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