Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Approaching Christmas in Paradise

Our BLOG is a little more sporadic than we had hoped, but our primary purpose is to serve The Lord, and it has been a busy month.  If any of you are wondering what to do when you retire consider serving a mission. It is a great transition! Not much rocking chair time.
As promised here is a scripture to share. This is a prophecy in the Book of Mormon written almost 600 years before Christ was born.

2 Nephi Chapter 2

6. Wherefore redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth.

7. Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered.

8. Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise.

This past month we enjoyed many things. On a personal note our son was working in Manila so he came to the island for a few days. We took some time off to spend with him and visited some of the sites. Most notably we took a tour of the Underground River. This is listed as one of the top 7 natural wonders in the world. We enjoyed the day trip and the experience:

Sister Wolcott waiting at Sabang for
the boat ride to the Underground River
The outrigger ride to the cove where the
Underground River is located
Jason, Joanne and Jerry
with the underground river
in the background

This is one of the formations which is known as the stable. Many people see
Mary, Joseph and the wise men in these stalagmites

We also helped host Elder and Sister Bowen. Elder Bowen is a General Authority from the church, he was on a mission tour and spent several days on Palawan. Sister Wolcott and I enjoyed the time with them. It is a great opportunity to learn from a church leader who has sacrificed a great deal to serve the Lord. This is there 9th year away from home and family

Sister Wolcott directed a Christmas nativity program with missionaries playing parts and singing Christmas hymns. It was a great program with beautiful music that helped all of us feel the true spirit of Christmas

Yesterday we took time out for a day with most of the Senior Couples on our mission with a little sightseeing on the Island. We all met in Narra, had lunch with the Elder and Sister Wirthlin then went to Estrella Falls and walked the beach at Crystal Paradise Resort.

Now it is back to work!

We know this will be the last Blog we will be able to write before Christmas. It is hard to believe it is Christmas when it is in the 80s outside. We went wading in the ocean yesterday, and it was lovely and warm. And never complain about people getting in the Christmas spirit too early, in the Philippines they celebrate Christmas in the "ber" months.  September, October, November and December. So Christmas trees and Christmas music filled the malls starting in September.

We love you all and miss everyone so much. Last year we had a lovely Christmas with family, this year we will spend it with over 20 young missionaries.  We are excited about our time with them.We will miss family like crazy, but we are looking forward to another new adventure.

We have been so blessed by the Lord and we are so excited to wear his name on our collars and testify of that HE LIVES. How could the Father tell the world of love and tenderness?  He sent his Son, a newborn babe, with peace and holiness,  How could the Father show the world the pathway we should go?  He sent his Son to walk with men on earth, that we may know.  How could the Father tell the world of sacrifice, of death? He sent his Son to die for us and rise with living breath.  What does the Father ask of us? What do the scriptures say?  Have faith, have hope, live like His Son, help others on their way.  What does he ask? Live like His Son.

 We want to wish one and all A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A WONDERFUL AND PROSPEROUS NEW YEAR.  May the Lord's choicest blessing come your way in New Year 2016.

Elder and Sister Wolcott

Monday, November 16, 2015

Not Having Internet Can Be a Drag

We did’t have internet at home for over two weeks which is a bit of a challenge, especially for working on a BLOG!
We will be making one addition to our BLOG. Each post we will include a scripture we have been studying or thinking about recently. Elder Devin G. Durrant suggested that we “Ponderize” scriptures, a combination of ponder and memorize. The scripture we chose recently is from Mosiah Chapter 3 verses 7 and 8 in the Book of Mormon. For those not familiar, this is part of an address by a prophet / king called Benjamin about 124 years BC.
7. And lo, he shall suffer temptations and pain of body, hunger, thirst and fatigue, even more than man can suffer except it be unto death; for behold blood cometh from every pore, so great shall be his anguish for the wickedness and abominations of his people.
8. And he shall be called Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of Heaven and Earth, the Creator of all things from the beginning and his mother shall be called Mary.

On Saturday the 31st Sister Wolcott completed the English as a Second Language class Sister Hiatt had started for youth. Knowing English is key for improving individual prosperity here and these children worked hard on their English skills. Most Filipino’s can speak and understand English, particularly the younger generation and it is making a difference in their lives.

