Sunday, November 18, 2012


Reflecting on many, many blessings always lifts my heart and so as they are easy to count here we go:

Grateful to be a missionary, a representative of Jesus Christ, to share His gospel.  It is at once a humbling, challenging, and joyful experience.  We feel so thankful to be able to serve and teach individuals, to share messages of Heavenly Father's love for them, of the Savior's loving and redeeming Atonement.  We are able to bear testimony regularly that there is help for their burdens and problems; that there is great peace and happiness available to each as they come onto Christ.  We are witnesses ourselves of these things we share and we are able to see the miracle of change occur in their lives as well.

So thankful to be serving together.  

Grateful to have the privilege of serving the Lord here in this part of the Philippines where beauty surrounds us in nature and in people.  We find people for the most part to be caring, affectionate, happy, and humble in nature.  We are strangers, yet are welcomed in and revered, treated with great respect and honor. 

Immeasurably grateful for children and grandchildren who support us in love and in deeds. We truly are blessed by each one of them as they offer precious time to keep our affairs running smoothly at home.  We are so glad to be able to communicate weekly with our family, to see and hear how life is going for them.  We are pleased to hear about the progress grandchildren are making in their growing up years and are proud of their efforts to do their very best.  We feel grateful to see our children supporting each other in the challenges each face.  Though we aren't there, we know they are taking care of each other.  That gives us immense peace of mind.  

Grateful to be serving along side wonderful missionaries young and old.  

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Summer is over and the weather has cooled a bit as the seasonal rains give us a break.  When we walk or run in the morning at 6 am now it is pleasant and invigorating.  For the first time since we have been here I came home from church on Sunday and did not have to completely change my clothes from sweating through everything.

So what happened during all those months of our mission?  Well we spend a lot of our time in the branch we live in, helping to teach the members how the Lord's church works.  We do training to help them begin to hold presidency meetings, branch council meetings, pec meetings, byc meetings, and what the purpose of those meetings is.  People here are converts of few years and have never seen how a branch or ward functions with everyone working together.  The church Handbook is in English because this is considered an English speaking country.  In these rural areas however their native language is Ilocano.  They speak the national language of Tagalog.  And they learn English in the upper grades of school, but it is limited and they are shy to speak it.  As a result there is much to learn regarding serving in the Church.  

People view callings as a position more than an opportunity to serve, so when they are released many are offended and quit coming.  They need to be invited back and made to feel welcome and needed, and members need to be taught to do that.  

We also enjoy visiting with members of our branch who need to be strengthened in scripture reading - to learn to love the scriptures and realize the power they have to increase needed faith in the Savior.  Many people here suffer from addictions to alcohol etc. and are in need of help overcoming these problems.

We love helping members learn how to have a simple family home evening.  Not a big block party, but just a simple evening with their own family!

We are involved with helping our young single adults in the branch get regular activities going.  They love to spend time together and are recently joined by 2 young women who have returned from working in Manila.  

We are trying to help the Branch presidency increase the quality of our sacrament meetings.  We are working to help the auxiliaries raise their vision of what Sunday meetings can be if they prepare.

Here are a couple of baptisms in our Branch that happened this summer.  The couple on the left are the Branch President and his wife.  Then the Elders, the newly activated father of the little girl in front who he will baptize.  President Carlos attended and has his arm around this happy father.  The sister on the right is a member of less than 6 months and her son is front and center.  The two women in white are to be baptized as well as the little boy on the right who is a in a neighboring branch.

You notice the women in pink in this picture was one baptized in the previous one.  This is one of her daughters who will be baptized by the young man in white.  The other women being baptized is excited to join her husband and daughter as members of the Church.

Besides training in the branch we have spoken on a few occasions during the summer at Stake Youth Conferences and also at a Stake Aaronic Priesthood fireside.  This is a stake where their children have grown up in the church here in Santiago and they understand the Gospel so much more. (It gives us patience that in time our area will also understand)

One of the assignments President and Sister Carlos have given us is to launch and administer the CLS program in this mission.  It is a Church sponsored program to help missionaries in certain countries learn English during their Companionship Language Study hour which happens every morning.  They can study and pass off modules 1 through 25 and then have an opportunity to take a test that will give them a certificate of proficiency. If they have an English speaking companion, he/she is supposed to assist them with their pronunciation.  If not they use a cd to practice.

We had a lot of fun kicking this off in each of the Zones of the mission during June and July.  Now we are trying to motivate them monthly to make consistent progress. 

 Here we are in Ilagan Zone with our presentation.

Here we are in Alicia Zone.  This is an interview with a potential employer.  When he shows him his CLS certificate of proficiency he gets the job!

Part of our job as senior couples is to assist with Zone Conferences and transfer meetings. We do everything from filling orders for pamphlets, Book of Mormons, filters, vitamins, etc. in the commissary, to setting up tables for lunches, providing support with music.

here is Elder Mills with our Burgos Zone in June's Zone Meeting

This is lunch.  They are honoring the people who have had birthdays

In July our Area President, Elder Teh and his wife came to do training for Zone Conferences.  We were able to hear his dynamic training twice.  We also enjoyed a meal together at the Mission Home with the senior couples and the Teh's.  They are a very warm and generous couple

We go to our District Meeting every Tuesday morning.  We enjoy very much the interaction with the missionaries in our District.  We have enjoyed feeling the Spirit each week as we receive training from our District Leader and from the Zone Leaders.

This was supposed to be an object lesson where they are trying to focus the light through a magnifying glass to get the paper to catch on fire.  One of the magnifying glasses was very dirty so that the lesson was you needed a clean lens to use the power of the sun.  It was too cloudy though and despite a concerted effort no fires ignited, but it was fun.

Here is a more recent picture at District meeting with our missionaries.  

We try to support our district in their baptisms when we can.  This is a baptism in Cattaban.  Two great Elders!  One on the right was our district leader and a very humble and wonderful young man.  We had some really powerful learning experiences under his leadership.

Here is a good brother's baptism in Caliguian.  We were at some of his lessons with the wonderful sister missionaries.  After the baptism he had a big birthday party at his house!

These are 2 fine sister missionaries!

Our missionary from Fiji is beloved also!
Look at this Branch President (red tie) and counselor (blue tie)
and young man in their Sunday best!  That was the first
time we have had men dress appropriately for a baptism
There was some great food at the birthday party. It really was his birthday.  We could only stay for a half hour as we had a Missionary Preparation Class we were teaching to get to.

In July we started teaching a 14 week Institute Class for Missionary Preparation.  It was a weekly class on Saturday in Burgos and we had 8 to 14 students attending.  They, remember, have to pay for transportation or walk, some for more than an hour and a half.  We brought our students from Gamu packed in our Toyota Corolla.  The other students from Mabini and Caliguian and Burgos had to walk or borrow a motorcycle or pay for a tricee.  We enjoyed many spiritual experiences with this fine group of young adults.  Two of them are in the process of getting their papers in for a mission.  Paying for medical and dental exams is also a challenge.  They patiently wait to get everything in order.  They will be excellent missionaries! We were so pleased for the young people from Gamu to rub shoulders with some other great young people and share important learning experiences together.

The final day of class I was in Tuguegarao doing a Music Workshop with the Senior Sister Missionaries.  It was hard to miss this last time with them.

More of Banaue

 I found more beautiful Banaue scenes on the ipad:

Really spectacular every way you look!  Unbelievable that they are 2,000 years old and still cultivated and harvested by hand.  
All the rice they raise stays locally to feed their people.

Banaue - the Eighth Wonder of the World

The last week in August we took a spontaneous trip with the Gottfredson's to just about the only sightseeing spot in our mission.  It was an opportune time to see the rice fields during harvest time.  

Banaue is the Eighth Wonder of the World.  It is four hours and 150 km (90 miles) by car from Cauayan. 

One half the travel is over mountainous roads.  The area was settle in the second century bc.  Rice terraces were likely developed beginning about 200 bc.

Houses one, two, three, and four stories high hang precariously over the steep mountain
sides around the rice paddies.  

The natives first dug out the hillside creating an area that would be used for planting, growing and harvesting rice.

The view out of our hotel room at dawn!
Then they built a wall with rocks creating a level area on the steep hillside. They hauled in gravel and filled the space to a depth of about one foot. They covered the gravel with clay to retain the water in the terrace. They brought in sand and soil where they could grow the rice.  They brought in water to flood the terrace.

Rain fall is usually sufficient to keep the tender rice plants in water, but during February and March in some areas water is brought in from above to keep the rice plants watered.  They plant the rice and wait for the harvest.

