Thursday, July 4, 2013

January through June Update

We are so happy that Elizabeth Laura Dover, Lizzie, was born January 16th  to Greg and Natalie.  We are told that she is a happy and good natured baby and looks very much like her sister, Bella.


That Dace (Dot-za) Sommer was born March 9th to Maryl and Travis.  She, also, is a very good natured baby. Her oldest brother, Calum, was concerned that it would take a lot of time to take care of her; however, he told his mom recently that he really, really loves her and that she doesn’t take that much time.  She looks just like her sister, Tate. In fact Tate told her the other day, “Dace, you are cutest little girl that isn’t me.

We are excited to learn the Kylee and Ryan Wayment are expecting a boy in September.  When we return to the States in October, we will have so much fun getting to know these two new grandchildren and 3 new great grandchildren AND catching up on the activities of our other 22 grandchildren.

We are also excited that Shalayne, Mindy and Brandon’s third daughter, married Cody Monson April 27th in the Mount Timpanogos Temple.  They are a perfect and perfectly wonderful young couple. We were represented “flat” style! Congratulations Cody and Shalayne! We love you!

Back left: Elder and Sister Cropper, Negros; Elder and Sister Talbot; Bohol; Elder and Sister John, Employment Resource Center; Elder and Sister Dover, Toledo; Elder and Sister Belland, mission office.
Front left: Elder and SisterJacob, Bohol; Elder and Sister Harris, Bogo; President and Sister Schmutz; Elder and Sister Ernstrom, mission office; Elder and Sister Gale, Family History Center.

In March, we enjoyed a two-and-a-half days couples’ conference in Cebu. President Schmutz, told of a dream an investigator of the church had related to him recently. This man had been hesitant to accept the missionaries’ invitation to be baptized.  He works at the Cebu temple complex and had dreamed that he was working alone one night. He noticed a light coming from the Family History Center. He opened the door to the center and saw a recently deceased member of the ward he had been attending with his family. This deceased member was wearing a white suit and invited him to enter the room telling him that he was needed. He was directed to look toward a wall. As he did so, the wall became transparent and he saw many people in white who appeared to be waiting. This man recognized some of them as deceased family members. The people communicated to him that he was indeed needed – that he had a work to do.

This man is now a first generation convert and is often found doing family research in the family history center. Dreams like these are quite common in the Philippines and the Pacific Islands and play a role in people being receptive to the gospel message.

Early in our mission, we became aware of the problem of incomplete and inaccurate church records. We decided that assisting to update and maintain them would be a positive contribution we could make as member and leader support missionaries.  When Elder Dover was called as a member of the District Presidency, it placed him in a position where he could lead the effort. We have devised a very specific plan as to how this could be accomplished.

The plan has the whole hearted support of President Schmutz and the District leaders and will take until September 29 to complete. Barely time to get it done before we return to the States.  The Branch Presidents have accepted the program and the responsibilities it places on their shoulders.  Our hearts were touched as one branch president vowed, “We will do this before you leave, Elder Dover.”

We loved attending the district youth conference recently. Two highlights for us were the spirit felt in morning scripture study groups and the cheer the youth gave us as we were introduced as part of a panel fielding questions on dating and courtship.

Waiting to Go
And another 'Waiting to Go'
Tutay’s talent group
a scripture study group
an award winning “Cooking Fest” group
Cooking Fest judges awarding one of the prizes

We attended the temple wedding of Mitzi Honoridez and Jonneil Culala, a young couple we have come to love. Both are returned missionaries and amazing, dedicated and inspiring leaders in the church.  They agreed to be on the dating and courtship panel for youth conference also.  We very much enjoyed giving them a ride to and from the conference. 

One of questions Sister Mitzi was asked on that panel concerned what she had looked for in an eternal companion.  Each time she mentioned a quality she had sought, such as someone who would honor his priesthood, Brother Jonneil raised his hand as he looked at her with pure love and gratitude.  It was delightful.

 A few months ago I met a very special sister in one of the branches. She was attending a District YW activity and standing with the branch YW President, her daughters and about ten other beautiful young women from their branch.  They requested a summer group piano class.  How could I not agree? They were so delightful in the earnestness of their request! They all attended faithfully and we ended the classes with a recital! Several of the girls are now taking turns playing in sacrament meeting.

