Sunday, May 29, 2016

Transfer Week Eve

Bag weigh in.
Missionary life isn't month to month - its transfer to transfer - and our June transfer is upon us. Even though transfer day isn't until Wednesday we have been preparing for quite some time now. Sister McNett bears the brunt of the mission office responsibilities for transfer preparation and execution. Considering that she is now requesting travel for those arriving and departing with the August transfer, you can see the June transfer has been a large part of our lives for several weeks.

Just tracking all the things that need to happen before a transfer is quite a chore in itself. In the office there are Excel spread sheets listing arriving and departing missionaries with check lists of tasks that need doing before they come or go. Sister McNett refers to them as the arriving and departing grids. This past week it was suggested by 'someone else in the office' that when she is feeling overwhelmed she just needs to 'grid up her loins'.  This advice was greatly under appreciated.

What does it take for a transfer to happen? For the mission president and his assistants it takes countless hours of prayerfully considering the assignment and possible re-assignment of almost 200 missionaries. Imagine reorganizing a 200 person operation of any kind every 6 weeks. There are just so many factors to consider. It would not be possible without divine help.

By the end of summer much of our current mission leadership, including President and Sister Tanner, will be home and new leadership will need to be in place. It isn't possible to just sit back and leave things alone for very long because the landscape is constantly changing. This experience with mission operations has shifted our appreciation meter for mission presidents and their wives upward considerably.

For the mission office, especially the Mission Secretary (Sister McNett), transfers involve everything that needs to happen in the mission from the time a new missionary opens their call letter until they are safely home again. There are emails or letters to welcome new missionaries and emails to parents or priesthood leaders with travel itineraries for their travel home. Tickets for travel home need to be requested about three months ahead which means the secretary needs to know where they are traveling to (it is not always where they came from). For those traveling outside the Philippines there is exit paperwork to complete. This requires getting official documents signed and passport style pictures taken for missionaries who may be currently assigned a long way from the mission office. When done incorrectly the only option is to redo them - corrections are not allowed.

There are different requirements for those who are from within the Philippines, those who are from the US or Canada, and those from Pacific Rim countries. We have or have had missionaries from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, French Polynesia, Vanuatu, Tonga, Samoa, Belgium, Singapore, the US, Canada and of course from all over the Philippines. There was one Philippine sister who traveled 'home' to Abu Dhabi where her family now lives.

Additional tasks for arriving missionaries include putting together welcome books, taking pictures individually and with Tanners, sending emails to parents letting them know their son or daughter arrived safely in the mission (which has to be done within 12 hours of their arrival), and making cards with pictures for missionary wall boards in both the mission home and mission office. The wall boards show every missionary and where they are currently assigned. We have also started making mission ID cards as many missionaries arrive without any form of ID.

To assist newly arriving missionaries we provide bed sheets and pillows. Imagine the two of us negotiating our way through a department store each carrying 6 or 8 of these full size pillows. We laugh at the thought that if we trip and fall down the stairs at least we won't be hurt.
Pillows & sheets for new arrivals.
There is a member in Manila who we now order our sheets and pillow cases from. She started a business called Heaven's Comfort which is making sheets at a very reasonable price. The three LBC boxes pictured above came Friday with 50 sets. We are ready with bedding for summer and  even bought a set for ourselves.
Our new sheets. Oooooooooooh.
There is even more to do for departing missionaries. Arranging travel, which may be with either the Salt Lake or Manila travel offices, finding out if family is coming to pick them up, finalizing release dates,  answering travel related questions, printing travel itineraries, arranging for passports, making sure release certificates are signed, putting together departure books, administering English language tests, updating arrival and departure grids and photo books, and the list goes on. There is no rest for even the mildly wicked.
Elder Meliang, Elder Grace
This is Elder Meliang and Elder Grace, two of our departing missionaries. You can clearly see how they struggle to keep from crying as they prepare to go.  Elder Meliang returns to his home here in the Philippines and Elder Grace is returning to New Zealand. Elder Grace told me his father helped Larry Gelwix coach the Highland High School rugby team. When the movie 'Forever Strong' was made about the Highland High team it was Elder Grace's father who taught the haka dance shown in the movie. It's a small world - after all.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Signs and Wonders

Really not as bad as it sounds...
Every so often we see signs here that just make us laugh. This one is near the entrance to a shopping center - Pacific Mall - where we get our pillows for arriving missionaries. This week we were there to stock up pillows for our summer missionary batches. We also bought 32 towels for transfer houses. Transfer houses are apartments with extra bedding and such and with enough room to allow missionaries to stay while traveling during transfers. Depending on where they are going from and going to our missionaries often can't make the trip in one day, especially when going from island to island.

This week we traveled into Cebu to the Temple Compound where the Cebu Mission office is and visited with Elder and Sister Nelson again. They are the office couple in the Cebu Mission office. We were able to share ideas for the office and they took us to a large mall near the temple for lunch. Our goal is to do this more often.

