Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Christmas Zone Conferences


 The week of Christmas we held three separate Christmas conferences. They were held on the 22, 23, and 24 in different locations. We kept hearing about how fun Christmas zone conferences were which put a lot of pressure on us (well, at least me) to make sure our's were balanced with spiritual instruction and fun and games. We feel like things turned out well. The missionaries seemed to enjoy their time and it was a great way for us to spend the week. We loved being with all of the missionaries sometime during those three days and being able to watch their interaction with each other and also be able to personally wish each of them a Merry Christmas. We do love our missionaries and it is fun to feel like we know them all now, at least a little bit.
      The conferences started at 10:00 a.m. and lasted until 4:00 or 5:00 p.m. We had invited the missionaries to share musical numbers if they were interested. We love Christmas music and wanted to have a lot of it--we did! We began the morning with a fun video that the office elders had made. It started with a photo of each missionary coming in and out quickly. Then a group of "ugly dog" photos--there are some pretty pathetic dogs here in the Philippines. After that we saw fun photos of companionships and groups of missionaries. The best part to me was the end where the companionships and a few districts or zones had sent in their "Share the Gift" photos. This part began with the video and beautiful music from the "Share the Gift" website which set a wonderful tone. It was so sweet to see what the missionaries had chosen to do to share the Gift of the Savior and His restored gospel.
       After the video we then had the departing missionaries for December and February share their testimonies. It was sweet to listen to the missionaries. After the testimonies and a beautiful musical number it was my turn to speak. I spoke about the gift of the Atonement and used wrapped gifts to illustrate how the atonement is personalized for each of us and it's up to us how we use the gift. The Assistants did a great workshop on using the family as a beginning point of teaching the gospel as you OYM with short, powerful statements. Bart then taught the missionaries about the atonement and the importance of repentance. He gave wonderful instruction and used an inspiring video, "Paralyzed Gymnast" from Mormon Messages as part of his presentation. The gymnast shares how she overcame the trial of being paralyzed through the grace of the atonement of Christ. He also used this quote by E. T. Sullivan (quoted in the Christmas Devotional): “When God wants a great work done in the world or a great wrong righted, he goes about it in a very unusual way. He doesn’t stir up his earthquakes or send forth his thunderbolts. Instead, he has a helpless baby born. … And then God waits. The greatest forces in the world are not the earthquakes and the thunderbolts. The greatest forces in the world are babies.” He showed baby pictures of many of the missionaries which was really fun and talked about the great things they have to do. The musical numbers were intermixed with the talks, videos, testimonies, etc. They were wonderful and really added to the spirit of the meeting. After a long but wonderful morning it was finally time to eat lunch (I was ready). One of the mission traditions was to have lechon/roasted pig for the Christmas zone conference. It was my first time seeing a whole pig on the serving table. It was weird to see the heads of the pigs, especially the second day because it looked like it was smiling. Bart said it was happy to fill the measure of its creation by giving it's life for the missionaries.
     After lunch we had another one or two musical numbers and then the games began. The couples were in charge of the games and we divided the missionaries into three or four groups (depending on the size of the zones attending) and had games that they played and then rotated. It was fun and funny to watch them get into the games and great to hear all of the laughter. After the games we took the traditional zone pictures. When Bart was a missionary they did a tie exchange for Christmas so we decided to try it. Each Elder was supposed to bring a tie wrapped with a note and then they sat in a large circle to exchange the tie. The sisters each brought an accessory (jewelry, hair accessory, etc.) for their exchange. While they were in their circles President Mangum read The Night Before Christmas right/left story where the presents go right or left each time that word is read. the missionaries. It was a lot of fun. We ended the day by returning to the chapel and singing a couple of Christmas hymns, having a closing prayer and then handing out a treat bag and wishing them each a Merry Christmas. It was a tiring but wonderful three days!

Marinduque Zone

Lopez Zone

Lucena Zone

Mindoro Zone
Lipa Zone

Batangas Zone

Santa Cruz Zone

San Pablo Zone

Cabuyao Zone

Siniloan Zone

A small glimpse of the fun and games!

The pigs that gave their lives for these great missionaries!
(I enjoy eating pork more when I don't see the pig's face looking at me.)

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

December 2014

     December came and went quickly and all of a sudden it's halfway through January!!!! Life continues to be busy here in the Philippines and occasionally we have some down time to try to relax and catch up on neglected items. Although December and the Christmas season were very different for us we enjoyed the month. We particularly had a busy last two weeks. This post is kind of scattered but I'm finally writing it so I hope it makes sense.

     On the first weekend in December a super typhoon was forecast. The Area Office was very concerned because it was supposed to be as bad as Yolanda in November 2013. Because they were so concerned they had the missions take precautions. We had several of our missionaries that were by the ocean or in other areas of high water or high wind danger move to either other missionary's apartments or stay in chapels. Fortunately as typhoon Ruby progressed it weakened and slowed down so that by the time it actually hit our area it was just a tropical storm. We know that many people all over the world had been praying for the Philippines and we feel like we were blessed to avoid any major damage. It turned out to be an interesting few days. I have to admit I didn't mind the day we had to stay in and relax while it stormed outside. In fact I was able to watch part of a Hallmark Christmas movie with Wes and Leah over Face Time.

My only Hallmark Christmas movie this year--over Face Time
on the iPad while I made soup and visited with Wes and Leah.

Thankfully prayers were answered and there was no major damage but plenty of rain water in some areas.

     On December 6 our dear grandson, Boston was baptized. It was one of our hardest days since we arrived. Boston's birth was a true miracle as he was born during Brittney's year of remission. We are so happy that he chose to be baptized but it was hard to miss this special day. We are thankful for his sweet 2nd mom, Wendy, who sent pictures and let us know what a special day it was (including that Brittney's presence was felt). The family that was there also shared about the experience.
So handsome! 

     On the 5 we had our MLC and it was a great meeting. We were able to attend three zone trainings as well. It was interesting to see how they had taken the information from MLC and used their own inspiration for their areas to teach the principles. We really enjoyed all of the meetings. We also attended district meetings, had Missionary Check-up, went to the Alaminos ward Christmas party, and the San Pablo stake Broadway night. We had wonderful experiences attending some baptisms. One of the baptisms we were able to see a dad baptize his son. What made it extra special was that we attended the dad, mom, brother, and sister's baptisms in August. The mom was so excited to have a "completed" family (everyone of age is baptized and can go to the temple in a year).

Mission Leadership Council--They're Wonderful Missionaries 

December District Meetings, Zone Meetings, Stake Conference, and Baptisms
Missionary Check up with the November Batch and their trainers. It's always a fun meeting.

Broadway night and Ward Party--some fun games we'll have to remember.

     On the 11 we were able to drive the PEF couple to Manila. We had a fun lunch and visit with them before we said good-bye. They are so much fun and are definitely missed. The couple parties won't be nearly as entertaining without them.

Good-bye to a great couple--we miss them!

     On the 15 we drove to Manila to pick up a new senior couple who serve as the PEF couple in San Pablo. They have already been a great addition to the mission. That evening we had all of the couples in our mission come for a nice dinner and Christmas party. We had fun sharing Christmas memories and exchanging gifts with each other. One gift per couple was supposed to be homemade and there were some creative gifts given. We also wrote our "Share the Gift" commitments.