August has been a quiet month, no typhoons and no Mt Mayon erupting. I guess the weird weather has also shown itself here in the Philippines. Global warming I'm sure. First we have had an El Nino spring and summer, hot and dry-not what our weather is supposed to be. Now, when the typhoons and tropical storms are suppose to be here, it is still pretty mild. We have had only one typhoon last month which means we are expecting 20 between now and December. If this happens we will be in trouble!
Like the weather, our work has also been mild. We spend every Tuesday and Thursday at the ERC from 10am to 1pm or longer if we have some people there we are working with. Saturday is also a day the ERC is open, but most of the time we have other projects going on so the assistants help those who come to the ERC.
We have had the chance to visit with a lot of members and also non members who are interested in creating or redoing their resume. So many people need work and they will just about accept anything so they have money coming in to feed their family and pay the bills. Take Joel for example, he is a kind, good looking father of one adorable little boy and a beautiful wife. He has a lot of skills, but not a college degree. He took a job at Bicol University as a utility worker and we were excited for him because he had work and we thought it might be something that he might use as a stepping stone for a much better job. Then one morning we left BU after our morning walk and saw him sweeping this particular area of the grounds, where we see him sweeping every single morning. We thought he would be doing some maintenance on the building fixing plumbing, electrical problems etc., but here "utility man" is just a glorified word. I feel sorry for him, but he is happy he has a job. We find that there are thousands that are unemployed but there are a lot more that are under-employed. He is capable of so much more; we pray that he can find a better job that will use some of his skills.
We live in Legazpi Ward which consists of about 650 members, but only about 165 are active. We meet people all the time that tell us they are members of the ward, just not "active". A few weeks ago, we had our hair cut and the girl shampooing my hair said, "I am a Latter-day Saint,". "Oh", I said, "where do you live?" "In Ilawod by the Jennifer Hotel," "Me too," I said. So she is in our ward and hasn't been to church for three years. She has a brother in the city, but not living with her and her mother is in Abu Dhabi working. (There are 11 million Filipinos who are working abroad.) I invited her to church and asked her name, "My name is SUNSHINE," she said. With a name like that no wonder she has such a big smile!
On Saturday August 7th we had a 10 o'clock meeting with the all the Employment Directors of the whole Bicol Region. We had confirmed 10 people coming which we were happy about, but then a couple brethren from Iriga come also. We have worked for 13 months trying to get Iriga engaged with the Employment Resource services and here they were. We hope the meeting helped them and will get them interested in having us come and train their committee members. It's exciting to think that one more district may get involved to help the members get jobs or start a business.
Our favorite workshop is the one where we train the outgoing missionaries. We look forward to the days that we are at the mission home working with these faithful Elders and Sisters who are headed home after a successful mission. Our groups vary in size every six weeks and this was a small group of just two Sisters and two Elders-all Filipino, three from Manila area and only Sister Batacan, was from Palawan Island.
Elder Nonato was sitting next to me and several times during the workshop he would look at me with those big dark eyes and say, "I can't believe that I am going home!" It breaks my heart to see how sad they all are to go home. For some this is the best they will ever live and eat. For some all the friendships they have made are wonderful but they will likely never see their fellow missionaries again. For others it will be an everlasting dream that will always bring them wonderful memories. They have served well and going home good and faithful servants of our Heavenly Father. They miss home, family, and friends but they will see them at the end of the two years, but companionships in the mission field may never be together again.
This group was special and after all the hugs and good-bys I was even feeling sad at the thought of never seeing them again. We have a chosen generation in the mission field at this time!
On Augusts 24th, the second day of the workshop Lee and I celebrated our 42nd wedding anniversary. What better way, and what choice company we had to celebrate with.
Sunday the 29th we took the Sisters to a new area in Legazpi. They were able to meet Shirley and JR, two of the people I VT. The sisters had a great visit with them. It was dark and so we used flashlights so the sisters could at least get and idea of what Shirley and JR looked like. We also took their light to replace it so we could have light next visit.
Then we headed off to visit the Morga family. She is the nicest person you could ever meet and her sons are too. Kevin is turning 19 and we helped get him a job at McDonald's. He and his brother Earl have great personalities they will be loved by the people they teach when they go on their missions. Sister Morga has had four sons go on missions so far and Kevin will be the 5th. Her husband died two years ago, at 58. Her parents have lived in the Salt Lake Valley for five years! We really enjoyed Kevin who gave us the first lesson; He will be a fine missionary.
We want our friends back home to know that they give the same council here about having a 24 hour kit and also having a few months' food supply and cash on hand. The Filipino people want to be obedient and try to do all that is required of them; they have the desire, but not the finances. We are sure they will be blessed for at least having the will and desire to do as they are instructed.
Elder Cooley and I would like to end with a story;
There was a sailor who had been the only one to survive a ship wreck. He found himself stranded on an island. He worked long and hard making him a Nipa hut so he had some shelter and a safe place to sleep.
A long time had passed and he thought he may get off the island alive. One day he started a fire and his Nipa hut caught fire and was burned to ashes. The man was very angry and cried out to the Lord, "Why have you done this to me?"
The next morning rescuers came to the island. The sailor couldn't believe it after he had been there so long. The sailor finally asked one of the men, "How did you find me?" The rescuer replied, "We saw your smoke signal!"
Sometimes we don't have faith in our Heavenly Father. We also receive council from our Prophet but we do not heed his words.
President Pangan told this story as part of his talk Sunday, on being OBEDIENT and knowing that our Father in Heaven will watch over and give us council to make our lives and families happier.
We are so thankful for our friends and family who continue to encourage us and we delight in our experiences here in the Philippines. We are so blessed.
Elder and Sister Cooley