“And the Books Were Opened..” — Sept 4, 2014

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We stood enjoying the ocean view and chatting with another missionary couple as they waited to board the ferry to the island of Negros

When is your mission release date?

At the end of February? How about you?

We go home in January. Another couple goes home in March., and the last one has only six more months.

Is there anyone else coming?

Not that we know. There just aren’t enough senior couples.

We have 228 missionaries now. If there are no senior missionaries, who will be there for them?

It will be hard. I talked to Sister Harris in the office. They only have four weeks left. She said that for the year that they were home before coming back on a mission, they talked to everyone they knew to try to persuade them to apply for a mission.

Did anyone apply?

Not one couple.

Are they worried about health?

Maybe.

Don’t they know that if they are still breathing, the Lord can use them?

I know we have been in better health here than we were at home.

So have we. It must be something about the promise of how those who “magnify their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies.” (see D&C 84:33)

We worried a lot about leaving our grandchildren.

That was a concern for us, too.

We still worry, especially about our grandchildren who are growing up without the gospel. But we have to trust that the Lord is more powerful than we are, and that if we serve a mission, we have His promise:

“I will bless you and your family, yea, your little ones; and the day cometh that they will believe and know the truth and be one with you in my church.”

“Lift up your heart and rejoice, for the hour of your mission is come.”    (D&C 31:2-3)

We paused to wipe away a few tears.

A mission isn’t easy.

No, it isn’t. I was reading in the Bible dictionary about the story of Joseph, who was sold into Egypt. It said:

“The story is especially instructive in showing the discipline of misfortune, and also that the Lord rewards His obedient children according to their faithfulness.”

Humm…the discipline of misfortune? That is an interesting thought.  We have received great blessings while here on a mission. But I have to wonder what we might have missed if we had not chosen to come on a mission.

We have, too. The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “The torment of disappointment in the mind of man is as exquisite as a lake burning with fire and brimstone.

Wow! Well, when “the books” are opened, I hope our mission report might show up in our favor.(see Revelations 20)

Oh, there is our boarding call.

We all hugged each other and waved goodbye.

But we didn’t talk about love.

Love?

Yes, all the love that has been showered on us since we came on a mission; all the hugs and letters.

Dear Elder and Sister,

Pinamungajan was my first area. I am from Tonga. I just hope you won’t ever forget me! You both were my parents when I was far from mine. I was still fresh and often very clueless of what I should be doing, but knowing that you were there helped me a lot.

Sister, I will never forget your getting down on your knees and scrubbing the dust off the floor of our new kitchen! I have to admit, that was a huge testimony of what service and what a leader really should be like! for me.

Elder, you have a bubbly aura around you that just makes me so happy when I am around you! Even though you were tired—but you continue to drive us back and forth during our activity at Sister Vineyard’s house.

If I could count all that I am grateful for—its gonna take the whole day! Please know that you are appreciated!!!

Most importantly, I love your patience, and spiritual knowledge. Every time you both expound on a scripture—it just blows me away! I wrote down some of the things you sometimes say and use them as quotes. They are just so wonderful.

I know that part of the ways the Lord reaches out for His missionaries, especially a clueless sister like me, is through senior couples, and I am glad that I got to work with you both,

I love you both and I mean it!

Sister Poteki (student of the scriptures)

 

Reach Out — August 17, 2014

hotel lobby Cebu

hotel lobby Cebu

Hotel lobby Cebu

another beauty

palm tree

palm tree

The wall mounted fans worked valiantly to move the hot humid air. The noise of motorcycles and trucks on the busy road bounced through the open windows. Loud music poured out of the large speakers of a sound system nearby.

The Relief Society sisters moved their chairs a little closer and continued to take turns reading and discussing the lesson.

I shifted on my seat and coughed again into my handkerchief. I felt a hand reach out and touch my shoulder. I turned to see the smiling face of the sister behind me.

May I massage your back? It will help your cough.

Oh yes!

She cradled her sleeping year old daughter in one arm and used the other to thoroughly massage my neck, shoulders and back.

My cough faded, along with the outside distractions, and the sisters seemed wrapped in a cocoon of caring and love.

After the church services ended, we went with the elders to take the sacrament and a gospel message to a brother confined to a wheelchair, which is so worn that he can no longer leave his house.

As we left the home, Elder Hall spoke.

Elders, what are your plans now?

Elder Hall, how much time to you have?

We have as much of the rest of the day as you need.

Well, we have a referral in the way far part of our area. Could you take us there?

We drove down the pot-holed winding road. In a few places, some of the concrete roadbed remained in the center of the road. After a few kilometers, the elders asked us to stop so that they could speak to some people along the side of the road.

Excuse me. May I ask a question?

They consulted a piece of paper and asked where the people lived. They were told the place was farther along the road.

Elders, where did you get the referral?

From the Zone Leaders.

Where did they get it?

From Elder Stahle and Elder Harris in the City. They had to go to a hospital to give someone a blessing. When they were finished, they decided to reach out to all the people and their families. They each took one side of the large ward room, and took referrals from those who were interested in a gospel message

We stopped for directions a couple more times before taking the right-hand fork of the road. We stopped by a group of people along the side of the road. The men were digging into the side of the hill to prepare a foundation for a house. A number of children and women were there visiting with them.

As the elders talked to one person, the others gathered around to take part in the conversation. They talked and gestured. A man sleeping next to a bottle of coconut wine, in a covered waiting area on the other side of the road, got up, crossed the road, and reached out to shake the elders’ hands. Finally the elders came back to the truck.

These two men will show us the way. It is across the valley and behind the next ridge.

We back-tracked and took the left-hand fork. We followed the road, carefully skirting some deep, muddy ruts, and ended at what appeared to be a large sand pit.

You can park here.

I sure hope it doesn’t rain.

Elder Hall had muttered under his breath. I looked at the clouds with some concern.

The man who had been sleeping went ahead as our guide, and the other brought up the rear. On the steepest parts, Elder Hall stopped and held out his hand to help me up. When it was too far to reach, he held out the handle of his umbrella.

