Thursday, December 31, 2015

Christmas Zone Conferences

     On December 21, 22, and 23 we had our Christmas Zone Conferences. They were wonderful! We loved being able to see all of our missionaries and share some spiritual training as well as some fun and games. We began the meetings with some business then followed that with a great Christmas DVD that the office elders had put together. The DVD had fun and funny pictures of our missionaries but also included the missionaries holding their "A Savior is Born so I . . . " signs, quotes about Christmas and a video clip of President Monson teaching about the Savior and Christmas. We had short, powerful testimonies given by our January and February departing missionaries which includes two of our wonderful senior couples. It was tender to listen to the testimonies and hard to think about losing so many great missionaries. Bart and I did a follow up on what the missionaries had learned from reading the Book of Mormon in 90 days with a focus on the Savior. We had missionaries share their testimonies and experiences. I then talked about the gift of the Savior and the many gifts He has given us as well as the Book of Mormon. I taught that we learn in Moroni that all the good gifts we have come from Christ. We then challenged the missionaries to write down what gift they will give the Savior this year. They filled out a paper with their gift and put it in a wrapped gift box. Through-out the day we had some nice musical numbers as well.
      Our wonderful assistants did a powerful workshop on finding and teaching. They related the Christmas story and the characters to the people we meet and teach as well as to ourselves. We all need to continue to be like the wisemen, actively seeking and acting upon the knowledge we have so that we can have the Savior in our lives daily.
  •  Wisemen are those who are seeking for the truth (Proverbs 3:5, Matthew 7:24, D&C 58:26, 122:2 are a few of the references they used). True seekers have trust, receive the commandments, don't need to be compelled, build on a solid foundation, and are pure in heart. 
  •  Innkeepers are those who are not seeking and not interested (Luke 2:7).
  • Shepherds are ordinary people who become seekers as they hear the gospel truth. Luke 2:8
  •  Angels are the missionaries who share the glad tidings and truth of the gospel (Luke 2:10).
  • The Star is the Holy Ghost (1 Nephi 10:17).
  • The Baby Jesus is of course our Savior and Redeemer.
     We then ate lunch which included the missionaries' favorite Christmas treat--lechon or roasted pig. We had a nice lunch and zone photos and then headed back for more training from President Mangum. He reviewed 2015 and the things we had focused on as a mission as well as talked about 2016 goals. He shared insights and teachings from our mission presidents' seminar and taught the importance of seeing what we can become or the area we are serving in, the people we are teaching, etc. can become. It was a great training.
      It was now time for fun and games! The missionaries love to be able to relax, have fun, move around a little, and of course, laugh. Before the games began we had a couple of musical numbers in each zone conference. In one we had a group sing "You're a mean one, President" to the tune of the Grinch. It was a funny song talking about how mean President is because he doesn't let them disobey, have girlfriends, etc. It ended with a shout out of love for him but it was funny watching the nervousness in some of our missionaries as they looked to see how President Mangum would react. It was all in fun and sung by great missionaries who actually show their love and respect to the president so it was all good. In another zone conference one of the great zone leaders sang an original composition about missionary work here in San Pablo. It was great. Our Pakistani sister sang a Christmas hymn in her native language which was nice. There were also a few other numbers. At all of the zone conferences the senior couples sang a version of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" missionary style written by a senior sister. We each wore Santa hats and the missionaries seem to enjoy watching us and laughing with us. The missionaries were divided into groups of three and they rotated through three areas of games and a photo shoot area. We ended this time with a gift exchange. Some wonderful people from Australia and the U.S. (and maybe other countries) sent a couple of boxes of socks, ties, personal care items, and random gifts so we wrapped them and the missionaries each received a nice gift.
      The day was not over yet. We returned to the chapel where President Mangum showed a cute photo of our grandchildren acting out the nativity and shared how that had been an important part of our Christmas for years. He then read the nativity in parts and we sang a Christmas hymn between each part. It was very sweet. He ended with a picture of Christ saying "Each of us is an innkeeper who decides whether or not there is room for Jesus" (Neal A. Maxwell). President Mangum bore a strong and powerful testimony, we sang "Silent Night" and ended the day with a tender, kneeling prayer offered by President Mangum. It was a powerful way to end the day.
       Well, it was almost over--we still wished a Merry Christmas to each missionary personally, giving them a hug or handshake depending on if they were elders and sisters (we can only hug our own gender), expressed our love, and of course, gave them a goody bag. It was nice to be able to greet them each one on one. Okay, now it was over although it took a while for everyone to leave. 
        It was a wonderful three days and made the week of Christmas very special to spend time with our mission family that we love so much.

