Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The beginning of the end...

Ever since I was a little girl, I have heard the saying 'all good things must come to an end' and I never could have imagined the impact that saying would have on my life. It was just a saying...a thought that someone had expressed at one time and it became a familiar by-word, meaning...all things must end. A few weeks ago, the most incredible experience of my life ended and one of the most precious friendships of my life passed through the veil of death. I wept...my heart broke...I accepted and I packed. 

Kayleen at our 'farewell' July 31, 2011
Over twenty years ago we moved into a little brick home in Kaysville, Utah next door to one of the most amazing women I have ever had the blessing to meet, Kayleen Scoville. We became fast friends and because of that friendship, my life will be forever changed. Over the past twenty years, we traveled together, walked together, laughed together, cried together, learned together, taught together and in short, we became inseparable friends. 

In the spring of 2004, she experienced a life-changing car accident. At first, it appeared to be just another fender bender but within a couple of years, it was apparent that it was a more serious event than the professionals had earlier thought. Because of a family propensity to Alzheimer's, the sideways impact of the accident brought on 'early onset Alzheimer's Disease' and on the 3rd of May, at the age of 62, it finally took it's toll on her earthly tabernacle. Because of the miracle of modern technology, I was with her and her sweet family at the time of her passing. Both Elder Shaner and I were to be involved in the final celebration of her marvelous life and on the following Friday, May 10th, our Philippine adventure ended as we headed home. A VERY bittersweet day for us. 

Now I am here to tell you that having 10 days to finalize two years worth of experiences, friendships, responsibilities and STUFF is a HUGE task! That being said, it was probably a true blessing in disguise. We were so incredibly busy and without the help of the marvelous sisters in the Cabatuan Branch, we would have never gotten ourselves ready. The week was spent packing and shipping boxes then we visited the members, our dear friends, for a final time in their homes to read scriptures, have prayer and to have our final hugs. Being in the Philippines for almost two years and being a 'sentimental saver', we really had the stuff to sort through but one week and seven boxes shipped later, we were ready to rumble.

To try to list the blessings we experienced in the Philippines would take a lifetime. Serving in the most beautiful country with the most amazing culture of people has been such a tremendous blessing for us both personally and spiritually. Many hours were spent during that two years working with members, investigators, inactive members and that was one part of the work that we truly loved. There were three individual families that we worked with, and that you have all heard about in the past, that I would love to tell you about today.

Upon arriving in 2011, President Carlos assigned us to the Roxas District and within our first week in the Philippines, we were introduced to Elders Naylor and Lucernas. They were the Zone Leaders in that district and became our 'training' Elders. We had NO idea what we were doing and they quickly had us involved and busy. 
Family #1------
A few weeks earlier they had begun teaching a widow named Sister Nenita Ulep. Her teenage son had been baptized earlier that spring as well as a married son and daughter. We immediately became involved in her discussions. If you are a longtime follower of this blog you will remember my post about breaking her chair and crashing to the floor of her home-one of my finer moments. We have remained close to her, getting hugs whenever we can. That teenage son became Elder Ulep last year and is currently serving in the Davao Mission.

Family #2------
The Diaz Family were also in the Zone Leaders area and we became involved in trying to help them become an eternal family, a goal the mother and children had for many years. We held Family Home Evenings, lessons, dinners, etc. at their home, always trying to touch their father's heart and encourage him to give up his 'issues' and join his family in church activity. Many men have problems with needing to work on the Sabbath Day and he was no exception. Working on the Sabbath is sometimes a necessity but oft times, it is just an excuse. NOT working on the Sabbath is a true act of faith-it has been proven time and time again that if we will just have the faith to follow the Lord and keep his commandments, blessings will pour down on us and we will be eternally blessed. The Diaz family wanted those blessings but the father just didn't have the faith.

Family #3-----------
The last year of our mission, you all know we were in charge of the apartments for the missionaries. That job was a huge responsibility and we absolutely LOVED it-the interaction with the young missionaries, the shopping and finding the best deals for the supplies that would be needed, meeting and negotiating with the great landlords, and having the opportunity to see all the different parts of this beautiful mission. What a great experience. Anyway...

While hunting for a new and upgraded apartment for the sister missionaries in Roxas, we became acquainted with Sister Gabaldon. She had an apartment that she really wanted us to rent and as we met with her and saw it, we realized that it would be a great blessing for the sisters to live in this awesome home-we rented it on the spot! The Zone Leaders were the ones to tell us about this apartment because they knew Sister Gabaldon by name-she was an inactive member of their branch! We met with her and realized that she was a caring and wonderful woman, just temporarily 'off track'. As we left, Elder Shaner, the bold man that he had become, said..'Sister...we understand you are an inactive member of our church. Why?'  She blushed and hesitated. 'Come back, sister. WE need you and YOU need us!!'