While there we went into a grocery store in the basement of a department store and found frozen blueberries, Shredded Wheat and real sourdough bread. Woohoo! There were even stools at every checkout counter so that customers can sit while they are rung up.
Courtesy stool - what a great idea.
We also had a surprise visit this week at the office. Sister Osumo is from our 'Batch'. We met her in the MTC, and will go home with her. Her father, aunt and uncle came by to say hello. Her aunt and uncle live in Cebu while her own immediate family is currently living in Singapore. Brother Osumo was here in Cebu on a temple trip. We don't get to see a lot of Sister Osumo because she has been assigned on the island of Bohol since she arrived in the mission. She is one sharp missionary though and has already been a Sister Trainer. They are just a wonderful, strong LDS family.
Brother Rodolfo Osumo.
Sister Osumo the day she arrived. Notice the pillows.
Today we went to church in the Canduman Ward of the Consolacion Stake. The main highway into Cebu goes within a half block of the ward building. We have driven it many times and didn't even realize the church was there. We still learn something new every day.

They are a very friendly ward and it was a good experience. We like visiting the different wards and branches in the area. The church grounds are amazing with a wide open expanse of lawn. We haven't seen anything like it in 8 months.
Cabduman Ward building.
If only we had a frisbe,
or a football.
So you saw the sign above. This field is the wonder.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Semper Fidelis

Happy Birthday Ruben
'Always Faithful'
This is the motto of the US Marine Corp. It could also be the motto of our always faithful security guard, Ruben. From 6:00 P.M until 6:00 AM, 365 days a year, Ruben is at his post near the entrance to the LDS Compound in Lilo-an where the Stake Center and Cebu East Mission Office are located. He is there to open and close the gate for those entering or leaving during those hours and also stops traffic for us when we leave in the dark (which is greatly appreciated). Most of the time he is there just to make sure the property is secure and 'all is well'.  He has done this since 2013 when the Cebu East Mission was created. Not missing a night that we know of. That's dedication.

Ruben's 50th birthday was Thursday and we purchased a cake for him (not the one pictured but we'll get to that) and the Lilo-an missionaries gathered for a surprise birthday party. As the missionaries were arriving, coming in thru the gate, they found out that Ruben's family was also coming to bring dinner to eat with him out in the parking lot. So we invited his family to come into the mission office where it was lighted and air conditioned. It ended up that they shared their meal with the missionaries and we joined our cake and ice cream with theirs. It was a bit awkward at first, but it all worked out.

We were glad that we were able to show our appreciation for this dedicated man and his supportive family.
The family (minus one daughter)
In other news... these munchkins were just outside our gate during a trip down the street to buy bananas from a vendor selling from a bicycle cart. They all understand what a 'high five' is. As a sign of respect the youth here will press the back of your hand to their forehead. Its pretty awesome.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Dynamic Duo

This is Elder Mangrobang (sitting) and Elder Miranda. They are with us in the office when they aren't out delivering bicycles or helping clean apartments or working in their area. This is the third transfer that Elder Miranda has been with us while Elder Mangrobang joined us just last transfer. They help with apartments, vehicles, bicycles, phones, baptism records, supplies and referrals.They also help when we have a need to communicate by providing translation services or making phone calls for us. Elder Miranda even knows.some Japanese and we hear that from time to time. We love our missionaries!

This past week was Sister Training Leader (STL) Meeting followed by Mission Leadership Council (MLC) followed by Zone Meetings.These meetings were all held in the Stake Center next to the Mission Office so things were pretty hectic here for a couple of days. We sat in for most of MLC and it was excellent. President Tanner talked about the Book of Mormon and played a talk given by Tad R. Callister titled 'The Book of Mormon - a book from God'. Elder Callister quotes C.S.Lewis:

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. … You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. … But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

Elder Callister then goes on to talk about how this same reasoning applies to the Book of Mormon.You can read or listen to the whole talk here:
The Book of Mormon - a book from God

The Tanners have a daughter and son-in-law visiting from Utah - with a baby - and President Tanner is starting to do his final round of missionary interviews. Their schedule has gone from overdrive to warp speed.

These past two days (Saturday and Sunday) we have been to the local hospital four times to help with an Elder who at first was thought to have apendicitis but it turned out to be kidney stones. The good news is that he is doing well and back in his apartment. He was in the hospital two nights and the whole hospital charge, including doctors, was less than $500.

And Happy Mother's Day!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

The Last Days

There is only one more transfer now until we see another kind of transfer that typically happens once every three years. President and Sister Tanner are literally working around the clock to prepare for the arrival of President and Sister Maughan in July.  Part of the preparation for this transition is for the Facilities Management group to re-paint the Mission Home inside and out and do any needed repairs there.  The Tanners are fortunate in that they have not had to move out while the painting takes place but have the challenge of working around the painters who seem to be chasing them from room to room as they paint. President and Sister Tanner are constantly looking for something they need in boxes or under plastic sheets.
Mission Home face lift
The mission will be seeing a large number of other changes this summer. The summer time 'batches' of missionaries are relatively large with many coming and going. We have talked more than once about how different things will be here this fall when the missionaries who trained us in the office are gone along with many other missionaries we have come to know and love.

It is interesting how a mission is kind of like a condensed life time. There is a pre-mortal, mortal and post-mortal feeling to it (missionaries even speak of going home as 'dying'). The preparation and anticipation before entering the 'mission field' must be similar to that which we experienced before coming to earth. We prepare in our minds the best we can but when all is said and done the only way to know what it is really like is to do it.

What has also been interesting is to learn of the vast variety of mission experiences - especially for senior missionaries. There are some common threads, but specific assignments and circumstances can vary widely.

This was kind of a slow picture week but what we lack in quantity we make up for in quality. We now present what may very well be the best jeepnee ever.
If this would fit in a suitcase we would be bringing it home. One of us is glad that it doesn't fit....