Sunday, September 2, 2012

APOSTLES VISIT THE PHILIPPINES


President Michael John U. Teh, Senator Vincente Sotto (Senate Majority Leader), Senator Gregorio Honasan, Elder Quentin L. Cook in Office of Senator Sotto

Sister Bird, Senator Vincente Sotto, Elder Bird

President Michael John U. Teh, E/S Bird, Haidi Fajardo, Elder Quentin L. Cook

Sister Bird, Senator's Office Staff, Haidi Fajardo

Elder Cook, President Teh, and Sister Bird in Philippine Senate Chambers

E/S Bird on Senate Floor

Elder and Sister Bednar with Elder and Sister Bird

Cultural Program Participants at Aurora Chapel
Cultural Program Presented to Visiting General Authorities

Entire Group of Cultural Participants (Daniel Beriong, composer and singer of theme song, United,) is Seated Facing Front Behind the Children 

E/S Bednar, E/S Cook, E/S Callister, Bishop/Sister Davies at Cultural Program

Sunday, August 26, 2012

FLOODS IN THE PHILIPPINES


Photos top left to right 1. Flooding Marikina River out Window of Missionaries Apartment 2. People Under Umbrellas Watching as Water Rises in Marikina 3. Boat to Rescue Stranded Members in Provident Ward 4. Bags of Food Packaged by Volunteers at the Area Office 5. Flooded Homes Along Marikina River
August proved to be a disastrous month for Metro-Manila.  Within two days, we quickly had a "water" problem to match that of Ondoy in 2009. Seven sets of our young missionaries had to move into their respective Mission Homes, as their apartments were completely submerged. Eight of our chapels were under water. Sixty chapels of the Church were used as evacuation centers for members and non-members alike. Thousands of members dawned their yellow Mormon Helping Hands vests and began packing food and hygiene kits for distribution to affected families. For most of the people living in Metro-Manila, it was Typhoon Ondoy (2009) revisited! From the evening of August 6th to the afternoon of August 7th, 24 inches of rain fell…that is double the amount of rain that fell during Typhoon Katrina in the U.S.
Once again the area of Marikina became a rolling river.  This is the area that we drive through every Sunday to go to our branch in Malaya.  It is so sad to see the water, but even worse is when the water recedes leaving behind several feet of muddy sludge in everything! The people of the Philippines deal with these disasters every year…in 2011 the Philippines had more natural disasters than any country in the world! It's easy to see why it is so difficult for these people to get out from under the poverty. 
It has been such an experience to see the Church in action. In response to this disaster, the Church immediately released relief funds to buy food, sleeping mats, blankets, and hygiene kits. Volunteers were called for…we were hoping for 150, but almost 400 showed up…it was amazing to see. Then a couple of days later we needed more volunteers and once again they came…so happy to be able to help. This has truly been an eye-opening and humbling experience.

Monday, August 6, 2012

LOST AND FOUND IN THE PHILIPPINES

Roehl
 
Elder Bird with Roehl
 
Roehl's Office Sign
 
Sister Bird with Merlyn

I have had a wonderful opportunity of helping to find a few "lost" aquaintances while here in the Philippines.  This has been a most rewarding experience.  I will share a few of them briefly.

Roehl:
When we arrived in the Philippines, Roehl had already been looking for “his missionary” for 15 years. He was employed as the Director of Purchasing for the Church in the Philippines.  Because his office was housed in the Manila Philippines Administration Office, he was used to seeing many senior missionaries come and go. Each time he would meet a new missionary he would ask them where they were from.  If any said they were from the state of Idaho in the U.S., he would ask if they knew anyone by the last name of Arave....he was looking for “his” Elder Arave.  The 2nd week we were in the Philippines, Roehl saw another new face in the hall, and stopped to introduce himself, and, of course, to ask where this new missionary was from...this new missionary happened to be my husband!  Randy had been asked by many Filipinos where he was from and he always said Utah, but when Roehl asked him where he was from, he said “Utah...but I am originally from Idaho.”  So Roehl asked if he knew anyone whose last name was Arave.  Randy knew that one of my college roommates (who later married my brother) had the last name of Arave.  I contacted her and she said she would do some checking.  A couple of days later I received an email from her, and sure enough, her nephew had served in the Philippines Baguio Mission and had taught and baptized Roehl.  Roehl had become interested in learning about the Church while attending LDS Institute with some of his friends. He had become friends with these guys because their values were in harmony with his.  He said he was a "tough case" and made the missionaries work hard...he wanted to be very sure he had his own testimony of the restored gospel.  He then served a mission himself and later married in the temple and now has a beautiful family.  The Lord has continued to guide his footsteps along the road of life. Both Roehl and his missionary friend have had much joy in becoming reaquainted!

