Category Archives: Mission

John & Verla Hall Cebu Philippines Mission

One Thousand Steps — January 20, 2015

Lacy leaves courtesy of local insects

Lacy leaves courtesy of local insects

 Decorative property boundary

Decorative property boundary

A little soggy after the rain

A little soggy after the rain

Beautiful fence

Beautiful fence

The little girl came and stood by me while I was working on the computer.

Do you want to listen to a song?

She nodded. I lifted her up to my lap and opened the nursery song web page.

Which one do you want?

She pointed to a picture of a yellow bird walking toward a flight of blue stairs so tall that the top could not be seen. I clicked the icon to start the song.

One thousand steps start with one                                                                                                            one thousand steps start with one                                                                                                            one thousand steps start with one                                                                                                                    need to learn to walk before you run

Get off your seat, get off your chair                                                                                                            climb up that mountain or you won’t get there                                                   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ksiob6KVPDw

Elder Hall stood before a Family Home Evening group. He looked at a young wife who had been meeting with the missionaries.

The purpose of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not to baptize people. The purpose of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is to create eternal families who can walk together into the presence of the Father, crowned with honor, and glory, and immortality, and eternal life[i]. Baptism is the first step. Even something as glorious as eternal salvation starts with the first step.

The words of the song ran through my head.                                                                                      One thousand steps start with one                                                                                                            one thousand steps start with one                                                                                                                  one thousand steps start with one                                                                                                            need to learn to walk                                                                                                                             before you run

Don’t say no, just say yes                                                                                                                                 keep on going and do your best

Elder Hall continued.

After baptism, you continue one step at a time and do your best each day. Each Sunday you come to Sacrament Meeting in a spirit of repentance for those times that you have stumbled and fallen back. Then, through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, you are lifted back up on your feet and receive the strength to take more steps.

The song kept going

One thousand steps start with one                                                                                                             one thousand steps start with one                                                                                                                   one thousand steps start with one                                                                                                            need to learn to walk before you run

One foot, two feet, three feet four                                                                                                                do a little then do some more

What more must be done?

“Behold, the field was ripe, and blessed are ye, for ye did thrust in the sickle, and did reap with your might, yea, all the day long did ye labor; and behold the number of your sheaves! And they shall be gathered into the garners, that they are not wasted”. [ii]

The sheaves in this analogy represent newly baptized members of the Church. The garners are the holy temples. Elder Neal A. Maxwell explained: “Clearly, when we baptize, our eyes should gaze beyond the baptismal font to the holy temple. The great garner into which the sheaves should be gathered is the holy temple”[iii] This instruction clarifies and emphasizes the importance of sacred temple ordinances and covenants—that the sheaves may not be wasted.

 “Yea, they shall not be beaten down by the storm at the last day; yea, neither shall they be harrowed up by the whirlwinds; but when the storm cometh they shall be gathered together in their place, that the storm cannot penetrate to them; yea, neither shall they be driven with fierce winds whithersoever the enemy listeth to carry them”.[iv]  

One thousand steps                                                                                                                                    start with one                                                                                                                                              one thousand steps                                                                                                                                  start with one                                                                                                                                              one thousand steps                                                                                                                                    start with one                                                                                                                                            need to learn to walk                                                                                                                                  before you run

If you have to sweat, you may have to puff                                                                                            giving just a little is not enough

The temple provides protection.

The temple provides power.

And we ask thee, Holy Father, that thy servants may go forth from this house armed with thy power, and that thy name may be upon them, and thy glory be round about them, and thine angels have charge over them; [v]

The words of the song came again.

One thousand steps start with one                                                                                                             one thousand steps start with one                                                                                                                   one thousand steps start with one                                                                                                                   need to learn to walk before you run

If you got a dream, you got to try                                                                                                                    to get there somehow by and by

The temple makes possible the greatest dream of all.

The temple provides the sacred eternal sealing ordinances.

“For I have conferred upon you the keys and power of the priesthood, wherein I restore all things…that whatsoever you seal on earth shall be sealed in heaven; and whatsoever you bind on earth, in my name and by my word, saith the Lord, it shall be eternally bound in the heavens.[vi]

As we keep trying, one step at a time, the Atonement of Jesus Christ will lift us up the final big step and to the top.[vii]

“I must gather together my people,…that the wheat may be secured in the garners to possess eternal life, and be crowned with celestial glory.”[viii]  

Need to learn to walk before you run                                                                                                             need to learn to walk  before you run                                                                                                         need to learn to walk  before you run…..[ix]



  [i] D&C 75:5                                                                                                                                                   [ii] Alma 26:5                                                                                                                                              [iii] in John L. Hart, “Make Calling Focus of Your Mission,” Church News, Sept. 17, 1994, 4.                 [iv] Alma 26:6                                                                                                                                              [v] D&C 109:22                                                                                                                                           [vi] D&C 132:45, 46 See also Matt. 16:19                                                                                             [vii] See Helaman 3:26-29                                                                                                                      [viii] D&C 101:65                                                                                                                                         [ix]  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ksiob6KVPDw

Sisters — January 11, 2015

Interesting shape

One of many beautiful January flowers

The color on the Poinsetta  bush lasts year round

The color on the Poinsetta bush lasts year round

Huge trumpet like flowerrs

Huge trumpet like flowers

Looks like small flamingos dancing among the leaves

Looks like small flamingos dancing among the leaves

Very common flower

Very common flower called Canna in US

Called saging-saging (banana banana) because of the large leaves

Called saging-saging (banana banana) here because of the large leaves

The next time we go to Casoy, the sister missionaries want to go with us. Is that alright, Elder Hall?

Sure. That is a great idea.

The elders looked anxious.

We asked you because if the sisters go, we will need to ride in your truck. It is too hard in the jeepney, because we usually have to ride on the top.

When we arrived at the meeting place, we walked up a small hill. A older woman was washing dishes on the bench outside her house. She has not wanted to listen to the missionaries in the past.

Nanay, these are the sister missionaries.