As part of the goody bag we gave each missionary a 5x7 picture of Christ,
entitled "Abide With Me" by Simon Dewey.
We also had this scripture reference with the picture:
 ". . . remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God,
that ye must build your foundation . . . which is a sure foundation,
a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall."   Helaman 5:12

Zone Conference at Lucena Stake Center 
for Lopez, Lucena, and Marinduque Zones
December 21, 2015

Zone Conference at Batangas Ward Chapel 
for Batangas, Lipa, and Mindoro Zones
December 22, 2015

Zone Conference at San Pablo Stake Center 
for Cabuayo, San Pablo, and Santa Cruz Zones
December 21, 2015


Wednesday, December 30, 2015

December Happenings

 December Mission Leadership Council 

   Mission Leadership Council was on December 11 and we welcomed several new leaders. I talked about the importance of having integrity and keeping the commitments we have made to the Lord. In Preach My Gospel we're taught "What you choose to think and do when you are alone and you believe no one is watching is a strong measure of your virtue." The Assistants gave a great workshop using Jacob 5 and relating it to finding, teaching, and baptizing. President Mangum taught about a variety of topics including information from the mission presidents seminar. He taught the importance of having a vision and had the council decide with him on the focus and mission goals for 2016. He also taught about what it means to establish the Church. He taught that as we truly work we will have real growth but we must act on our faith. He used President Monson's quote "Fear not. . . the future is as bright as your faith."

December 2015 Mission Leadership Council

Christmas Open House

     On December 12 we held a Christmas Open House for the Mission Priesthood Leadership (Stake and District Presidencies, Bishoprics, and Branch Presidencies) and their wives. Because of the distance some brought their children with them. We had talked about having one last year and it never worked out so we started planning this in October. When Bart presented it to the Stake and District Presidents they said it needed to be all day to accommodate the people from all of the areas. We had it from 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. and pretty much had people there the whole time. The sweet sister who helps at the mission home baked hundreds of cookies and made macaroni and buko salads. I made four different kinds of sweet breads and made cabbage salad. We also had fresh fruit, vegetables and dip, artichoke dip, cheese ball, crackers, chips, and salsa. As you can see it was mostly American food. I called it an American Merienda because that means snack so they wouldn't think it was a meal. They seemed to enjoy the food although there were a couple of people who asked where the rice was.
     We had around 100 or more people come and we enjoyed visiting with them. We even had a few from the two islands which was so nice that they had made the effort to come. We were happy to be able to express our gratitude as well as give them the chance to come to the beautiful mission home. Many of them had never been here. It was so fun to host a Christmas party and fun to see everyone visit and enjoy themselves. It was a great day!

Christmas in the Philippines

Some of the Christmas decorations we enjoyed during the "ber" months.
The first time we saw a countdown it was 79 days until Christmas.
It came and went too fast as always!

Saying Good-bye

     Sometimes, especially in December, we have missionaries go home off cycle for different reasons. We said good-bye to four great missionaries including a wonderful former assistant to President Mangum.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

A Savior is Born

     As everyone who knows me is aware I love this time of year. In the Philippines they start putting out Christmas decorations and playing Christmas music in September. Bart and I have decided we enjoy it. We even had the Christmas tree in the Mission Home put up on October 30. I know, it's unbelievable isn't it? But when you really think about why we celebrate Christmas it feels okay to celebrate for a long time. We love our Savior and we are so thankful for His sweet birth, His life and example of charity and obedience, and of course, His atoning sacrifice. We don't understand how the Atonement works but we have felt the redeeming and enabling powers of this great gift from our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. I hope you are enjoying this special time of year. We love you!
                                                             A Savior is Born

Another adorable grandson!

