Monday, 4 January 2016

Good Times! 1/4/2016

 Hello Again!  Here are a few more pictures from life here in the Philippines.  Explanations are in the captions.  Coming up in another post will talk about Christmas and New Year celebrations.  We hope your holidays were happy and filled with wonderful family memories! 

We went on a visit with the District President, to see Brother
Torres.  He is raising his grandchildren.  We have counted
at least 6.  He is a recent convert and so faithful! They
are playing in a sidecar of a tricycle (motorbike).

A beautiful Fiesta FEAST put on by the Miranda Family.
Our eyes were bigger than our stomachs!  Delicious!

Waiting outside the house described below. 
Waaaaaaay across a rice field lives a little old woman
in a tiny little shack.  She takes care of the goats and chickens
in return for her tiny little house.  No electricity and no water, but  it
provides shelter for her and her grandson.  She has
been a member of the Church for many years, but has a
very hard time getting to church due to health concerns.
We had such a nice visit with her!

Meet the extended Umlas Family.  The matriarch, Nanay Umlas,
is seated on a chair, second from the left.  She never
misses a Sunday at church.  Her leg is twisted and looks so
sore to walk on, but she goes without complaint.  We got to
join in at a Family Home Evening one evening.  Lots of fun!

This is Elder Vuetibau, an elder that served in
our zone several months ago.  We became very
close with him and we admire him.  He is a
wonderful Elder.  

Some of our great sisters, Sister Sarfraz and Sister McMillan.
Sister Sarfraz is from Pakistan and has an amazing story about
growing up in the Church in her country.  She comes from a strong
family who have endured through persecution.  

Waiting for the bonka boat to take us across the river
to an investigator living on an island.  The "driver" pulled the
boat across with a rope that was attached to poles on each side of the river.

We're off!  5 pesos per person each way, which is
about a dime.

The view down the river.

Here is Sister Cora, the woman that lives on the island
with her sons.  She became a widow at a young age.  We loved the chance to help teach her about the Gospel.

(Keep scrolling down.  I can't figure out how to get the below pictures up higher!  They won't behave!)

Later that day we got to meet a new investigator.  We were
excited to get to know Sister Canlas and her sister.
The view from our teaching appointment in the
house below.
We have introduced you to the Dorimon Family before.
Sister Dorimon, in the black sweater, built a new house since the
first post where you met them.  Her daughter (the one holding
the pamphlet), has now joined the Church.  Hooray!  We love
this family!
I hope this movie works, but you probably
have to use your imagination.  Imagine a
dirty river below and a rickety bridge that
swings as you walk. I have talked
about this bridge before.  It should be
called "Faith Bridge" since it takes
a lot of it to get across.  It helps to look
straight ahead, not down!
This is Nanay Dorimon's husband.  His job is to make coal
for people to cook with.  Imagine doing this all day in
this severe heat!

One of the fun things we get to do sometimes
is to deliver mission calls to prospective missionaries.  Who do you think is more excited- mom or missionary?It was a toss up!  Most mission calls here are to servein the Philippines as there are 21 missions here and some
are not open to foreigners.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Long Time Coming!

Baskets anyone?

 Hello Everyone!

I know, it's been a while.  As a matter of fact, it has been so long that I think the best way to do some catching up is through pictures and small captions, so I'm planning to do a few different topics and they may come in a variety of posts.  The pictures will definitely be random!  We'll see how this develops and if the internet cooperates.  My blogging skills should also be incorporated in the equation.  I lack many skills in that category!
Some have a dog tied up in their yard and some have...a carabao!
He was mean looking too!

Okay, I admit it.  I had feelings of wanting to go
home when I discovered I had lice one day.
Jerome to the rescue!  He was willing to hand
pick the lice that weren't killed by the
shampoo.  This was not a fun experience!

Jerome and his Lola.  It was fiesta time and they
prepared a feast for everyone!  I know this
picture is very dark, but trust me- it was delicious!

We went to a Filipino cultural centre with the other
missionary couples for an activity and I was chosen
out of the crowd to try out one of the dances.  The point of
the dance is to jump in and out of bamboo poles that are
clapped together.  It is called, tinikling.  My feet weren't caught too
many times.  My dancing partner kept saying, "Faster ma'am!"

