Thursday, September 22, 2016

February 2016

An UPDATE on the Pagtambayayong Foundation hog farming project in conjunction with the PEF-ABEL program we have been introducing through our areas.  We got wind that the foundation was not fulfilling their obligations to provide piglets, feeds and purchasing of the piglets.  Mary Ann has been investigating this along with Elder Bock to see if we can get to the bottom of the rumors.  Sadly everything we have heard has been confirmed so we have put a HOLD on this program until Mary Ann and Tony can meet with the foundation to get some assurances. We just will not put the members in harms way with loans when the foundation cannot assure them of all that was agreed upon.

This will disappoint the members in Bogo but in hindsight it may be a blessing as our members are not quite ready to move forward as yet.  After seeing other options for hog farming I think the Self-Reliance Managers are rethinking their approach.

This has put a damper on the entire "Contract Growing" concept of the PEF-ABEL program.  Mary Ann or Manager has asked us to discontinue introducing or pushing this program until further notice.  If someone ask about it we can give them the bare concepts but we are not to endorse any program or encourage the members one way of the other.  SAD since a lot of time and effort was put forth with no success.  I have on several occasions tried to relay to the powers to be that they had the cart before the horse.  They needed to go back and really review the 5 year hog farming proposal I presented to them in the very beginning.  In that proposal I recommended that we develop crop feed plots first so that we could reduce if not eliminate commercial feeds for the hog farmers.  From what I am hearing in the wind they are thinking in that direction and are beginning to see the error of their ways by rushing into this program with no clear due diligence having be done.

Sadly we will most likely not see anything develop or any benefits from all the months of time and efforts we have put into this project.  Will it ever happen, right now I give it a 40/60 chance that it will but certainly not while we are still serving.

I spoke of the new Priesthood Driven Initiative launched last month by Salt Lake and Manila. We have been in the midst of developing our presentation before we reintroduce the Self-Reliance Initiate with its several changes to the program to our units.  As I mentioned we will be training this Priesthood Driven Initiative through Self-Reliance/PEF Firesides and we will be  training the Stakes/District Self-Reliance Committees who will in turn will train their Wards/ Branches.  We are presenting three phases; Self-Reliance as Priesthood Driven, The Three Self-Reliance Commitments and 2016 PEF.

This training will most likely take all of February and some of March before it is completed since we have been told that we are not to INITIATE these firesides but are to suggest to the Priesthood that they do so then and sit back and wait and see who responds and who does not.

During our first staff meeting for February held on February 2nd we spent the majority of the time reviewing the Fireside Presentation Mary Ann had developed.  Together all of us made good recommendations, suggestions and presented ideas for consideration where with we added and deleted from her presentation coming up with one everybody could agree upon and felt good about.  May Ann will check with Salt Lake about some of the figures on one slide before we put it to print as they say.  All in all we are moving forward hoping to meet with as many Stake/District Self-Reliance Committees to make our presentation so they can train their Bishops/Branch Presidents.  We are turning a majority of the training over to the Priesthood as directed by the Area Presidency and will stand ready to assist them in any way possible.  Our Stakes/Districts are still moving forward with Devotionals and Graduations so our days are beginning to fill up for February.  GREAT!!!!!!!

Today is Monday February 8th and it is the celebration of the Chinese New Year here in the Philippines.  We got up early took our regular 3 mile walk and then at 8 AM went to the Marco Polo Hotel for a  Chinese New Year celebration with dragon dancing and firecrackers.  Here are just a few of the pictures we took.






After that we went home to dig into our self-reliance labors for the day. 

HAPPY VANENTINES DAY. Jenee had made arrangements for us to attend a Valentines program for our festival celebration.  We joined up with Elder & Sister Manning, temple missionaries from Duchene Utah.  After picking them up we drove to the Lakwatsa Resto Lounge where the event want being held.

The evening was titled "Music Filled with Love" which had four vocalist singing.  The main attraction for the evening was Windey Prado-Avendano who is one of the top ten renowned female vocalist in the Philippines. She sang songs from the opera, the 50'-60, classical numbers and a meadley of Broadway productions that was out of this world. Two of the other vocalist were Lila Alora (11) and Ralph Mallapre (19) along with Zennith Rivery a well know male tenor here in the Philippines a dear friend and singing partner of Wendy. Every body but Zennith are members of the Mandaue Stake here on Cebu.