Keyboards from the Harman Music Fund
A surprise presentation by participants
Some after recital photo fun – so photogenic!

We went to Cebu after meetings the first Sunday in June to attend a “Music and the Spoken Word” program Elder Laureano produced with the ward in which he serves in Cebu City.  His two companions have nice musical ability also. The chapel was quite full. President Schmutz and the temple president spoke as did the stake president and bishop of the ward. The choir sang 6 numbers. Elder Laureano had arranged several of them. President Schmutz described the music well when he said that he felt he had been transported to heaven. One choir member said that it was an evening she would never forget. The evening was also a nice way to celebrate our 47th wedding anniversary.

 Music and. . . We are invited to stand in with a part of the “Heavenly Choir.”

The mission will be split in July. The new mission will be called the Philippine Cebu East Mission. It is the result of President Monson’s inspiration to lower the age requirement for missionary service.  The result will be two missions each with around 100 missionaries. The inspiration involved in middle of May and end of June transfers will determine who is in which mission. Our district will remain under the leadership of President Schmutz. 53 new missions around the world have been created.

Sister Gena Garner from our Meadows Ward in Arizona was one of the 11 new missionaries who arrived in Cebu the first part of June. Elder Cunningham from a neighboring ward in Gilbert will be part of the Cebu East mission. A new Area Presidency begins serving on July 1st also. 

We presented a workshop recently to the leaders of the Toledo Second branch on how to hold a successful council meeting.  It is a good opportunity for training.  We also are beginning another round of apartment inspections.  This time, however, we will be looking to get things deep cleaned.

Elder Dover whipped together a big batch of potato salad for last transfers Zone activity.  He had made four layers of chocolate cake for it earlier. Since we aren't doing pancake breakfasts anymore, we had promised the missionaries chocolate cake and potato salad.  After having served 14, those breakfasts just sort of stopped fitting in a busy P-day schedule that included study and additional email time.

Last pancake breakfast

An important aspect of our mission is learning and seeking inspiration through workshops and personal study and, of course, conferences.  Elder Ian S. Ardern of the area presidency has just finished making a mission tour.  Three conferences were held: one for missionaries on the island of Cebu, one for those on Bohol and another for those on Negros. This conference was historic because it was the last before the mission is split on July 1st. President Schmutz observed what a great blessing it was to be gathered together - prepared to feel the Holy Ghost. Indeed, the spirit was strong.  The doctrine was shared in an inspired and uplifting way with many  humorous moments – particularly a demonstration with Elder Ardern and President Schmutz giving each other a “before leaving the apartment” dress code companion check.

Elder Ardern taught the WEETI approach to missionary work as found in D&C 20:59. They are, however, to warn, expound, exhort and teach and invite all to come unto Christ.

The missionaries who were invited to give talks and role play discussions were inspiring.  I know that our Father in Heaven is well pleased with this young army of Helaman serving in the Cebu mission. We are so very grateful to know them and to know of their service.  A quote from the conference, “We are all here because of Jesus Christ.” We have felt his inspiration and tender mercies many times during this mission. I know that this is his church restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith.

One wonderful sister told me recently that she had begun a search for a different church before she met the missionaries. She had begun going to the churches several of her friends attended, but attended each denomination only a couple of times.  Something seemed missing.

One day, as she worked at home, she heard a quiet voice tell her to go outside. “There is no reason to go outside,” she reasoned, but the feeling persisted and became stronger.  She stepped outside just in time to greet the sisters who were walking down the street. 

The gospel message touched her heart from the first.  She reads regularly in the Book of Mormon and calls it “her treasure.”  What a privilege it is to know her and many others with testimonies gained through similar circumstances. 
Other Pictures
School is out for the day. . .

Beautiful sunsets, orchids and flame trees . . .

Delightful new friends . . .

There’s a youth activity inside . . .

Smoke keeps mosquitoes away. . .

Missionary reunion at mission conference . . .

Saturday, January 12, 2013

January 12, 2013

We are moving into our last 9 months with new focus.  Elder Dover was recently called as the 2nd councilor in the District Presidency.  This has provided new opportunities to work more closely with Branch Presidencies.

Reinforcing this focus is the new truck we picked up in Cebu just Friday, January 11th. Well, it is not a new truck, but it is new for us. A Senior Couple who had been serving in Bogo, Elder and Sister Stroud, were using it. They were wonderful missionaries and have now completed their service and returned to the States.  They will be missed. We feel blessed to know them.

This truck will allow us to get up into Lamac and other rural, mountainous areas.

 A guy and his truck
McDonalds and a coke from Seven-Eleven
What more could he want?

We will be attending sacrament meetings throughout the district and will be much less involved in Toledo I and II on Sundays.  Having Sisters in Toledo I as well as Zone Leaders there is making a big difference.  There were 30 in Relief Society on Sunday.  They have been instrumental in bringing several less-or-inactive men back to church, also. By July, as the effect of the age change for missionaries is fully felt, there should be Sisters -  as well as Elders – in many branches.  If what has happened in Toledo I happens in other branches, the church will be greatly strengthened.

Last week was transfer week. Losing the last of the group of Elders who have served in Toledo over the last months, have left us feeling  like we are definitely in a new phase of the work.  We had worked closely with Elder Garver, a zone leader who had been here for three transfers, with Elder Laureano who had served in two different branches but been in the zone for 9 months and Elder Rose who had been here 5 months. Elder Rose came into the zone as a new missionary with that “where on earth am I and how will I survive this” look that I understand so very well. He has worked hard though and served well. Elder Mingus, from Missouri, was transferred also.  He has been in Lamac for three transfers and has done much to strengthen the branch.

We drove Elder Garver to Balamban on Wednesday evening where he would spend the night and then head to Cebu to complete his transfer the next day.  He had to go late.  Transportation would have been hard to find at that hour. We enjoyed one last visit with him.

Elder Laureano requested a ride to Balamban the next evening for himself and Elder Mingus.  We were happy for one last visit with them also.  We actually enjoyed a back seat concert on the way as Elder Laureano began singing some of his favorite songs in his rich, clear tenor.  Then Elder Mingus joined in with an amazing rendition of vocal jazz percussion. The King Singers would have given him a contract on the spot! Fun memory indeed!

So now we look forward to introducing many new Elders to The Toledo Couple’s Mission Famous All You Can Eat Pancake Brunch. The name had to change from “Breakfast” to “Brunch” because President Schmutz asked all missionaries to complete their regular morning study program before beginning P-Day activities.

Tuesday of last week, January 8th, we attended the temple sealing of the TeƱado family. It was a great and glorious opportunity to be there. They are a great strength to the Pinamungajan Branch and a joy to know.

Brother John Kline from California was baptized on January 2nd. He came to the Philippines from California. It has been a marvelous experience to assist in teaching him the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. He said several times of his baptism day that it was the happiest day of his life. We have every confidence that it is only the beginning.

Brother John Kline with his wife, Pilar, and daughter, Claire.

Brother John Kline and family with missionaries and a number of the wonderful members from Toledo.

Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise.

Wherefore, he is the first fruits unto God, inasmuch as he shall make intercession for all the children of men; and they that believe in him shall be saved. II Nephi 2:8-9

We humbly express our gratitude to daily testify of this truth as authorized representatives of Jesus Christ.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Last Blog of 2012

Love multiplied again on October 26 as our second GREAT grandchild, little Staussen Kristoffer Doria was born to Ron and Auna Doria.  Auna was the second grandchild born to our family in 1989 and she is second child of our daughter, Mindy, and her husband, Brandon Janis. Ron and Auna are living in Silverspring, Maryland where Ron is attending medical school. What a joy it will be to play with Eden and Staussen the last part of this year. We will also be meeting two new granddaughters.  Greg and Natalie are expecting in January. Travis and Maryl are expecting in March.

I love the way the picture below fell into place as the call, “Picture, Picture” went out and these wonderful Sisters came running to share in the fun. How I wish you could know each of them, but how grateful I am that I do!

 Several months ago we had the privilege of visiting with the matron of one of the pioneer families in this part of the Philippines, Sister Sabal. We were with Elders Seumanutafa and Laureano. Sister Sabal’s story is inspiring. Many years ago she and her husband sold their home to take their family of six children to the Manila Temple to be sealed. They were the first family from the Toledo area to attend the temple. Their daughter said, “We came back and had no place to go.”

They rented a home and were blessed to begin buying one three months later. Sister Sabal loves the missionaries and has assisted them in so many ways over the years. A stroke has confined her to a wheelchair but not dampened her enthusiasm or faith.