We stopped at a house and our guide introduced us. Then he continued up the mountain.

He is going to get the others.

He came back with several other people and left again. The elders asked each of the people if they would like to be taught. They all agreed. When everyone had been gathered in, eighteen people crowded into the small house.

The man who had been our guide listened to part of the lesson.

But the most important thing is money. Without it, my stomach hurts!

He rubbed his midsection graphically.

Without it, I don’t have a house to live in and I get very wet!

The elders smiled, and when the chuckles dies down, they taught an important truth.

Brother, you are literally a son of God. He knows you. He loves you. He has a plan for you.

He has sent us here today to tell you about that plan. He has sent us here today to show you how you can return to your Father.

He has sent here today to tell you that when you return to your Father, you will return crowned with honor, glory, immortality, and eternal life.

You will return as an heir, a joint-heir with Jesus Christ, to receive all that the Father has. (See Romans 8:17)

The man sat back soberly and listened.

When the lesson was over, the elders tried to make an appointment to come back the next Sunday. The people hesitated. Then a sister spoke.

But Elders, can’t we come to church with you on Sunday?

Grins split the elders’ faces. They managed to mumble through their smiles.

Oo. Yes. Oo!

A Horn —- August 7, 2014

Seaside City construction from the highway

Seaside City construction from the highway

Seaside City mall construction ariel view

Seaside City mall construction ariel view

Elder Hall tapped the horn in the middle of the steering wheel. Nothing happened.

When driving in the Philippines, a horn is not just a way of expressing displeasure to another driver. It is used to let people, bicycles and oblivious dogs you will be using the roadway. It is used to let pedicabs, tricycles, and cars know you are sharing the road with them. It is used to let huge trucks and buses know you plan to overtake (pass), with the hope that they do not try to pass another vehicle at the same that you are passing them.

When the traffic cleared, Elder Hall tried the horn again. Nothing happened.

The next day, when we were home, Elder Hall checked the fuses. They were intact. He touched the wire from the horn to the battery wires. The horn blared. A downtown mechanic shop diagnostic indicated that a part in the steering wheel, which allows touch activation of the horn, was broken. They did not have stock and could not order it.

I think after we go to Lamac this morning, we will go from there to Cebu.

To get the part for the horn?

Yes. They will probably have to order it.

We took the South Highway. When landmark construction of the Seaside City Mall appeared on the skyline, our guide commented:

That mall is being built to look like a ship. The builder is also the owner of the SM Mall. “SM” stands for “Shoe Mart.”. It started as a small company selling shoes. Now SM owns several malls. This one will be the 4th largest mall in the world. The owner is Chinese.

Elder Hall drove on down the South Road Property (SRP) freeway. The area is land reclaimed from the sea. He spoke to our guide.

Do you have anything you need to buy while we are here?

Yes.

Where do you need to go?

I will show you.

We threaded through the intricate maze of old town Cebu City.

This is called the Carbon Market. It is the oldest and largest farmers market in Cebu. All traders are here—Christian, Muslim, and Chinese. This is where the vegetables grown along the Trans-Central Highway land.

The Carbon Market was named for the depot where coal was unloaded from the Cebu Railroad .Another story is that it was named for the “heaps of waste,” or cinders, dumped here in the 19th Century. You can turn here.

Is there two-way traffic here?

Yes, for now. At night it is one-way. You can stop here.

Is it alright to park here?

Just stay here. Don’t turn off your motor.

He disappeared into the crowd. A short while later he reappeared.

They do not have what I need. They pointed me at another shop around the corner. They did not have what I need either. We will go on for a ways.

We double parked again and waited. He reappeared with a small package.

I found what I need. This is the Chinese market section.

We threaded through more streets. Our guide put his right hand out the window to signal turns. Drivers tend to ignore electronic turn signals. Tricycle drivers signal with a hand or foot.

We pulled into the perfectly manicured grounds of the Temple Complex, and were greeted like old friends in the Mission Office. We turned in papers and picked up supplies. As we were leaving, I stopped to fill my water bottle. Before I finished, Elder Hall came back in the door.

President McCurdy wants to talk to me.

I sat back down on one of the couches to wait and visited with the various missionaries that came through. Those from the city area had gathered in the Temple Complex for Zone training that morning.

We stopped at the Distribution Center, then passed through the gate and back into traffic to find the Ford Dealership. The sky had clouded over and it was threatening rain. We appreciated the storm’s cooling effect.

Did you get the part?

No, they had to order it.

How long will it take?

About ten days. It has to come from Thailand. Hang onto that receipt. They won’t call us. We will have to call them.

We stopped at a stand on the Trans-Central Highway on our way home and bought fresh sweet corn.

Well, I guess you could get a hand held horn to use until the part comes.

I think I should get a big truck horn. I could mount two on top of the cab.

You might consider driving slower.

Why would I want to do that?

SM Seaside City Cebu is a shopping mall owned and developed by SM Prime Holdings located in Cebu CityPhilippines. It is expected to open in 2015. If completed, it will be the 4th largest shopping mall in the world. SM Seaside City Cebu will be SM’s third mall in Cebu and 52nd mall in the Philippines. The mall is designed by Arquitectonica, the same company which designed SM North EDSASM Mall of Asia and SM Megamall.

On April 12, 2011, SM Prime Holdings held a ground-breaking ceremony at the mall’s location.

The SM Seaside City Cebu will be a 4-level circular-shaped retail mall with multiple anchors, including a two-story SM Department Store and SM Hypermart, a five-theater Cineplex and IMAX Theatre, an 18-lane SM Bowling and Amusement Center, and a food court flanking an ice skating rink.]

In addition, the mall will have over 2,000 food and retail shops, including international brands. Retail shops will occupy the outer arc of the mall on the ground floor. This area will include a furniture zone as well as a fashion boulevard.

A 150 meters Iconic Viewing Tower will be an attraction in itself, offering sensational panoramic views of the entire city of Cebu while serving as a new landmark for the City..