Rice is harvested by hand and also carried out of the fields and villages like this up steep mountain trails!
Each bundle of rice weighs about 10 lbs. so these boys are carrying 40 to 60 lbs. for 2 hours uphill.
This is how they dry the harvested bundles of rice
Here she is threshing using a basket. (check out the edge of her yard) 
The pig is enjoying the process.

Elders Mills and Gottfredson wanted to hike to the village of Batad.  We hired a jeepney for 2500 pesos ($60) for the day and the driver took us up to the saddle where the trail head was.  We wondered why we did not drive our car until the cement road turned to dirt or more accurately a stream bed filled with rocks and holes. It was an experience we have never had with deep ruts, grinding gears, rocking and rolling, and all on a narrow road with steep drop offs! We wondered if we would live through it!  Every once and a while there would be road work going on where bags of cement that had been hauled in one at a time were used to make cement in a small mixer, then make one more section of road.
Once we got to the saddle the jeepney driver parked to wait for us to hike.  We were also watching the weather as we did not want to go down that road during a rainstorm!

Here is Batad.  Everyone walks in and out to shop, go to school, transport goods to sell. . . 
The men took off for their hike to Batad (about 2 hours) and then Elder Mills went an additional hour to the waterfall.   

They noticed in Batad a medical clinic. It was closed. 
The sign says: 
Office:  Monday - Friday
Immunizations: every 2nd Wed. of month
Pre-natal:  every Wed
Home Visit: Every Fri./when the need arises

Some traditional natives still sleep above the ground by pulling up the ladder each night before going to sleep.  It is a carryover from the days of war and vengeance.  Head hunting, however, has ceased in the area.

We women decided to  go down the trail at our leisure with no destination in mind.  Here is a little waterfall we hiked to:

This is the one Elder Mills went so far to see.  To get perspective, notice the little person in red down on the left!

While on the trail Sister Gottfredson and I stopped to rest.  We met a man from Provo UT who is traveling the world!  He saw our missionary tags and stopped to chat with some fellow Mormons.  Later he spent some time hiking with our husbands.

It started to rain about 30 minutes before our husbands showed up back at the jeepney.  We tried to laugh and joke to keep our minds off the gear grinding, bumping and jerking, and metal on rock sounds.  A couple of young people jumped on the back for a free ride to town.  Then we started inviting people to ride since we had already paid for the trip.  

At one point the road had been washed out by the rain and they were doing repair work - the repairs were hand packing rocks against the side of the road.  I'm not sure what the back hoe was doing but I wouldn't have wanted to be in it!  Our jeepney drive asked us to walk to the other side as it wouldn't be safe for us to be in the jeepney as he drove it.

that is our jeepney waiting until it was "safe" to drive

This was later, back by our hotel.  It was a small village you could walk down steep steps to visit.  Here is a tiny lola (grandmother) in her house.  They little boy ran over just as the picture snapped.

The baby goat is just a week old and was skipping around before settling in for lunch.

After a couple of days in this cool mountain paradise we decided we needed to come back another time or two before our mission ends.
that is our hotel, the long building on the ridge

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

On the Road  

We love these people!  They live in the most humble circumstances but are happy and hard working.  This was at a Family
Home Evening where it seemed the  whole neighborhood was invited!          

                                          Playing games are a big hit!  

Most are farmers and raise either feed corn or rice.  They are up before dawn to work when it is a little cooler.They plow behind caribou, their huge ox, through deep mud.  

They also have a sort of hand tractor called a kuliglig they use to plow their fields. It's kind of like a tiller but with really long handles.  They can also attach a trailer to it and it becomes transportation.  These are commonly seen on the roads where there are farms.  Many of our members ride to church on them.

The corn was being harvested when we arrived the first of May.  It took a few weeks to complete during which they harvest the corn, husk it, and then take the corn off the cob by hand.  They dry it on any piece of concrete they can spread it.  The side of the road works.  It is disconcerting to have to drive over the layers of drying corn kernels, but there is nothing else to do when there is crazy traffic.  Then they sweep it up into bags and hall them to market.  Since then the new crop has been planted and is already 3 or 4 feet high.  So much of the work is done by hand!  Most don’t own their land so profits go to landowners leaving small amounts for the farmers.