We thought we might share a little information about the town we live in. It is on the East side of Palawan Island, about the middle North / South. In the 2010 census Puerto Princesa had 223,000
residents with a growth rate of approximately 3% per year. At that growth rate there are about 250,000 residents now in Puerto, about 25% of the Palawan Island population. It is deceiving as one drives through town as it doesn’t appear to be nearly that size. The population centers are very dense, small homes with local shops to supply daily neighborhood needs. There are two mall type shopping areas, but they are small compared to what one would see in America. About 50% of the population lives in a “soft” house such as a nipa hut, however less than 10% are living on someone else’s land without permission, I expected the percentage to be higher.

The cost of living is very low, unless one buys American food which is expensive, especially if imported from America. Tourists have excellent accommodations available from plush resorts to low cost pension houses. A decent hotel with air conditioning will cost about $30 US for a night.
Health care is ok for minor needs, but surgery is a high risk, even in the best of the hospitals.
The road system on the island is about 1950’s standard compared to America, expect to average about 60 kilometers per hour (37 mph) on road trips and about 10 to 15 kilometers per hour (6 to 10 mph) in town.

There is a lot of building and renovation going on with a major airport expansion underway.
A street in Narra last Wednesday after a rainstorm
The weather has been generally pleasant, this is the cool and rainy season and a great time to come. We haven’t seen much rain, but when rains, it really rains. And cool is relative, the coolest we have seen is 76 degrees. We are acclimating pretty well, Thursday Morning on our walk we talked about how cool it felt with the light breeze, it was 85 degrees.

November 4th through the 7th we spent in Manila. We had training at the Mission Home, went to the Manila Temple, went shopping, had dinner at Gulliver’s with most of the other Senior Couples and came back to Palawan with a Senior Couple that will be replacing the Couple working the South part of the Island. That was our first experience driving in Manila…we are glad to be back in our little bungalow on Palawan Island!
Dinner in Manila with other Senior Couples serving in the Manila mission
This past weekend we went to Tay Tay about 5 hours North of Puerto where we attended Sunday meetings, spent time with the Elders, checked the Bahay (apartment) and met briefly with the group leader. This small group is associated with the Roxas branch.

We came back to Puerto Monday afternoon. We enjoyed the drive seeing rice cultivation in all stages. This is a pretty intensive process with methodology that is a mix of old and modern, labor intensive, but using current agricultural standards to maximize production.

We also saw some local logging with a Carabao. And yes we acted like tourist’s, gawking and taking pictures. The family had a good laugh at our expense, but we have some good photos. We are fascinated with this large draught animal used for so many things in the Philippines.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Over a month on Palawan

Mission experiences

Last week was our first transfer week which was a new experience for Elder and Sister Wolcott. For those not familiar with LDS missions, every six weeks new missionaries come to the mission, missionaries go home and for various reasons missionaries are moved to different companions. This is a complex logistical feat for the mission president, in our case President Ostler, as he considers needs, potential new trainers, personalities, work ethic and so forth, then seeks inspiration to put the right missionary in the right spot. Companionships may last one transfer or several but in any case when the word comes that you or your companion is leaving there is a period of sorrow for it is unlikely you will see each other again. These elders and sisters develop strong bonds because they are in the trenches together in difficult circumstances. It was an interesting experience to see these companionships say goodbye as we came to pick up the departing missionary.

Saying Goodbye on Transfer day
Some are going home, some are moving to another area, but it is goodbye.  This is tempered somewhat by the expectation that in a few hours the missionary will get a new companion and will develop a new relationship. It is overall a growing experience for these extraordinary elders and sisters.

The children of the Puerto Princesa Branch 2, gave their Sacrament Meeting Presentation last Sunday.  It was such a special treat.  Children are children where ever you may be.  It was fun to see all of the girls with white bows in their hair, singing like angels (Filipinos have beautiful voices).  We loved watching them.  They did an incredible job. As a child Sister Wolcott remembers singing short songs about the love Jesus has for us, but read the words of the song they sang.

"I Know That My Savior Loves Me." 
A long time ago in a beautiful place, Children were gathered around Jesus.
He blessed and taught as they felt of His love, each saw the tears on His face.
The love that He felt for His little ones, I know He feels for me.
I did not touch Him or sit on His knee, Yet, Jesus is real to me.
Now I am here in a beautiful place, Learning the teachings of Jesus.
Parents and teachers will help guide the way. Lighting my path every day.
Wrapped in the arms of my Savior's love, I feel His gentle touch.
Living each day, I will follow His way, Home to my Father above.
I know He lives! I will follow faithfully, My Heart I give to Him.
I know that my Savior loves me. I know that my Savior loves me.

