May-what can I tell you about this busy month? My journal has an extraordinary amount of entries for May so the highlights are all that I will write about. We will begin on May 2 which was a great Sunday. We were happy to be able to go to our ward since so many Sundays we have to travel to other wards for firesides or out of Legazpi for the day. We were just sitting there in church when Lee abruptly got up and headed for the door. My first impression was that he was ill or had forgotten something very important and gone home to retrieve it, but before I could finish my thought here comes Lee with our friend Jed. Lee had seen him in the hall and went out to find him and bring him in to sit with us. He is such a nice young man and one that we had been hoping would come and visit church with us and here he was. We have told you about Jed, we met him walking on the Bicol University track. He is training for the Iron Man competition and is going to compete in August. He has been so good to go with us and help with workshops, especially the computer workshop. So here he arrives at the church unannounced and stays the full three hours and seems to enjoy all the classes. He also comes to the house and visits for a while. Our hope is that we will see in church again soon.
May 5th. Today is our long anticipated trip to Mindoro. Mindoro is an island that is southwest of Manila. We had to fly into Manila and then on to Mindoro. After we landed in Manila we checked onto our next flight to Mindoro. I thought it was a little funny when we had to go to another counter and get weighted with our carryon luggage. That was my first indication that we were not on a nice commercial jet. Second indication was that we had to be taken by bus to our airplane; of course it was a propeller air plane out in the hinterland. I hate props, they scare me-give me a 737 or 747 any day but not a prop, they don't have real engines. After takeoff I felt better, but at the landing I knew that this must have been our pilot's first flight. The Tokarin's (our hosts) were there to greet us and whisked us off to their apartment where we all took part in preparing a Sushi dinner for the four of us and also the Ho Ching's, the Mission President for the Quezon Mission which Mindoro is a part of.
Elder Tokarin is Japanese and used to have a restaurant so we were in very capable hands. That made us excited to taste the food. They also served a cold rice noodle salad with a delicious vinegar dressing. I will have to try this one at home. While the men finished the Sushi, Sister Tokarin and I went to pick up the Ho Ching's. We had a wonderful night and the food was delicious. Elder and Sister Tokarin can cook for us anytime.
We had a room at the Hotel Pauline Resort-very tropical looking. We had a nice room that we never got to stay in because just as we were settling in they came and told us that the room had no water. So they moved us down to one of the cottages which of course was not as nice. Elder Cooley killed four giant cockroaches in minutes. Who could sleep after that experience? Morning was a welcome sight and I showered first. Just as I was ending there was only a trickle of water. Lee asked about the water and found that it wouldn't be available for a few hours. We called the Tokairin's and moved to another resort called the White House. We immediately fell in love with it and moved into the Ho Ching's room since they were leaving later that afternoon.
The day started off with a zone conference which we attended. The missionaries are the same spiritual giants no matter where we go. They only allow Elder's on Mindoro because of the hospital (more like a civil war field hospital). Elder Tokairin called it the 50-50 Hospital; you have a 50 percent chance of coming out of it alive or without a worse disease than you went in with. The Tokairin's are on Mindoro as a support to the missionaries and also as a leadership couple. He serves as a councilor in the District Presidency. They were so great to help us stage the 4 Prosperity Firesides, 2 workshops (Elder Tokairin and I did the Career Workshop while Elder Cooley and Sister Tokairin the Self Employment) we also did a training of the District Employment Committee. It was a busy few days!
A special note, on Sunday we had the confirmation of two children who had been baptized on Saturday night in the ocean. We were sitting there and when the Elder said the little boy's name I almost fell off the bench-"Mormon Jack"-can you believe that?!?!?! I wonder if they know what a Jack Mormon is?