Merlyn:
I met Merlyn at a Jubilee Exhibit in the city of Binalbagan on the island of Negros.  What a wonderful woman...so talented and selfless and kind.  I loved the brief  period of time we had together.  When Randy and I were ready to head to the airport for our trip back to Manila, she told me she had one big favor to ask of me... could I help her find her mission companion from almost 30 years ago.  Her companion was from the U.S. and had lived with a family in Idaho Falls by the name of Johnson....I thought...hmmm, that ought to narrow it down!!!haha  She thought this friend had moved to California and then they had completely lost contact with each other.  Well, I started doing some research, and with some extra resources I had here at the Administration Office, I was able to find her companion.  I called Merlyn for Christmas and told her I had a gift for her.  She started to cry and said it was the best gift ever!  I must say, that was fun!
 
Brenda:
I have decided the Jubilee Exhibit and our assignment to follow it throughout the Philippines has been a wonderful blessing in more ways than one.  It seems that when we have become acquainted with members out in more remote areas, they have been willing to approach us seeking assistance to solve their own frustrations. That was the case with Brenda.  I met her in the city of Laoag. It is located way up north along the west coast on the large island of Luzon.....a beautiful area...one of our very favorites in the Philippines!  She was a physically challenged sister that had to use a type of crutch fastened to her arms to aid her in walking...possibly the results of polio...I didn't ask.  She had 2 beautiful children with her. She had served a mission in Quezon City in 2003 and was looking for a senior missionary couple from Mississippi that had served in the Manila Temple.  They had befriended her as a young missionary and had truly been the greatest help to this young sister. She had tried to keep in touch so she could tell them how blessed her life had been....here she was now happily married and a mother to these beautiful children....but she wondered if they had ever received the letters she had sent.  Brenda wondered if perhaps they had died and she had no way to know....would I help her!  Once again, I could hardly wait to get back to Manila to start researching!!  This one was easy....she had been sending the letters to Hattiesburg and they were really in Harrisburg, Mississippi!! They are all still living and now reunited!
 
There has been one more "find" while serving here that I will not go into detail about...but perhaps the most joyous of all, and another in the works. Randy is now calling me the "super sleuth"!! Who ever knows the many reasons we are called to a certain mission....only the Lord knows. I am most grateful. 





Thursday, July 12, 2012

SENIOR MISSIONARY ZONE "MONSON'S WARRIORS"

Zone Conference---June 2012
Senior Missionaries front row l-r 1. Sister Bell (E. Bell took the photo) 2. Elder Bird 3. Sister Bird 4. Sister Fahrner 5. Sister Washburn 6. Elder Enderle 7. Sister Enderle 2nd Row l-r 1.Sister Candland 2. Elder Hardick 3. Sister Hardick 4. Pres. DeLamare 5. Sister DeLaMare 6. Sister Farnsworth 7. Elder Farnsworth 3rd Row l-r 1. Elder Candland 2. Elder Boehme 3. Sister Boehme 4. Sister Hull 5. Elder Hull 6. Sister Fleming 7. Elder Fleming 8. Sister Hadlock 9. Sister Whiting 10. Elder Whiting 11. Sister Fonbuena 12. Elder Fonbuena Back Row l-r 1. Elder Miller 2. Sister Miller 3. Elder Harris 4. Sister Harris 5. Elder Hadlock 6. Elder DuPaix 7. Sister DuPaix

 Senior Missionaries Living at Pioneer Highlands -- Sis. Goss, E/S Bird, E/S Bell, E/S Hardick, E. Goss in Tricycle
Senior Missionaries Pose with Jeepney During Zone Conference---April 2012


Sister Bird, the Jeepney Passenger
Zone Conference---New Years Eve 2011
Front row l-r 1. Sis. Riddle 2. E/S Enderle 3. E. Bird 4. E. Boehme 2nd row 1.E. Riddle 2. E/S Fleming 3. Sis. Christiansen 4a. E. Hull 4b. E. Christensen 5. E. Hardick 6. E. Bell 7. E. Sorensen 8. S. Boehme 9. Pres. & Sis. DeLaMare Back row 1. E/S Goss 2. S. Hull 3. Sis. Christensen 4. Sis. Hardick 5. Sis. Bell 6. Sis. Sorensen 7. E/S Beckstand
Corregidor
Front row l-r 1. S. Goss 2. S. Sorensen 3. E/S Howell 4. E/S Beckstrand 2nd row 1. E.Fleming 2. E/S Bird 3. E. Goss 4. E/S Bell 5. E. Sorensen 6. S. Christiansen 7. Sis. Fahrner 8. Sis. Fleming 9. E/S Hull 10. E/S Enderle

