Sunday, July 5, 2015

Week 24

Sorry it has been such a long time since I have actually sat down to write a letter to everyone at home. 
For now, I am still  in the MRC, Missionary Recovery Center, which has been a lot of fun! I have taken the MRC on as my area for now and I am doing all that I can to help the senior couples here to progress this area just as I would any other area. It was a great experience to be here with Sister Glick. She was in my district in the MTC. We spent several days together here and got all caught up on the last couple months. We have been given so many opportunities to serve others. I have learned so much about how being sick and feeling like it would be completely acceptable to be sick and only care for myself, but to instead turn and help these little children who live in a place like the Ronald McDonald home called Mabuhay.  These poor little children are awaiting medical treatments and it was such an amazing thing to think that we as missionaries have the opportunity to serve in a way that we never realize. We have cared for those who are less fortunate than us. We have been able to take care of those around us who are in a much worse state than we are. We also went to a cancer hospital for little children, and to see the smiles on all of their little faces as we sang "The Wheels on the Jeepney" and "If you're Happy and you Know it". You really learn a lot about the Savior and His work here on the earth, His love for each and every one of us. It reminds me of a talk by Elder David A. Bednar we listened to in the MTC about Christ and how even in the darkest of His days He still turned outward to serve others and to care for those around Him. I have learned that in the days when you are really feeling your absolute best it is so easy to turn and to serve and care for those around you but to turn and really serve when even you are the one who could be the one receiving that same care, it really changes you. I have been able to go over several times and serve in the temple, in the laundry and actually was able to do a session. I was pretty much bent over the whole time in pain but I did help someone to progress in their life. The other thing we have been focusing on a lot right now is indexing and working on the other side of the veil. So far, of all the missionaries here, I have been a part of training them all to be indexers and just within the month of July so far we have indexed 27 batches of names to be sent to the temple for work. 
For right now, I love being able to fulfill my purpose here in the small ways that I am able to. Even though I am not out teaching people in front of me, I have the opportunity to use my time here as a missionary to progress the work for those on the other side of the veil to receive their ordinances. I had the opportunity to speak with a senior couple sister who said the best thing to me. She said that the Lord knows our mission plans and because for me its been 2 weeks now that I haven't been able to work it doesn't mean that my mission has come to a stop. I have still been the same missionary on the same mission even though right now I am not in my proselyting area, this is just my temporary area to be able to learn the lessons that I would only be able to learn here in this area.
 I really do know that my Father in Heaven has a plan for me, especially for my mission and that this time is all apart of my experience on my mission. I am still a missionary here and I still have a work to do, just right now I get the opportunity to turn and let the Lord work on me instead of working on other people. I really know that to be the truth. I am so very grateful for all of the miracles, the opportunities and the experiences that I have been given here and I am just trusting that my Heavenly Father will provide the rest of the way for me here as well. I hope all is well with you all there and I am so excited to hear the experiences from all of you! 
Mahal Kita,
Sister Hansen

Saturday, July 4, 2015


Dear Brother and Sister Hansen,

This is Elder Arner, the Area Medical Adviser.  I want to provide you with an update on your daughter, Sister Hansen and to assure you that she is safe, comfortable and improving health wise.  She is currently in the MRC (Missionary Recovery Center) in Manila where she is recuperating after a particularly nasty bout of gastroenteritis that necessitated her being hospitalized at Baypointe Hospital in Olongapo.  All of the sister missionaries in her apartment got ill simultaneously and there was some concern that it was amebiasis, although Sister Hansen's tests were negative for that diagnosis.  I suspect that it was more likely shigellosis though no cultures were done so this remains a supposition only.  She was treated and was rehydrated and subsequently discharged when her symptoms resolved and she was showing improvement.  We moved her to Manila when it appeared that the recovery might take longer than 48-72 hours. 

The MRC is a comfortable, safe residential unit on the grounds of the Church's Philippines Area Offices complex and it abuts the MTC, but is functionally separate from it.  It is across the street from the Manila Temple.  It is also directly above the Area Medical Offices.  It is overseen by two experienced nurses, Elder and Sister Kasteler, both of whom are full time missionaries.  It is not a hospital or even a clinic, but it is a pleasant place to recover for missionaries who may also need access to additional medical services that can be found only in Manila.  Incidentally, this is the only MRC in the Church.  While in the MRC, she has the opportunity to participate in several service projects and to attend the temple regularly.

You are undoubtedly aware that Sister Hansen has had a variety of medical problems since arriving in the Philippines, including skin infections as well as the GI problems.  Through all of this she has been very upbeat and has demonstrated the commitment and endurance we so admire in our missionaries.  There is no question this has taken a toll on her but she presses forward and does not complain.  She has a bright and happy countenance even though at times there has been substantial discomfort.  She has improved since arriving in the MRC but is not completely recovered at this point.  I visited with her at length again today to assess where we are and to formulate a longer term plan.  When she arrived she was still having intermittent problems with abdominal pain and with loss of appetite.  She also had a recurrence of a very itchy skin rash which may in part have been due to the medications she received previously and she had a urinary tract infection.  The rash and the UTI are largely corrected but the abdominal discomfort persists intermittently.  Her appetite has improved and she is eating and drinking normally.  You would not know there was any problem to see her or to visit with her, but it appears she has a residual gastritis with a component of mild reflux.  She has been started on a proton pump inhibitor (the generic form of Prilosec) in addition to her medication for the UTI and her rash.  I am hoping that she will respond well and will ready to return to her mission in a couple of days.  All of her lab work at this point is normal.

I am a bit reserved in this assessment due to the slow nature of Sister Hansen's recovery.  There does appear to be a small subgroup of North American missionaries who, for lack of a better term, develop an allergically mediated response to certain foods and/or other environmental factors as yet unidentified and have great difficulty getting past the abdominal pains associated with this reactive gastroenteritis.  This is not the same thing she had when she was admitted to Baypointe.  That was true bacterial gastroenteritis.  What she has at the moment however looks very much like what we have seen in so many others.  It is a condition that frequently requires a medical release and reassignment after an appropriate time of healing at home.  We are not at that point yet, but I mention it because it is a possibility given all of the medical problems she has had to endure.  If we cannot get excellent control of her abdominal pain with medication and diet, we may have to revisit that choice.  Sister Hansen is fully aware of this and I have informed President and Sister Dahle, though all of us hope that she will return to the field fully functional in a few days.  By the way, I should mention that President and Sister Dahle are extraordinarily watchful shepherds over their missionary flock.  There is no Mission President and wife combination who does a better job of that here (and I suspect anywhere).  She is fortunate and blessed to be a part of the Olongapo Mission. 

I will update you as things progress.  We should know much more in a few days and as soon as things appear to be moving in either direction I will contact you.  Please be reassured that she is comfortable and in very nice surroundings.  She is not suffering.  Having had a son who had similar gi problems on his mission in Russia, I am not only empathetic, I am sympathetic.  I know how anxiety producing these situations are for parents when our children are a great distance away.  We tend to imagine the worst.  However, she looks great and sounds great and is actually blessing the lives of others who are concurrently residents in the MRC through her cheerful attitude.  You have every reason to be very proud of her.  She truly has embraced this great cause of hastening the work of salvation among these wonderful people in the Philippines. 

If you have questions, I will certainly try to answer them. 


Elder Mark C. Arner, MD
Philippines Area Medical Adviser
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints