Sunday, July 31, 2016


this picture by Greg Olsen hangs by my front door
i miss seeing it everyday
this week as i reflected on what i might say here, the
thought that kept flooding my mind and my heart was
gratitude.  gratitude for my abundance in every aspect
of my life.  i often say 'my cup runneth over' and i feel it
even more these last few months.  i've never kept a gratitude journal per se, but i began to list things the other day and realized the list will never be complete.  to quote a favorite hymn, i stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me.

i am grateful for the atonement.  i can't begin to grasp the depth of His love for us that He would be willing to go through Gethsemane and Calvary so that we could all return to live with Him and the Father one day.  i am grateful for repentance.  i need it every day.  i am grateful for the sabbath day, when i can partake of the sacrament and renew the covenants i made when i was baptized.

i am grateful for my family, who i love more than i ever could have imagined was possible. i am grateful for the blessings of the temple, for the covenants i made there.  i am grateful for family and friends who are such good examples of Christlike love and service, who remind me
every day who i want to be.

one of the missionaries told me a story this week of visiting the home of a woman and her two teenaged children.  the branch members and missionaries had built them a house a few weeks before that consisted of four cinderblock walls, about 15'x15' square, a dirt floor, outdoor 'plumbing' and a tin roof.  they looked around and asked her if they had food to eat.  her daughter began to cry when the mother told them 'yes, we have 2 slices of bread left!  we cut one piece into three pieces each day so we can all eat.'  one third of one slice of bread was all they had eaten for the previous two days.  it took every ounce of strength for the missionaries not to breakdown as they said 'you are starving!'.  and then the mother said the most amazing thing ... 'yes, but we have this wonderful home!  we are so blessed!  when it rains we do not get wet!  we are so grateful!'

this is an extreme example of the poverty we see here, but it is a common example of the humility and graciousness of the people.  we came with 3 loaded suitcases and our pantry is full.  (most days) we have air-conditioning and running water and a toilet that flushes.  indeed, my cup runneth over.

in fifteen short months, i will return to my beloved, modest american home with all it's creature comforts and amenities.  i will return to my life of lunches, movies, and a temple 5 minutes from my front door.  i will return to a schedule that is mostly my own.  i hope i return with the lessons i'm learning here fully planted in my heart and soul and that i never go a day without expressing my gratitude to my Heavenly Father and His Son, my Savior, Redeemer, Brother and Friend, not only in my words but by the way i choose to live.  

know that you are loved and thought of every day!  i am grateful for you!

love, donna

Sunday, July 24, 2016

more Philippine adventures...

We witnessed something wonderful yesterday.  Missionaries from LDS Charities were here to give a much needed wheelchair to a sister from the Santa Cruz area.  I'm so glad they chose to meet here so that we could witness this.  "Aloha" arrived by transport ambulance.  The wheelchair was set up just outside the ambulance so that she could maneuver onto it with some help.  Aloha doesn't have legs.  She has feet, but extra extra short legs.  The members in Santa Cruz have been carrying her on their backs to transport her places.  Now she has her own wheels!  She was sooooooo happy!
'Aloha' in her new wheelchair!

Not Haas, but oh so delicious and giant!
We have been eating the best avocados you can imagine!  I was excited with mango season...and now we have avocados!!!  Look at the size of these.  We receive a gift of avocados this size about every other week.  We have been in heaven.  Donna doesn't eat much mango, but avocados are something we both enjoy.  The produce is plentiful here.  There are open markets with fresh food in every town.  Last week was the first time we bought food in the open market and not the grocery store.  The prices are tons better, so we should start buying more foods in the markets.  We're just a little cautious about the cleanliness.

Here are some more pictures of things that we see each day.  The school children wear uniforms.  Each school has a different color and pattern.  The high schools are on double session because they are so crowded.  This means some students are in school until 7:00 p.m.  Lunch isn't served in the schools.  We see young children leaving school at lunch time and returning from home a short time later.  We were also told that children are going to school at age 2 or 3.  I imagine that is so the parents can work.
School is out for lunch! Notice the loaded 'trike' in front of us!

