Wednesday, July 6, 2016

April Family Fun and a Beautiful Ocean Baptism

     The last week of April our oldest son and family made the journey to visit us. Once again we had a wonderful time sharing our mission with our family. Kaleb, Kat, and kids arrived Saturday night and Maddux melted my heart as he ran to me saying grandma and gave me a big hug. He was barely a year old when we left. After giving hugs we went inside where we visited and the girls started chasing, catching, and playing with bukitkis (small lizards). It was the beginning of a fun filled week. We loved the time sharing the beauties and adventures of the Philippines and a taste of missionary life.

    A highlight of the week was witnessing Ayla's baptism in the ocean. The surroundings were beautiful and the Spirit was strong. We had a tender mercy during the baptism there weren't people walking past on the beach or boat traffic. Shortly after the baptism there were groups of people walking in both directions on the beach and a boat of people passed. We were thankful that we were able to have a quiet atmosphere for the sacred ordinance. It was a very special experience. That night Ayla was confirmed at the mission home. Kat began our confirmation meeting with a beautiful prayer; Bart gave a great talk on Baptism; Mia, Maddux, and Kaleb sang "A Child's Prayer" (Taitym had been singing all day but got nervous); Mia gave a wonderful talk on the Holy Ghost that she had written herself; and then Kaleb confirmed Ayla a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. After the confirmation Ayla bore a sweet and tender testimony. Since we didn't have family here we invited a few of our mission family to join us. It was an amazing day. We are so thankful for the privilege of being part of Ayla's special day. We appreciate Kat's family and the rest of our family for being supportive of Ayla's choice to be baptized in the Philippines. It was a day that we will always treasure.


March Zone Conferences

     On March 8, 9, and 10, 2016 we held Zone Conferences. As always we enjoyed the time with all of our missionaries being inspired, edified, and strengthened as well as enjoying time with each other visiting, laughing, and of course, taking photos!
     We had an interesting experience with our DVD this zone conference. The night before as the office elders were finalizing the DVD the computer crashed and they had to start over and make it into a Slide Show instead of a movie. It was still fun to see the photos and an elder played the piano for background music. Each day the slide show improved but there was no DVD.
     In each zone conference we had business, the kwan challenge, beautiful special musical numbers, heartfelt testimonies from the departing missionaries, and great workshops. President Mangum and I taught about "The Role of the Holy Ghost in Conversion" using clips from Elder Bednar teaching the Worldwide Missionary Broadcast. We enjoyed teaching about this subject and it was great to have Elder Bednar teach with us and ask the questions that we then had our missionaries answer. We had some great discussions. We then broke into zones and the Zone Leaders and Sister Training Leaders  gave workshops to their own zones on using Gather the Flock and the resources available. President Mangum and I enjoyed going to a few minutes of each workshop and seeing the different ways that the leaders taught. They did a great job. The Assistants taught a wonderful workshop on love, kindness, and charity and introduced the new training plan on The Atonement of Christ and Charity. (This has been an incredible training plan that the missionaries have really loved studying and used effectively.) They taught about not judging, forgiveness, service, compliments and gratitude. They had an activity where they broke into groups and had someone stand in the middle and each person had to give a compliment and end with "I love you". It was fun to watch the missionaries participate in this activity. It was definitely out of some of their comfort zones.
       President Mangum finished the Zone Conference by teaching a wonderful workshop. He began by using Elder Holland's video "Lovest Thou Me?" It is a powerful video that makes you think if you really love the Savior and our Heavenly Father more than anything or anyone else. He taught about the Easter Initiative "Hallelujah", Follow Him, Discover How. The missionaries had been asked to read from the four gospels about the Atonement and resurrection. He then taught about the Savior's merits, mercy, and grace that made it possible for the Savior to perform the Atonement for each of us. He had missionaries share their feelings as part of the workshop. At the Special Sisters Meeting with Sister Nelson she had the sisters stand and read a part from Elder Holland's talk that the video clip came from about loving Christ that teaches about what it means to be a true disciple. We decided to do this with the missionaries. It was a powerful experience to stand and put your name in the quote about being a disciple forever.