She looked up and gave a small smile. The sisters immediately offered to help and plunged their hands into the dish pan to begin rinsing dishes. They chatted with the woman and her smile grew. After they finished, the woman picked up her small granddaughter. The sisters exclaimed over the baby. The woman’s whole face seemed to smile. Then one of the sisters popped the question.

Will you come to the church meeting with us today?

The woman paused briefly; then her smile returned.

Let me go change my clothes.

We met the elders as we walked to the building where the meeting would be held.

Sister C will be coming to the meeting today.

No kidding! She has not come before.

The sisters asked her and she said yes.

We entered the room where the meeting would be held and the sisters began an animated conservation with some of the members. One of the sisters turned to explain.

We are talking about a couple that we are teaching in Toledo. The couple had visited a number of churches. When they came to our church, they felt something different and wanted to know more. Then they saw some families from Casoy, who are their relatives. They were so excited to have nieces and nephews in this church.

The brother has so many questions. I finally had to take his hand in mine and say,

Brother, wait sa! Let us have a turn to to teach. Then we will answer your questions

They will be baptized in February.

The sister laughed joyfully as she finished her story, and then turned to the front as the meeting began.

After the meeting, Elder Hall talked to Sister C. He turned to the sister missionaries.

This good woman is the mother of twelve children.

The woman responded and a missionary translated.

She says that she is the mother of fourteen children. Two have died.

Elder Hall smiled and responded,

Sister, you are a diligent woman!

Her brown eyes snapped and her face crinkled into a mischievous smile as she answered.

No, it is my husband who was diligent.

 

So What Did You Decide? — January 5, 2015

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We started our Christmas calls with a Skype visit with one of our sons. We asked him how he was doing. We asked our wonderful daughter-in-law how she was doing. We talked to each of the children. Then someone popped the question.

When are you coming home?

Elder Hall smiled. Then he laughed. Then he told a story.

“Yesterday, we took a sister to Cebu for a doctor’s visit.  While we waited, we went to the mission office to get mail for the missionaries. The mission president asked us to come into his office.

I have something to ask you.

We waited.

Would you consider extending your mission?

He put up his hand.

You don’t have to decide right now. Go home and talk about it and pray about it. Talk to your family. But it might not be a good idea to talk to them about it when you make your Christmas calls!”

When Elder Hall stopped talking, our son and his wife hesitated, and then said they thought if we wanted to extend, it would be fine with them. The older children made similar comments. Then the youngest child spoke up.

I want to say something! I want you to come home!

Ah, the refreshing honesty of children!

That young child said exactly what we wanted to say.

We want to come home!

We want to hug our children and grandchildren. We want to share special meals with them.  We want to visit our friends. We want to be in our own house and in our own bed.

We really want to come home.

Each time we called son or daughter and their families, they all said it would be fine with them if we stayed longer. Well, not all. The younger grandchildren said what they really thought.

We want you to come home!

And with each call, our desire to be home was stronger.

What can we say to children and grandchildren who have carefully counted the months, who, each time we have called, ask the same question.

When are you coming home?

We will be home the end of February.

Good! We miss you.

What do we say now? We say what we have to say.

Well, it will be the end of July.

Why do we have to say such hard words? No one is forcing us to stay. We are volunteers here.

It is true that there are fewer and fewer senior missionary  couples and the need is greater than ever. But no one is irreplaceable.

Then why?

We have asked ourselves that question again and again.

The answer is always the same. We don’t know.

There is something that we do know. As the words of a beautiful song explain:

 

I lived in heaven a long time ago, it is true;

Lived there and loved there with people I know. So did you.

Then Heavenly Father presented a beautiful plan,

All about earth and eternal salvation for man.

https://www.lds.org/music/library/childrens-songbook/i-lived-in-heaven?lang=eng

 

In the end, there was no decision to be made. We made that decision a long, long time ago. Everyone who has lived on the earth or who will live on the earth made the same decision. When we accepted the wonders of the Father’s plan, we accepted His conditions.

And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;…. and they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever.[i]


[i] Abraham 3:25,26

 

Seniang — December 29, 2014

A huge old mango tree by a school went down in the storm

A huge old mango tree by a school went down in the storm

Damage to the roof of the public market by the waterfront

Damage to the roof of the public market by the waterfront

A flooded street in toledo

A flooded street in Toledo

Erosion where the flood waters entered the river

Erosion where the flood waters entered the river

Crowds hoping to get on a ferry

Crowds hoping to get on a ferry

The road to casoy

The road to Casoy

Fireworks stand

Fireworks stand in Toledo

It started raining during the night. The wind was picking up. During the Toledo missionary district meeting the electricity went off.

Elder Hall, what do you know about the storm?

Well, I know that it is raining.

Is there a typhoon coming?

There has been nothing on the news.

The members are telling us there is a typhoon coming. They say if it passes through Mindanao, it will hit Cebu Island. It is called Seniang.

We drove to Pinamungajan.  As we drove along the seashore, the ocean was rough. The rain continued. When we got back to our apartment, Elder Hall checked the internet.

There is a storm building. It looks like it will hit Mindanao. We might be on the edge of it…unless it turns north.

We did some shopping and other errands. As we drove along the waterfront down by the market, wind-driven waves crashed over the seawall and splashed against the market front.

At 11 pm the telephone rang.

Who could be calling? Why a call instead of a text?

The call was from the Lutopan elders. Water was coming into their apartment.

Okay, there probably isn’t anything we can do about the water in this wind and rain. We will come and get you. You can stay with the Zone Leaders tonight.

The street going through town was flooded.  Farther on it was blocked by a downed tree. We turned and went another way. As we drove toward Lutopan, water flowed across the road in several places. The water did not quite come up to the floorboards.

I didn’t realize that there were any low spots on this road. I thought it was all uphill into the mountains. Elder Hall, how can you tell where the edge of the road is?

I can’t.

We started up a hill. The wind continued to blow the rain across the road but the water no longer puddled up.

