Sunday, December 4, 2011

First Post from the Philippines - MTC through December 4th

Here's where we are headed

We entered the MTC on Monday the 7th of November. We were happy that the first couple we met were the Cardons who would be serving with our friends, the Kennedy’s, in Bolivia.  Kennedy's had asked us to watch for them. 

The MTC was amazing in that we found ourselves mingling with thousands who would eventually spread around the world to bring hope, light and service. How marvelous, inspiring, and a little intimidating to be among them. The Elders and Sisters there are representative of those pressing forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope and a love of God and of all men, feasting upon the word of Christ. (II Nephi 31:20) These words are from the scripture we had put on our missionary plaque in the Cody 2nd Ward.

The week was a whirlwind of study with Preach My Gospel as the focus. We learned to invite, testify and receive commitments to pray, study and seek promised blessings of our Father in Heaven through acceptance of the restored Gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. (PMG page 1)

The most joyous moment was when Ron, the wonderful husband of our Granddaughter Auna, found us.  We only had a few minutes to talk, but it was great!  We are confident he must be the best teacher at the MTC!

We enjoyed a bonus weekend after the MTC and got to see Greg and Natalie and Meghan and Jeff and their families.  A snow storm kept Parrishes and us from attending the children’s sacrament meeting presentation in Evanston, but we did manage to get there later in the day.
Bags are packed and loaded - Meghan and Bodee to take us to the airport!
Toledo City

Our flight left Salt  Lake City on Monday the 14th of November. We arrived in Cebu City on Wednesday at 11:45.  Brother and Sister Ernstrom, the office mission couple, were at the airport to pick us up.  President and Sister Schumtz were out of town but had invited us to use the mission home on the temple complex Wednesday night. We were told that the zone leaders from Toledo would be coming early on Thursday morning. They had received directions from President Schmutz to “get the Dovers settled in”. Our four bags and two carry-ons had been packed to meet the 50 pound and 17 pound flight weight limits respectively, so we spent some time compacting our luggage, emptying and flattening several bags so that we would be able to get our luggage, the Elders and ourselves into the car for the drive to Toledo. 

We have been very blessed to have had the help of the zone leaders, Elder Hardin from Utah and Elder Culala from the Manila area. Elder Hardin and Elder Culala left Toledo around 6 am that Thursday morning to be able to meet us at the temple complex in Cebu by nine and ride back with us to Toledo. Elder Hardin suggested that Elder Dover let him drive. It would give Elder Dover a chance to observe the techniques of driving here.  Elder Dover reluctantly agreed. He had been ready to jump in and go for it!

The Elders shopped with us Thursday afternoon and Friday as we found the appliances the house needed and became familiar with the town. On Saturday morning they came, with the other two Elders in Toledo, Elder Payo and Elder Serrano, and helped clean the house. Dad and I had used our last ounce of energy the previous evening to get the mops, buckets etc. that we would need to take advantage of their help. These Elders absolutely kept us from despair. I spent my time changing water and giving directions. They were amazing.
Cleaning Up! Elders Hardin, Culala, Serrano and Payo
We were given an article by Dick Sturgis that explains driving in the Philippines. It is called “Pick and Flash”.  It explains four basic principles: flow, pick, pick flash, and the no-see-chicken.

FLOW:  It does not matter where the lines on a road are painted, or how many official lanes there are—flow with the traffic. If there are only two painted lanes for traffic, but there are four lanes of vehicles, don’t worry about it – flow.

PICK:  Whichever driver can pick (place) any portion of his vehicle in front of another vehicle, the successful (first) picker has the right of way.  The slow learner who waits in a queue for a break in traffic is bound to spend much of his traffic life in queues.  All it takes is a little courage coupled with a small portion of bumper or fender picked in front of another vehicle, and you have right of way. Of course it works both ways.

PICK AND FLASH: This applies when you face another vehicle head-on with room only for one lane of traffic.  As two vehicles approach each other and it is not sure who can win the race to the one lane, the “pick” is won by the car that flashes its headlights first. 

