Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Christmas at Las Flores

December 25, 2009

As the season has developed we have enjoyed the variety and creativity of the decorations that abound here. The traditional (as we determine!) colors are used but in addition, many other colors are introduced, such as lavender and teal, and lots of sparkily stuff! We have seen lights and decorations that really enliven one's creative thinking. On the other side, the expression of this nativity is crafted in such a way that you get a strong sense of the deep feelings of the artisans.

Each figure is shaped out of bound together twigs. This nativity was at the side of the road--quite large--a labor of love.

More outdoor decorations created from corn husks and twigs.

Our Hoilday celebration started with a disappointment and concern for President and Sister Hansen. The Presidient has had a reoccurance of cellulitis, that nasty infection that he had when we arrived last March, only this time it attacked the opposite foot and moved to his knee. The better part of precaution was to have him admitted to the hospital and receive more powerful antibiotics than can be administered by mouth. Rats! This health chapter emerged the day of the senior missionary Christmas dinner and FHE. Sister Hansen, incredibly organized and on the ball, told me where the recipes and ingredients were for the dinner items to be prepared at the mission home and instructed us to carry on. We enjoyed ourselves but missed them! As of this posting (January 7th) President Hansen has received a clean bill of health after spending most of a week, including Christmas, in the hospital.

All the senior missionaries on the stairs at the mission home. There we are at the top. Just think, YOU might be lucky enough to be part of a group like this! We really enjoy getting to know these good folks; there's something about serving shoulder to shoulder in the Lord's cause that creates a bond like none other. In this group we have a wide variety of talent and service: family history, temple open house public relations, mission office (yours truly), the Employment Resource Center, and member activation. The nice thing about our assignmentes is our own life experience is an important and useful factor. In many settings you have some guidelines, but carry out the assignement in your own way, using your talents and life experience. It works every time to the great blessing of the church here in the Cebu missiosn.

In league with Old Saint Nick--Christams Eve day we met the senior missionaries at the office who were heading back to their island or area after our gathering on the 23rd. Look at this trunk full of goodies that they got to take back to the missionaries in their areas! We anticipate the packages will continue to trickle in over the next month.

Senior missionary wisdom: If you can’t be home with your first-line loved ones for Christmas, make a completely different day so you don’t feel a lonely pang.

We celebrated our Philippine Christmas with four other senior missionary couples at a seaside resort about 35 miles north of Cebu. We discovered Las Flores a couple of months ago—stopped in to see what it was all about during a drive from Cebu to Bogo. Our immediate reaction was “THIS is the place. We’ve found a piece of paradise.” We confirmed our feeling by spending the night a few weeks later and started talking up a Las Flores Christmas. Everyone who wanted to come, came; we all relaxed and heard at least once an hour, “this is such a good spot”.

The view of Las Flores from the ocean. We took all our meals on the terrace overlooking the Camotes Sea.

Alma with proprieters Virginia and Ian. We'd love to introduce you to these dear friends. What do you think?

A good spot is much more than the Camotes Sea just beyond the back terrace. The people who run Las Flores—Ian & Virginia Gillies and their assistants Janice, Alma and Mildred create an ambiance of welcome and respite. Janice, Alma and Mildred cook and serve under the direction of Virginia, and Ian hosts in general. No detail is left to chance. We were relaxed kings and queens on Christmas.

I personally vacillated between the relaxed queen to wanting to help out! In a big, impersonal resort there would be no “help out” feelings, but here—we felt like family.

We arrived on the 24th after Christmas caroling our way north, stopping at all the missionary apartments between Cebu and Las Flores with a song and a treat. The missionaries were surprised, most in a good way, some because they weren’t quite on their morning schedule. Oh well—we were kind and friendly, and hopefully left the message that even when no one is watching, someone may be watching. The ones who are on their business bring you feelings of great respect and appreciation. They all had appointments for the day; one companionship was long gone when we arrived at 9:35 (missionaries are supposed to be out of their apartment at 9:30). We know of a baptism in City Zone that is took place on Christmas afternoon. Now that gives “a white Christmas” a new meaning!

