April 30, 2016 – Share One Another’s Burdens
… and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; – Mosiah 18:8
On Sunday we attended the Santa Cruz branch about 1 hr away. While waiting to speak at Sacrament Meeting, we noticed the ceiling fans going around. We were very grateful for the open windows and the fans to keep the 85-90F summer heat from being unbearable. Elder Jex mentioned in his talk that all the church’s ceiling fans were similar. There were 3 on the left and 3 on the right. All of the fans were working well and smooth except for one which was wobbling and making a tick..tick..tick sound. What made this one different? This one had more dirt on one fan blade making it unstable and unbalanced. All of the fan blades had dirt on them but their dirt was balanced and evenly shared. The one fan blade with more dirt was having to work harder and had a more difficult time doing it’s task. If left alone it would wear out faster and not able to handle its burden anymore. The whole fan would suffer for it and eventually give up (like the ones pictured). If the extra dirt were distributed to the other fan blades then they would all be happy and the whole fan would last a lot longer.
The fan blades were like the members of the Ward or Branch. Each of them have burdens and loads they must carry. Some have more burdens to carry and we should share one another’s burden so that they may seem light. Then we can all be happier and last longer without early burnout from being overloaded.
April 24,2016 – Cotton grows on trees
And out of the ground made I, the Lord God, to grow every tree, naturally, that is pleasant to the sight of man; and man could behold it. … And I, the Lord God, planted the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, … – Moses 3:9
And they came unto the brook of Eshcol, and cut down from thence a branch with one cluster of grapes, and they bare it between two upon a staff; ….– Numbers 13:23
For Elder Jex’es family and friends in Alabama:
Yep, cotton grows on trees in the Philippines. Never saw that in the South (Southern US). Would save a lot of time replanting each year and provide more cotton balls per square foot.
The white-silk cotton trees are ripe now and ready to pick. Looks a lot like a tree full of cotton bolls but without weevils. The trees can grow up to 230ft tall – a lot taller than any cotton Elder Jex picked in Alabama. Although the fiber is difficult to spin it is used as an alternative to down as a filler for stuffed toys, pillows, and mattresses. Because it’s buoyant and resistant to water it used to be used for life jackets before synthetic materials replaced it.
It’s not surprising that there are cotton trees here. They also have water chestnuts as big as a fist and yardlong (the actual name) string beans. The Garden of Eden must have been similar with an abundance of all sorts of fruits and vegetables. One could even say that since cotton is known as the “Fabric of Our Lives” the cotton tree is the closest thing we have to the Tree of Life.
April 18, 2016 – We cannot return the same way we came
And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. – Matthew 19:24
And they shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, … – Isaiah 2:19
Last Prep-day we convinced some younger missionaries to take us to a cave. Although we both enjoy spelunking or cave exploring, we had aged a little more than we thought.
We requested four rest stops along the way up because the mountain to the cave was quite steep and intense in the summer heat and humidity. Finally we reached the mouth of the cave. A ladder to climb in the entrance was made by cutting bamboo poles and lashing with local vines. We tried to not scare the bats in the cave but they did scare us by flying about and sometimes hitting our helmets. We were really glad that we each had a light to guide us.
At one point we came to a very small opening of 2ft x 18 inches that required getting flat on the ground and wiggling through. The guides and elders made it OK. Didn’t think that we could make it through. We were content with staying there and waiting till they returned – we’d have to come back this way anyway. We watched as the American elder with broad shoulders made it through. Then there was only us two left. Elder Jex went down and through the hole. It was a tight fit but he made it to the other side. Only Sister Jex was left. From the other side she announced that she would wait there until we all came back. It wasn’t so much going through that bothered her – it was coming back. When Sister Jex saw the hole she thought of the “eye of the needle” gate in Jerusalem which required camels to unload every burden before one could pass through. One must get down in the dirt, be humble, remove all baggage, and crawl. She didn’t want to be that humble.
After a few discussions the guide told us that we wouldn’t be coming back this way – the cave exit was ahead. With that encouragement Sister Jex squirmed and used her toes to slowly inch through. We went over, under, and through many other tight places as seen in the photos but none were as tiny as that one.