THE NO-SEE-CHICKEN: This is similar to the not too smart, Western,teenage automobile game of “Chicken”.  I don’t even want to go there with Dick Sturgis’s explanation.  Elder Dover has been doing great driving.  Even the young Elders have been impressed by his “pick” skills.  However, we daily make “safe driving” a serious part of our prayers.
This most common form of transportation and our car are generally the only vehicles in the church parking lot on Sunday. Eight missionaries are know to pile into and onto one of these and ride several miles for 7 pesos each (about 17 cents ).
Elder Dover picks his way through traffic very effectively and carefully
This vehicle transports people back and forth from Balamban and Toledo for a fee
It seems to me that we have been here for at least a month and a half, but it has actually only been a week-and-a- half. We are happy and healthy but it had taken a tremendous effort to set things in order. “For the Philippines” this is indeed a nice home. That phrase creates several interesting challenges.When we walked into the house a week and a half ago, my first thought was “what have we done?” The tile floors looked nice and not too dirty, but the walls were – well – not clean. One bath room was in very bad shape, the other in bad shape and the kitchen sink and cupboard . . . well.. . thank goodness for Clorox. Our first goal was to find a mattress to replace the DIRTY thin foam pad lying on the bed frame in the master bedroom. Actually the bed frame itself is quite charming. We cleaned the frame, put the mattress on it and fell into bed by eight o'clock – totally exhausted but so grateful for the bed. We were grateful also for the one small bottle of water I had filled from the water filter system because we lost our water about six o'clock.This happens every night. Our beautiful and gracious landlady, Arleen, does not know why it happens, but it does. Now that we know it happens, we can plan for it, but it was a bit of a challenge that first night. I awoke around 3 am and went back to work unpacking, planning and organizing. Mark woke around 5 and helped. Regarding the ants we are constantly fighting, Arleen says, “With black ants, we are lucky.” We must  indeed be very, very, very, very lucky.
A great place to hang wash!
Our outdoor washing machine - it's small but it's a WASHING MACHINE!

Thank goodness for the safe, inexpensive and good food – including all you can eat rice – at Inasal
First  tropical fruit purchases – mangos and papaya are about 50 cents each
Washing fruit in a Clorox solution for safe eating
Last Friday we drove to Cebu to meet Dion Garner, a former ward member from the Meadows Ward in Arizona. It was very nice to participate in a temple session with him and members of his Singapore Ward. His wife, Lori, is currently back in Arizona enjoying being a first time grandmother. Dion said that Singapore is a marvelous place to live. As a former colony of England, communication is all English. The economy is booming. There are several stakes with many Americans.

We have learned that the luck involved with the“black” ants is that we are lucky they are not red. Red ants bite. So now we understand. We are learning to live with them.

Sunday was a marathon. Why do people run marathons and love them? Probably a true answer to that question would explain a little why we have decided to offer support to both branch one and two in Toledo City. The people are wonderful and excited for a Sister and Elder to be in their branch. How can we attend only one? We were at the church from 8:45 am to 7:30pm. This included choir practice for next weeks district conference and meeting with President Honoridez, of branch one.

Our first Sunday in Toledo, we were given the opportunity to share testimonies in both sacrament meetings. This week we sang a duet in Sunday School. We received this invitation just prior to Sacrament meeting. It actually went well. An older couple, Brother and Sister Dela Cruz, sang “Because We Have Been Given Much,” later in the lesson. They sang with all their hearts. It was a joy to hear. 

Monday, November  26th, we drove with Elder Hardin and Elder Culala to a district meeting in Pungamungajon. Elder Santia gave the study lesson. He has never given a lesson in English before but spoke in English just for us. He gave a wonderful lesson on involving the ward or branch in missionary work. Afterwards Elder Hardin told us that he is a wonderful and dedicated missionary. It really showed. The 30 minute drive there took us on less traveled roads and along the coast. It was very pretty.
Reporting successes at a district meeting - getting us settled in that first week was a large part of the success reported by Elders Culala and Hardin
We are now focusing on missionary efforts and making some plans to get to know the branch members.

It is P Day for the Elders Wednesday and we are having them over for an all-you-can-eat rice and pancake breakfast. Elder Hardin is especially excited about it. We will dedicate the house after.

While in Cebu last week, I picked up a keyboard that had been returned. I offered to play this week for the Primary of branch one. They are learning “He Sent his Son” to sing in church, but it has been hard using just a CD. They have a very capable Primary president who is also teaching the music. The second branch has a new Primary President, she is the wife to the branch President. I had someone ask her if she would like help with music in their branch. I didn’t want to ask myself, because I was afraid she would feel obligated to say “yes” if I were standing there. I will begin teaching music to the children during sharing time in two weeks. She seemed very excited about it. Apparently she told the children that Sister Dover would teach them music and they were very excited. They all certainly gave us bright smiles when we greeted them in the hall.

There are two lovely young adults (Noriene and Adalie) who have decided to become our adopted daughters. They came by for the second time last night. With us, they are members of the branch one choir. One is a recent convert. I asked if they would like me to get out the keyboard. They were excited to do so. We all sang a few songs together. They have nice voices. To hear them sing “I am a Child of God” with the Cebuano accent and the purity of their testimony in their hearts was so very touching. 

One night when Noriene and Adalie dropped by we invited them to stay for dinner.  They were eager to help with food preparations.We were having a stir fry with noodles so we hadn’t prepared rice. It was so funny after the blessing on the food to have them look at each other and say almost together. “No rice.” We thought since we had noodles no rice would be needed, but we were wrong. Rice is served with every meal.  Fortunately we had some in the fridge. Later Noriene sent us the following thoughtful text. “Inasmuch as you plan your life, it has a way of surprising you with unexpected things that will make you happier than you originally planned.  That’s what you call God’s will. Maayong buntag, Elder and Sister Dover.  God bless.” 

