Sunday, May 23, 2010


With the passing of March and thinking of all the beautiful flowers at home it still amazes me that we are here in the Philippines almost half a world away and yet as we travel I see the beautiful hibiscus, lantana, bougainvillea, and smell the honeysuckle and some of the other flowers that we have at home. Our worlds are so different but Our Heavenly Father gave us enough familiar surroundings that we can fell at home even though we are thousands of miles from Coventry Court. It is hard to explain to someone who has never been on a truly tropical island, but as our daughters, Denise and Andrea kept saying, “This is the most beautiful place I have ever seen.” They have just had the opportunity to see a small area and they fell in love with the country. I wish I could take you all with me every day where we are oohing and awing the whole time we are traveling. It is very difficult to explain, but the beauty here makes your mind drawn to nature more than I can ever remember. It’s not once in a while, but every day that you look around and want to capture the moment forever.

This is how they grow their orchards. They just take a start and tie it to a dead branch or this large root they stick in the ground. They like to fertilize them with crushed egg shells.

(Much to Elder Cooley’s dismay I am always reaching for my camera and I hate it when I miss a picture or it doesn’t turn out because we may never see the same thing in the same way again and I don’t want to miss any of it). I could go on forever, but we have some important events I want you to hear about so enough of NATURE for now!

The month started off crazy and has ended the same way. We were able to finally get together with the remaining Elders who were once our neighbors, but they have been moved to another area close to us. We had an Easter Mexican Feast for them since transfers are coming up and we know that all of them will be moving and also our sweet Elder Domagsang is going home on this transfer.

Our Elders( L) Elder Spring, Elder Domagsang (R) Elder Gless:

We enjoyed the evening with some delicious food, (if I do say so myself), and I fixed all Elder Domagsang’s favorite things, which is anything Mexican, HE LOVES IT! The dinner was a time of learning about the families they are teaching and also talking about each of them and how they are doing on their mission. They are all wonderful missionaries and a great example to each other and the people they serve.

The dinner was a great remembrance because now all of the fabulous four have been transferred to other areas. Elder Walker went first and he is now one of the AP’s.

Then Elder Spreng was moved to Goa, but has now been made the new office finance Elder. Elder Gless has been made a District Leader and is in Tiwi, and our Filipino (“the dark chocolate brother from another mother”), Elder Domagsang has ended his mission and is now home with his family. These Elders will always have a special place in our memories, but now we have 4 new Elders and also 4 new Sisters to take our “fab 4’s” place.

These are the two Sisters who took their place, Sister Torio (L) andSister Medequiso:

It is hard to have favorites because they all have a special spirit about them and they certainly all work long hours. But they love the work they are doing. It is especially wonderful to meet the new arrivals and see how they change within weeks of being in the field. Even the ones we think might have a hard time just blossom and have a spirit about them that is difficult to describe and how they grasp the language is amazing. Even the Filipinos remark on how the “Americana’s” can speak their language so perfectly. Of course that is not the same with us older missionaries, I won’t mention any names!

We always end our month thinking that we won’t be very busy the next month which was the case in March. But it always ends up that we are even busier the next month. So March was busy but April has been even busier. We did however take six days out to enjoy our family from Utah. Andrea, James, Tyeler and Mikenize came to visit us for a few days in April and it was so good to see them. Even though the days are rushing by we still miss our family and enjoy having them come see us. We spent six fabulous days touring the Bicol region in Southern Luzon Island where we are serving. We did most of the same things that we did when Denise was here but added one very fun adventure. We rented some ATV’s with a guide of course and took a ride up to the lava bed which was formed from the last eruption of Mt. Mayon. Every eruption is different from the last and this one was kind to the people who live and farm the land at the foot of the volcano. Just at the base of the volcano the lava formed a wall where the lava would come down and it would run into the wall and stop. There was very little damage to the coconut plantations at the base and none of the homes at the base were damaged. This was a true blessing to these people who have very little to start with. To have it all destroyed is devastating especially since the coconut trees take about five years before they really have a great harvest. Once the trees are really producing it is incredible that the tree can have coconuts mature in just 45 days from a small bud.

