Sunday, 7 April 2019

A Sweet Experience

Sister Ang, Elder McMullin, Diane, Sister Sterner
Elder McMullin with Diane Lastimosa

Elder McMullin, Diane, Sister McMullin, Sky Solomon

From Elder Ron on April 6, 2019: Yesterday I had the special experience of baptizing Diane Mae Lastimosa.  Diane began meeting with the missionary sisters about 6 weeks ago.  She had an inactive friend at school who showed no interest in taking her to church or telling her anything about it, so Diane googled the church to see if a chapel was part of this compound.  You cannot see that from the road, although the temple is prominently displayed on the highest piece of the property.  So Diane ventured close, then followed some sisters to the building and came to church of her volition.  She and the missionaries were looking for a place to have a discussion so we invited them up to our apartment.  And of course, we fed them afterwards.  For several weeks, the lesson was taught outside our apartment in the foyer and we enjoyed having them and others in to have Sunday dinner together.  When deciding whom she would like to baptize her, Diane chose me and I was very happy to perform that ordinance.  It has been many years since I baptized someone, I believe, Jayna was the last person I baptized (Jaron baptized Paul).  Today, Sunday, April 7, Diane was confirmed by another brother in the Church, and after meetings, we held a little welcome dinner where a number of our Filipino grandchildren, Sister Ang and Sister Sterner, and Diane gathered for a bit of a celebration.  We had a nice meal of roast pork in Sweet Baby Ray’s bbq sauce, our usual rice mix of black, red, brown and semi-polished red, canned corn (that is really good), and our usual stir-fry (chop suey) that Austin and Ivan helped prepare, plus banana bread for dessert.  [I made 4 loaves the other night so we would have some to give to all the missionaries but Belinskis were the only couple that got any.  Brother Belinski asked me today where the other half loaf was.  We had some last night when Clay and Ever and Sky came over, plus Diane and the Sisters after the baptism, and sent some home for Diane to share with her aunt and some with Ever to take home.  So today, we went through two loaves.] [I'm sure you want to see the process.]

After our dinner tonight, we sat in our usual lesson circle and I asked everyone to give Diane a small piece of advice – people were good about sharing things that they felt were important for a new member.  And then she talked about joining the church and her testimony.  She is a very sweet young lady (16 almost 17) and I thought she must have some nice parents to make her that way.  As it turns out, she comes from “a broken family,” and she lives with her aunt. But she is pleasant and always smiling.  Now she has a bigger family circle, with several of the “apos” telling her they are now part of her family and vice versa.  That is comforting as we and the sister missionaries will be gone in less than 3 months.

We will keep in touch.  Last night Diane printed her name in the Bible that I had on my mission here in 1969-71 and I talked about the families and others I had taught while a young missionary here.  She seemed to enjoy their stories.  We are so grateful that we will be able to keep in touch on Face Book, etc.  It's going to be hard to leave all the people we love so much.
This is mostly for ourselves--a long (15 minutes) video of the sometimes-inaudible advice given to her and her (much shorter)response.  She is such a sweet young woman.   
Advice to Diane
Her response

Our New "Grandchildren"

We have started hosting dinner and FHE in our apartment every Thursday night for about 20 or 25 single adults.  Elder and Sister Pace and E&S Jacob help out as well.  It's great to have time together with these kids who are far away from their own families, too.  We call ourselves a family now-- I think we have more "grandkids" here than at home!  It's been a blessing to all of us.  

Birthday celebration for Judy and April
More party.  April 4, 2019

Christian from Ghana who works for the Minister of Information in Vietnam with Flower, a new convert from VietNam.  Instant friends! 

Karaoke to celebrate!

Picture-taking after church Apr. 7 with E&S Jacob, "Papalo" and "Mamala".

More picture-taking after church .

Ericka and Biancz

Sunday dinner with ( Lto R) Clay and Ever, Sis. Ang, Romel Tamayo, Elders Mokofisi, Smith, Ellis, and McMullin, Sis. Sagun, Diane, and Sis. Sterner.

Mmmm....birthday cake!

Getting ready for picture-taking

FHE group

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

January 2018 photo dump

Ron's favorite stalls at Carbon Market.  He'd like to eat them all!

Most businesses have an area for motorbike parking.  There are an incredible number of "motors" in the city.  Because they can maneuver around cars that are stuck in traffic, they can often get somewhere in half the time it takes in a car.

