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