Monday, July 23, 2012

Elder and Sister Teh's visit, cheesecake and antiques

Have you ever felt like you were sitting at the feet of the Master and being taught?  That is exactly our experience this past week as Elder Michael Teh of the Seventy and his wife visited our mission for our yearly mission tour.  Currently, his assignment is Area President and they are located in Manila.  The schedule they kept was grueling and we were so grateful to have been able to experience his one-on-one association for a short time.  The senior couples were invited to the mission home on Monday evening for dinner with the Teh's after he and his sweet wife took the time to interview each of us that afternoon.  It was a marvelous experience and definitely a highlight for us.  We were able to attend two of his Zone Conference training sessions, each a little different, because we volunteered to help serve the luncheon with the Mills on Thursday.  Our zone met on Wedensday and he trained in Santiago on Tuesday.  Every day was filled, each evening they conducted a Fireside in a different area and when it was time for them to fly home on Friday, the weather shut down the airport so they had to be chauffeured the 12 hour drive back home.  It was a marvelous experience having a General Authority in our midst.  We also found out that the end of August we will have another choice experience as Elder Quentin L. Cook, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who will be accompanied by Brother Davies [from the Presiding Bishopric] and our own Elder Nielson will come to conduct a Fireside for the Young Adults/Single Adults.  What an opportunity!

Elder and Sister Teh with our 'team'..
Moving into this new home has been more work than I had earlier anticipated-I thought [naive me] that we would just walk things across the street and VOILA!!!  We would be settled.  I have spent way too much time this morning looking for a particular item that I now need and cannot find-I just need to take the time to completely unpack, put things where I want them and get on with my life!  

In this home, we have a 'housekeeper'...I use that term very loosely but she is a big help.  The landlady wants to protect her investment so she pays Agnes to come and clean the inside twice a week [Tuesday and Friday] and on Wednesday's, she works on the grounds.  The Russell's lived here for 18 months and I never heard much from them positive or negative about having 'help'.  In my other life, when I was extremely busy in my business, I would occasionally hire someone to come clean now and then but I have never had regular cleaning assistance.  HOWEVER, that being said...I could get used to this!  teehee...

Behind the kitchen building of this home is another kitchen that is called a 'dirty kitchen'.  It was set up in the original construction to handle the cooking of a pig, cow, or other butchered animal on an open fire/wood stove setup.  [I just got this info by asking Agnes who is dusting in this room as we speak..yawn..]  Elder Russell used this building for storage of old, and I mean OLD, mostly cast-off furniture or other mission supplies/inventory.   I am not a clean freak by any stretch of the imagination but I could NOT abide the filth that was in that area!  When the men were here helping us move, they had extra time so they unloaded that area, hosed it out and cleaned up the things that I decided to keep before replacing them into storage.  There were tables and plastic shelves that had been there since the beginning of time that I allowed them to take home.  Elder Russell had taken me out there and explained what belonged to the mission and what belonged to the Ramos', our landlords.  There was this huge piece of furniture that at one time must have served as a wardrobe in a missionary apartment.  Some of the elders had signed it and it was dated long ago.  Needless to say, it was not something we wanted to keep but it was a big piece of furniture.  Well, Agnes wanted it!  I told her that she could come get it [not knowing HOW she was going to move that monstrosity to her house].  On Friday of last week, she was going home and asked if she could take it that day-I had NO problem with getting rid of it but couldn't imagine how it would be moved.  She left and was gone for 15-20 minutes when all of a sudden, I heard a trycie coming down the lane.  She had found a nice man who was willing to help her load it and deliver it and her home.  She is now enjoying a new piece of furniture and we have room to store the important mission supplies..

Agnes watching the loading...
And away they go down the lane!!
Enjoy, Agnes and family..

The Filipino people do not have ovens.  I have told you in the past that they cook on open fires or if they are lucky, a gas burner.  [like we use for camping but a little larger and more sturdy]

The San Pedro branch Relief Society asked me months ago to teach them how to make cheesecake.  I thought, at first, they wanted the no-bake kind but OH NO!!  They wanted to learn how to bake the real New York Cheesecake!  My first response was WHY??? YOU DON'T HAVE OVENS.. but they quickly answered that ONE of them had an oven and that's all it took.  We had our activity last Saturday and they all learned about preparing and baking cheesecakes.  I made two New York Cheesecakes and two Chocolate Cheesecakes.  We prepared and cooked them outside at one of the sister's little restaurants.  It was a hoot!!  Everyone loved them and asked me when I would come back and teach them other baking recipes...sigh..