Traffic rules are a little different here!

Here is another picture of traffic!  Thank goodness the speeds are much slower than home.  Donna talked about our car problems last week.  We got into the car with the new battery, pulled out of the parking spot to discover that it has something horribly wrong with it, too!!  We ended up driving the truck last week.  Thank goodness we have 4 cars for the office right now...3 of them are being worked on OR NEED to be worked on!

This week, we are receiving a new senior missionary couple.  They will be staying in the northern part of the mission.  We have been anticipating there arrival for months now...ok, two months.  Another couple will be coming in October.  I have been busy this week preparing for the 15 more young missionaries arriving in a week.  It is busy, busy times for the office!  I STILL am working without my color printer 'talking' to my computer.  We have been creative in solving the problem while the 'repairmen' try to figure this out!

I took pictures of these houses during our travels.  There are all types of homes around...from shacks to mansions...and right next door to one another.  However, these two homes, I love.  

The Philippines are good for us!  We are growing, learning, and sharing.  I am so grateful for the gospel of Jesus Christ.  It is a blueprint for my life.  I love going to church half way around the world and hearing the same things taught wherever I go.

I recently read that the greatest spiritual threat facing the world today is the threat of apathy and the desire to do nothing!  Do you see that??!!  God's entire plan is hinged upon us choosing to learn, grow and progress.  If we give our opportunity and time to doing nothing, then we might as well have not even bothered to choose the Lord's plan at all.  This statement really makes me think.

You are loved!  Enjoy a wonderful week.  Our adventure continues.
Sister Sisters Diane and Donna 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

and then these came ...

as if i didn't ramble on enough in the post below (read it first - this is an addendum!) ... i just had to add these pictures that came to me today.  wish this was in the philippines but life goes happily on in brekenridge!  look for the joy in your life and you'll find it in abundance!

christian is there too.  i just didn't get a picture of him!  love you all!

a day in the life ...

well, here i am again!  nothing out of the ordinary happened this week so i was thinking i wouldn't write, but then i thought i would just describe one day.  i think our depictions thus far may be a bit skewed of what it's like here (not all beaches and sunsets!), so thought i'd report on one particular day.  on wednesday, the schedule included attending two meetings with the area medical advisor who would be going over all the current health threats with the missionaries, three hours each and traveling between them and then the two hour drive home.  here is what happened instead ...

on the way to the first meeting, we were going to drop some supplies off to one of the elders in the hospital diane mentioned last week.  got a call that he was being released  later that morning so to go directly to the meeting.  about an hour into the first meeting, we left to pick up the elders from the hospital, got them lunch and put them on a bus for home, waited at the station for another 30 minutes or so to pick up a beautiful, new missionary arriving from pakistan (i love greeting the new ones!).  took her back to the meeting to meet up with her two new companions and found out one of them had possibly been exposed to a rabid dog and the doctor at the meeting felt she should get the rabies shots as a preventative measure!  just a side note ... can you imagine being the girl 'fresh off the boat' from pakistan and having that be one of your first encounters? but i digress! ... so, we took the three sisters to drop her luggage at her new apartment but first had to stop and pick up a mattress for her to sleep on (a 3" foam pad - which, by the way, is what diane and i sleep on as well), shoved it into the van, then we were off again.  let me also say, the neighborhood roads here were NOT built for cars, let alone a large hyundai passenger van, so that was an adventure unto itself!  people outside the cars are often necessary to help navigate the turns and ALWAYS used to guide backing up.  anyway, we get lunch for the three sisters and then take them to the hospital to begin her series of three rabies shots.  we are running behind at this point and had to leave them on their own with instructions of who to see and how to proceed.  feeling confident that they were capable of handling it themselves we left and began the 90 minute drive to the next meeting.  about 20 minutes into the drive, as we were getting on the winding mountain highway, the car begin making a horrible grinding noise - which is NEVER good!  we pulled off into a gas station that had a sign for 'mechanic on duty 24/7'.  we felt so blessed!  well, apparently he was on PHONE duty, 24/7!  they got on the phone to the mechanic and he suggested it was probably the brakes (it OBVIOUSLY was not).  needless to say we decided to turn around, miss the meeting and get as close to home as we could before the car blew up or did whatever it was going to do!