A wedding in a member's yard.  The branch got together to
decorate, which was really nice of them.

The newlyweds and the oldie weds!
Mother of the Bride cooking some of the
wedding pancit.  Most of the food was cooked by
the Mendoza's, the hosts of the wedding.
Dinalupihan Zone activity.  By the way, the house in
the background is where the newlyweds from the
above picture, live.
Everyone brought ingredients and the
missionaries cooked the food on
site.  Two banana leaves were our plates.
Our delicious lunch was laid out and
the eating began.  Hands only please!
All done!  It was quite the meal!
This is one of our favorite fruits-
a mangosteen.  You take the top off and
then pull the hard shell apart.  Inside, the fruit
almost looks like a bulb of garlic.  The
separate little "cloves" are so sweet and
Another one of our favorites- Lanzone.
These taste like sweet grapefruit, but
with a totally different texture.  It also separates
into little "cloves".

So, that's it for this post!  Random, just like I promised!
We will try to do a little better about posting more often.
We are still loving our time here.  We dislike the heat, but love
the people!  We also love the Lord and love the
work we are doing here.  It's a great experience that we
highly recommend!
Till next time...Kita kits!  Ingat!

Friday, 21 August 2015

Our Filipino Family 08/19/2015

If it seems that our posts are getting further apart, you would be correct!  It is hard to find the time needed to create an update on what we are doing on our mission because we are busy DOING the things on our mission!  We never lack for things to do!

We have met the most wonderful people here, so in this post we thought we would "introduce" you to some of  our friends here.  For starters we will tell you about the people we go visiting less active members of the church, with.

Sister Malig is standing in front of a Sari-Sari
Store.  They are EVERYWHERE.  They
are home businesses to supplement the
family income.  You can buy anything from
candy and food ingredients to personal hygiene
items, like little packets of shampoo.
This is Sister Malig.  She is the Relief Society President (Women's organization in our church), in Guagua as well as a pioneer of the church there.  She knows EVERYONE and is always inspired to take us to people who are prepared to come back to church or who just need a visit.  She is so much fun to visit with.  In the back of the car she talks away with Sister Abella (You'll meet her next), and us, then forgets she is giving us directions.  Sister Abella has lovingly nicknamed her "Sister Balik,"  which means, "Go back."  It is no easy feat to turn around on these streets!  Many of them are the width of our car with a ditch and a house on either side, along with children...many of them!  Mike is a trooper and has become an expert at driving here.  I didn't say he LIKES it, but he hasn't killed us yet, so I say he's an expert.
This is Sister Abella.  As you can see here, she is quite talented at avoiding the mud.  I, on the other hand, decided to put my foot down to see if we could move faster walking on what I thought, might be surface wet dirt.  I lost my shoe and had to fish it out.  Bad idea!  I should have just followed our trusty partner and stayed up on the cement!   I don't want to guess what was in that ditch and luckily none of us fell in there!  Sister Abella has lots of funny stories to tell and keeps us all laughing.  

We love visiting with both of these sisters every Wednesday afternoon for about 4 hours.  They are so generous with their time and efforts and are super missionaries!  We wish we could give them missionary name tags.  Both have become very dear friends and we love them both very much!  There are so many that we feel so close to in the Guagua Branch.

This is one of the families we visited.  We usually visit up to about 6 families when we work together with Sister Abella and Sister Malig.   Edmar is in the center.  He is waiting for his mission call and we can't wait to find out where he will serve.  Most Filipino's stay in the Philippines.  His cousin Heidi, is to the right.  Both Edmar and Heidi love to work with the full time missionaries.  They are great!  They are the only active members of the Church in their families.  Edmar's mother and niece are to the left.  We loved getting to know both their families a little bit better.  They are very kind!
This is the Bansil Family.  What a fun family!  Due to some misunderstandings, it has been a few years since they have been to church.  We were able to teach a lesson and invite them back to church.  We offered to do a Family Home Evening along with the full time sister missionaries.  They were excited about that idea. The whole family was there, along with a couple of boyfriends.  We had a lesson, games and songs.  Of course there was delicious food prepared by the Bansil's.  We brought a birthday cake to celebrate two of the Bansil daughter's birthdays.  The 10 year old in the pink shirt to the left, hopes to be baptized in about 3 weeks!