Typical businesses

Water meters to homes behind the businesses

Us with Elder John and Sister Thelma Infante from Calgary and Elder Wilson and Sister Jodi Ganir
at Marco Polo Hotel Lobby

Dainty white flowers at Sirao Gardens

Nancy River's favorite type of flower

Sis. Ganir on stairs


Sunflowers-- here they are considered exotic floewrs!

This looks more exotic to me!

Yellow Bell kalachuchi

More of Sirao Garden

CANADA Drive!  Had to stop for a picture!

Local police station

On our way to the corner store-- JY Supermarket

Along Salinas Avenue

Patron House-- our apartment windows are the two at the top right

Fighting cock on a leash

We call this a spider lily

Canna lily

Another canna lily

Favorite pastime


After our training in Salt Lake

Assembly Hall on the fourth floor of  the Salt Lake Temple where we had our last instruction. 
This is where the temple dedication was held in 1893.  
Here's one of my first shots of the temple, and still one of my favorites.  When a taxi driver drove us through the gates of the Temple Complex a while ago, he said, "I remember this place.  It feels good to be here."   We told him that it was the spirit of God that he could feel here.  It's so  peaceful-- such a contrast to the busy, noisy, crowded streets of the city. 
Truly it is a refuge from the world.  We are so blessed to be here!

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Mission Report October 16, 2018

We were asked to send a report of our mission for the Raymond Stake history.  Ron wrote and I added a few things.  It's a summary of some of the highlights of our mission.  We are so blessed to be here.

Cebu Temple

The uncropped view from Gorordo Avenue. 
We can usually hear traffic noises in the Celestial and sealing rooms.

We are blessed to be serving in the Cebu City Temple Mission in the Philippines with nine other missionary couples, seven from the USA, and two from the Philippines.  The Cebu Temple has been in operation since its dedication by President Monson in 2010, the second temple in the country.  The temple looks much like the Calgary temple and is similar in size.  It serves the southern region of the Philippines, mainly the Visayan Islands having a population similar to Canada’s.  When the Manila temple was closed for four months this year, newly called missionaries from Mongolia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Cambodia and Vietnam came here to receive their own endowment.

Missionaries first served in the Philippines in 1962, and in its first few years three elders from Raymond served here, Mark Evans, Jim Ackroyd and if my memory is correct, Phil Helgerson.  Elder William R. Walker, who grew up in Raymond and had responsibility for temples in the church, was at the Cebu Temple dedication in 2010.  A number of missionaries from Raymond have served in the Philippines in recent years.  In 1963 when Elder Evans served here, church membership was 80; in 1969 when I, Elder McMullin, served as a young missionary,  the membership had risen to 6,000 saints.  Only one chapel existed in the country in 1971 and the membership grew to 10,000.  In June of 2018, the Church reported a membership of over 765,000 in the Philippines.  The Philippines is the fifth country in the world with 100 stakes of Zion. 

One of our great thrills in our service here has been to see people that I baptized on my mission, or their posterity.  While being trained in the baptistry shortly after our arrival, Sister McMullin was sitting in the baptistry’s chapel one morning.  She knew that some youth from Mindanao, the big island at the south end of the Philippines, were coming to be baptized.  We had corresponded for some 48 years with two families from Mindanao.   Sister McMullin asked the sister sitting in front of her if she knew of a family whose surname was Villejo.  The sister responded, “No.”  But another nearby sister said, “I am Villejo.  I am Mary-Rose.”  She was named after Mary-Rose so with joy Mary-Rose met her name sake for the first time.  I had great joy in seeing Mary-Rose Villejo, now Estrada, as well.  Later on that day, I was helping with some sealings, and was a proxy son at the alter.  To my great joy, the young couple kneeling there included another Villejo granddaughter.  I shed some tears that day, tears of joy.  “How great shall be your joy in heaven” came to my mind, as I experienced a bit of that great joy that day.  We have also seen members of another two families from Mindanao, the Origenes and Barrizo families.  Both of these families had 10 children, and 6 members of each family served missions after their conversions.  It has been a thrill to serve here and have these heart-warming reunions.

