Thursday, March 22, 2012

An awesome Zone Meeting, Happy Birthday Relief Society and a funeral..

Every month we have a Zone Meeting instead of a District Meeting...what is the difference you ask?  We are assigned to the 'Roxas District' and if you combine our six units with the five units in the 'Burgos District' [which borders our district] you will have the Roxas Zone.  We have a young set of Elders who are the Zone Leaders and each district has a District Leader.  If our meetings are Zone Meetings, the Zone Leaders conduct and train..when we have our weekly District Meeting, our District Leader will have that responsibility.  Last Tuesday was a Zone Meeting day and our two Zone Leaders, Elder Griffin [from St. George, Utah] and Elder Rausa conducted an amazing training.  They focused on the need for simplicity in our teaching, emphasizing that many times we, as members, have so much more knowledge about the gospel of Jesus Christ than the investigators or the less-actives.  To demonstrate this and help us learn how to simplify, they talked about our need to teach like we are teaching a child and invited the 'parking lot kids' in for practice.  These little kids live close to the church and every time the gate is opened, they appear.  I have sometimes found them wandering through the building but they are always nearby, playing in the grass on the church property, running through the parking lot, etc.  The Zone Leaders went outside and using a sweet bribe, invited them in.  We then divided up and each 'team' had an opportunity to try to teach a principle to the children.  When the time was up, the Zone Leaders questioned the kids to see how well they understood.  It was a great lesson and was one of the most clever and thought-out  lessons I have seen.  Each missionary learned first hand how to simplify and reach each child with the topic assigned.  

The 'Parking Lot Kids'...

Last Saturday marked the 160th anniversary of the organization of the Relief Society, the women's organization in our church.  In the US, we always had a big program with music and such and these women are NO different.  If there is a reason to party, they are always ready.  Sister Aida Saddul, the District Relief Society President, wrote a great play [all done in Tagalog so I only caught a little of the script] and used the women and some young adults, in costume, to play the parts.  Sister Aida cornered me and used me as her English/Tagalog consultant.  She took the body of the storyline from our 'Daughters in the Kingdom' book and even though her English is superb, she still had a few questions.  They did a great job.  Following the 'play' we had a dance presentation from each unit.  Because of the Asian heritage from some of the members here, we had a fan dance with costume from Roxas I, a Islander dance with pretend fire balls from Roxas II, and other dance presentations from the other units.  They were all great and each group had practiced for hours.  

When the dances were done, we had a 'fashion show'..impromptu but fun.  I have been working with my senior sister friend who lives across the street and serves in a different area to empower these women and one way she discovered to accomplish that is to teach them how to crochet using plastic bags!  Many in her district have actually been able to create items and sell them, earning much needed income for their families.  I know, it sounds dumb but the purses we have made are amazing!  You cut the bags and connect the loops together to form 'PLARN'...yes, there is actually a word for the plastic.  If you google plarn on the internet, you can find many fun patterns but the ones I have made I just created...they actually evolved as I tried to follow a pattern and became frustrated.  It really is fun but the main problem we have here is not being able to find the hooks!  We need a 'K' or 11 and the largest they have available in the Philippines is maybe a 'C' or a 3.  Wish we had a Hobby Lobby or a Wal-Mart!!!

Sister Gaspar modelling my green purse and 'juice box' hat
These Filipino people are the kings/queens of recycling so this project is right up their alley!

The cast of the Relief Society play..notice Joseph Smith??

My display-purses and bags made from recycled materials..

The gentleman next door died last week so we had the opportunity to visit the family and be close-by for the funeral activities.  I think I have talked about Filipino funerals before but having it so 'up close and personal' was a real event!  They open their home for the viewing of the deceased...there is no embalming here so they are encased in a casket and put on display for 8 days.  The area set aside for the viewing is decorated with candles, banners, flowers and a brief history of the deceased along with photos and other remembrances.  The family accepts visitors during that time in the home while outside, there is a party happening...they gamble, sing kareoke, have a live band and carry on all night for many nights-any proceeds [like from the gambling] always go to the family to help with the expenses of the funeral and burial.  It is really interesting and very different from our culture.  We respect their grief and their customs and wanting to 'do something' and not really understanding their funeral etiquette, I asked the Assistants to the President what would be appropriate.  They visited with me and gave me options and I really was I bought a nice vase, bought and arranged some fresh flowers and purchased a huge box of mixed breads to take to them. Because of the language barrier, we asked the sister missionaries who live across the street to go with us to the house to visit-they did and we had a nice visit, meeting the people by name who we had only waved and nodded to in the past.  Another bridge built..