Now we will introduce you to Brother DeGuzman from the Dinalupihan Branch.  He is the Elder's Quorum President.  His parents were pioneers of the church in Dinalupihan and he grew up as an active member.  He also, knows everyone on the church records, so he is great to visit with.

This is the Miranda Family.  Brother DeGuzman grew up with Brother Miranda.  They are still very close friends, but Brother and Sister Miranda haven't been to church for a while.  Their children come and enjoy Primary and YM. It is time for this family to prepare for the temple to be sealed for eternity.  It was a wonderful experience to extend the invitation to come back to church and to look forward to temple blessings!

Brother Layug is a sculptor.  The work he does with stones is amazing.  Going into their yard is like entering a beautiful resort!  He has made fountains, planters, outdoor dining furniture, a beautiful well, animals and many other creations out of stones.  Brother Layug found every rock used to make the wall behind us in this picture!  When we met this family, Brother Layug and his wife were shaving bamboo poles that are purchased by hotels and resorts to be used as decorations.  They have unusual shapes and would look so pretty in fancy vases.  We loved hearing about when he joined the church many years ago.  The Layug's have taken in 4 nieces whose parents work abroad.  It is a common situation to have kids being raised by other family members so parents can work abroad and make better money.  It's sad, because families are broken apart and marriages rarely survive.  Kids don't know their parents, but it feels like their only way out of poverty.  Brother Layug and the 4 nieces are all members of the Church.  We invited them to return and hope they will take us up on the invitation!
Above, is the Barro Family.  They are investigating the Church, however, Dinalupihan Branch already considers them active members.  They fit right in and are already very involved.  Just waiting for a couple more things and they will be baptized!  We were there with them to share a Family Home Evening.  Seems that wherever we go we are served delicious food, no matter the time.  They served a wonderful dinner and we brought the cookies!  What a great family!

Okay, here is our English class in Dinalupihan.  They are such fast learners that they will all be fluent by the end of our 10 week class.  We wish we could speak Tagalog as well as they can speak English!
Still in Dinalupihan, these are some of the keyboarding students.  Thanks to the Harman Family that provides grants to students learning to play the piano, they were given 5 keyboards to share.  After graduation from the course, the kids will get to apply to keep the keyboards!  They are very excited and are doing very well.  Clarence, the young woman in the blue shirt, has been teaching keyboarding in Dinalupihan.

And now for Lubao 2nd Branch.  This is our "home" branch. We take turns going to each of the 5 branches in our district, but this is our Branch President, President Santos.  His wife is on the right, Sister Fe.  One of the branch young women, Amcelyn, is in the middle.  She wanted to come on visits with us one day and she was great to have along!  The Santos' are so dedicated to the branch and look forward to the day when all the less active members come back to church.  They try to visit everyone and we love when we can go with them!  They also, are so funny and we share lots of laughs with them!  They have a peanut butter business they have started and they make a custom batch for us with less sugar.  It's delicious!  100 peso's per jar.

This visit is with Nanay Austria.  We love her and we're so excited she is preparing to go to the temple.  She is a widow and takes care of mulititudes of grandchildren as well as many others.  We hope to be with her when she goes to the temple.  It will be an exciting day!  Nanay has a grandson, Jerome, that is quite extraordinary and we love spending time with him.  He is a returned missionary and never ceases to amaze us.  We think he will eventually be running the Philippines.
Here, we are on our sandbag pathway through the tall grass to get to Ceesar's family.  Ceesar is a teenage boy who was introduced to the church through his friend at school.  He comes from a very sweet family and we really enjoyed meeting them.  Ceesar was just baptized a couple of days ago!
Past a couple of houses, around the corner and...

We found them!  This is Ceesar's family.  Ceesar is the one
standing.  The whole family is investigating the church now!
We are in the middle of a monsoon right now and our S-L-O-W internet is even slower!  We are going to have to continue this post at another time.

We love you all!  Thanks for reading!

Mike and Caren

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Life Here! 7/14/2015

 Hello loved ones!  I haven't written in our blog for 3 weeks or so.  Everything is looking so normal to us now that we don't feel there is anything new to write about!  The same kinds of things fill up our schedule, but lots of different faces and experiences.  I will try filling you in on what is new with us, but it will probably be kind of random.  Here goes!