The children loved singing this song and they sang it with all their hearts.  It was a joy to watch them.

We went went to the "fish farm" again today with sister missionaries to meet an extraordinary family. They manage a fish farm about 60 Km North of Puerto Princesa. The sister teaches seminary in their little community every day and this opens the door to many missionary opportunities. When we go there with the sisters assigned to the area they always have one or two families for us to visit and teach. Not only that, they usually have lunch for us. Today it was siopao (Chinese dumplings), Dumplings filled with seasoned chicken, it was extraordinary. While there the brother opened up two green coconuts, poured the water into a pitcher, then scooped the soft coconut meat into the drink, nothing else added. This was our first taste of buko, nothing in the store will ever match what we drank today.

Lunch at the fish farm

Life in the Philippines

There is a local mall called Robinson's, as a public service they offer voter registration for the 2016 elections when they are open from 10:00 AM until 10:00 PM, Voter registration closes this Friday so there is some urgency to get registered. As we left town at 8:00 this morning we drove past a line of people that was at least a kilometer long. As we talked to those who have registered one needs to be in line by 2:00 AM to get registered. This evening at 8:00 there were still about 50 people in line outside of the store, hoping to get registered today. Memories of this will help me when I have to wait an hour some day at a government office!

To our engineering friends. In an upcoming post we will share some amazing engineering and construction photo's.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Another Week in Paradise

Time goes screaming past, it is unbelievable. Since our last post on our blog we have experienced so many new and wonderful things.  We were able to have our Mission President and his family here for a few days.  President and Sister Ostler are amazing and they have the greatest spirit about them.  We were able to participate in the District Conference here in Puerto Princesea where Elder Wolcott was sustained as Executive Secretary for the Philippines Manila Mission.  It was incredible to be at District Conference to see the devotion and excitement of the members of the church and they love to learn and grow. They participate with their all their hearts.

Filipino children in Tay Tay
 The greatest resource that Philippine has is their people. The people are so kind, so happy, so inviting and loving.  The more we get to know the people the more excited we are that we get to be here to experience the “love of others” in the Philippines.

We had a zone activity on Monday and watched a movie called “17 Miracles", it is very inspirational.  Some of the missionaries are descendants from individuals that were talked about in the movie.  The movie helped the missionaries understand that everyone can do difficult things and they can still go onward to do their very best.  When life gets tough it is still important to go onward and upward.
This is the Puerto Princesa Zone, It's exciting to work with these great Elders and Sisters.
Each of them have amazing stories!

This past weekend we were able to watch the General Conference that was held in Salt Lake City, UT the weekend before.  We are a day ahead here in the Philippines so we watch conference a week late. It was exciting to hear the new apostles talk.  We really liked the talk by Brother Stanfill about the Hiawatha Trail.  The trail is in part of the forest that Elder Wolcott helped manage when we were in St. Maries, Idaho.  We have been to the tunnels and trestles in that area more than once, it is a beautiful area to bike in.  The trail goes for over 70 miles. 

This past weekend we went to TayTay (pronounced TieTie) to watch conference with the members there and to see if we could help out the missionaries in that area.  Here are some pictures of some of the things were saw.  It is a beautiful place with a lot of history.
The Northern sky at Tay Tay
close to Sunset on Saturday.
This is the Sulu Sea

Sunrise on Monday at Tay Tay near the harbor entrance.
A boy from the fishing village collecting clams from the harbor
Fort Santa Isabel constructed by Spain in 1667

Since Monday was our P-Day we used some time to go exploring.  We went to El Nido which is a resort area on the beach.  They have many tours that tourist go on including island hopping. We went to get a feel for what was there so maybe when some people come to visit we can go on a tour. 
Tour boats in El Nido Monday Morning. This is the South China Sea.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Now We Are On our Own

On Saturday morning the 26th we took President and Sister Hiatt to the airport for their flight to Manila where they stayed until Monday, then flew home to Idaho. The week we spent together was filled with training, travel, visits and sharing over twenty years of memories serving together in the Sandpoint Idaho Stake of Zion.  It was a blessing for us to have such great trainers who worked hard to fill our minds with all the necessary things we would need to know for the future. We will be eternally grateful for all their help.  It was fun, spiritual and exciting.