One of the  biggest surprises to us, as prospective senior missionaries, was to learn of the many different types of missions you could be called to.  There is quite a variety right here in the Quezon City Philippines Mission......possibly because the Manila Philippines Administration Building is located within this mission.  The types of assignments seniors (couples/single sisters) are serving in, here in our senior zone, are as follows: Executive Secretary to the Area Presidency, Public Affairs, Perpetual Education Fund, Country Director of Welfare, Humanitarian...Wheelchair Specialists, Area Medical Administrator, Family History, Employment Resource Center, Mission Office Couple, Mission Office Couple over Finances and Real Estate (finding apartments for seniors), Member and Leadership Support, Church Education (vacant right now), Missionary Training Center President, MTC Nurse/ Executive Secretary to MTC President, Missionary Recovery Center, Assistant to Area Legal, English as Second Language, Mental Health Specialist, and Temple
All of these mission calls have been from 18 - 23 months.  The ages of most of these missionaries range from late 50's to late 70's. There is also a variety of assignments you can be given within the senior zone. Some within our zone are as follows:  Zone Leaders (Randy and I were called to this a month after arriving here and are still serving in this capacity), Quarterly Excursion Leaders, Coordinator for Travel to Monthly American Women's Bazaar, New Missionary Orientation Couple, and Monthly Birthday Dinner Coordinators.
These missionaries have truly become our dear friends. They have come from all parts of the United States and Canada.  Many are on their 3rd, 4th, and even 5th mission...they are truly amazing and are an inspiration to us. There are so many reasons a mission is wonderful...but the other missionaries you meet and become friends with are just an added bonus!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

FIRST MISSIONARY FROM BANGLADESH



Elder Isaac Hawlader Points to His Hometown, Dhaka, in Bangladesh

Elder Hawlader Enjoys a Brief Moment in Front of the MTC

E/S Bird, Elder Hawlader, Sis. Farnsworth, and E/S DuPaix Pose in MTC Lobby

Recently, Randy received an email from the MTC President informing us that they had a new missionary that arrived from Bangladesh...the first missionary EVER from that country....we don't even send missionaries there yet!!  Public Affairs was given permission to interview him and do a story for the Philippine newsroom and Church News. Sister Farnsworth would do the interview...she actually did the interview with "first missionaries" from two other European countries and one Asian....Elder Bird would be the photographer...and I and Elder and Sister Dupaix would just observe. When we met him, I was surprised at what a handsome man he was!  I don't know what I expected, but he looked very Arab to me.  My first impression was that he looked like he came from a "well to do" family....he carried himself very well and was very friendly and easy to engage in conversation. We took a few photos and then sat down for the interview in the foyer area of the MTC. We all shed many tears as we listened to this humble young man share with us the very difficult life he had experienced. Below is the story that was published.

Elder Isaac Hawlader is the first missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from Bangladesh. Born June 2, 1993, he comes from the capitol city of Dhaka and is 19 years old. He is assigned to the Philippine Cauayan Mission and arrived in this country without “purse or script.” He was a member of a small congregation, but he had never seen a missionary before coming to the Manila Missionary Training Center (MTC).

From July 2011 to June 2012, Mormon missionaries have arrived in the Philippines from 11 countries for 19 days of training at the MTC before returning to their home countries to serve their people for 18-24 months: India, Pakistan, Mongolia, Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia...and now from Bangladesh. Elder Hawlader is unique in that he will not be returning to his home country until after he serves for two years in the Cauayan area. He is learning Tagalog so that he will be able to donate his time and energy helping the Filipino people.

Isaac Hawlader joined the Church four years ago at the age of 15 through the influence of an email from a relative who was a member. He wanted Isaac to read the Book of Mormon.

Elder Hawlader has a sister who is 16 years old. She also wants to go on a mission when she is old enough. His parents are not members but they are very supportive of his being on a mission for the Savior. Both of them are also Christians. When asked, “Why did you decide to serve a mission?” Isaac responded, “Because Heavenly Father has a special plan for my life. I want to share my personal witness.”

Bangladesh has not yet recognized the Church, but members are allowed to meet. Isaac has been meeting in a congregation of about 43 members including Americans working at the U.S. Embassy. The former management officer of the Embassy, Adam Lamoraux, was the Church leader in Dhaka at the time Elder Hawlader joined the Church. He baptized him.

On his fourth day in the MTC, Elder Hawlader gave this interview and said that, “The MTC is really good for me. It is a blessing to me". He had already learned five sentences in Tagalog and his pronunciation was excellent. He spoke those sentences with joy and enthusiasm.

Elder Hawlader learned English in college before coming on his mission. At fifteen he was given the opportunity to participate in a work-study arrangement for his schooling. He had spent eleven years previously in an orphanage. His sister was also placed in the same orphanage but they were unaware of each other for many years. They had such a joyful reunion when they became re-aquainted.