Watching the cheesecakes being mixed.  See the black oven in the foreground?
Getting it leveled was a challenge!
I love old things.  That is probably why I love my hubby so much...but seriously, I do love things from the past.  In my other life, I had quite a few antiques that I had gathered here and there and when we decided to serve this mission, I drastically scaled down on my 'things'.  Some were sold and most were given to my children.  The old things I had were, for the most part, not handmade but manufactured many years ago. 

Some of you know how I love to garden.  In my other life, I had beautiful flower gardens and I always was looking for 'yard art' items.  I found an antique pitch fork at a garage sale [which now lives in my cousin Judy's flowerbed], I had a couple of very old wheelbarrows, some old pots, shoes, etc. but nothing like the discovery I made this past week.  My vegetable garden is planted on the side lot of this home and before I came and cleaned it out, nobody had been in that area for many years.  It was very overgrown and full of weeds and rocks.  When we were clearing the land, some things that President Q found were set aside and I had not noticed this old rake and hand truck.  While visiting with my landlady this morning [my clearing of part of her property has spurred her on to cleaning up the rest of that property-a plus for us!] she told me the history of this piece.  It was handmade by her father-in-law in the early 1950's and was used to haul cinder blocks then this home was built.  She told me I could have it to take home if I wanted and when I offered it to Judy for her garden, the shipping charges brought her to an abrupt decision-'I will enjoy the picture, thanks so much!'

Don't you wish you knew where this had been and the stories it could tell?
Sometimes when we get to Elder Shaner's and my ages,  we think of ourselves like this hand truck-past our longer useful..full of holes, dents and totally rusted.  These are not signs of no longer being useful..these are signs of a wonderful life of experiences..these are signs that we worked hard, did our duties,  fulfilled our responsibilities, and continued to labor in our jobs until we completed, to the best of our abilities, the tasks assigned to us.  A mission is hard.  A mission is lonely sometimes.  A mission is full of laughter and tears but most of all, a mission is hard work for the Lord.  I wouldn't trade this mission for a million bucks!!!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Another new start...

 'Make new friends but keep the is silver and the other gold...'  How many of you readers can remember that song from  childhood many years ago?  I first heard it at Campfire Girls camp when I was in elementary school.  It has been one I have thought of and sung most of my life...this life is about change and two things that does always change are our relationships and friendships.   When we arrived in the Philippines, Cauayan Mission we had a house waiting for us.  Sister Breese and Sister Carlos had spent many hours cleaning, furnishing, and readying it for us.  We were definitely spoiled...upon arriving, we just had to shop and pick up the little extra things the mission did not provide and move in.  

Across the street from this home was another nice home occupied by another senior couple, the Russell's.  They are from Oregon and knew the Carlos' when they were all in the same stake.  On their property is a darling 'guest cottage' that houses a set of young missionaries..currently we have sisters living there.  Over the past year, we have become friends with this amazing couple and have learned SO MUCH from them and their experience as senior missionaries.  This was their second mission [their first was to Maine] and the two were mirror opposite missions.  In the Philippines, we have such a marvelous opportunity to actually make a difference in the units to which we are assigned.  The members want help.  They want our counsel and input.  They are anxious to allow us to train them and will listen.  The Russell's totally changed the branches that were assigned to them.  A couple of months ago, we learned of our assignment Mallig.  We will have similar challenges and have used their guidance and experience to help us set a plan for our new branch.  We love this couple.  In the past nine months, we have become good friends and we both know we will see each other again in the states.  As I write this, they are home, having been released and are floating in their pool!!!  A great senior couple and a wonderful example of selfless shadow leadership...thank, John and Sharon!  You will be missed by many on the other side of the world...

The Russell's at their farewell dinner at the mission home-Sister
gets the 'red plate' because she is so special!!

The senior team..back row-the Mills, us, the Gottfredson's and the Lakers.
Seated-the Russell's and the Carlos'.  Last official gathering..

