Thursday, August 30, 2012

Wheel chair work

The following is a news clip of part of the service that LDS Charities is doing in the Philippines. This was broadcast on Tuesday evening on GMA Channel 7. The missionary that is shown is Elder Steven Hadlock. He and his wife share an office with Marcia and I...


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Daily activities

So what do senior missionaries do when they serve a mission? As Marcia and I were in the MTC we learned that there were many areas of service that seniors can do. First let me digress and say that it is odd to consider ourselves as seniors. This was especially so as we were in the MTC and we were younger by about ten years to all of our MTC group. In some cases we were twenty years younger than some of the couples. As we arrived in the field we again realized that we were somewhat younger than most of the seniors here. There is one couple here that is actually younger than Marcia and I. They are Elder and Sister Jensen from Canada. Sister Jensen is about three months younger than Marcia and Elder Jensen is three months younger than I am. So they do take the prize for the youngest in this particular area.

No longer digressing but back on topic. While we were in the MTC we counted a number of ways that senior couples can serve. This is not an all inclusive list but it does give one an idea:

  1. Temple Workers
  2. Humanitarian Missionaries
    1. Wheelchair specialists
    2. Country Humanitarian Director
  3. Area Medical Adviser
  4. Area Mental Health Adviser
  5. Perpetual Education Fund Directors
  6. Employment Center Specialists
  7. Family History Missionaries
  8. Member Leadership Support
  9. Mission Support
    1. Office missionaries
    2. Apartment support
I am sure that there are number of other areas that I haven't covered but you get the general idea. It is exciting to be in the area office to see all the wheels that are spinning in so many different aspects. As an example- A number of missionaries met with the office of the Vice President this afternoon regarding the church's humanitarian efforts. The church is active in getting out there and try to determine what we can do to assist the needs here. It is exciting to see the work being done...


Monday, August 27, 2012

The Teresa Branch

On our way to Teresa
Sunday we attended our new branch for the first time. It is located in the city of Teresa and is called the Teresa Branch. The building is a nice building with plenty of ceiling fans but no air conditioning (or as they say in the Philippines 'aircon'). We went first to the PAO where we met Elder and Sister Harris who we rode with to the  branch.

The drive was about an hour. Normally traffic is questionable but it was another holiday weekend in the Philippines so the traffic was light. One of the things we noted was that there were a number of people on bikes climbing the mountain as we made our way to Teresa. Apparently bike riding on Sundays is a universal thing as we frequently saw the same in Indiana.

Teresa Branch
We arrived a little before the start time of 9. The branch president is a young man who has been back from his mission for only two years. Now that is learning under fire. Not only is he a young branch president but he also has a young family with a baby of about one year.

Sacrament and most of the lessons taught were in Tagalog. There were a couple sets of young missionaries that had English speakers that translated for the Elder and Sister Harris. Marcia and I tried to understand using our limited Tagalog. There were occasions when the teachers would switch to English but for the most part it was in Tagalog.

Members of the Teresa Branch
 After church we stopped at a place on the mountain that is called Cloud 9. It is restaurant plus picnic area. With a lunch packed we stopped for a bite to eat and look over the view that was available. It was a fantastic view. One of the down sides was the pollution that hangs over the city. Other than that it was a great view.

Walkway at Cloud 9
This week will be exciting. We will have the opportunity to hear from Elder David Bednar of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles. He is in country at the present time visiting missions and members. He arrived here last week with Elder Cook, also of the Quorum of the 12, and a member of the Presiding Bishopric- whose name at the moment escapes me.

Marcia continues to be busy. Currently I am assisting her in some paperwork as well as assisting Elder and Sister Hadlock in some of their presentations. It is good to be busy...


Metro Manila

Metro Manila

Friday, August 24, 2012

San Pablo visit

Marcia and I returned this afternoon from a visit to President and Sister Peterson of the San Pablo mission. This mission is located south and east of Manila. We left yesterday, Wednesday, morning with Elder and Sister Jackson and Boycee. Elder Jackson and Boycee were heading in that direction to drop off a contract to a local hospital that will serve the missionaries there. Marcia and I were heading their at the direction of the mission president and the Area Presidency.

Once we arrived at the mission office/mission home we were able to introduce ourselves to President and Sister Peterson. They are a fantastic couple who have been serving in San Pablo for one year. They come from Arizona where he farmed cotton. They were actively farming prior to their call and will return to do so once they have completed their mission.

Inside the ferry
After our quick introductions we scurried off to catch a ferry to one of the islands that are in his mission boundaries.We headed to the island of Mindoro. It is a unique island with regards to mission work as half of the island is in the San Pablo mission while the other half is located in the Quezon City Mission. The reason for this is access. There is a mountain range that splits the island in half. To get from one side to the other takes a long drive thus it is easier to fly to reach one of the sides. With that said we went to the city of Batangas to get on a ferry to take us their. I was a little concerned regarding the ferry ride as my   stomach and the ocean can be fickle friends at times. I was especially concerned as the ocean was very choppy as another typhoon, while far away, was creating choppy sea conditions. The ride to Mindoro lasted about 80 minutes or so. Fortunately my stomach survived!

