July 1 started a new chapter in the Naga Mission history with a new Mission President, President and Sister Bliesner from Logan Utah. We had a Naga Southern zone conference, about 80 missionaries, to meet and listen to Pres. And Sister Bliesner. I enjoyed all the talks and information that they brought to us. We found that the missionaries are going to have a little different role. Everyone is going to work hard on the rescue of the members that are no longer active. The missionaries are still waiting for the major training from President Edwards, area President. He will visit here in October, but next week the mission president will come and start some of the training with the zone. It will be a little challenging for the missionaries who have been out a long time to switch gears and do the missionary work different from what has been done here in the past.
We have with the Bliesner's four times now and have enjoyed getting to know them. We actually found out that their daughter and son-in-law lived in our ward several years ago. Do any of you Granite Bayer's remember Ryan and Heidi Partridge? Heidi is their daughter, small world!
Our mission has taken a little bit of a turn in that we are doing fewer workshops and doing more one on one help with members doing some career coaching and resumes. I think by the time we get home we could probably start a business. Anyone need resume coaching?
July did start out with a workshop which was about a two hour drive south-that is two hours if you take the right turn or two and a half if you pass the turn and head to the ocean. So we were late, but a half hour late here in the Philippines means that we were right on time! They all joke about how late they arrive to all the meetings, they say, "you know Filipino time?" The drive to Bulan is so breath taking and picturesque-yes I took a lot of pictures. Picture taking is how I keep awake on these long drives and believe me I need to stay awake or we wouldn't be still be alive.
Here's a house painted like wood on the way to Bulan:
As always the members were so excited with the workshop and were grateful for the information they received.
On July 4th while all of you were celebrating our country's Independence, we had an experience of a lifetime. One of the sweet families I visit teach, yes I mean families, I visit because when we go visit teaching everyone comes in and visits and even stays for the lesson. They had lived in Guinobatan (about 30 minutes from Legazpi), in 2006 when Typhoon Reming hit the Bicol region. They haven't had the money to take a Jeepney ride to see the home they left behind. Lojaro's were a family of 10 living in a small unique home at the edge of the area leading to Mount Mayon. Grace told us how Francisco was away at work when the Reming hit. She said that the rain and wind was terrible, all she could think of was keeping her 8 children safe. She said when she went outside there was water running down both sides of their little home, but the water had not come inside the home yet. She said they were so blessed to be able to pack food and clothing and instructing the children to all hold on to each other, and with a prayer on her lips, she and the children were able to walk along a dike road and make it 6 km to the Guinobatan chapel down the hill. Once they were safe and secure, she put the oldest children in charge of the young ones and she made the trek back up the hill to rescue all she could from the house. Here the people have so little that they can't just let nature rob them of the few possessions that they do have. Grace was very brave and determined to make the rescue and she did it without any problems finding the home still safe so far. She could have lost her life as many did that day, neighbors that were not as blessed as the Lojaro's. Here's a neighbor's house that is still being repaired:Lives lost, homes washed away and farm land covered with huge boulders and volcanic sand washed down from the volcano.
The Lojaro's were relocated to Legazpi in a small relocation community the government had set up. They are now safe from typhoons and the threat of Mayon's eruptions since they are on the hills behind Legapzi City.
We taught two more workshops, one at the ERC, and the other one at the Mission Home for the Missionaries leaving their mission to return home. We are always humbled when we teach these servants of God. We feel their strength and the spirit is so strong you can feel it everywhere. We were blessed with an email from Sister Alipoyo expressing her gratitude for the workshop and telling us she did what we taught her, and within five days of getting home she had a job. This generation will make a great impact on the future of the church in the Philippines.
On July 13th (last day of the workshop) in Naga, we were awakened by a terrible storm, which continued throughout the day. President Bliesner invited to stay another night, but we had an appointment on the way home that we couldn't miss. We found out that the storm was our first typhoon, Conson. It rained in sheets of water. Our windshield wipers couldn't even clear the windshield so we could see out, but with the Lords help we made it to our meeting with South East Star Bottlers in Ligao. We offered to help them find people to fill their job openings. Hopefully they will provide a lot of jobs for the members on the church in the Ligao.
The next day we had a tropical storm come through and also a 16 hour brown-out. This means no electricity of any kind. There were some problems with this: no electricity, no pump to get the water into the house, so no shower water only our bottle of water and a ladle. No electricity no hair dryer and no curling iron also no water getting to the toilet and no water to sinks. No cold refrigerator so we had we get ice to pack in the freezer and also a cooler to put some of the food to keep it cold. Doesn't this sound like an exciting adventure? It was and we have things like this happen all the time. We have had several brown outs this month, but the worst part of it is that we have NO AIRCON.
July 20th marked our one year anniversary for us here in the Philippines. Time has gone by so fast and I am sure the next 6 months will fly by also.
Tuesday and Thursday we spend helping the people who come to the ERC to do resumes and talk to them about interviewing. We had 17 placements here in Legazpi this month and 37 for the whole Bicol region, we are so thrilled!!! Working with the people we get to know them and also hear some amazing stories of their lives and some of the trials they have been through. It is truly amazing the strength and faith that these people have.
One of my favorite young men is not of our faith, who at 16, left on a mission for the Catholic Church-his name is Angelo De Lumen.
We had two interesting meetings with the young adults this month. At one we were asked by AMA, the largest IT University in Asia, to come and teach some of their 4th year students how to write a resume and also how to interview for a job. We met with about 75 students and gave a 2 hour seminar. We always show a couple of funny videos just to peak their interest then we present the material and they seem to absorb all the information and want more. A few of the students asked about our workshop so we will have to invite them to the next one in Legazpi.
Our last Young Adult meeting was with the Institute Students in Naga. We were asked to come and put on a devotional about Careers and Saving for the Future. They presented us with a wonderful program of music and inspiration from the Stake President. We had also 2 hours here to talk and convey our material to still another wonderful group of saints. We loved this group and hope we can see them again before we leave. They expressed interest in having us come back to present more material to them on some of our other subjects.
The Lord is raising a blessed generation here in the Philippines. I just love these youth and wished I could adopt them all and bring them home with us even for just a short time.
Amy, our landlord and her family invited us to her Aunt, ELY's 94th Birthday. She is a special woman and still likes a good party. She had to blow the candles out three times, she was so fast they couldn't get a picture. To get the picture they finally had to use a video camera, we all had a good laugh over that.
Ely in her prime:
The family has adopted us. They invite us to all the family big events and they really know how to celebrate. We love talking to them and learning about the family and the early days here in Legazpi. Hermie, owns the house we live in, he is retired US Navy and is so nice to us. They always make sure the yard is taken care of and anything else that needs repair. It is so easy to love them and share in their happiness.
As you will notice in the pictures they know how to celebrate with food. This is just a taste of what our July was like here in Legazpi.
We didn't get to celebrate the 4th but here we celebrate every day with happiness, joy and the love of the Pilipino people.
Elder and Sister Cooley