Sunday, May 29, 2016

Bits of our Daily Life...

First, I must say that I am so grateful to have Donna with me half way around the world.  It makes a difference!  We are enjoying the Philippines, learning our assignments, and meeting the people and missionaries.

It is still mango season in our part of the world.  Mangos are being sold (and given away) all over the place.  This part of the Philippines is the mango capital...and home of the sweetest mangos in the world.  We were given some mangos and couldn't eat them fast enough.  They are now cut up and in the freezer just waiting to be made into "ripe mango" shakes.
"Under the Mango Tree!"

This is an old, and huge, mango tree!  I'm holding a green mango.  In restaurants I have been ordering "green mango" shakes which are a little more tart.  I love them!

This week has been my lesson in frustration.  First there are MANY documents that have disappeared from my computer!  Now, as I'm trying to recreate them, WORD is not letting me put pictures where I need them.  Even the young Elders can't figure out what is going on!  I decided to go onto another project that I could do.  I studied the Mission Secretary Binder last night looking for answers.  Hopefully this next week the frustrations will be solved!  Thank goodness I don't need these documents for another 4 weeks...I started early!

Cutest Children Ever!
A Home...I love the grass roof!
I have some pictures we took as we traveled around doing our errands.  Homes, streets, and people.  The children actually live close by.  They were helping get rocks for the Elders so they could roast the pigs.

Speaking of roasting pigs, we have 2 "Islander" missionaries in our Branch this transfer.  They are planning a Branch Luau.  The whole Branch is getting involved.  Each organization is learning a dance and song from different islands.  We will be having our own miniature Polynesian Cultural Center experience.  Watch for those pictures later this summer!

Beautiful green Rice Fields
Back street 
Some of the rice fields are green right now.  They are ready to harvest when they turn golden, like wheat.  As we drive around, some of the rice fields have already been harvested, some have the stubble burned, and some have white flags to distinguish being ready for harvest.  The season seems to be long and the fields/crops can be in different stages even right next to each other.                           

"The Home of the Most Beautiful Women in the World"
This back street picture was taken after we left an apartment of our young Sisters.  It is part of Olongapo. We end up going into Olongapo about twice a least once. 

This Olongapo City arch is something we pass every week.  On the right end of the sign are pictures of former beauty queens...I think Miss Universe's.  

We are approaching rainy season which lasts for about 4 months or more.  Last week we had one of the hardest rains I have ever seen!  The Elders were out and said areas were flooded.  Donna and I were safe and comfortable inside.  We were sure that our power was going to go out any minute.  It didn't!  Power outages happen a couple of times a week...they are called "brown out's".  They have become just part of our lives.

My scripture reading this morning was at the beginning of the Book of Mormon...the Introduction, testimony of the witnesses, and the testimony of Joseph Smith.  Too often in reading the Book of Mormon I have skipped these pages thinking they were not important for me.  Oh!  They are important!!  I know that the Book of Mormon is scripture and a testament of Jesus Christ.  I am so grateful that I have easy access to this beautiful book.  I am grateful that I have eyes to read, ears to listen to, and a mouth to read aloud these words of scripture.

May you have a wonderful week!!  Donna and I think of you, talk about you, and pray for you often.  We love our family and friends.  Even though we are far away, you are not forgotten in our hearts.

You are loved!
Sister Sisters Diane Epperson and Donna Hays

Monday, May 23, 2016

be careful what you wish for!

I didn’t post last week because, as we are settling into our new jobs/surroundings, I was beginning to feel like we weren’t having many new experiences to share.  Then this happened … twice!

