Sunday, September 21, 2014

Magandang Gabi!

September 15, 2014

Kumusta po kayo? Napakbuti kami! 

We hope you are all doing well. I can't believe September is already half over.  We went in to a store today in Quezon and they had a couple of Christmas trees up.  Not the trees we know, just a bunch of empty branches with lights on them, but definitely Christmas trees.  I can't believe that start this early even in the Philippines! But, Christmas will be here before you know it. I can't imagine Christmas without snow and cold, but we will find out what that is like.  

It was another busy week last week, but good. We were able to visit several less active families, mostly in Bagong Sikat. And we went to see the family of Sister Gabil.  She is recently reactivated and comes to the Sandoval meetinghouse. She has wanted us to visit for a while, and had previously asked the Elders to go, but they hadn't made it out. We were finally able to go.  I was excited about it because she had told us that they really don't have a religion.  However, only the wife was available to meet with us, and although I think she felt something as the missionaries were teaching her, she said she didn't think her husband would listen and she will follow her husband.  But perhaps a seed was planted. 

And last week I invited our little cleaning gal to have the missionaries teach her.  I don't know if I told you about her or not.  My mind has been going for a long time, now I think it is gone completely.  Anyway, her name is Marina.  She started cleaning for Elder and Sister West, who were before the Gwilliams. The Gwilliams continued with her and so we have as well.  She comes in every 2 or 3 weeks.  Not that we really need it, but she needs it.  She is really an amazing young woman.  I have also had her coming on the weeks that she doesn't clean, to help me with Tagalog, and I pay her for that as well. During one session I asked her what things she likes to do and she said what she would really like to do is study - go to school but she cannot.  Then she told me her story.  When she was 14 her dad died after being sick for 11 months. At that point she quit school and started working to support the family. I think there are 6 kids, but I'm not sure. And, I know she is not the oldest in the family so I'm not sure why she was the one to support the family.  I know she has an older brother who is handicapped, and an older sister that was in some kind of accident and can't work. And I know she has several younger sisters. Anyway, she told me how hard it was.  She worked for a woman who did catering from her home. Marina would cook and clean and deliver the food. She said the woman she worked for was very mean to her, but she was thankful for the job because she learned to cook.  At some point she started working for Sister Lopez, a member of the church and the owner of the house we rent.  Marina took care of her husband after he had a stroke.  She also did outside work here at the house, and she continues to do that and Sister Lopez pays her. She is now 25 and continues to support her family.  She also provides support for one of her sisters and her daughter because I think this sister took care of the dad while he was sick so I guess she is paying her back for that.  Anyway, she is also paying for a younger sister to go to college.  She is in her second year of college.  Last April she had a baby, not married. So 1/3 of the money she makes is hers, and the rest goes to support her family.  She is just such a good, kind, humble person.  She is catholic, but unlike 95% of the catholic here, she goes to church every Sunday and takes all of her younger sisters. Anyway, as part of our lessons I have been reading the Restoration pamphlet to her in Tagalog, actually she reads it to me so I can hear pronunciation and then I read it to her and she corrects me etc. We have had discussions about what our church believes, as best we can because she isn't really good at English, and we did again last week.  She asked what apostasia was.  Anyway, we talked for about an hour. I invited her to have the missionaries teach her. She said they came once and left her a Book of Mormon to read and she said she tried and tried to read it but she didn't understand it.  All the Filipinos say that it is "deep Tagalog" and many of them prefer an English B of M rather than Tagalog.  Anyway, we had a great visit, I gave her the pamphlet and asked her to pray about having the missionaries visit.  I just so hope she does. She is just an incredible young woman and the gospel would bless her life in so many ways.  But we shall see. 

Saturday was a branch activity - a Sports Fest.  I played volleyball and basketball! Which I have not played for over 40 years, but it was fun.  Dad has been sick again, so he just watched.  I was, and still am sore though.  It was so good for the branch to get together. They are still struggling so much, but we are hoping for some changes to come soon and that should help. 