An airport farewell...
As they were flying away to Toyko, we had three men and two women from the Cabatuan Branch helping us make a move across the street.  Now I want you to know...I HATE TO MOVE!!!  I am a 'nester' and I want my nest organized, clean and orderly.  Moving really messes up that plan!!  I had to go through things, separate, pack, organize, and then a day or two later, unpack and [my most hated thing] try to figure out where I want things put in the new house.  A year ago we sold our home, packed up about 1/10th of the 'stuff' we had, put it into storage, got rid of the rest of the 'stuff' including our home and a car and consecrated it all to the Lord for two years.  It hasn't been long enough for me to have forgotten that traumatic month and I didn't want to do it again but....President wanted us in this house so a senior couple would be in the same compound as the sisters so here we are.  It has been less than a week and the only thing that is totally settled is the kitchen.  Elder Shaner is working on the office today and I hope to go upstairs shortly and get our bedroom and my sewing stuff all unpacked and put away.  That said, I really do like this home.  It is much cleaner, more roomy, the kitchen is actually a detached building behind the main home [it sounded weird to me too but it really works well] that has lots of good ventilation with windows on all four sides.  I think we will be happy here.  Oh, and the house comes with a 3-day a week housekeeper...I really will like that part!

Covered breeseway between the main house [left] and kitchen [right]

This young sister was helping me unpack the kitchen-she was
also a baby wearer like my Kim!!

Looking from prep part of kitchen through to eating area..

Our new garden is on the property to the left of this picture.  That balcony
upstairs is lovely in the morning.  A great place to sit and read my scriptures.
There are many new things we have experienced in the past year.  So many new smells, sights and tastes.  One thing that I recently had [thanks to Elder Nay who INSISTED we come by and taste this new fruit he found] was Dragon Fruit.  I loved the name, probably because of Seth and other grandson's who had an obsession at one time with 'How To Tame a Dragon' books.  I miss my grandchildren and use every opportunity I have here to think of them.  It is actually delicious-a little like a Kiwi.  It even has the same little black seeds as a Kiwi.

President Quitola [my garden buddy, remember?] eating his first Dragon Fruit
of his entire life!!

Dragon Fruit.  God makes them in white and a gorgeous bright pink!  The one
in front is uncut.  They are about the size of a large pear.
This lifetime is so fun...we experience so many new things that are for our growth.  Being here on a mission has definitely, for me, been life-changing.  I never, in a million years, could imagine us ever being able to afford to go on a mission [for those of you readers not of our faith, this entire two year experience is funded by us, not our church.  They do fly us here and will fly us home but all of our expenses are exactly that-OUR expenses]  We just gave it all up [our jobs, our home, our family, our lifestyle, etc.] and came here with faith that the Lord is in charge and He will not lead us astray.  I know these people here have changed MY life...I will never look at 'I need' the same way because they are all such happy people with so little.  Their needs are so minimal.  They are a grateful, loving, happy, gracious, thankful, humble, honest, and God loving people...what more could the Lord ask of anyone?  My challenge now is to become more like them and then I will become more like Him...

Monday, July 2, 2012

Almost halfway and we've only just begun..

In a few days we will reach our halfway point in this glorious experience known as 'our mission'.  Mission...a word of many meanings.  Webster has a long list but the one that applies to us and our service is 'a ministry commissioned by a religious organization to propagate its faith or carry on humanitarian work, a calling'

We are here by choice.  The Lord called us to this work but it was our choice to answer that call.  It is not required of us to travel across the world, support ourselves financially, work 10-12 hours a day, eat weird food, smell unbelievable smells, see incredible things, walk until our feet fall off, laugh and cry with these people, drive in unimaginable circumstances and actually fall into bed at night, sleep harder than we ever have in our lives only to wake up 7 hours later and do it all over again...but we wouldn't change one second of this marvelous experience for anything!!!  Without a doubt, we will look back on this time in our married lives as one of the most glorious times we spent together and we thank our Heavenly Father every day for trusting US, these two midwestern hicks, with these precious saints in this part of His vineyard.

