Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas Week

i didn't post last week because we traveled for a district conference over the weekend and i was too tired when we got home.  we were able to spend the night at a quiet little spot in the north part of the mission (about 2 hours from our home) and were only there for a few hours but was able to snap some pictures of this beautiful spot.  it is called potipot (po TEE pote).  if anyone knows what the beautiful hanging flowers are, please let me know! orchids of some kind i'm guessing, an albino peacock and the largest hibiscus blossoms i've ever seen - easily 10 inches across!  beautiful!  we thought it would be nice to go back when we had some free time ... hahahahahaha!  'free time'!  what is that?!!

but this week has been maybe our busiest yet with three zone conferences in three days, seeing every missionary in the philippines olongapo mission!  what a glorious experience that was!  we love the missionaries so much.  the conferences were combined with the Christmas parties so we had beautiful talks about our Saviors birth and life that reminded us how we should be and to whom we look for all we are and hope to be.  afterwards, we were able to enjoy a few hours of fun and games, tininkling (the bamboo rhythm dance we did as kids), acting out 12 days of Christmas song and last but not least, the 'Christmas store' where every missionary got to go select half a dozen items for their companion.  Diana and i were in charge of this and it was so much fun!  we had received two giant boxes of donations from the states but had been expecting much more (as the coordinator had sent us a list of donated items) but had enough to make it a fun experience for them.  filipinos don't put much emphasis on the gift part of Christmas celebrations ... it's more about family and food.  but this beautiful site greeted us when we arrived home the second day!!! The rest of Christmas!!!!!

so the third day we weren't as concerned about rationing!  everything is currently spread out in the Dahle's dining room and will be distributed to the missionaries in the first two zones when we go back for conferences in january!  they will be SOOO excited!  the generosity of those who donated items so that the missionaries could have a nice christmas was completely overwhelming!  it has given me something to think about for how i want to give when i return home for sure.  
you've never seen girls so excited about stickers and deodorant (there was other stuff too); instant choirs: the islanders harmonize so beautifully, our zone, and the unexpected power in the voice of one small Elder; yummy lunches; fun with tininkling and sister sisters here to help with all your shopping needs.
a picture of our humble tree and an unexpected treat of a field of trees made of recyclables across the street from the church on our second conference day (this isn't even all of them!).

what an interesting time it's been here.  we were reminded that without the hustle and bustle that always accompanies the holiday season we've had a unique opportunity to focus all our thoughts on the reason we do all we do.  we are eternally grateful for the gift of our Redeemer, the Light of the World, Almighty God, the Prince of Peace, without whom we would have no hope.  today and always, we hope you feel the joy of the Savior's love, which is the very best gift of all.  

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Every-day Miracles...

The theme in our mission for this year is "12 Months of Miracles", and of course the candy of choice is M&M's.  We are coming to the end of a successful mission year.  There are miracles every day!  Our missionaries write to President Dahle every week and often relate to him some of the miracles that happened in their area.  President Dahle then shares many of those miracles with the rest of us through the weekly newsletter. It is hard to express these miracles in a few words, but I will try...
many baptism miracle stories!

  • Going to a home and being told that they had been praying all day that you would come.
  • Meeting a man that was watching the missionaries for "the one" that would make a difference.
  • At a recent converts home, being introduced to a friend that does not go to church now but was baptized by your neighbor half-way around the world years ago...and he wants to be taught. 

I have had the desire to see/be aware of the miracles in my life.  When I talk about them, they seem like "oh, that's nothing"...circumstance...would have happened anyway...the Lord loves me and blesses me.  I am so thankful for the miracles...tender my daily life.  
Sister Sisters...serving together!