Also we have been looking for another apartment for the Narra C elders.  Right now they are in the apartment with Narra A but they cover the Sandoval, Bagong Sikat etc areas, which are quite far from their apartment so they spend a lot of time and money traveling.  They and we are hoping we can find something suitable for them that would be much closer.  So far though, we have been unsuccessful.  We have been to 3 different places but they are unlivable, at least for our standards.  The church does have guidelines, actually I think they are the mission standards, and that was one thing that President Stucki really worked on was to improve the living conditions of the missionaries. So, we are praying to find something.  We think it could really help grow the branch out there. The members are getting more enthused about helping the missionaries, so having them closer would be beneficial.  

We also went with Narra B to teach our neighbor.  I still don't think she is genuinely interested, but again, you never know.  If she will read and pray about the Book of Mormon she might change her mind.  In reading the scriptures the other day I realized that just because someone does not feel the Spirit does not mean the teachers are not powerful teachers.  We are all free to close our hearts to the Spirit.  We have really good missionaries, and they teach with the Spirit. We are going to visit her again this week so we will see.  We will be taking the BP and RS president out with us on Friday to visit the 2 less active families that I think I mentioned in our last email. Both have been through the temple and both have been inactive for about a year.  President said he thought they had been offended.  

 Well, I guess it doesn't matter if I write every week or not.  I still go on and on.  I apologize.  I guess I need to learn that I don't need to tell you everything we do.  Actually, I don't, but maybe I need to consolidate or something.  Oh well.  We hope you are all doing well. Please keep us posted.  We love to hear what's going on there.  

Can't believe you're going into fall.  It has cooled off here the last couple of days.  It has been pretty crazy weather.  Mostly hot and not much rain.  Kind of a drought here, which I didn't think happened because they call it the rainy season, but I guess they have droughts here too.  We are praying for more rain because at least one family in our branch has a farm that doesn't have irrigation so they have to wait until there is a lot of rain before they can plant. I'm not sure what they will do if we don't get it. 

Well, we love and miss you all!!! 

Love, Grandpa and Grandma, Mom and Dad

Andrea Once Baptism and Other Fun Pics!

September 8, 2014

I think I've told you about Bro & Sis Dagdag. They are the cutest couple! I found out today that they live several kilometers from the church. Each Saturday they come to Narra (on the bike/cart - I've included a picture) and stay at a member's son's home because he is not there. Then on Sunday afternoon they travel back home.  We had no idea because when they leave from English class they go down the road past the church but yesterday afternoon we saw them way far away from the church in a totally different direction so I asked a friend and she told me the story.  And they are so faithful.  I don't think they have ever missed church except for when they are out of town. 

They call these fan palms.  You can see why.  They are really cool!

Our chapel in Narra. 
They are talking about adding on to it.  We hope they do soon because it is too small now.

Andrea Once

Elder Tofi (from Samoa) and Andrea

Andrea's baptism.  
As I've told you, most people we have met LOVE to have their pictures taken.

 I meant to send this one last time. This is Dad with Brother Binas.  I wish he would have smiled like he did when we gave him his mission call. He has the best, biggest smile! He was so excited!!

White parrots.  
These were in our trees and neighbor's trees.  There were quite a few of them.  We've not seen them before now.  They are really pretty. It was hard to get pics of them.

Departing missionaries.  All the Elders were from Narra zone. The sisters were leaving from Puerto.  The couple at the end are President and Sister Angoy. He serves in the mission presidency but is not a full time missionary.  Actually he is over the Seminary and Institute programs for the Manila area, which includes all of Palawan.  We really love them both!  They are great people.

 Love you all!!!

Minamahal pamilya!

September 8, 2014

Minamahal pamilya!

Another busy week has passed.  I am really going to try to email each week.  We do miss all of you so very much, and I think about and pray for you always! We appreciate your prayers in our behalf, and know that we are blessed because of them.  

