Tuesday, February 28, 2012

What an amazing thing..and a little more of this and that!

 This is the most amazing story of a young girl's dream...

Many years ago a mother here in the Philippines along with three of her daughers and her son joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  She has been a faithful mom, raising her children in the light of the gospel, serving where asked and in short, has wanted to bring her family to the knowledge of Christ.  About a year ago, one of her older daughters decided to serve a mission and left for her assignment.  She has been a great missionary but all along was concerned about her family.  Her father was in no way interested in the gospel and was actually rude and argumentative to the missionaries who had visited his family in the past, wanted nothing to do with the Lord or anything to do with 'their church'.  Her younger sister was unable to be taught about the church because she is deaf.  She attends a deaf school in Ilagan, a nearby town and comes home on the weekends.  This family lives in Cabatuan, the same city where we reside and the mom is a housekeeper in the house across the street from us.  Now, mind you, I have no association with the church members in Cabatuan as we are assigned to another district, 30 minutes northeast of here.

Fast forward...the young missionary left with hope and dreams..she worked hard, was obedient to the mission rules, was prayerful and had the faith that her family would be blessed for her service.   About a year ago, the senior couple who live across the street and ARE assigned to this area visited the family.  For some reason, the senior Elder and the tatay [the dad] happened to connect.  There was the usual language barrier but he would at least allow the Russells to visit.  Over the course of the year, his heart was softening and he would listen to the sister missionaries who work in Cabatuan with a more gentle spirit than the experience of a few years ago.  Enter the Shaners...when the sister missionaries found out that I sign,[the deaf in the Philippines read and study English so their sign system is American Sign Language] they just about came unglued!  What are the chances???  There are over 3500 full-time missionaries in the Philippines and there is only ONE who would be able to communicate with this young girl [21 years old] and where is the house found for her to live in with her hubby????? CABATUAN!!!  Long story short,,,,

Zeniada and Dani Segovia-baptism day..February 25, 2012!!
His countenance is so changed-he doesn't even look like the same man!
Can you even imagine the young sister missionary's face when she receives the email with this picture attached?  It will be a glorious day for their family.  They plan to attend the temple in Manila in a year and be sealed for eternity!!  What a blessing and what a miracle...all of the pieces fell into place at the right time to afford this wonderful event in the Segovia family. 

Zeniada with Sister Pence who returned home last week...she was one of the
first missionaries to teach this sweet sister.
I have always had 'head knowledge' that our Father in Heaven knows each of us individually but with this experience, I now can testify to that!!  He knows each of us, our needs, our sorrows, our desires, our heartbreaks, our joyous experiences, our disappointments, our dreams, our hearts.  I am SO grateful to have had this witnessed to me through this glorious experience!  My life will forever be changed as a result of this knowledge.

Last week we had a wonderful treat here in the Philippines.  Sister Rosemary Wixom and Sister Ann Dibb were here to present training and devotionals to the saints in this area.  Sister Wixom is the General Primary President and Sister Dibb is a counselor in the General Young Women's Presidency.

Sister Carlos with Sister Wixom and two precious sisters from Ilagan.
My piano students in Roxas have their recital music and have started practicing.  I found an old book of piano instruction [circa 1945] and it had quite a few 'four hands on one piano' duets.  These people have never seen two people play together so I thought it might be fun to work up some of those.  I have chosen one for each student, ranging from very simple [their part] to more intermediate level.  Our recital is March 31st and so they have a few weeks to get them polished.  I have 10 students [started with 14 but some lost interest] and want the recital to last 45 minutes or so.  One student who is  a bit behind the others in her ability will play one piece and demonstrate some of our warm-up exercises.  I hope to have a good turnout from the families to support these kids.  

Upon attending the Cabatuan branch, I have had the opportunity to meet and fall in love with many of the members.  I also noticed they had nobody to play the piano so as my other class diminished in numbers because of attrition, I decided to start a small class in that branch.  We meet on Saturday mornings at 8 a.m. so only the enthusiastic came.  On the 31st, I will have more keyboards but will share the two that I currently have in my home with these cute students this Saturday.  We have completed the foundation part of the program, having introduced them to time signatures, note values and such so I think they are ready for some music!!   They are all great students and I am hoping for wonderful things from them.

Klayrol, Mikee, George Bryan, Juanico, Ryan and Julius, my new
students in Cabatuan
Those of you who know us well are aware of our love of ice cream...when the kids were small, we indulged almost nightly, sometimes using mixing bowls to eat our treats.  We LOVE ice cream and as we were preparing to come here, Randy asked me 'do you think they have ice cream in the Philippines?'  I asked Sister Carlos and she assured me that we could get a variety of ice cream products and was Randy thrilled!!  There are two main 'vendors', Selecta and Nestle.  Both have a portable delivery system which is the Filipino answer to the 'ding ding' man.  They ride around in these little cart/bicycle units and each have a different but distinctive song that is played to alert children and adults alike of their approach.  Personally, I would go nuts riding around and listening to the same repetitive song blasting from my cart for 12 hours a day!!  The little carts sell mostly treats whereas we purchase the containers at the grocery store of the flavors.  We prefer Selecta most of the time but will indulge in either.  So to answer Randy's question...'yes!  Filipino's not only have but LOVE ice cream'..

