Sunday, April 26, 2009

Hello dear ones,

Thank you for thinking of us--praying for us--sending us cheery hellos. You can have feelings of being far from home at the same time you're living a grand adventure, and hearing from you helps us keep the balance.

I started writing a commentary on the week only to realize that it would be very long if I tried to describe it adequately. How about 10,000 words worth of pictures, and just a few words? Here goes:
**Lost power for the first time--we woke up to our apartment feeling like a sauna.
**Lost the Internet for four days--maybe connected to the power outage--who knows?
**Went across the mountains again, this time to retrieve supplies from a closed missionary apartment.
**Saw our first rice planting and harvest. (Part of the trip across the mountains.)
**Started teaching piano lessons (Ann).
**Got the internet back.
**Participated in a Jubilee service project.
**Had an even bigger power outage--whole region--multiple islands. Thank goodness the mall has backup generators so we had some place to cool off.
**Taught our first Family Relations class in Sunday School.
**Experienced a tropical rain storm--video and commentary to follow. It was pretty cool.
**Continued learning our office duties.
**A little more Cebuano.

I know we keep putting up pictures of the tropical mountains and they all look the same; can't help ourselves! When we're out like this one or the other of us exclaims "we're living in a tropical paradise" at least once. Now look out the windows to the right...

This rice field is being plowed in preparation for planting. Now look out the windows to the left...

This field is being planted. And further along on the left...

The harvest. We hesitate to take pictures of people--this is THEIR LIFE after all. But these folks stopped their work and enjoyed our interest in their work.

The village of Lamac is pretty much the end of the road, although there is a branch, a chapel, and missionaries serving there. Children are always very interested in us as we creep through these little towns. They come out to the road and look warily. We are so white, you know. We wave and are friendly; sometimes they wave back or call out "Hi Joe".

Do you ever feel like your laundry takes too long? I'm sure these clothes were hand scrubbed. It's all in your perspective.

This waterfall was visible as we worked our way up the road to the pool known as The Waters of Mormon where the local branch holds their baptismal services.

The Waters of Mormon, also known as a jumping, diving, swimming, laundry spot.

This is Elmer, my most driven piano student. That's not to say that the other 24 are only half motivated. It's just that he showed up for his first lesson and declared that he needed to be able to play the piano by Monday, because he's leaving for Manila to go to school. He already had a little musical background, so in a half hour he was playing "I Am A Child of God", slowly and carefully, and excitedly.

Saturday morning was a service project in a city park where we cleaned up leaves and trash. We met at the church (the one right outside our apartment door) at 6:00 am and took a jeepney to the park. These are some of the missionaries in City Zone--all great young men and women. The one in the very front--Elder Tecson is going home this week--Boo Hoo! Talk about a bright, optimistic, hard worker! We'll miss his capable leadership--jokingly threatening to keep him here until he looks at least 21!

Can't say I blame my star piano student from wanting to hang out with these lovely Filipina missionaries! We are still clean and cool here--before our labors began.

You may be across the world but you are close in our hearts. We love the gospel! There is great peace and strength in knowing it is true.

See you in the next blog.

Elder & Sister Reed in Cebu

Sunday, April 19, 2009

"Look for the beauty in the world around you. Wherever you are, it's waiting to make your heart glad."

Here we are at the end of another week which, included an array of new and interesting experiences. Last week of course was Easter week and in this country it has multiple dimensions. The beginning of that week was a holiday, though we weren't sure for what. It was like some of our Monday holidays; stores were open but many people did not have to be at work. Tuesday and Wednesday were normal in as far as work goes. With the upcoming Easter celebration, many were shopping to stock up for get togethers.

The supermarket--never called a grocery store--always found in a mall. Think of Costco at Christmas time, only with narrower aisles and very loud music! It's easy for me to find Ann in the store; think blonde in the sea of beautiful black hair.

