Saturday, November 26, 2016

Special Witness

We mentioned last week that something special took place on Friday, November 18th. On that day our whole mission came together to meet with Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. He came with his wife, Mary, and was accompanied by Elder Shayne M. Bowen, the Phillipine Area President, and his wife, Lynette.

Considering that there are now 418 missions world wide, it was indeed a special event for an apostle to come here. There was a lot of planning and preparation involved - much of it done by President Maughan's two Assistants, Elder Grimpluma and Elder Clark. They arranged transportation by ferry, bus, and jeepnee in order to make sure our 180 missionaries made it to the Mandaue Chapel by the appointed time. One bus came from Bogo (to the north of Cebu) and two other buses met missionaries at the port who came by ferry from Bohol. Many of the missionaries assigned locally came by jeepnee. We all made it with time to spare - which was no small miracle in itself.
Bogo Bus

Local Jeepnee
Another part of the preparation, which Sister McNett helped with, was to arrange for a small group musical number to begin the meeting. Drawing from our local missionaries (to allow for practice sessions) a group consisting of Elder Bajan, Elder Calumpang, Elder Cabasag, Sister McMaster, Sister Gil, Sister Jaranilla,  and Sister Arguilles accompanied by Elder Manarin on the piano was assembled.  It was hard to limit the group as there were many more who would have liked to sing.
Song Practice
The plan was to have all our missionaries assemble in the chapel as they arrived and then move to the cultural hall to be ready for a group picture when Elder Cook arrived.
Filling the Mandaue Chapel.
We were there early, helped the Assistants set up chairs for the group picture and took a test shot.

Elder Grimpluma, Elder Clark. Group Picture Chair Test.
With everyone present it was time to set up for the group picture. This was the first opportunity to take a picture with all of the Cebu East Missionaries since the arrival of President and Sister Maughan. Mission wide meetings are pretty rare - this was only the second one in the 14 months we have been here.
Setting up for the group picture.
Within minutes of getting everyone set Elder and Sister Cook arrived with Elder and Sister Bowen and we had our group picture. Then as we filed back into the chapel we shook hands with an Apostle, a Seventy and a Mission President and their wives - pretty special.

The meeting was very uplifting and enlightening. Sister Cook's love of music was apparent as she spoke. She even directed us in singing 'Hark All Ye Nations'.  Elder Cook spoke to us in a very personal way. His first assignment as a General Authority was to serve in the Philippines and his first visiting assignment in the Philippines was in Cebu. He stressed the importance of teaching about the Restoration and Plan of Salvation because of the way those topics invite the Spirit and it is the Spirit that converts. He also bore a powerful testimony of the Savior. We wish everyone had the opportunity to hear an Apostle bear witness in a setting like this. It is not something we will soon forget.
Philippines Cebu East Mission with Elder and Sister Cook

Thought for the Week

"How we preserve time for family is one of the most significant issues we face in most cultures."
Elder Quentin L. Cook

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Bridge Out

This past week brought more wonderful experiences and at least one additional challenge. It was transfer week again. Monday evening was the final meal and testimony meeting in the Mission Home for the departing missionaries (10 this time). Our mission covers quite an area and we aren't able to work closely with every missionary and get to know them as well as we would like. Some we only know by talking with them over the phone or through texting. This final meeting is a chance for us to learn some pretty amazing things from our amazing young missionaries - like their background and how their mission affected them.
Final dinner and testimony meeting.
Departing batch of 10.

Tuesday was temple day for the departing batch and we were able to attend with them. One of the first people we ran into after arriving on the temple grounds was Elder Saluta. This is the missionary who trained Sister McNett and has a special place in our heart. He was released last June and we weren't expecting to see him again before we go home. Elder Saluta just passed his exam to become a civil engineer and is on his way to Manila to look for employment. We sure wish him the best!
Joseph Saluta.
On the way home from the airport on Wednesday after meeting our 14 new missionaries, we were asked to pick up pizza for lunch. The bed and backseat of our truck was filled with luggage but we still managed to fit in 16 pizzas and garlic bread. One of the things we have learned here is that there is always room for the load that needs to be carried.

The person helping us with our pizza order at first thought we were asking for 60 pizzas, not 16. It was obvious from the the panicked look on his face that he had misunderstood.  It was also obvious that our new missionaries were not expecting pizza from Pizza Hut for their first meal in the mission.
Where shall we put this?
Our 14 newly arrived missionaries.

With the transfer over we started to the office Thursday morning only to be directed in the opposite direction of that in which we wished to go. Instead of the 5 minute route we normally take we had to go the 30-40 minute route. Someone had discovered a crack in the bridge on the shorter, more direct route and until it is fixed or replaced motorized vehicles will not be allowed on the bridge. We don't know how long this will be, but are not expecting it will be open again before we leave in March.
Our cracked bridge.

Only pedestrians and bicycles allowed.
Tricycles lined up to take passengers who walk across the bridge.
The commute home.
We now have to take a narrow cut off between the 'back road' and the National Highway which is not built to handle a large volume of traffic and tends to back up. On top of that, to go home we can't turn left onto the cut off so we have to drive past it, find a place to U-turn and come back to make a right turn. There will be some additional options available as construction on our 'back road' is completed.

Friday was a very special day for the mission that deserves a post of it's own next week.

Thought for the Week

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Crock Pot Brownies

For District Meeting Sister McNett made brownies in a crock pot. Just like the pioneers we improvise with the tools we have. This is not to say that pioneers made brownies in a crock pot, but almost certainly if they had had crock pots, chocolate and electricity, they would have. The brownies were a hit and are one way for us to show appreciation to the young missionaries.

