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.