Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Silence Has Been Broken

Hi! Remember us? The two senior missionaries who used to blog on a somewhat regular basis? Yeah. We’re still alive, still serving, still thinking of you. It’s been since mid-March—I’ve been trying to piece together what’s kept us so occupied. Part of it is a blur and part of it follows.

It’s Sunday Morning; we’re up and dressed and into the day of peace and rest. Kevin’s upstairs studying the Sunday School lesson and I am here reconnecting with you dear ones. Most of our Sundays for the last 3½ months have been peaceful, but more recovery than rest. Rest is to be actively engaged in a different way than the labors of the week. Recovery has often been much needed sleep. Oh we could get up and moving on Sunday mornings, but we inevitably found ourselves returning to sleep until it was time for our 1:30 church schedule. This is my first opportunity in all this time to sit quietly and compose my thoughts. I haven’t been busy all this time, but haven’t had any mental room or physical strength to put words to our experiences. Life is so interesting.

I’ve been thinking about writing this blog for a couple of weeks now—hoping that things would actually simmer down as I got caught up on the pressing details of my mission assignment, plus have sufficient brain space to settle in to the business of writing. What does one say after so long?

There is an upside to this long blog silence. You didn’t have to experience another Cebuano summer with us, sweat drop by sweat drop. Remember how whiney we were last March through May? We weathered those hot, humid months much better this year; much less whining. Kevin is grateful; he was hot but I did most of the whining. This isn’t a Philippine thing—I think sticky weather could be editorialized on in many U.S. locations. Blissfully, we live in the west. This I know: I am a bona fide desert creature. Maybe I’ll feel differently when we return home and I wake up one day looking 10 years older because my skin is no longer being plumped by the moist air. Oh well!

Happy 4th of July to all of you! We took our neighbors, Elder & Sister Byram to our beloved Museo Sugbo yesterday afternoon and experienced again the American history of the Philippines. For whatever we can contribute to freedom, we are grateful. We treasure freedom for everyone.

Reeds & Byrams – Museo Sugbo, Cebu City. The Byrams are from Rigby. Elder Byram is the 2nd Counselor in the temple presidency. I feels like we've known them a long time.

Practically speaking, July means the rainy season is with us. There is a slight drop in temperature and more cloudy days than during March, April and May, and of course rain like the shower's been turned on. This is a phenomenon that still impresses me. If I hear “the shower on”, I stop and watch, or better yet, go outside or at least open a window. We had a magnificent lightening storm this week—our own 4th of July fireworks. The island has all but lost its dry, brownishness due to not much rain since March; all the fernlets growing out of the coral walls in our walking neighborhood are springing to life again. I never thought I’d be glad for overcast days, but they make the weather more bearable here; clear, cloudless days are like being under a magnifying glass.

Today we awoke to some of God’s finest art in the heavens; clouds and a sunrise that are only found in a coastal setting. Check this out, especially the clouds close to the horizon:

Good Morning Cebu

By now you’ve read all the inspiring reports of the Cebu City temple open house and dedication. A season like the last 6 weeks will never happen here again, for now the temple is functioning in its real purpose. Temple open houses have occurred since the Salt Lake Temple was preparing to be dedicated. What a glorious, spirit-filled time this has been for this whole area!!

We were in on the Boise temple open house and dedication 30 years ago, but admittedly were busy young parents with our focus on our little children. We left all the planning and preparation to others, folks probably more our present age. Oh we were very excited to have a temple in Boise—had our own little family service projects to contribute to the building fund—attended the open house, and even sang in the dedication choir. However, another 25 years of living and maturing and growing in spirit has made this experience rich almost to defy words. Our testimonies of the purpose of temples made us more eager to see this project through. Not that it was really our project; for most of it we just watched the 900+ construction workers at any given time come and go and perform their labors as the temple, patron house and stake center came into being.

One of our visits to the temple site. We could only be on the site with permission and a hard hat.

The building on the right is the Patron Housewhere our office is located now. Where exactly are those 900 workers? It’s probably the end of the day…

Finally it was done. Or maybe I should say, done enough. There were a few significant unknowns in the whole project that interrupted the schedule significantly. We’re not talking about an erector set project you know.

For example, the 11-acre complex has its own water purification system that reclaims all the drainage water, cleans it and recirculates it in the many toilets. I know our favorite engineers would love to see the inner workings of this place!

Unknown to everyone involved in the construction, there were WW II tunnels built by the Cebuanos and taken over by the Japanese throughout the property that had to be filled in for stability purposes. Oh they were down a good way--12 meters down, but still had to be filled in. This was temple construction standard after all. They drilled down till they found an open pocket, then pumped in cement--20+ truckloads of cement in all. This delayed construction for months. How would you like to have been the one answering everyone's "when" questions?

Very photogenic, wouldn’t you say?

"Done enough" allowed the series of open houses to begin the middle of May beginning with one for construction workers. We gladly helped on this special day and thanked the guests who came through for their contribution to the temple’s completion. It is so beautiful. Completely worthy to be dedicated as the house of the Lord.

