Tuesday, August 5, 2014

2014 7- The Rest of July and Visiting Palawan

Manila is a huge city.  It is full of sky scrapers and many large buildings.  Although there are many areas that are very poor, there are also areas that are extremely nice.  

The mission home is in Das Marinas, which is like a suburb type neighborhood within a city.  We feel very blessed to live there.  The trees that line the streets are very old and make a canopy over the roads.  We have enjoyed walking in the mornings a couple of times.  Early each morning, the house helpers from neighboring homes are out sweeping the streets from any leaves or sticks that may have fallen down.  They use short brooms made of branches.  Everything is done manually.  Even the lawns are cut by hand with large yard shears.  It's amazing how tidy they can keep a yard.

One of the greatest blessings of this mission so far has been the association we have had with our senior couples.  We truly have the greatest seniors around!  They have been so supportive, knowledgeable and helpful!  We couldn't do it without them!  One night, we had family night together and went out to dinner.  We feel so blessed to have them serving in our mission.  We can't stand to think about them ever leaving us!!!  The Northrups (left) are responsible for housing for all the missionaries.  It is a big job, and one that is so important.  They find and arrange for the apartments, make sure they are furnished with whatever is needed and make sure that the missionaries are keeping them clean.  They have such a great spirit.  They are positive and loving.  It is such a blessing to have them!  On the far back right, are the Paines.  Elder and Sister Paine work in the office and help with all the travel, transportation, getting licenses, mail, phones, temple recommends, materials, supplies, transfer boards, orientation binders and area books, computer problems, taking pictures, getting pizza and doughnuts for training meetings, paperwork and record keeping, patriarchal blessing arrangements, key indicators and files.  Elder Paine is the officially best person to help you get your driver's license and learn your way around the city.  He also keeps us all cheerful with his sense of humor.  The Thelers (front right) are also such a blessing to our mission!  Sister Theler has generously taken on the job of mission nurse until we get an official one.  She handles multiple calls and situations every day.  She staffs the front desk at the mission office and handles all the paperwork for missionaries.  She handles all the referrals and oversees the English language learning and testing for our foreign missionaries.  She prepares a quarterly newsletter, schedules temple visits, keeps the mission calendar and basically hold us all together.  She is very capable and is always volunteering to help with anything she can.  Elder Theler is our money man.  He takes care of all the finances including the missionary support and rent payments, entering load for the missionary cell phones and keeping track of the mission fleet.  He is ever solicitous to our needs.

We cannot express the depth of gratitude we feel for these dear couples.  We came here knowing nothing, yet they rallied around us and supported us, making our job possible.  Instead of criticizing, they have just encouraged us and cheered us on.  It has been, for us, a powerful example of living a consecrated life.  They are here to help build the kingdom of God, not for their own glory.  It's that simple.  It's that beautiful! We hope everyone of our friends takes the opportunity to do this.  It is sooooooooooooo needed by the missionaries, members and especially the mission presidents!  :)

                                      TOURING THE ISLAND OF PALAWAN!

               Last week, we flew to Palawan, which is an island about 400 miles southwest of Manila.

                                   Flying into Palawan is like visiting a paradise island.

Palawan has a small airport.  Passengers can exit the front or back of the plane and walk down stairs to the runway.  They have a welcome sign and even had music about Palawan playing outside the last time we flew there.

A member named Jaime works at the airport and is always eager to help us with our suitcases.  We usually have as many as we can take so that we can get all the mission supplies and letters, etc. over to the Palawan missionaries.

We had the wonderful opportunity of being hosted by President and Sister Hiatt on a tour of all the branches on the island.  It took three full days of driving on bumpy roads in all sorts of traffic and weather, but we were blessed with President Hiatt's good driving skill and were able to make good time and see everything we hoped to see.  Parts of the road were paved, others were dirt and rocks, and some were still under construction.

Some road were pretty interesting.  In places, people had stuck branches of trees in cracks of broken roads to warn the cars to avoid the spots.

     It was fascinating to see all the different means of transportation people used.  One amazing sight was loaded jeepneys with packs on top that had all sorts of people sitting on top as well.  This one didn't have any people on top.

                                                          Santa Monica Branch (Puerto Princesa)

                                                       Wonderful Member Family

         Sunday night at Jaime's home with his family and relatives. What a precious, humble family!

My favorite building of all of them was the one in Sandoval. The members there have had to travel a long distance to attend church in a building, so they got together with the elders and built their own building out of materials available to them in about 12 hours!  It is a building just as nice and maybe even nicer than their homes.  Just look at the intricate details and careful stitching they did.  It was the most inspirational place we saw!

 It was amazing to see similarities between our buildings and theirs.  There was a podium in the front, a board with the hymn numbers on it, a sacrament table,  as well as stackable plastic chairs.

The roof was made of carefully stitched coconut tree leaves.  We were so amazed by the quality of their work!

                           I LOVE the tithing box and chalkboard in the front of the chapel!

The thing that made us laugh, though, was the placement of a clock....directly in front of the speaker.  This picture is taken from the front podium.  The only people that really see the clock are the ones who are sitting up front or speaking!  Is it possible they have to watch how long they talk too?  :)

At the end of a long day, the traditional drink---buko juice (fresh coconut juice) with President and Sister Hiatt...two of the best Senior Missionaries ever!