I have never seen this road without traffic before!

A river of muddy water poured off the mountainside, washing basketball-sized rocks onto the roadway. There were trees down along the road. As we drove on, another torrent ran across the road.

We turned through the gate into the housing complex where the missionaries live. We edged along the road, then stopped.

I’m going to walk down to the missionary’s house.

Don’t you want an umbrella?

The wind will just tear it up.

I watched Elder Hall’s flashlight bob down the road through a curtain of rain.

After a while I saw a light down the hill. As it moved closer, I saw that it was Elder Hall’s flashlight.

I am going to drive father down the road. The missionaries will meet us there.

We pulled past the narrow lane that led to the missionary apartment, and turned around to wait for them. There were car lights down the lane. After a while, a man walked up to us through the rain.

Do you want to go down that road?

No, we are just waiting here for the missionaries.

Okay, because my car is stuck.

He walked back down the narrow lane and turned his car lights off.

The rain seemed to lessen as we drove back to Toledo. We passed two motorcycles that were being pushed by the drivers.

Looks like the motors flooded out in the puddles.

We passed a place where there had been a fallen tree when we drove past on the way to Lutopan. Now a twenty-foot-high retaining wall above the road had collapsed under the force of the water and mud. Trees, boulders and mud almost blocked the road. We were able to skirt the edge of the slide.

As we drove through a flooded street in Toledo, a man waded across the road. The water came almost to his knees.

The rain and wind stopped about 3 am. The electricity was out until the next evening. The Toledo District Christmas beach party scheduled for the next day was cancelled.

At first light, people started cleaning up water. Men worked with chain saws and machetes (bolos) to remove fallen trees.   A man sat by the side of the road and removed the leaves from branches with his bolo. He took the sticks home for his cooking fire.

Crowds gathered at the ferry office early in the morning hoping for a ferry to take them home for New Years.

We took drinking water to a family who had no electricity and therefore, no water from their faucet. When we got back to Toledo, we stopped at McDonald’s for breakfast. McDo’s has a generator and so was one of the few places in town with lights. Elder Hall talked to a man as we stood in line.

Are you from Australia or Norway?

Neither.

So where are you from?

I am from England.

The man’s tray was ready and he picked it up.

They are out of everything I want today. I wanted coffee but they are out. I wanted a muffin but they are out. This must be the out house.

We visited a family who had to wade through nearly two feet of water to get into their house.

Will the water drain away?

There is no place for it to go. We just need sunshine.

Sunshine?

Yes, sunshine and wind to dry the water away.

Many of the Christmas lights in the city plaza were torn away by the wind, and some of the Christmas trees were damaged.

But the fireworks stands were doing a good business. On New Year Eve the fireworks were as bright as ever, and the people all exchanged wishes for a wonderful new year. The sun was sure to come out again.

 

 

 

 

“I Am So Happy!” — December 18, 2014

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hnadmade star

We were scheduled do training at 9 am for the Primary Presidency in Aloguinsan. There were missionary district meetings in Toledo and Pinamungajan at 10 am. There was a baptism scheduled for 3 pm in the Toledo 1 Branch. Baptisms were scheduled for 5 pm in the Toledo 1 Branch and in the Lutopan Branch. We had committed to teach a temple preparation class at 7 pm.

That was the working plan. The actual activities were, as usual, somewhat different.

The sisters in Aloguinsan had conflicts and the training was cancelled. We found that that we needed to make a trip to Casoy. The trip took most of the day, and the baptisms happened without us. The sister that we were supposed to teach in the evening had conflicts and cancelled.

It was a wonderful day.

On Sunday we went to church in Aloguinsan and left as soon as possible after the meetings to make the hour and a half drive to Toledo and then with the missionaries to church in Casoy. We got back to Toledo just in time for the broadcast of the First Presidency Christmas Devotional. But there were problems with the internet transmission and the broadcast was rescheduled for the next week.

But again, it was a wonderful day.

Though we schedule and plan and write things on the calendar, schedules change, plans don’t work out, and the calendar is rewritten. But as the Lord guides us through the day, somehow the most important things are the ones that do get done.

Every day is a wonderful day.

*****

On December 18, we left Toledo at 7 am to travel to Cebu for the Cebu Island Missionary Christmas Conference. The morning was filled with inspirational talks, video presentations and music centered on Jesus Christ. Some of the missionaries were asked to express their feelings about the Savior through a favorite song. Then the audience would sing the first verse of the song.

A sister missionary stepped up to the microphone. She looked at the audience, then looked down at the hymn book. She glanced up again and then down as she struggled to control her emotions.

Finally, though her voice trembled, she was able to speak.

This hymn has changed my life. Early in my mission, while I was in training, I copied the words of this hymn. I wanted to memorize the words, but it seemed that there was no time during the day that was not completely filled. So I hung the copy of the song on the bathroom wall to study while I was there.  As I learned the words, I repeated the them to myself during the day.

Then the sister, with gratitude and love and tears, read the words of the hymn.

Savior, Redeemer of my soul,
Whose mighty hand hath made me whole,
Whose wondrous pow’r hath raised me up
And filled with sweet my bitter cup!
What tongue my gratitude can tell,
O gracious God of Israel.

Never can I repay thee, Lord,
But I can love thee. Thy pure word,
Hath it not been my one delight,
My joy by day, my dream by night?
Then let my lips proclaim it still,
And all my life reflect thy will.

O’errule mine acts to serve thine ends.
Change frowning foes to smiling friends.
Chasten my soul till I shall be
In perfect harmony with thee.
Make me more worthy of thy love,
And fit me for the life above.

(Text: Orson F. Whitney, 1855-1931)

The sister looked up with a radiant smile, and with tears glistening in her eyes.

 I love my Savior so much! I am so happy that I am serving a mission.

I remembered another sister missionary. When she first came into the mission, like most of us, she was in culture shock. She was overwhelmed. She was stressed.

Her companion loved her and encouraged her. The zone Leaders gave her Priesthood blessings. We took her peanut butter, honey, bread, and some homemade soup.