These are a crop of sunflowers with heads bowed.  Not sunny day!
We don’t have rice farmers here in Gamu but there are rice fields not too far away.  Those fields have just been planted in the last week or so and planting is still going on.  The fields are smaller rectangles, or terraces, bordered by mud edges to hold in the water.  The rice plants are hand planted as it has been done for centuries.  It is an amazing picture to see the rows of beautiful green fields being planted. It is backbreaking work done by men and women.   Sometimes they plant later in the day under umbrellas clustered together. 

This one has some terraces along the contours of the land.

This is more commonly seen in the flat lands around us.  Here they are, planting each plant by hand!
We took these pictures in the southern part of the mission near Solano.  This is higher country with hills and mountains surrounding valleys. 

Those little tufts out there are 
seedlings ready to be planted.

The reason why we were driving through this beautiful valley is we spoke at a Youth Conference at Banaue Resort. We had quite the adventure getting there having never been before. It's about 3 and a half hours from Gamu and part way there a big truck got stuck on the highway blocking both directions of traffic.  As usual everyone began "filling in the blanks" until it was just a big parking lot! Some cars and tricees seemed to be getting through so we followed one to a little dirt side road that took us over a narrow bridge and back out to the highway.  A huge bus was trying to take this little detour but we waved them back. No Way!! We got back to the highway where all the northbound traffic are waiting. Everyone is trying to pull as far to the side to make room for a flatbed truck with a back hoe to pull the truck out of the way.  Amazingly it finally got through with inches to spare!  We grabbed the opportunity immediately to head south before the corridor he had created filled in and with little traffic made great time arriving 10 minutes early instead of hours late for the concluding devotional we were to speak at!
It was a small miracle!

Our camera wasn't in focus sadly, but you can still get the idea.
Here are some of the vehicles you drive with when on the road. Tricees are motorcycles with a side car.  They hold people, inside, on the back of the motorcycle, even on top.  We wonder how their skinny tires and small axles handle the load!  Out on the highway they go about half the speed of larger vehicles so you have to go around them.  You signal, toot your horn, check all your mirrors for anyone else having the same idea, then hit the gas and go around.  Usually everyone is keeping an eye out and slows down a little or defers to the larger vehicle. Driving down the shoulder is common. 

In the city tricees rule.  They move constantly all around you like a school of fish.  This is a u-turn in Cauayan by the palengke (market). 3 lanes of tricees turn all at once.  The method of driving is you just start turning gradually into traffic and the vehicles eventually give way.
Besides tricees there are jeepneys on the road.  These are World War II jeep transport vehicles that have been "upgraded" and as you see decorated!  They are personalized like the tricees who also have names on them.

                                                 "Spider Man"

"Super Man"

People in other areas raise food crops to sell at the market called a palengke.  Here you can buy rice, eggs, potatoes, onions, apples, tomatoes, cucumbers, cabbages, peppers, squash, jicama which they call sicama, carrots, green beans (they have one called sitaw that is more than a foot long), eggplant, their kind of sweet potato, grapes, . . . . .

 The bananas are amazing and taste delicious even when they look over ripe.  The pineapple is so juicy and sweet!  It is in season right now and we love it!  Mangoes are so sweet and soft. . . m,m,m,m. 
 Pretty good looking rooster and doesn't he know it!
Here are the various grades of rice you can buy.

   There is also “fresh” meat at the palengke which we don’t buy.   There are also tons of shops that have household items, clothes, you can get a haircut (scary!)  It’s a real bazaar!

Another trip to the Southern part of the mission which is a province called Nueva Viscaya.  The mountain valleys were so beautiful and the winding road going up a little exciting with big buses and trucks climbing up and speeding down.  There are villages along the road where people have hoses running and trucks stop by the side to wash their trucks.  I saw a little naked boy taking a morning bath at the hose.

We bought a few pineapples here

I had to take this picture.  It's a little nursery where the sign says "Forest for sale". 
 We also traveled to the Northern most part of the mission to Tuguegarao the largest city.  There are many more tricees here.  They are definitely king of the road in this city.  We learned that this is the hottest city in the Philippines!  We live in the hottest mission in the Philippines!  That was not what we were expecting, but it is true!  
Again, the road trip was spectacular with mountains in the background and beautiful green fields  and trees everywhere you looked.