                                                          Fresh pineapple and dragon fruit.

                                         Puerto Princessa  (Elder Bengan and Elder Pettijohn)

                                                        Puerto Princessa Malvar chapel

                                                                  Aborlan Chapel

It was amazing to see that even in the remote parts of the church, they have the member custodial closets and the rooms all have the familiar room labels!  Notice the Filipino style broom.

                                                                  Narra Chapel

         This is what the chapels look like.  They set up plastic, stackable chairs for sacrament meeting, and the back walls of the room fold up so they can open them if the congregation grows too large, or close them and use them for classrooms.

                                     Brooke's Point      Elder Barnes and Elder Noveda

As we were driving through one city, we ran into several missionaries, Elder Hatch and Elder Wijendran walking to an appointment.  It was SO fun to see them.  We were SO proud to see how hard they were working! They had a member traveling with them who really enjoys missionary work.  On this trip, we were able to see many of our missionaries.  What a joy it is to see them.  If parents could only see how faithful and hard working their children are as they serve on their missions, they would weep with gratitude for the blessing of having raised such children.

One interesting fact about the Philippines is that there is a church called Iglesio Ni Cristo that calls itself a restorationist church.  They are the third largest religion in the Philippines besides Catholic and Islam.

While traveling along the roads, it isvery common to see the creative way people move their goods from one place to another.

                                                                     Path to Cabar Branch Building

We followed the sign down a long path into the "jungle" overgrowth.  We went past turkeys, birds, cows and other creatures before we came to the building.

                                   Along the way were the remnant of many used coconuts

One unique thing we noticed is that the Filipinos tie a rope through their cows' noses.  Note the knot in one nostril.  Supposedly it makes it so they can turn the head of the cows easily.

This is a freshly plowed rice field.  They use caribou pulling blades in order to till the ground.  The fields are often flooded.

                                          Once the rice grows, it is a beautiful green color!

After they harvest the rice, they place it on tarps on the road to dry out.  The people and cars just drive around them.  Sometimes you see huge piles of rice with chickens walking through them.

                                                       Palawan is truly an island paradise!

In almost every town, we saw brightly colored buildings usually built up on a hill away from the road which were the elementary schools.  They were painted all sorts of bright, cheerful colors!

                  It was fun to see how different families kept their homes neat, clean and organized.

One of the most valuable animals to the villagers is the caribou.  The riders enjoyed posing for us impressed Americans as they just did what they do every day.

We saw these children fishing along the road.  Every member of their families help provide for the family in some way.

                                         This is a typical tindahan (grocery store).

    It has been fun to see pictures of the youth activities and missionaries even in the remote branches. 

This fascinating tree sends branches to the ground which them develop roots.  I imagine it fares quite well during a typhoon.

This sidewalk is another example of Filipino creativity.  They just put large leaves on the wet cement, and it made a beautiful pattern of the sidewalk.

Each morning, we read the Book of Mormon together as we began our drive.  It was fun to read together and hear each other's impressions.  What an amazing experience to spend our days  seeing the way the church is growing in Palawan and how receptive the people are.

One of the unique things here is that they don't keep eggs in the refrigerator.  They just keep them on the shelf.

                         Some Elders have decided to use their artistic talents on their eggs.

This was an amazing tree that had fallen over but is still growing just fine!  How does it do that???

                                           In the Philippines, there is beauty everywhere!

                                              The branch building in Taytay 

                                This is the place the branch meets for baptisms and branch picnics.

                      They walk down the hill for about five minutes and come to a beautiful beach.

                 Elder Hadley and Elder Wilson have a big job building the church in Taytay.

                               The few members are great at inviting their friends to come!

                      A peaceful place for baptisms or a little refreshing dip for branch members.

Climbing back up.....and out.

This was some sort of greenhouse that was fun of many workers.  The whole place was netted over.

                                                                        Brooke's Point

                                        Chapel in Brooke's Point

This is Elder Wirthlin, President Cornelio who is the branch president in Cabar, President Ostler and President Hiatt.

                                                          This is his adoraable family.

Just in case you ever wondered what a missionary's apartment looks like, here are some pictures of one we visited.

                      We enjoyed reading scriptures together and sharing spiritual thoughts.

                                               Quote in Missionaries' apartment......

                                             One final branch building in Cabar was way out in the jungle.

We followed the sign and walked through the jungle for about 5 minutes and came upon a church building that seemed to just pop out of the jungle.

Even in the remote end of the island, the church is alive and well as shown by the pictures on their bulletin board.

                                             They have a wonderful building!

   These buildings are the nicest ones around.  They don't have air conditioning, but they do have fans.

             The back of the chapel has folding doors that can be opened to allow for more chapel space.

The leadership in all the areas is quite young.  Most of them are returned missionaries who learned about how the church runs as they served on their missions. They are amazing!

What an incredible experience it was to travel across the island of Palawan from one end to the other.  It is full of wonderful and faithful brothers and sisters who know how to live simply and happily.