(pics. l-r) 1. Malaya Children on Christmas Day, 2. E/S Bird with Nel's Family 3. Elder Bird with Gifts for Malaya Branch Members 4. E/S Bird with Nel (We Did Christmas Service for His Family)
(pics. l-r) 1. Joel and Irene Javier in Manila Philippines Adm. Office 2. Sister Bird with Joel and Irene in Front of Manila Temple 3. Christmas Nativity on Temple Grounds 4. Christmas Lights on Temple Grounds 5. Christmas Tree in our Apt., we call it the "Infantry"!The week before Christmas was a wonderful week! Christmas carols were being played everywhere and there were many beautiful decorations.....especially at the temple. Many of the saints and investigators from the Malaya Branch came to see the lights and have a temple tour put on by the full time missionaries. 33 of them rode in one jeepney....24 would be a full load....but so many wanted to come. Joel and Irene Javier came with them. We were so excited because they got to see where we work and meet our friends in the Public Affairs office. Then we walked around the temple with them and the rest of the group and had such a nice time. The evening was beautiful....I was so grateful because it had been raining a lot the past few days.
On Monday evening (Dec. 19th) we had our Senior Zone FHE at the new MTC (Missionary Training Center)....the big remodel and addition had just been completed...and the MTC President, Pres. Taylor invited us to a one man (him!) presentation of Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol. Wow, it was so good and really filled us with the spirit of Christmas. Also, that day we finished getting out about 1000 Christmas cards and new 2012 Calendars, designed for our office....busy, busy!
On Tuesday we and the Goss' had put together a Christmas package for a former employee of the PAO, Nel, and we left work early to go to his home. Yes, even with all of the directions we were given, we had the hardest time finding his place. When we finally did, he was not home, but his mother was and also 3 of their 6 children. We loved meeting them and visiting with them and left our gift with strict instructions they were not to get into it until Nel arrived back home. Well, according to Nel, when he and his wife and their other 3 children arrived home, everything from the box was laid out on the floor of their small cement and cinderblock home just waiting! Then they divided up the minature candy bars and he said the children just ran around the room dancing and singing for joy. We had included some money, and he said his wife took off immediately to buy milk for the children.....they had not had any for weeks!! He had had to quit work because of health problems he was having. They had decided that his wife would go overseas (Taiwan) to work. A very difficult decision. She left the day after Christmas and cannot return for two years. Many of the Filipinos do this very thing to attempt to support their families financially. We went back to see them on Christmas day and took a picture of us with Nel. Also, some additional Christmas items were left for the family....now that we knew the ages of the children.
Wednesday was another favorite day. We have this group of maintenance workers that have helped us so much in public affairs. They move, lift, haul, clean, and just do lots of physical labor. So, we arranged with their boss to call each of them to the public affairs office for a job we needed done. Instead, when they arrived, we pointed them to the Director's office, and upon entry they found a reception of goodies and drinks set up for them. In addition, a gift certificate for one free lunch was presented to each of them. They were so surprised and we had so much fun doing this. Nel used to be one of this maintenance team. He calls us Mom and Dad.
Thursday we took a box of donuts to the Quezon City Post Office thanking them for how helpful they have been in getting our packages delivered to us. They truly love my husband and enjoy his visits there.
Christmas Eve (Dec. 24) was our Zone Christmas Social. It was a pot luck dinner with lots of "yummy" food brought. E/S Bell (Hermosa Beach, Ca.) helped so much with the decorations and games and a gift exchange. We had the conference room set up like a big living room/dining room with couches, Christmas tree, lamps, tables, etc. You would have thought it was a home. It was so fun. Randy got a small nativity and I received some candy which I quickly gave to the Malaya Branch on Christmas.
Christmas morning found us up early preparing to drive to Malaya for Church. No time for gifts. As we were sitting there ready for the meeting to begin, the Branch President got up and walked down to me and said,"Sister Bird, could you do me a favor"? Thinking he wanted me to lead the singing, I said "Sure, what can I do"? He said, "Would you be our speaker along with my wife....our other speaker didn't show up". I went into panic mode with my mind absolutely blank, and said "Sure, I would love to".....okay, a small lie! I did it...and I vow to be more prepared for things like this!! We made little gift bags for all the children (candy, pencils that said "I am a child of God" in Tagalog...thank you Julie, a little tablet to write in, and toothbrushes). The adults received toothbrushes and candy. Many of them were checked for what power of reading glasses they needed. We will then try to meet their needs with glasses sent from home (thanks to Petersons and Hemmings) or here. We had a horrendous drive home with traffic as bad as ever....I was determined to not let it affect the Christmas spirit! I kept pointing out to Randy that they were all FAMILIES that were in our way....what better thing....and then turned the TAB Choir Christmas CD up a little louder!!! We arrived home in time to leave again for Nel's home and then back here for a little time to open gifts. Then quickly off to Christmas dinner at the Bell's apartment. Who says it is more relaxing in the mission field? WHEW!! We loved opening our presents from home and each other. Things we needed were found in each box. It's almost as if our family planned it that way!! Hmmm!
To top our Christmas off, we skyped with each of our children and talked with my Mom. It was Monday here but Christmas there.
A couple of things we learned here: Christmas is celebrated at midnight on Christmas Eve with dinner, lots of time for prayer, and then gifts (for those that have them....they are not necessary). Santa does not play a significant role here. We are most grateful to be here and to experience Christmas in the Philippines.