"What need, (your name), are disciples—and need them forever. need someone to feed my sheep and save my lambs. need someone to preach my gospel and defend my faith. need someone who loves me, truly, truly loves me, and loves what our Father in Heaven has commissioned me to do. Ours is not feeble message. It is not fleeting task. It is not hapless; it is not hopeless; it is not to be consigned to the ash heap of history. It is the work of Almighty God, and it is to change the world. So, (your name), for the second and presumably the last time, am asking you to leave all this and to go teach and testify, labor and serve.”

        Each Zone Conference was wonderful but they each are a little different because of answers and comments given by the missionaries and the guidance of the Spirit. We love the time with the missionaries! 

Lopez, Lucena, and Marinduque Zones

Batangas, Lipa, and Mindoro Zones
The rat that came to Zone Conference--I had to leave the meeting to talk to a sick elder and I was sitting in the dark Relief Society Room on the phone when I saw something out of my eye. I thought to myself a cat got in here
but then I looked at it and realized it was a rat. Yuck! I really have a fear of mice and rats; especially great big rats!
I went back in the chapel and sat at the back where I proceeded to tell my story to the office couple. She started pointing at the glass door into the chapel and there was the rat. She said she thought it was going to push the door open. I saw it down the hallway and took at photo with the phone. Later when Bart looked at the photo closely he realized the body was as big as the 12" inch square and the tail almost as long as the next 12" square. Two of our senior elders went out to kill it
but only got it out of the building. The way they tell the story is hilarious! I hope to never see a rat that big again.

Cabuyao, San Pablo, and Santa Cruz Zones


A special visit from President Russell M. Nelson and Sister Wendy W. Nelson

February 20 and 21, 2016        

The top photo is in the mission home in front of our family picture. 
The bottom one was at the San Pablo Stake Center.