Only the wealthy can afford a brass band for the processional..

Bringing the casket out-notice the carriage??  They are sometimes pulled by a horse.

I guess when I was born my paternal grandmother was obsessed with 'does she have curly hair?'..I loved this grandma and remember when MY daughters were born, she kept asking me the same thing. She even bought me some kind of cream to rub into their scalp that would, supposedly, give them naturally curly hair but alas, my hair and theirs, much to her disappointment, was straight as a stick...until......
Only in the Philippines in this humidity..
Bet she is smiling down from heaven..she finally got her life-long wish!!!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

a little nostalgia...

As I lovingly reach into the bag and grasp the familiar sliver of wood, I wonder how many times my grandmothers did the identical thing as they secured their laundry to the clotheslines in their rural homes in Nebraska.  There is nostalgia knowing my fingers are encircling the same pins they used so many years and miles ago...I learned early in my life how to maximize the space on the lines and how to place the clothes so they would dry evenly and as quickly as possible, avoiding, if possible, the direct sun rays so things wouldn't fade.  That is part of my heritage.  That is part of my history.  I love to hang my clothes outside and have done so for most of my adult life when possible.  I begged Randy many times to help me install lines and mostly, he did.  When we arrived here, I knew I had packed and brought my grandmother's two clothespin bags with their clothespins and he immediately installed lines so that need in my life could be fulfilled.  He is my hero!!


They never would have imagined their pins would secure clothes to a line 12,000 miles away under a palm tree... 

I absolutely adored my two grandmothers..they were so different and yet, each helped to mold me into the person I now have become.  Joyce Violin Desmond Laher Martin and Cora Hazel Cooper Gorham were my grandmothers.  They taught me how to laugh, how to cry, how to love, how to forgive, how to be tolerant, how to talk softly, how to dance, how to study, how to win games, how to lose games, when to speak and when to listen, how to hug, how to dust, how to vacuum, how to make lumpy pudding, Gravyard beefsteak, baking powder biscuits, Dobish Torte, homemade ice cream, tapioca, fried chicken, and the list goes on and on.  

I do our laundry a couple of times each week and every time I hang my clothes on the line, I think of my two grandmothers, two of the most important influences for good that I have ever had in my life.  I love and miss my grandmothers.  I will always miss them but I look forward to the glorious day when we will be reunited in the life to come and I can say to them, 'thank you for all the sacrifices you made  in my behalf and I love you forever...'

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Elder Brent H. Nielson...what an opportunity

Sister Carlos, President, Elder Nielson, Sister Nielson, Sister Laker, Elder Laker and us
Have you ever had the opportunity to sit and be taught at the feet of someone who just keeps you mezmerized?  That is exactly what happened to us last week as we were visited by Elder Brent H. Nielson of the First Quorum of the Seventy.  He is in the Area Presidency in Manila and came to do some leadership training BUT....President Carlos, ingenious man that he is, with the approval of Elder Nielson planned two missionary training sessions, a member/youth fireside [and SO many came] along with the planned training and then the dedication of the new Gamu chapel.  It made for a packed agenda but he and his wonderful wife didn't miss a beat.   After the dedication, we were invited to the mission home for dessert and a little one-on-one time with a General Authority.  What a sweet experience!  He and his wife are amazing people with so much to share-it is such a blessing to have them in leadership here in the Philippines. 

I have loved watching the children here-they are so industrious and full of energy.  I love the adults but my heart will always turn to the little ones.  In the Philippines, the children have a totally different school schedule than what you all are accustomed to..their day starts at 7 a.m. and is done between 4:30 and 5:00 p.m.   They have an hour for lunch but no recesses.  The kindergartners only go from 7:00-noon but that is still a long day...I figured the kindergartners go the same amount of time as our high school students...almost.  Because the days starts so early here year round, and there are only 12 hours of daylight year round, these people make the most of those 12 hours.  I have told you about the Filipino alarm clock...the roosters...well, we have another, more irritating and disruptive alarm clock-THE STUPID DOG NEXT DOOR!!  Our bedroom window opens out into the neighbor's driveway/front porch area and she owns a little 'dustmop' dog-a yipper!  She walks at 4:30 a.m. every morning with a group of friends and as she leaves, she puts 'Precious' up on this half wall at the edge of her front porch and that dog yips and barks for 45 minutes while she, she has never come back to get her, never let her off the wall...WHY DOES SHE BARK EVERY MORNING FOR 45 MINUTES???  DOES SHE THINK THAT HER MISTRESS WILL, AFTER YEARS OF PATTERNING, ALL OF A SUDDEN HEAR HER BARK AND COME BACK???????????????  Sometimes I think dogs are the dumbest animals on earth!!