we felt badly because we had mail and money for about 40+ missionaries that hadn't had supplies for a month, but we had no choice.  the good news was we were able to make it back to the hospital, which was a good place to leave the car until someone could come look at it, and check in with the young sisters and see that they were being taken care of.  we were rescued by two of the office elders who came and moved everything out of our van into a truck and they drove us back to the office where we could make arrangements with the area vehicle department in manila to come pick up the car.  since they were coming for one, they decided to come for two!  we lost our toyota corolla as well!  the couple before us had backed into a pole which misaligned the trunk latch so we haven't really been able to use it since we've been here (you never knew whether you'd be able to close it if you opened it!).  the only car we had left has had a dead battery for 2 months so we had to call on someone else to come handle that!  and as he said ... 'unfortunately, you can't just go to costco, buy one and have it installed while you shop'! he got it taken care of the next day though and even brought the office krispy kreme doughnuts!  yes folks!  we discovered they have krispy kreme here!

well, we lived to face yet another day of no printer for sister epperson, ants, ants, ants, and even more ants (they are crawling on me and my computer as i speak), which we spray to get rid of for a day, but then the apartment smells like bug spray (which is actually an improvement over the sewage smell), and of course, our beloved brown-outs!  we were too busy this day to take pictures but i will leave you with one from that night ...

in case you can't quite make it out, this is diane in a brown-out!

i am learning that even when nothing goes according to schedule, i am able to smile and be at peace because i know God has a plan.  the mundane happenings of real life can sometimes get all of us down but when i try to rely on the Lord and allow things to happen in His time, i know the needful things will take care of themselves.  it's true for all of us.  one little p.s.... lauren, christian and my two angels, madeleine and stella, are in denver visiting cameron as i write tonight.  my heart hurts a little that i can't be there because there is no greater joy in my life than being with them.  i know i am where i am supposed to be though and that makes it ok.  i'm so grateful for all my family and friends that just make my life better.  i love you all so much.


Sunday, July 10, 2016

"Mission Tour" and More!

You are getting a double dose this week.  Donna finished her entry last night and said it was my turn to write today.  I reminded her that if I did, it would be her turn again in a week!

We have heard from several friends and family members asking about our safety and the typhoon.  The typhoon didn't hit us, but we have had hard rains for six days now.  Donna and I sat out on the porch last night just to watch.  We love the rain and are grateful that we don't have to always be in it. This is the funny sight we saw on our way to Olongapo this morning...a young man in high rubber boots, umbrella, and light shorts and shirt (PJ's?).  Two funerals passed us during the pouring rains.  The casket is in front, the walking loved ones, and then jeepneys pulling other friends and family.  This is a picture of the loved ones walking behind the the pouring rain!  And then the third picture...Donna and I sitting in church with our matching 'plastic' shoes (for the rain). We are so grateful for plastic shoes!!  Who would have guessed?

Rainy Day Sights!!

For three days this week we sat with a General Authority, our Philippines Area President, Elder Ian Ardern and his wife.  I don't have pictures, but it has been the highlight of our week...or mission.  It is called a Mission Tour when a General Authority visits and teaches to all the mission.  

One of the greatest things I learned was to always ACT on the revelation I receive because it will increase the flow of revelation. 

The Bon Family
On Wednesday night, Elder Ardern and his wife had dinner with 8 senior missionaries.  It was wonderful to sit in a small group and to ask any question we had.  We loved every minute!!

We had another baptism yesterday.  One of our armed guards joined the church last December.  Yesterday his wife and son were baptized.  It was a very happy day. Two other young men were baptized, also.

Some of the sights we see: Soy sauce any one?  Caribou in the rice fields and in the streets.  Two missionaries crammed into a Trike for transportation.  And a jeepney...the other mode of transportation for a Filipino!

