Monthly Archives: January 2015

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.