Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Mission Begins

On Friday, June 20th, we went to the Church Administration Building to be set apart.  President Ostler was set apart by Elder Robert D. Hales, and Sister Ostler was set apart by Elder Shane Bowen.  Elder Hales was so gracious and loving.  He had each one of us introduce ourselves and commented on his willingness to perform whatever his Brethren of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles asked him to do.  Despite being on oxygen and sitting in a chair while conversing with us, he stood the entire time while setting apart President Ostler personally and while assisting Elder Bowen in setting apart Sister Ostler.  He was a living example of humble consecration.  We felt so incredibly blessed.  Elder Bowen will soon serve as the first counselor in the Philippines Area Presidency.  We were so grateful that so many family members were able to be there. We appreciated so much their sacrifice as well as the sacrifice of those who weren't able to come.  We love them each so much!  It is such a blessing to have family!

On June 21st, Marian & Brandon and their family, Josh & Jen and their family, and Holly drove with us to the MTC.  It was a bitter-sweet parting.  As we left, they started singing "Called To Serve" which made me burst into tears.  What a precious blessing they each are!

June 21, 2014, we entered the Missionary Training Center where we were trained with 130 new mission presidents and their wives. It was an amazing, overwhelming and truly humbling experience to associate with and be taught by so many wonderful, consecrated brothers and sisters from all over the world!  It was hard to believe we were in the presence of all the apostles and prophet.  For sacrament meeting on Sunday,  President Monson was the speaker.  One of the most poignant times was when a group of missionaries from the MTC came in and sang for us.  Their valiance and testimonies radiated!  I wish you could have been there.  They had all of us in tears!

One of the highlights was being able to meet the only missionary in the Provo MTC going to our mission.  She is from Kirabati and is very courageous to serve this mission.  She will be arriving in our mission on July 14th,  just weeks after we arrive there.  Her name is Sister Riemwa Baraeta.  She is 19. Her father died 4 years ago, and her mom and three siblings are at home.  What a good, strong example she is to all of us!  It was so fun to finally meet one of our missionaries.  I cried when we left.

                                          The 2014-2017 New Philippine Mission Presidents

They are an amazing group of wonderful, new friends! Scott and Sandy Clark from our Naperville Ward are the new president and wife for the Philippines Angeles Mission. It was so fun to renew acquaintance.  They will be amazing leaders.

After the training, we returned to Sister Ostler's parents' home in Bountiful to help Caleb get packed up one final time.  Marian and Daniel both drove up to be there with us the last night and to help Caleb.  It was good they came to help because getting all of our things into two suitcases without going over the weight limit proved to be an interesting experience!  (It was also almost impossible for Caleb to concentrate he was so excited!)

Thursday morning, Marian dropped us off at the airport for our flight to Manila.  It was fun seeing the other mission presidents and their wives with all their luggage too!

Caleb has become a great traveler.  He never complained and seemed to be able to find something to do during the entire trip.  We flew from Salt Lake to Seattle, Tokyo, then Manila.

We were picked up by the entire Area Presidency and their wives and taken to a nice hotel where we spent a much enjoyed night of sleep!  The next day, after lunch, we met at the area offices where we were trained about the specific issues in the Philippine Missions.  Once again, it was a delightful feast!  It's amazing how close you can grow to other sisters where you are all going on an unknown adventure that you feel largely unprepared for!  Sister Dahle (Olongpo), Sister Ardern (Area 1st Counselor's wife), Sondra, Sister Echo-Hawk (Area 2nd Counselor's wife), Sister Bertin (Quezon City North), Sister Nielsen (Area President's wife), Sister McCurdy (Cebu), Sister Maurer (Tacloban), Sister Clark (Angeles), Sister Mangum (San Pablo),  and Sister Lamoglia (Davao).

Creg, Caleb, President McCurdy, President Bertin, President Lamoglia, President Nielsen, President Mangum, President Maurer, Elder Echo-Hawk, President Clark, President Dahle, Elder Ardern.

Sunday, after having church with the Area Presidency, we were all taken to our missions.  We were picked up by President and Sister Stucki and taken to the mission home where they explained everything and showed us what we needed to know.  They had spent weeks preparing the home and information for us in order to make the transition as smooth as possible.  We owe them so much!  We found that they left us with an incredibly valiant and obedient group of elders and sisters.

                                                           The adventure begins!

That night, President Ostler met with the Assistants to the President, Elder Stephens and Elder Limocon.  They have been invaluable!  Their knowledge and wisdom have helped us immensely as we have begun to learn about our responsibilities.

The next day, we spent meeting the office couples, the Thelers, the Paines, and the Northrups.  What a BLESSING they are to us and to this mission!  They were full of information, help and support!  They turned our completely overwhelmed feelings into hopeful feelings!  They have been absolutely wonderful every day since we arrived.  We have never seen such willingness to consecrate whatever is needed for the Lord's work.  What a blessing it is to serve with them!

Elder Paine took us to get our driver's licenses, to find the grocery store, and to get a membership card to the nearest S&R (like Costco).  It was reassuring to see familiar food!  But it was shocking to see how much the strawberries cost!  Of course everything looks incredibly expensive since it is in pesos instead of dollars.  I think they were 599 pesos for one medium container!  Maybe we will try to grow strawberries in our back yard!  I don't think we will be buying them here!

