Sunday, April 27, 2014

Easter in the Philippines

is very different from at home. We finally saw a few candy treats this week, but not an Easter Basket anywhere in sight.  And NO PEEPS in any color or shape.  What a trial for us!   This tree was in the mall, but no other decorations.  

On the other hand, it has been "Holy Week", and this is a country that takes that seriously.  No school, and virtually everything was closed on Good Friday.  On Maundy Thursday, the celebration of the Last Suppper, people walked for miles, thousands of them! up the hills and into Antipolo.  They took up an entire lane, slowed traffic to a walking speed, and never looked at the cars at all.  We spent 27 minutes on the big highway past our mall, traveling about the length of a football field.  

Sadly, some people take the "penance" idea very seriously.  Two of our office elders went out to teach this week, and came across a large group of people in the act of whipping and crucifying some people.  At first, they thought it was a re-enactment, but no, it is part of the religious tradition.  Poor Elder Smith said, "I couldn't believe what I was seeing.  Blood everywhere.  It was the worst thing I have ever seen. "

  This is the article that was printed in the papers here, to give you an idea.  

Avoid whipping, nailing to cross, advises DOH

By Tina G. Santos  (Philippine Daily Inquirer)
The Department of Health (DOH) on Tuesday urged penitents to practice other forms of atonement other than whipping themselves bloody and nailing themselves to crosses as part of their Lenten rituals and sacrifice, saying these practices may cause serious health problems.

“Let us just pray hard and live a moral life as our penitence instead of hurting ourselves,” said Health Secretary Enrique Ona in an interview with reporters.

Ona said that while it respected the Lenten tradition of flagellation and crucifixion which some Filipinos consider a form of “atonement for sins,” the DOH discouraged such rituals because penitents faced the risk of infection from wounds like tetanus.

He said that even Catholic Church leaders opposed such practices.

Ona said that deep-cut wounds resulting from crucifixion and whipping could be exposed to the heat, dust and all sorts of bacteria. “Tetanus could enter the body through the wounds,” he said.

Flagellants use whips with pieces of metal or bamboo on the tips to lash themselves. In some cases, others do the whipping for them.

Ona said the nails to be used to crucify penitents should first be soaked in sterilizing solution to protect from tetanus.

“It is also important that those who nail the flagellants to the cross are experts because they might damage vital nerves on the hands, affecting the (muscles of the) hands,” he said. 

Does anyone else see the irony of telling them not to do it, and then telling them HOW to do it?

WE mostly spent the week in the office, of course, preparing for exits and transfers.  But it is still lots of fun!                                                       Tuesday morning, after their zone meeting, all the nearby missionaries came into the office to send/ get their mail, etc.  This is my desk.  I should really have done a before and after picture, as it DID NOT look like this when I took it on.  But Elder and I just can't work in the confusion that used to exist.  WE are gradually bringing a sense of order and peace.  (And cleanliness!)  
Here he is,enjoying them all and renewing old friendships, and generally making them feel like "Dad" is there for them.

I taught one more workshop, three English lessons, Music in Primary Sharing Time  AND the 8 - 11 year-olds in Primary, while writing letters and purchasing air tickets and planning for the week ahead.  We have 17 leaving, including one emergency trip home.  We have 19 coming in, if you count the new couple coming on Wed morning and the Elder returning after a one year leave of absence.  We had to arrange shuttles to and from the airport, to and from the memorial, to and from the hotel.  Also hotel rooms, meals, career workshops, chest x-rays. tickets and travel funds, all their letters to and from the President during their mission, and about a million other things.  So much FUN!  
Here are the Barlow's, the new couple.  We don't know them, as very fortunately, the Sheffers took on the orientation for them.  They are MLS as well, but their lease is only 3 months, so I suppose President is looking ahead to who will go to Mindoro in July, and they will either leave or move into someone else's lease. 

In two weeks, we had mostly 12-18 hour days.  Almost never home for dinner;  just learning and helping.  We had some great times, though.  Here are some highlights:

FHE with the seniors.  President Nielsen ( Area Seventy and President) and his wife spoke to us.  They had just returned from General Conference.  He said, "Don't despair.  The church has NEVER been stronger.  The work goes forward at an amazing pace"

Pot luck lunch at the office to say goodbye to Elder Smith and Elder Masula.  They all cooked and brought food .  We all had a great time, and then sisters began arriving for appts with President, so we fed a crowd, too.  Elder Masula on right, Elder Ballon next to him, and then AP Elder Osores next to Elder S.  