A highlight of September was the opportunity to be part of a temple trip with about forty wonderful members from the Pinamungajon Branch. This Branch faced many serious challenges in trying to get to the Temple. With the determined efforts of Branch leaders and the two marvelous young Elders serving in their branch, preparations were completed and the branch was able to make the trip, even a breakdown of the truck that was transporting them all to the temple, did not stop the trip. It was truly a time of joy and fulfillment.   A beautiful family, the Lagnason family with nine children, was sealed to their newly endowed parents.  The Acero family, with two sons, received the same blessing. Other temple ordinances were completed by youth and adults.

Elder Afu and Elder Laureano, the Pinamungajan Elders, had planned a devotional for the day after on a Sunday evening. They wanted to have this special time of testimony and music to define and “deepen” feelings experienced in the temple.

Elder Laureano is a gifted musician. He is also an experienced teacher having taught piano since the age of 14. His favorite hymn is Help Me Teach with Inspiration. Surely his prayer to do so as expressed in that hymn was answered at this devotional. With only one three hour rehearsal - that everyone loved - a ward choir, a missionary choir, a young women choir and a Primary choir prepared different numbers and sang beautifully under his inspired direction. One Sister said that when Love at Home was sung, she felt that she was floating on air she was so happy and felt so close to God. Beautiful testimonies were shared of feelings experienced in the temple as sacred work was completed.  Our hearts were touched and we are grateful to have been close enough to preparation efforts to see and recognize the tender mercies of God in making this happen for the wonderful members of the Pinamungajan Branch.

The first Saturday of October, a District Family Day Activity was held. There was good attendance from most of the Branches. Elder Dover was one of three speakers. Elder Laureano directed the Zone Elders in a special musical medley, Love At Home and Families can be Together Forever. Elder Laureano’s arrangement was beautiful and voices blended well. Elder Dover sang bass. I accompanied.

As we greeted members, I began thinking that we have about one year left. We will return October 7, 2013.

So many times I had wondered why we set our availability for two years. All the other couples in the mission will leave after 18 months. I had longed to see if President Schmutz would consider changing our call to an 18 month call also. However, as the activities began, I realized that I have truly come to love the people we know here. Once we leave, in all probability, we will not see them again in this life. (Thank goodness for facebook.) The realization hit me that I am very glad we still have a year. It was a sweet confirmation that we were right in offering our service for a full two years.

I told Elder Dover about these feelings as we drove to Pinamungajon for District Meeting today. He confirmed that early in our mission he had wondered quite a few times how we would ever make it to 23 months. He didn’t directly answer my question about how he felt now. Later, however, while reading in the Bible Dictionary concerning Eben-ezer, the stone of help set up by Samuel as a token of gratitude for deliverance from the Philistines (I Sam. 7:10-12), he read the passage “as a token of gratitude for deliverance from the Philippines.” Freudian slip, but. . . . . . . . . there you have it!

 At branch and district activities, it seems we are always asked to serve as “judges”.

This picture of members preparing to leave at the conclusion of the District Family Day will always be one of my mission favorites. We were preparing to leave the parking lot of the church, but with so many members waving at us from the truck, I thought that it would be a perfect picture.  As soon as I pulled out my camera many more came running shouting, “Picture, picture.” With Indat’s leap timed perfectly, the picture is indeed “perfect‘!

Of course we continue to have pancake breakfasts at our place.  This one fell on Halloween and was complete with spider webs and trick-or-treats. We love these younger missionaries!

Dec 3  The zone conference scheduled for today in Cebu has been cancelled to give missionaries time to prepare for typhoon Bopha, a category 4 plus storm.  It will slam into Mindanao today. The missionaries couldn’t find bread where they shopped for supplies.  We found out, bought extra for them and distributed it after district meeting.

Listed from right up, over and across - Sister Acain, Elder Laureano, Elder Warner, Elder Saet, Elder Mingus, Elder Flores, Elder Rubio, Sister Doronila

Dec 5  Over the last two days, the projected path of the typhoon has dropped far south. The predicted path would have crossed directly over Cebu City and Toledo and hit the cluster of islands to the west. Instead it took the path of least probable damage - just catching the southern tip of Negros and then staying over water as it moved out of the Philippine area.