Well....she went home and talked to her family. Her husband, her teenage daughter and son and her little guy all agreed to accompany her to church the following Sunday because she was scared and didn't want to go alone. She told them if they didn't like it they would never have to go again. THEY ALL LOVED IT!!! The family started the discussions [which we were involved in again] and about 6 months later they were all baptized. She is now our District Relief Society President and he is a counselor in the Elders Quorum Presidency of their branch.

WWEELLLLLL...........our 'payday' of our mission was on May 9th, the day before we left our mission, when they all went to the Manila Temple and were sealed as families. We wished we could have been there that day but because of previous commitments and the flight schedule of departing flights from Cauayan City, we were not there. However, we did meet them all on the temple grounds the following afternoon and had pictures taken before they started the van ride back to Roxas. 

The Galbaldon Family

The Diaz Family

Sister Ulep with President Munoz and his daughter Alyssa
The entire group of Roxas saints.
If you will look at the picture above, you will see [minus us] the group that traveled overnight, 12 hours in an unairconditioned ten passenger van to attend the Manila Temple [there were actually four more who were not here yet for the picture]. These people are so faithful-I know many saints in the wards in the US who have a twenty minute car ride to their local temple and never find the time for the Lord...shame on us!!

Before they took off, we took them all to KFC [the Filipino FAVORITE American restaurant] for some dinner and fellowship. We love these people-they are the finest in the Lord's kingdom. Faithful...humble...caring...loving...willing to do just about anything to help further the work of the Lord. They are missed terribly!

In my almost 65 years I have done many hard things. Growing up in the 50's and 60's was such a different life-I watch my children and their children now and they have their struggles also. They are very different than the struggles we faced but they are struggles none the less. I am grateful that two precious friends, Kathie and Bill, were brave and bold enough to share this beautiful gospel with us. Our lives are forever changed because they loved us enough. This past two years our lives have been forever changed again by the experiences and blessings we have received by serving our Father in Heaven in the most glorious country in the world, with the most clever and humble culture of people that were ever created.  Leaving our little Mallig Branch was one of the hardest things we had to do. I read a saying one time that is so apropos here..."Some people come into our lives and quickly go...some stay for a while and leave footprints on our hearts and we are never, EVER the same."

We love you, our precious friends, and our lives will never be the same as we cherish the times we spent with you, our brothers and sisters in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Our precious Mallig Branch

                      and we bid you adieu and God speed...

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Only in the Philippines!!

You have all seen my 'Only in the Philippines' posts before and know the reasoning behind them but if you are a first time follower to this blog, I will quickly recap the background to these fun pictures.

Being raised a mid-western girl and never having visited abroad much in my life, I have found myself truly intrigued with this glorious country. Living in this tropical environment among some of the Lord's choicest children, in a country racked with poverty, sickness, and sometime untimely death [as you have read about in this blog in the past], it has been such a great learning experience for me-I have never had the experience of visiting a Third World Country before and to be honest, I was a little apprehensive about this adventure. Having my 'best friend' at my side, we just packed our bags and came with faith. Isn't faith how each of us commonly live our lives? If you knew 'back then' the things you know now, would you have made the same choices? Probably not and that is why faith in the Savior and His plan is so essential to our successful earthly tests. That said, this country is definitely an experience in faith for me and I have LOVED every minute of my interactions with these wonderful people.

Our mission is coming to a close and I want to share one last 'Only in the Philippines' post...enjoy!

This is a true 'free loader'...the motorcycle is apparently out of gas and is
freeloading a ride with a trycie

They use vinyl banners for everything, including advertising of new
health care options outside of local hospitals and if there
is a breeze, never fear-the banner is properly weighted down with
a water bottle full of dirt!  Clever people...

One of my favorite things here is seeing the people taking a break/nap in
their hammocks. We see them hanging in trees, under porches, inside their
homes dangling from the rafters, or sometimes even on the move-this
fella is having a little snooze as he travels down the road.

This hot tropical climate encourages frequent swims in the nearby rivers
and streams-here an entire family is cooling off before returning to their
daily chores.

I have told you how incredibly clever these folks are-they can build or fix ANYTHING!!!
This young man needed a toy and built this whirlygig push toy from empty
soup cans, a piece of bamboo and a lot of imagination. The helicopter blades
actually turn as he pushes it along.
We live in a small town called Cabatuan and every Monday morning, the entire staff of city workers gather at 8:00 a.m. for a flag raising ceremony, the singing of the national anthem and a reverent moment of silent prayer. The entire city stops for that 20 minutes and all workers are required to attend. Policemen stop all traffic on the highway in front of the city offices and respect is shown for their country. What would happen in our country if we still had that kind of respect and love of country?