Dinner on the terrace--The Pecks (left) and the Watkins (right). How in the world did this get blue and underlined?

A Christmas sunrise. Kevin is on the right.

Christmas day was long and leisurely, including some blogging time. From my vantage point I can look out the door and see the ocean.

Our last evening we enjoyed the company of many of the children who had come to play at the beach. We skipped rocks, looked for shells, discussed English and Cebuano and enjoyed the sunset.

Eventually we had to say our goodbyes and felt better for having made the journey.

Left to right: Orin & Maxine Peck, Jim & Nancy Spencer, yours truly, Jim & Melanie Watkins, Noel & Beverly Luke. Friends like these are a mission bonus!

After all the gathering and enjoyment we came round to our anniversery,(32),which we quietly celebrated,(on the 29th),the great opportunity the Lord gives us to be families. We thank you all for your love, prayers, and support as we continue on this great adventure. The Gospel is here and the path is before us. As Elder McConkie stated 'it matters not where we are on the path, only that we are on the path and continue to progress toward Eternal Life'. To that we add our witness that this is true.

All the best to you and yours, Ann and Kevin, Mom and Dad, Grammi and Grandpa.

Friday, December 25, 2009

December in a Nutshell

From earlier in the month--

December 5th was a memorable afternoon for piano students in the Cebu Stake and Kevin’s English class. We had a Christmas Carol Sing-along, an opportunity for them to perform their developing skills.

We transformed the cultural hall into a recital hall.

Everyone participated with courage, (music director is Fatima, also a student, and pianist is Russel Patalinghug) and the whole afternoon was a stunning success.

We had a big crowd (100) and robust carol singing.

My treasured piano students.

I thought a lot a about piano teachers everywhere and what it’s like to help your students prepare for a recital, or to have them prepare me, such as when I did my organ recital 10 years ago. It's quite a task to get us ready in mind as well as learn the music, then be with us/them in spirit as they perform their “act of bravery.” This was definitely a first for most of them; we will do it again before our mission is complete.

City Zone - Christmas Zone Conference 2009. These are the missionaries we see on a weekly basis. We enjoy getting to know them while they are near, then watch their service, growth and progress from afar when they are transferred to outlying zones or off island.

President & Sister Hansen at the same Zone Conference. Don't they cut a fine figure together? They are a great team of powerful leaders for our mission.

Kevin and Elder Elmer, a brand new missionary assigned to the Pulambato branch where we attend once a month. We attended their Christmas party--were feasted and funned magnificently.

Here comes Santa Claus, Here comes Santa Claus right down Woolbright Drive--
We decided to take a treat to all the gradeschool kids who are out waiting for the bus at 5:30 on weekeday mornings when we walk. Kevin was way into the Santa Claus spirit. I, on the other hand couldn't bear the thought of the Santa Claus hat in 80* weather.

In league with Old Saint Nick--we made extra trips to the post office, gathering a trunkful of packages for the missionaries every time we went. Thanks to the senior missionaries who joined the Santa Claus League in getting packages back to their areas after our Senior Missionary Christmas gathering. It takes a village to make a mission successful.

A Philippine nativity made out of twigs. Very creative--we wondered for a second whether we could get something like this back to the states in tact...

Friday, December 11, 2009

Thanksgiving is a Condition of the Heart

We observed Thanksgiving. Sort of. But not on THE day of traditional American feasting. On Thursday we were up to our eyebrows in good-byes and hellos with eleven missionaries departing and an all-time record of eighteen arriving. Fifteen came from the Provo MTC and three from the Manila MTC. Just put the logistics in your brain: thirty 50 lb. suitcases plus 15 carry-ons. Oh and the missionaries themselves. How are you going to get that many everything to the mission home from the airport? The Assistants had given the whole thing considerable thought, but when we got right down to it we needed another large van for all those suitcases. Of course there was one wanting to be hired on the spot so we did just fine.