           I believe it was in December that we heard that we would be hosting President Russell M. Nelson in our mission. Of course, it was exciting news but also a little overwhelming to think that we would be meeting and spending time with the President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles! We were excited to think that our missionaries would have the blessing of being taught by President Nelson and then we received news that there would be a Priesthood Leadership Meeting, a Special Sisters Meeting for the Auxiliary Leaders, a Young Single Adult meeting, a special San Pablo Stake Conference but NO meeting with the missionaries! We were so disappointed that our missionaries wouldn’t have that experience. In talking with the San Pablo Stake President, who happens to work for the Church in the Philippines Area Office, we found out that when they were making the schedule for President Nelson he was asked which he thought would be more valuable—a YSA meeting or a missionary meeting. He chose the YSA meeting. It was disappointing and sad to me. President Mangum said that if there could only one of the meetings, the YSA meeting would give more people the opportunity to be taught by President and Sister Nelson. I have to say it was incredible to see the excitement of the Young Single Adults and what some of them were willing to sacrifice to come to the meeting. The building was packed and the meeting was wonderful.
            There was a lot of activity at the Mission Home, Office, and grounds as well as the two Chapels were President Nelson would be attending. It was sometimes humorous to watch the Facilities Management getting everything ready for the visit. As we received our final schedule we found out that we weren’t invited to the Special San Pablo Stake Conference but were assigned to go with Elder and Sister Bowen (Shayne Bowen of the Seventy and 1st Counselor in the Philippines Area Presidency) to a different special Stake Conference in the Santa Cruz Stake. I was disappointed once again that we wouldn’t be able to hear President Nelson speak to the San Pablo Stake. We also found out that I would be speaking for 7 minutes at the special Sisters Meeting. It was overwhelming to me to think about speaking with Sister Nelson as well as Sister Bowen, Sister Tobias, and Sister Amstead (Manila Temple Matron). 
            The long awaited day finally arrived. President Mangum went to one chapel for the Priesthood Leadership Meeting with Elder Nelson and I went to a different one for the Special Sisters Meeting with Sister Nelson. We both had wonderful training and were blessed to be able to be taught by President and Sister Nelson as well as spend time with them. President Nelson is amazing; he has so much energy and had an iPhone and iPad he was using at age 91! (I kept thinking about how hard it was for my parents to even use the remote control sometimes or for Bart’s parents to answer their Face Time.) President Mangum asked if the rumor that he still snow skied was true and he said he hadn’t been for 10 days because he hadn’t found any snow in the Philippines--unbelievable! He was so kind, genuine, and personable. I was impressed with Sister Nelson’s grace, poise, and respect for others. I learned so much about being a woman of God as I observed her interact with the sisters and Priesthood leaders.
            After the first two meetings we met at the San Pablo Stake Center where the Sisters Meeting was held and had a light lunch before the Young Single Adult meeting. The chapel and cultural hall were filled with beautiful Filipino Young Single Adults. It was thrilling to see. At the YSA Meeting Sister and Elder Tobias and Sister Bowen bore their testimonies. Elder Bowen spoke, then Sister Nelson, and President Nelson was the concluding speaker. Sister Nelson taught about the gifts of the Spirit and how each spiritual gift we receive we take one step closer to our Heavenly Father. She asked the question “What would you want to do and what would you be willing to do tomorrow if you knew you would be meeting with the Savior face to face?” It’s an overwhelming thought to me; I have so much to improve. She ended by telling them that their true self is spectacular and they should never settle for less! President Nelson taught many things to the young single adults about marriage, schooling, and spiritual preparation. He taught the importance of learning who we really are. He told them they that they need to expect and prepare to do the impossible. He taught the importance of learning to access the powers of heaven and how we need to ask inspired questions as we pray. He talked about the importance of following the prophets. He left a beautiful blessing on the Young Single Adults. It was very powerful and I know that he is a prophet of God.
            The missionaries serving in the San Pablo Stake had the blessing of attending the special San Pablo Stake Conference and singing prelude as President and Nelson came into the Chapel. We were in Santa Cruz with the Bowens for the special Stake Conference there but we were told that the chapel, cultural hall and other rooms were overflowing. It was an amazing and spiritual experience for them to come listen to the President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. The special Santa Cruz Stake Conference was an inspiriting meeting as well. Elder and Sister Bowen are wonderful speakers and great to be with. That night our sweet night guard was saying what a rare experience that was for the Filipino members to have President Nelson come to their stake. I said yes and then told him it was rare for the members in Utah. We seldom see an Apostle at a Stake Conference in Utah any more. 
            After the Stake Conferences we met at the Mission Home where President and Sister Nelson came in for a few minutes before traveling to Manila. They were kind and personable asking about our family. We had a sweet conversation with them, particularly Sister Nelson, as we shared our experience of losing daughters to cancer (President Nelson had a daughter that died of cancer too). She asked about our son-in-law’s new wife and we expressed our gratitude for Wendy. She shared sweet feelings of a second wife and the closeness you feel to the first wife. It was a sweet experience to share a few minutes with these devoted disciples of Christ. Some of the feelings I had are so sacred that I can’t share but I will share that as President Nelson said good-bye to us we had a glimpse of what it must be like to have the Savior look in your eyes. I felt like President Nelson knew everything about my sins, weaknesses, insecurities, but all I felt was pure love radiating from his glowing face. It was a priceless experience and I’m not sure why we were so blessed to have this opportunity but it is something we will always remember and be grateful for!

Top: Special Sisters Meeting
Left center: Imagine my surprise when I got emails about my picture in the Church News.
Center: President Nelson and Elder Bowen shaking hands at the Priesthood Leadership Meeting
with President Mangum in the background.
Right Center:  The Bowens are inside the Chapel door shaking hands before the Santa Cruz Stake Conference.
Bottom left: Young Single Adult Meeting
Bottom right:  San Pablo Sake Conference from the Church News