    On December 2 Collin and Cecily had a baby boy! His name is Colby and he was 8 lbs 4 ozs. and 20" long. He is beautiful and we are very thankful for his safe arrival. Both baby and mommy are doing well. His sister adores him along with dad and mom. Once again we are so very thankful for modern technology that allows us to see the baby and the family together. We only wish we could hold him!

Beautiful Baby and Family

Monday, December 7, 2015

The Cycle Continues--Another Group Leaves and Another Group Arrives

November 30 and December 1 we spent time with a very fun and faithful group of missionaries before they got in the Jeepneys and headed to Manila. We really enjoyed the fun as well as the tender and heartfelt testimonies they shared.

Our great departing missionaries included three from the first group that arrived 2 1/2 weeks after  we arrived --during the typhoon. It's hard to believe they have already completed their service. We will miss them all!

December 2 and 3--A large group of 18 missionaries arrived. We had orientation, interviews, visits, and they went to a lake in San Pablo to proselyte. They are a friendly group with great testimonies and are ready to serve.

Thanksgiving Day 2015

November 27, 2015--We had a wonderful Thanksgiving this year. We were able to have all of our senior couples, including one who arrived the day before, join us for dinner, visiting, sharing, and fun. All of the women helped to make the meal so we had a delicious, traditional Thanksgiving meal including turkey and all the trimmings, homemade rolls, and pumpkin pie. We loved being in the kitchen and cooking together. We are so thankful for these wonderful friends who are such a blessing to our missionaries, members, and the mission—not to mention the two of us.

Delicious food, great visiting, and of course some Thanksgiving games.

I didn't do very well on our selfie.

We welcomed a fun new couple. This is their second mission and they have so much to offer.
We're thankful to have them join us.
We were sad to say good-bye to this wonderful couple who arrived just a couple
of weeks after we did.It was their second mission and we are so grateful for all they taught us. They are amazing people and so much fun; we will miss them!


Mission Presidents Seminar

 November 17-19, 2015--We had the wonderful opportunity to attend another Philippines Mission Presidents (and Wives) Seminar. We love spending time with the other mission presidents and wives who have become dear friends. We always love being taught by the Area Presidency, Elder Ardern, Elder Bowen, and Elder Haynie. This time we had the amazing experience of also being taught by Elder Neil L. Andersen and Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles! They are wonderful teachers as well as very personable. I wish I knew how to express the feelings I experienced being taught by two apostles. It felt surreal. The Spirit was so strong during the meetings. Now we are trying to decide what of all the things we were taught we need to apply at this time for ourselves and the mission. We had the opportunity to sit at the table with Elder and Sister Andersen at lunch on the last day of the seminar. I still can't believe that I am having these experiences. (I so wish I could talk with my parents about the "learning experiences" Bart and I are having as we serve in the Philippines, San Pablo Mission.) I am incredibly humbled by the many blessings I have been given.

On Wednesday we had meetings during the morning and free time in the afternoon.
We went with some of our friends to the American Cemetery Memorial.
 It is a beautiful and sacred place. It is overwhelming to think of the many soldiers that are buried there as well as many others who are honored but were MIA.
We then had a wonderful dinner and visit with our friends hosted by the Manila Mission President and his wife at their Mission Home. It was so much fun.
 After we returned to the hotel we were surprised by a yummy dessert and a birthday song from a couple of the hotel workers. They were so cute and wanted a photo with us. 

We arrived in Manila on Monday afternoon and had dinner with almost all of "our batch"
at PF Chang's. (We never feel like we're in the Philippines when we're in Manila; it's so different from our area. Even though we love the nice restaurants we love our mission more!)
 The beautiful hotel we stayed at had "snow" at different times during the day.
We watched out the window and then went out to see it up close.
The snow turned out to be soap bubbles but it looked great.
The wives had the incredible opportunity to be taught briefly by Elder Andersen and Elder Renlund at a Women's Meeting. They then left to teach the Presidents and we were taught by their impressive wives. It was an inspiring meeting.
We took pictures so we could believe it was real that we were with two of the Lord's apostles.
The seminar was the same week as APEC was held in Manila.
We talked about how everyone was watching the world leaders not realizing
that two of the Savior's modern day Apostles were across town!