I'm sure I've mentioned before that there is no such thing as an address?  Cities are separated into barangays which are kind of like neighborhoods.  Once you find the right barangay, you have to stop and ask people where someone lives until you finally find the right house.  Well, ours is pretty easy to find.  Just look for the friendly boar that is chained to a tree 24/7, and lives right across

Here is Fred.  This is not his best side, but he is photo shy.  See
the picnic table for their "store"?
the street from us!  His owners butcher pigs and sell the meat just laid out on a picnic table in front of their house, so it makes sense that Fred (the boar) would be the marker for their house.  No, we haven't bought any of the meat!
While we were walking along this path to visit a member
we ran into some animal friends.

We actually see and hear different species from the animal (and insect), kingdom all day and night long.  We have lizards and ants that insist on living with us no matter how hard we try to get rid of them.  We don't actually mind the lizards, but the ants are the bain of my existence here!  We are used to hearing the roosters crow, the dogs bark (constantly), and the eerie human baby sound of cats meowing.  One cat has taken residence in a box just outside our door.  That cat is about to give birth, so we are waiting for the big event.  Daily, we also get to see some pretty chickens, ducks and roosters and many other fowls of the air.  We understand that when the rain really starts coming, we will see fish swimming in the streets!  We'll keep you posted on that.

How cute is this scene?

This little frog is the size of my pinkie nail!
That's another sound we hear at night.  There
must be a million frogs around our apartment!

Just to let you know, it isn't all work around here!  The senior missionaries gathered for an activity and meeting a couple of weeks ago.  One of the senior couples, the Wright's, live here and arranged for a carabou ride complete with a cart and woven hat for the riders.  They also have a trike, so Mike got to drive a trike and I was the passenger in the side car.  It made for some fun!  We always love gathering with the other senior missionaries.

Our chariot!

Back to work!  Here are some pictures of people we have met along the way.   This is just a small fraction of some people we have come across, but I will introduce them to you through the captions.

This wonderful couple joined the church a few months ago.
Their daughter and grandkids are visiting from another city.
Notice the window to the left and the shortened doorway?
When Mt. Pinatubo erupted it sent a flow of mud and ash that
buried many houses.  Some people only dug out enough of the
mud and ash to occupy it again.  Of course, the windows and
door used to be at a normal height!  Oh, and don't be fooled by
the number on the house.  Don't go thinking it's an actual

All ages LOVE to pose for pictures!  Just some cute kids
that passed us along our way and stopped for a picture.
Choose The Right!  Some primary girls at
an activity.
Sister Santos (not her best side either), trying
to navigate to a member's house.  We are
getting a little bit of rain, which means it has
cooled down a bit!

And now for some of our awesome missionaries!  We love them and admire the hours of work they do everyday.  They are a great example to us.  Most are 18-20 years old, some a little older.  They are obedient and hard working.  They teach with the Spirit and serve others with genuine love and care.

14 year old Alvin's baptism and the Lubao (that's where we live),
Sister Rowena with her family and the Lubao sisters.

Alvin's sister is the taller one of his left.
She gets baptized in a couple of days!
These are the missionaries in the Guagua District.

Last district meeting for these two elders.  We
miss them!
Only a little trunky!  Leaving on a jet plane!

Happy Birthday to Sister Ayala!

We have talked about the Self Reliance Program.  It starts with a My Path Devotional which helps people decide which of the 3 classes they should enroll in:  Starting and Growing My Own Business, My Job Search, or Education For Better Work.  Sister Irma did an outstanding job facilitating this devotional.  Here are some of the students for this batch of the 12 week course.

Hard at work figuring out budgets, talents and interests!
Decisions made!  These groups are ready to get started.
The 3 groups have wonderful facilitators who will encourage
them to reach their goals!

If you have made it all the way to the end of the blog, we have some exciting news that did not happen in the Philippines.  It happened in New York City and we are SO happy about it!  Our son Jacob FINALLY popped the question and Ashlee said YES!  Wedding date to be announced soon!  We can't wait to have Ashlee as a part of our family!
The proposal...

The happy couple!