Every day she got out of bed and resolved to do her best.

When transfers came, she went to Cebu City. We saw her at the Temple Complex a while later.  She positively glowed.

Sister, you look so happy!

I am happy!

What made the difference?

When I first came to this mission, I worried about what I did not have. I did not have my piano. I was not completing my college courses. I was not with my family and friends.

Then I began thinking about what I do have. I know what it is like to have the constant companionship of the Holy Spirit. I have come to know my Savior. I feel His overwhelming love for me and for the people I teach. Now I am so happy! I am so glad I am here!

After the inspirational conference, the missionaries seemed reluctant to leave. They hugged and shook hands. They said good-by to those who would leave at the next transfer. There were lots of smiles, and not a few tears.

A member watched the missionaries and smiled.

This reminds me of when I was on my mission. When our mission president went home, we had a day of activities. Then next day was talks and a program. And after that it was crying time.

I am so happy to remember my mission. I am so happy that I was able to serve.

One of the best things about serving a mission is being around such happy people.

White Christmas — December 9, 2014

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We received a text:

Elder and Sister Hall, my friend told me that yesterday Sister Salvador is having symptoms of having a baby. I do not know how you say it in English.

The writer of the text was in Cebu. Another translator was in the hospital. Another was at work.

We stopped by the family’s home. We called, “Ayo! Ayo!” which is the equivalent of knocking on a door. No one answered and the door was shut. We found the sister missionaries and asked them to go by the home with us.

A child looked out the window and the sister missionaries talked to her. The sisters turned to us.

She said we should come in.

We walked through the gate and into a very small room in a very humble home. The mother proudly showed us the newborn baby boy sleeping on the bed.

Oh, your baby is so cute! When was he born?

Yesterday about 4 pm.

Look at that beautiful black hair!

He is so little!

Sister, how are you feeling?

I am doing well. This is my 15th baby, you know.

So you will need to rest. We can change the appointment for the temple.

Oh no! We still want to go on Tuesday.

But sister, I worry about you. You just gave birth. Tuesday is only four days away. That will be a hard trip for you.

We have waited so long. We really want to go Tuesday. I want to go Tuesday. It will be alright.

We checked on the details for the trip.

My husband will get off work a 6. I will get up at 3 am to fix breakfast and get the children ready. When we get home, my husband will go to his work for another night.

That is what the faithful here do. They will make any sacrifice necessary.

On Tuesday, we sat in a beautiful sealing room as the mother and father entered into a covenant of marriage that ended with the promise that they will be together “in time and through all eternity.”[i]

Then ten of their children, looking like angels all dressed in white, were ushered into the room. It was a sweet and powerful glimpse of heaven.

As the children sat with their parents, the sealer talked to the family about the importance of the ordinance of sealing. He told them that unless children are sealed to their parents, the parents can have no claim, legally or spiritually, on those children in the eternities. He went on to explain that the whole purpose of this life is to create eternal families.

The mother and father looked at each other and held hands. Their daughter Marianne, who had died at age 21, would now also be sealed to them, by proxy.

Tears glistened in the eyes of a close friend of the family as she later talked of the experience.

When I held that tiny baby in my arms, and listened to the words that would bind on earth and in heaven,[ii] I felt that Marianne was there. I just cannot describe the joy…I just cannot describe the wonder…I just cannot describe the feelings of that special moment.

As the world prepares to celebrate the birth of the babe of Bethlehem, on the other side of the world, on a beautiful green tropical island, we experienced a special “white Christmas” as a family of princesses and princes, all dressed all in white, became an eternal family.

The current humble circumstances of that family are not who they really are.

The words of the Savior Jesus Christ echo through the ages.

Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am[iii]


[i] D & C 132:19, 30-31

[ii] See Matt 16:19

[iii] John 17:24

 

Typhoon Ruby — December 3, 2014

Philippines avocado

Philippines avocado

Christmas decorations

Christmas decorations

We sent the following e mail to our family:

December 3

The storm is slowly moving through. Light rain today and light winds. Lost electricity for a while but it is on now. All is well.

Elder and Sister Hall

We received a text from the AP at 7:37 am December 7, 2014.

From all reports the storm has slowed in speed and came on land about 3:00 am this morning and is headed inland. This means it is coming. When it will arrive we do not know for sure but we do know if it is slow in moving then there will be heavier rains. We are being asked not to leave our apartments for church due to the risk. I know it appears that all is calm now but the storm is coming, when it will arrive we do not know, therefore, most church services have been canceled and the ones that are being held are for those already at the church. I would ask us to follow our leaders and remain in our apartments until the storm is over. I know this may sound unnecessary but we need to do as we are asked.

 At 1:15 we received the following message:

Newest update: The storm is not over yet but the storm has weakened and moved more northerly. This is a result of fasting prayer and obedience. Thank you. Let us be careful and continue to exercise extreme caution. We are not to leave our apartments without permission from the Mission President. If the storm seems to worsen and your area will be affected, please  let President McCurdy know. As the day and evening progress we will give further instructions. We love you.

 We received a copy of a text in Cebuano English in from the District Executive Secretary to all Branch Presidents:

President, since our meetinghouses are evacuated with considerable number of evacuees our regular Sunday meeting will be affected. To address the concern our District President has  decided that we will just conduct Sacrament meeting for those being evacuated and I would like to suggest to use the remaining time viewing church films and previous broadcasts and conferences. To those meetinghouses that have not being evacuated you must observe the regular Sunday meetings.

The messages were relayed to all missionaries. It was the third day of in-apartment assignment. All missionaries were to be in their apartments by 5 pm on Friday evening. We were to be in apartments by noon on Saturday. On Sunday we were to be in apartments all day and evening. It felt like The Cat in the Hat was about to appear.

So what would we do? What could we do?

We used our phone to let others be our hands and feet.

The big project for the day was to get an amazingl family ready to go to the temple on Tues. It has been our project for the last six months, but there have been many roadblocks.