  • One is that Donna and I are companions!  We asked to be companions, but know that in several cases that doesn't happen.
  • We can live in a small one-bedroom apartment together...without intruding on each other's "space".
  • We can sleep in the same bedroom every night!  We have lived alone for many years.  Miracle.
This week has been a hard one for me. I am in charge of the travel for our missionaries...coming and going.  Several things didn't go as they should.  Everyone is safe and happy, but I kept getting prompted to do this or that.
Manila Temple...miracles each day!
  • One example: two departing sisters were met by their parents and left the others after visiting the Manila Temple.  I was prompted to ask the Church Travel Department if these two sisters received their did not!  Before she ever knew there was a problem, her parents were receiving her passport and travel papers.  Little miracles occurred to make this happen.
Miracles are all around us every day.  I want to recognize the miracles for what they are.  We all have "stewardships" and receive promptings related to these stewardships.  I am thankful for my many blessings.  I am grateful for the knowledge that I have a loving Heavenly Father.  
December's new missionaries and their trainers...
miracles await!
And now on a lighter note...
it's a miracle that our large lawn is kept neat by using a "weed wacker"!

it's a miracle that our power doesn't go out more often than it does!

it's a miracle that we still eat rice!

it's a miracle that we don't get sick!

it's a miracle that we still have our toes!
This is the season to celebrate the biggest miracle of all...the birth of Jesus Christ, His life, and His love!  May we all remember Him and recognize the miracles in our daily lives.

Love from the Philippines!!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

another great week!

things just keep getting better here!  maybe i'm just getting used to the unexpected, maybe it's the holiday season ... i don't know; but whatever it is, i'm grateful that i can still experience new things and the things that we experience repeatedly are still fun and exciting!  i have to start with saying that our thanksgiving was one i will not soon forget.  diane told you all about it and it really was THAT memorable!

we were fortunate this week to be able to tag along as sister dahle entertained sister haynie (she is the wife of the area presidency counselor that was visiting our mission).  what a wednesday we had!  we went back to the ocean adventure park where they have a fish spa.  you may have heard about them ... where the "doctor fish" nibble away at the dead skin on your feet!  let me tell you what!  it was the strangest sensation!  i thought i would be too ticklish to stand it but after the initial reaction, it really wasn't so bad!  it almost felt like a light electric current pulsating my feet.  still ... just watching them was freaky!  sister dahle had experienced it before and i love this picture because she is relishing our reactions!  after it was over we, of course had to go to the camayan beach resort for lunch again and i got my favorite drink ... a four-seasons smoothie, with pineapple, mango, banana and papaya.  YUM!
on the way home from lunch we stopped for a photo op because the bats were flying (worlds largest fruit bats) ... in the middle of the day no less!  and some monkeys were out on the road as well.  what a treat!!  WATCH OUT SISTER EPPERSON!  this one snuck across the road while we were snapping pictures and looked interested in her!
on thursday, our errands required us to travel to some new areas of the mission we hadn't visited before.  the road to bagac down south was so beautiful!  winding road through thick tropical forests and beautiful vistas.  we have yet to go to the southernmost point or the northernmost point but will get there eventually!  rumor has it they are both very picturesque as well.  maybe next time we'll remember to take pictures!

last night to cap off our week, we attended a fantastic fiafia night!  that is the pacific islander word for joyful celebration.  it did not disappoint!  you may remember elder ah fun from earlier posts.  he was an office elder a few months ago and he put on a luau in our branch here that was so much fun.  well he got transferred to an area that was struggling and president dahle thought that he could do it again to bring a sense of comaradarie to the community.  well, he outdid himself!  he arranged for the entire san antonio district to be involved, which includes six branches (congregations) in six towns!  after months of practice, each branch performed an island dance, complete with fantastic costumes, food, and a synopsis of the history/culture of the island they were representing.  it was held in the san narciso town plaza and the public was invited.  three of the town mayors and many local dignitaries came and a great time was had by all!  the dancing was spectacular to watch!  their enthusiasm was contagious!  many high points but some stand-outs were the opening solo dance by new zealander, sister kelleher.  she. was. stunning.  honestly, one of the most beautiful dancers i've ever seen.  then there was the haka and the slap dance.  those are always SO much fun to watch!
dignitaries table
we love the people of the philippines.  we love the missionaries.  they bring such joy and happiness to life.  always a positive outlook.  it is an honor and a privilege to serve here in the olongapo mission, side by side with such stellar people.

one last picture from the plaza ... as we enter this holiday season, may we all remember the reason for the season.  the source of all our joy.  we love you! 

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Thanksgiving Day!!

Thanksgiving day..we had Thanksgiving dinner American style!  It was fabulous!  My favorite 'moment' was walking into the Wright's Christmas decorated home and smelling the smells of Thanksgiving dinner!