Thursday brought the real shift in activity in the general public, as most businesses were closed, including the malls and grocery stores, and on Friday it was quieter yet. The normally busy roadways were almost empty, making getting around easy. It's interesting to realize that places we've been going for the past five weeks aren't really so far away, including picking up two missionaries at the airport that are from the Cebu area, returning home after completing their missions in other parts of the Philippines. It was nice to visit with them and get a sense of how the work is moving forward in other Philippine missions.

Our home and office building. We live on the 2nd floor on the right side, the side closest to Salinas Dr. and the jeepney and motorcycle roar all night long. We think we're finally getting used to it...

The view of the Cebu stake center from the mission office front door. We share the parking lot with its requisite basketball court. (More on church basketball in another blog.) The chapel is at the far end, with two floors of classrooms and offices that open onto an outdoor walkway. This is like no church hall you've ever seen before; geckos are welcome any time!

If you are interested, go to Google earth or Google maps and type in 47 Salinas Dr Cebu City Cebu Philippines. You will see a white building shaped at a 45 degree angle. That is the stake canter. If you look north of the parking lot you will see a small building set at an opposing angle, that is the building that has the office on the ground floor and our apartment on the upper floor. If you look east from that position you will see a large empty spot. This is the temple site.

Our office world is becoming more and more familiar, which is good, as it will allow more of our time and energy to be spent interacting with the young missionaries and their investigators, as well as with the members of our ward. There is great interest in piano lessons, and Ann will begin teaching this week.

Elder and Sister Reed with their patient and encouraging office trainers, Elder and Sister Morgan from Richfield, Utah. They will complete their mission in July. We manage to have fun while learning our office duties. Today the four of us drove over the mountains to the other side of the island for a district conference, ate our lunch in a park overlooking the ocean, checked on some missionary apartments, and completed the loop back to Cebu by way of the south road.

Oh the beautiful Philippine children! It feels like they invite you into their hearts when you take their pictures...On the other hand, the work of life for some begins early.

Thanks for your interest in our missionary adventure. Your emails and blog comments usually come when we need a bright word from home. Salamat! We know our call to the Philippines was inspired, and that the message of the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ is essential for all God's children. We encourage you to consider such an opportunity for yourself. You will be a blessing to those whom you are called to serve.

Bye for now,
The Reeds in Cebu

Sunday, April 5, 2009

We had a GREAT week! We were encouraged, discouraged, uplifted, exhausted—feels like we just about did it all—lived it all, but surely not, because there will be more adventure next week. In the future this week's events will probably seem “normal”, and I’ve wondered if I’ll get to the point of having to think hard about what to write. For the moment though, everything is a great adventure—all new and interesting and noteworthy. Pardon me if I burble on and on…

The most delicious, delightful detail of the week was being able to finally move into our own apartment. We started living out of suitcases on Feb. 22—I think that’s about six weeks. Ahhh! There’s no place like home, and ours is very reasonable, comfortable and convenient.

We knew the move would be this week because that’s when the two sister missionaries who had lived here were going home. YES I counted the days, and tried not to lick my chops over the apartment in their presence.

Sisters Moss & Barclay’s departure didn’t mean our immediate move in, and that nearly killed me. I was sooooo ready to be out of the hotel! So ready to unpack our suitcases and put our things in their places so that we can find them easily! So ready to get up in the morning and completely get ready for the day without going someplace else (the apartment where there are 110 outlets, thanks for sharing, Sisters Moss & Barclay) to do my hair. The hotel wasn’t horrible; it was clean and the staff was kind to us. BUT—there was no spirit in our room, or adequate light to read or study by.

We are home now. It only took a little while to get things squared away, due to all our possessions fitting into 4 suitcases. Hmmm. Less stuff, quick arrangement. I should take a lesson from this when we get home. Our address, in case you want to send a snail mail letter is:

Elder & Sister Kevin Reed
47 Salinas Dr.
Lahug, Cebu City 6000

What kept me from personally assisting the facilities management cleaning team that got our apartment ready for us was a spur-of-the-moment assignment from President Hansen. His cellulitis hasn’t gotten better, in fact worse, and he realized that he wouldn’t be able to go to the two off-island zone conferences. What to do? Assign Elder & Sister Reed to go in his and Sister Hansen’s place. “With pleasure, President Hansen!” It was a very cool trip to Bohol and Negros, (islands) and when we returned to Cebu on Friday night our apartment was ready for us. Ahhhh.

