Monthly Archives: October 2013

Earthquake –October 15, 2013

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We had planned to go to Cebu city to get bunk beds for the new missionaries. I was sitting at the table making a list of the things we needed to accomplish that day. The table started shaking.

Earthquake! Well, it will be over in a few seconds.

The shaking continued.

Well, I think it will be safer outside.

I went out the back door.

Elder Hall had taken some garbage out to burn in the back yard. He had leaned over to pick up some more garbage to put in the fire when he fell against the concrete privacy wall.

Wow! I must be getting vertigo.

He stood up. But his body continued shaking.

Earthquake!

He looked around and saw me standing in the yard.

Did you feel that?

Yes.

It’s an earthquake.

Feels like it’s stopped now.

Yes.

We stood there. Nothing more happened. We went inside and sent a text to Elder Ernstrom in Cebu City. Telephone conversations are very difficult here. Reception is poor and calls are often dropped. Texting is our main means of communication.

Is there any reason we should not come to Cebu today?

He answered.

Proceed with care.

We continued to get ready to go. The telephone rang- a call, not a text.

Hi, this is Sister Ernstrom. Don’t come to Cebu today. We’ve been evacuated from our building. It might not be safe on the roads, and we wouldn’t be able to get into the building to get the beds for you anyway.

A few minutes later we got a text from Sister Schmutz, wife of the mission president.

Everyone in the mission is safe. Some damage to the temple and missionary apartments in the city. We have askedthe ZL’s in your area to report any damage. Might be a few missionaries who are unnerved and could use cone reassurance. Thanks for helping us with their needs. Just another mission adventure. J We love you.

 

We texted the Zone Leaders.

I think everyone here in Toledo is fine but the Assistants were getting messages that some missionaries had their houses damaged slightly. But everyone here is fine. I think that the Aloguinson elders still need your help though.

We texted the Aloguinson elders, offered any other help needed to the Zone Leaders, and answered texts from members. Sister Marz came and told us that some of the downtown area was blocked off to traffic, as some people had panicked during the quake and people had been injured when the crowd was running.

Somehow we didn’t feel any fear from the earthquake. I guess we have decided that there is no safer place in the world than on a mission.

Know ye not that ye are in the hands of God? Know ye not that He hath all power…? (Mormon 5:23)

 

 

 

 

Offended –October 24, 2013

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I don’t want you to talk to me about commandments or scriptures. It hurts me.

I have had missionaries and members come to me and talk to me about scriptures and commandments. It hurts me. I don’t want them to come.

Elder Hall drew a deep breath. The man talking was a former branch leader, who had taken offense and stopped coming to church.

I don’t want to hurt you. But would you mind if I shared a story with you?

It’s okay.

I have a son who has had many problems in his life. He does not have the gospel in his life. May I tell you about when he became inactive?

Okay.

It started when he was seventeen years old. A church leader said something to him that bothered him.

Elder Hall shared more details about his son. His voice cracked as he shared his pain. The sister missionaries wiped tears from their faces.

That was over twenty years ago. He stopped coming to church. He chose friends who were not members of the church, and he made some serious mistakes. He does not have the gospel in his life now. His children do not have the gospel in their lives.

The man looked up. His voice was soft and his answer was a surprise.

Please tell your son I say hello to him.

Being active in the church is not a matter of duty or guilt. It is about helping and being helped by others as we receive the love and protection of God in our lives.

We shook hands as we left.

Will you be angry if we come to see you again?

No. I would like you to come.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Family Home Evening –October 21, 2013

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She looked a bit surprised at Elder Hall’s words, but nodded her head in the affirmative. Later in the day we talked to Sister Marz and Elder Hall asked her the same question. She also agreed.

I guess we had better ask the Toledo 1 sisters, too. And Brother Marven.

We texted the sisters and they agreed to come. Then we started to feel some stress. What would we feed them? What would we do for a lesson? What would we do for games? Would they really come? Six days and numerous texts later, the day arrived. We fixed rice, chicken, and no-bake chocolate cookies.

