Monthly Archives: December 2013

Simplify –December 8, 2013

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A friend who used to live in Idaho made the following comment:

For some reason the first thing I think about when it freezes is the little light my dad had on the pipes for our shower. The pipes ran bare up the cement wall and could easily freeze.

For those of you who are experiencing significantly below-freezing weather, here are a few comments about plumbing in the Philippines.

Water pipes are laid on the top of the ground here. It makes it easier to “watch” the pipes and see if there is a leak or break. Sink faucets are simplified, too. Faucets don’t need controls for hot and cold. A simple on/off lever will do the job. Water heaters are an unneeded complication. If you shower in the afternoon, the water is naturally heated by the sun shining on the pipes that lay on top of the ground. A light to heat the pipes and keep them from freezing? The water in the pipes will never freeze. Why waste the electricity?

Henry David Thoreau, in his search for the meaning of life, sought to simplify, simplify, simplify. The Lord is a master of simplicity. In less than 20 words, He explains the whole purpose of the creation of the earth and our lives here.

“For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” (Moses 1:39.)

Robert L. Simpson explains this scripture:

We do what is right for various reasons, but…this scripture summarizes in one sentence the sum and substance, the purpose of all creation. When I was young, I always assumed it would be impossible for God to participate further in the great process of eternal progression. After all, he was perfect. All knowledge was his. He had indeed overcome all things. But understanding this scripture, I now know that he is capable of further glorification or exaltation. Indeed he is added upon through the success of his children. Your failure or my failure diminishes his possibilities. Our success in righteous endeavors adds further glory to his name. Should not that be the perfect motivation to do right? It is perfect because it is without selfish interest.(Liahona July 1977)

Ten people were baptized in the Toledo Zone this weekend. Their faith and sacrifice have added further glory to that God who dearly loves each of his children.

As a father baptized his wife and four children, some of that glory was reflected in his face. The scene was simply beautiful.

Storms –December 4, 2013

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When people think of the Philippines, most remember the broadcasts of the devastation of Typhoon Yolanda. Big disasters make the news throughout the world. Those who lived through the storm continue to tell their stories. A missionary previously assigned to Tacloban shared the following:

Near the storm center, there were some missionaries who stayed in their house through the storm. When the worst had passed, they opened their door, only to find that theirs was the only house standing in the neighborhood.

In another area nearby, nearly ninety percent of the people lost their lives. The missionaries and the church members were among those who survived.

It is a miracle that although there were over 200 missionaries scattered throughout the island, none lost their lives. None were injured.

The typhoon has passed, and resilient people go about daily rebuilding their lives. But in the lives of the people of the Philippines, as in the lives of all people throughout the world, small storms continue to enter each life.

During the last several days, we have visited the family of a father of twelve who was killed in a fall. We visited another family to admire their newborn baby. Two young men were in a motorcycle accident. One escaped with scrapes and bruises, the other is in critical condition.

A man spoke of his desire to be baptized and of his struggle to overcome his addiction to nicotine. We went to the hospital where a daughter had brought her father because he could not talk. Nearby, a baby screamed while the nurses attempted to draw blood.

People are burdened by bills they cannot pay; others do not have even a few pesos to buy rice.

President Dieter F.Uchtdorf says  “As I look over my own life, it is apparent that many of the times of greatest growth have come to me while passing through stormy seasons.

Our all-wise Heavenly Father knew that for His children to grow into the beings they were designed to become, they would need to experience seasons of adversity during their sojourn in mortality. The Book of Mormon prophet Lehi said that without opposition, “righteousness could not be brought to pass” (2 Nephi 2:11). Indeed, it is life’s bitterness that allows us to recognize, contrast, and appreciate its sweetness (see D&C 29:39; Moses 6:55).