The Selecta guy...
This is such a marvelous place to be with such wonderful people.  We are definitely blessed to be here at this time and place in our lives.  A special couple that were in our 'batch' from the Missionary Training Center in Provo and were serving here in the Philippine, Angeles Mission sent us an email this morning and they had to return home.  Not sure all of the story yet but it appears she has had a health issue that could not be addressed here so the church sent them back to Georgia...we are distraught waiting to hear.  Keep Fae and Reggie McCary on your prayer list, please.  They are precious friends...I know they left a huge hole in the lives of many people here whom they were serving.  Have a great week and ingat [take care]...

Monday, February 20, 2012

Only in the Philippines, volume 3!!

I can't believe it has been two weeks since I have updated this blog!  I am SO sorry, my family and friends.  We have had a busy couple of weeks but I have always been able to fit this hour in before...I will repent!!

Randy and I created an instructional fireside entitled 'Family Home Evening' [original, huh?] to help give these families tools to keep their families close but also to help their respective branches with the new area goals which include fellowshipping and rescuing less-active members who, for one reason or another, have lost their way after their baptisms.  That is a common thing in the Philippines-in the past five years, only about 20% of the new members are still active.  That is a shocking statistic but true-our goal is to bring them back with renewed strength and a change of heart.  We thought having successful and consistent Family Home Evenings would help the current families as well as providing a catalyst for them to invite their less-active friends, extended family members, etc.  We also thought it is important as these families return to church, they have a strong and actively engaged unit to come back to so under the direction of our wise and all-knowing Mission President, WE [meaning the senior couples] are taking on a new role of strengthening the currently active members.  With that new direction, we will help to provide a place of teaching and strength to the returning families.

Our fireside is only one hour and is really fun.  We start with a 'role play' of OUR early Family Home Evenings.  The missionaries from the unit we are visiting help us with the little skit as we re-enact an early FHE in the Shaner household-Dad lecturing, boring us all to death and when the 'kids' start to act up, I jump up, yell and scream that "I HAVE HAD IT!! WE ARE DONE!  THIS ISN'T WORKING AND WE ARE NEVER DOING FAMILY HOME EVENING AGAIN!!!  GO TO YOUR ROOMS!!"  My kids would tell you that is not far from the truth..

We then have a series of slides on a powerpoint that give them the tools for a successful evening, some ideas, experiences we have had, suggestions and most of all, the spirit has been teaching all that were there the importance of the family time.  In the Philippines, we have been invited to several Family Home Evenings and most of them are boring-the 'lesson' is long and often times, just a lesson that the dad is planning to give in church the next week.  If families are to have a close relationship, they MUST have fun together so we are stressing the fun part of the evening.   Up to now, we have given the presentation to four different branches and will have our fifth this Saturday night.   It has been fun!!

And then there were 10!!!  This past week we also welcomed a new senior couple to our mission, Elder and Sister Laker from Utah.  They bring with them a diverse and extensive knowledge of the gospel, it's principles and many years of experience with leadership callings.  [He was just released as a Stake President before submitting their papers.]  We are so thrilled they will be part of our team...

And then there were ten!  The Laker's finally arrived.
Sister Carlos, me, Randy, Sister Russell, Elder Russell, Elder Breese
Sister Breese, Sister Laker, Elder Laker and finally, our Fearless Leader,
President Carlos...

Now, I think a few pictures can say more than I can with words...

Only In The Philippines...Volume 3
A truck packed with recycle sharing the road with pedestrians and cyclists

Wish I had brought my polka dotted boots!!

A kulig kulig-a common vehicle that we also share the road with!

Anyone need a potty break?

Sometimes we see entire families piled on a 'cycle' for transportation

6 foot tall poinsetta's-they actually grow wild in some areas.

These were grown in pots

A lonely meemaw comforting a crying 3 month old Archibald

Even carabou's have babies...

Miles and miles of rice, each one planted by hand..

Judy, I wish you could see this one in person!  They are SO gorgeous!

We also share the road with Calisa's

and trycies and motorcycles as well as bicycles!!

These people have amazing balance!

Sister Carlos is 5' tall and you can see
this lizard that the Assistant's brought home
for dinner is almost the same size-I guess
it was delicious but I can't say from experience!! whew!

These roads have NO law enforcement so it is a race
to see how many people can be piled into a

Things are hand crafted here and it is fascinating to watch.

                                                                      Dinner anyone?

This week will be another busy one.  We have two area seventy's from the First Quorum of the Seventy coming today to preside at two different leadership training and member/investigator devotionals, one in Ilagan and one in Tuguegarao.  Sister's Wixom [General Primary President] and Dibb [General Young Women's President 2nd Counselor] will be the guests speakers for the leadership training.  We also have missionaries going home and another transfer meeting on Thursday...never a dull moment here in this glorious country.  We are loving the experience and thank the Lord daily for the good health that has allowed us to serve.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Hi ho! Hi ho! It's off to move we go!!

