chapter of 1Nephi before I come back next Tuesday and go to church with your wife on Sunday'?  He nodded yes.

We finished our time together and then hopped in the car.  IMMEDIATELY we went to the palenke, bought a pair of reading glasses and drove back to his house.  We happened to pass him on the road as he was bicycling to work and he stopped.  The surprise on his face as he realized I kept my promise and the hope in his eyes when he then realized he needed to keep his.

Tuesday we went back as promised and Randy got to come with-HIS ENTIRE COUNTENANCE HAD CHANGED!!!  I am not kidding you...he looked so different!  We did introductions, started with a prayer then I turned to him-did he follow through???  ABSOLUTELY HE DID!  Then in tagalog amid many tears he related the following story..

He went to church as he promised me he would and when he walked in the door, the members flocked around him shaking his hand and patting him on the back.  How do you think that made him feel??  It was a glorious day for him.  He had a home...he was wanted...he was needed...he was back!  He related that experience to us and with tears streaming down his face [and ours too], told us that he has had a total change of heart.  He no longer wants to partake of coffee, miss prayer with his wife, miss studying the scriptures with her and most of all, activity in his branch has become a high priority to him again.  

The Delphinodo family with the Sisters and us on their porch
Last night a similar thing happened as we visited with President Munoz.  I again challenged a man who has a wonderful family, a return missionary for a son, a wife who is active, etc.  When I asked him about reading the scriptures and got the same answer, I just held my palm up to Randy, he handed me the keys and off I went, right in the middle of the lesson.  This time I bought 6 pairs of reading glasses!!  hahaha!  He has promised, as did brother Delphinodo, to rise up to my challenge and time will tell if the fruits of my efforts will pay off again.  I feel like my new tools are a nudge from the Lord...I can afford the glasses and because of the poverty here, it is difficult for many of them to solve that problem and soon, their inability to read becomes their excuse...I am simply removing the excuses.  A simple investment of 100-120 pesos [about $2 US] will bring them blessings they can't imagine!  Oh, I almost forgot to tell you...the Delphinado's are talking temple, had questions about the cost, and are enrolling in the 'prep' classes on Sunday.  I know, it is only ONE week that he has returned but if you could all have seen his eyes...you would also know he is back!!  
My new tools...

Our weather is warming...the air is becoming more humid...the rice is planted...our lives are ever changing.  This is such a grand experience for us-I thank my Father in Heaven every day for allowing me to come and trusting me, this silly mid-western gal, to touch the lives of these precious people.  I remember Sister Carlos telling me about them before I even considered a mission and she was right-they are the most humble, loving, happy, content, and inwardly righteous people I have ever known.  We are definitely the ones being blessed!

Monday, January 16, 2012

FINALLY, Sister...

Another week has gone by and we realized yesterday that we have been here 5 months!!!  It doesn't seem possible but yup!  5 months in this marvelous country.  The things we have seen, touched, smelled, tasted and heard are so different from anything we have ever experienced in our lives...never have I been awakened every morning by a rooster!  or pigs grunting outside of my bedroom window!  or the sounds of small bike horns beckoning all to come get their breakfast from the street vendor's portable carts as they push them down the back streets of our little town, Cabatuan.  It is definitely an experience of a lifetime and not one for the weak for sure.  I have slept 'harder' here than ever in my life.  I arise before the sun and by 9, I am usually ready to call it day, having the greatest memories and feeling of service in my heart.

This past week has been another amazing one beginning with a Family Home Evening in Quilling a week ago yesterday.  It was held on a huge cement parking lot attached to a rice packaging business owned by a member.  They invited inactive families as well as the active ones in this little community and when we took a rough headcount, think there were over 66 in attendance.  Probably a balance of 20 adults and 45 or so children!!  The tatay [father] of the family presented the lesson and then the games began.  If you will look closely in this picture, you can see me in the purple on the left-I brought one of  the keyboards and was playing for the meeting but when the sun went down and that light over my head was turned on, OH MY!!!!!!!!  Bugs like you have never seen before-I didn't want to interrupt the lesson but quickly got on my feet and out of that area.  They reminded me of termites in the US...little flying ants but when I got home and washed my hair, many went down the drain.  One interesting side note-as soon as the nanay [mother] of the family who was hosting noticed my fight with the bugs, she got up, pulled a huge leaved branch off of a nearby tree, propped it up there by the light and the bugs all went to it and left me alone.  These people here definitely know how to survive in this environment for sure!