Our hosts were Elder and Sister Wright.  They are "stay at home" senior missionaries.  That means their home is here in our mission.  They are serving as missionaries and get to go home to their own bed every night.  Elder Wright met his wife here in Subic when he was in the Philippines with the American Navy.  They married and raised their family in California, and now they live on some beautiful property here in the Philippines.  
Diane with Sister and Elder front of a bamboo plant

We took a walk around the Wright's property.  They have many, many varieties of fruits growing.  They all have their season.  While in the Philippines Donna and I are enjoying learning about and tasting many new things.  

Papaya, bananas, Dragon fruit, and a cacao tree (new) orchard

Enjoying our Thanksgiving feast...8 senior and 8 young missionaries

Our day was so enjoyable!  Only two of the 8 young missionaries are American, but the dinner was a highlight for those two, especially!  I asked our 2 Filipino Elders if they enjoyed the American claimed to have an American stomach and the other one didn't like it very much.

We senior missionaries are involved in a service project next month.  Before the young missionaries joined us for dinner, we put together candy bags for 100 children and also food bags for families.  We'll have pictures and more information next month.

Look what else we did...we had many new experiences this day!  

We had our first tricycle ride through the streets of San Antonio and San Marcelino.  The 'trike' is the most popular mode of transportation in our area.  It is a motor bike with a cab attached.  Sometimes the cabs are built to hold cargo instead of people.  We have seen whole families piled into and on the trike.

What about this??!!...another mode of transportation!  We see the carabao not only working the rice fields, but also on the streets with the carts.  We had to take time for a 'photo op' when we got the chance!  Here is Donna on the back of a carabao!

Just a walk in the park...on a carabao??!!!!!!!

I was going to tell about our whole week, but this is plenty for one sitting.  We did work in the Mission Office until lunch time on Thanksgiving. Then, it was time for our senior missionary activity, service project, and Thanksgiving feast.  

Have a wonderful week!
Donna and Diane
One of many Christmas trees... December is this week!!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

ol' black water, keep on rollin' ...

the title of this post is a throwback to my youth when the doobie brothers were featured prominently in my album collection!  

well, the black water is back!  this is a little disconcerting to see when you flush the toilet!  diane had to flush it about 20 times to get a semblance of clear water!  this time it happened when they 'cleaned out the pump house' ... whatever that means!  we have an elaborate 3-filter water filtration system attached to our kitchen sink and that's what we use to drink and wash dishes but i wonder if it can possibly clean out all this!  we joke about developing growths and who knows what else is happening to our insides but sometimes it doesn't seem as funny as others!  i can't think about it too much!  

while diane is fascinated with the rice, cariboa and bandits, i am fascinated by the creeping things.  
i noticed this beautiful creature on my window when i walked into the office the other day.  i don't know what it is but thought it was interesting.
we had an unusual flood of activity in our branch this week as three of our young men received mission calls!  there was so much excitement in the air today when they read their individual calls from the pulpit.  two will serve here in the philippines and the third will be serving in edmonton, alberta, canada, speaking english and french (he's going to freeze to death!).  they go out teaching with our missionaries several times a week and know the points of doctrine so well.  they have such testimonies of the truthfulness of their message so they, of course, are so excited and eager to serve.  one more elder just left this week for the missionary training center in manila.  the work is moving forward in this part of the world!

as we were leaving manila last week (we went for my last dental appointment -- finished up my $25 root canal and got my new porcelain crown!  woohoo!) this billboard caught my eye.  diane snapped a photo also and posted it on her instagram feed last week but i wanted to post mine too.  what struck me about it was that this simple message was surrounded by all the 'clutter' of the world (the other billboards).  as we enter this season of giving thanks and celebrating the birth of our Savior and Redeemer, may we all remember the simplicity of this message.  He loves us and wants to hear from us!  i'm thankful for all of you, whom i love and miss.  i pray that you are well and happy.  know that we are as we serve here with the fantastic people of the philippines.
h a p p y   t h a n k s g i v i n g !!!

Sunday, November 13, 2016


The Olongapo Mission received another senior couple two weeks ago.  We have a senior missionary couple that live here and serve from their home.  And then there is the super missionary couple...President and Sister Dahle.  There are 10 of us total!  (We could use you!!)