President Brigham Young put it this way: “All intelligent beings who are crowned with crowns of glory, immortality, and eternal lives must pass through every ordeal appointed for intelligent beings to pass through, to gain their glory and exaltation. Every calamity that can come upon mortal beings will be suffered … to prepare them to enjoy the presence of the Lord. … Every trial and experience you have passed through is necessary for your salvation.”1

The question is not whether we will experience seasons of adversity but how we will weather the storms. Our great opportunity during the ever-changing seasons of life is to hold fast to the faithful word of God, for His counsel is designed not only to help us weather the storms of life but also to guide us past them. Our Heavenly Father has given His word through His prophets—precious knowledge designed to lead us through the challenges of difficult seasons toward the unspeakable joy and brilliant light of eternal life. It is an important part of our life’s experience to develop the strength, courage, and integrity to hold fast to truth and righteousness despite the buffeting we may experience…

Sometimes we cannot understand why difficult, even unfair, things happen in life. But as followers of Christ, we trust that if we “search diligently, pray always, and be believing, … all things shall work together for [our] good, if [we] walk uprightly” (D&C 90:24; emphasis added). (Liahona, Sept. 2013)

The tree in the picture was toppled by a storm a number of years ago. It did not give up, but grew deeper roots and new branches. It is now large, welcome shade tree, and is stronger than before.




Craziest Sale? –November 30, 2013

Old leaves will turn brown and fall New leaves turn light green New leaves at blssoming time Mango blossom

We went to the Metro at 10 AM this morning. There was a live band performing on the steps in front of the store, so both the incoming and outgoing traffic squeezed through the same door. We inched through crowds of people and up the escalator past clerks in Santa outfits and an enhanced selection of Christmas decorations.

Loud speakers blared announcements of special sale prices from 7 AM to 12 PM today only, and urged people to take advantage of the “craziest sale of the year.” We looked both upstairs and downstairs to find a sympathy card, then went to the Giasano Grand Mall. After getting four sales clerks to help us, we found some blank notecards with envelopes. It was almost what we were looking for.

Whew! And we thought we would avoid Black Friday if we were half the world away from home!

Oh well, at least you can enjoy the pictures of the magic mango tree.







Snapshots — November 27, 2013

Sunset from the hills of Lamac Sunrise over hills of Toledo Harbor area of Toledo Toledo power plant and commercial dock

We started the day by climbing up the hill overlooking Toledo to watch the sunrise. We ended the day with a sunset in the hills of Lamac. In between, we took supplies to missionaries, made a trip to Aloguinsan, contacted other missionaries, took missionaries to Pinamunggajan and then to Lamac.

As we traveled, I thought of some of the beautiful people of Cebu. Here are some word snapshots.

The small girl peeked around the corner of the house while she held onto her sister’s leg. Her thick dark hair framing her tiny pixy face and big eyes gave her a “Dora” look. As we continued to talk to her mother, who was holding her baby brother, she stepped a little farther from the house. I smiled and gestured to her to come over. She stayed where she was.

It began raining. The mother called to the older girl to come and get the chairs, and she invited us to come into their house. As we entered the house, the small girl took my hand and led me to a chair, then sat on the floor. The mother looked at the girl and then at us.

We’ve had her tested. There is no response in either of her ears. She can’t hear a thing.

How old is she?

She is three.

Are you teaching her sign language?

No. We can enroll her in a school to learn sign language when she is six years old.


The man sitting across from us looked tired.

I could hardly get to sleep last night.

What happened?

The church was so noisy.

Which one?

Oh, the one over there.

What were they doing?

They were broadcasting very loud.

What did they say?

Oh, mostly they were trying to make the people afraid. They say that if people do not join their church they will not be saved.

How sad! “For God has not given us a spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7)


There was a gecko clinging to the wood panel.

Is that a gecko?


But it has stripes on its tail.

It is a baby gecko.

Elder Hall waved his hand to scare the gecko away. The young lady cried out.

Oh, don’t do that! I want it.

You want the gecko?


What will you do with it?
I want to take it home. We don’t have geckos in our house.

What will he eat?

I will put a big screen over the top of a jar so mosquitos can get in and he will eat them. And he will eat rice.