It is almost summer here on the other side of the world.  The days are getting much warmer as is the water in the shower...I told Randy last week that it is a shame we can't have this water temp in December, January and February and have the winter water temp now-I shower in the morning and again before bed.  The evening shower refreshes me, relaxes me and helps me to sleep better, especially because I have sweat like a stuck hog all day!  haha!  The one in the morning is just my normal habit.  Summer here means school is out so for the months of April and May, they have their break.  During that time, it is tradition for each Stake/District of our church to hold two youth activities.  Youth Conference [kids ages 14-18] and 3 Day Camp [kids ages 12-18].  It is such a treat and is looked forward to with lots of enthusiasm.  Monday Randy and I went with the District Young Men's President and the District Relief Society President [who also happens to be our branch young women's president] to check out a facility and turn in application paperwork to rent the facility for Youth Conference.  Government here is interesting-for us to be able to rent this park area, we must make application in person [a 2 hour drive south of here] get approval from the Governor, and if approved, then go through the Park Administration Department for a possible match of time and facility.  I think there is still a lot of influence from the time when martial law was enforced.  We see guards at every door, in every building, in every office, and even at the door to the hospital.  They all have these huge weapons that look like rifles and are dressed in uniforms of varying styles and colors.  I still don't know what they think someone is going to steal walking into the bread store!  I am becoming accustomed to seeing it but it still puzzles me.  Anyway, the kids are so excited for Youth Conference.  I have not been in on the planning for this activity but Randy [who serves as the 2nd Counselor in the District Presidency] says they are having lots of fun games, food, and great spiritual activities.  The park is absolutely gorgeous.  We drove through it on our way home and I was so impressed.  It looks like something we would have in the US..except for the presence of palm trees!  They want to hold the conference the end of April, the same week we are planning Faith Factor [patterned after Fear Factor] for the missionaries.  A busy week for sure.
Echo Park

One of the lodges

Recreational area

This could be the road on the way to Thorpe's cabin in the Uintah's..
I know the kids will have fun.  On the way home we also visited 'Water World'.  It is very rustic compared to our water parks but would house the 200 kids and adults for their 3 day camp the first part of April.  Not sure if we are going there or not-if they do, I will include some pictures later.

A week or so ago we were at the mission home and Sister Carlos came running through [not unusual for her-she has MORE energy!!] and was squealing [also not unusual] about something outside!  She grabbed her camera, told me to get mine and I followed her.  In the area between the home and the office is a garden area where she had spotted this beautiful butterfly.  Those of you who have known me all my life know that I have always been fascinated by butterflies..I even caught, mounted and had an exquisite collection during my younger years.  This is a swallowtail but not a variety I recognized.

Some kind of swallowtail-beautiful butterfly.
On Wednesday nights we work with President Munoz, the Branch President of Roxas II.  We let him lead the visits and have met many wonderful and faithful saints in their homes.  Last night we had Brother Amaro [you remember Russell from an earlier post last fall?..his dad] and we tried to visit with less-active members.  The father in this amazing family, the Diaz', has not been active for many years.  His wife is so faithful, has been there with the children and has even supported a son who is now serving a full-time mission here in the Philippines.  Their next son has his papers in and hopes to receive a call within the next month.  We have visited this great family before but last night, the spirit was so strong.  Our goal is to encourage, teach, remind, and help them recognize the presence of the Lord in their lives.  We are in hopes that this family will have the opportunity to attend the temple and have their family sealed for time and all eternity.  That is our goal..

The Diaz family with two very white friends..
The Breese's are going home in May and the Russell's in July so those two couples are 'running away' today for a few days.  They both have Toyota Corolla Altis's so they borrowed our truck to have room for their luggage, the people and all the goodies for their 4 day escape.  I am told they are going to a beach..I know we are living on an island, in the middle of the ocean, surrounded by beaches, couldn't prove it by me!  Our particular mission is land-locked so President Carlos got special permission for those two couples to leave the mission and have a last fling weekend.  I hope they can unwind and relax...we [the Russell's and us] have had a very stressful week delivering new mattresses to missionaries in a far off area..two days of hot travel, meals on the run, long days and stiff backs.  I wonder if their resort will have a hot tub????  I could only dream.........