Lila Alora as a 11 year old  had a voice of an trained adult.  Ralph a young upcoming tenor is leaving on his mission on February 26 so this was his swansong evening.  Windey Prado-Avendano had the voice of an angle, so exact, so clear and angelic throughout.

Here are some pictures of these wonderful performers.

Windey Prado-Avemdano
Lala Aloba

Ralph Mallapre

Windey & Zennith

After almost two hours of wonderful and delightful musical renditions they ended with Windey and Zenneth inviting someone from the audience to ome on stage and dance with them to the music of the night.

You guesses it. With Jenee pointing her figure at me and calling out my name Wendey came down from the stage and invited me to join her.  It was fun to say the least.  After the evening was over we gathered for a group photo opportunity.

Our much anticipated weekend in Tagbilaran has finally arrived.  Friday the 19th Mary Ann Balen, Sister Hargraves, Jenee and I boarded Oceanjet for Tagbilarian at 2 PM.  We arrived at 4 PM and checked in at the Metrocentre Hotel for a little rest before our first meeting at 7 PM.

On our way to our meeting we stopped at Shakeys Pizza to pick up 4 pizzas to take to the meeting for those who would attend.  We waved down two tricycles and with two in each we headed out for the Stake Center. It took us about 10 minutes to get there and when we arrived the parking lot was all lighten up with tables and chairs filled with YSA youth from both Calape and Tagbilaran.  We were informed that they we having their YSA Valentines Get together.

We were greeted by the Stake President who informed us as to what was happening and cordially invited to his office where our meeting was going to be held. We discovered that those who were to join us for pizza were already having dinner with the YSA which was much nicer than pizza.  So we sat back and enjoyed our pizza while waiting for the others to finish with their meals and show up.

At about 7:30PM Sister Carolina Belarmino the Stake SR Specialists and her son Marben the Chairman of the SR Committee arrived. We spent the next hour and a half going over the events coming up on Saturday as well as covered some additional self-reliance matters. The excitement is becoming contagious so we are really looking forward to Saturday.

Saturday the 20th we were up for breakfast at 8:15 AM and then on to the chapel by 9:30 for the Grand Opening of the Tagbilaran Stake Self-Reliance Center ceremony which was to start at 10 AM.  We have been encouraging the Stake ever since we arrived to open a Self-Reliance Center but with other events interfering we were just excited and happy that it is finally happening.  Hurray for Everybody!!!

We were actually quite surprised at what the Stake SR Committee had planned. Their efforts for this Grand Opening event were beyond our expectations in fact extraordinarily arranged and we could not have been more proud of everybody's efforts.



After the Graduation ceremony and the ribbon cutting was completed they served lunch to all the visitors and dignitaries who attended. A tour of the SR Center was given to all the visitors which became a very nice missionary tool.

After lunch it was planned to hold a Training session for the Self-Reliance Committee members, Ward Specialists, Facilitators and Stake Presidency. We were ahead of schedule so at 12:30 PM we started the training meeting which lasted until approximately 3:30PM.  Mary Ann the SR Manager conducted the entire training as they had requested that it be done in Cebauno.  Sister Hargraves, Jenee and I just sat in the back listening but only understand 10% of what was said.

Mary Ann did an outstanding job presenting the SR training materials which included the new 2016 SRS/PEF "Priesthood Driven" concept.  There was a lot of interaction between those in attendance and Mary Ann.  We just wished that we could have understood what was being asked and the answers given my Mary Ann. It was our intention this go around to let the leaders ask questions so as to clarify any matters or concerns rather than us just making a presentation. However both was accomplished. Mary Ann's presentation along with a lot of questions and answers throughout the meeting was just what the SR leaders asked for and we felt they went away understand much better their roles and responsibilities.  We are now looking forward to great things in the Self-Reliance Initiative to take place in the Tagbilaran Stake going forward.