Significantly, with the jitters of recent natural calamities, being located at the sea-front could be a concern.A company spokesman assured the public of SM Prime Holding’s President Han Sy’s serious commitment to build a disaster-resilient project.

The company is allocating a capital expenditure (capex) of P60 billion in the next three years in the Philippines for its shopping centers construction projects. Aside from its aggressive expansion move in Cebu, the company is also spending to open up new shopping malls in other provinces.

 

The Toledo Self-Reliance Center is Open! —August 2, 2014

"Sign-in" area. Special ribbon and  flower garlands for invited dignitaries.

“Sign-in” area. Special ribbon and flower garlands for invited dignitaries.

Ready for the "Ribbon-cutting ceremony
Ready for the “Ribbon-cutting Ceremony”

Reception and refreshment area

Reception and refreshment area

On August 2, 2014, a new Self-reliance Center (SRC) opened in the Toledo District Center of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Toledo, Cebu, Philippines. The Self-reliance Center (SRC) provides Career Workshops, Self-Employment Workshops, Planning for Success Workshops, and American-Accent English classes for people in the Toledo area.

The Toledo Self Reliance Center (SRC) is operated under the Model SRC in Cebu City, whose staff is assisted by a local Center Coordinators and volunteers. The Model Center Managers develop resources that would benefit members. The District Self-reliance Committee identifies members in need and assists them with one of the three legs of self-reliance namely: Education, Jobs, or Self-employment.

The volunteers in the center contact members who have registered on ldsjobs.org to help them create a profile that can be viewed by potential employers. Volunteers also help those who are applying for loans from the Perpetual Education Fund (PEF).

The Perpetual Education Fund (PEF) was established in 2001 during general conference when Gordon B. Hinckley, then President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, announced a “bold initiative” to help youth in developing areas “rise out of the poverty they and generations before them have known.” He spoke of returned missionaries and other ambitious young men and women who have great capacity but meager opportunities:

“I believe the Lord does not wish to see His people condemned to live in poverty. I believe He would have the faithful enjoy the good things of the earth. … In an effort to remedy this [lack of opportunity], we propose a plan … which we believe is inspired by the Lord. … We shall call it the Perpetual Education Fund.” President Hinckley further declared, “Education is the key to opportunity” (“The Perpetual Education Fund,” Ensign, May 2001, 52–53).

The PEF program is patterned after the Perpetual Emigration Fund, which helped more than 30,000 early Church members journey to the Salt Lake Valley from Europe in the mid to late 1800s.

The program is funded through contributions of Church members and others who support its mission. It is a revolving resource in which money is loaned to an individual to help pay for training or advanced education. When a student has graduated and is working, he or she then pays back the loan to the fund at a low interest rate.

Self-reliance is the ability, commitment, and effort to provide for the spiritual and temporal well-being of ourselves and of our families. As we learn and apply the principles of self-reliance in our homes and communities, we have opportunities to care for the poor and needy and to help others become self-reliant so they can endure times of adversity.

We have the privilege and duty to use our agency to become self-reliant spiritually and temporally. Speaking of spiritual self-reliance and our dependence on Heavenly Father, Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has taught: “We become converted and spiritually self-reliant as we prayerfully live our covenants–through worthily partaking of the sacrament, being worthy of a temple recommend, and sacrificing to serve others.”

Elder Hales counseled us to become self-reliant temporally, “which includes getting a post-secondary education or vocational training, learning to work, and living within our means. By avoiding debt and saving money now, we are prepared for full-time Church service in the years to come. The purpose of both temporal and spiritual self-reliance is to get ourselves on higher ground so that we can lift others in need.”

 

 

Listen — July 27, 2014

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His name is Dave and he is from England. We visit with him whenever we see him around town. He talks to all the American missionaries, perhaps because he likes to talk to someone who speaks his English. On this day, as usual, he wanted to discuss religion

I have read in the Bible about a “bottomless pit.” A pit with no bottom? That is a horrible thought! If I don’t have my name written in some “book of life’” then I will be cast into a bottomless pit? What kind of a God would do a thing like that?

We wanted to tell him that the “bottomless pit” is a term for the realm of Satan and those who follow him. But Dave was already talking about something else.

Then there is a “lake of fire and brimstone, ever burning but never consumed.”  Ever burning? Never ending? That is even more horrible!

We wanted to tell him, “A man is his own tormentor and his own condemner. Hence the saying, “They shall go into the lake that burns with fire and brimstone” [see Revelation 21:8]. The torment of disappointment in the mind of man is as exquisite as a lake burning with fire and brimstone.” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith [2007], 224).

We thought of a comment made by Russell M Nelson:

“I am reminded of military days long ago when our platoon heard shouts from a sergeant: “Attention!” “Right face!” “Left face!” “About face!” We learned to respond to those orders with instant precision. In retrospect, I don’t recall ever having heard his command to “face upward.” Yet scriptures tell us to “look to God and live.” (Russell M Nelson April 1996)

But Dave was talking again.

And what about prayer? I don’t think a God would answer my prayer. When was the last time you had an answer to your prayers?

We started to answer that we pray for protection every day.

We might have told him about one of our trips to Casoy:

“We drove around and through the puddles from the recent rains. On one mountain curve we saw a big truck coming down the mountain. Elder Hall pulled far to the left to let it by. As he did so, the truck bucked violently and the pickup stopped. Elder Hall sat for a few moments with his hands on the steering wheel. Then he stuck his head out of the window. He looked at the front of the pickup and then toward the back, then down into the deep ravine below.  He sat back in the seat, then looked out again. He put the pickup in reverse and carefully backed out onto the road. We drove on, feeling thankful to be alive.

A while later, I asked:

So what did you see when you looked out the window?

Well, it looked like the rain-soaked soil on the edge of the road gave way under the tire of the pickup. There was about a three foot hole there.

Elder Hall paused.

It looked like the front tire dropped into the hole and bounced back out—behind the hole!”