Here is a picture of a tree that has several different stages of coconuts on it. You will see the ones that are old and also the very tiny new ones that are just starting. I can see why the trees are so prolific making at least a hundred coconuts a year. They use the old, brown ones like we see in America, to make the hard coconut for copra which is taken out of the husk and pressed for oil. They use this oil for cooking, you will see it used in some candy and they also use it a lot in facial products. They also grind the coconut meat out and they squeeze the milk out and use it to make lots of different dishes. They use it a lot in the vegetable dishes. I of course like to just dig it out and eat it and they all think I am crazy because they only like the young ones where the coconut meat is scraped out with a spoon. The young coconuts are soft and very slimy, but make great Buco salad and many other dishes. They also drink the milk, they say it is very good for the kidney’s and is a diuretic. They have young men walk around in the morning carrying young coconuts tied to a piece of bamboo and slung over their shoulder. Just 12 pesos delivered.

Well I really got off on a different track didn’t I? The ATVs were fun and we got lots of new pictures of the volcano. We had a great young man as a guide and he gave some very interesting new details about Mayon. He was also very helpful getting the older lady (as in me) up the climb on the lava bed to the top of the ridge so I could enjoy the view that Mt. Mayon has. It truly is a magnificent work of Mother Nature and just so beautiful. I had a blast just trying to hang on while Andrea took me through the rivers and the woods to the volcano base we did go. With white knuckles and camera in hand it was truly an adventure to remember.
After a final farewell we boarded a plane to come home from Manila and start work again. The next Sunday we did a Prosperity Fireside in Naga. These are always fun because we have a great script and the saints have fun while learning some very important information to help them learn how to save and about the power of compound interest.

Our Career Workshop for the outgoing Elders was a hard one because our dear friend and great missionary Elder Domagsang was in this batch. This has to be one of my favorite parts of our mission-to be in a workshop with all these strong, humble and loving missionaries. I just want to bring every one of them home with me. What strength, testimonies, knowledge and love of the gospel, I could only think that this might be close to what it is like to be in a room with the Prophet. They have experienced so many things and have grown so much and hope for a better life when they get home. I can only imagine how hard it is for the Mission President to say good bye to such fine young men and women. The church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is going to be in good hands with this next generation as leaders here in the Philippines.

For these fine young men and women it is a very emotional time because for two years or eighteen months the Elders and Sisters have lived in some of the best circumstances they will ever have and had more money than they have ever had also. It must also be very difficult to say good bye to the many companions that they will probably never have the chance to see again. There are usually some of them that show quite a bit of emotion and respect for who they call their “batch mates”.
I know this is getting long but just one story. We had a call from our dear friend Nette Pangang asking us to help her friends’ son get a job. The young man’s name was Rowel, age 27 married and one daughter living in Guinobatan. He is a Jeepney driver but works only on the week end. We met him at the ERC and talked to him about what he wanted to do for a job. Lee helped him with a resume and off we went to take him to some places that we had already discovered as good contacts. We only went to Hi-Tone construction and then LCC ( a chain of small malls in Bicol). We left Rowel at LCC and they gave him all the tests and gave him a job. We thought he was working but found out a week later that he hasn’t been able to start because he doesn’t have 450 pesos for the blood test. You may ask why don’t we just pay for him, well the answer is because most people are in the same way. No money to get the clearances that they need.
The people here are not good at looking ahead (provident) and figuring out what is going to be required of them in the job process even though they know they need these documents in order to get the job. We started out just giving them money but found that they are willing to take and take and take, so now we have to sit back and just watch them and pray that they want the job bad enough to go out and work at anything to get the money for the clearances. So far Rowel after a week and a half still doesn’t have the money for the test. He is going around asking people for it but not trying to work to raise it. We pray that he will not wait until the job has been taken by someone else.

We ended April with ten placements, nine of these were jobs and one enrollment in a university so April ended up a fantastic month for the Legazpi ERC! We can’t wait to see what the other wards do in the Stake.

Our work continues and we find that we as a team with our Father in Heaven (and the local leaders) are making a difference in countless peoples’ lives here in the Bicol region. Thank you for your emails and prayers not just for us but for the people that we are serving, it makes a difference.

Love to all!
Here are some pictures of the Magayon Festival that has been going for the whole month of April.

We especially feel at home being blessed here as well as there to have neighbors and members of our ward that treat us like family. Our extended families here in the Philippines are kind, generous and are definately special gifts to us from our Father.

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