We have an empty peanut butter jar with a lid. Will that do?


Do you think you will be quick enough to catch it?


She quickly and adeptly put the jar over the small lizard, shook it down to the bottom and put the lid on. She took it into the house and cut small holes in the side of the jar. Then she went outside to get a small stick, broke it to length, and put it in the jar for the gecko to climb on. She crooned to the small animal and asked his name.

What did he say to you?

He opened his mouth like he wanted to say “Ahhh.”

So what is his name?

His name is “Mr. Ah.”







Transfer Week –November 24, 2013

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I hate transfers! It hurts too much to see people leave.

The speaker, a new convert who feeds and loves the missionaries almost every day, had a point. As we stood in the terminal saying good-byes and watching the missionaries get on the bus to go to their new areas, it was heart-rending. It is never easy to say good-by, even if only for a while.

Newly called missionaries spend six weeks in the mission training center, and then are sent to the area where they will be serving. When they come, they are assigned an experienced companion who will be their “trainer.” Therefore, other companionships must be changed as the trainers go with their new companions.

With the pain of saying good-by, there is the joy of meeting new enthusiastic missionaries who are excited to devote all their time and talents to serving the Lord. This transfer, there were only two missionaries who went home. Last transfer, there were four and the transfer before, there were nine. That means that a year and a half to two years ago, there were very few missionaries coming to the Philippines Cebu mission. Now there is a virtual flood of new missionaries. The Lord is planning miracles for the Philippines.

Elder Hall, can you come and go the airport with us to get the new missionaries on Wednesday? We have thirty-three new missionaries coming, and their LUGGAGE.

Sure. What time to you need us to be here?

The plane is scheduled to come in at 8:30, so could you be here by 7:30?


Do you want to come the night before and spend the night here?

No, we will come in the morning.

We started at five o’clock Wednesday morning. The road from Toledo to Cebu City winds 60 kilometers up, down, around, and over the steep mountains and deep ravines of the island of Cebu. The island of Cebu is only about 15 miles across as the crow flies, but the tortuous path the road must take requires at least an hour and a half of white-knuckle driving.

We had not been to the airport since the day we arrived, so we followed Elder Ernstrom, an office senior missionary, who promised to drive “safely and somewhat sanely.” We followed all the signs to the arrival area, only to be told that the plane was late, and we should wait in a parking area until 8:40. We waited, then drove back around to the unloading area between two large buildings. Eventually a few missionaries trickled out of the building. They had come from the Mission Training Center in Manila.

Did you see the missionaries from the United States?


Another missionary spoke up.

We were there at 2:00 AM. We didn’t see anyone from the Provo MTC.

We waited. The mission presidents from the Cebu and from the Cebu East missions walked to the corner of one of the building to confer with some officials.

Any news?

The plane hasn’t arrived in Manila yet. No one knows why.

We stood by the vehicles and waited. No vehicle is to be left unattended. After two and a half hours,  thirty-three missionaries for the Cebu mission and seventeen for the Cebu East mission streamed out of the building. All were greeted with smiles and hugs.

Wow! What a trip!

I am loving this heat!

Has anyone seen my bag?

Sister, how do you ever get used to this heat?

Elder, you can take your suit jacket off now. You won’t need it here.

It was crazy! Our plane was an hour late leaving LA, and then we stopped in Hawaii for an hour. Nobody knows why. We missed our plane connection in Manila, and had to run to catch the last plane out of there for today. I think we’ve lost some of our luggage.

Sister Schmutz carefully checked off each name on her list.

I have nightmares about someone running back for something at the last minute and getting left behind.

We drove back to the mission home, where the planned breakfast became “brunch.” As the missionaries began their orientation meetings, our phone began ringing. The zone leaders needed us to help bring the transferring missionaries from outlying areas to Toledo and Balamban, where they could take a bus to their new areas in the morning. We said our goodbyes and prepared to leave.

Take good care of the missionaries from Tacloban. They had some really tough times there. But their biggest fear has been that they would be sent home early and not be able to finish their missions. They are glad to be working with us here.