We might have told Dave about our trip to Barangay Cabagdalan, far in the mountains from Balamban, when we took Elder Codinera from Lamac to his home there:

“We met a huge gravel truck on the narrow road. Elder Hall pulled as far as he could to the right to let the truck pass. As he turned the tire to pull back onto the road, the front passenger tire slipped off the edge of the concrete roadbed and into a drainage ditch. He tried to back out, but the back of the truck slid toward the ditch. Elder Codinera quietly slid out of the back seat.

Elder Hall turned the motor off and got out. The front tire had slipped deep enough into the ditch that the pickup was high-centered on the concrete. The back tire was about six inches from the ditch.

He didn’t have a shovel. He didn’t have a jack. We were on a remote mountain road.  All he could think was that he was almost 70 years old and there was no way he was going to get out of that muddy ditch.

Elder Hall climbed back into the pickup. His shoulders slumped as he spoke.

I’m done!

At that moment, Elder Codinera came back with a watermelon-sized rock that he placed behind the front tire. Two men in a pick-up stopped in front of us. Without saying a word, they found more rocks where there appeared to be none. They literally built a bridge behind the tire. Elder Codinera came with a narrow piece of concrete about three feet (1 meter) long to put on the top. One man stood in front of the pickup. The other two prepared to lift along the side.

Okay. Back up now! Slowly!

We backed onto the road. The men waved and climbed back into their pickup.”

We might have told Dave that not only does God answer prayers, but He sends his angels to have charge over His children.

But Dave was still talking. He would not listen. We said good-bye and wished him luck.

As we drove down the road, a hen clucked to her chicks. They quickly ran to her, and were saved from the speeding truck.

Satan tries to lure all of us to the edge of the abyss and pull us down into the bottomless pit of his domain. We can be safe only when we listen to the voice of our Savior, and come to Him.

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem … how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! (Matt 23:37)

 

How to Build a House in Eight Hours — July 24, 2014

A  "green" site complete with street light and road

A “green” site complete with street light and road

"Foundation" posts and floor joists

“Foundation” posts and floor joists

Preparing flooring

Preparing flooring

Trusses

Trusses

The floor

The floor

Roofing

Roofing

The ladder--used barefoot

The ladder–used barefoot, with large nails for the rungs.Walls, windows, ready to install door- an 8 hr service project completed

Walls and windows done. Install door, pick up the shirts–the home is ready for occupancy. Another “Mormon Missionary” and members Community Service Project completed.

 

“My House is a House of Order” — July 20, 2014

Watermelon-sizeJack fruit grows on trees

Watermelon-size Jack fruit grows on trees

Cut with a "bolo"

Cut with a “bolo”

Delicious!

Delicious!

Come in, Elder Hall. We want you to check our house.

We looked in the front door. The study desks on one side of the room were tidy and organized. On the other side, pamphlets and teaching aids were perfectly sorted and aligned on shelves. The windows were clean and the light fixtures had been dusted.

Shoes were neatly placed on a shoe rack. The gleaming expanse of the clean, white, tile floor was breath-taking.

Sister, come into the kitchen. I want you to see the refrigerator.

The elder opened both of the refrigerator doors.

See, we cleaned out all of the ice in the freezer. We scrubbed the shelves inside and on the door. And we scrubbed the outside.

The refrigerator looked like a picture from an advertisement. A can opener, pans, and other kitchen utensils were hung artistically on the wall above the counter. All the dishes were washed. The counters, sink and stove were clean.

Elder Hall, come and see our toilet. It is shiny clean!

Not only was the toilet clean, but the tile has been polished. We saw the bathroom tile was actually a pleasant blue. We had thought it was a dirty brown.

Elder Hall, we are sorry to ask. But could we get some more cleaning supplies?

This was not a Senior Couple fantasy. It was the work of two diligent missionaries.

Elders, how did you find time to do all of this?

We decided to get up at 5 o’clock instead of 6:30 each morning until our house was clean. Now we only get up a 6 o’clock. We want to have a clean house so that we can have the Holy Ghost to be with us and better do the Lord’s work.

Behold, mine house is a house of order, saith the Lord God, and not a house of confusion. (D&C 13:8)

These young elders were setting a pattern that would allow them to live in the house of the Lord for the eternities.

Answers — July 13, 2014

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The District President was the closing speaker for the Tutay Branch conference.

“Exactly twenty-two years ago today I entered the Mission Training Center in Manila. One month before I was to leave, the Branch President called me into his office. The President said that he had been inspired to call me as Branch Clerk. I was astonished. I had no experience as a Branch Clerk. I had no knowledge of how to do the job.

I was about to leave on my mission and what little time I had left seemed to be completely filled. I explained all my reasons to the Branch President. The President told me that he had considered all those things. It didn’t make sense to call me, but he still felt inspired to do so.

I accepted the calling, but for the next month, I asked the Lord, “Why me?” Until the day I was released, I could not think of one reason why I had been called to be Branch Clerk.

After I left the MTC, I was called to serve in a new mission on the island of Tacloban. There were few qualified to serve in leadership positions, and often missionaries were asked to serve as leaders. After I had been in the mission six months, I was called to be a Zone Leader, and as part of my duties, to serve as Branch President. My companion was my counselor.

I was young. I was not a very experienced missionary. Again I asked, “Why me?”

I found that the branch financial records were in shambles. The financial report had not been completed. There was no branch clerk. My companion had no idea what to do.

Then I knew the answer to my question. I been called because I knew how to manage branch financial records, and I could teach others what to do. The Lord had prepared me during the month before I left for my mission.

Eight months later, I was called to be Branch President in a different branch. I found the same problems there with the financial reports.

The Lord works in mysterious ways. You may not know why you should accept a call, but the Lord does. He knows what we do not know. We can trust Him. He has blessings for us that we will miss if we are not willing to serve.”

I know not by what methods rare,

But this I know, God answers prayer.

I know that He has given His Word,

Which tells me prayer is always heard,

And will be answered, soon or late.

