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.