Speaking of electricity, along with the many other blessings it brings to our lives, it powers the technology we can use to communicate with loved ones half a world away.  Our grandson, Ian, played this year on the Stansbury High School varsity football team. Because of the internet and live streaming video, we were able to watch Ian play in the semi-final playoff game this week against Desert Hills. Even though this final game for Stansbury didn't end in their favor, we are sure proud of the team and how well they did this year. And we're proud of Ian working hard to make the varsity team. It is such a blessing to us to be able to stay in touch with family and friends back home. Even when the technology isn't working it reminds us to be grateful when it does.
This morning (Sunday) we drove with President and Sister Maughan to the Manduae Stake Conference. None of the church buildings in Mandaue Stake are big enough to accommodate the number of people attending so the general session was held in the Hoops Dome in Lapu-Lapu City. This is a large covered, air conditioned sports arena and works really well for holding large meetings like stake conference.   We had heard about meetings here but had yet to attend one and were glad for the opportunity.

Elder Schmutz of the Philippine Area Presidency and Elder Adduru, an area seventy, were here to reorganize the Mandaue Stake Presidency.  Each of the outgoing and incoming members of the stake presidency spoke along with Elder Adduru and Elder Schmutz.  Elder Schmutz talked of the need for Priesthood Keys, where they originate and how they are passed along to a new stake president.

We were able to get a few pictures before the meeting started.
Hoops Dome
Ready for Manduae Stake Conference.
Elder Schmutz preparing for the meeting.

We didn't get a picture of the Christmas countdown this week but did get one inside of the mall which is decorated even more than last year.
Under 50 days...
And we just got word that these are now on their way to our mission.

Thought for the Week

"When obedience ceases to be an irritant and becomes our quest, in that moment God will endow us with power."
Ezra Taft Benson

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Mission Tour/Zone Conference

There were special visitors to our mission this week. Elder and Sister Haynie of the Philippine Area Presidency came for a mission tour and, among other things, participated in Mission Leadership Council (MLC) on Tuesday and held Zone Conferences on Wednesday and Thursday - one on Cebu and the other on Bohol.  Sister McNett was asked to help put together a missionary choir number for the meeting Wednesday on Cebu. They sang 'A Child's Prayer' to open the afternoon meeting and sounded fantastic.

There is a lot of musical talent in the mission. Sister Schroeder was asked to conduct and Sister Osumo to play piano. Sister McMaster helped a lot with choir rehearsals and Elder Cabasag performed a solo part. We also put together a slide presentation to go with the music.
Choir practice.
Sister Schroeder conducting, Sister Osumo on piano.
Prior to the start of Zone Conference Elder and Sister Haynie took the time to meet and briefly speak with everyone in attendance - about 100 of us. They were doing ok with everyone's name until Elder Pagotaisidro.
Shaking hands.
The meetings were instructive and inspirational. We learned about the history of the church in the Philippines going back to the Spanish American War in 1898 when the Utah Volunteer Artillery Unit came. George Seaman was a member of that unit and became the first missionary to serve here. When a church conference was held in Manila in 1945, after the end of World War II, there were about 500 members in attendance, mostly servicemen.

As an apostle Gordon B. Hinkley came in 1961 to request formal recognition of the church from the government and offer a prayer at the American War Memorial in Manila. Shortly after that visit four full time missionaries came to Manila from the Southern Far East Mission in Hong Kong. Eight members were baptized that first year. (Coincidentally - 1961 was also the year Elder McNett was taught by full time missionaries and baptized a member of the church - this event did not take place in the Philippines).

There are now over 700,000 members, 1200 congregations, almost 1000 chapels and over 4000 missionaries (60% Filipino) in the Philippines.  Elder Haynie referred to the Philippines as the Strength of the Church in Asia.
Group picture with the six Cebu zones.
To give an idea of the progress we (Elder and Sister McNett) have made - Thursday evening we drove the mission van to the Port of Cebu, picked up Elder and Sister Haynie and President and Sister Maughan at the ferry terminal, drove to the airport so that Haynie's could catch their flight back to Manila, found a McDonald's in Lapu-Lapu for dinner and returned home - all without hitting a single pedestrian or vehicle with the side mirror of the van or getting a ticket while making a U-turn in Lapu-Lapu. Something not even remotely possible a year ago.

This was also Halloween week. On October 31st there were a lot of families at the local mall with little ones dressed up and trick-or-treating. As far as we have seen, trick-or-treating is only done in the malls here. November 1st and 2nd are actually bigger holidays here. The 1st is All Saint's Day and the 2nd is All Soul's Day. These days are similar to Memorial Day and are set aside for remembering the deceased.  We noticed it most in the afternoon and evening of November 1st as this is a day when a LOT of people are visiting cemeteries and there just happens to be a large cemetery between our home and the office.  To describe the traffic from the office to home on the 1st as a 'major traffic jam' is an understatement.

We also have fun pictures taken by Sister Maughan this week. She went to a department store near the office to pick up back packs for missionary 72 hour kits and gift bags for a Christmas activity she is planning.  She ended up buying 55 packs and 100 bags. The people here are naturally friendly anyway but words cannot describe the level of customer service from sales clerks in department stores when buying large quantities of items. Sister Maughan loves everyone anyway and when you mix that with helpful clerks it is like magic to watch.
and Friendly.

Time marches on...

Thought for the Week

"Hear the word of the Lord, O ye nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock."
Jeremiah 31:10