Then there were more days of planning and preparing, cleaning and finishing, and it was time for the VIP open houses.

All the sister missionaries were brought into Cebu to help with the open house. Oh they are lovely women and added a gracious, gentle spirit to the proceedings!

The whole purpose of temple open houses is not to proselyte, but to give families understanding for why parents spend time there, and why live clean, worthy lives. They are also an opportunity to strengthen relationships in the community and create good will.

Amazingly, we had ample opportunity to help bring this goal to pass through the associations we have developed in the last 16 months, mostly through our morning walks. You know about Beverly Hills Subdivision (see previous posts). Through these walking associations we were able to share the temple with the Philippine ambassador to China, a furniture manufacturer who has stores spread all over the Philippines and China and employs 2000 people, and a merchant who heads a foundation promoting Chinese education in Cebu. These notables surprised even us, but more closer to our hearts, sharing the temple with Kaikai, Romy, Eduardo & Rosie’s family and Ron & Eva meant a lot to us.

Rosie (next to me) is one of our walking buddies. She and Arnold brought their two children, along with her mother, 2 sisters and niece.

The Daily Walkers – You already know Kaikai; Romy Batucan is in the brown shirt. We keep talking about when, not if they come to see us in Boise.

You never know whose path the Lord will place you in. I know he is mindful of all his children, everywhere.

Beyond our own little scope, the open house was a fabulous success. The media was gracious beyond “our American media imagination” about this “Mormon temple” and gave the open house very nice coverage. No snottiness, sarcasm, cutting jabs—just gracious reporting of what they experienced. It was so refreshing! It was easy to extend invitations to all kinds of people we met in passing, and almost to our surprise, they came. All in all 45,000 people toured the temple in that 3 week span.

Temple Open House – Lots of white umbrellas meant lots of guests. The youth were in charge of foot covers at the temple door and seeing that the umbrellas were available at critical points. Only uncivilized foreigners (like me) wander around out in the sun...

All the June Zone Conferences were held in Cebu so that all the missionaries would have the opportunity to tour the temple. This is the Bogo Zone—the missionaries we cheer and support a little extra because they serve where we go every couple of weeks.

We thought we’d be heavily involved with the open house, but after the VIP week things were pretty quiet for us. We did have a mission office to keep running after all. We were a little disappointed that we weren’t in the vortex of the open house, but in reality we had our own vortex. Somewhere in that span of time we received the assignment to oversee feeding the prophet and general authorities who would come to the dedication. I know my family’s response was something like “that’s our planning, organizing Mom.” And our parents, “Ann the planner since she was a little girl.” I have to say this was my planning magnum opus.

Those who gave us the assignment were very interested in providing food for the visiting authorities that would be familiar and carefully prepared to avoid any kind of GI tract disturbance, served in a timely way with understatement that would allow them to rest and relax, not be on display. We would deliver each meal to two private homes in the temple complex, plus set up a buffet for 12 on the 3rd floor of the patron house, plus feed the temple missionaries who were displaced from their apartments by most of the visiting authorities, and who cooked the food, plus the technical support crew on dedication Sunday. Even for a planner this was a mental stretch! However, thanks to the willing and very able support of the temple missionaries, plus a few others who we called into action, including 2 of our own ward members from home, we pulled the whole weekend off quite well. I say “quite well” with great humility and thankfulness. I don’t think I’ve ever worked so hard or wondered if we’d be ready for the next meal. It wasn’t like throwing together a few PBJ’s to serve on paper plates. Sigh.

I have great respect for caterers and declare emphatically that I am NOT a caterer. I am a Kevin’s wife and the mother of our family, who knows that good food gathers loved ones, and time together is how we can bless and influence each other. Anyone who has been drawn into our food affairs knows that we eat when it’s ready and everyone arrives. All together. Having food ready to deliver to the proper place at just the right time looking extra pretty was a stretch that we accomplished somehow. Kevin and I oversaw the buffet on the 3rd floor, simply seeing that the food was all there, starting the meal, then waiting out of the way to clear the dishes. Our daily guests were Elder & Sister Oaks, Bishop and Sister Burton, President & Sister Edwards (Area President), Elder & Sister Walker (Quorum of Seventy & head of the temple department), Brother Dunford and Brother Coburn, both very important but not general authorities. Oh and don't forget Sister Moritson, President Monson's personal health specialist.

I’m sorry to say I have no pictures of my amazing kitchen staff, nor the buffet area, which was very suitable and pleasing. It was definitely a busy time beyond my mental and physical wherewithal for picture taking. I have pondered this experience for three weeks now, received many kind comments on our success, yet felt no overwhelming, ecstatic happiness or joy at having had this experience. Yesterday I came upon these lines as I read the Book of Mormon: "...for thou shalt feed a prophet of the Lord; yea, a holy man, who is a chosen man of God...and thou shalt receive him into thy house and feed him, and he shall bless thee and thy house; and the blessing of the Lord shall rest upon thee and thy house." Okay then. I don't need to feel ecstatic happiness or joy, just be like Amulek of old. That is enough.