8:00 Monday night at the office before Exit Day and Transfers.  EVERYBODY working.     

Elder Smith, trying to finish the ever-haunting immigration forms before he leaves the office to me.

The STLs, with help from Elder Crowther and all of us, finishing up the 72 hour kits Sister Revillo asked them to do for the arriving missionaries.  STLs are Sister Training Leaders, a new position that came after the arrival of so many sisters in the missions.  They are SO great.  They are trainers, of course, but also AP's to the President's wife.  Sister Revillo loves them to pieces.  She has 6.

 Here are the completed kits.  In a bad storm, (inevitable, here!) the missionaries have food, etc, in their apartments so they can stay home.  These travel with them on their transfers.  Of course, in really bad times, like Ondoy and Yolanda, it is all lost, anyway.  

Elder Osores, AP, finishing up the plans for the next two days.  

Elder Schlager and Elder Hall, getting ready for the days ahead.  Planning times, shuttles, etc.  Or maybe just chatting, as they all like to talk to him.


Elder Sheffer, on his first assignment as the apartment manager.  They wrote an original song to sing to the new missionaries! 

And, another trip to the American War cemetary, on Tues and again on Wednesday. 

 Here is Sister Medina, the brave girl finished her mission.  She was so happy.  Of course, nothing is ever easy here.  She and Elder Aguinaldo had to take a 12 hour bus ride north to go home to Isabella.  Can't book in advance.  The shuttle picked them (and everyone else for the day) up at 4:00 Wed. to get them to the bus stations and airports.  No buses available. She told us you have to push and shove, and "we are missionaries.  We can't do that".  So, they went to the temple.  Tried again later.  WE saw them in the office at 10:00 that night.  She said, "I want to go home to bear my testimony to my Tatay."  And, she told Elder Aguinaldo, "we have to work tomorrow.  Maybe there is some soul we are supposed to find."   We took her to the STL's to stay the night, tried again on Thursday.  No buses.  She had a LOT of baggage, and didn't want to fly.  But, the travel dept. finally got them on the plane on Friday morning, they arranged for extra baggage allowance for them, and the office elders picked them up before dawn and took them to the airport.

EVERYONE works so hard! 

The highlight of the week, and one of the highlights of our mission, was the privilege of helping the Aguilar Family prepare for, and go to the temple.  We began way back in Sept, when President Dolleti asked us to teach them and prepare them.  After we moved into the city and were not working out there anymore, it was harder, but we wanted to complete it.  
There were obstacles all along the way. I repeat,  Nothing is easy here.  But on Saturday, this is what happened:

In the end, we had to rent a Jeepney. (p3500, or about $90).    So, President Villafania of Tanay went up the mountain early in Ronnie to get them.  Since they had a jeepney, they made it a branch temple trip and many came, including the investigators and the missionaries who are teaching them.  It was the "National Day of Service", and the local leaders wanted every branch and ward to contribute.  So, they met before dawn and did their service project, then got on the jeep for a 3 hour ride.  Here are Sister Dolleti, and Sister Aguilar senior, and all the rest.  

Because both of their lolas (grandmas) came to look after them, Jhezelle and John Ivan were able to come on the same day to be sealed to their parents.

Here they are, a brand new "Eternal Family",  Anthony, Eva, John Ivan and Jhezelle Ann Aguilar.   

We are so proud of them.  They are already giving everything they have to the kingdom. She has been primary president since the branch was created, and he is first counselor in the branch presidency.  She has been baptized just one year!


And here are all the people from Sampaloc, at 6:00 pm, back on Ronnie to go home, about a 2 1/2 hour trip.  They had a great day.  Lots of food, lots of teaching, lots of learning.  
How did you spend $100 this week?

WE continue to be amazed at the opportunities and blessings that are part of this work. 
Also, they are so desperate for senior couples, they are beginning to tease us that we can't go home until we find our replacements!   So, if anybody is available, or can make themselves so, don't hesitate. 

(And Pray for a call to the Philippines!)

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