Sunday, December 25, 2005

Maayong Pasko...from Across the Miles

Christmas Greetings from Cebu, Philippines!

One year ago we knew our lives were about to change, but had no idea how much or where we'd be this Christmas. On February 16 we received a Federal Express letter with our call to serve in the Philippines Cebu Mission. Our first reaction was to check the map and find out where Cebu (pronounced Say-boo) was. Leonard was released as stake president also in February, and we began sorting through 29 years-in-the-house accumulation of "stuff." I continued to serve as ward Releif Soceity President until April. Leonard retired from AmSec at the end of March, and in April we traveled to visit kids and mothers. The first part of June we had a wonderful family reunion with our children and grandchildren at Ft. Worden, an old Army base, now a state park. We had such a great time! We were housed in an old barracks with 11 bedrooms, a nice large kitchen, and huge dining room. The kids had such a fun time exploring, watching the tame deer and raccoons, and playing at the beach. We missed Brian and his family. He was working on the space shuttle re-entry and the launch was delayed so they didn't join us.

On Father's Day we entered the MTC and spent five days being fed like kings, and spiritually fed by Apostles and our Prophet. We loved getting acquainted with the other mission presidents and wives, especially "our batch" who were also coming to the Philippines. There are 14 missions in the Philippines, and eight of us at the MTC together. We arrived in Manila on June 26th and had a day to recover from jet lag and then another day of training with the Area Presidency. Finally we flew to Cebu, arriving June 29. We had the rest of that day with the out-going mission president. Not much time! But we soon found out our real trainers were the two young men who were the assistants to the President. They were so good to us, and we'll always have a special place in our hearts for Elders Abney and Farnsworth.

We think of Cebu as the pearl of the Philippines. It's quite modern, but with fewer people and not near as much traffic as Manila. Cebu is famous for its wonderful mangos. Check out those dried mangos at Costco...I bet they came from here! We l ive on the top floor of a very nice condominium in a new part of the city. We have two bedrooms and five bathrooms:) It's a challenge to keep missionaries overnight for zone leader council, but we do it! We have hired help, Lony Tupas, who is a real blessing for us. She works 5 days a week 9 to 5. She cooks, cleans, and does the laundry and we're getting really spoiled!

There is a wonderful, huge shopping mall about 2 blocks away where we can get all kinds of imported foods. Two other huge malls are not far away. It's not quite the same as shopping at home because you never know where or what you will be able to find, but I decided to think of it as a game.

We see the most beautiful scenery as we travel, and our digital camera goes everywhere with us so we can capture the memories. The people are resourceful with what they have and very kind. The way people drive is difficult to explain--you almost have to see it to believe it. If there are two lanes and traffic is heavy, they just make three lanes! You would expect that there would be a lot of accidents, but not so. And we haven't seen road rage. If you get tired of waiting for a turn, you just butt in and people give way. It's amazing.

The jeepney is unique to the PI, and the philosophy seems to be "always room for one more." Another popular mode of transportation is the tricycle (not the same as a trike at home, for sure). We just can't believe the number of people, animals, and furniture, etc that get transported on these little bikes with platforms. Pedal power!

Country kids are more likely to ride a carabao than a tricycle, as one of these pictures shows.

We have 130 missionaries right now, and 19 of them are sisters. About 40% are Filipino, and we have some from Tonga, Samoa, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, and Malaysia. They are just amazing people, these missionaries! They learn to adapt to their circumstances and the language, and love the people. We keep very busy keeping track of them, training them, and trying to keep them healthy. President interviews them individually every six weeks and three weeks later we are with them again for zone conferences.

Our mission covers three islands: Cebu, Bohol, and half of Negros. There are five stakes and six districts. President Anderson is responsible for all the districts and branches, and Sister Anderson handles district auxiliary training for Primary, Young Women, and Relief Society. We are plenty busy. Every day is a new adventure, and we are having a great time. Between visiting the missionaries and attending district conferences and building dedications, we do a lot of traveling. When we go to Bohol we have a two-hour boat ride, and to Negros it's four hours. These are not drive-on ferries, so whatever we take we carry on with us.

The weather here is very warm and humid, but we were lucky to arrive at the end of the hot season. The season now is called the rainy season, but it doesn't rain as much as in Seattle and it doesn't usually rain all day long. It will pour and get it over with. We are adjusting pretty well, but are thankful for air conditioning in the condo. Some of the chapels have air con, but most are cooled by fans.

We had a wonderful five days in Manila the first part of November. The training was so uplifting and we were able to attend the temple. We even made it to the pearl market! It was also great to compare notes with other mission presidents and wives.

We're so thankful for the internet, and kids who are technology-savvy so that we can communicate with them for free! Kent is now serving as Bishop in Nampa, and LaRene keeps track of the five kids in their homework, music, scouts, and sports. Tania and Scott bought a house and have made a miraculous transformation of it in between young men and young women activities. Tania loves her job at Keyport doing graphic design, and Scott is getting a variety of experiences at the Shipyard. Scott & Kristen sold their home and have moved to live in her parent's home while her father is mission president in Tennessee. Their family grew to three with the addition of little Jared. Mike and Amy and their three boys are living in our house, and Mike was called to be Bishop in August. He's still working on his PhD at UW. Brian and Wanonie evacuated their new home for Hurricane Rita and counted their blessings that no significant damage was done to their home. He works now directly for NASA and they are busy as ward mission leader and RS president. Little Kylie is almost two, and cute as a button with natural curly hair. Kevin moved to Utah, and plans a trip to visit us in January. Lenette has a job in Germany and is looking into graduate school there.

Just two months after we got here my mother passed away. She was 91 years old, so I doubted she could last the three years we will be away. I feel it was a blessing that I could tell her goodbye before we left. Our family was great to email the recording of the funeral right after it was over, and then I was able to talk on the internet phone with several family members that day as well.

We count our blessings this Christmas, and recognize that our Father in Heaven and the Savior are mindful of us and our family. We send our love to you and wish for you a time to reflect on the reason we celebrate Christmas, and a wonderful New Year. I tried to send this message on regular email but it didn't work, probably got bogged down with the pictures. Today, Christmas, is the first time I could attempt another way. We'd love to hear from you.

Love, President and Sister Anderson/Leonard and Kathy