Sister Marley insisted on bringing a coconut milk drink called buko pandan, and her delicious white pudding called maha blanca. Actually she offered to cook the whole meal, but we talked her out of it. It would probably have been a better meal if she had cooked it, but after all, we were the ones who invited everybody.

Sister Marz and her niece came first. They said that the others were following, as they could not all fit on the same “motor” or motorcycle. Then her mother and father, and her sister-in-law with her two children arrived.

Brother Marven drove up on his “motor” and came in the back door. He had balut or cooked duck eggs which have been incubated for fourteen days. He thinks all new missionaries should eat balut to entertain the others in the group.

In the Philippines, balut eaters prefer salt and/or a chili, garlic and vinegar (white or coconut sap) mixture to season their eggs. The eggs are savored for their balance of textures and flavors; the broth surrounding the embryo is sipped from the egg before the shell is peeled, and the yolk and young chick inside can be eaten. All of the contents of the egg may be consumed, although the white may remain uneaten; depending on the age of the fertilized egg, the white may have an unappetizing cartilaginous toughness.

The sister missionaries had eaten balut before. They were good sports and ate some this time too. We did not. The others were more than willing to eat our share.

Sister Marly, with her daughter and daughter-in-law came too late for the balut.  Marven called her “mar late” the rest of the evening.

Elder Hall conducted the lesson, Sister Marz led the music, and the sister missionaries beautifully described Family Home Evening and its purpose. Elder Hall introduced the Articles of Faith and gave each person an Articles of Faith card, either English or Cebuano .

I will repeat the First Article of Faith in Cebuano. During the next thirteen weeks, I will memorize all thirteen in Cebuano. If I can do it in Cebuano, you can do it your preferred language. We will meet again in thirteen weeks to report.

Brother Marven announced that Elder Hall would give prizes.

Sister Reyes spoke up.

Now we are going to play a game.

She passed out pieces of paper and asked everyone to write something on the paper that they would like the person sitting to their right to do. She then gave directions to pass the papers to the right ten times, back to the let a few times, to the right, and to the left. She then asked everyone to open their paper. Everyone had their original paper. (Don’t ask me how she kept track.)

One person had to sing, another had to dance. Sister Reyes then explained that we should never expect someone to do something we would not like to do ourselves.

Elder Hall looked at the group.

That’s in the scriptures.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto to you?

No.

Then where?

Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days. (Ecc 11:1)

We had five investigators, one less active member and two new converts in the group. We hope they will all be “desirous to come into the fold of God, and be called his people” after but a few days and remain there for all the days of eternity. (Mosiah 18:8)

 

 

Help and Encouragement –October 14, 2013

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We had gone to District Meeting in Pinamungajan the day before. The elders in Aloguinsen  reported plumbing problems in their apartment. We took the Zone Leader who had traveled with us back to Toledo, then went back to Aloguinsen after lunch. The elders took us to visit the caretaker of the apartments. He had turned off the water to the elders’ apartment because the kitchen faucet was leaking into the rooms below.

It will be fixed by tomorrow. It will be fixed by noon. We’ll put a new faucet on. There is a faucet outside by the building. The missionaries can get water there.

We went back to the apartment. The elders had a large barrel partly full of water that they were using.

You said that the toilet was not working.

Well…yes…but Elder Hall, you do not want to go in there.

I need to look at the toilet. I can’t fix it if I can’t see it.

Elder Hall went into the CR (comfort room).

Do you have a plunger?

The native elder looked confused. His branch missionary companion thought for a moment, then pantomimed using a plunger.

That’s it. Can we buy one here?

Not here. In Pinamungajan.

Do you have a bucket?

No.

Elder Hall looked at a faucet on the wall.

Was a shower head attached here?

Maybe sometime. Not since I have been here.

Let’s go to Pinamungajan.

We went to the market. The missionaries led us to a small shop, where they ducked under some merchandise to enter. The clerk took buckets from a pile to show to them. I watched the elders stand with their heads surrounded by bras handing from the ceiling. The incongruous picture sent me out to the street to chuckle.

After they purchased the bucket and plunger, we went to the next street to a little hardware shop. Elder Hall asked for a hand held shower head attachment. They showed him several things, but not what he wanted. We walked down the street to another shop. They didn’t have it. We walked down the street to another shop. After several substitutes and much conversation, what he needed was found in a kit. We bought the kit and drove back to Aloguuisen.