Diving for coins
As we walked off the ferry and on to the dock we were greeted by a young man- pictured on right- who was calling out for people to throw him coins to dive for. I didn't see it but one of the missionaries told us that the young man keeps the coins in his mouth once he dives down to collect them.

Once on the island we were met by a senior mission couple that are assigned to the island- the Campbells. Elder Campbell picked us up and drove us to the chapel where Marcia was to conduct a number of interviews. Once she was done we headed back and then spent the evening in the Mission home with President and Sister Peterson. After a very restful night sleep Marcia had a number of sessions this morning before we were picked up by Boycee and returned to metro Manila. It was a very good trip...

Parking under chapel. Branch President's "trike"

Banana tree outside of fenced chapel on Mindoro

Bananas close up

Sister French and Sister Peterson

Three hours later and still calling out for coins

Our ferry to Mindoro

Just outside of Mission home and office

Mission Home

Mission Office

Chapel in San Pablo

Thursday, August 23, 2012

High rise living...

Marcia and I have an official residence now. On Friday last we moved into a 12th floor condo. One of the unique characteristics of living here is the water. It is filtered...which is a good thing. One must always question the safety of the water. We have been fortunate in that once we arrived here we were able to obtain a personal filtration bottle that we use. It is like a sports bottle but has its own filtration system that is very, very effective. If we wanted to we could draw water out of a mud puddle and the water would be filtered well enough to drink (no pun intended).

Dining area and living room
When we were living in the MRC we had a our own bathroom but since the house we were living in was temporary for the MRC- they are completing a new MRC to be finished at the end of September- the decision was made not to fix the hot water in the bathroom that we used. Thus cold showers. Our condo does have hot water just for the shower. The rest of the water is not warm.
We do have a parking spot in the third basement.

Second bedroom/office
This past weekend was a four day weekend. Monday was a holiday in recognition for the last day of Ramadan. Tuesday was 'heros' day. The area office was closed but on Monday Marcia worked. Tuesday we decided to explore our neighborhood and check out the local Robinsons's Mall. It has everything one would want.  I was ecstatic when I recognized that they had a Do-It-Center Hardware store on the first floor. It was similar but bigger than the one that is in Fishers.

The commute time from our condo to our office is about 10 minutes in the morning. In the evening coming home it can be over an hour. Welcome to metro living!!

Included in this post are some of the pictures that I have taken of our condo...

Entry plus partial kitchen view


Master bedroom

Looking down at the tennis court on the fifth floor

View from one of our windows with the "national bird- the crane"

View from window

Little to no zoning rules

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


Acronyms in life are supposed to make life easy. Coming from the US (an acronym) I am used to seeing in the news, on the net, or in newspapers (large pieces of paper with printed words on it with occasional pictures interspersed here and there) common acronyms such as CIA (Central Intelligence Agency), NFL (National Football League) or NIMBY (Not in My Back Yard). Over the years my brain has absorbed these common acronyms and they have become part of my vernacular.

One of the things that I most noticed when I arrived in the Philippines is the common usage of acronyms. As I read the newspapers (see explanation above) or scan the net I am inundated with acronyms. I can understand the need for being concise when writing for an article but in my American opinion (I think that is a phrase I shall keep) acronyms go a little overboard here. Let me give you all the examples from one section of yesterday's paper so I don't appear crazy-

GMA- Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (former President)
MMC- Makati Medical Center
PAGASA- Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration
JBC- Judicial and Bar Council
RH- Reproductive Health Bill
SC- Supreme Court
EU- European Union
SMBA- Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority
FIND- Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance
DAR- Department of Agrarian Reform
CJ- Chief Justice
AMBALA- Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita
DOTC- Department of Transportation and Communications
OT- Overtime
CIQ- Customs, immigration, and quarantine
BAR- Board of Airline Representatives
NAIA- Ninoy Aquino International Airport
BOC- ????
QRF- Quick Response Funds
NGP- National Greening Program
DENR- Department of Environment and Natural Resources
EDC- Energy Development Corporation
PAWB- Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau
LGU- Local Government Units
MMDA- Metropolitan Manila Development Authority
MMC- Metro Manila Council
DPWH- Department of Public Works and Highways
CIDA- Canadian International Development Agency
IFRC- International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
WFP- United Nations Word Food Programme
AusAID- Australian Agency for International Development
DSWD- Department of Social Welfare and Develpment
Pagcor- Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation
NDRRMC- National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council
NROC- National Resource Operations Center
NGOs- non-government organizations
POs- people's organizations
CDRRMC- City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council
NHMFC-  National Home Mortgage Finance Corporation
HUDCC- Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council
VVMC- Veterans Memorial Medical Center

I lied. The above acronyms weren't taken from one section of the paper. They were actually taken from the first seven pages of section one of The Philippine Star. After reviewing the above list it is no wonder that I now have listed on my favorites an acronym dictionary...

jsf (acronym for jeffery scott french)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Time.... it's just relative

This is a quick post for today. Or in the case of blogger a quick post for yesterday. One of the advantages- or disadvantages depending on how you look at it- is that we are exactly 12 hours ahead of our home in Fishers, Indiana. For those who generalize their time in days instead of hours we are half a day ahead of Fishers.