Mary-Rose M. and Mary-Rose Villejo Estrada

We have had other special experiences here.  For instance, one brother brought a family name slip to do the beginning part of the endowment.  Before we started, feelings welled up in me and I could hardly keep from crying.  Once complete, I asked this brother who this person was, telling him of my feelings.  He said, “He is my brother who died last year.”  I am sure there was joy on the other side of the veil that moment. 

At times, couples who come to the temple to be married for time and all eternity arrive without any family or friends accompanying them.  Either the family cannot afford to come, or the young people are the only members in their family.  Sister McMullin has had the opportunity of being an attendant for several brides, even helping with small receptions and hosting a dinner or two on short notice.  

Our first wedding couple, the Wongs, Feb. 28, 2018.
Speaking of feeding people, we have carried on Grandma Jane’s tradition of feeding people.  We have rounded out our temple mission with a “feed the hungry” mission. On one occasion, a group of 15 people did not have the money to buy food when they arrived at the Patron House and so were invited to our 450-sqare-foot living/dining room to eat supper with us.  (We are blessed to be at the end of the hall, so we have a foyer outside our door to use for overflow!)  Other people from their island in similar circumstances were invited by our guests, and we fed what seemed like an endless stream of people totaling 32 when all were fed.  We had enough left over to feed another five people the next day.  Another time we hosted a birthday party for our two-year-old “adopted granddaughter” and the 15 guests we expected turned out to be 51 people.  All were fed and filled, including two sets of missionaries, members of the bishopric and their families, and many others.  It is not uncommon for us to feed from 35 to 60 people throughout a month.  For Canadian Thanksgiving last week, we cooked turkey, dressing and gravy and coleslaw for the 24 temple missionaries, with the cooking of rest of the meal being shared.  We saved some turkey, and had another Thanksgiving dinner for 12 of us on Tuesday.   

Here are the last of the 50 or so  birthday party guests.  Fun! 

Thanksgiving #1

Thanksgiving #2
As I, Mary-Rose, was reading Alma 10:7 recently, these words came from the Spirit as a message of approval of our “feeding the hungry” mission: “…and he is an hungered, and thou shalt receive him into thy house and feed him, and he shall bless thee and thy house; and the blessing of the Lord shall rest upon thee and thy house.”  We have been so humbled by the faith of these people who sacrifice so much to come to the temple, and often have to scrimp to buy food here.  It is a privilege to share with them and be blessed by their example and their conversion stories.

Picture-taking is a big thing here. We started out with a small group of leaders from the Davao group.
Then more and more of the leaders and youth joined us.  Lots of fun!
In the Philippines, we are four things that we aren't at home: tall (at least Mary-Rose isn't tall in Canada), rich, popular,
and beautiful-- people like our fair skin and straight noses!
They're surprised when we tell them that in North America, we tan to make our skin browner.  
One of our great delights is being baptistry coordinators one shift per week.  We hear that Cebu temple does more baptisms for the dead than any other temple in the church.  Youth from the various islands take time off school or come here on holidays and do baptisms for their ancestors after finding family names, or for family names shared by other members of their stakes.  Each group will stay at the Patron House for two or three days, and come to do baptisms twice a day.  Their stake has a fund for the transportation and housing, but the youth still have to pay for their own food.  Last Friday’s group included 37 young women and 18 young men, for example, and they were from the nearby island of Negros, another island where I served on my mission.  There was no branch there in my younger years of service and now there is a vibrant stake.  The area of Bacolod on this island where I served is sometimes referred to as “Little Utah” because there are chapels everywhere.  When I served in Bacolod, the branch had about 50 members and we met in the basement of a house.  In a nearby community, Victorias, where we bussed on Sunday afternoon to hold Sacrament Meeting, we met in an outdoor kitchen.  What a change.

Workers sacrifice much to serve in the temple.  Few have their own transportation because they cannot afford it and they pay to ride a jeepney or on the back of a motorcycle to get to the temple, both coming and going.  That money could have been used to feed their family or to buy clothes, etc.  Some couples and singles from other islands come and stay at the Patron House for a week or two at a time and do that each month, serving each day in the temple as workers.  One such brother was very excited when I gave him a pair of shoes that were the wrong size for me – he was wearing slippers because he could not afford shoes.  Despite their circumstances, you hear no complaints, and day after day, month after month, these brothers and sisters serve gladly.  The Filipino people are a people of great faith and are kind and caring.  We love serving with them.