As there was no water to the apartment, there was not water in the toilet tank to flush the toilet.

Have you tried dumping water down the toilet?

No.

Let’s go get a bucket of water.

They took the bucket down the stairs and filled it, then brought it back to the apartment. Elder Hall demonstrated how to dump the water into the toilet bowl and drain the contents. He attached the shower head with his limited tools, then promised to come back after the water was back on to tighten it.

The water was not back on the next day. There was an earthquake that day instead, and all electricity and water was off for several hours. Fortunately, the apartment building was not damaged.

We went back Wednesday with a rack so the young elders to hang their clothes, and some cleaning supplies. The elders reported that they had water. They had washed their clothes, moped the tile floors, washed all the dishes, scrubbed the counter tops and sink, and were working on the CR.

Elder Hall tightened the shower attachment and told the elders that they were doing a great job. Attention and a little help works miracles.

 

 

 

 

 

Conference Miracles –October 13, 2013

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Many people have told conference miracle stories. I’d just like to add a few thoughts.

We’re 14,000 miles from Salt Lake City. But this weekend, we gathered in the local church building to watch a broadcast of General Conference just as we did in Wendell, Idaho. That is a miracle of technology.

When the church was first organized in the Philippines, there were no video recordings of General Conference. No conference sessions were broadcast in Cebuano. Conference talks in the church magazines were not printed in Cebuano. There were no church materials printed in Cebuano. Now not only can the Cebuano speaking people see and hear conference in their native language, but 97% of the members of the church world-wide can do the same. That is another miracle of technology.

The branch at Lamac, which is most distant branch in the Toledo zone, has been struggling. But on Sunday morning, a large group of people traveled together in a big truck over steep, rough roads from Lamac to Toledo to watch conference.  They brought their lunch and ate it in the parking lot between sessions. I took their picture as they were leaving because the miracle of the gospel in their hearts radiated from their faces.

A charming fifteen year old girl, who is the newest convert in Lamac, wanted a picture with us as a remembrance of her first general conference. She has experienced a miracle in her heart.

Elder Hall went with the young missionaries to visit a man who had taken offense and had not come to church for years. They invited him to come and hear the prophet speak. Even though he had worked the night before, he came with his wife and daughter. That is another miracle of the heart.

At the end of the morning session, everyone sang

Come listen to a prophet’s voice and hear the word of God

And in the way of truth rejoice and sing for joy aloud.

 

 

Senior Missionary Training –October 4, 2013

district activity at the beach in the beach house beach barbeque grilling fish

 

President Schmutz, president of the Cebu Philippines mission, looked around the room at the four senior missionary couples seated around the tables in his living room. One couple had been in the mission six weeks, another four weeks, and the other two had just arrived. The President had called all the senior missionaries together for a training session.

I’d like to tell you some things about the Philippines. The Philippines is the only Christian nation in Asia. It is the only democratic nation in Asia. It is the only nation in Asia where the Church has made significant progress.

American soldiers in World War II influenced the nation, but the first mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was not opened until 1967. In 1973, an official from the Church visited Cebu City. There was one small branch in the city at that time. The official looked at the member who was driving him around, and surprised him with a question:

“If you were going to pick a place for a temple in Cebu City, which places would you consider?”

The young man was shocked. “But we only have one branch here! We don’t even have a building where we can meet.”

“I know. But the Lord has a more long term view than we do.”

The Church purchased large acreage on a hill. There were only a couple of small structures on the acreage. The lot sat empty for nearly 40 years. The city grew and buildings large and small crowded all around the lot. In 2010 the Cebu Temple was completed. In addition to the temple, the lot was large enough for a large mission home, a stake center, homes for the mission president and for the temple president, and for parking and beautifully landscaped grounds. The high walls and the hilltop location cause the temple grounds to be a spacious, peaceful sanctuary in a crowded, noisy city. Entering through the gate is like entering a new beautiful world.

The President continued.

In addition to the temple here and in Manila, the Church had made a tremendous investment in church buildings and curriculum.