Family Home Evening in Quilling

Last night we had another FHE with a family of investigators in Mallig.  This family is amazing and have committed to baptism.  A dad, mom, two boys and a girl.  We are very thrilled.  He is a Sargent in the Philippine Army and works in a nearby city in an office.  They have a nice home and we really enjoy their company.  Randy did a lesson with a great visual aid using spoons and cups.  We first saw this in a FHE in Mallig that Elder Dahlin and Elder Oliver did and Randy added to the lesson they did to customize it for this family.  It was a great message.  Afterwards, I taught them how to play Matterhorn, a fun dice game that the Smith/Betker bunch taught their old Meemaw and Grandpa.  They all had such fun.
Brother Cortez trying to follow Randy's instruction...

Once a quarter, the District Relief Society has an activity.  These women LOVE to get together and have fun!  Last quarter, I was in charge of the activity and I taught them how to make a pasta dish in their woks.  Most of these sisters cook in the open outside of their homes on a fire.  It is amazing to me that they can come up with such great food on an open fire...us campers in the US need to take lessons from them!  Anyway, this past Saturday was our second activity day since we arrived and they asked me if I could teach something.  I remember my YW days in the US and embellishing flip flops using strips of fabric.  When I was trimming the pillowcases, I saved all my cuttings and have gathered some fabric here and from Sister Russell, my senior sister missionary who is also a quilter who lives across the street from me.  Each sister brought her own 'slippers' and the fun began.  We had such fun and the creativity of these women shown forth-I taught the basic and they 'ran with it!'  Some fashioned rosebud type flowers from the fabric, other had brought a needle and thread to stitch it on and give it a different look, some wrapped the straps, etc.  Everyone had such fun and the 'slippers' turned out so darling!  I also suggested they could use colored plastic bags [available here at every corner] and then create for themselves, slippers that could be worn in the rainy season.
The creating of the slippers

Our cute sister missionaries making themselves a pair..

Ta Dah!!

The crowning moment of this past week for us was the baptism of this wonderful family.  Our first week here, Elder Naylor and Elder Lucernes were brave enough to invite us to join them one afternoon.  They had not worked with senior couples before and we had no idea what we were doing for sure!  We have a vehicle so the missionaries have quickly realized that we could take them places faster and safer than trycies, feet or a motorcycle and besides that..WE ARE FREE!!!  They are always worried about spending their support money.  Anyway, we went to the bukid [the rice paddies] and found Sister Ulep.  She was already into her lessons and was baptized about a month after we arrived.  Her sister-in-law and family live down the road and she referred them to us so we went to visit.  They live in very humble surroundings..no electricity, dirt/rock floor, no refrigeration, no furniture except the bamboo beds they sleep on, thatched roof, bamboo walls that don't reach the ground, etc.  I think you get the picture.  It was my first experience in a home like that and I probably looked like a deer in headlights when we walked in.  We found the most precious little family there that had very little formal religious training of any kind.  He was very 'closed' and his eyes were always down.  Tatay didn't say much but they listened.  Their journey was not as fast as some but it was steady.  They had to be taught about Christ, the atonement, and all of the basics of Christianity.  But they listened and they learned.  Probably a month ago, both committed to baptism but needed to be taught the rest of the lessons to ensure they had all the foundation they needed to become active and committed members of the church.  That was a long wait for tatay...he was ready and wanted that ordinance!

Well, last Saturday they entered the waters of baptism and what a glorious and precious experience that was to attend.  As they were all dressed in white and waiting for the meeting to begin, tatay, who speaks very little English, came up to me and putting his arms out to display the white clothing, said:

"FINALLY, Sister"  His wait was over and his new life could begin.

The Maducduk Family with the Elders and the Sisters.  Also pictured are Sister Diaz with Sister Mimi who was also baptized .

The harvest is over and the rice is planted for the next crop.  Notice the beautiful green fields for as far and the eye can see.  I liken this picture to our work here in the Philippines.  Our first crop is harvested with the baptism of the Maducduk family and our next crop is planted.  Missionary work is like rice...we plant, harvest and replant.  What a wonderful way to spend the next 18 months!!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Only in the Philippines, volume 2!!