With the Philippines being ahead of its time- so to speak- it allows me to post things on Blogger in the past. I didn't realize this until I posted several times and each time that I did so the date came up as being yesterday. Is this confusing or what?! This is not to say that I am quick and the states are slow- I would never infer such a thing (perhaps).It does give thought to phrases such as 'he's ahead of his time,' or 'quit dwelling in the past.' I am somewhat confused as to which I should do.

For those who may be reading this blog to tell your future- mind you...see note above- I am not Biff with an atlas of baseball scores or racing results to bet the farm on. This is a blog of information and fun...


Monday, August 13, 2012

You said you did what in the Philippines?

Even though more rain is falling and the volunteer work continues at a brisk pace Sister French and I do keep in focus the original intent as to why we are here. That assignment is to assist the 17+ mission presidents with the mental health of the missionaries they are responsible for.

Map of the Philippines showing the location of Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao
One objective that was given to us while in training was the task of meeting with each of the mission presidents, and the missionaries in their care, at least once a year. Right out of the gate we realize that we won't be able to accomplish that for the missions that are located on the island of Mindanao. There are three missions on Mindanao. The large cities on the island have a very large Christian (Catholic) base. Once outside of the cities there is a strong Muslim presence. Over the years there has been a conflict between the government and the Muslim population of the island. It has spilled over at times and effected the general population. To lessen some of the conflicts that occurred the Philippine government created the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao or ARMM.  To prevent any headaches that might arise the church does not send any non-Philippino missionaries to Mindanao. As there are three missions there we will not be able to travel there and meet those missionaries nor their mission presidents.

We start our travels to see mission presidents this week. On Thursday we will travel to the Angeles mission to have lunch with President Martino. It will be our first chance to see the country outside of metro Manila. We will also be able to see, to some degree, what the damage has been like outside of our immediate area.
Next week we will travel to the San Pablo mission. We will be going there for a specific reason related to Marcia's calling as the Area Mental Health Adviser. From our understanding we will travel a few hours to meet the mission president. From that point we will continue to travel with the mission president to another island which we will get to by a boat of some type. As of now I'm not sure if it is a passenger boat or if it will be a ferry. Our trip their will likely last a couple of days.

There has not been a slow moment since we've been here and that is a good thing...


Another week another typhoon

Work being done at GMA Kapuso
Today has been another busy day. Those who monitor the rains are tracking another tropical depression as it slowly makes its way across the north of Luzon Island. The problem that is occurring now occurred last week. As  the tropical depression crosses the northern part of Luzon it will drop large quantities of water. At the same time it is drawing seasonal monsoon rains back across the island to the south of where the typhoon has made landfall.

Volunteers from young to old
Who ever is in charge of naming storms has given this tropical depression a name. The name given to this particular tropical depression is Helen. People in the humanitarian office have been keeping an eye on this storm as it churns just east of Luzon island.

The list of pictures on this particular post were taken by Elder Steve Hadlock from Idaho. He and his wife went out on Sunday to deliver kits to an area north of metro Manila. The pictures are dated from last Tuesday August 7 through August 12.

Carrying in canned sardines

Packing hygiene kits

Packing food kits

Elders from Quezon City Mission- our rice unloaders

Completed bags of rice waiting to packaged into food kits

Senior Missionaries and volunteers

KFC served with rice

Volunteers and KFC after a morning of hard work

Flooding in Olongapo



Flooding near Olongapo

Flooding in Olongapo

Run off near Olongapo

Jeepney in Olongapo

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Relief efforts continue

Saturday was quite a busy day for all of those who are involved with the relief effort. Elder Hardick is the Country Director for the church for welfare and humanitarian efforts. Since the rains have been coming down he has been on the phone almost 24/7 trying to direct the relief effort on behalf of the church. He has been coordinating the churches efforts with LGUs and NGOs. He and Sister Hardick are from Canada and have been here for about 1 year. This week has been the busiest since they have been here.

Elder and Sister Hadlock have been in country for about two months. There assignment is that of wheelchair specialists for the country. Since the rains have come their focus has changed and they are now in full calamity mode in putting together all the kits that volunteers are putting together to be distributed around to where there is need. Elder Hadlock has been busy communicating with others in the office with there contacts to make sure we have the product necessary to put the kits together. With all the flooding that has been going on the reliability of getting product here on a timely basis can be very frustrating. Fortunately on Saturday the product was able to come in on a timely basis. Early Saturday morning and around noon rice was delivered to the PAO. The church purchased about 6-7000 pounds of rice. This rice then is packaged out in smaller portions and put in a food kit with other items that will be distributed.

It is amazing the amount of help that is coming from the area stakes and wards. Fortunately school was cancelled for the end of the week and a lot of the employees brought there children in to help. Also there have been many families coming in to donate their time and labor to help fill the kits that will be going out. The count that was taken on Saturday with all the volunteers who have been packing food has been about 150 or so. This doesn't include the full time senior missionaries who have been on the task for the last week.