We did not have to travel much last week, although we did travel to Puerto for Mission Tour.  We had the area president visit so it was kind of like a zone conference.  It was really good and Elder and Sister Ardern are wonderful people.  They are from New Zealand. They actually have a son who is a seminary teacher in Logan.  I thought that was interesting.  President and Sister Ostler are just really good people.  We love them!  I  don't think I told you about the other senior couple in Puerto.  President and Sister Hiatt are in Puerto, but there is also Elder and Sister Newson.  They are really a cute couple.  Only been married for about a year!  This is the second marriage for both of them.  About 2 months ago they had to go home because Elder has glaucoma and though he faithfully does what he is suppose to do for that, it was getting worse.  He had it checked out in Manila and the doctor there said he definitely needed surgery.  They  decided to go back to the States, St. George, I think, and had surgery on both eyes. They thought things were going pretty well, but then there was still pressure building up behind the eyes, so the doctor said he needed a more involved surgery which would take at least 6 weeks recovery.  They did not feel like they could ask President Ostler to hold their position open for that long, so they were going to ask to be released.  However, President Ostler said we wants them to come back and is willing to keep the position open no matter how long it takes.  We are very happy about that because we really love them.  We only see them about every 3-6 weeks, but we usually have lunch together and they are just very nice people.  We are hoping they come back really soon. 

We have had some good experiences inviting people to hear the message of the restored gospel. While in Puerto we had to stop at the Hyundai dealer and while there we talked to a young woman.  Actually we were talking to another employee and then this other gal came up and started telling us how much she loves the Savior.  She said she was catholic but has been, as she put it, "searching for [her] soul".  She has been attending the Life Church, and reading the Bible, which she loves.  We talked to her about The Church and also about the Book of Mormon.  We promised her that if she would read it, it would change her life. She said she would like to have the missionaries come and gave us her card.  We turned the card over to the Hiatts because we do not know which missionaries would have her area.  We just hope that that will follow through, and that she will listen.  Here a lot of people will agree to let you come visit just to be polite, even if they are not interested.  But she seems like a really good candidate.  And then there was the security guard at the gas station, I think I told you about him.  But so far the missionaries have not followed up with him, but they said they would.  He genuinely seemed interested.  On Friday we were able to go with the missionaries to visit our next door neighbor (kapit bahay - that's neighbor in Tagalog). She is really a sweet woman.  It was her daughter that tried to break into our house, and stole the tools and other things that were being kept outside.  Anyway, we asked her if she would like to learn about our church and she said yes. So we visited on Friday.  But we really didn't feel that she was genuinely interested - just willing because we are neighbors.  But we will go again on Friday.  We never really know! 

Saturday we had a baptism!  Andrea Once.  She is a young woman, here going to college. I think I told you that they finish high school at 16 so they can be in college and still in YW.  Anyway, she and a friend (a member) came to Narra to go to college.  While here she started being taught by the missionaries. She also attends (off and on) the English class.  She is really a cute girl and hopefully will stay active.  There is such a problem here with retaining converts.  I don't know if that is a problem everywhere, but I have really come to realize how very  important it is for members to just embrace new members, and to love them and take care of and nurture them.  It is such a big step and can be so difficult for the new converts. 

On Sunday Dad had the privilege of blessing 2 babies.  One was the 4th child of this woman whose husband left her, I think right before we got here. She is a return missionary, I'm not sure if her husband is a member or not.  There is no divorce here in the Philippines, unless you are rich.  Then you can buy a divorce.  But these people cannot afford that. Anyway, she has been inactive, but started coming a few weeks ago, and it was her friend that was baptized a couple of weeks ago with her family. So we are hoping she will keep coming.  It is so hard for all of the people here, just harder for some. The other one was a young girl, 16 or 17 I think, but she looks 12.  Not married. Her family is inactive but she had been very active up until about a year or so ago.  She left home. Anyway, she is back home and she has been coming to church.  It has been very hard for her and she has no family support, so hopefully she can just keep coming.  Anyway, that was fun for Dad. 

After church we went visiting with our EQ president.  We visited several less actives - actually tried to visit - some were not home.  One sister has not been to church for 15 years, and does not seem at all interested in coming back.  The really sad part is that she (they - I believe her husband is a member too, but we did not see him), have 6 children.  Only one in six is a member.  I think he is active.  You just look at the far reaching effects of the choices we make as parents.  I know that I have made some very bad mistakes as a mother, and I feel so bad about that.  I was just stupid and did not consider how my choices would affect you.  And when you get to be my age you spend a lot of time reflecting on those mistakes.  So, take my advice, and really consider the choices you make and how they will affect your children in the long run. 

