Saturday, December 26, 2015

Christmas Week

Quiz for our grandchildren.

Q: When you put Grandma in a room with furniture what happens?

A: It will be re-arranged. As it was in the office this week. Once Elder Head got started on our 'project', there was no turning back and no stopping him till it was done.  The result is more desk area and better printer access for Sister McNett, Elder Head's desk is out of the way of the filing cabinets and Elder McNett has a printer in his office that we thought didn't work. Win-win-win. 
Sister McNett's new desk area.
There is a chance that this could happen more than once in 18 months.

Christmas in the Philippines is interesting, but a bit different than what we are used to. Christmas decorations, lights and music start appearing in September and we were singing Christmas carols in church in October.  The major time for celebration though is not Christmas day, it is Christmas Eve. We heard loud music and fireworks in the neighborhood until well after midnight Christmas Eve. It was really nice driving Christmas day though. We think everyone was home recovering from the night before.
Ready to start baptismal service.
The Lilo-an Zone was invited by President and Sister Tanner to attend a very special event at the mission home on Christmas day. Their grand-daughter had asked to be baptized on Christmas in the ocean. Her family just happens to be visiting over Christmas and we were fortunate to be part of a very special baptismal service.
Sisters singing 'O Come All Ye Faithful'
Picture time.

Meal after.
Then to top it off, a local member couple just happened by as we were eating. She is an excellent singer and has actually represented the Philippines at singing competitions in the United States. They had just been to a nearby wedding where she had sung at and agreed to favor us with a song or two. Beautiful!

We end this week with a shout out to Sister Cook's family. We hear that you came across our blog and saw pictures of her here. Since she is in our zone we get to see her quite often and want you to know that she is a wonderful person and excellent missionary.
Most of 'our' zone.

Monday, December 21, 2015

SM Seaside


This week was relatively quiet after the last two weeks. It was catch up time. On Saturday we made another run to S&R  (Costco) to restock groceries and then drove into some new territory. Going south along the coastal highway, past the area where the ferries dock, is a brand new mall called SM Seaside. It is so new that many shops have yet to open, but was still worth the side trip to see. Driving up to it the first thing you notice is the architecture. It is a round structure with very interesting windows (there is no distortion in the pictures - that's how they really are). Then, as you drive around it to enter the underground parking area you start to see the size. They do like big malls here. There are four levels of stores going all the way around the building. There is (or will be) Burger King, Cinnabon,  Krispy Creme, Pizza Hut, KFC, McDonalds, North Face, Levis, H&M, and Forever 21. We tried a Whopper at Burger King and it tasted pretty good. The drink options are always Coke or Sprite. No Root Beer.

One very useful feature in the parking garage is the system of lights showing where there are empty spaces. There is a light over each space that is red if occupied and green if open. It is easy to look down the rows and see where parking is available.

It is hard to believe that Christmas is here already.

Someone's birthday on Sunday.


Sunday, December 13, 2015

Christmas Conference

This week was a mission wide Christmas Conference. It was awesome having a day where the whole mission met together in the Lilo-an Stake Center building next to the mission office.  Most of the missionaries actually arrived in Lilo-an Wednesday evening to watch the First Presidency Christmas Devotional which was shown in the chapel of the stake center.

A few of the missionaries who live close by stayed after the devotional to help set up the cultural hall for lunch on Thursday.
Decorating for Thursday's lunch.

Elder Head is quite proud of the Christmas tree.

The decorating crew.
The Conference started Thursday morning with a meeting in the chapel.  President Tanner and several missionaries spoke and each of the nine zones presented a musical number. This went until lunch.
Gathering in the chapel.

Meal Time...

... and slide show.
After lunch there was an all scarf gift exchange. These scarves or lava-lava are quite common here, often worn as head coverings or used as light blankets. We ended the afternoon with games in the cultural hall and then the missionaries said their good-byes and began the travel back to their areas -  except for those who are going home on the 16th. They are all staying locally until then.

Mission Games
Christmas Banner
We end this week with a picture of our little friend. I call him Bruce Wayne because he has been living in our batroom. 

Bruce Wayne

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Getting to know the area

We had two separate trips into Cebu this week for various purposes. It's through these little excursions that we are learning our way around. The first was Tuesday evening when we rode with President and Sister Tanner to the Cebu Mission office. The office is right in the heart of Cebu City in the same complex as the temple and several other buildings and offices. We won't know until we try, but it is possible that we could find our way there again.  If we get turned around we wouldn't be the first missionaries to be lost temporarily directionally confused here.

Then on Wednesday Elder McNett rode with the Assistants and Sister Tanner into Cebu again. On the way we dropped off the President's car to have a tire repaired - at Goodyear no less - then stopped at a bank in Mandaue (between Lilo-an where the office is and Cebu City) to pick up checks to give to landlords for missionary housing. We then went to the office of one of the ferry lines here to buy tickets for President and Sister Tanner to travel with their vehicle to the island of Bohol on Friday.  These tickets must be purchased in person up to three days in advance and only one of the current assistants knew where the ticket office is. We arrived at the ticket office at 12:30 PM to find that it was closed until 1:00 for lunch, so we ran to a nearby store selling baking supplies to get some things for the mission home and then back to the ticket office.

The process of buying ferry tickets included getting the ticket for the vehicle and one passenger at one window and then waiting at another window to buy a ticket for the second passenger. We needed the first ticket to be able to buy the second. This took about an hour. We then traveled back to where we left the President's vehicle and then back to the office. Now there are four of us who know where the ferry ticket office is. The reason it was important that we go in person to the ticket office is because even knowing the approximate location it would be very easy to drive right by and not recognize it.