We came away with a deep sense of accomplishment on our efforts to reach this important moment in the Self-Reliance work in this Stake. It may have taken longer than we had desired, but we could not have been more thrilled for what they had accomplished this weekend.  Kudos to everybody involved who put forth much time and efforts to make this weekend such a success.

The end of the month is here and is going out like a lamb.  Not much happening with Self-Reliance but we are enjoying our time serving the Cebu temple. This Thursday and Friday every sessions was filled to capacity with members from the Davao Stake located on the island of Mindanao.
Earlier this months we contacted each of our Stakes/Districts asking for the opportunity to come to their areas and present the 2016 SRS/PEF Fireside to their Self-Reliance Committee and Stake/District Presidencies. We have completed three of our six and are still waiting for the remaining to notify us.  

March 2016

The ides of March are upon us as we have 5 weeks remaining to our Self-Reliance Mission.  We are anxiously trying to fill our remaining time as best as possible with Self-Reliance training and support as well as our days in the Cebu Temple.  We have certainly noticed that the majority of our Stakes/Districts are functioning very well without our attendance being needed. 

We are receiving notifications of Devotionals and Groups beginning in our areas of which we had known very little about.  YES, that is a good sign indicating that our Stake & District people are well enough trained and are confident to move forward which has been our major objective since arriving.

This month and next there are a number of Temple Missionaries as well as us who are concluding their service here in Cebu Philippines and returning home.  Last night we had a farewell dinner for Elder & Sister Decker held at President McCurdy's home. All the temple missionaries as well as the Temple Presidency were in attendance and it was a very nice send off.  Elder & Sister Rasmussen are next to go followed by us the first of April.

Temple Matrons
Temple Presidency & Deckers

March 3rd Thursday is one of our two days a week that we serve in the Cebu Temple.  After prayer meeting Jenee was asked to meet with President Perez.  He extended the opportunity for Jenee to serve as a Shift Coordinator even thought we have only 4 weeks remaining in the temple.  The sister who was to be the shift coordinator had a miscarriage and has to stay home for some time.  President asked Jenee to take the position with the emphasis of training a new sister to become a coordinator.  This calling will be on the Wednesday late shift so it looks like we will now serve Wednesday late shift as well as our Thursday and Friday early shifts in the temple until we are released from our calling on April 8th prior to returning home.  This is a wonderful opportunity for Jenee to shine here in the Cebu temple.

Monday the 7th we conducted our final RM Career Workshop.  This has been one of the highlights of our mission having the opportunity to be with the returning missionaries to talk about career development along with job search tools and techniques.  The workshop comes around every 6 weeks. We have had as many as 52 RM's in attendance and as few as 1.  My presentation covers four 1 hour segments covering 1)  "Me in 30 Seconds," "Power Statements" and Knowing My Gifts; 2) Understanding the difference between a Job & Career & Career Development and Networking; 3) Interview and Interviewing skills; 4) Negotiating and developing career goals. Between 2 & 3 three is a one hour break for lunch.

At the conclusion of the workshop I take about 15 minutes to talk to them about what will happen when they get home and have the mantel of being a missionary removed from them when their Stake Presidents has them remove their missionary tag.  We talk about remaining steadfast and how to remain faithful throughout the bombardment of temptations that Lucifer will throw at them.

I give them my formula for success in fighting off temptation of every kind.  I ask them to make me and themselves a promise that they will attend the Temple at least once a month if not twice if possible. I share with them my sincere testimony of the power of the temple and how by a continued influence of the temple they will be able to ward off temptation that the world will throw at them. I try to insure them that protection comes from the ordinances they received in the temple and the influence that temple will have on them going forward.

From here going forward the Self-Reliance missionaries will no longer do the Career Workshop as we have done it.  They have been instructed to introduce to the RM's the Self-Reliance program until such time when the new MY PLAN is introduced  here in the Philippines.  Problem is that the self-reliance is not applicable to the Americans RM's as much as it is for the Filipino RM's. It is yet to be determined how effective it will be. Nobody has any idea as to the involvement the SR Missionaries will have once they introduce the "MY PLAN" program here in the Philippines.

We will miss this extraordinary experience being with the full time missionaries prior to their returning home and going back into the real world. We just hope that what we shared with them will be helpful.  We do know that they all have expressed their appreciation for having had the workshop so Jenee and I take that as a positive and makes us feel accomplished.