At District conference the father was interviews by the mission president. He was ordained the next day but could not be interviewed for his recommend until the next week. On that day, his wife was sick and could not be interviewed. Only her husband was interviewed. The wife was interviewed the next week and the paperwork for the temple was started. In the meantime, the mother gave birth to her baby—her 15th –on Friday. The temple date was for this coming Tues.

The family still wanted to keep their appointment for Tuesday.

So today we had to get birth certificates for all children being sealed. We needed to get a death certificate for a daughter who has died. We needed to get ordination certificates for the father and two of the sons. We needed to have a baptism recorded for one of the daughters.  We needed a complete family group sheet. We needed to create a membership record for the child who has just been born. We needed a marriage certificate for the parents. We needed to find the branch clerk and ask him to come into the office to update the records. We needed to send over 100 texts back and forth to get it done.

Fortunately neither parent had been married before, and they were legally married. Fortunately all the children were from the same parents. Step children cannot be sealed to one parent and new spouse without written consent from the other natural parent, which is often almost impossible to get.

Although getting all the papers in order is difficult, it must be done perfectly, for our Father’s house is a house of order.

And all the texts and paper work did keep the Cat in the Hat away for the day….

It has been raining lightly most of the day, and there is a light wind.

Love you all.

Mother and Father

What Shall We Do? — November 22, 2014

Lamac rice fields

Lamac rice fields

missionary-created map of Lamac

missionary-created map of Lamac

new wheelchair for Lamac member

new wheelchair for Lamac member

a home

a home

Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ. Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.

The speaker read from the Book of Mormon. He read a scripture from Isaiah. He read from the New Testament. He read from the Doctrine and Covenants. His scriptures were well-marked, and worn from much use.

Each scripture taught a truth. He did not seem to be talking from a written script, but his talk was organized and flowed smoothly. Sometimes the audience laughed with him; sometimes there were tears. Even the children were quiet as their parents’ attention focused on the speaker.

He spoke of spending two weeks in the bukid, or remote area. He said he had been hungry; then read Matt 4:4

But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. 

The speaker was eighteen years old and would enter the Mission Training Center in Manila on Friday. He had spent six weeks as a missionary in Balamban , and then two weeks in Lamac. He did the work of a full time missionary. But the full-time missionaries receive monthly support money to pay their expenses. He did not, and he had no money of his own. He, in essence, served “without purse or script.”

Though his stomach may at times have been empty, he feasted on the words of Christ.

We are so proud of these young missionaries, who, despite all obstacles, prepare themselves to serve the Lord and bring a much-needed message to the inhabitants of this earth.

Boyd K Packer has said,

We live in troubled times—very troubled times. We hope, we pray, for better days. But that is not to be. The prophecies tell us that. We will not as a people, as families, or as individuals be exempt from the trials to come. No one will be spared the trials common to home and family, work, disappointment, grief, health, aging, ultimately death.

 What then shall we do? That question was asked of the Twelve on the day of Pentecost. Peter answered, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”

The [restored] priesthood is structured to ensure an unbroken line of authority to baptize and confer the Holy Ghost.

 The Holy Ghost is awakened with prayer and cultivated “by obedience to the laws and

ordinances of the gospel.”

[But] the tempter—the adversary—uses [the] channels of the mind and heart to inspire us to evil, to laziness, to contention, even to acts of darkness. He can take over our thoughts and lead us to mischief.

[However] always nearby are leaders and teachers called and set apart to teach and to correct us. We can learn to sort out the promptings from the temptations and follow the inspiration of the Holy Ghost.

It is a glorious time to live! No matter what trials await us, we can find the answer to that question, “What shall we do?” We, and those we love, will be guided and corrected and protected, and we will be comforted. (President Boyd K Packer, May 2000)

The Holy Ghost always speaks the words that Christ Himself would speak to us if we were in His presence. Through the power of the Holy Ghost, each of us can joyfully feast on the unchanging words of Christ.

The Legend of the Mango — November 10, 2014

Fruits in the market all year round

Fruits in the market all year round

Rambutan is a favorite fruit. The inside of it when opened is similar to lychee. The spikes on the red skin are soft. Its name means "hairy " and is derived from the Malay word rambutan.

Rambutan is a favorite fruit. The inside of it when opened is similar to lychee. The spikes on the red skin are soft. Its name means “hairy ” and is derived from the Malay word rambutan.

The purple mangosteen (Garcinia mangostana), colloquially known simply as mangosteen, is a tropical evergreen tree. The fruit of the mangosteen is sweet and tangy, juicy, somewhat fibrous, with fluid-filled vesicles (like the flesh of citrus fruits), with an inedible, deep reddish-purple colored rind (exocarp) when ripe. In each fruit, the fragrant edible flesh that surrounds each seed is botanically endocarp, i.e., the inner layer of the ovary. Seeds are almond-shaped and sized

The purple mangosteen (Garcinia mangostana), colloquially known simply as mangosteen, is a tropical evergreen tree. The fruit of the mangosteen is sweet and tangy, juicy, somewhat fibrous, with fluid-filled vesicles (like the flesh of citrus fruits), with an inedible, deep reddish-purple colored rind (exocarp) when ripe. In each fruit, the fragrant edible flesh that surrounds each seed is botanically endocarp, i.e., the inner layer of the ovary. Seeds are almond-shaped and sized

Artocarpus heterophyllus Jackfruit is called langka in Tagalog. The young green fruit is used in Philippine cuisine. The ripe jackfruit, or langka is sweet and is one of the halo-halo (mix-mix) dessert ingredients

Artocarpus heterophyllus
Jackfruit is called langka in Tagalog. The young green fruit is used in Philippine cuisine. The ripe jackfruit, or langka is sweet and is one of the halo-halo (mix-mix) dessert ingredients

Mangifera indica Mango, known as manga, is a delicious tropical fruit. Mangoes are rich in vitamins, minerals, poly-phenolic flavonoid antioxidant compounds and in pre-biotic dietary fiber. The green fruit is also used in making dip sauce along with tomatoes, ginger, and onion leaves with soy sauce or fish sauce

Mangifera indica
Mango, known as manga, is a delicious tropical fruit. Mangoes are rich in vitamins, minerals, poly-phenolic flavonoid antioxidant compounds and in pre-biotic dietary fiber. The green fruit is also used in making dip sauce along with tomatoes, ginger, and onion leaves with soy sauce or fish sauce

 

The Legend of he Mango

A long time ago in a faraway town, a very rich, happy couple resides and they have three boys. The sad part was, the wife died too early which left the three boys and their father. The father was so sad and heart broken when his beautiful wife died. He just can’t accept that she was already gone.