Onward to Christmas
Mission office during the Holidays

Now that Thanksgiving is over Christmas is right around the corner.  Our mission is gathering this week to watch the First Presidency Christmas Devotional on Wednesday evening and then hold a Christmas Conference on Thursday. This will be the first time since we've been here that the whole mission has been together.

Lilo-an zone.

Here is our zone. From left to right, front to back are Sisters Fernandez, Chand, Tubola, Orzal, Huxtable, and Cook and Elders Laga'aia, Cordova, Saluta, Sombilla, Jimenez, and Head. What an awesome group. If you look close you can see Sister McNett and I standing directly behind the camera.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving

Even though Thanksgiving is not a national holiday here in the Philippines we had a pot luck Thankgiving meal with our district on Monday evening.  Ten of us, including President and Sister Tanner and our zone leaders, gathered at our house and enjoyed Kentucky Fried Chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, rice, sweet potatoes, fruit, and pork, with no bake cookies and ice cream for desert.
Yes, the sweet potatoes here are purple.They are called camotes.

At our regular district meeting Tuesday morning we each had a chance to express what we are grateful for.

On Saturday we drove in to Cebu to restock some groceries and pick up office supplies at a major mall there, SM-Cebu. It has hundreds of shops on four floors. We needed to look for binders to hold information given to both arriving and departing missionaries. We didn't find all that we needed, but we were able to order enough to last a while. Not only that but we took a new route home and made it! We are actually starting to learn our way around. Our next goal is to learn the way to the Cebu Temple - and back. Sometimes the best way back is not always the best way to go, depending on several factors such as day of the week, time of day and major intersections on the way. We are learning that getting around here is part art, part science and hope to do a future blog entry on the topic of daily travel here.

Today was the Ward Primary program. The size of the Primary here is about the same as our home ward in Coalville, which is to say not large, somewhere around 20 children. What they lack in numbers though they make up in enthusiasm. Most of the children had their parts memorizied - in English - and the songs they sang were in English too. It was a delightful program.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Rules for Happy Marriage

About a week ago Elder McNett went with Elder Head and Elder Jimenez to visit the home of Brother Sugarol.  His name means 'Gambler' in English and his mother, the ward Relief Society President, thought that was quite funny. 

This poster was on the wall of their humble home across from the Proclamation to the Family. We could see the light of the Gospel in their eyes and feel it in the room. They know it, they love it and they live it.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Transfer Week

How can we tell that missionaries are meeting?
We are behind in our blog posts but now that transfer week is over maybe we can catch up. Transfers were actually last week, on November 3rd and 4th. We lost four missionaries and gained 15, nine sisters and six elders. One of the missionaries going home had been with us in the office. We miss him there, but wish him well. These new missionaries are our batch because we had already met four of the elders and two of the sisters in the Provo MTC. The rest of the group are native Filipinos who went directly to the MTC in Manila. 
New Sisters and their trainers.
On Wednesday morning we followed President and Sister Tanner to the airport to help pick up and transport the arriving missionaries and their luggage back to the mission home and office. (Made it back all by ourselves. Wahoo!) The assistants to the president were already there with a van because they had taken missionaries who were departing to catch their flights out.  There was an additional van and driver at the airport we had hired to help transport the group back as well.  This was a good warm up for us – next transfer in December we have 16 missionaries leaving and 19 coming.
New Elders and their trainers.

After arriving back at the mission home it was time for pictures, eating breakfast, bringing trainers from the office to the mission home, orientation, training, interviews with the president, lunch and then finally matching new missionaries with their trainers and telling them where they will be assigned. We helped Sister Tanner with food/clean-up and also helped shuttle luggage and missionaries between the mission office and mission home. We both helped with orientation by talking about our areas of responsibility in the office.
Learning who their companions are
We were amazed to learn that companionships of new missionaries and trainers are not decided until after the president has interviewed each of the new missionaries and then met with his assistants to decide what the match-ups will be. We had assumed that this was all decided ahead of time, not after the new missionaries have arrived. Not so.

and where they are assigned
was the highlight of the day.


Because of travel distances, all the new companionship's stayed at local transfer houses overnight and did not actually travel to their areas until Thursday when all the other transferring missionaries came by the mission office. 

We love opportunities like this where we meet so many young elders and sisters.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Our Trip to Bohol – Part 3

Our first stop on Friday, October 30 was Sagbayan Peak. After a short walk to the top we had beautiful views of what are called the chocolate hills. This is not because they are made out of chocolate but because during the dry season they will turn brown and look like chocolate drops.

  After this we drove to the remote area of Mantacida. 

Mantacida High School
This is where Elder and Sister Halladay helped to build houses for families who lost theirs in an earthquake that happened in the fall of 2013. This earthquake, by the way, was followed by a typhoon three weeks later. 27 homes were built over a period of about six months. A small group of skilled construction workers were brought in and each worked with 5 unskilled natives. After building 5 houses together those who had been trained were given a certificate and were then able to supervise a new team of 5 workers in building more houses. In this way as houses were built home builders were trained and provided basic tools they could use to make a living for their families.


Side by side view of new vs. old construction.

 This is Joselyn. She is a widowed mother of 8 children. The picture below is of her home now. She built the stairs to the loft herself.


This was her home before the new one was built for her. It was badly damaged in the earthquake.

Here is the muscle used for plowing the fields. It is called a carabou.

Carabou cart.


We passed a lot of rice fields and there were many places where rice was drying on tarps placed alongside and sometimes in the roadway. 

 In the afternoon we crossed over a bamboo bridge and had dinner on a boat that also took us for a short river cruise.

 We returned to Cebu Friday evening in a mission van on a vehicle ferry - a three hour crossing - and made it back to our house about midnight. A long but very informative and interesting day.