On the way home we were detained for a few days in Manila, so we took advantage of it and went to the temple one day for a session. Saturday was exciting-the 499th batch of missionaries came in to the MTC. Elder Cooley and I were able to stand at the door and welcome the new Missionaries. It was so overwhelming to see the young adults come into this new world of being a full time representative of the Lord. We were amazed to see 21 Elders and Sisters from Mongolia, 6 from Pakistan and the remaining 54 were from the Philippines. We loved seeing the families and the sad yet happy farewell hugs and kisses. Mothers and Fathers alike were crying and also excited to see their young adults go into the mission field. At this MTC no one except the missionary gets to come into the building. Once the goodbyes were said at the door, and the missionary started up the ramp everyone was all smiles and so proud of their child. The missionaries never looked back they came in and went into the receiving room and a new chapter of their life began.
The church is in the middle of constructing a new and much larger MTC in Manila. This is the Asian MTC and serves 14 countries. They are getting ready for the opening of China. When this happens, the Philippines will be the major contributor for the missionary population in China since it is the largest population of LDS people in Asia.
On May 20, (Brian's birthday) we traveled an hour and a half to a small Barangay by the name of Sugod. Lt. Eric Estevillo had called and scheduled this workshop through the San Pablo Volunteer Center. He is a member of the church (RM) and stationed here with a whole Platoon under his command. I wasn't sure when we started driving on the lonely roads to nowhere if we should be going because we are counseled to stay on the main roads because of the NPA (New People's Army faction). This renegade army is a nuisance in the Philippines. We saw very little traffic and someone could have easily have stopped us, but the Lord was watching out for us because we were on His errand. The long and lonely road seemed to go on forever especially since we had no idea where Sugod was.
Then suddenly there we were surprised at the tiny community where we arrived and wondered where all the soldiers were who were going to take the Career Workshop. The soldiers showed us the run down little school where we were to teach. We had asked for some place with air-con and good seating, etc. I guess you could call a fan and no windows air conditioning, but we had a different vision of this. Then the influx of youth started, mostly young adults (not of our faith), to take the workshop and only 3 soldiers. We were totally surprised but loved the class. They had such a great spirit and enthusiasm and loved the workshop. We didn't expect this setting and was so hot, but the sweet young adults made us overlook everything else. Lt. Eric was a returned missionary had taken the workshop and wanted the youth he knew there to have the opportunity-what a caring soldier he is.
I just want to add another adventure we had with the office couple and President and Sister Smith. We actually took a p-day and all the couples (3) took a trip about an hour from the mission home to venture down to a waterfall. We had to go down about 200 steps and of course we also had to come back up. Sister Lambson didn't feel good so the women went back to the car. Then in about 25 minutes she wanted to try to make the trek. We made it to the falls crossing rocks and what was supposed to be a raging river, but wasn't much and we made it to the falls. But only a trickle of water was coming over the tall cliff. The area was beautiful and the climb into the tree house was worth the trip. Lee and I will have to try to go there when the rains come-if they ever do! Even without the waterfall we had a great time knowing the days are numbered when we will lose the chance to be with these great couples again. We will miss them!
Amid the adventures and the workshops we had a special experience attending a baptism of the De Lumens family. This is a family that Elder Cooley has had the chance to visit a couple of times with the Elders. They live way up on the top of a little mountain in the neighboring city of Daraga. The family has 9 boys with the oldest 14 and the youngest is 4 months. The mother, Sonya and the four boys old enough to be baptized 14, 12, 10, 8, were all baptized on the 22nd of May. They looked like they were definitely in training as part of God's missionary force as they all came back into the room with their white shirts and black pants on. This had to be a highlight in Elder Dewey and Elder Esplin's missionary journal for this month. I am happy to say that the father is close to baptism, but didn't want to hold the other members up since they were ready now.
Parents who have had missionaries, you have some idea how much love and dedication these special men and women put into their callings as MISSIONARIES. We have seen it in person and it is inspiring!
This month with all its workshops and meetings was still full of adventure and opportunity to touch many more lives with the help of our Father in Heaven.
We think of you often and know that our Heavenly Father is watching over you while we are here in the Philippines. We love visiting with you on Monday's and gives us such great comfort to see how happy and busy you all are.
We love and miss all of you-that includes our precious friends who are reading our blog
Elder and Sister Cooley