And so I pray and calmly wait.

I know not if the blessing sought

Will come in just the way I thought;

But leave my prayers with Him alone,

Whose will is wiser than my own,

Assured that He will grant my quest,

Or send some answer far more blest.

EZRA TAFT BENSON April 1977

 

The Miracle of Love — July 6, 2014

2014-07-04 15.15.54

 

Elder Hall stood at the podium and looked out over the congregation:

“Brothers and Sisters, I wish that each of you could sit where I sit and look at your faces.

I can see when the Spirit touches someone and they receive truth.

I can see those who have received their blessings in the temple and light it has brought to their countenances.

I can see the joy of those who are preparing to go to the temple, of those who are preparing to receive the Priesthood, and of those who are making positive changes in their lives.

I would like to read some of the promises to those who have received their blessings in the temple.

And when thy people transgress, any of them, they may speedily repent and return unto thee, and find favor in thy sight, and be restored to the blessings which thou hast ordained to be poured out upon those who shall reverence thee in thy house.

 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. (D&C 109:21-22)

Yesterday you had a wedding in your branch here. You had to wait a long time because the Branch President who was to perform the ceremony was not here. You finally had to get the mayor to perform the ceremony.

I would like to tell you what else was happening yesterday. I want to show you that the Lord does give the blessings He has promised to those who keep the commandments and receive the ordinances of the temple.

Yesterday, Sister Hall and I had a number of things that we needed to do. We had been asked to go to Cebu for a youth baptism, and for a personal endowment and sealing. A member had asked for a Priesthood blessing. There was a wedding here in this branch. We had been asked to attend a convert baptism. We were to attend a District Presidency activity.

We were confused and unable to decide which things we should do Then we received a call from the sister missionaries in this branch. They asked us to go and pick up the Branch President who was to perform the wedding ceremony. A short time later the elders assigned to this branch called and asked up to go and pick up the branch president. So we drove to his house.

The president was having a very severe asthma attack. He was leaning on a table by a by a window struggling to get some air into his lungs. His whole body was shaking from the effort.

The calls by the sisters and the elders were the first miracle of the day. Without their insistence that we go to the president’s house, he would not have received help in time.

After a blessing, I and another man put the president’s arms over our shoulders and walked with him past several houses to the road where the pickup was parked. The president is a big man and was almost unconscious at the time. Yet by some power, his legs moved and carried him quickly to the road. That was the second miracle of the day.

We lifted him into the pickup and drove rapidly to the hospital. There three medical personnel helped the two of us get him out of the pickup and into the hospital.

In the Emergency Room, the attendants started oxygen and gave us a prescription for medications that he needed. We drove down town to the pharmacy to get them and hurried back to the hospital so the medications could be administered.

The president’s lips were blue and he was totally unresponsive. At that point, the president’s wife called to ask if we would bring her to the hospital, which we did.

Sister Hall stood outside the hospital holding the couple’s three-day-old baby while the mother went to her husband.

She rubbed her husband’s arms and chest. She laid her head on his shoulder and spoke into his ear.

Rainier! Rainier! Rainer! I love you! I am here. I love you!

His eyes partially opened as he attempted to focus. She continued to stroke him and to talk to him, giving him strength to continue his struggle until the medication could take effect.

Finally the president was stabilized enough to be sent by ambulance to a hospital in Cebu. After we took his wife and new-born baby to Cebu, I said:

Sister, do you know you saved your husband’s life today?

Yes. I was praying for my husband and worrying that I could not be there because I had just given birth. Then I received a strong impression that I needed to go to my husband.

When you told him you were there and told him you loved him, you gave him strength to hold on.

Yes, I know. I know there is great power in love. Some of my friends in the Emergency Room were laughing at me, because in our culture we do not give public displays of affection. But I did not care. I knew what my husband needed.

And that was the third miracle of the day.

The Branch President and his wife received the ordinances of the temple several years ago. Yesterday the Lord confirmed the promised blessings upon them.

We believe that the Great God of the Universe knows and loves each of His children. Through the power of His love, He not only is able, but does, arrange miracles to bless the lives of His faithful children.

I testify that this is true, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.”

 

Faithful — July 2, 2014

mahogany furniture-grade lumber

mahogany furniture-grade lumber

"spill-way" bridge
“spill-way” bridge

the young elder lives past the gravel pit

the young elder lives past the gravel pit

 

Elder Hall, Elder Peck will be going home on Wednesday. Will you come to Lamac to get him and his luggage…and his companion? It is very difficult for him to ride habal-habal on one motorcycle with a driver, two big missionaries and luggage.

Sure. What time do you want us to come?

Could you come about 7 AM?

Elder Peck had been working in the mission office as an AP. He had extended his mission for two weeks and had asked to be a proselyting missionary again. He was assigned to Lamac, and a young man from Balamban branch, who had recently received his own mission call, served as his companion. For the previous six weeks, the young man had stayed  in the apartment with the Balamban missionaries, lived all mission standards, and served as a companion for one of the elders.

We took the elder to Pinamungajan where he got on a bus to go to Cebu, and then drove to Toledo. Elder Hall addressed the “soon-to-be” missionary.

Elder, where do you want to go?

Just take me to the terminal and I will take a bus.

You are going to Balamban, right? We need to take a mirror to the missionaries there. We can take you there.

We made the delivery.

Elder, where do you live?

Oh, it is very far and very dangerous. I will just go by myself.

We would like to take you. We want to see where you live.

We drove through the jungle where huge bamboo arched over the road. We passed large spreading old mango trees. There were hand-hewn beams of mahogany furniture-wood lying along the side of the road waiting to be marketed. The rocky, rutted and pot-holed road curved up and down and around over two high mountains and through the valleys between. There were three “spillway bridges” to cross and two places where the river had to be forded.

