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. 

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