Elder Paraggua
Today, we went to Olongapo for church because we had to do an 'exit' visit with a young sister before she flies to New Zealand tomorrow.  She was a 'visa' waiter and after eight months she finally gets to go to the mission she was called to. On the way home, we stopped at the hospital to visit a young Elder that was admitted last week.  Before we left his room, he sang to us.  He is finally feeling better and had his big smile again.

Enjoy your week!  We appreciate all the prayers being said for us.  Thank you!
Love to you!
Sister Sisters Diane and Donna

Saturday, July 9, 2016

and the adventure continues!

Diane lovingly reminded me that it's been my turn to post for three weeks ... sorry i failed to do it last week and i'm grudgingly doing it this week.  it's not that i don't want to keep in touch, it's that i'm technologically challenged and it's difficult to get the pictures and words to line up and i get very frustrated!  she gets lots of practice creating beautiful documents in her office assignment here plus she did this for two years on her last mission.  bear with me.  i've decided it's more important to get the message out than worry about what it looks like but i'll work on it!

where to begin?  transfer week was over two weeks ago and that is a lot of fun!  As you can imagine, there is a lot of work that goes into getting missionaries home safely, transferring 40 some-odd missionaries to new areas, and receiving new ones and sending them on to their assignments here in the Philippines.  it's hard saying goodbye to the ones leaving; transferred missionaries have half a day to pack up and move on to their new areas; but it culminates in a fun tradition of having all the new missionaries line up across from all the ones who have been selected as their trainers and then they open the envelopes and see who they are paired with and the joy and excitement fill the room!  i love it!  this happens every six weeks and i don't think it will ever get old!

one of the quick transfers that we weren't expecting was our office Elder Hollis.  we had a birthday celebration planned for his birthday on the 26th that now wouldn't happen so we decided to go up and surprise him with a pan of brownies.  it was a 2-1/2 hour drive and he was definitely surprised!  that was fun!  leading up to that, though was our longest brown-out yet.  the power went out about 5pm saturday.  we kept waiting for it come on so we could bake the brownies.  it never did so we called the couple we would be spending the night with and she said she had already made some because that's what she does for all the missionaries in their area.  we were grateful and said we'd see her the next day.  well, we slept with no air-conditioning and woke up to no power.  and when there's no power, there's no water so no showers before church.  no power at church either so we were VERY happy to get in the car and blast the air for the long drive north!  did i mention i'm developing more gratitude for what i have?
18 hours in Masinloc/Infanta area: mango grove leading to the ocean, birthday boy,
Lynne and Brent Gardner and another beautiful Philippine sunset

The next weekend we had a luau with the congregation we attend church with.  We have several Polynesian Elders/Sisters in the mission and Elder Ah'Fua is one who put the whole thing together as a way to bring the community together.  He is from Samoa and taught dances from Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Hawaii and New Zealand to different groups of church members and they all performed.  It was FANTASTIC!!  They roasted yet another pig and made their costumes.  It was a feast for the senses ... so much fun!

... but the highlight of the evening HAD to be the duet with Elder Ah'Fua and our very own Sister Epperson singing 'You Are My Sunshine'!  I KNOW!!! I'm as shocked as you are that she would agree to do it!  but he is quite fond of her and asked her to sing with him and she was very brave! She had everyone singing along by the end!  The video was too much data to post here but trust me, she was amazing!  She said she hadn't sung in public since her duet in church with her friend when she was 12!

And lastly, we had our district over for a 4th of July dinner ... hamburgers, hotdogs, beans, watermelon, chips, rootbeer floats and more ... the works!  We had three Americans and their three foreign companions (Australia, Philippines, Samoa).  I love to feed missionaries because they are so grateful! They were so full, they had to come back after teaching in the evening to have dessert!  It was a great end to a fun weekend.

Sorry this is so long.  I'll do better about posting in a timely manner.  Maybe Diane will post about the rain (which is AWESOME!!).  I'm so grateful we are able to have respites from the long hours and are able to really enjoy the people and the country we are serving in.  The work is the Lord's work and I'll be forever grateful that I have the opportunity to come and serve in this way.  We are grateful for your prayers.  We love you and would love to hear from you!