Monday the 14th at 6 PM all the Senior Missionaries in the Cebu & Cebu East Missions gathered for a Family Home Evening hosted by President & Sister McCurdy.  The guest speakers were Elder Snow of the Seventy, the acting Executive Director of the Church History Department; Church Historian and Recorder. Accompanying him was Brother Nielsen the Managing Director of the Church History Department as well as Assistant Church Historian and Recorder.  Also in attendance was Elder & Sister Bowen of the Area Office and President & Sister Tanner.


After dinner they held a Q&A for about a hour which was most interesting and very informative. A number of us in attendance asked questions and had some clarity given to past history questions. We learned some new insights about the Joseph Smith Papers and the next addition coming out in May which covers the Council of the 50. Other church history items were discusses along with the Churches goal to be totally transparent  as to what information the church provides to the world.

March 17th HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!  This is our 46th anniversary being spent here in the Philippines.  We served in the temple today and afterwards we meet up with some of our fellow ordinance workers for a nice dinner to celebrate our anniversary.  This Circa restaurant sets right behind the temple and is a very charming place that is ranked in the top 10 restaurants in Cebu.

Due to it being our Anniversary the restaurant surprisingly provided desert for the group which toped off the evening in a high fashion.

This weekend we are traveling to Bogo to hold the 2016 SRS/PEF Training.  Sister Hargraves will be traveling with us and we will meet Mary Ann there at 9:30AM. This will be our last grip to Bogo and we will miss taking this trip as it is so beautiful and peaceful in Bogo.  We have met some wonderful members in Bogo and especially those with whom we served with in Self-Reliance who have become so faithful, supportive and diligent to such a point that we can honestly say that we are leaving Bogo in good hands capable of following through going forward.

Our 2016 SRS/PEF meeting was superb in every way with Mary Ann at her usual self.

Bogo Chapel

After our training we all decided that we would on our way home stop for lunch at one of our favorite establishments that we always frequent when returning from Bogo. This  is a WONDERFUL German Restaurant and Bakery.




Above is Jurgen and Chuchi Mannchen the owners of BORUSSIA.  Jurgen in German and Chuchi is Filipino. We met them for the first time last March during our first trip to Bogo and fell in love with them.  The are the most gracious host and hostess you will ever meet, always making us feel welcomed like family. All the missionaries when traveling to or from Bogo stop at Borussia so they are very familiar with the missionaries and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Today was special for Jenee and I as we said our good buys.  Chuchi hugged Jenee and asked her if we as Mormons believed in the Rapture.  After a little discussion Jenee told her that we certainly believe in the Second Coming of Jesus, the resurrection and the after life.  Chuchie just smiled and said to Jenee "then we will see each other again in the after life."  Jurgen and I gave each other a big hug then we separated our ways with them standing at the entrance to the restaurant waving good by.


This week it is Holy Week and school is out so everybody takes a long vacation.  Many of the local temple ordinance workers take this week off leaving the temple short handed.  We offered to work two additional days Tuesday & Wednesday along with our regular Thursday and Friday to help out. 

Wednesday evening the 23rd  we will be going to dinner with Mary Ann and the 4 OJT's. OJT's are four young ladies doing On the Job Training having worked with us for the past year.  They do this internship as part of their college graduation requirements. So we are all getting together at the Parkland Hotel for dinner to celebrate their graduation. 

Friday the 25th we attended the Cebu Central Youth Conference providing one of the workshops covering Self-Reliance.  As usual we will take 2 hours with the four of us dividing the time in 20 minute segments to present various aspects of self-reliance.  The Sisters do a fun activity they call "A Theme with a Purpose." I have a 30 minute power point presentation where I cover 1) personal goal planning 2) the Self-Reliance workshops and 3) eligibility for the PEF loan program.


As usual the Self-Reliance Team was the highlight of the conference.  With the combination of fun - games and meaningful discussion we seem to hit it off with the youth.  The leaders were also pleased with the response that the youth demonstrated when they gave us a standing ovation for our efforts.

Saturday we will crash and rest, I hope?!