The days was consumed with him being drunk, all day long. Alcohol was his companion and the only thing that makes him deal with the bitter situation the family didn’t expect to happen.

The young son approached his father one day and told him, “Please stop what you doing to yourself dad. We are still here, please hold on.” But his dad didn’t listened to him. He continued what he was doing and he had neglected their livelihood.

Soon, the family is heavily indebted. And the family lawyers had advice the siblings that the inheritance should be divided to all three of them. The eldest son had a thought of it and he decided they should have the shares of the properties before all was gone.

And because he was the eldest, he got all the land, and the second son got the big house for himself and all the properties in it.

The youngest son? Oh, he had decided to take care of their father on a small nipa hut on the end of the land his older brother had given him.

At last their father had come to his senses! But it was already too late. He got sick and his body slowed down.

Then the day had come that the father was already on the brink of death. He called onto his youngest son who is taking care of him and ask for forgiveness.

“I’m so sorry my youngest son. I would be gone and I have nothing left for you other than the heart of your mom and me.”

What the father was referring to? It was a fortunate seed that his father and mother had been keeping that is shape like a heart. The very ill father had instructed his youngest son to take care of the seed just like the way he loved and took cared of his negligent father.

When the father passed a way, the youngest son planted the heart shaped seed and everyday he takes care of it. He water it daily and pull weeds around the sprout. Soon, the sprout grew to be a strong, big tree.

The day came that the tree bears cluster of green fruits that shaped like hearts. And when the fruits ripened, they turned out to be yellow in color and so sweet!

The youngest son was so lucky! When he sold the ripe fruits, the wholesalers paid him a lot of money. And he planted again the seeds of the remaining ripe fruits so the trees will multiply. And so the next year, he got a land of his own where he planted a lot more fruits.

In case you are wondering about his two elder brothers, well, they both had consumed all their shares as years passed while their youngest brother’s effort had all paid off in all that he did.

Then the time came when the youngest son had bought their old family home and the lands his parents owned before. And he also invited his two elder brothers to live with him in the new house on the center of the land he had got for mango plantation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hope — October 31, 2014

IMG_5155

 

IMG_5157

 

We squeezed onto a bench, which was the only furniture in the room. The parents sat on the other end of the bench. Some of the children brought a couple of stools in from another part of the house. The mother was expecting her fifteenth child. The family were new converts. Their faces lit up with hope as we talked about eternal families.

As we were leaving, we noticed a rack of recently dipped candles. The mother showed us bundles of finished candles.

We are making them to sell for All-Saints Day. We sell the candles for one peso each. It is our little family business.

All Saints’ Day, also known as All Hallows, Solemnity of All Saints, or Feast of All Saints is a solemnity celebrated on 1 November by the Catholic Church and several Protestant denominations, in honor of all the saints, known and unknown. The liturgical celebration begins at Vespers on the evening of 31 October and ends at the close of 1 November. It is thus the day before All Souls’ Day.

All Souls’ Day is a day of alms giving and prayers for the dead. The intent is for the living to assist those in purgatory.

Hallowmas in the Philippines is variously called “Undás”, “Todos los Santos” (Spanish, “All Saints”), and sometimes “Araw ng mga Patáy” (Tagalog, “Day of the Dead”), which actually refers to the following day of All Souls’ Day but includes it. Filipinos traditionally observe this day by visiting the family dead to clean and repair their tombs. Offerings of prayers, flowers, candles, and even food are made, while Chinese Filipinos additionally burn incense and kim. The streets are lined with pavilions and booths selling mementos, flowers and food.

Many also spend the day and ensuing night holding reunions at the graves, playing games and music, singing karaoke, and feasting. The day before is a government-declared non-working holiday. It was declared to allow people time to travel home for the holiday.

We thought of a conversation we had with a young father.

What does your church say will happen after you die?

My wife and I and our daughter will be together but we will not remember each other. We will all  just be friends.

If you could be together as a family, would you want that?

Tears shown in the young man’s eyes. He nodded his head and then whispered.

Yes!

The effort and expense made by families to all be together to observe the two-day holiday would indicate that although the people may mouth the official teachings of their church, in their hearts they sincerely hope that families can be together forever.

 

Let It Go — October 23, 2014

Truck ready to be unloaded at the market.

Truck ready to be unloaded at the market

There was a conversation going on inside my head.

Do I have to write this blog?

It would be good if you did.

Does it have to be personal?

That would be good.

But it hurts. It is about family.

Yes.

They hurt me.

Of course.

The voice of Robert D Hales joined the conversation.

“We can’t hurt a stranger as much as we can a loved one. We know just what to do to hurt our companions, parents, or brothers and sisters. We know where they are vulnerable. We know how they can be hurt the most by our actions.”[i]

I was feeling uncomfortable. So I hurt them, too. But I had good reasons.

I did what I did because I was right!

This time the voice of Deiter F. Uchtdorf joined in.

It seems to be a trait of humanity to assume that we are right even when we are wrong.”[ii]

Somebody needed to do something!

Somebody already has.

“And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.”[iii]

I just wanted to make them do what is right. But all my conversations and e mails, my sleepless nights, and my attempts to apply legal remedies really didn’t accomplish anything, except to destroy relationships, and set a very bad example for my children. Now they are hurting in their own relationships.