When we finally reached the exit we were surprised to find that it was just another tunnel or branch from the cave entrance. We had come right back to the ladder at the cave entrance – the same place we started. The guides were pretty tricky but they got us through. The spelunking experience and hike up and down the mountain were quite an experience that we will ALWAYS remember.
Sometimes in life we have a hard steep climb up a learning curve. On the way we get hit by bat-like enticings that cause us fear. We are glad that we have the light of Christ to guide us – our conscience. We even have to humble ourselves and relinquish our baggage we have carried for so long. Even get down face to face with the dirt. After such experiences we are not the same, we are changed – we can’t return the way we came. We learn and grow and progress. We think we are progressing in one direction but in the end we will realize that we return to the same place that we came from. We return to the presence of our Father in Heaven – a beautiful and peaceful place. To get there we have to progress forward – we cannot return the same way we came.
April 9, 2016 – We found Joe!
… the stranger calleth to thee … all the people of the earth may know thy name, … – 1 Kings 8:43
Everywhere we go we meet people who enjoy practicing their English on us. Many of the youth and young boys will call out, “Hey Joe!” or “Hello Joe!” as we pass by. Although neither of our names are Joe we know that they are calling to us. Joe is a well known title here for Americans. We always wondered who this Joe person was. Well, today we found Joe. We met an American name Joe in the hardware store. He has been impressed that everyone knows him by name. Glad that we finally found Joe – the one everyone has mistaken us for. Although he’s not a GI Joe, he must be an awesome guy for everyone here to remember him.
Elder is another well known title that we are called a lot. Sister Jex has even been called Elder several times. We enjoy hearing “Hey Elder!” or “Hello Elder!” because it means that someone recognizes us and knows that we are missionaries. Being called Joe or Elder reminds us that we are always being watched and that we are representatives of the US and of Christ. Everything we do reflects on who we represent.
We should always remember who we are and what we represent even when we aren’t wearing a name tag or aren’t easy to pick out of a crowd. As you walk down the jungle trail of life you never know who is watching.
April 3, 2016 – Weak things become strong
And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them. – Ether 12:27
We enjoy visiting people in the Philippines. It’s great to have Spiritual experiences almost every day but because they’re personal we don’t usually talk about them. Want to share a few now. Several weeks ago we visited Bro. L who had not been to church for 8 years since losing his leg in an auto accident. As his favorite scripture above says, his weakness (missing one leg) has become his strength because he is humble and has faith in Christ. Although it’s quite difficult, he has attended church each Sunday since then. Recently we went with him to visit two brothers, Don and Ren who used to attend long ago. Ren said he couldn’t come to church anymore because he was old and had difficulty walking. Bro L pointed to his missing leg and said that if he could go then Ren could too. What had been his weakness was now his selling point. Bro L said that impossible is only a word. It’s a word used by many as an excuse for something they are not willing to try. We walked along a jungle path to visit the other brother Don. Walking with crutches on one leg through jungle growth, across a fence, and up/down stairs is not easy. Don was in bed and in terrible pain with arthritic knees. Bro L gave him a priesthood blessing – the first he’d given in 8 years. The spirit was very strong during his blessing. Afterwards Don smiled, looked at his knees and said that the pain had gone. He was quite happy as we left.
One Sunday we went with Elders to teach Loren who was planning to be baptized the next week. She had a fever and was ill in bed for 3 days. She was worried because her school finals were in two days. The Elders gave her a priesthood blessing and again, the Spirit was quite strong during the blessing. Two days later we visited and Loren looked like a totally different person with a bright smile and cheerful countenance. Quite a contrast to Sunday when she looked like death warmed over. She was baptized on Good Friday.
This Sunday we were excited to see four whom we had visited and had not been to church for many years. One of them was Don – who had the terrible arthritic knees. He made a great sacrifice to come because walking through the jungle and riding a trike to church and back was a major ordeal for someone who had been bedridden for so long. They were all excited to be there together again – a joyous reunion. They helped each other in turning weaknesses into strengths.