This past week has been an amazing one...the one thing that sticks out in my mind is how I have personally come to realize the Lord knows us each individually and wants to help us meet our needs.  He knows us...by name...he knows our sorrows, our concerns, our joys, our frustrations, and most of all, he knows our hearts.  

Thursday we will experience another transfer meeting after the new batch of missionaries arrive.  Transfers are always a time of stress because these young people have become friends with each other and have come to love their area and their investigators.  The middle of December we had a group of Elders and Sisters leave to be home for Christmas with their families and because they were not being replaced until this week, some unusual situations popped up...in two of our areas, one of the companionship went home from two different ones and that left two to cover until this week.  We have seen such growth in the 'jr' of that companionship as his Tagalog improved, his need to 'lead' in his old area, and we saw such a development of his communication skills, probably largely due to his increased confidence with the language.  We hope they will remain in their old areas with new companions...we aren't 'done' with them yet!  lol

We live across the street from the Russell's, another senior couple, and on their property is a cute guest house where the sister's serving here live.  Through their work, they found a deaf young woman whose sister is on a mission and whose mother is a member of our church.  Not knowing I sign, they didn't think there was a way to teach Zenida.  [the sign language used in the Philippines is ASL]  To make a long story short, she started the discussions a few weeks ago and is moving on nicely but she attends here and Randy and I work about 20 miles away, in another district, where he serves as a counselor to the District President.  Saturday, we found out that Randy would be out of our normal branch for the next three weeks as he travels with President Agustin and me, not wanting to wait 4 hours after church for a ride home, asked President Carlos for his permission to attend the local church here where I could just walk.  He agreed and yesterday I went and was able to interpret for Zenida...the first time she has 'heard' Sacrament Meeting.  After that meeting was over, she and I sat for 2 hours as I went through the LDS Sign book Kimberly sent me [thanks, Kim!] and it gave me the opportunity to teach lots of doctrine and fill in some blanks for her.  What a blessing...and she committed to baptism!  The one thing I realized yesterday is...the Lord knew my situation...he knew Zenida's heart...he placed ME here [probably the ONLY missionary in the 2000 or so who serve the Philippines who could communicate with her] for her.  I remember when I started learning to interpret, I came across a huge bump in the road in my ability to learn and was pleading with the Lord for help.  I promised him that if he would give me the strength I needed and the ability to learn this language, I would use it for Him.  I always thought I would use my sign on a mission but we were called here where I thought I would just learn some Tagalog and use my English.  I realized yesterday that all of the thousands of hours I put into my interpreter training [3 years], if it was only to find Zenida...it was SO worth it!

Ok, my friends...Volume 2 of 'ONLY IN THE PHILIPPINES!'  Thanks to Sister Carlos for sharing some of her photos for you...

A common sight-pile as many as possible on a trycie...

A typical home..very humble surroundings.  They launder on the back porch.

I remember buying one of these one time for a joke for my friend Bertie...
Notice the head covering-very typical..they are scared to get their heads wet

Notice the unique basketball stand-a dead tree..love it!!!
This road is one we frequently drive on to get to 'the bukid'.  Glad to have a truck!
Hands-free has a whole new meaning here.

This riverbed is filled with gorgeous waterlilies!!
This is called a Calisa...

Dinner anyone??

Fish store here has a whole new look...

Banana tree..see the green bananas in the middle of the photo?

Flooded rice field being plowed by their 'tractor'

Not the greatest command of the English language...

Planting season has begun...
With another busy week ahead, I bid you all farewell and hope your New Year is as wonderful as ours will be!  And by the way...the pig picture???  Our neighbor had, and I say HAD two pigs in her backyard and on New Year's Day, roasted them and had a huge party.  She cornered us and said we should eat a bite before we left for our meeting in Cauayan and my response??  'Sorry Celi...I think I would have a hard time eating a fella I saw running around and playing in front of our houses just yesterday..'   I would have made an awful farmer's daughter!!!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Welcome, little 2012...

