Sunday, December 18, 2016

Medical Trip to Manila

Here is our wish for you!  Merry Christmas From the Mindoro Zone.

Look at our sweet sisters

Only in Manila would you see remembrance of the Savior on top of sky scrapers.  They are there year round not just at Christmas.  During our four days there last week we were surrounded by angels.  The Spencers from the mission home drove us there.  Driving in Manila is not for sissies and since we hadn't driven there before they made the five hour round trip to take us.  We were taken to the Missionary Recovery Center (MRC) located across from the temple and welcomed by Elder and Sister Peel, the senior couple.  We were taken to  a beautiful room, offered food and a tour of the MTC.  We were taken care of by Elder Laceste who drove us to appointments, took care of getting approval from our insurance and stayed with us to interpret when needed.  In the Philippines there is no such thing as a doctor's appointment so you sit in the line at the clinic.  We were four hours waiting but when we finally got in, the doctor was impressive and kind.  He arranged to have the imaging for my eye for the next day (instead of the next week) and shuffled his schedule to give me my treatment the day after.  We were able to attend the temple and loved being with the young missionaries who were there. To top it off, Elder and Sister Howard made the five hour round trip to take us to our car at the mission home.

Elder Peel had a very busy schedule but took the time to drive us to the American Cemetery Memorial.  It was an amazingly beautiful, sacred place.  

Those of us who weren't alive during WWII need to be reminded of the history and enormity of  the sacrifice of so many.


Looking out at the grounds.

Elder Bellessa is noting the inscription for his relative, Glen Viano, who died when his plane was shot down in 1942.

There are more than 78,000 individual names in the Memorial of those who died.  The names include 17,000 Filipino guides.  There are 20 sets of brothers who were killed, including the five Sullivan brothers.   They were the subject of a movie "The Sullivans".

It is in the middle of Manila's prime real estate.  We were so thankful to have been able to be there and experience the magnitude of sacrifice and to honor those who gave their all.

This is a beautiful sight in more ways than one.  It meant we were going to get on a boat to ferry across to Mindoro.  We had spent ten hours waiting in line in our hot car. (no water, bathroom or food)  When we drove to the pier we saw about a mile long line and were told to get in it since there were no ferries running because of weather but hopefully there would be soon.  Every once in awhile we were able to move forward a few cars so we stuck with it.  We were about to bail when we finally made some headway into the pier where we were met with more lines.  We tried to pretend we were on a road trip.  We read stories and had a lot of time for conversation.   It is times like these Elder Bellessa's good humor and patience really come to bear.

We liked the message on the T shirt ("Not all who wander are lost") of the member in front of us in sacrament meeting.

District Conference in Victoria shows the amazing growth of the church in the Philippines.  The  members are full of faith and appreciation for their membership.  If you look close you can see one "foreigner" with gray hair.

We're going to see Star Wars tomorrow.  Usually when we go to the movies we are the only ones there.  This was "Moana", a first run movie.  We think more people will be there for Star Wars. (You have to look close to find Elder Bellessa).

This was beautiful scene on our morning walk.

We pass this lovely church as we drive to visit the missionaries.  When we see it we know we are almost home.  We've been here almost five months and have yet to see anyone in it.

The Mindoro Capital light show just down the street from our home is quite impressive.  It is fun to take a stroll to see the amazing display and be with the locals.

Here is our surprise Christmas!  A box of goodies from the Barkers which included out favorite treats, vitamins, skin care,  photos and notes from the children, Dallas Cowboy mug, and much, much more!  We can hardly wait to get home each day to have a snack.  Elder Bellessa takes a few gummy worms in his pocket every day.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Twenty Days to Christmas

We received this photo of Lula asking her mother to show her again where we were in the world.  We miss our grandchildren and hope our service will bless their lives.

If we were at home, Sister Bellessa would be spending hours adorning this very large, over the top tree.  It is a labor of love as she places each memory ornament while listening to Christmas music and church talks.

Our mission Christmas tree is simple (very simple) but contains the most important message of all.

These sweet faces are boys from our neighborhood who came to sing us Christmas carols.  They are hoping for a small handout of appreciation.  When they were finished, we thanked them profusely and gave them some coins.  We made sure they knew it was a one time donation but no sooner had they thanked us and left, there were seven more boys coming to sing.  You snooze you lose.  Click to enjoy the sweet Tagalog song.

The closer to Christmas it gets the more elaborate and noteworthy the decorations become.  This very large tree is made entirely of Sprite bottles.  There is a light inside each bottle which will make quite a show at night.  We were admiring it from the balcony of the town hall with the Elders and a nice breeze came though bringing welcome cool air.  When we said how wonderful it felt their comment was "Christmas was in the air" because it seemed cold to them.  (at 85 degrees F).

Making use of tires and bottles

On our way through Socorro were amazing and creative Christmas decorations made by each barangay(neighborhood) .  This one made from dried palm fronds and bamboo was particularly beautiful and creative.  At night they are lit up.

 Brother Reyes has been wanting to be baptized for some time but has not had the ability to do so since he cannot walk and attend church.  He couldn't afford a walker but fortunately someone purchased one for him which brought him to the day he had longed hoped for.   He entered the waters of baptism assisted by two of the Lord's servants.

Baptism not far from Pinamalayan Branch building.

Brother Reyes, the newest member of the Pinamalayan Branch.