Sunday, October 25, 2009

Another Bridge to Cross

Crazy week! Busy, with pleasant weather for a change. No typhoons, strong winds or super hot weather. It’s always hot but there is a noticeable difference from a couple of months ago. Somehow it is not as intense.

We went with the Elders a couple of days this week. Always love to do that. Tuesday was choir practice and then lunch with two of the Elders who won the award (in our Zone) for the highest obedience points for the past two weeks. Elder Sangual and Hernaez are doing great. They had 24 investigators at Church today! Elder Richwine and Riparip let us go with them on Thursday. Whoa, that was an adventure. They wanted to know if we were up to crossing the river on the wooden swinging bridge. We’re as brave as the next missionary so we said, “Sure”. Let me tell you, Indiana Jones has nothing on us.

Our wooden swinging bridge in Maragondon (Notice that Sister Smith is not hanging on!)

The bridge is about 3 or 4 miles across. Well, it seemed like it anyway.

The area on the other side was beautiful and very jungle-ish. We were able to visit and share the first lesson with a new contact.

Spent time this week getting the house decorated for the FHE on Monday. The Zone Leaders have been helping and having fun learning to make spider webs. Will post pictures next week of the Halloween fun!

We went to the temple on Wednesday. I HATE MANILA TRAFFIC! Sister Hussey had a bunch of names that her daughter had sent to her so we did initiatory for them.

Friday was an interesting day. We went to the Elders (4 of them) apartment in Trece Martires. It was a disaster. There have been Elders living there for at least 5 years now and I’m quite certain it had never been really cleaned. It was a 6 hour project and the difference is amazing. The Elders are so proud (rightfully so) and excited. I was the boss and issued orders and the “boys” worked like mad.

Elder Lacanienta and Elder Whetman near the end of a very long, hard day.

Elder Smith was amazing. He cleaned, organized and fixed an aluminum back splash for the stove area that makes such a big difference. He was wielding his Leatherman like a machete.

Elder Smith with his favorite toy! His Leatherman!Even with all the work and mess it was a great day.

Saturday we went to the San Gabriel District conference. The senior couples meet there and then went out to dinner after the last session. It was a lovely evening with lots of visiting and planning. President Howard is a bit behind in his New Testament reading assignment. The Mission challenge was to read it between September and November. So, there we are at the restaurant, taking turns reading from John so he can catch up. Was only one chapter so went quickly. Elder Smith and I have finished it already but we still had to participate. Oops, I mean, we still “got” to participate.

We’re making eyeballs this afternoon for the FHE tomorrow night. Took us forever to find some powdered sugar but we prevailed! Eyeballs are a family necessity for Halloween. We were able to find some real Rice Krispies so will be making marshmallow treats for tomorrow also. Just wish we could have found some candy corn to go in them. That’s another family tradition that’s being introduced to the Philippines.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

It's Fall

We were parked in front of the Naic Chapel the other day waiting for a meeting. While gathering our stuff and preparing to unload there was an amazing occurrence, right there in front of our eyes two leaves fell from the tree we were parked under! That was it! Fall in the Philippines happened and we saw it!

Lots of fun things happened this week. We were able to go out with 3 sets of Elders and also the Zone Leaders. We visited several less active families and were there for a few teaching moments also. It was fun to spend time with our amazing Elders and to meet new people. We visited with three less active families in Ternate on Tuesday afternoon and low and behold, they all three showed up at Church today. We were so thrilled. Sometimes all someone needs is a reminder of how much they are loved and needed.

Thursday was our Zone interviews with Pres. Howard. He furnished a pizza lunch for the highest baptizing Zone in the mission. Go Naic Zone! Pizza Hut is quite a treat as the closest location is an hour away and outside of our Zone. Elder Smith and I sneak there once in awhile but the Elders can’t so they were thrilled.

After our FHE on Monday night we were tired but made it to the Zone meeting Tuesday morning and then watched a video with the Elders. Granny sent Elder Smith a copy of “Mafia to Mormon” for his birthday in August and we watched it. (With Pres. Howard’s permission.) They all enjoyed it and it was a fun change. We skipped choir practice so will have to make them work extra hard this week.

Our Naic Zone

We attended three different baptisms this weekend. Three were baptized in Naic, four in Punta and three in Maragondon. There are quite a few more baptismal dates scheduled between now and the end of the month. We haven’t heard the count for all seven branches yet but just Naic, Ternate and Margondon had a total of 40 investigators at Sacrament Meeting today. Wow!

Cock fighting is a popular pastime here. It is not unusual to see someone carrying their prize-winning rooster under their arm. They really baby them. We took a picture of a typical rooster residence on the way home from Church today. Each rooster is tethered to the A-frame with a rope or cord.

They can’t get to one another but they sure would like to. They are constantly crowing and arguing. Some of them have amazing plumage and they get pretty big. We have a large complex in the backyard of the house behind us. Noisey stinkers! There is a Cock Fighting arena quite near to our apartment but we haven’t gone down the road to check it out up close and personal. I’m afraid we might get in trouble as we couldn’t handle watching the abuse.

Another typhoon is threatening this week but is supposed to be to the north of us so we should only have some rain. We have lots planned for this coming week. We need to get our monster spider web up in the apartment for our Halloween FHE on Monday, October 26th. Yes, we are crazy!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

We Love Elder Holland!

It’s been an awesome week for us. We left last Thursday for the Mission Home and attended a multi-Zone conference. Our Zone Choir sang for it and they were amazing. It really sounded wonderful. I was so dang proud. We sang the words from the last song on the CD of “My Servant Joseph” by Kenneth Cope. It was done to the tune of “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief”. They totally nailed it! The Conference was informative as usual and was the beginning of a special experience for Elder Smith and myself.