District conference was held on the 10th

Dec 15  We have learned that the initial landfall in Mindanao of Bopha was devastating.  Over 1000 have lost their lives and another 500 plus are missing. Many people have lost their homes and are without basic necessities.

Members here had been asked to pray that the storm would be tempered. One sister, in doing so, reminded the Lord that they pay their tithing and are generous in fast offerings.  They have been trying to build a home and “pay as they go”.  They have walls, recently added a cement floor, but do not yet have doors or windows.

It will be a nice home when it is finished.  The kitchen is especially functional.  They have just finished one room because they are expecting a baby.  They pled with the Lord stating that the storm, if it hit, would take the roof off their home and they would not be able to replace it during the next year.

Cebu suffered no damage in this storm.  Can we add this to one of the miracles we were promised we would see?

We were happy to be invited to the wedding of Ladi Narona and his bride, Carol. We came to know Brother Narona as Elder Narona when he had served in Aloguinson.  We worked with him and his companion, Elder Manlicmot, on several occasions.

Dec 26  We helped the Toledo II Branch prepare a Christmas choir program. Several  members have very nice voices and had wanted the choir to continue after having  prepared a number for Branch Conference. Children had sung in that choir. For the Christmas choir, however, we invited the children to sing with the primary but not with the adult choir. Kennen Magbago was really disappointed, so we made him a judge of how well we sang.  It was very funny as he stood to give his report saying, “It was good. Not very good, but it was good.” After our last practice, we all went outside where Elder Dover shared his “Best in the Philippines Chocolate Cake”. Kennen wears the blue trimmed T-shirt in picture one.


A favorite Christmas decoration is the Nativity. To share the story of Christ’s birth, we made some laminated paper ones. Several days before Christmas, we visited some families with the Pinamungajan Elders, Elders Laureano and Warner. The nativity figures were added to one family’s Christmas tree as the story was told.

At another home, Elder Laureano told the Nativity story using the cover of his hymnal as the manger.  As he spoke, neighborhood children gathered at the door and were invited in. He involved them beautifully in the story.  Wonderful Nativities have been created using varied products including fine porcelain and olive wood, but these simple figures leaning against a missionary's hymnal will remain for us "The Best Nativity Ever".

There have been several conferences in the mission this holiday season.  The workshops that have been presented have broadened understanding of the scriptures as they testify of Christ’s mission as our Savior, teach repentance as we strive to keep the commandments of God, follow Christ’s example and more perfectly exemplify His attributes thus qualifying for Eternal Life made possible through the atonement of Christ.

The importance of moving from a testimony or knowledge of truth as received through the power of the Holy Ghost, to true conversion where pressing forward in faith with a changed heart becomes a way of life has been discussed.  How to help others desire and achieve this is an important quest in missionary work. A question to consider might be “If knowledge does not bring positive change, what good is it?”

Conversion can’t happen without testimony,
 but testimony can happen without conversion.

A good friend asked recently what might be the defining statement of the mission my husband and I are serving.  I have given considerable thought to that question. Here is my statement:

I have come to understand on a vastly deeper
 and more personal level
Christ’s invitation to repent and come unto him.

In Mosiah chapter 2, King Benjamin teaches that even if we serve God with our whole souls, we can never repay him for the blessings and mercy extended to us. As we do as he commands, he immediately blesses us, has therefore paid us, and we remain indebted to him forever.

We are in the Philippines as member and leader support missionaries, but as we serve we find that we are the ones most greatly blessed. We desire to assist and strengthen testimonies and means of those who live on these beautiful Isles of the Sea, but it is us who are more greatly strengthened. We are grateful for the “brightness of hope” the atonement of Christ and His restored gospel bring to the world

“But behold, I say unto you that ye must pray always, and not faint; that ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul.” II Nephi 32:9

Our Grandson’s request to visit us as Flat Calum brought some great adventures and special memories shared in this Flat Calum Smilebox.

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A melodrama produced as a final activity by our Tutay/Pinamungajan Branch English class will remain as a highlight of our mission.
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This Mango Picking Adventure Smilebox gives some fun insights into Filipino life.
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The Best Nativity Ever Smilebox shares some of our warmest memories of the season and extends our greetings to you.
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The first of December, towns across the Island hold Christmas tree building competitions.  Organizations volunteer to build Christmas trees in the town plaza.
The trees are made from various native materials.