Some of our Polynesian Elders bought a pig and brought it home to cook for a meeting we were having on Tuesday and then they did it again for a conference they were having on Friday.  I felt so badly for the sweet little pig and said I didn’t know if I’d be able to eat it.  One of the Elders said, “Don’t you like pork?” and I laughed and replied that I loved pork … I’d just never gotten to know it first!  #notafarmgirl.  I have to say, I’m so grateful for the anonymity of the grocery store meat counter!  We watched most of the process of ‘preparing’ it and although it seemed awful to me, I really came to understand that this is how much of the world eats.  When I said it seemed like so much work (they dug a pit and gathered rocks, firewood and banana leaves) they said “it’s not work, it’s lunch!”  I was careful not to appear judgmental because I am part of this culture now; and I have to say it was delicious!  Although after seeing the entire pig laying on the table and watching them carve my portion, I may not be as eager to eat as much pork as I once did!  Although I’m sure Costa Vida sweet pork will be calling my name when I get home!

We’ve been able to drive around some of the outlying areas a little this week and each town looks very much like the last.  Some have nicer homes than others but the overall feel is the same.  They are very poor but seem so happy.  People are smiling everywhere we go.  We have yet to meet a stranger.  The people are so loving and welcoming … and I LOVE the children!  They are so beautiful!  And so happy to meet us!  They just run up and shake our hands and have smiles as big as the South China Sea (which Filipinos call the Filipino Sea!).

We’ve begun to have evening thunderstorms which are fantastic.  I’m really looking forward to rainy season coming soon (this may fall under the category of 'be careful what you wish for'!).  The island is already green by any standard but they say right now, it’s the brownest we’ll ever see it.  I’m anxious to see everything come to life!  Brown-outs continue to be part of our life.  They happen every few days but usually don’t last long.  Today we had another issue with no power and now know it knocks out the pump on the water well so were without water again for most of the day.  We’ll get more and more prepared for these occasions as we go.  Right now they catch us off-guard and are a nuisance!

I’m so grateful for the opportunity to serve God’s children in this part of the world.  It has been unlike anything I’ve ever experienced or probably ever will again.  I’m anxious to meet more of the people and be an instrument in His hands in anyway I’m needed.  We’ve made some fast friends that I hope to keep in touch with long after this experience is over.  We hope you are well and happy and think of you often.  love, donna

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Another Packed Week...

Well...our suitcases are unpacked.  Success!  I must admit, though, that I have one (maybe two) bins full of unorganized items.  We brought tons of toiletries because we were told to...we have discovered we didn't need to.  We were scared into thinking that we wouldn't be able to buy much here.  That was wrong information.  We do have our 18 month supply!

Mission Office-lower level with 2 apartments above.
We took some pictures of our 'little compound', apartment above the office, church, and Mission you can see where we live.
Morning exercise each day at 6:30!!
President Dahle in white t-shirt.

The parking lot is full of our 5 mission cars + 1 Branch member.  The little cart is called a "trike".  It is usually a motorized bike with the cart on the side to hold people and things!  This is the public transportation of many of the members. We have an armed guard 24-hours a day.  That isn't unusual; even McDonald's has an armed guard.  The Elders tell us that it is just the duty of the military and isn't a big deal.
Sunday Morning from our and Mission Home.

We went to Zone Meeting on Tuesday because Donna needs to be there for reimbursements when missionaries have receipts.  There were no receipts this time.  We may let the office Elders handle this in the future.  This was a 3 hour meeting going over the things learned last week in MLC.  We decided to make the most of the day so we went out to lunch!  We tried an Asian restaurant that Sister Dahle suggested.  We shared squash soup, pineapple and shrimp rice, and then had mango shakes.  All of it was yummy!!  That energized us for our work the rest of the day!

I had a bad day on Wednesday.  I came home so overwhelmed and wondering if I could ever learn all that had to be done.  I am so afraid that I will forget to do something that is important.  I was helped 'off that ledge' by my sweet sister companion.  I was reminded that we had only been in the office for 4 days!!  What??!!  It seems like much longer. We are packing so much into each day.

We had our first adventure 'out' on errands with the Elders.  We parked in Olongapo City and walked 1 1/2 blocks to the bank.  I'm grateful we had the Elders with Filipino and one large American.  The mission is run on cash, so we'll be going to the bank often for cash. Then we went to the dry cleaners to pick up the upholstered furniture for our apartment.  It was being cleaned, but they told us to come back in an hour.  What can we do for an hour...we went to lunch, of course!  We took the Elders to lunch at TGIFridays.  It was a treat for them.  We have gotten attached to our wonderful Office Elders!
Lunch at TGIFridays with Elders Kresge and Daquero.
We finally attempted laundry.  The machines are in the hall and we share them with the Office Elders.  The instructions are not in English!  The wash turned out okay, but we don't know if we can change the water or heat temperature, water level, and so much more.  We will be asking for instructions.