There are now 680,000 Church members in the Philippines. Church population here is the third largest after the United States. Only Mexico and Brazil have more.

The President paused. Then he asked:

What are the Lord’s plans for the Philippines?

He looked again around the room.

You have been called as missionaries to the Philippines as a direct fulfillment of prophecy.

We opened our scriptures to read a prophecy written by the Prophet Nephi. Nephi’s father was a prophet in the land of Jerusalem in the years preceding 600 B.C. He was a contemporary of the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah. When the Jews attempted to kill Lehi, the Lord instructed him to take his family and flee into the wilderness near Jerusalem. His family and friends were later led across the ocean to the land of America where Nephi was also called to be a prophet.

Nephi quoted the prophet Isaiah from the records that they had brought with them:

“Thus saith the Lord God: Behold, I will lift up mine hand to the Gentiles, and set up my standard to the people; and they shall bring thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders.

And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens shall be their nursing mothers…”            (1 Nephi 21:22-23; compare Isaiah 48)

Gentiles, as referred to here, are non-Israelites who join the restored Church in the Latter Days. At the time of the gathering of scattered Israel, Israel will be carried in the arms of the Gentiles and on their shoulders. Kings and Queens shall be nursing mothers and nursing fathers.

The term “nursing” indicates a loving, intimate and caring relationship. I thought of Elder Hall caring for his newborn granddaughter during the first two years of her life. Isaiah says that both men and women will care for these scattered children of our Heavenly Father.

After Nephi read the scripture to his brothers, they asked him:

What meaneth these things which ye have read?  Behold, are they to be understood according to things which are spiritual, which shall come to according to the spirit and not the flesh?

And I, Nephi, said unto them: Behold, they were manifest unto the prophet by the voice of the Spirit; for by the Spirit are all things made known unto the prophets, which shall come upon the children of men according to the flesh.

Wherefore, the things which I have read are things pertaining to things both temporal and spiritual; for it appears that the house of Israel, sooner or later, will be scattered upon all the face of the earth, among all nations. (Ibid. 22:1-3)

The prophecy is both temporal and spiritual; or in other words, will be literally fulfilled, but is also symbolic.

And behold, there are many who are already lost from the knowledge of those who are at Jerusalem. Yea, the more part of all the tribes have been led away; and they are scattered to and fro upon the isles of the sea; and whither they are none of us knoweth, save that we know that they have been led away. (Ibid. 22:4)

The Ten Tribes had already gone and had been scattered to and fro upon the isles of the sea. There are 7,107 islands in the Philippines, making it the largest group of islands in the world.

Nevertheless, after they shall be nursed by the Gentiles and the Lord has lifted up his hand upon the Gentiles and set them up for a standard, and their children have been carried in their arms, and their daughters have been carried upon their shoulders, behold these things of which are spoken are temporal; for thus are the covenants of the Lord with our fathers; and it meaneth us in the days to come, and also all of our brethren who are of the house of Israel. (Ibid. 22:6)

The Lord lifted up the Gentiles as a standard to which to rally. The prophecy is to be literally fulfilled. It includes the seed of Nephi and his brethren, who, according to prophecy,  must be found.

And it meaneth that the time cometh that after all the house of Israel  have been scattered and confounded, that the Lord God will raise up a mighty nation among the Gentiles, yea, even upon the face of this land; and by them shall our seed be scattered. (Ibid. 22:7)

The United States is a mighty nation without equal. In its early history,  a remnant of the descendants of Nephi and his brethren were scattered. Now it is the country that the Lord has raised up for the purpose of providing the Church (Gentiles) to become a gatherer of Israel. The hand of the Lord has created wealth in the United States that it can be sent to the isles of the sea to gather his scattered children.

And after our seed is scattered the Lord God will proceed to do a marvelous work among the Gentiles, which shall be of great worth unto our seed; wherefore, it is likened unto their being nourished by the Gentiles and being carried in their arms and upon their shoulders. (Ibid. 22:8)

A marvelous work has been brought forth by the Lord in the restoration of the gospel in our day. Just as we care for and provide for the needs of an infant, the Church has invested heavily to provide church buildings and curriculum for the people in the Philippines. The tithes and offerings of the people in the Philippines cannot even pay the electricity bills for the buildings. The people in the Church in America, and particularly those in the Wasatch Front, are carrying the members in the Philippines upon their shoulders. They need to be nursed. They cannot do it on their own.

