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.

1 comment:

  1. We likely do not have to deal with all that you do but Melba handles much of what you listed above. And we do get missionaries from around the world, sometimes waiting for them for several months through a bunch of VISA problems.
    And speaking of such, Melba and I finish in two weeks! Can't believe it has come and gone so quickly.