Monday, September 28, 2009

Ketsana Update

The death count is at 140 now with thousands displaced. Worst flooding in 40 years. All missionaries here are accounted for and safe. Some apartments were flooded but no injuries. I'm sure they will be involved with clean up etc. eventually. No word on any damage to the temple so going to assume that;s a good sign. This is a strong people and I'm certain the Lord will bless them in this trial. There is still danger of more rain so we are all aware and watching things closely. We are blessed with a strong, secure apartment.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


It’s been a slow “news” week for us but not for the Philippines. We’ve been hit by tropical storm Ketsana for the past few days. Amazing amounts of rain have fallen. There are 51 confirmed dead and another 21 missing in the Manila area. Our area hasn’t been hit as hard but we did have 8 families in one branch flooded out. It is still raining off and on today but is slowing. We will be going to Manila on Wednesday and according to news reports the roads are mostly all open now so should be fine by then. The weather has certainly curtailed our activities for the most part.

Monday we went to a home for the aged with the Naic branch. I can’t believe we forgot to take our camera! What a fun afternoon. There were about 60 residents and about 40 members of the branch. Everyone had a great time. The branch members sang songs and danced to entertain. Then, low and behold, they said that the couple missionaries would sing for everyone. Duh! So, we did an impromptu dialog and songs. Everyone is singing Christmas songs here so we taught them “Christmas is Coming” and then sang in rounds. Then we sang “Winter Wonderland”. Not too bad for a couple of unprepared old fogies.

Tuesday we went to Manila and attended the temple. We went through a session with the “going home” missionaries including the three from our zone. It was pure heaven to be wearing my very own temple dress! After the session we went to the Mission Home for dinner and then a testimony meeting with the missionaries. We’re already missing our three and wish them the best of luck.
Our going home elders, Elder Bowman, Elder Tadao Elder Barton along with President Howard, Elder and Sister Hussey, Elder and Sister Smith.
Our new Zone leaders are here. Elder Vaka is from Tonga and Elder Ngaluafe is from New Zealand. Really terrific missionaries! We’re looking forward to working with them. Haven’t met all the other new transferees yet but will be doing so on Tuesday at Zone meeting.

I’ve had a case of the creeping crud so between that and the rain have been inside (in our lovely aircon) for the past few days. Elder Smith and the rest of the Elders participated in a Family Week rally yesterday. The members from all the branches caravanned around the Zone and then met at the Naic Chapel. The service projects for the afternoon were rained out but everyone seemed to have a good time

Monday, September 21, 2009

We Have Aircon!!

Yes, there are miracles in the Philippines! We got air conditioning in our apartment on Friday. They installed two units with one upstairs and one downstairs. The one upstairs lasted about 12 hours. It was a heavenly 12 hours! The downstairs one is still working so at least the kitchen, living room area and CR are cool. Hopefully, someone will be here tomorrow to work on whatever the problem is upstairs. The units are old ones from the Buendia Chapel in Manila. They were refurbished and then installed. They are nice big hummers so once they’re operating correctly they should be a big help. I did the “aircon” dance around the apartment while MoTab was singing the Halleluiah Chorus and the Boston Pops were playing the 1812 Overture. It was a momentous occasion!

We had a slow week with contacts in our Branch visits. Everyone was at work or moving or simply not home. I did get several mosquito bites so it wasn’t a total waste. Hopefully this next week will be more productive. There were a bunch of baptisms this weekend in the Zone. We were able to attend a couple of them.

Naic Baptisms

Maragondon BaptismsThere were 12 total baptisms for Saturday and Sunday.

This is the Baptismal Font at the Ternate Chapel This is transfer week for us. Three of our Elders will be leaving tomorrow morning to go home. They have been exemplary missionaries and will be missed very much. Since our Zone Leaders are two of the exiting Elders we will be getting new ZL’s which is going to be exciting. We’ll have all the new changes made and settled by Wednesday.

Last Monday was a Zone Activity. What a great time we all had. We went to the beach near a local Marine Base. The Elders played Frisbees, various other ball games and generally enjoyed their time together before transfers. We got new Zone t-shirts that are totally cool. We saw a whole herd(?) of monkeys on the drive to the beach. Sometimes we forget that we are living in a jungle area. Each apartment brought rice and ulam and shared for the meal. We brought punch and paper goods. It was a super nice p-day. Well, actually p-morning. The Elders were back to work in the afternoon.

The rains have slowed down again so not many frog sightings this week. Much quieter at night also which is nice. After enjoying a busy Sunday at meetings (2 branches), a baptism and getting things organized, we had the Zone here for a farewell evening. Our Elders love ice cream so had a variety of flavors and a bunch of cookies. Some recent converts came also which was a special treat. We’re so thankful that we are able to have the spirits of these amazing missionaries in our home. It is truly a privilege to serve with them.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Frog legs, anyone?

We’re being invaded!  There have been two typhoons through the area in the past week and a half and so there is water everywhere.  The frogs are thriving.  Our doors are not the tightest fits in the world and so the critters come in with surprising frequency.  They are fast hoppers too.  It takes a bit of agility to chase them down and redirect them back outside.  It has given us something new and exciting to do.  So far none of them has asked to hear about anything from Preach My Gospel.