The dedication itself was a rich spiritual feast and celebration. We were delighted to be able to experience it first hand in spite of our food responsibilities. Everything was just right; the speakers, including Pres. & Sister Byram, of course the Prophet and a choir straight from heaven. I'm just fine saying that our choir for the Boise temple dedication didn't hold a candle to the Cagayan de Oro stake's choir. I could almost sit and relax in this very special setting, knowing that the food prep crew would continue on without us for an hour and a half and have athe evening meal ready to go almost the second we returned.

Monday, June 14 came with a great sigh of relief. Most folks were off to their next assignment, so their lingering over meals was done. We had labors to return to also, which meant we got to quit thinking about food and meals and presentation timing and return to thinking about the mission office. Someone joked about us returning to our work at the mission office so we could rest—so true!

Since the dedication weekend the mission home and mission office have been moved. Our office replacements will arrive August 3rd (?) and we will train them furiously for one month (we were trained for 3 months) before we head for home. Kevin is in his last session of English classes, and I am thinking about my piano students in terms of their continued progress after I leave. Some of them are ready to begin teaching beginners themselves—resounding success for my labors here.

Looking into our new office from the doorway.

Did we tell you we moved in early May? This is our new neighbor:

He’s kind of quiet but adds a good spirit to the neighborhood.

It’s our good fortune to live these last few months of our mission in the temple complex. We share the 3rd floor of the patron house with 10 other couples, all of whom are temple missionaries. We will find our replacements an apartment close by but not in the complex, as our apartment will be occupied by temple missionaries who will come in September after we leave.

It’s sort of like a college experience—apartments lined up in a long hall—only we’re all grandparents, and instead of the floor coming to life at 10 PM we all creep off to bed. Our new office is in the same building on the ground floor at the opposite end. It’s a very nice arrangement that we accept gratefully. Our apartment faces the back, considered the lesser view by many (the better view being temple side), but our pleasure is observing the light and shadows on the mountains as well as the amazing oceanic clouds through big, windows that we can leave mostly uncurtained due to our height and distance from the neighbors. It’s a quiet, renewing place to come home to every evening.

It's our neighbor again. I just can't help looking at him. Does this mean I have a crush on him? Maybe I need an interview with President Hansen...

So far this entry has been general and one sided since I am the blog master (Kevin’s designation). I’d like to fill you in on Kevin’s labors these last few months. His office works continues steadily with interesting twists that he handles very capably. His talent for new ideas means he’s also a good problem solver. I might be able to plan food events, but Kevin can plan life.

An example of this great talent was at the beginning of the open houses. All the sister missionaries had come in to Cebu and were at the (old) office needing to go to the temple complex. Kevin just went out to the street, flagged down an empty jeepney and directed the driver to pull into the parking lot. the driver was skeptical, but Kevin convinced him that pulling into our parking lot would be a great deal for him as well as the sister missionaries.

The sisters were pretty thrilled with Elder Reeds slick travel arrangements. Aren't they lovely?

Kevin’s last round of English classes was a resounding success, with so many students he had to divide the class. All those ideas that spring out of his brain are very useful in being a successful teacher. He keeps figuring out new, interesting learning activities, then implements them with ease. His students have great regard for him. Let’s face it—I’m married to a cool guy. (He’ll want to edit this part—no! no! I’m the blog master, remember?)

My very own Mr. Chips!

Divide the class or some of them will sit silently and not improve their English.

It didn't take Kevin long to get his students out of their seats and interacting with one another. Talk, talk, talk is the name of the game!

I took these pictures over a couple of weeks through the classroom windows I passed as I walked to my piano lessons. The students were on to me by this time so there were no more candid shots to be had, but plenty of smiles and happiness for their class experience.

How do we feel at this stage of our mission? Kind of tired, but happy; thinking eagerly of getting to know three grandchildren who were infants or not born when we left. Tearful when we think about saying good-bye to our many Filipino friends. It’s a good thing, you know, weeping when you part. It means you have loved and are loved. What’s the point if you haven’t connected with other human beings? I hope we have blessed them; they have certainly blessed us.

This has sort of been a deserty blog posting; not many pictures to rest the eye from all the words. I'd hate to go on endlessly this intensely, but we made it through in good condition. I will always remember our beloved Stake President Ron Rock's motto: "It's better to wear out than rust out."

Our Philippine clock is ticking. We are warned regularly by the young missionaries about not getting trunky. Finally I asked them exactly what it meant to be trunky. Basically it's that you think so much about going home that you quit working. Not a chance here! I hope we can get it all done in our limited remaining time.

We hope you are well and happy and recognize what you’re grateful for every day. We are grateful for you, and when you write and share your doings, we are nourished by your home thoughts and love.

We know the gospel is true, that our service here was inspired by prophets of God. The missionaries whose work we support have a message of great peace and happiness and eternal worth. This beautiful temple that greets us each day is part of God’s plan for our mortal success. See you in the next round.

Love and blessings, Kevin and Ann, Elder & Sister Reed