Let it go.

Let it go?

 Let the pain go. The Savior has already taken it upon himself. Why do you want to drag it back?

So do I have to forgive them?

 If the Savior has already taken all the sickness, all the pains and afflictions and temptations, there really isn’t anything left to forgive them for, is there?

 As soon as they repent, right?

 He is the only One who can judge repentance.

When someone is doing something wrong, I’m not supposed to do anything??

 He is the only One to judge what He has taken upon Himself. It all belongs to Him and He will do what needs to be done. That is His job.

The voice of Robert D Hales came again.

“Isn’t it true that God, our Father, and his Son grieve when we sin? When we fail to be obedient and accept the atoning sacrifice of our Lord, aren’t we hurting Him who loves us most?”[iv]

One tiny whisper remained.

So what is my job?

 “Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.”[v]



[i] “Your sorrow Shall be turned to Joy”, Robert D Hales Oct 1983

[ii] “Receiving a Testimony of Light and Truth, Dieter F Uchtdorf, Oct 2014

[iii] Alma 7:11

[iv] Ibid

[v] 1 John 4:11

Time — October 19, 2014

IMG_5097

 

On Sunday morning we received a copy of a text from the District Executive Secretary, to all District Auxiliary Leaders:

Good morning. Be reminded to gather and complete the information needed in the Monthly Report form for Branch Auxiliaries. The final deadline of it will be now and if you can’t make it now, just follow it this Saturday

Final deadline?

If you can’t make it now, just follow it this Saturday?

We chuckled and the phrase “Philippino time” came to mind. Then we thought of Dr. Don in Boise, Idaho.

Our appointment had gone overtime, but Dr. Don sat back in his chair and smiled a bit. We knew that we would hear a story narrated in his delightful Irish accent.

My Da used to work at the train station back in Ireland. He needed to be there when the train came in, but we never knew exactly when the train would come. It might be early, it might be late, it might be on time, it might not come until tomorrow.

One time my wife and I were waiting for a train in Germany. She is from Germany, you know, so we went there for a visit. I asked when the train was to arrive. The station agent told me, “3:43.” Now that train was coming clear from Russia. But they announced the arrival time to the minute.

We had seen footage of a train station in Berlin in a movie on TV. So we pictured the sleek shinny train and the station buildings placed in exact precision along the tracks.

Dr. Don went on with his story.

We waited. At 3:41 we heard a distant rumble. Then we saw the train. At exactly 3:43 the train pulled into the station. It had come all the way from Russia and was exactly on time!

Dr. Don chuckled.

That is not how the trains run in Ireland!

One day I was waiting with my Da for the train to come, when a man came by the station. He asked about the train schedule, and then walked around the room. Then he walked over to me.

So I see that you have two clocks here in this room.

Yes, sir.

And I see that each one tells a different time.

Yes, sir.

So why is that, can you tell me?

Dr. Don shook his head.

Well, I sure didn’t know. So I told him that I needed to go find my da.

When my da came into the station, the man asked him the same question. My da looked at the floor, then scratched his head. Finally he looked at the man.

Well, best I know, if both clocks told the same time, then we woudn’t be needing two clocks, now would we?

We can imagine the Great Father of All, with a smile deep in His eyes, saying:

If every person, if every culture, progressed in exactly the same way and at exactly the same time, then how would each of my jewels get polished to its own marvelous and unique glory?

 

A Mighty Errand — October 11, 2014

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This weekend one of our beloved granddaughters will celebrate her 17th birthday. She is as stately as a queen, her beautiful hair is her crown. She sings like an angel. Her expressive eyes and classic features reflect her energy, enthusiasm and humor. But where is the little girl we carried? Where is the little girl at play?

When did she get to be a beauty,

When did she grow to be so tall? 

Wasn’t it yesterday when she was small?

Sunrise, sunset, sunrise, sunset

Swiftly fly the years,

One season following another,

Laden with happiness and tears.

We have five granddaughters between 15 and 18 years of age. They are each different and they are all wonderful. We love them so much. And each one has her own challenges.

 ”Were it not for challenges to overcome and problems to solve, we would remain much as we are, with little or no progress toward our goal of eternal life.” President Monson

A number of years ago, Sister Elaine Cannon spoke of the challenges women must be prepared to face.

The Women in this Church need to be prepared—personally prepared—first, to stem the tide of error inundating the world, threatening families, short-circuiting the power of individuals. Second, though we have great men to lead us, we need to know for ourselves what is error and what is truth so that we can make valid value judgments. So much depends on this. Third, we need to grow and develop so that we are prepared to contribute. We each have a mighty errand to do.

Although young women ae not under the same mandate to serve a mission as young men, they are under the mandate to “be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness.” Each person has the mandate and blessing to obtain their own errand from the Lord. (See Jacob 1:17) The greatest blessing that we can imagine for our beautiful granddaughters is for them to be blessed with the personal preparation gained through worthy full time missionary service.

The scriptures give a perfect description of sister missionaries:

“But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children:

“So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us” (1 Thes. 2:7–8).

Personal preparation is not easy. Francis Webster, of the Martin Handcart Company stated:

We suffered beyond anything you can imagine and many died of exposure and starvation, but did you ever hear a survivor of that company utter a word of criticism? Not one of that company ever apostatized or left the Church because every one of us came through with the absolute knowledge that God lives for we became acquainted with him in our extremities.

Was I sorry that I chose to come by handcart? No. Neither then nor one moment of my life since. The price we paid to become acquainted with God was a privilege to pay and I am thankful that I was privileged to come to Zion in the Martin Handcart Company. (in William R. Palmer, “Pioneers of Southern Utah,” The Instructor, vol. 79, no. 5 [May 1944], 217–18).

Sister Cannon said:

I don’t deny the struggle—it is the essence of Eden; but personal progress is what this life is all about. We must begin at once to work our plan of life, deciding to whom and to what we will give our fullest attention, our highest loyalty, our deepest commitment.

Individually, are we moving forward as is our rapidly growing church?