Some of the highlights of last week:

On Sunday after a good day of meeting members in the four local branches we went to Family Home Evening at the Duking family. The evening was filled with family time, a great lesson from the Old Testament and wonderful food. Sister Duking is the District Relief Society President and is a stalwart leader in the area.

Sister Wolcott feeding the carabao
on her morning walk
Within our walled community there is a domestic Carabao. He is always eager to see us everyday because we bring our fruit scraps to him. (The mango's and banana's here are extraordinary)

Filipino Cowboy along the road to Narra
On Monday we drove to Narra which is about 90 Kilometers Southwest of Puerto Princessa, there we met Elder and Sister Wirthlin and took care of some mission business. We all took a short side trip to Estralla Falls, it a beautiful spot to visit.

Elder and Sister Wirthlin,
Elder and Sister Wolcott,
Elder and Sister Hiatt

Tuesday was a special family activity at the Malvar chapel with couples from throughout the district invited. Sister Wolcott and I were invited to answer questions about family relations, it was an interesting hour or so! The questions varied from how to manage finances to how should a husband conduct himself.

On Wednesday we had dinner with the Maraneta family, it was a special time as we were treated with Filipino hospitality. They are a middle class family with a great home, as is a frequent custom they had dinner place settings for their guests and waited until we had eaten before they had dinner.

Thursday evening we visited with the Santos family and heard his incredible story of survival, baptism and bringing his family from poverty and a Nipa Hut to a managerial position and a comfortable situation. One can escape the crushing poverty, but many do not. Sister Santos can prepare a meal for a large group, take it to the church and serve it hot, with a two burner gas stove and a small outside charcoal BBQ, it is amazing.

Sister Hiatt signing the Conch at Tay Tay
On Friday we drove about 90 Km NW to Roxas and then another 90 Km to Tay Tay, in Tay Tay President and Sister Hiatt signed the conch alongside Elder Durfee's name. Elder Durfee was from Sandpoint, Idaho Stake and served part of his mission in Tay Tay.

Of interest this past week was a national celebration of the family in the Philippines, it was a great opportunity for conversation as the church participated in the events and had several activities including showing the movie Meet The Mormons and other family activities.

Our resident gecko is telling us it's bedtime! I've seen him a couple of times, Sister Wolcott hasn't looked for him...

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Week one is Done

It has been an eventful week for the Elder and Sister Wolcott. We left the MTC at 3:30 AM MDT, Flew from SLC to LA and then cooled our heels from about 9:00 AM to 5:30 PM. Our flight crew to Hong Kong had crew rotation issues so our flight was delayed five hours. This caused us to miss our Hong Kong to Manila flight so we had to stay overnight in Hong Kong. The accommodations were nice, but the night was short because we had to be at the airport at 5:40 AM for our flight to Manila. We arrived in Manila at 10:30 AM on Wednesday, just 12 hours later than planned.
In SLC we met our traveling companions; Elder and Sister Hansen and Elder and Sister Simon.


After arriving in Manila we stayed at a motel in Quezon City, a few Kilometers from the Manila Temple. Day One was a rest day and trying to adjust to the jet lag. Thursday we processed our immigration paperwork which took 20 minutes of time and about 3 hours of driving.  The traffic is interesting. 

This picture is from the front of our motel, during a relatively quiet period. My observations: Traffic lanes are suggestions only, even the center double striped lines dividing the direction; Blinkers are optional – probably an American; He who hesitates is lost – point your nose the way you want to go and … go; Give way as necessary; Don’t be in a hurry, it may take an hour to go a kilometer; Go with the flow; Don’t get wrapped around the axle when  motorcycles pass on both sides of you, or cut across between your car and the next; Philippines means patience.
On Friday morning, during rush hour (a period of time, no one is ‘rushing” anywhere) our driver pulled into this chaos with barely a pause, drove across three lanes and made a left turn.

Of interest: There are relatively very few accidents and no one gets angry. It works as well as possible in this metropolis. In short we Americans can learn a lot about how things can work differently.
After we finished our immigration processing Elder and Sister Simon and Sister Wolcott and I went to the Manila Temple. It is the same design as the Boise Temple, but is much smaller.

Members getting on a jeepeney at the temple

Friday morning we got our Philippines Driver license.  

For our friends in Libby and Missoula that are disappointed and frustrated spending an hour getting a license:  This is the processing line at the LTO: NO air conditioning, 6 stations, Three hours. And we didn’t have to take a test! But we now have a license! But again the people are incredibly patient, kind and gracious. I'm not sure I want to drive in Manila though.