Anyway, we visited another family that Brother Asis said has been inactive for about a year.  He said they have been to the temple, so that is really sad.  However, both Dad and I felt that they would be a good family to focus on and try to help them come back. We did not meet the father because he is working, but they have 2 cute girls, 2 and 10, and another baby on the way.  There are some really wonderful people here!  I wish you could all meet them.  They have such challenges here, but they just keep trying.  

Today I went visiting with Sister Martinez, who comes to the cooking class and who helps me with Tagalog.  We went to visit President Simeon's daughter.  He is in the branch presidency.  His daughter is inactive.  She was not there, but we shared the message with him. He has such a powerful testimony.  He loves the Book of Mormon. He is an older man, they have 8 children, his wife had to go to work in Manila because they could not make it.  He is a fisherman, but that is hard because there are many times they cannot go fishing because of the weather.  But he basically says the trials and hardships really don't matter because he has the gospel of Jesus Christ.  He is just so thankful, and really so amazing.  It was really a great visit.  Anyway, that's our week. 

Oh, I don't know if I told you, Mike and Maxine Egan are on their mission.  They are in the South Dakota mission, which takes in areas in several states.  She sent me an update and they are doing well.  I felt kind of jealous because they are able to teach and testify in ENGLISH!!  Not being able to really express myself is so hard! But I suppose we are here for a reason. I just really hope that someday, hopefully soon, I will be able to express myself in Tagalog.  Well, we love and miss you all!  Thanks so much for writing - all of you!  We love hearing from you, even though we are not able to respond right away.  

We love you! 

Grandpa and Grandma, Mom and Dad 

Sunday, September 7, 2014


September 2, 2014

On the way home from BP we saw these girls walking home in the rain. They looked so cute, they were using pieces of plastic to cover themselves, but by the time  we turned around to get their picture they'd taken off the plastic, but we took their picture anyway.  Most Filipinos we know love having their pictures taken.

A bridge we go over every time we travel to Brooke's Point or Cabar. It's a little scary.

All the kids, even the college kids here wear uniforms. For the girls they are all really modest, which is so refreshing!

Magandang tanghali

August 31, 2014
Magandang tanghali!

Another week or two has passed.  And they have been crazy weeks!  Week before last we had 5 flat tires! We had a total of 8 or 9 for the month. So that week we spent a lot of time changing and having tires repaired.  Mostly dad did that. We were blessed because we never got stranded.  We had a flat Sunday while heading to Rizal.  So we turned around and came home.  Then we decided to take a chance and go to Aborlan, which is only about half an hour away, compared to about 3 hours to Rizal. (And the road to Aborlan is much better than to Rizal.) We made it there and back. Monday we were heading to Puerto for tires, after having the flat repaired, which they really did not want to do because they knew it wasn't really repairable, and we had another flat.  We put the newly repaired tire on and went back to Narra.  The owner of the tire place let us borrow a used tire, which he had to repair, twice, I think, before it was usable.  But that was really nice of him, and the Lord blessed us to make it to Puerto, without a spare.  The flat we had that morning completely destroyed the tire. We have been on the road 6 of the last 8 days.  Today and tomorrow we will be home, and then to Puerto again for Zone Conference, with Elder Ardern of the Area Presidency. 

The work here is kind of slow right now.  We did have a family, without the father, baptized last weekend.  The father is working out of the country and the family were going to wait, but he was very supportive and encouraged them to go ahead with it if they felt it was right.  Not sure when he will be home, but hopefully he will be interested. 