Fifteen fine, can-do attitudes helped us stuff all the luggage in the vehicles in no time.

Are these handsome fellows or what? They are smiling bravely on the outside and sweltering on the inside. It was quite a mild day by Cebuano standards, but hey--they came from Provo, Utah where there was snow on the mountains! They'll leave their suit jackets at the mission home for the next 22 months.

There wasn't room for all the luggage in the mission home.

Learning how to direct music their first afternoon in Cebu.

When it was all said and done and all those bright-spirited elders and one sister were oriented and off to their first areas of service, it had gone very smoothly. In fact almost better than our little batches of six or eight. Sometimes having to prepare every minute detail so you don't crash and burn is a blessing.

Now about feasting. We had Thanksgiving dinner with all the stake and district presidents on Cebu, Bohol and Negros on Saturday in conjunction with their coordinating council. Sister Hansen, wonder woman that she is, hosted and roasted. I peeled and pie'd. None of these good brethren had experienced an American Thanksgiving dinner before, so it was our pleasure to teach them why we eat turkey and stuffing and sweet potatoes and pie.

My favorite part of dinner chat came about because of the Jello salad, which we assured them was NOT part of the first Thanksgiving feast, but an American tradition that started in the 60's. One of the stake presidents asked me if I knew where gelatin came from. I was thinking, " ah--horse hoofs?" but just couldn't bring myself to say it out loud at such a fine feast. Then President Mausisa proceeded to enlighten us on the horticulture matter of gelatin. Horse hoofs! How silly is that?!? Gelatin comes from seaweed, and most of it for the entire world is farmed not 15 miles from the mission office! I'd love to go on a field trip as see the whole business. It is apparently a 3-month crop.

About gratitude--we are beyond-words-grateful for you, our beloved family and friends. We count ourselves rich indeed for having so many loved ones who share our path, teach us new and interesting things, inspire us to be more than we would be otherwise, laugh with us, weep with us, hold our hands when we're scared and pray for us.

To you far away in America, if we had our way we'd be able to blink and bring all our Filipino friends over for a get-to-know-you party. You would definitely like them and want to open your friendship circle to include them. We became richer the moment we landed in Cebu.

If you are reading this wondering if you'd be all warm and gushy (sorry-I know I go over the top from time to time) about serving a mission, I have to say the answer is a resounding YES. It's okay to put yourselves in the Lord's hands and take a step into the dark. It's okay to not know every little detail of the path you might be called to walk. It's okay to say, "we'll go where we're called and do what we're asked to do." We're convinced that there are no lame mission assignments because God's work is never lame. Oh you could probably sort of sit on the sidelines and do more watching than serving, but if you jump in with all your heart, might, mind and strength, you will become almost instantly rich with the experiences you have and people you grow to love. This is how serving the Lord full-time works. We know it's true.

We love you! We pray for you regularly! Be well and happy, and don't forget to write.

Elder and Sister Reed
In Cebu

Monday, November 16, 2009

Editor's note: The timing and pacing of Elder and Sister Reed's mission responsibilities makes it impossible to post a report of every interesting experience they have in a timely manner. However, if you take into account the untimeliness of the timing they live with (15 hours ahead of home time--have they accidentally called you at a ridiculously early hour? Eeeeeh with a slight cringe) then a post about something a few weeks back isn't so bad.

A mission is a microcosm of life; you go along pretty regular-like, then all of a sudden you burst into high action. November has been this way for us. We continue methodically with our office responsibilities and piano/English teaching, and the high action peeks out here and there. Actually, high action isn't quite the right word all the time; this weekend was more like high spiritual contentment.