Or would we have drowned in Noah’s day or been caught polishing the golden calf with Aaron’s people?

Our lack of individual progress can impede the Savior’s work.

I don’t want to seem simplistic, sisters, but we need to move!

Like our brethren, we too have a mighty errand of our own. It requires our growth, our preparation, our constant reaching out to learn from the lessons of life, from our leaders, from the Lord.

There is so much to do.

There are many who don’t have what we have, who don’t know what we know. So may we be gentle and affectionately desirous of others as we impart, not only the gospel of Jesus Christ, but our own souls to those who have need of us.

It is, after all, the only cause grand enough for woman’s precious energies.

What price will we pay to become acquainted with God?

 

Lasagna — September 22, 2014

Lasagna

Lasagna

The lesson

The lesson

I invited two families for Family Home Evening on Monday. I told them we would fix lasagna. They want to learn how to make it.

I was a bit surprised at Elder Hall’s announcement. I don’t even make home-made lasagna at home. And finding the necessary ingredients in the Philippines is a bit problematic.

We had some ground beef, canned diced tomatoes, and some cream cheese from the Costco knock-off in Cebu. It was a start. I e mailed my talented daughter-in-law for suggestions for cheese substitutions and recipes. Then we went to the store. No lasagna noodles. We bought fettuccine noodles instead. There were no fresh herbs, so we bought a dried pizza herb mix. No cottage cheese. We bought shelf-stable milk and Eden cheese in a box on the shelf, pork sausage to stretch out the ground beef, and tomato paste in a plastic bag. We didn’t bother to read the ingredients in the cheese. The second store had lasagna noodles.

After the Monday morning meetings, Elder Hall left to help with a Community Service Project, and I started wiping my dripping face with a towel and experimenting with the lasagna.  It was a long, hot, exhausting afternoon. By six o’clock, I had two pans of lasagna ready to be cooked separately in our small oven, plates, cups, eating utensils, store bought bread, and bananas on the table, and cold water in the refrigerator.

The guests loved Elder Hall’s lesson and they loved the lasagna. I loved the chance to sit down.

 

The next day as we were eating, Elder Hall passed a dish to me

Would you like some lasagna?

No, thanks. I’ll try some later.

It reminded me too much of cherries.

 

It was a warm July day in 1971 in Mackay, Idaho. The climate in Mackay is too cold for most fruit trees, but someone had brought in a truckload of fruit, and we bought several bushels.

Today I was canning sweet cherries.

I washed the fruit, put it in clean bottles, added a light syrup, put on the sterilized lids, screwed on the lids, and put the jars in the big kettle of water. I brought the water to a boil, then carefully watched the time. When the fruit was done, I lifted the jars out of the water bath, and set them on a towel on the kitchen cupboard.

I enjoyed looking at the jars a moment longer and savoring the feeling of success. Then I looked at the jars more closely. There were small white spots floating on the top of the juice in the jars. Then I knew. The cherries had worms in them.

Money was scarce, and not only had we spent money on the fruit, but on the sugar, lids, and jars. What a disappointing waste!

I stopped to fix an early lunch for our two small boys. After they were down for a nap, I looked again at the jars. I vowed that I was not going to waste that fruit.

I washed more jars and put them into a warm oven. I put more lids into a pan with water and brought them to a boil. Then I scrubbed out the big kettle, opened the jars, poured the contents into the kettle, and brought the contents to a boil. As the fruit came to a boil, the small white spots floated to the top. I carefully dipped every white spot out of the kettle.

 Then I ladeled the hot fruit and juice into the hot jars, wiped the lip of the jar clean, put on a lid, and screwed the ring on tightly. I washed more fruit and repeated the open-kettle “spot”-dipping canning process throughout the long afternoon, stopping frequently to care for my small boys, until all the fruit was processed, and rows of beautiful purple jars on the counter sparkled as they caught the light.

After my husband came home for dinner, and the boys were in bed, my husband went to do the outside chores while I washed all the utensils and the kettle, wiped the counter and stove clean, and moped up all the sticky spills on the floor.

I crawled into bed exhausted—only to wake up two hours later in labor. I waited a while. Maybe it was a false alarm and I could go back to sleep. But the contractions became harder and more regular. After an hour, I woke up my husband.  We needed to take the boys to Aunt Velma’s house before we drove the ninety miles to the hospital in Blackfoot. Our delightful third son was born about eight o’clock in the morning.

It was a long time before I could force myself to serve the canned cherries. But when I did, they were delicious.

 

 

 

The Ground Breaking — September 6, 2014

the building site

The building site

artist's view of the proposed chapel
Artist’s view of the proposed chapel

the ground breaking

The ground breaking

even the moon came for the ceremony

Even the moon came out for the ceremony

September 6, 2014

The Ground Breaking

We could feel the excitement in the small chapel in Lamac. The Branch President had just announced that construction of a new church building for Lamac would begin Sept 1. A Ground Breaking Ceremony was planned for September 6.

As the date for the ceremony drew closer, Elder Hall made several trips to Lamac to finalize plans for the meeting, and to invite local government officials, members and investigators to attend.

But Elder Hall, there is a typhoon coming. What if the rain is so heavy that we can’t have the ceremony?

Elder Hall looked at the people very seriously.

You pray, and encourage everyone else to pray, that the weather will not stop the meeting.

The morning of the day before the ceremony, the District President texted Elder Hall.

Elder, what do you think of the weather? It is raining very hard here.

We will have the ceremony.

On the afternoon before the ceremony, there was no rain. On the morning of the ceremony, there was no rain, although it had rained hard every day for the four previous days.  At 11 PM, after the ceremony, it began raining in Lamac again, and the electricity was out for the next 12 hours. The rain continued for three more days.

The mission president, the local officials, and a large crowd of people from the area attended the meeting. The construction workers turned off their TV to hear the speakers, and to feel the spirit that was there.

The Lord knows and blesses the people in the remote valley of Lamac.

It was a memorable night.