We spent the next 4 days and 3 nights at the Mission Home with the Senior Couples. It was so fun to get to know each couple better and to share some quality time with them. They are such spiritual, talented, kind, thoughtful, loving people. We are honored to be serving with them in the Manila Mission. We went out to dinner at Chili’s on Thursday evening and then to T.G.I. Friday’s on Friday evening. Excellent food at both restaurants. We got our fix of Chili’s chips and salsa. We went shopping and generally goofed off part of the time. Then, we got down to business and played a couple of games of Uno. Oh yes, we know who won! Sister Smith!

Saturday and Sunday were spent watching General Conference. We were all impressed with the speakers and loved hearing our Prophet. Everyone was blown away by Elder Holland’s talk. Oh my goodness, what a wonderful testimony of the Book of Mormon. We hope and pray that anyone who is reading our blog will take the time to read this important talk and then take Moroni’s challenge. The Book of Mormon is true! We have been trying to do our scripture study since we got our call. We’ve read the New Testament, D&C, Pearl of Great Price and Elder Smith is on his 3rd time through the Book of Mormon so far this year. I am on my 4th time through and am hoping to add most of the Old Testament before year-end. It is such a blessing to have regular scripture study in our lives and to reinforce the truths we’ve known for so long. We learn something new every reading.

We also learned this weekend that Sister Howard is a snack-oholic! The coffee table in the front room was so loaded with candy, nuts, chips, and munchies we thought it just might collapse. So many treats and only 5 sessions of conference to eat them in, how could we manage? We did!

The typhoons and storms that keep hitting the Philippines have not affected us. We are very thankful that we’ve only had some heavy rains and minor inconvenience. We pray for the many families who have been so devastated by the weather. Sunday, President Howard told us that all missionaries in the Philippines, Samoa, Tonga and Indonesia are safe and accounted for. Some apartments were lost but no injuries or other problems. We feel very blessed.

We had Zone FHE tonight and once again we have more reason to love our Elders. They are so fun and we love having them in our home. I fixed a couple of ulams and lots of rice. They were a hit so will get them posted on the Family Recipe Blog. Ice cream and no-bake cookies rounded out the meal.

Elder Ngaluafe on his 21st birthday (left) with Elder Vaka (right) Our Zone Leaders No, I didn't make the cake. It was pretty and Filipino tasting.

New month, new fruit! Lantis are small yellow fruits that grow in bunches. They peal easily and have 5 sections inside. Each section has a seed in it. They are citrusy and tart. We’re not keen on all the seeds but they are pretty tasty.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Let's Prepare

It was a bit of an exciting week for us.  Manila is still trying to recover from last week’s typhoon and here comes another one.  Typhoon Pepeng was supposed to be much larger than the last one.  It did make land here but was north of us.  Seventeen are reported dead with lots of flood damage.  It has already moved away from the Philippines but the weather is very unsettled.  It is still overcast, windy and raining off and on here in Naic.  We were without power for several hours on Saturday but that was the worst of it for us.  Typhoon season is winding down so that’s a good thing.

Because of the after-effects of the last typhoon things were a bit slower this week.  We did have meetings and choir rehearsals with the Elders and went to Makati to the Mission Home for a meeting on Wednesday.  It was good to visit with the other senior couples and to get the latest news updates.  When we arrived, Pres. Howard was excited to tell us that we had another missionary coming from the Vegas valley.  I said, “Oh, you must mean Jill Hales”.  He wanted to know how in the world I knew about it before he did!  Hey, Henderson is still a small town in some ways.  He had us write a quick note to include with his letter to our new Sister Missionary.  Our choir will be singing at a multi-zone conference this coming Thursday.  We have 5 new Elders from the last transfer so they are working hard to get up to speed.

Our Zone t-shirts front and back....yes we are E and S Smith.

Thursday we had a treat.  Elder Smith was napping and I heard all sorts of noise outside.  The music was blearing and I could hear people laughing and talking.  I looked out the window, and what did I see?  Wrong, no popcorn!  It was Fiesta time for our brangay and the parade went in front of the apartment.  Big loud speakers were booming and folks were dancing and having a great time.  There were three saints being carried with floral decorations.  The fiestas are a tradition from the early Spanish domination days and every little town and village holds its own.  It is totally Catholic oriented and so crazy.  Everyone parties and there were lots of fireworks all day and into the evening.  Here’s the amazing part, the noise woke up Elder Smith!

This isn’t mission news but we wanted to share a fascinating part of the lifestyle here.  Rice!  We’ve posted a picture or two of rice fields in the past.  Here in the provinces there are rice fields everywhere.  A crop of rice takes 120 days from seed to harvest.  (There are other faster varieties but the majority is 120 day stuff.)  So, guess what?  We’ve watched a full season since we got here.  Some of the areas that were being planted when we first arrived are harvesting now.  Most of the grains go to mills or processing plants but some is kept out for personal use.  It is crazy when you have to drive around the rice drying on the highway.  There will be a big tarp or piece of sheeting laying out with rice drying on it.  It is raked regularly to keep it drying evenly.  Once the rice is cut and harvested, the chafe is piled together and burned.  It’s a stinky, cloudy mess.  Within days the fields will be turned, flooded and replanted.   There is some rotation of fields but not sure about the frequency.  The rice is harvested by hand with the ever popular machete.  We really enjoy watching the process and are amazed at how quickly it happens. 

Because of all the weather problems we haven’t had a baptism for a couple of weeks.  However, there will be pictures soon!  Have a bunch scheduled for the next three Saturday’s.  Gosh, there probably won’t be a baptism picture next week, I just remembered, we will be at the Mission Home for 3 or 4 days through the weekend.  The senior couples meet and have a couple of nights sleep-over while watching the General Conference sessions.  We get it a week late.  Should be a fun and spiritual conference.