Our unexpected outing was the second really cool thing about our week. We wouldn’t wish cellulitis on anyone (Pres. Hansen is improving after a visit to a specialist, a new round of antibiotics and bed rest), but it sure gave us a good excuse to go check out the other two islands in our mission.

Let me take a minute to describe these islands. All three, i.e., Cebu, Bohol and Negros (I think there are more in our “boundaries”, but these three major ones have missionaries serving on them) are large enough that it would take most of a day to drive from one end to another, have large, thriving cities, mountain ranges, and of course white, sandy beaches and tourist resorts. The island of Cebu is big enough that we don’t interact with the ocean or coastline at all in our daily comings and goings, BUT the mission office/our apartment are at the foot of the highway that goes over the mountains. (Remember my description of walking up the mountain a few weeks ago?)

We went up the mountain for a bit on Saturday with Kaikai. He brought his camera and was happy to stop and take pictures of anything that pleased us. Kevin is taking pictures of Kaikai taking pictures of the mountain.

This is our city noise respite. It's the middle of the mountain range that runs north to south on Cebu, a beautiful patchwork of green, created by family farms of vegetables and cutting flowers.

This picture was straight out of the book, "Heidi". A goat herd and his flock grazing on the hillside.

In spite of the big city traffic and noise right outside our door (and I mean that literally—sometimes it’s so loud in our apartment that I think there must be an open window, which there isn’t) we are within 15 minutes of cool, peaceful mountain bliss, even if it’s only for a half hour.

Now back to our zone conference tour. We got the assignment at about 1:00, shuffled some travel supplies into a couple of suitcases, then headed for the port to catch an ocean jet for Bohol. It was a very pleasant 2-hour trip over. We traveled in business class, (remember, we’re taking the place of the mission president) and studied our training material for the zone conferences.

Looking out the back of the ocean jet when we arrived in Tagbilaren, Bohol Island.

The assistants to the president were our travel companions, and they were in charge of making all the arrangements and seeing that we got to the right place at the right time. It would have been stressful had they not been there, but they knew what to do and we basically followed them around for two days.

On Bohol we stayed at a hotel in the middle of Tagbilaren (now roll your r’s so you sound Irish)—very comfortable and much more pleasing than ours in Cebu. In Dumaguete (that’s pronounced doom a getty--all one word) we stayed right on the ocean in a little hotel—not so refined, but we walked out our door to the beach at 4:45 in the morning. Pretty cool.

Sunrise on the beach at Dumaegete, looking toward Cebu.

The teaching portion of our trip was very satisfying. Zone conferences are from 8:00-12:00, and the groups are broken into three so you rotate every hour to a new class. Mine was on managing stress and Dad’s was on Joseph Smith’s contributions to the restoration. It felt like they went well, with each hour’s participants bringing different dynamics to our teaching.

Our trip home on Friday wasn’t as idyllic as our trip out was. We had to wait several hours before our ocean jet left, and it was very hot, both indoors and out. I had to remind myself that this is a 3rd world country, and in spite of MANY modern conveniences available (remember my discussion of the shopping malls?) there are still considerable gaps in development.

Today was our 3rd week in Cebu 1 (ward), and entirely satisfying. Some things are different, but most are the same as worshiping in wards in the states. Each ward has strengths and weaknesses, and it is delightful to recognize this common thread clear across the world.

One strength is that missionary work is alive and VERY well here! The investigator’s class in Sunday School is huge! It was really good energy—I was sitting where I could see everyone’s faces, and they were all intent on learning more about the gospel. All participated—prayed—read scriptures—shared their thoughts and ideas.

I either need to end this blog entry or divide it into chapters. Thanks for your listening ear, your love and your prayers. We are happy—grateful every day for the opportunity to serve a mission in the Philippines right now. The gospel is true! Living the gospel brings us great peace and happiness. You are far away, but close in our hearts and prayers. Proverbs 25:25.