Tuesday, we had a "Meet the Mission President and Family" meeting.  These sweet sisters made us feel extra welcome by making each of us candy leis! All the missionaries and senior couples came except those on Palawan (the island). Each of us spoke, and Caleb sang, "Be Still My Soul."  We showed a video that Caleb put together of each of our children and grandchildren introducing themselves and sharing their feelings about the gospel and their parents/grandparents going on a mission.  Afterwards, we got to shake hand with every single one of them.  It was a completely amazing experience!  What incredible missionaries!

Jet lag was real, and we felt like we were in the middle of a whirlwind, but it was a wonderful whirlwind, and the Lord and all the wonderful missionaries and senior couples sustained us!

On Wednesday morning, bright and early, missionaries arrived at our home for the Mission Leadership Council.  All the zone leaders and sister training leaders came to meet and counsel together.  Angel, our maid, prepared breakfast and lunch for them, and it was a wonderful treat for them...and us!  They serve rice with every meal.  :)

Sister Ostler began the meeting with an activity that highlighted the importance of having a vision and communicating clearly that vision when leading others. It was so fun to see them working together.  These missionaries have such great attitudes and enthusiasm!

After hours of training, we took a break for lunch.  What amazing and incredible missionaries we have! They are so loving and loveable!!!!

These amazing elders just pitched in and cleaned up the kitchen without even being asked!  Future wives take note!

After lunch, Sister Theler came and did some English Language training to help them train their zones and groups with ways to improve their English skills.  The leaders of the church are strongly encouraging the missionaries to all learn English as well as Tagalog.  They can make five times as much money with an ability to speak English than they could without it.

Elder Theler handles finances and does a marvelous job keeping everything running right. The senior couples are so wonderful!  They are so dedicated to their work.  We even caught them working in the office on their p-day!

The Elders from Palawan flew over to join us for the training. It was wonderful to have them!

Caleb was able to attend the meetings and has been learning so much.  He has thoroughly enjoyed being a part of it all.  He got to go out with two missionaries for half a day, ride in a taxi and on trikes and taught four families. He even went up to a person and started a conversation (OYM- Open Your Mouth).  The elders then continued the conversation, got his information and ended up teaching him the next day and committing him to baptism!  Caleb was thrilled!  He has so much courage!

President and Ostler taught about how Christ is "the vine" and the importance of "abiding in Him."

He used this plant to demonstrate what happens when you disconnect a leaf from its plant/vine.  Because the climate is so moist, it didn't wilt like it would have in Arizona, so Caleb helped it along later by putting it in the microwave.  :)

                     It was a good thing Sister Stucki had stocked up the pantry with snacks and food!

We began the very next morning, bright and early with interviewing all 230 missionaries.  It took six days from 8am until usually 8:30pm.  Then President would meet with the Assistants to work on transfer plans and try to do some of the other responsibilities he has.  While President Ostler was interviewing, Sister Ostler also interviewed.  Caleb and Angel helped keep the waiting missionaries busy by teaching them how to make Chocolate No Bake Cookies and teaching them games they can teach to families to use for family nights.  They also got to learn and practice, "A Marvelous Work", a song they will be singing in their mission.

They were very proud of their work......and enjoyed eating it!

                                                       Our first genuine Filipino meal.

    Caleb's first chance to clean up after dinner......yes! these are the brooms they use!  They even sweep the streets of our neighborhood with similar ones that have stronger bristles.

  Sunday, after church, we flew to the island we are responsible for, Palawan.  It is an island paradise. 

Because a huge percent of the Filipinos are Catholic, is isn't uncommon to see many references to Jesus Christ or religion.  Even many of the government offices double as church meeting places.

                        Caleb thought this was really cool....even if they misspelled the name.

                                                          Amazingly creative ideas!

                                               So much to learn.....and taste!

We spent all Monday interviewing missionaries from all over the island.  Many of them had to travel over four hours to get there.  Living on this island is by far more primitive than on the mainland, but the missionaries love it.  The people there are even more warm and responsive to the message.  This is Sister Williams, a niece of Paul and Heather Robles (our friends from Mesa).  It was so fun seeing her!

That night, we had dinner with one of President Ostler's counselors and a senior couple serving on Palawan.  They, too, are incredible examples of faithful consecration.  What a joy it is to mingle with such wonderful people!

This is the first time we have ever boarded a plane from the back and the front.  Seems like a great idea!

After flying back Tuesday, we resumed interviews on Wednesday.  Thursday and Friday were also spent doing interviews all day and into the night.  What a joy it is to get to know these precious souls!

                           Caleb was kept busy teaching games, making goodies,  and singing songs.

                                                                   District Unity.  :)

Saturday was our first "Train the Trainer" meeting.  What a joy it was to be in the presence of the new trainers.  We are so blessed and can learn so much from their righteous examples.  President Ostler expressed so well our overall feeling when he said the very first day after interviews, "I feel like I have just interviewed the sons and daughters of Helaman."  I felt the very same way!!!