Sunday, July 26, 2015

Pioneer Day

In Utah we celebrate each year, our Mormon Pioneers entrance into the Valley of Salt Lake on The 24th of July 1847. 

I love this holiday for many reasons but I will only mention a few here.

Family Activities

My brother once told me that his favorite holiday was Thanksgiving, because family is together and there are few pressures or expectations for the day.  No Gifts given or received just a time to be together and appreciate all we have been blessed with and lots of our favorite foods to enjoy

I second that 100 percent and add Pioneer day to the days when we count our blessings and have BBQ’s and good food is shared with family and friends.

There are parades with floats, old cars, horses, wagons, hand carts and so many fun things to watch and enjoy.   There are rodeos, baseball games, and of course fireworks by the thousands. 

Pioneer Heritage – A time to Honor my Ancestors

I am so thankful for so many pioneer ancestors in my family and in Cathy’s family.  We are both blessed with a rich heritage of people who sacrificed everything to come to America and to be Mormon Pioneers in Utah, Idaho and surrounding areas.  

The trip from Winter Quarters to the Salt Lake Valley took months filled with the most difficult experiences. En route, Jim Bridger, scout and frontiersman, met Brigham Young in Wyoming and advised him not to stop in the Salt Lake Valley because nothing could be raised there. It is said that Bridger offered a thousand dollars for the first ear of corn grown in the valley. But Brigham Young and the Mormon pioneers pressed on. The ox teams made straight for the Salt Lake Valley. Their prophetic leader pitched camp on the east bench of the valley and said, in words later to gain fame, "This is the place." The aspirations, dreams, and plans of the prophets Joseph Smith and Brigham Young to bring the Saints to Utah matured through faith, prayer, sacrifice, and hard work.

Sixteen years after the first pioneers arrived in this valley, My Great Grandmother Agnes Murray, at the age of 5, left Scotland with her parents to come to Zion.  Her grandparents were at the pier to see them off.  Her Mother was only 32 years old when she said good-bye to her parents for the last time.

During the voyage across the Atlantic ocean, on the 12th of June 1863, her mother gave birth to her sister Mary.  Her Mother was sick during the ocean voyage and all during the time they were crossing the plains, never leaving her bed.  Her father and other women would take care of the 4 children.  Her father always had to do the cooking.  The children would gather wood and buffalo chips for the fires and they cooked and made bread to bake in skillets over the open fire.  They were given a supply of provisions every week from the supply wagons.

Her father had his fiddle with him and at night they would often sing and play.  One of their favorite hymns was “Come Come Ye Saints”.  Often they would dance their hearts full of rejoicing, because they were coming to Zion.

When they reached Echo Canyon her mother died.  The captain of the company called a halt for the day.  He gave them the top boards from one of the provision wagons to make a casket.  They held a funeral service and buried her.  When her brother Jim, who was 8 years old, looked into the grave, he cried, “Don’t put my Mama in the hole, don’t put my Mama in that hole.”

When they arrived in Salt Lake in October 1863 her father said all he had was four motherless children and not a dollar in his pocket.
From this little family, guided by the faith of a mother, came a legacy of thousands of active Latter Day Saints.
My Great Grandfather, James Henry Denning was born in January 1853.  His parents had joined the church in 1850 and on Feb. 15, 1853, they went on board the ship called "International" to sail from Liverpool, England. My Great Grandfather was only three weeks old. The ship laid in the Irish Channel until the 28th of Feb., before sailing, it was waiting for favorable weather conditions.
There were 425 Saints, under the direction of Christopher Arthur, aboard. Baby James Henry took terribly ill on this hard two-month voyage, he was thought to be dead, so they strapped his body to a board (as was the custom) and raised the board to shove him overboard. One of the Saints shouted, "Wait, I believe I saw the baby breathe!" They pulled the board back and unwrapped the baby and HE 'WAS BREATHING. He lived to fill a noble and wonderfully useful life; loved and respected by everyone.
There are literally thousands and thousands of stories like this from which we can gain strength and inspiration.  However, when I study my own genealogy, they become my family… my Great Grandmother, my Great grandfather.  People who know and love me and made sacrifices to make my life better, people whose faith in the Lord Jesus Christ allowed them to do accomplish extraordinary things so I could be here today.

My wife Cathy and I are now serving a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in the Philippines.  The Church was introduced to the Philippines during World War II.  Many of the members we have met here are first or second generation Mormons.  This makes them pioneers of the Gospel in this beautiful land.   What a privilege it is to serve here and help them with Self-Reliance training.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The church where our office is located is being painted (for the past several weeks).  The paint smells are very hazardous and the days we have stayed and tried to work we have felt sick afterwards.  Today when we went and it was still being painted we decided to drive some of our area and see if we could find some resources to help with self-reliance in the Philippines.

In San Quintin we found the Provincial Agriculture office.  We went in an introduced ourselves and explained why we were there.  The Staff  was very gracious in showing us what is being done to help the people of the Philippines.  We were so impressed with the facility and the staff and especially all the beautiful trees, plants and seedlings there.  They also have a tilapia fish farm where they raise thousands of fingerlings for distribution throughout Pangansinan.  They also have livestock that they are raising using organic principles which keeps the odors so low you would not realize their were animals there without seeing them.

One of the businesses we have found that is good for people to start in the Philippines is Organic Farming.  A family here can rent a very small lot if they do not have enough room where they live and by growing organic vegetables they can make a very good living.  Two weeks ago we visited Our Farm Republic and talked to them about teaching classes to people interested in this business.  Today we stopped at this facility to see what they do and to find out if they teach classes that people in this area could attend without having to travel so far.  What we learned was awesome.