Finally!!!  A goal is accomplished!  A few months ago, I was visiting the sister's apartment in Roxas and needed to use the CR.  I was appalled!  It was less than adequate and I privately sent myself on a mission...FIND THOSE GIRLS A NEW PLACE TO LIVE!!!!!!  Lo and behold, we found out a couple of week ago that this summer when the Russell's go home, we will be in charge of all of the housing in the mission and so I guess my quest wasn't too out of line.  One house we found a month ago was wonderful but we didn't act fast enough and it was gone...then we found the greatest place for them in the same area as our Zone Leaders...in fact, they are backdoor neighbors..but a very tall cement block wall topped with barbed wire separate the two!  hahaha!  Elder Griffiin, one of our current Zone Leaders, is so tall that he actually was looking over the wall on moving day and found out 'our secret'...we knew it but we weren't going to inform the youngsters..

This past week we had our District Meeting on Tuesday then all the missionaries in the district stayed to help move the sisters.  We also had help from two Elders who came from a nearby town to lend their muscles.  Many young arms and hands make OUR work much easier.  It took us 5 trips and the move was accomplished...those girls were prepared and completely packed!  They were awesome in having stuff ready to go.

We went to lunch first at Jollibee...the Philippines answer to fast food-a little like McDonald's but not really.  They have burgers and fries but also fried chicken, rice, spaghetti, and other Filipino dishes.  Each bought their own lunch and then I treated them all to dessert-a chocolate sundae.  They all smiled when the tray came sporting their desserts.

Our district at Jollibee
Elder Rausa modeling my new hat and Elder Caamic, our District Leader

The cute sisters, excited about a new house

Elder Laurente helping carry in the stuff!

Elder Oliver and Elder Llorin taking a needed break

Here comes the beds!!

So glad we had the muscles to help!!
Elder Shaner and I decided a couple of weeks ago to help with the rescue mission by giving the members in our district some 'tools' to help them in their fellowshipping and in their own families.  My children would tell you that we were far from perfect with OUR Family Home Evenings when they were MY kids but it wasn't because we didn't try.  Back then, there were not as many helps available and our first home evenings were pretty boring I think.  Then we had teenagers who didn't really want to be there and interrupted constantly so we finally just gave up and did activities together for the most part.  Since coming here, we have seen the true benefit of having regular family home evenings and have also witnessed the benefits in our children's families who use that program for family time.  With that said, we have put together a one hour fireside that will give the members some valuable tools to use within their families.  Randy did a power point with some fun slides, [we even have Kim delivering baby Jesus in our slide show!] and we do a fun presentation with lots of good information he gleaned from the lds.org website.  Our first fireside was last Sunday and we got some good feedback.  Our next one is tomorrow night and we have two others booked.  Our hope is to instruct the members, give them a small handout with the bullets and information we used then, if invited, help them in their homes to work with their families and teach them the value of that program.

A week or so ago Sister Carlos emailed me about the possibility of our being asked to attend a Family Home Evening in Naguillian.  Apparently there was an investigator family who had experienced a recent tragedy and with our history of losing a precious grandchild, it was thought maybe we could help and empathize with this sweet mom and wife.  I guess Bryan was working on a truck with another employee in their company and unbeknownst to him, the other fella was not a good man.  He was targeted in a nearby mountain province for assassination and unfortunately, Bryan got in the line of fire and was killed.  That was on December 31st and his mother just cannot move on. [the words of the sister missionary]  We went on Monday and had a nice evening.  The mom 'can't move on' and I assured her that there was no set timeline for 'moving on' and she needed to take the time she needed.  It has only been 6 weeks!!  Her family was getting frustrated, I think and we discussed the fact that there is NO set timeline.  This was her favorite child and she is devastated, as I can imagine.  He had a 5 month old son and a beautiful wife who are now living with his parents.  In the Philippines, there is a tradition of 40 days...40 days after the death of a loved one, the family gathers and celebrates and Monday night was HIS 40 days.  Because of that, all of his siblings, cousins, etc. were there so it was utter chaos!  Randy gave the lesson he had planned and people disbursed some but it was still very noisy.  He took the mom away from the action and knelt down in front of her-he bore his testimony, shared her pain and through her tears, she was very grateful.  There is some violence here but not in the areas where we are living/serving.  The mountain villages are more primitive and we see lots of corruption and violence.  Guess we will stay here where it is safe!

Part of the Paclibar family-Bryan's widow and baby Justin on the left

Baby Justin Bryan Paclibar
It is springtime in the Philippines with cooler than normal mornings and pleasant days.  I can honestly say I don't miss the snow...YET!  I love the seasons and really mourned the loss of fall.  When we come home in a couple of years, we have NO idea where we will live, what we will do, if we will work, where we will work...those things are 'by and by' as my Filipino friends say, meaning 'eventually/in the future and not to be concerned with now'.  Everything will work out and for now, we are doing all we can to strengthen, uplift, teach, support, and in short, work our own little miracles here in the vineyard the Lord has trusted into our care...ingat [take care] and remember to hug your loved ones.  That is probably what I miss the most...