When Elder Hall’s parents served a mission in Arkansas, they talked about “low-water bridges.” The bridges were low enough that when the water level rose, the bridges were covered with swift flowing water, and the road was impassable until the waters receded. Possibly the need to ford rivers and creeks, and the use of low-water bridges, led to the use of the conditional commitment phrase, “The good Lord willing and the crick don’t rise.”

“Spillway bridges” are similar to low-water bridges. In a country where a storm can drop 12 inches of water in a matter of hours, spillway bridges are to be used with caution.

Elder, how do you get to church?

I hire a motorcycle if I have fare.

How much is the fare?

It is 70 pesos.

One way?

Yes.

So it is 140 pesos each Sunday?

Yes.

That is a lot of money.

Yes.

And if you don’t have fare, what do you do?

If I don’t have fare, I walk.

How long does it take you?

About 2 hours.

One way?

Yes. One time when my brother was walking with me, we didn’t get home until 7 o’clock. We were so tired and it was dark, so we played singing games. We sang, “High on a Mountain Top.”

We checked the distance on the odometer of the pickup. It was 15 Km (nearly 9 ½ miles). Those who measure such things report that 4 miles per hour is a good, brisk walk. At that rate, the first 8 miles would take two hours, and the extra mile and a half would take another 38 minutes. Quite probably walking rate measurements were taken for a short distance on a relatively smooth, flat path.

The road hazards, as well as the heat, and rain, could significantly increase the difficulty and the time needed to trek to and from church each Sunday.  If he didn’t have money for fare, he probably had to wait until he got home to eat. But the young elder’s commitment was never conditional. He planned to come every week, and he did. Week after week, he raised his own personal banner of faith on his mountain top.

Shall the youth of Zion falter

In defending truth and right?

While the enemy assaileth,

Shall we shrink or shun the fight?

No! True to the faith that our parents have cherished,

True to the truth for which martyrs have perished,

To God’s command,

Soul, heart, and hand,

Faithful and true we will ever stand.

 

 

Angels Have Charge — June 25, 2014

A bucket for the well

A soccer ball “bucket” for a well

Butterfly gate

Butterfly gate

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we have an opportunity to sustain—support, help, pray for—each of our leaders in their callings by raising our right hands when their names are read to us in general conference, stake conference, ward or branch conference, or sacrament meeting. Our sustaining is a vote of confidence in the person, because we recognize that he or she has been called of God through priesthood authority.

Elder Hall had finished calling for a sustaining vote of the leaders of the Toledo Cebu Philippines District. He looked out over the congregation.

For your information, there are 23 missionaries from the Toledo District now serving, or in the Mission Training Center, or who have received calls and will soon be serving. We extend our love and commendation to these young men and women.

We remembered attending a farewell Family Home Evening the week before for a sister about to leave to serve a mission. When we reached the house, her grandmother offered us small boiled bananas. People filtered in from the trails and through the jungle. Few were members of the church but all were friends who had come to honor one of their own. Over forty people squeezed into the house, with more standing outside the doors.

The meeting began with a song, a prayer, and a spiritual thought. A sister missionary gave a short lesson. Then we divided into teams to play games. The rule is that the team that loses has to do a talent. Our team lost. So I taught the group to sing “Once There Was a Snowman,” complete with actions. It was a bit crowded.

Then people gave advice, gave testimony, or expressed love to the young sister, followed by lots of hugs.

As we walked down the dark path to go home, I remembered reading a description of a “black velvet tropical night.” The warm moist breeze was soft and smooth against our cheeks, and really did feel like rich velvet.

A few days later, we were attending a Temple Preparation class for three young sisters who were preparing to receive their blessings in the temple prior to serving a mission. The instructor had shared D&C 109 with the class. Then she asked:

Elder Hall, what blessings have you received from receiving the temple ordinances and making covenants with our Father in Heaven?

He looked down and thought for a few moments. Then he looked up.

You just talked about Doctrine & Covenants section 109. I’d like to read verse 22 again and talk about how the blessings listed there have affected my life.

“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.” (D&C 109:22)

A few years ago we had a family reunion at what is called Alturas Lake in Idaho. My sons and I wanted to float down Alturas Creek to the lake. We rented a kayak and drove up towards the head of the creek.

It was springtime. The snow-melt had turned the usually placid creek into a wide river. One of my sons said the water was too high and that we should not try to float the creek. I said that I thought we would be alright.

Not long after, we knew we were in trouble. Huge pine trees and branches had been caught by the raging torrent and piled up in a log jam just ahead. My sons bailed out, but I stayed with the kayak.

The powerful current forced the kayak down under the log jam. I found myself about ten feet (3 meters) under the water and under the log jam. The force of the water held me so tightly that I could not move any part of my body. I knew that there was no way that I would get to the surface before I drowned.

Elder Hall paused a moment in thought, then continued.

Now, in Joseph Smith’s history, when he made his first attempt to pray vocally for wisdom from God, he said he:

“…was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction. But, exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction … I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head…”

Elder Hall continued his story.

When I thought that there was no hope, it seemed that a conduit opened above me. I was able to go up through that conduit, and, sucking great gulps of air, pull the kayak up after me.

Sisters, the power of God is real. His promises are true. We do go forth from the temple armed with power, with God’s name upon us, and His glory round about us, and with angels to have charge over us.

My life has been preserved a number of times. This was the most dramatic.

Elder Hall smiled a bit ruefully.

I am so grateful that the Lord has given me more time to repent.

President George Q. Cannon said:

“Now, this is the truth. We humble people, we who feel ourselves sometimes so worthless, so good-for-nothing; we are not so worthless as we think. There is not one of us but what God’s love has been expended upon. There is not one of us that He has not cared for and caressed. There is not one of us that He has not desired to save and that He has not devised means to save. There is not one of us that He has not given His angels charge concerning. We may be insignificant and contemptible in our own eyes and in the eyes of others, but the truth remains that we are children of God and that He has actually given His angels … charge concerning us, and they watch over us and have us in their keeping.”

(Gospel Truths, comp. Jerreld L. Newquist, 2 vols., Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1974, 1:2.)