Monday we had a senior missionary meeting with breakfast in the Mission Home.  It is always wonderful to get together with other senior missionaries.  After our meeting, we had an "escape day", as one sister called it.  We had big plans to go to Nayong Village for a cultural experience.  It is going to have to be another day...when we arrived the gates and village were closed!  So.....we found a place to eat lunch and then we went to a 'Costco'-type store to shop.  We did spend the entire day together...we were just doing something totally different than originally planned.

During a week we have senior missionaries stop in the office to pick up missionary and apartment supplies to be taken somewhere in the mission.  The seniors keep the missionary apartments supplied with necessities for comfort and service.  I'm not sure how the mission would survive without the service of senior missionaries.

Donna had to go back to Manila to see the dentist.  She asked the Wright's, the couple that have their home here, if they would like to go to the temple (and drive us to Manila for Donna's appointment).  The temple has been closed for 3 months, so they were excited to have the opportunity and an excuse to go to Manila. Then, another couple wanted to go to the temple...then another senior sister had to go to the dentist!  We ended up with 7 senior missionaries and a driver going to Manila on Friday!  It was another unplanned senior missionary outing. Manila we go...

The outing began at 2:30 Friday morning!!  The Wright's like to leave early to beat the heavy Manila traffic.  We arrived without a problem and had a McDonald's breakfast before heading to the temple.  We were all able to do something in the temple before dentist appointments.  While Donna was in the dentist, I had some people I had to meet with in the Area Office.  We finished at the same time!  The others had gone to the small Family History Library and Distribution Center.  

We were all together again and ready to eat lunch before heading back.  You won't believe it, but we went to Outback Steakhouse!  We were taken to a huge outdoor mall with every American restaurant I could think of.  We were in a mini-America.  It seemed so strange!

Senior Missionaries are the best!!  Elder Robert D. Hales gave a fabulous talk on Senior Missionaries in the April 2005 Conference.  It is a must read.  Please look it up!
He talks about how every missionary experience requires faith, sacrifice, and service, and is always followed by an outpouring of blessings.  He enumerates many of those blessings.  He stresses that “ALL those who serve make an invaluable contribution in the sight of the Lord…”

I am amazed at the many opportunities for service there home and abroad.  Whatever talents, hobbies, personalities, experiences, or desires one has...there is the perfect place for you to serve.  I am a witness that service brings blessings.

Please look up Elder Hales talk and look up senior missionary opportunities on  Yes...I know I am preaching. 

Manila Temple from the steps of the Area Office

Senior Missionaries let loose in the big city!!

I think they are enjoying themselves!
Love to you all!!
Missions are the best!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

lather. rinse. repeat.

every day is different ... but there are activities that happen over and over again; variations on a theme as it were.  there were a few 'variations' that happened this week.  we made our second pre-dawn trip to manila to complete my dental work.  this one will have a 3rd verse because the crown didn't fit.  not sure what i expected for $25 but hopefully our trip to pick up the 're-make' this coming week will be the final one for awhile.  things that were different ... we took a stroll around the temple grounds.  it has been closed for 3 months for renovation but will re-open this week so, hopefully, we can attend a session when we go again.  it's been over 6 months since we've been able to go to the temple and i really miss it.  there is such peace there.  we were able to visit the pearl market but got SO overwhelmed by booth after booth after booth of pearls, we left without buying anything!  things that were the same ... the beautiful sunrise (notice the volcano on the right), the picturesque rice fields, and the massive tollbooth at the entrance to manila.  we leave at 3:00-4:00 in the morning to avoid as much traffic as possible once we arrive in manila, otherwise this would be a 45-60 minute stop.

the next thing that happened that never gets old is the trainer/trainee match-ups when the new batch of missionaries come in.  the weariness of the day of training passes.  there is always such joy and excitement as they all line up, eager to meet their new best friend for the next 6 weeks!  i love watching them greet each other and i happened to catch the look of peace and joy on president dahle's face as well!  it is quite a process for him.  he selects the missionaries he trusts will be the best trainers and then he interviews all the new arrivals.  he then prays over the match-ups, to be sure his impressions are right.  he admits he makes mistakes sometimes but thinks that those even happen for a reason.  i tend to agree!