Hey all of you people...HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!  We have always celebrated New Year's with games, food, friends and lots of fun and this year is NO different!  40 missionaries and all of us 'old people' gathered at the Mission Home on Saturday [lockdown time was 6 p.m. so many arrived late afternoon] and we partied until 2012!  Those who came were the ones assigned to areas close to Cauayan.  The celebration here is very dangerous so ALL missionaries were to be in their apartment by 6 and NOT go outside.  The Filipino's are crazy for fireworks and many actually will pull out their guns and fire them randomly so the safety of the missionaries was the most important thing.  Those who came to the mission compound to celebrate were made to spend the night [oh, darn! President's famous breakfast is so hard to take!] and the sister missionaries went to the local sister's apartment and had a slumber party.  The jury is still out about the amount of sleep they did or didn't get!!  President and Sister set up ping pong, they had volleyball and basketball as well as Mexican Train all going at one time.  Such a fun tourney at the ping pong table and I am not sure if the Russell's weren't the grand champions.  They are both VERY good!!  Around 10, all that were interested gathered in the mission home family room where we played '17 Miracles', the newly released movie, for them to enjoy.  It was a great evening.  The Carlos' supplied the bulk of the snacks but we all contributed.  I made and took two pans of Graham...pronounced 'GRAY HAM' [that is the way it looks to be pronounced when reading the box!] and it was a hit!  Graham is a favorite Filipino dessert and is SO easy and delicious.  Here is the recipe if you want to try it:

Making Graham
9x13 pan or a bowl would work-must have the capability of a lid.
Layer like a lasagna...
Graham Crackers [not crushed, just cover the bottom of the container]
Add a layer of the 'filling'
Sliced fresh mango's [or peaches, or strawberries, or blackberries, etc.]  Could use frozen also if the fruit you prefer is out of season.

Continue to layer and end up with crackers and the rest of the sauce.
Freeze and when you want to enjoy, pull from the freezer and spoon out a hunk!  It is SO yummy..

Sauce:  1 can of sweetened condensed milk mixed with 2 C of cream.  I used a triple recipe of the sauce for these two pans and it worked fine-I like it a little creamier...that is one recipe I will bring home and use with my grandpeople for sure!

The missionaries were dressed in differing attire depending on their activity-here are a few chomping down the goodies!

Elder Schmidt, Elder Ziegler and Elder Lundy are enjoying the eats.

President and Sister Carlos adding their touches to the goodies.

Elder Griffin looking for his next kill...he ate ALL evening and never got full, all 6'8" of him!!

Does this look like junk food heaven or what???
The sale of fireworks is a big business here.  I think recently I talked about the 'gypsies'..that is MY name of the people who come into a city, set up tents and sell their wares during a certain period of time.  In Cabatuan we had a festival in the fall and had these tents here for months!  Most of the stuff is similar to dollar store quality back in the US but some things I have picked up were great!  I got a wonderful meat cleaver for $7 [350 pesos] and will bring it home for sure.  Anyway, the sale of fireworks is no different-nothing is outlawed and everything is legal so it is a free-for-all!!  The type of fireworks that we see in the US in the huge displays that are only available to commercially licensed and certificated pyrotechnical companies are sold here for dollars so you can imagine the hullabaloo on New Year's Eve!!  It truly sounded like a war zone and by the end of 45 minutes, my ears were so tired.

Check out this link if you want to be there with us-Randy recorded it on the IPad and put it on UTube.


My three sons and my 12 grandsons would be in heaven here!!!

The street lined with firework vendors.

Saturday afternoon we went with the Zone Leaders for a while and in trying to find a house, took a wrong turn and came upon a Balute farm!!  Many of you have heard of Balute and know it is a delicacy here in the Philippines but I am here to tell you THIS lady ain't gonna try it!!  If you want to know more, google it, folks!!  YUCK!!

Balute Farm, one of three of four on the banks of this river.
Earlier that day, we attended a Youth Cultural Show.  It reminded us of the old Roadshows and was actually a lot of fun.  Long, but a lot of fun.  Here are five of my favorite girls..

Christiana, Glory-Anne, me, Jessa, Mary Jane and Santa
All in all, 2011 was a great year-we learned SO much, experienced SO much, loved SO much, cried SO much, laughed SO much, ate SO much and missed SO much many of the people we love SO much.  We know 2012 will bring us lots of new experiences and changes but there is one thing that will be constant...our deep love for our family and each of you...happy happy my friends...

She will never be forgotten...my 'Emma' lady bug that I wear...