 

 

 

In the Arms of His Love — June 15, 2014

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The mission president opened his scriptures.

I would like to read to you the first recorded words of the Savior as He began His formal ministry. He spoke to a gathering in the town where He spent His youth, to people who did not accept Him. But as He spoke, He declared the mission given to Him by his Father:

“…he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.”(Luke 4:16-21)

The president paused and looked at the missionaries gathered for the Zone conference. It would be the last time President Schmutz would talk to the missionaries in a Zone Conference, as his three years as a mission president would end on July 1. The missionaries had been announcing it as the “Farewell Zone Conference,” and looked forward to being taught by their beloved president one more time.

I want to say to all of you missionaries: it is a privilege to be called to preach. You—each and every one of you—are so valuable to the Savior’s completion of His mission.

You are the ones to find and teach the poor.

You are the ones sent to heal the broken-hearted through the miracle of the gospel.

You are the ones to bring deliverance to those captured and bruised by sin.

You are the ones to give spiritual sight to those blinded by false doctrine.

You are the ones to prepare the world for the acceptable year of the coming of the Lord.

The president paused again as he looked at the faces that he had come to love so much.

When you made the decision to serve a mission, you entered the great University of Mortality. You are earning your first and most important degree. The Savior is your advisor and mentor.

He is with you every day. He walks with you through the courses He Himself first completed. He will not let you fail, because you are working to complete the work that He began in the obscure town of Nazareth. Your work, like His work, will endure throughout the eternities.

Your textbooks are the scriptures. The books don’t cost you hundreds of dollars. They are easy to obtain. But when you hold them in your hands, think of what you have. You are holding centuries of the revealed word of God. Think of the pain, sorrow and sacrifice of the prophets as they prepared spiritually in their time to receive and give the word of God—and you can receive the words so easily!

Be grateful. Let the scriptures be life to you. Let them be bread and water to your soul. Let them open up your view of eternity.

The president paused again. Then he turned to the 53rd chapter of Isaiah.

8 He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.

10 Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.

11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.

12 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

Our Heavenly Father will ask you again and again to make sacrifices. We grow by sacrifice. The Savior taught us about sacrifice. He was bruised, put to grief, and bore our iniquities through the travail of His soul, as He poured out His soul unto death. He sacrificed all that He was and all that He had—for us. He sacrificed that He might go before the Father with His soul as an offering for our sins.

When we let Him make His soul an offering for our sins—when He can see in a single person the acceptance of His atonement—then He shall be satisfied. Then His mission shall be successful. Then, He who was cut off out of the land of the living without earthly seed, without a generation to declare, will receive His seed. For all who will make His soul as offering for their sins will become His seed and heirs, joint heirs with Him as He divides with each the portion of the great.

Let Jesus Christ be the “Captain of our Souls”.

Turn the wheel over to Him. He is a good driver.

Let Him encircle you about eternally in the arms of his love. (2 Nephi 1:15)

 

Jobs — June 12, 2014

2014-06-09 15.00.22

woodworking shop

woodworking shop

power saw

power saw

planer

planer

finishing concrete

finishing concrete

scaffolding

scaffolding

When I got home from my mission, the first job that I got was working for the father of one of my friends.”

It was P Day and Elder Hall was wearing jeans and his blue “Building Contractors” tee shirt. He was talking to a branch member who had just finished changing the oil in our pickup.

“He had a big truck and hauled various loads around the country. He told me he was taking a load to Nevada and would hire me to go with him. I got to his house about 10 in the morning.

He had a big pile of Lodge Pole Pine corral poles about 20 feet long. He told me to load them into the truck. I piled them nearly as high as the cab of the truck. It was about 5 in the afternoon when I finished.

My employer came out of the house and asked if I was ready to go. We climbed into the truck and drove to Twin Falls. He pulled up in front of a building and stopped the truck.

‘I’m singing in a Barber Shop Quartet program here tonight. We will go when it is over.’

I sat and waited. The program ended about 11 PM.

We drove south out of Twin Falls to Nevada, through Elko, through Winamucca, and then south to Fallon, Nevada. We got there about 7 the next morning. There was a Forest Service Office there. They were going to buy the corral poles. We sat and waited until the office opened. After we unloaded the poles, my employer bought me breakfast. It was the first meal I had eaten since breakfast at home the day before.

We drove along a railroad track. The railroad workers walk along the track and tap each tie with a metal bar. If the tie does not appear to be solid, they pull out the spikes and pry the tie out so that it can be replaced.

The ties were scattered along the track. My employer drove along the track while I loaded the ties into the truck. It was after dark when we finished loading the truck. We drove all night back to Wendell. We did not stop to eat. My employer dropped me off at my house and gave me thirty dollars.

He said he was taking out another load the next week if I wanted more work. I didn’t go back.”

Elder Hall paused for a moment.

“My brother-in-law offered me a job next. He worked for a company that installed heat ducts and plumbing. They were remodeling a house and needed to put heat ducts under the floor.”

The listener looked puzzled.

“Why do they need heat ducts?

To get heat in the house.

Why do they want that?

It is cold in our country. We need heat in our houses about six months of the year.

Oh.

In new construction there is a two foot foundation wall around the perimeter of the building, so there is plenty of room to work under the floor. This was a remodel and there was only about 12 inches under the floor.

I inched along on my back, putting in the duct as I went. But the house had been added on to. When I reached the end of the older part, there were two concrete foundation walls blocking my way.

I took a shovel and dug under the concrete. When I thought it was deep enough, I edged my head and shoulders into the hole. When I got as far as my chest, I got stuck. I couldn’t move forward or back. My head was stuck in that dark hole.

I panicked, and it seemed like I swelled and was stuck tighter. I finally had to force myself to relax. For about twenty minutes I forced myself to lie still and breathe slowly. At last I was able dig my heels into the dirt and bit by bit drag myself out of the hole.

I finished that house, but I didn’t go back to that job either.

What did you do next?