and today the rains returned!  since the typhoons blew through, we haven't had hardly a drop of rain but today the skies opened and it was fantastic!  i tried to get a picture but rain never shows up in the photos.  i need to learn how to photograph rain!  it was beautiful to watch and listen to.  we understand you had a pretty spectacular storm at home this week as well!

diane mentioned sister avenceña last week ... the missionary who left for the tempe mission.  well, it just so happens she was assigned to the the cooley ward, which was my very first ward when i arrived in arizona as well!  if you happen to see a beautiful filipina with a big smile, say hello!  so cool that she is meeting people both diane and i know!  small world!

and finally, just a sign on the road to manila but i love it!  it's an analogy for life really, don't you think?  protect yourself as much as possible by being obedient, but this life is one exciting ride!  come what may, and love it!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

just another day...or week!

I'm going to start off with this picture we took with our office elders before transfer day.  President Dahle hinted to one of the Elders that he and another might receive a new assignment.  The Elders wanted to document their time together.  This has been another dedicated group of young men.  Just one was transferred, Elder Hardy.  He is the Elder wearing glasses.  Elder Detera has now taken his place.

Elders: Ancog, Hardy, Nelson, and Tui'one

On Monday all our departing missionaries came to the mission home for their ending devotional and dinner.  Before that, the Filipinos take an English test.  The church pays for this and the missionary receives a certificate indicating their level of proficiency.  This aids them in getting better employment.

Donna and I had our one-on-one time with each missionary to go over their travel and financial needs.  I love that part!  We had pictures to take and pictures taken of us.  I can see it gets harder and harder each time a new 'batch' leaves because we know them even better than the last.  I don't know what we will do in a year!  This was an unusual departing group in that they are all from the Philippines.

Four of our visa-waiting missionaries came to the mission home to participate in the ending devotional because they had to come to town anyway.  They went to Manila  Tuesday morning for appointments with the US Embassy.  
Our October 26, 2016 Departing 4 visa-waiters ready to go to the USA!
The sister in pink is now in Arizona!  She arrived to her Tempe Arizona Mission on Friday.  It was the same day that our sister wrote to tell us that Arizona was having record heat of 100 degrees!  What a nice (not) welcome for a Filipina!  This is Sister Avanceña.  If you ever see her in your travels, be sure to tell her 'hi' from us in the Philippines.  We have promised her that we will visit her as soon as we get home next October.  She will still have a couple of months left in her mission.

Wednesday was a CRAZY day!  It was transfer day, new missionary arrivals, and trainer/trainee match-ups all in one day this time.  This was an experiment.  I'm not sure how President and Sister Dahle feel it went, but it was nothing like the plan.  Plans change all the time, but this really was crazy.  The day started with our 20 new missionaries arriving from Manila 2 hours later than expected.  In the past, all we did on Wednesday was welcome and spend time with our new missionaries.

I took this next picture as a lesson on how to deal with the heat for all of us from Arizona.  This is a normal sight every day.  Umbrellas are used for rain and sun.  It doesn't matter what the weather is, you carry your umbrella.  The other lesson is that if you wear something on your head (usually a towel or t-shirt), you will be cooler.  Small towels or bandanas are carried by everyone to wipe the sweat off your face and body.  In Arizona I just 'glisten' and don't do anything about the sweat running down my face.  I am learning many lessons.  

Lessons to be learned every day in the Philippines!
We welcomed a new senior missionary couple this week!!  We are all so excited!  It is Elder and Sister Rollins from Oklahoma.  They are so needed and are going to be loved by all the missionaries.  Sister Rollins is a nurse and will be our new mission nurse...taking over the duties from Sister Dahle.  No one is more excited than Sister Dahle, however.

I never get tired of this scene...usually with just an investigator joined in prayer.
This is our 'District'...8 young Elders in prayer before heading out for the day.  We love them!

Street Vendor...if you look closely you can see goldfish in water in plastic bags!!
We see this vendor and others like him each time we drive our main highway.  The goldfish surprised me.  I was always looking at the bright colors under the umbrella.
... wonderful sister missionaries
I had to share this cute picture of our cute sister missionaries.  We made a visit to their home to give birthday wishes and deliver a passport.  This is the kind of errands we absolutely love!
Drying rice before it goes to the Mill
I will never get this picture out of my head.  I know I take so many of them during our travels.  Rice is grown constantly and the fields are all in different stages of growth.  This rice is drying on the sides of this 'highway' before it is gathered back into bags and taken to the Mill.  I knew there were a lot of varieties of rice, but when I go to the market here and see the rice, I am amazed!  