The land of the Philippines is filled with scattered Israel. They need to be sought out and nourished. The people in the Philippines respond to the Spirit more easily than any other people in the world. But like children, they have difficulty remaining responsible and being accountable to the doctrines.

There are now more than 3000 missionaries in the Philippines. But the chapels and the temples are significantly underused. The Lord has great plans yet to be fulfilled. Many more missionaries are needed. The people need the members from the richest and mightiest nation of the world to carry them in their arms and upon their shoulders and to nourish them.

Years ago, when we were expecting our first grandchild, Elder Hall had a dream. He dreamed of a dark haired young lady calling, “Grandpa, Grandpa, don’t forget me!” He thought that our first grandchild would be a girl. Our first grandchild was a blue-eyed, blonde baby boy. It wasn’t until twenty years later that we had a dark haired granddaughter that he recognized as the one in his dream.

But perhaps there is another meaning to the dream. Perhaps the dark haired young lady is symbolic of others who need to be found and “nourished by the good word of God.”                 (Moro. 6:4)

 

 

 

 

 

What Are We Doing Here? –October 1, 2013

Maryan playing her “organ” on the sea wall behind her houseMaryan playing her “organ” on the sea wall behind her house

View from Sister Marly's homeView from Sister Marly’s home

cleaning up before the partycleaning up before the party

 

Some of you have asked us what we are doing here.

We landed in a strange land with strange scenery, strange methods of travel, and a strange language. It is a land with palm-clad mountains, hot humid weather even though the calendar says October, and “tricycles” “trisikads”, buses and big trucks roaring down the hill by our house at all hours. Most vehicles have badly worn brakes which squeal loudly. We are lucky if we can understand one or two words in a conversation.

So sometimes we say to ourselves, “What ARE we doing here?”

We know that as missionaries we are servants of the Lord, called by prophecy and authorized by the laying on of hands, to proclaim the Savior’s everlasting and restored gospel (see D&C 68:1) in His way (see D&C 50:13–14, 17–24).

We know that our overarching purpose as a missionaries is to: “Invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end” (Preach My Gospel, 1). We know that the sacred responsibility to proclaim authoritatively the gospel and administer the saving ordinances has been in operation since Adam was driven from the Garden of Eden and will continue until “the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done” (Joseph Smith, in History of the Church, 4:540.

We have studied the words of the prophet Mormon, which is the Cebu mission scripture: “Behold, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I have been called of him to declare his word among his people, that they might have everlasting life” (3 Nephi 5:13). We strive to be worthy, to treasure of the words of eternal life, and to remember that the Holy Ghost is the ultimate teacher.

But what are we doing here?

We are learning to drive and find our way around this area. Toledo City is an area along the northeast edge of the island of Cebu, which is a little over two miles long and less than a half mile wide. There are three main roads running the length of the city and several connecting roads. On the map it looks like a small rural town—unless you know that this area is the home of 160,000 people.

We are learning how to pay the electricity, water and internet bills, where to shop and what foods are available, and the telephone numbers of friends who can help us.

We are learning how take care of the basic necessities of life when the water and electricity are at best intermittent.

But are we functioning as missionaries? We cannot speak the language. We cannot teach. So we do what we can do. We go to meetings and to activities with the young missionaries. We talk to them. We listen to them. We text them. We feed them and give them rides. We go with them as they teach the wonderful Filipino people and feel the testimony of the Holy Ghost in the small homes. We love them and the people that they teach.

These young men and women can talk and understand this strange language. They are the ones who are inviting others to come unto Christ. They walk the streets and go into the tiny houses in the crowded barangays to “declare the word of God among His people that they might have everlasting life”. They are the ones who bring the joy of the gospel into the lives of the people of this beautiful island. We rejoice in their successes and do all we can to encourage them to continue.

That is what we are doing here. And maybe that is exactly what we were sent here to do.