Because of Mother's Day, the office Elders were talking with their families on Saturday.  That was fun to see their excitement and joy!  The Philippines have their national elections on Monday.  It is a holiday, and the missionaries have been asked to stay home.  Apparently, it gets crazy.  They were going to call home on Monday because it would be Mother's Day in America, but they realized that Monday is going to be busy for us.  It is transfer week.  The missionaries that are being released will be here Monday for lunch, devotional, testimonies, dinner, and interviews.  The office staff is involved with all of this.  Our new missionaries arrive on Wednesday morning.  It is going to be a fun and very busy week for us.

These young missionaries are pretty amazing.  Thank you for your prayers on our behalf.  We love you!!

Sister Sisters Diane Epperson and Donna Hays

Monday, May 2, 2016


The schedule for our three days in Manila was a whirlwind of activity.  One highlight was attending a session in the Manila Temple.  The most mind-boggling was the Immigration Office experience.  The traffic in Manila is unlike ANYthing I've ever seen!  It's the most densely populated city in the world and it truly seems that all 12 million+ citizens are on the road at the same time!  Door handle to door handle and bumper to bumper ... CRAZY!!!!!  It was exhausting ... and we were only passengers!!  The sights and sounds of Manila were almost too much to take in.  I can't imagine the experience without a driver and a handler once we arrived at Immigration.  President and Sister Dahle arrived Tuesday to  transport us the three hours to our new home away from home in Subic.  We stopped for some supplies before going to eat.  This is the restaurant they took us to ...
this place made a GREAT first impression!

Day 2 we went to Olongapo for a meeting and met a few dozen of the young Elders and Sisters serving here.  They are incredible!  We are looking forward to meeting as many of them as possible over the next 18 months.  Four of our favorites are our Office Elders/Trainers!  We love them already!  Dinner was at the Mission home with President and Sister Dahle and the Gardners, a Senior Couple serving up north.

our cute Office Elders: Daquero, Hollis, Heta and Kresge
On day 3, President and Sister Dahle invited us to a lunch meeting at another beautiful beach resort to meet with the Gardners and three more Senior Couples to discuss needs in the Mission.  We took the scenic route and saw monkeys in the road and thousands of large 'flying foxes' (some of the largest fruit bats in the world)!  The views of the South China Sea are spectacular.  And of course we had to try a ripe mango shake ... masarap! (delicious!).

third day ... second beach restaurant ... missions are AWESOME!
Day 4 we traveled to Olongapo again for Mission Leadership Council (MLC).  Once again we were blown away by the caliber of these young missionaries.  Most of our missionaries are 'islanders' from the Philippines and surrounding island countries.  Diane commented that she can just envision them leading their Wards and Stakes someday in the near future and it's true.  

Well, by Day 5 we were loving the people and the place and adjusting somewhat to the oppressive humidity.  Jet-lag seemed under control, we had mostly unpacked and settled in and all was right with the world ... then we were asked to come down to the office to begin the purpose of our mission!  The Elders in charge of training us have been very patient (speaking for myself) and kind.  We feel a little overwhelmed but know this is the Lord's work and it will move forward!  The training we got in Provo was great but we now realize the real-world application of it is a whole different ballgame! 

Today is Day 7 and we decided to get out on our own for some additional apartment supplies and groceries and I actually drove in this madness they call traffic!  I'm happy to report we returned home unscathed and willing to try it again another day!

I'm excited to begin this chapter and know God is in charge.  I've felt His love and seen His hand in so many ways during my short time here.  The challenges and triumphs of these young missionaries are real and your prayers are needed, felt, and appreciated every day.  Keep 'em coming!