March 18, 2015
Time just goes by so fast! I am sorry I didn't write last week. I try to do it on Mondays, but sometimes the day just slips by and I don't get it done and I always think I'll do it tomorrow, and then before we know it it is another week.
We have been very busy with District conference - our branch was assigned to have a choir, which was a lot of fun, then we had Zone conference last Friday, and then flew to Manila that night because we had to do fingerprinting on Saturday. We have to be fingerprinted before we can leave the country, so for all foreigners who will finish their missions this year (any of the 21 missions in the Philippines), they are trying to get them all done so there are no hold ups when it's time to leave. The Gwilliams almost got held up because they were not told they needed to be fingerprinted so at the last minute they had to fly them over to have that done. It was really kind of fun because we met so many senior couple missionaries from the various missions.
After we were done Elder and Sister Northrup from our mission, who work in the office, took us to S & R, which is the Philippine's Costco - we really think it has to be connected because they have a lot of the Kirkland brands and it is set up just like a Costco -, any way, they took us there and then to the hospital to see Sister Hiatt. I think I told you about her emergency appendectomy and then all the trouble since then. Actually, I'm not sure what I told you, but I didn't tell you about a couple of miracles that happened to them with regards to all of this. She had the surgery in Puerto because it was emergency and there were no available flights to Manila. She went home and just got sicker and sicker, so went back to the hospital in Puerto. They didn't seem to know what was going on, but there were still no available flights to Manila. President Hiatt called President Ostler so he started looking and found 2 flights. That was a miracle because the reason there were suddenly flights is because the day before they had had to cancel a flight, probably because of high winds, so they sent a jumbo jet from Manila so they could take all the passengers from the day before and that day as well. And it just happened that there were 2 extra seats, even with passengers from 2 flights. They never have jumbo jets in Puerto because it is a very small airport and the take off and landing strip is short. Anyway, the jet was backed up all the way to the road and when a plane takes off it is right over the ocean and Sister Hiatt said when that jet took off she looked out her window and the ocean was right there - they were just barely above it, but it just kept going and finally was able to actually take off. Pretty scary! Even in Manila there continued to be problems, so she has been in the hospital for about a month, maybe longer, I can't remember. But we just got word that she was released today, but they will stay in Manila for at least a month before they can return to Puerto. Sorry - that was a long side note, but I just find it so amazing the way the Lord works.
But to finish with our trip - then the Northrups took us to the airport. It was really fun spending time with them. We didn't really know them well. They are from Colorado and converts. We got home late Saturday night, exhausted, but it is good to get that out of the way so at least there won't be a hold up there. The work just continues on.
They started the temple prep class in our branch last Sunday and all 4 families were there. We are really excited for them! They are great families! And, the area presidency wants all new converts to take family names with them when they go to the temple (obviously they want all members to do that, but sometimes I think that probably is overlooked when members are going for the first time), so we are and will be working with them to get the names. It is so exciting!
The Church property is finally getting cleared and tilled so that is great. It is hard, back-breaking work because it is all done by hand with a big bolo, or machete, and they make 300 pesos per day, which is about $7.50, which the elders said is really good money for them. Then we have to check into getting water to it. So, there is still so much to do, but nothing new at the moment. But that could change in an instant.
I did want to share an experience we had yesterday. We were coming out of a store and an American man called out to us, something like, "oh, they even let Americans here", just something kind of funny and very friendly. But when he found out we were "Mormons", his attitude changed immediately to negative and hateful. He said he was a Christian and when we told him that we were also he said, "No you're not, you follow Joseph Smith and Brigham Young" He said they were anti-Christs. He wouldn't really let us say much but we were able to tell him of course we believe in Jesus Christ - His name is the name of our church. He said, well, the bible says even the devil can dress up like a person of light, something like that. We told us we needed to be born again and washed clean in the blood of Christ. We said, yes, absolutely, we all need that, and he said, "Oh, you believe that huh? So, you're just hanging around with a bunch of "morons". Then as he walked away he said, "but that's okay because one day you will find out that you followed the wrong church!" That was kind of what we were thinking about him. But I've thought a lot about that since then. I have never really faced much persecution or even people expressing really negative, hateful feelings about the Church. But I believe that in the coming days there will be much, much more of it, and much stronger than what we experienced, which was really nothing at all. That is why we need to be strong. We need to be truly converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ. We need to be striving to keep all the commandments, we need to be studying the scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon every single day, individually and as a family, and that study, both individual and as families needs to be meaningful and purposeful, not just going through the motion. And we need to also be praying at least morning and night individually and as a family. We need to have regular, meaningful, fun FHE and we need to always be working to strengthen our families. I know that we were not good at that. I think that is why I felt like I needed to write this, because you didn't have a good example to teach you how it should be done. I regret that so much and can't tell you how many times I have wished that I could do it all over again, knowing what I know now. But, I can't. But hopefully you will do much better than we did. Actually, you all already are doing much better than we did. I have always said that we have great kids IN SPITE of us, not because of us. And I just want to encourage you to continue. Sometimes you get tired and overwhelmed with everything you have to do, and you may wonder if it really matters. But I know it does, and it will make a HUGE difference as we get closer to the Second Coming. And for those who do not yet have a spouse (hint! hint!), it is just as important for you to be doing these things so that you will be prepared when you do have a family and you will already have those habits established. Sorry, for the "preaching", but I have told you before how being on this mission has made me realize even more than ever before just how important our family is and that we need to do everything we can to strengthen our family.
We love and miss you all so much!!! I will try to write to individual families tomorrow. It should be a little bit slower day.
Dad and Mom, Grandpa and Grandma