It started on Thursday with an island tour shared by Brother and Sister Sorensen, the In-Field Representative for 30 missions in our region. Elder Sorenson's assignment is to support the mission presidents in the challenging situations a mission president encounters. They came to Cebu for the mission president's seminar which was the following Sunday through Tuesday. Their home base is in New Zealand and wanted to taste the Philippines for a day or so. You bet! We headed across the mountains to the west side, then up the coast a ways, then back across the mountains to the east side and back down to Cebu.

It was a great day for a walkabout.

The Sorensons are avid photographers. (See our last post--here we are with MORE camera people!) They clicked their way over the mountain and up the coast. Elder Sorenson has "the big gun" and Sister Sorenson has a sporty little point-and-shoot. Sometimes we pulled over and got out for pictures, and sometimes they just put their wondows down, Kevin took his foot off the gas and they click, click, clicked as we drove. You can do that with "big gun" cameras, you know. They were cute together; both interested in the images of the island, coaching each other to "get this" or "get that" image. Elder Sorenson was very good at simply pointing his camera out the window, clicking and getting good shots.

I began the day taking pictures but figured out pretty fast that they had me out-clicked and maybe they'd share.

My fun was taking pictures of the picture takers.

Taburan was on the coast just before we turned inland again. The Catholic church was a stop-n-look:

Our drive back over the mountains was filled with scenic snapshots; rice farmers drying their rice on the side of the road, carabou pulling the plow; Filipinos about the business of life.

We stopped in one little community to see if we could visit with a woman sitting on the side of the road making jewelry. Elder Sorenson gave it a valiant try--he talked, she talked, he talked, she talked--I'm sure they were expressing important things! Only neither could understand the other. As you can see, there is a little difference in their size.

Indeed she was tiny little thing, barely coming up to Elder Sorenson's elbow!

Friday night was a single-adult fireside that we attended by invitation. It was an open forum hosted by Elder Quinten L. Cook, Keith B. McMullin, the Philippine Area Presidency and a few other big guns.

Saturday was a priesthood training meeting for bishops and stake presidents. Kevin, of course, is neither, but he attended anyway.

Sunday the general authorities divided and conquered, each taking a different stake for a special conference.

In three sentances I didn't begin to scratch the tip of the wealth of spirit we experienced over the weekend. How do you like that? We came half way around the world to experience this fine collection of apostles and prophets. Pretty fine.

And Julie Beck is coming the end of January.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

I Saw a Mighty Angel Fly

The day finally came. Gold-leafed angel Moroni was installed on top of the temple a week ago! The construction manager (who happens to be in our ward) must have been screened and tested for abundant patience, tact and diplomacy when he was hired. Mel Fajardo is his name--a lovely fellow, and indeed, patient to the many questions about when, when, when.

Mel--do you ever loose your cool?

Originally Angel Moroni was on deck to be installed in August. It was here, made it through customs (no small feat) and was waiting patiently in its shipping container on the construction site. The hold-up was in the steeple. Some of the granite--4" thick slabs that are pre-cut and fit together like a perfect puzzle was missing and that caused the delay. Not all the granite, of course, just the pieces at the top of the steeple.

I think if that was the most trying challenge of the construction project everyone would be jumping for joy. As it is, things are pretty much on schedule, but still no firm dates for the open house or dedication.

Our weather-reading skills have been honed to a high degree these last eight months, and November 5th was a nearly perfect day. Perfect here is not a bright, sunny, cloudless sky, but big, billowy ocean clouds coming and going, or even fine, gauzy clouds that save us from the searing sun. Cloudless is brutally hot.

We chose the 10-minute walk around the corner to the construction sight and knew other walkers headed toward the temple site as well. Meanwhile, traffic was vrooming along like usual. Kaikai came too, bringing his "big guns". I like camera people. I think I'd like to be a camera person some day. In the mean time I'll be happy to be the lackey of a camera person. They usually have a magnificent bag of tricks that captures images.

We had our point and shoot.

There were folks who came specifically to watch, and folks who happened to be passing by.