I (we) love the Philippines.  We are having experiences we will be talking about for the rest of our lives.  I am so grateful that I get to share the experiences with my sister.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

well, i think i'm growing ...

i'm going to give this blog thingy another shot.  the big news last week was not one, but two typhoons that hit the philippines.  typhoons are just hurricanes in the eastern hemisphere.  we thought the first one was headed right for us so emergency preparations were made and evacuation plans were reviewed by our 180 missionaries.  church was cancelled in much of the philippines as travel was expected to be difficult.  thankfully, we were spared and only got a few periods of heavy rain saturday night.  bright and early sunday morning we noticed some members of the calapacuan branch streaming into the church (we live next door) and found out they hadn't gotten the message about the cancellation.  the four elders who live next door and the mission president, hurriedly decided to arrange a church service so they would not have come in vain.  we had two speakers and then a few people were called on to bear their testimonies.  for the next two hours, we watched a session of general conference.  it turned out to be a lovely day for about 20-30 of us!  i continue to be pulled out of my comfort zone here.  the latest 'opportunity' came as i was asked to lead the music for sacrament meeting.  there's nothing i love more than standing in front of a group of people to do something i'm unfamiliar with!  thankfully my companion was there, again, with her camera to document it all.  how would i remember any of this stuff without her?

then on wednesday, another typhoon set it's sights on us.  this one was a super typhoon but we were not expected to take a direct hit.  still, precautions were taken.  we had a little more rain from this one but were spared any major problems again.  many of our missionaries families WERE in the path and experienced devastation.  thank you so much for your concern and prayers on our behalf.

in between the storms we hired a driver and got to make a day trip to manila!  don't get too excited ... i had to see a dentist for a root canal!  my faithful companion accompanied me and was able to visit with our friends, the other 'sister sisters' in the area office, while i was occupied.  it was interesting because we ended up having 4 missionaries that needed to go to doctors/dentist as well, so we had the party bus!  we were leaving at 4:30am and at 4:00 we got a notice that our next door neighbor was going with us.  HIPPA rules prevent me from saying his name (not really, just protecting his privacy!) but he had been in the hospital the week before suffering with kidney stones.  we went to visit him every day and i'm posting a picture of him just so you can appreciate the quality of care in the worst of hospitals in the USA.  well, he had a relapse and was really sick... felt really bad for him.  we only brought one missionary back with us (the other dental patient) but all are now recovered and safely home.  diane and i are going back on halloween to finish up the root canal and get a crown.  the church has brought in american dentists as missionaries so i didn't have to fret over the credentials of a philippine dentist and the best part? ... the crown only cost me $25!  gotta love the philippines!

one last thing to mention.  referring back to stretching and growing ... sister dahle (the mission president's wife loves to say, "there's no growing in your comfort zone and no comfort in your growing zone" and i've come to realize she's spot on.  seems like i heard something similar from my brother, mike, when i told him about my decision to serve a mission!  anyway, i had to give a presentation to all the missionaries during three different zone conferences two weeks ago about their finances and how to budget.  once again i could hear daryl laughing his head off!  (the olongapo mission is divided into 9 zones of about 20 missionaries each.  they were divided into three groups and we held a 'zone conference' three days in a row in three different locations).  i created my first power point presentation ever and didn't even faint or throw up so i consider it a success!!  i think maybe i AM growing a little.

love you all more than you know.

the pic of our gecko parent i couldn't load last post
it's rainy season!
i'm going to remember this if i ever complain about healthcare in america again! 
uh ... how do you count notes again??
rush hour traffic in manila ... please ... walk right in front of all moving vehicles!
just a little localized flooding.  we were lucky with these typhoons!
my favorite part of zone conferences were the 'impromptu choirs' that happened.  i LOVE these missionaries!
the lack of any sort of traffic control never ceases to amaze us but after 6 months of it, we're not laughing anymore.  at least some of these drivers wear helmets.  lots of tragic accident stories here.