On Friday afternoon we met with President and Sister Ostler. We reviewed our assignments and a little of what to expect on the Palawan island.  

After dinner in the mission home Sister Wolcott and I went on a teaching assignment with Elder Hadley and Elder Wilson. A young investigator has committed to baptism; we continued teaching her and her two LDS friends about the atonement of Christ and the Restoration. For privacy reasons we will not share the names.  The investigator has the blue top, she is a sweet spirit. We met several ward members and the children were excited to meet us and shake our hands. Just as we were told the Filipino people are warm, somewhat shy, but love Americans. It was a great start!

We spent about an hour Saturday morning at the American Cemetery and Memorial. This was a spiritual experience, very similar to Arlington.  The sacrifice to retake the Philippines in WWII was tremendous!

On Saturday afternoon we flew to Puerto Princessa where we will live for the time being. President and Sister Hiatt met us at the airport and we started our training on the way to our bungalow.

We really appreciated their preparation and the detail. We also really appreciated the full pantry and being able to move into our cozy bungalow. It is very nice.

On Sunday we visited four branches, Puerto Princess 1 and 2 and Santa Monica 1 and 2 after that we came home, spent time reviewing transfer material with the Hiatts then went to a Family Home evening at a members home.

Monday, September 14, 2015

THE Mission Training Center is over and we are on the way!

It is 6:00 AM Monday September 14, 2015 and we are at the SLC airport. We left the MTC at 3:30 this morning and are on our way to Manila, expecting to arrive about 9:00 AM Mountain time Tuesday morning. The adventure begins.

The Mission Training Center experience was excellent. We made some good friends, met some incredible people and felt the Holy Ghost testify of the work. We enjoyed many tender mercies of God, not the least of which was being in the MTC the same time as our grandson Jarom Wolcott Junior. We saw him nearly every day, usually at meal time.

Possibly the most important thing we learned as Sister Wolcott said “We can do this, if we rely on The Lord”. We particularly liked the devotional with Bishop Causse’ and his Wife Valerie, as he reminded us to be bold without being overbearing. We also enjoyed a short video clip of Elder Bednar in which he counseled those concerned about being guided by the Holy Ghost to “quit worrying about it. If you are good boys and girls and are living the best you can you will be guided by the Holy Ghost.” And following the final devotional Sunday evening we watched another talk by Elder Bednar discussing the character of Christ. It was a one hour incredible learning experience. To summarize for this BLOG it is that Christ always reached outward to others as opposed to the natural man which focuses on oneself. Our goal is to put away the natural man and become like Christ, reaching outward to others.

Our District at the MTC
Elder and Sister Roberts, Elder and Sister Turner, Sister Eliason, (one of our teachers), Elder and Sister Harvey (District Leader) and Elder and Sister Wolcott

We are also impressed with being around 2,000 young men and women who are dedicating their lives to Christ, as young as 18 years old, their enthusiasm is contagious.

There were many more things which are too numerous to include here, but let it suffice to say that we are leaving the MTC spiritually fed and more confident that we can do the work.

Monday, September 7, 2015

First Day at the MTC

Boise Airport
We flew from Boise To SLC this morning at 6:30 AM, arriving at the Mission Training Center in Provo about 8:30 AM, well before our assigned arrival time. We appreciate the send off by Justice, Joanna, Chris, Jaymalee and McKenna who got up early enough to be at the airport at 5:00 AM.

Today was primarily orientation and getting to know other Senior Missionaries, there are 54 couples and 1 single sister that arrived today. It is fun to meet and talk about the different assignments and mission locations.

Among many other things we were encouraged and counseled to trust that the Lord will take care of our families, that when we are on the Lord's errand we will receive the Lord's help and that after years of meeting needs of our family this is a time to grow closer together.

We need to have a clear understanding of our purpose which is the training topic for tomorrow. But to be brief our purpose is to "Invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end."

We enjoyed the spirit of the Holy Ghost as it testified to us this day that Jesus Christ is our Savior and the Gospel has been restored to this earth.

Monday, August 31, 2015

And So It Begins

As many know we have been called to serve in the Philippines Manila Mission. We received our Mission Call from President Monson May 2, 2015.

Since then we have been busy preparing, visiting family and working on the last minute details of preparing to be gone for two years. July 26th we gave our "farewell' talks in Libby.

Yesterday President Ballard set us apart as Missionaries, we are officially Elder and Sister Wolcott.