President Carlos told us a couple of weeks ago that the next year of our service will be totally different than the last...our responsibilities have changed, our congregation has changed, our working location has changed and as I stated last week, I am not big on change will be wonderful.  We have attended our new assigned branch two Sundays and have been so well received.  These saints are so hungry for training and so willing to be guided.  Our work will be cut out for us and it will be a challenge but we are ready and willing to do all we can to facilitate growth in Mallig.  We have spent many afternoons, accompanied by English speaking members, visiting the active members in Mallig in their homes.  They are always so surprised and happy when our brown truck pulls up in front of their home and we get out to spend time with just them.  A humble and sweet group of saints for sure.
This is the little house we call 'home' for the next year-they would like
a building but must meet certain requirements before the
church will allow them to construct their own meetinghouse.

Our sweet branch...

Two weeks ago, the Saturday before our precious Elder Llorin was transferred, he was able to baptize the newest member in the Mallig branch.  She is a college student who is boarding with a members family.  What a wonderful young woman!!  She will be such a great addition to the branch but also to the church in general.  I can see her as a future leader without a doubt.  Some of the other young people who also board at this home have expressed interest in hearing more about our beliefs.  That is always good news!!

Elder Llorin and Elder Nay on baptism day.

A while back I told you about Sister Mina.  If you recall, she was in a typhoon in the 90's and because of a fallen coconut tree, has lost the use of her legs, has no feeling from the waist down and is confined to bed.  [or so I thought!]  She had a brace that had gotten broken and worn out that would allow her to sit up but it was in horrible disrepair.  Elder Shaner suggested we take it and see if we could get it fixed.  Now, here in the Philippines, it is a little challenging to find people with specific talents to do repair work on anything, let alone something as specific as a back brace but lo and behold...we did it!  When we delivered it, I was a little disappointed as she didn't seem to be overly thrilled but, can you imagine my shock to go visit her and find her sitting up in her living room, sporting a darling new haircut!

I taught her how to crochet a few months ago and she is having such fun creating purses.  Up to now, she has completed three and is on her way.  Now, my wonderful neighbor, Sister Russell [who goes home to Oregon next week!! boohoo!!] is the resident specialist in the crocheted purse department and I wanted her to meet Mina.  Last Tuesday we went to Roxas and spent the morning at her home.  Sister Russell brought some of her creations to show and I could almost see the wheels turning in Mina's brain as she absorbed the morning training.  She was taught how to embellish, make flowers, hooks, etc. and in short, broaden her creativity and think more 'out of the box'.  I plan to do some shopping and bring her a bag full of possibilities...beads, rings, stones, etc.  She will have fun.

I think I have said in the past that working with and for Sister Carlos is always an adventure.  She is one, if the THE most creative people I have ever met with more energy than all of the other five senior sisters lumped together!  Recently, she had another brainstorm!!!  And of course, it involved all of us...a music workshop!  She is such a great leader-she plans the plan, delegates our responsibilities, then sits back and drives the bus.  Our first workshop was last Saturday and we did have a grand time.  

We started in the chapel with an opening exercise including a trio [three senior sisters] singing 'If The Savior Stood Beside Me'.  The arrangement she chose was so gorgeous and I actually almost sorta  mastered the accompaniment.  I use the almost sorta to tell you it wasn't great but it worked.  We offered four choices of classes-Primary Music how to's, Basic Chorister how to's, Primary Music Kit [make and takes] and Choirs.  The members could choose two and when finished, we all gathered together for some fun FHE ideas using music to teach.  One thing about Sister Carlos-whatever she does is top notch and this was NO exception. We will be taking this 'on the road' to 7 or 8 different Stake/District centers over the next two months.

Sister Mills showing the children a fun music game.

My choir performing the song they learned in the workshop.
This missionary experience has been so enlightening and spiritually lifting for me.  I have been a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for almost 40 years and you know what I have discovered?  I was in a spiritual rut!!!  I thought I had read it all...had heard it all...had done it all...had seen it all...had felt it all and had learned it all...but OOOOOHHHHH!!!!!  Was I wrong!  The most important thing I have learned in the past year is that I have only just begun...

Our lives are in constant change.  Learning is just a small part of the responsibility we have here to increase our knowledge and skills.  This life is a probation and we have specific instructions from our Father in Heaven-LEARN OF ME.  Knowledge is like the seeds in my garden.  We plant them in fertile soil, feed them, water them, feed them some more...and if we are good stewards of our gardens, we will reap wonderful crops of insight and growth as we strive to learn the lessons this earthly experience can teach us.  

What are you planting in your spiritual gardens???