I will also be giving piano lessons to the Magbago Family.  President Magbago is a counselor in the District presidency. He and his family were among those who helped to paint the outside of the house before we arrived.  He sought us out and welcomed us the first week we were here. 
The Magbagos, President Rainier Magbago, his wife Norene, daughter Keana and son Kennan
A gift from the Magbago's for teaching piano - it was in a very nicely flavored sauce - President Magbago even cracked it for us
At Zone Conference on November the 22nd in Cebu City, it was announced by President Schmutz that throughout the Philippine Missions the teaching focus is going to be changed to reactivation.  There will be no more active tracting.  The 18% activity rate among members must be raised.  When we met with the missionaries and President Honoridez of the first branch, we were given the names of three inactive/less active families to visit.  On Thursday we left the main road through the city and walked paths to the home of three families.  We had two wonderful returned missionary, young adult sisters with us, Sister Mitzi Honoridez and Sister Marilyn Prajes.

No more negative commentary on where WE are living (the following descriptions of the living conditions of the three families will explain why). 

The first family lives in a traditional style Philippine hut.  It is one small room with a small porch and is on stilts.  The floor is bamboo strips with half inch spaces between them.  I was afraid to have all of us pull ourselves up to the porch.  I really thought it would collapse.  The thatched roof is badly in need of repair.  The roof was covered in 2003 by missionaries. The entire hut stands in need of repair.  The father daily pedals a badly, worn rented trisikad. He rents the trisikad for 30 pesos a day.  He brings home – on a good day – about 100 pesos.  That is about $2.50.  There are five children.  The oldest daughter was turning 14, but there would be no celebration or special gifts for her.  The youngest child is a baby of two months.  This family would like to come to church but have no money to do so.  They live quite a ways from the chapel. They have no electricity and could not afford to use it if they did.

The second family has a concrete home.  They seem to be doing alright, but they have a 29 year old daughter with some serious health problems resulting they think from trauma to the head when she was little.

The third family faces many of the challenges of the first one.  They live in a larger hut.  It is ground level but dark.  The parents and two older girls are currently all unemployed.  The girls were working at a bar fairly close to our home.  It is the source of the drums and singing we vaguely hear at night.  The girls would like to get work in a store in Cebu City, but lack funds necessary to submit government forms required for such applications. The father works with cement but can not find jobs.  These are, we believe,typical of challenges faced by many members of the church here and are not easily resolved.  We are prayerfully considering some ideas that may be of help to these families.

Today, December the 4th, was District Conference. The Toledo first Branch choir had been invited to present three musical numbers.  These brothers and sisters have been so dedicated.  We have never before attended several three hour long choir practices.  They sang with spirit.  I could not help but be touched with the rendition of “With Faith in Every Footstep.”  This choir represented the evidence of the spread of the gospel that the song celebrates and our forefathers worked to assist in bringing to pass.  I especially enjoyed the talks given by the Area Authority presiding over the conference, Elder Perez.  He is an amazing and gifted teacher, teaching with scripture, humor and inspiration of the Holy Ghost. However, President Schmutz’s talks were equally inspiring.  President Schmutz has a wonderful way of simplifying English so that his very entertaining stories seemed to be understood by all. Yet he wasn’t talking down. Perhaps, it was his prayers that the people would understand through the Holy Spirit that made that understanding happen. 
Front row left to right: Kent Lebumfacil, Elder Realubit, Elder Serrano, Melora H. Alec, Noriene M. Cabatuan, Bless Alec,  Mitzi Honoridez, Marilyn Prajes, Roquelyn Paje, Lovely Canilla and Beverly Dela Cruz
Second row: Elder Dover, Elder Payo, Gilbert Dela Cruz, Laura Dela Cruz, Elyira Nillas,  Adalei Pacquiao, Sister Dover and Anacorita D. Marcapobre
Top row: Elder Hardin, Elder Abbott, Elder Culala
Brother Kent Lebumfacil served in the Philippine San Pablo mission under President and Sister Anderson who now live in Jeff and Meghan’s ward.

Melora H. Alec serves as Relief Society President of the Toledo 1st Branch.

Gilbert Dela Cruz helped accompany the choir as did his sister Beverly.  He is getting ready to submit mission papers.

Mitzi Honoridez and Marilyn Prajes visited three inactive families with us. They are both return missionaries.  Mitzie thinks Ron Doria, our grandson-in-law, was in her mission.

Tomorrow is December 5th.  Elder Dover and I have some planning to do as we enter our third week in Toledo.

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