Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Devotionals, moving, parties and light...

December is upon us....oh, wait! It is SIX DAYS UNTIL CHRISTMAS!!!!!!!!!  Where has this month gone? 

Our lives here are SO busy and we love it! Both of us remarked last week how we fall into bed at night exhausted and sleep like logs...him until the sun is well up and me, until the roosters start singing around 4-5:00. Funny thing...in our previous life, our sleep patterns were completely flipped! One blessing of serving the Lord, you consecrate your every minute and He fills it with great blessings!

December in the Philippines is the last of the 'ber' months but the Filipinos come out in full force for the smash-up finale. There is music coming from most homes and people everywhere are wishing each other 'malagayang pasko'. Christmas is the time for celebrating the birth of our Savior and this past month, our mission has done exactly that. Sister Carlos wrote and is directing a 'devotional' where the missionaries participate in costume, music and the spoken word to bring to the audience the message of the birth of our Savior. Last year we focused on Christmas in the Holy Land and this year, our title is Christmas in Zarahemla. It has been so well received and attended. We have performed six times [on Friday evenings, Saturday afternoon/evening and on Sunday afternoons] and we have two more scheduled for this weekend. I have been so happy with the number of people who have come and enjoyed the work the missionaries have put into this performance for them. It has really blessed MY life and has helped me feel the spirit of the season.

As you can see by Elder Coleman and Elder James, not all angels are female! They were good sports and did a great job!

One of our main responsibilities for the mission is the apartments and this past two months, it has been a busy assignment. We have relocated five sets of missionaries and each has been a blessing to the members and the missionaries alike. Our assignment to Mallig is a huge blessing to us-we LOVE that little branch however, we love being involved with the missionaries also and feel this apartment gig is a great way for us to stay connected with God's Army.
Elder Robertson and Elder Coleman recently moved to
 Aritao [the MOST gorgeous area in the mission!] to join
Elder Golightly and Elder Rivera.

Elder Rivera in the picture above is a brand new Elder [as of last week] and is being trained by Elder Golightly. When we visited him, I asked him 'how is your English, Elder?' and his response? 'It's going to get a lot better Sister!' We both laughed-he admitted that he likes to just 'sit and listen'. This will be a huge blessing for him indeed!

Elder Coleman and Elder Golightly unloading
a desk.
Nueva Vizcaya is the most gorgeous area in our mission. Elder Shaner and I had to laugh after we unloaded the truck when we took Elder Coleman and Elder Robertson to a nearby city to use their language skills as we ordered bed frames for them. When they arrived in Aritao the night before, it was pitch dark and they rode in on a jeepney. They had only seen their street that morning and when  we took them out on the highway, it was like Christmas morning for us. 'Oh look!' 'AAHHHH' 'Can you see that?' 'LOOK AT THAT ELDER!!!' We sat up front and grinned, remembering those same statements uttered by US 18 months ago! We are so fortunate that this country is so beautiful-it helps us accept the heat, the humidity, the noise, the smells, the crowded living conditions, etc. 

A few days before we helped the Elders in Aritao, we assisted the Zone Leaders in Tuguegaro finally move into their new home. It is lovely, located in a great area that is safe, quiet and we know they will be very comfortable in their new 'digs'.

Elder Lasay and Elder Nay loading their fridge.


A little reward for a job well done!
President and Sister Carlos love their missionaries. They are mission parents to 180 wonderful young people-they both treat them like they are their own precious family and I know at this time of year, that helps ease the homesickness that often plagues the Elders and Sisters. President and Sister are also 'party' people. They love to entertain and have fun. President is a 'closet gourmet chef' and is probably the ONLY Mission President in the church who regularly cooks for his missionaries. He is a wonderful cook and enjoys serving them in this way. 

Yesterday and tomorrow are the two Christmas Party/Devotionals for the missionaries. Half of the mission came yesterday and the other half will be coming tomorrow. They all brought a gift for the gift exchange, played games, sang songs, and each Zone gave a 'presentation'. This year, Sister Carlos thought it would be a great experience for the missionaries to do a CSP. That is short for Community Service Project. The Elders/Sisters were divided into four groups and they all went to different places to carol and cheer the residents...Elder Huffstutler took his group to the jail and Elder Needs, Sister Carlos and I went to three area hospitals. We caroled and walked the halls, greeting the people and trying to spread a little Christmas cheer. Getting there was the trick! One group walked and the rest of us took 'public transportation'.

The one game that was so fun was a brainchild of our dear Sister Carlos-she had items in a bag and divided the missionaries into eight groups. Each bag contained supplies that they were to use to turn one of their fellow Elders/Sisters into Rudolph! It was hilarious!

Elder Dixon as Rudolph

Elder Nay

One Zone [with a Samoan member] did a native dance

Returning from our caroling activity.WE had a snazzy jeepney!

Some tables were decorated in red..

and some in white
While we were in Nueva Vizcaya, we went to our favorite restaurant in Solano and had a quick picture taken...

We feel so blessed every day to be part of this work here in the Philippines. The rescue effort is sometimes frustrating as we try to find and help to kindle in the hearts of the less-active, offended, or no longer interested members of our church the remembrance of the light they once felt at their own baptism. Sometimes, our efforts are successful and we rejoice with those families. Last Saturday, two precious children were baptized, both from families we have tried to help in their efforts to return to church. In one family, the father was actually able to baptize his son and in the other, the father is just not ready yet to come back so he was baptized by another worthy priesthood holder. We were so thrilled for these families.

This precious family is 'back' and we are so happy for them.
This mama is doing the right thing and bringing her precious daughters back to the fold.
The Light of Christ feels different for each of us. For me, it is a warm, 'cozy' feeling in my soul that tells me I am doing right.  Our goal here as full-time missionaries is to assist our dear brothers and sisters in the Philippines to rekindle that light in their lives. Some have wandered away and have NO recollection of ever feeling that comfort...some have a distinct memory that is far in the recesses of their minds, some have a desire, others do not. Free agency is the key-if they have a desire to come back and accept that light in their lives, we only awaken that feeling in them as we visit them in their homes, have prayer with them and read scriptures. Our job is not to teach, it is to bring to them a remembrance of the feelings of light that they once had but now have forgotten. At this time of year, it is especially important for us to assist the Lord in reminding them and it seems a little easier-people are more receptive, more willing to allow us in and more touched by the spirit of the season. Each of us can be a light in the darkness for someone who is reaching out for a hand. Like this tree...the light in the darkness brings beauty to all who will take the time to stop and look. Let us each be a beacon for the Lord, helping Him to accomplish His work.

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