The construction workers were all doing their thing, but there was definitely added attention on the upper reaches of the temple. We watched the crane intently. At about 3:00 it dropped it's line with the attached belt, then slowly brought up Moroni. This is it! I wanted to shout and sing and clap.




We weren't the only ones tickled and joyful; even our mailman said he saw Moroni go UP

Elder Bernal--caught by surprise, Elder Deiparine and Elder Curtis (the president's assistants and our neighbors); Elder Clark.

The sister missionaries (on the left) with their investigators.

The hymnist expresses my feelings the best this time:

I saw a mighty angel fly
To earth he bent his way.
A message bearing from on high
To cheer the sons of day.
Truth is the message which he bears,
the gospel's joyful sound,
To calm our doubts, to chase our fears,
And make our joys abound.

Temples are the gateway to eternity.

Gone Batty

Do you ever wonder what you might be missing by sleeping late in the morning? Not too long ago we happened to get out the door earlier than usual--by maybe 7-8 minutes. We often experience those few magical moments of pre-dawn "dusk", but rarely have walked from darkness through pre-dawn dusk to daylight. This particular morning's darkness offered us our own National Geographic moment as we walked up Woolbright St. There were bats returning to their roost, a wood power pole on the side of the road, whose top is hollow.

Now for those of you who have lived around bats you might be thinking, "yeeeeaaaah, and the big deal iiiiisss?" Well, the big deal is that bats are under rated and under appreciated in their ecological role as bug eaters. They are my heros, not being that fond of bugs, yet knowing that they are part of our mortal existance. Frogs are my other hero for the same reason. Besides, bat guano is exceptionally good organic fertilizer.

Once we became aware of the morning bat landing we started watching for them, counting the bats that came home to roost, observing them as fast as our eyes could. They flit around for a moment, then swoop in and are gone from view. You really don't see much, like, for instance, when a dog walks by. Nevertheless, very interesting.

I suppose most walkers eventually look for diversion. Some become runners. Others look at the flora or inspect the home projects they walk by. Or plan a video shoot of bats coming home to roost.

Kaikai--we will miss him when we return home. He is a friend indeed, with many interesting talents, including photography and videography. We showed up early on the appointed morning with our little point and shoot camera, and he showed up with his video camera and all the trappings of a professional. It seemed like success was guaranteed, thanks to Kaikai.

We were there in plenty of time; didn't want to have all the the bats zwoop in while we were setting up. Kaikai kept adjusting everything for a perfect shooting as it began to grow light. We talked quietly and waited. And waited.

One bat zwooped in, then


We'd watched them as we walked by for a week--there were always eight or nine or ten. What's the deal here? Better question--how did the first one let all the others know that there were UHC's (unidentified human creatures) lurking suspiciously outside their roost? Skunked. Totally skunked. We hauled all our equipment back to the car and walked and planned our strategy for the next morning.

It seemed evident that our talking was troublesome to them. Actually, there are people walking up and down the street all the time; cars passing; regular city activity. I guess "passing" is the operative word here."

The next morning we set up early and were completely still. Didn't dare leave any equipment unattended, but did all we could to not spook the bats. This was on October 30th by the way.

As Kaikai's video owuld show if we could get it to load into our blog (RATS!), we met with success, seeing 10-11 bats zwoop in. Say it fast, okay? That's just what they do. You see them and then they're inside. Hopefully we'll figure this technical difficulty out and get the footage into this blog.

As a companion to our bat exploration, I'd like to recommend a book to share with your favorite---hmmmm---I almost said little people, but it's such a charming story I think anyone would enjoy it. It's called "Stellaluna", by Jannell Cannon. It's about a baby fruit bat and has themes of the love of mother and child, and being lost, then found. And don't forget to use your voice to make the characters alive. This book is very inviting and easy in this way.

I'd love to know whether there are Bats around Boise; we've lived there a very long time and never encountered any. Bye for now, and hopefully more bat adventures in our future.