There is NO way I could have ever imagined, using the most creative and 'out there' portions of my little pea brain, the experiences we would be having serving the Lord in this marvelous country...the wonderful people we would come to love...the things I would eat, smell, see, feel and hear...challenges we would face...the hardships and poverty we would see...the beautiful people we would be willing to set aside OUR family, OUR home, OUR careers and OUR lives to interact with-OH, WHAT A RIDE THIS HAS BEEN!! I have said this before but I will say it again and again and again...there are NO better people in the world than those who the Lord has chosen to place in this wonderful country. They are so humble, so Christlike, so loving, so passionate, so fun-loving, so spiritually hungry...have I convinced you yet??? I LOVE THESE PEOPLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!
We serve in a very humble little community called Mallig [pronounced ma LEEG]. It is a 45 minute drive for us to get to our area [in good traffic] and we spend between four and six evenings a week working with the members, visiting members and helping the leaders create a program in their different responsibilities that will help to strengthen them and the other members of the branch. I say branch and I mean branch-some weeks it is no more than a buggy whip! Recently we woke up on a Sunday morning to rain and knew the numbers at church would be low-these people are not rain people and why, I don't know. It rains here [it is a tropical climate after all] and the Filipinos go indoors. Because they do not operate automobiles and need to depend on public transportation, it is often difficult to get places when the weather is bad. In our branch, nobody owns a car...in fact, I don't think I personally know more than 2 or 3 families in the entire district where we serve who have their own personal vehicle. Some have a 'motor', which is a motorcycle and a few have a family trycie. Our branch president in Mallig owns a jeepney [but he doesn't know how to drive it-his son uses it to earn income I think] and one family in our branch owns a family kulig kulig. Most of these people come from miles and miles away to attend church, often walking for more than an hour. It is the same for schools...the children take a trycie or walk. It is not a progressive country when it comes to transportation, that is for sure!
Last week was an amazing event-our normal attendance at our Sacrament Meeting is around 55-60 and we had 85 in attendance! We meet in a very small, old house and that day, the seams were bursting. We actually ran out of chairs and some sat on the floor or on a counter top in a back room. In the Philippines, as in the US, a Branch needs to demonstrate faithfulness to qualify for the building of a regular church meetinghouse. There are certain things a unit must do and apparently, ours is not there yet. Our current meetinghouse has two classrooms [probably 8'x9' each], a Branch President's office and the main room which is used for all other classes. When we arrived, Elder Shaner spearheaded some changes and we got a curtain installed to separate that room into two areas which helped but we are still very crowded at times. Our Primary room is the smallest and last week we had 34 children!! Our normal attendance is maybe 15 but we really had a grand time!
|So many crowded into that little room-and of course NO air conditioning!|
|Gospel Doctrine in this room and the youth Sunday School|
behind the grey curtain.
|Teams had a roll of toilet paper and to music, had a race|
to mummify their other teammate...
|Sister Ermhel is putting up the decorations for the youth|
Our Monday's are supposed to be our 'P' day...preparation day where we do our laundry, get haircuts, go shopping, etc. MOST Mondays, however, we can be found helping missionaries in one way or the other with our apartment responsibilities. Last Monday we drove to Cabagan to try to help the Elders assigned there with their apartment crisis-the home we were renting for them has sold and they need to find a new place YESTERDAY!! We checked out two but they were not up to our standards, unfortunately. However, today we are going up again and checking out two different apartments they have found in their respective areas. If they are a 'go', this foursome will be divided but will each be closer to the members they are working with and closer to their investigators. That will be a blessing for them. It was a little 'tight' fitting these four into the back seat of our truck but they didn't complain a bit-glad for the aircon I suspect!
|Elder Reher, Elder Jimenez, Elder De Guzman and Elder Makiling|
This week has been Apartment Check week and we visited three Zones. We normally only visit one or two a month but with next month being December and the crazy calendar schedule we noticed, Elder decided to schedule November and Decembers this week and free up our December for the holiday festivities. It has been a great week and so far, Roxas and Burgos Zones all had 100% Celestial Apartments. We give them a little 'award' and a treat..this time they all got banana bread.[and most times actually because they all LOVE my banana bread!]
I have frequently told you how creative and ingenious these people are...yesterday we went into an apartment and found this little speaker with a makeshift 'plug' for a hole. I laughed and laughed!!
|Elder Coleman and Elder Defacto [Elder Coleman|
is Elder Defacto's 'tatay'...his 'daddy' or his trainer]
|These are our Mallig Elders-two of the Lord's finest!|
Elder Dagal and Elder Abitona
|These sweet Sisters are in a foursome-|
Sister Joame, Sister Tabudlong, Sister Janda and Sister Wilkins
There are so many things that we see daily that we have never seen before and some we hope to forget. ha! ha! However, these next few pictures will show you some of the different things we share the road with...some are ONLY in the Philippines!
|Leading their cows from one place to another-they are tethered |
to the rear bumper of the truck
|I know I would want to buy eggs here!!|
We are such a novelty here-many children have never seen an American in real life and as we travel down the roads, often we come up behind an open trailer, a kulig kulig, or other form of transportation with children and they ALWAYS wave...their smiles are heart warming as they greet us with their expressions. Such a precious culture...sometimes I still can't believe the Lord would trust ME to come to this country and meet these marvelous people. What a treat!!