As usual, the Elder’s in our Zone are fabulous.  Monday night was Zone FHE.  We had a Mexican Fiesta.  We fixed fajitas, mini chili tacos, nachos, refried beans, Spanish rice and the trimmings.  The American lads really went crazy and the natives were very good sports.  Most of them liked the flavors and certainly ate plenty.  Had a good lesson and played games.  The Elders requested that we sing “Horsey, Horsey” as the closing song again this time.  Such fun! 

We had a good choir practice on Tuesday and then went with the Elders from Ternate to visit less active members.  We got rained on quite a bit but wasn’t too bad.  We were thrilled today at Church when one of the families we had visited showed up for meeting.  Thursday we went with the Hussey’s to Cavite City and areas surrounding to do apartment checks.  Was so fun to visit and meet new missionaries.  We got lost in one area and went down a very long street that was not designed for large vehicles.  Elder Hussey got a couple of dings in his SUV.

Friday we had a FHE activity at the Naic Branch.  They had games, lesson and dinner.  We were sitting there enjoying ourselves when the brother in charge said, “Now, Elder and Sister Smith will tell us about why they love the Book of Mormon.”  Okay,… no warning mind you,… so, we did.  Elder talked about a couple of his favorite scriptures and bore his testimony then I got up and being the serious minded one, I invited the primary children to come sit on the floor in front of me.  We then proceeded to sing and do all the actions to Book of Mormon Stories.  The kids were great sports and we had fun. 

Saturday was a baptism in Ternate Branch.  This family is one we have visited with in their home.  It is made from bamboo and is so cool.  5 of the family were baptized including the Tatay, Nanay, and 3 kids.  The oldest son is 22 and excited about going on a mission next year.  Very special baptism with a great spirit.  We sang “Love is Spoken Here” (at the request of the Branch President).

New month, new fruit!  Mangosteen!  It’s strange looking but sort of pretty too.  If you gently press on the outside and it “smushes” a bit, it’s ripe.  The sides peel off easily and expose a 5 sectioned inside.  One of the sections has the seed and the other 4 are seedless.  Is actually pretty tasty if you like citrus.  Is a bit like a mild pink grapefruit with a pinch of a zing in it.  

Here's a waterfall we found during a drive Sunday afternoon.  We were scouting out the location of our Zone Activity scheduled for Monday, 9/14

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Whew...did we say there was no rain?

It’s been a terrific week! At least it has been a terrific week for rainy, cooler weather! Golly, I’ve been practically human and smiling. We’ve had lots of rain and it has really made a difference.

Monday we went with the Hussey’s to Tagaytay to the south of us. Was a super day with great scenery and company. There is a volcano located there in a big lake.
It is the smallest active volcano in the world. The countryside is gorgeous. This is one area where there are pineapple fields that go on forever. We stopped at a local zoo and checked out some of the local beasties. Not too sure how local the camels, lions and tigers were.

The view was amazing and so Elder Smith was taking pictures. He climbed on a stack of blocks to get a better angle.
He was next to a tall fence and whoops! He dropped the camera. He finally did a monkey act and climbed the fence and shimmied down the back side. It was at least a 12’ drop. He retrieved the camera then began the return trip. It was a bit of a challenge especially when the branch of the nearby tree gave way. The Husseys and I finally decided not to tell the Mission President that one of his Elders was doing dumb, dangerous stunts. On the way home we picked up some more plants for in front of the apartment. Things are looking pretty homey!

We found the VW in the back room! Our Tuko has finally been sighted. Talk about mass excitement! Our Tuko has been serenading us since we moved in and finally we saw her. Yes, it is a she. She was behind an old stove that is stored in our back laundry room. According to the natives here, the male Tuko’s have the horned heads and the females are smooth and more Gecko looking. She is about 14” long. We didn’t try to catch her and found out later it was a good thing. According to our local expert they have suckers on their hands and fingers and if they get attached to your arm or something, you can’t get them off! Very powerful. So, Aspen needs to stay away from them if they are in Hawaii. I guess there are folks with scars from Tuko encounters.

So much rain the past few days we’ve begun collecting wood for an ark. We’ve personally identified the mating calls of 27 frog species in the last few nights. Talk about noisy stinkers. They mainly come out when it rains and it is almost deafening. Ah, our Tuko just said hello and the frogs are singing and dang, this is a very busy place to live.

No baptisms this week. Guess there has to be a dry one every once in a while.
On Thursday, Pres. Howard was here for interviews and bought lunch for the Zone as a reward for having the highest number of baptisms for July.
Was yummy and exciting because it will be happening again next month because we were the highest for August also! Go Elders! The numbers are looking good for this month also so no telling what’s ahead. 6 of our Elders were here for lunch today and we had a planning meeting for re-activation efforts in 2 of the Branches.

We had crock pot cooked a roast and veggies not knowing we were going to end up with a crowd so by the time we added some gravy and cream of chicken soup and shredded the roast we had created a very delicious ulam. Cooked up a batch of rice and everyone was full and happy. Ulam is the Filipino name for practically anything that can be put on rice. It really stretches a meal and is usually very tasty.