My bi-weekly shopping trip to the Palengke brings me such great produce-and this
little trip cost me about $8 US currency...

And we all share the roads with the cows...notice how the locals just are not at
all surprised or affected?

Elder Shaner's 'twins' I have never seen this before coming to the Philippines. In
America these must be 'culled out'
As we begin to wind down our time in this glorious country, we are sad to be leaving such a beautiful Garden of Eden setting. Everyday brings such beautiful scenery and experiences. Our adjustment was not long upon arriving but we know our adjustment in returning to our home country will be much more difficult. We will miss these wonderful people-they are so happy, humble, and such a great example of the Lord's ability to help people 'bloom where they are planted'. They do not know any different and revel in the great lives they have been given-wish more of their attitudes would rub off on me!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

A little of this and that...

The roads here are full of every vehicle known to man, some carrying people, some produce, some building materials, some animals and some just 'stuff' but one thing they all have in common...you will never see anything like this in the US! Emergency cones, triangles, and such are non-existent but being the careful people they are, we are all warned of long loads or road hazards with their form of 'emergency' signals. Like this one...

The striped plastic bag tied to the back of this load of bamboo is his way of saying 'be careful'
We love the produce here and recently Randy got twins!!!

I have frequently bragged on the creativity of these Filipino people-they might not have the tools we use but they can 'make do' by using what they have..like these make shift brooms that are used to sweep the rice that has been drying in the road. They are made from a long stick and to the end is tied a 'bouquet' of tree greenery. Clever! and it works great!

The river banks are filled this time of year [and really most times of the year] with entrepreneurial fishermen who are busy stocking their roadside fish markets...his catch for the day was a big one! 

 I have also loved the signs in this country-tarpalin signs are everywhere and relatively inexpensive. These are a few that I recently caught on film for you.

You would never see this in the US-a congrats for a college student, hung by the side of
the road and giving the Glory to God!! 

Loved this wording-in other words, they are expanding the shoulders of the road...hahaha!

I had to get these two-Cristin is the name of our oldest daughter and her daughter's name is Cora...the
trycies often have the family name on the back or sometimes a religious saying
to show their honor to their God.
I am NOT a McDonald's fan...never have been and never will be but here, in the Philippines, I LOVE McDonald's and go there frequently. It is 'summer' now and school is out-recently a group of children were taking a tour, wearing their McD's hats. They are learning the fine art of making hot chocolate.

General Conference in the Philippines is a little different for us. We do not receive the broadcast live [it would be in the middle of the night here] but recreate the weekend the following Saturday and Sunday. Keeping the Sabbath day holy is a very difficult concept for most Filipino's to grasp. They are busy folks and most need to work in the rice fields on Sundays during harvest. For those who can come to conference, we provide a lunch for our missionaries, their new converts and investigators on that Sunday. We have done it all four conferences while in the Philippines and we think it gives the Elders and Sisters a way to reinforce the teaching of the Sabbath day principles. We encourage the missionaries to invite their investigators and new members and after a welcome from the Zone Leaders which includes a reinforcement of the principles taught by explaining that this lunch is provided by the missionary team so they don't have to go purchase food on Sunday, a blessing is held and then we eat. This spring I prepared 20 loaves of bread into Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches as well as a few Ham and Cheese. I also brought 125 bags of chips, 3 racks of bananas, 3 pineapples chunked, 5 gallons of lemonade and water, and 6 dozen each of three different cookies/brownies. Nobody was turned away and many members joined us-we always have plenty of food.

I have mentioned many times about the craft artisans that are here in the Philippines. They are such clever and creative people by nature. Close by there lives a sweet little family. They are very poor but their father, who is crippled from birth with a serious foot deformity, has found a way to support his family. They are members of our church and provide a great artistic service to the missionaries. I don't think there are many who go home without something that Brother Malano has created. His plaques and frames are all made by hand. His children and wife pick the talahib [you remember my love for this beautiful native grass] and he dries and dyes it. Then the creation begins.

His 'office'

A wonderfully talented man.
I had a surprise last week as I was driving to Cauayan. Out of nowhere there appeared a FLOWERING TREE!!! It is the first I have seen in the Philippines and it was beautiful. The flowers were the color of goldenrod, the state flower of Nebraska, our home. 

It will not be long and this will all be a fond memory as we prepare to start shipping boxes home. I guess I am a collector, probably a talent I got from my mom. This experience is one we will treasure the rest of our lives and I want to have enough 'stuff' to help me keep it close. I love the Philippines. I love the people. We only have a few weeks left here then we will return to our 'other' lives and what will we bring with us? Enough joyful memories to last the rest of our lives...that's what!