I went back to Mackay where my parents were living then. Cloy Jones, one of my missionary companions, came to see me and talked me into enrolling in college. I went to Rexburg to Ricks College. It is called BYU Idaho now. I met Sister Hall there.”

                                                              ***

I think we owe Cloy Jones a really big thank you.

Driving — June 11, 2014

10300682_770880669597673_4528665832837699702_n 2014-01-24 12.05.52 2014-06-09 15.00.22 2014-06-12 09.01.35

After we came home from Zone Conference in Cebu, we went with the Toledo District President to a meeting in Aloguinsan. There was an Independence Day procession and numerous street activities in Toledo. It took us nearly 15 minutes to move through traffic from one street to the next.

As we drove back from Aloguinsan, the District President sat watching the traffic for a few minutes, then started a conversation.

Elder Hall, you drive very fast.

Well, sometimes maybe.

Elder Hall, how old were you when you learned to drive?

Well, I started driving a farm tractor when I was six years old?

Oh, so it was it your tractor?

Yes, it was my dad’s tractor.

So why did you drive? Did your dad let you drive just for the experience?

No, he needed my help. My father had a farm and a dairy and there was a lot of work to do.

But you were only six years old?

Elder Hall passed several vehicles before he answered.

Yes, I was six years old. My next older brother was five years older than me. None of my other older brothers were living at home then. 

In our country there is a very short window of time between the time when the weather has warmed enough that the ground can be worked, and before the ground is too dry to plant. If the ground is too dry, the seed can’t sprout and we lose the crop.

So my father showed me how to operate the tractor and I worked up one of the fields.

The District President thought a moment. He works at the Carmen Copper mines and knows about big equipment.

Elder Hall, how big were you then? Were you big enough to reach the foot controls?

It was a relatively small tractor, but I had to stand up to reach the pedals. I stood between the seat and the steering wheel. I could hold onto the wheel and use one foot for the clutch. If I needed the brake I needed to use both feet.

So when did you learn to drive a pickup.?

When I was ten years old, I started driving the pickup and truck.

Didn’t you have to show a license to drive?

I just drove around the farm.

So it was alright if you just drove inside your farm?

Yes. At that time in Idaho, I was able to get a drivers’ license when I was fourteen. Then I could drive on the roads.

So …you have been driving for a very long time. It is good that you have a lot of experience driving.

I thought maybe the president looked a bit relieved to know that Elder Hall had a lot of driving experience.

 

McDò is in Toledo — June 4, 2014

Senior missionary conference

Senior missionary conference

IMG_4964 IMG_4966 IMG_4967

At the outbreak of the Spanish-American War, Commodore George Dewey sailed from Hong Kong to Manila Bay leading the Asiatic Squadron of the U.S. Navy. On May 1, 1898, the Dewey defeated the Spanish in the Battle of Manila Bay. The Spanish government ceded the Philippine archipelago to the United States in the 1898 Treaty of Paris.

On June 12, 1898, the national hero, Emilio Aguinaldo led the declaration of Philippine independence from Spanish colonial rule. Philippines independence was not recognized either by the United States of America or by Spain.  

The US granted independence to the Philippines on 4 July 1946 through the Treaty of Manila and July 4 was observed as Independence Day until 12 May 1962, when President Diosdado Macapagal issued Presidential Proclamation No. 28, which declared Tuesday, 12 June a special public Independence Day holiday throughout the Philippines, “… in commemoration of our people’s declaration of their inherent and inalienable right to freedom and independence.

The barangay fiestas of April and May have now accelerated into the Hinulawan Festival and the Philippine National Holiday of Independence Day celebrations. Streets are blocked nightly for parties and markets.

Toledo City came from Old Hinulawan and New Hinulawan.

Old Hinulawan was destroyed on June 3, 1863 when a series of earthquakes shook Hinulawan.

The first tremor toppled the newly built school, leveled several houses to the ground, and caused the church facade to collapse. It caused injuries and death to several residents from falling debris.

The quake that followed brought greater damage: complete destruction of the church and the convent; cracking of the lowlands in all directions; crumbling of the stonewalls along the Hinulawan river bank; and sagging of the ground, causing water from the sea and the river to rush in and flood the settlement to waist level.

A third temblor totally destroyed pueblo Hinulawan.

The survivors were rescued by residents of neighboring highland localities.[6]

The refugees who survived the Hinulawan earthquakes slowly rebuilt their lives in the days that followed. With the help of the people of Barangay Tubod, some of the survivors cleared portions of the virgin forest and plateau in the vicinity of Tubod and constructed houses with roof made of cogon grass. Those who did not want to live in the new clearings built their homes at the foot of the Tubod highlands. They buried their dead in a cemetery in a certain part of the plateau not far from where they lived.

The area occupied by this particular group, a majority of the survivors, subsequently evolved into the New Hinulawan.

A minority of the refugees decided to migrate to other places: the hinterlands of Da-o, Bulok-bulok, Landahan, and Sam-ang as well as the pioneering settlements in the seafronts of Cabito-onan and Batohanon.

In those days pirate attacks against pueblos situated near the shores of Tañon Strait were rampant. To protect themselves against such attacks, the residents of New Hinulawan built a baluarte, or bulwark, made of chopped stone blocks piled along the shoreline. With the passage of time, however, the bulwark became dilapidated and fell apart, its remnants forever buried in the sand during the construction of the first municipio, or Municipal Hall building. The municipio itself was destroyed by Philippine Commonwealth troops and Cebuano guerrillas in World War II.

Many years later, a few among those who resettled in New Hinulawan decided to return to their former homes in Old Hinulawan when the depressed lowlands gradually became habitable. Old Hinulawan is the present-day Barangay Daanglungsod.

We live in a house at the foot of the Tubod highlands. One of the most exciting events of the Toledo 2014 celebration is the opening of the new McDonalds. Construction began in early April, with 24 hour shifts to meet the deadline for opening on June 1.  People here call it McDo, with the accent on the last syllable and a strong long “o” sound. I’d rather have a McDonalds than an earthquake.