We are so glad to have them. Thanks, President. We appreciate all that you do.

Lamac is about 40 minutes from Pinamunggajan over extremely rough, narrow, sometimes-graveled, pot-holed mountain roads. The elders from Lamac usually travel to Pinamunggajan to e mail their families on the Wednesday preparation days, and to come to the Monday District Meetings.  They travel by hubal-hubal, the two of them on the back of a motorcycle. Lamac can also be accessed from Toledo by driving 30 minutes east to Lutopan over crowded, but paved, roads and then another 30 minutes on a sometimes-paved and sometimes not-paved road that is not quite as rough as the one from Pinamunggajan.

Pinanungaggjan is about 30 minutes south of Toledo along the coast road. Aloguinsan is another 30 minutes past Pinamunggajan.

Casoy is about 45 minutes north-east of Toledo into the mountains. Balamban is about a half hour north of Toledo. Missionaries from all of these areas were to be moved during this transfer, and new missionaries moved in. There is no such thing as a quick easy drive in the Philippines.

When we got back from Cebu (“the city”), we went to Lamac through Lutopan. We got there at 4 PM, but the missionaries weren’t expecting us until 5, so we waited. The missionaries can’t carry all their luggage by hubal-hubal. When they were ready, we took the rough road to Pinamunggajan. We waited there for the missionaries to come from Aloguinsan. The missionaries who were not transferring stayed in Pinamunggajan, and we took the others to Toledo. It was close to 9:00 PM and the missionaries from Lutopan still needed to be brought to Toledo. Those missionaries who were to be trainers for new incoming missionaries needed to be in Cebu by 8 AM. They would leave from Balamban in order to be there on time.

Elder Hall, I have a Philippine drivers’ license. Could we take your pick-up and get the other missionaries?

Elder Hall gladly handed the keys to the Zone Leaders. It would take another three hours of driving to finish the day’s work.

We will come and get the truck in the morning.

But you don’t have a way to get here.

We can take a tricycle.

We expected that Thursday would be another long day as we took the missionaries to their new areas. It also took most of Friday. But we did get back to Toledo in time to make some visits to investigators with the sister missionaries.

Thank you for letting us go with you tonight. This has been the highlight of our week.

Thank you for going with us. I really wanted to go with you one more time before I leave.

We shook the sweet sister missionary’s hand and gave her hugs. There really isn’t an easy way to say good-bye.

On Saturday morning we planned to pick up beds for the new missionaries and deliver them. It took most of the day. At four o’clock, when we thought we were ready to go home, we received a call asking us to take a missionary and his companion to Cebu. He was one who had experienced the horrors and devastation of the typhoon in Tacloban, and needed to meet with President Schmutz. We drove back to Toledo, then through Lutopan to Lamac, then back to Toledo and to Cebu City. President Schmutz was in a meeting so we left the missionaries with the Assistants to the President (AP’s).

Do you want to go to McDonalds?


We never liked McDonald’s hamburgers at home. But somehow when we can get them here, they taste good. We took a card from the guard at the gate to the parking lot, and went inside to order and eat. The AP’s met us as we got out of the truck.

Elder and Sister Hall! It is so good to see you again!

They reached inside the back door to pull out scriptures and bags that the missionaries had left in the truck.

Elder Hall, it was an inspired decision you made to come here. We didn’t know how we were going to get the things for the elders.

We hadn’t really considered McDonald’s an inspired place before.

We spent Sunday in church, trying to stay awake, and contemplating the miracles of God. In one week, He added fifty new missionaries to the Cebu Mission. In one week, the missionary force was increased by over 25%.

We will go to Balamban in the morning to get two suitcases for a sister newly transferred to our area from Tacloban. Her bags were found by some members in Tacloban as they sifted through the rubble; another small miracle as God tells a young sister that He loves her.

We didn’t celebrate a traditional Thanksgiving Day this week, but we have much to be thankful for.