They asked us to write a letter to the Governor asking if we could participate in what they offer.  Tomorrow morning we will deliver the letter to them and they will hand deliver it to the Governor on Monday.

They have over 15,000 seedlings that they need to find homes for.  These include a variety of different fruit trees.  They also have Dragon Fruit plants that they have started from cuttings.  These trees will produce Dragon Fruit within 1 year.  This fruit is expensive and they can sell it for 120 pesos / kilo.  Two pieces of fruit equal approximately 1 kilo.  This is very good money.  The Dragon fruit produces from May to October making it a very good income crop.  They will provide the cuttings and teach the people how to take care of them and other organic farm crops.  If we get approved for this it will be a great blessing to many families.

They also showed us this fruit which is called Magic Fruit in the Philippines.  Other countries call it Miracle Fruit.  If you eat one of these berries, you can then take the most sour fruit and when you eat it the taste will be sweet.  You can read more about this here

They also have dwarf versions of fruit trees that would be too tall to climb and harvest the fruit. 

We Also saw this fruit although it was a week or so from being ripe.

All in all there were more wonderful things to see today than I can share here today.  Hopefully our letter will find favor with the Governor and there will be more on this to come in a later posting.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Mission Goal

I have been thinking about goals the past few days and what I would like to accomplish while serving our mission to the Philippines.  I am sure these will grow and change as time goes on but for today I have set this goal for Families.

Part 1 Keep families together in the Philippines
Part 2 Bring families back together that are separated because one of the parents is working abroad to earn more money.

Families are the most basic unit of the church and society.  The following are excerpts from:

The Family: A Proclamation to the World. 

Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. “Children are an heritage of the Lord” (Psalms 127:3). Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, to teach them to love and serve one another, to observe the commandments of God and to be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations.
…By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children…
We warn that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God.

Through Self-Reliance training and programs families can stay together in the Philippines and work together to provide the necessities of life without one of the parents living away from the family.    We have the tools and the means whereby this can be accomplished while strengthening family bonds.  I am so thankful to my Father in Heaven for the opportunity of serving here and helping families stay together.

Spelling correction to my Tagalog.  Matoto should have been "matuto".  Means "learn or acquire knowledge".
The full translation is "Our Father in Heaven please bless is that we might learn the things of our mission.

What a beautiful day today.  The sun was shining and it was not too hot.  We took a little drive to find a place to buy soil for our little garden on our back porch.  We made a marvelous find.  15 minutes from our house is an organic farm that sells fresh soil.  But better than that was the butterfly habitat on the property of the farm.  We actually got to see a butterfly breaking free from the chrysalis.  As it worked to be free we saw its wings dry out and start to spread.  It was marvelous.  They have a small lecture room where they teach school field trips about the life of a butterfly.  As they raise the butterflys there they have them at all different stages of the life cycle before moving them to the gardens to fly among the beautiful flowers and trees.
We came home and transplanted our seedlings and we now have our self-reliance garden on our back porch.  Tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, spinach, cilantro, and basil.  We are hoping to get some zuchini seeds and get them planted.  Nobody here knows about zuchini and what delicious muffins it makes. We are back home safe and sound and the rains have started again.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Rainy Season
Typhoon Falcon

When we arrived in the Philippines the end of May we were told that rainy season would begin the first of July.  I didn’t quite believe that they had an itinerary for weather but apparently they do.  We had some rain in June and I asked several times if this was the beginning of rainy season and was always told, “Not Yet”.  Then July came and so did the rain.  It has hardly stopped raining since the first of July. 

Today we had planned to drive to Alaminos today to present Facilitator and Leader training to the district.  Alaminos is the city next to Hundred Islands National Park and it is a beautiful place.  I have only see pictures but was looking forward to the drive and planned to leave a little early so we could take a picture or two.  Well the rains came with a vengeance today.  I received a text on my phone this morning telling me that all the schools in Dagupan were closed today, kind of like snow days in Ohio.  I didn’t share this fact with my wife because I didn’t want her to say, “if the schools are closed we should not be driving through there”.  As the time to leave approached the Bishop that works in the Self-Reliance Center with us told us that we should not go because there would be flooding the several areas that we would have to drive through.  Well, I could even ignore the Bishop but then Cathy said, call Gerry and tell him we are not coming.  Well that was the end of it.  I know better than to argue with my wife on something like this.  I told Gerry and said, “better safe than sorry”.

During this time everyone was looking up weather on the internet, something I have not bother to do in the Philippines.  I don’t watch the news, I don’t watch the weather, I just don’t worry about things I cannot control.  You might say I have become accustomed to using the Indian Weather Rock method for weather forecasting.  Well that was not good enough for anyone else in the office and pretty soon they were telling me about typhoon “Falcon” that was responsible for very heavy rain in our region.

So I spend my day in preparation for other training sessions that we need to present later in the week.

You might be interested to know that Filipino children love the rain.  When it starts raining really hard you can just step outside, (be sure to stay under the covered area or you will be soaked in 30 seconds) and just watch.  Within a few minutes the streets and if you are near the church, the church parking lot will begin to fill with children.  They will run and play and splash and if they can find a puddle that is deep enough they will lay down in it.  They will bring their basket balls to the church parking lot and start shooting and having the best time.  It is quite a sight to watch.  I tried to take some video of a cute little boy (probably 4 or 5 years old) today and when he would see me with the camera he would hide behind a car or something so I couldn’t get a good picture of him.  Here is a short video of the rain and children playing.

I am sure there will be more to come on rain and storms as we are only beginning the rainy season.