We have been visiting a part member family.  Sister Sevilia just had her 8th child.  Her husband has been very sick with TB and out of work for, I think more than a year.  They had moved him to Brookes Point to a rehab center there, but everyone was pretty convinced that he was going to die.  Sister Sevilia requested the Elders in BP to give him a blessing.  They did and almost immediately he started to recover.  Right after the blessing he told his wife that when he got better he wanted to be baptized.  He was able to come home shortly after that, but was quite weak.  However, he has been gaining his strength and the last several times we have gone to visit he was out trying to do some work. The Elders have also been to visit to try to teach him and he has avoided them.  But yesterday our new district leader said they went out and were able to teach him and he was very receptive.  So that is good news! We don't really know him well, actually only visited with him once, but Sister Sevilia is a good, strong woman and it would be a blessing to them if he was baptized and they could attend church.  She has not come since we have been here because she has had to work.  They are very poor, as you can imagine.  

More good news with the Mondares family.  They were baptized several months ago, except the father because of WoW issues. While they were all being taught he was very interested and involved in the lessons.  But I think quitting his habits was harder than he anticipated so I think he got discouraged.  Then, apparently he was offended by the Elders, and maybe that was just an excuse, but he became very disinterested and cool towards them.  But, he has had a change of heart and is again being taught.  We hope he will continue to move forward.  Our Branch needs good, strong, committed men.  

The average attendance in our Branch is between 165-200, but we cannot become a ward because there are not enough active, full tithe paying Melchizedek priesthood holders.  Brother Magsino is doing well on overcoming his addiction.  He is such a good man and has a good family.  He continues to come to church, they have actually been going to church since we arrived here.  He truly does desire to live the gospel and to become an eternal family.  I remember when he was taught about the priesthood, and that he could hold the priesthood to bless his family and others and he became very emotional.  I believe it is just a matter of time, the Lord's time, before he is ready.  

The Sandoval group is doing really well.  We go there for Sacrament meeting and then back to Narra for the other meetings.  We love going there because the Spirit is strong and the members who attend there are united and really want to establish a Branch there.  Right now we are waiting for a mileage report, something like that, to determine if they are far enough away from the Narra chapel to warrant building a chapel there. We really hope so. 

We are still going out with the Gatuds to visit on Thursday.  They have been great visits and some of those we have visited are returning. We just need to get established as a branch so we have leadership there and can have all the meetings.  Right now they just have Sacrament meeting and then Sunday School. 

Well, in closing I would just like to share an experience I had on Saturday/Sunday.  I have actually really been struggling the last 3 weeks.  I haven't wanted to study the language, no motivation, I've wondered if we are really making any difference, and I have just been really tired. I have prayed and fasted about it.  I've wondered if I shouldn't be trying to learn the language.  I've wondered if my heart was not right or something.  Not really depressed, maybe discouraged, and kind of just unmotivated and lost.  So, again on Saturday I started another fast.  I just pleaded with Heavenly Father to help me understand what was going on with me. Was I not to be studying the language, was it Satan's influence, was I doing something wrong, not doing what I should be doing.  I just needed to know. I went to bed that night with the thought that no, the Lord had not forsaken me and I just needed to press forward.  About 3am I woke up, just almost fully awake, not groggy or anything, and almost immediate the words to a hymn, "Satan will try you, the weight of you calling he perfectly knows". I realized that that was my answer.  The hymn is #266 The Time is Far Spent. I read it and it was very inspiring.  It was just another testimony to me that the Lord does hear and answer our prayers, and sometimes He does it in amazing ways.  I thought, if we had of sung that hymn in church I may have missed the message, but it was very clear to me.  I also looked up the scriptures that are listed with that hymn, and that was something else that I know I needed to be reminded of.  One of the scriptures was D&C 32:2-10, I think.  In those verses it says 3 times open your mouth.  I know that I need to do that.  It is not so hard to do it in English, but it is SOOOO hard in Tagalog! But, I need to do it. For me, I believe this is what the Lord wants me to do.  It is really stretching me, and it is painful and humbling.  I know I cannot do it without His help. But, as the hymn says, "the path may be thorny but Jesus is nigh you, His arm is sufficient, though demons oppose."  I need to have faith in that!  His arm is sufficient. I know that.  I need to trust it. 

Well, once again, sorry this is so long.  I'm sure you don't have time to sit down and read the whole thing.  But, we sure love hearing from all of you.  

We love and miss you all!! Thank you for your prayers - they are much needed and much appreciated!! 

Love, Dad and Mom, Grandpa and Grandma