Isaac’s parents had to place them in orphanage care because his father had been injured in an accident and his mother had mental problems before and after his birth which made it impossible for her to care for her children. All the years that he spent away from them, he longed to know about them and to see them. A friend kept encouraging Isaac to read in the Bible, but to him, Heavenly Father did not exist. “There was no God in the whole world.” Finally, one night, he was feeling so sad that he decided to read a single verse, but only one verse, and when he opened the Bible it fell open to Matthew 6:6: “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father, which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.”

Isaac received an answer that night in a dream that God lives and knew him personally. He awoke his friend in the wee hours of the morning to tell him of his experience. Later,when he heard from his Mormon relative he decided in his heart that, “God spoke to me in the Bible. If He says the same thing in the Book of Mormon I will know that God also speaks in that book and I will join the Church.” He opened the Book of Mormon to 3 Nephi 13:6 and found the same scripture as in Matthew about praying in your closet and the Lord being there. Elder Isaac Hawlader became a baptized member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

One of the blessings he received was that he found his parents and although he realized he needed to be in school instead of home, he rejoices in his association with them. College was “so tough” and he had to study very hard but then he made the decision to go on his mission, thus, continuing on with more education.

He recalled that Adam Lamoraux told him that he just needed to decide one way or another to go on a mission and the rest would be taken care of. That counsel came true. With many personal sacrifices, great faith, and a few miracles, Elder Hawlader made it through customs and was able to leave Bangladesh for his mission.

One of the other Philippine missionaries going to the Cauayan mission reported that Elder Hawlader is learning Tagalog more quickly than he can believe. There is no doubt that this young man has been chosen and called up by the Lord from his people in Bangladesh to represent Him in the Philippines. He joins with the other dedicated young missionaries whose greatest desire is to serve the Lord and share their witness of Him…that He lives and knows and loves each one of His children.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

AMERICAN MEMORIAL 2012


Wreath Placed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at American Memorial Cemetery

(pics l-r) 1. Lieutenant General Frederick M. Padilla (U.S. Marines) with Boy Scouts 2. Young Boy and Girl Place Wreath to Commemorate Fallen Soldiers 3. E/S Bird with Vice President of the Philippines, Jejomar Binay 4. Members of Area Presidency Pose with British Ambassador to the Philippines and His Son

Bugler Plays Taps at Conclusion of Memorial Services
For the second time on our mission, we attended this Memorial Day service...only this time, the Church contributed a wreath and members of our Area Presidency were present.  Like last year, it was a wonderful patriotic service.  Below is the article written by Randy, that was published in the Mormonnewsroom.ph website.

On Sunday, 27 May 2012 at 8:00 a.m. in the Manila American Military Cemetery and Memorial in Taguig City, Metro Manila, Philippines, a Memorial Day service was held to honor those fallen in World War II and on the battlefields of Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Vice President Jejomar Binay,  Congressman Isidro S. Rodriguez Jr., Lieutenant General Jessie Dellosa, chief staff of the Philippine armed forces, and Ambassadors from Canada, South Africa, and The United Kingdom were in attendance. President Michael John U. Teh and President Ian S. Ardern of the Area Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and their wives were among those assembled to pay tribute to those who gave their lives to protect our freedom and liberty.
Members of the Boy Scouts of America, the United States Embassy and the Makati 4th Branch of the Church had placed a Filipino and an American flag on each of the 17,000 graves the morning before. The entire cemetery was reminiscent of the United States National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia or the World War II Memorial Cemetery in Normandy, France.
A row of beautiful wreaths flanked the side of a white tent where the ceremonies took place. The Church had presented one of the wreaths this year and was recognized for its gift. The security and quiet solemnity of the cemetery provided a moving backdrop to the program which included opening remarks and Memorial messages, and music provided by the Philippine Army Band. At the conclusion of the service, Taps was played at two positions in the Memorial preceded by a 21-gun salute. 
The cemetery site, 152 acres of gently rising ground which culminates at the memorial, contains the largest number of graves of our military dead of World War II. Soldiers from all of the then 48 States of the Union as well as the District of Columbia, Philippines, Panama, Guam, Puerto Rico, Australia, Canada, China, England, Mexico, Costa Rica, Honduras, Finland, Jamaica, Burma and Peru are buried at the site.
Both the service and the cemetery itself were reminders of the price of freedom paid by those willing to serve their country in time of war. As Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said at a Philippine Area Office devotional the previous Tuesday morning, “There will always be enmity, hatred, contention and dissention in the world because that is the adversary’s work, but the Lord will prevail. Where there was war in Korea and the Philippines, there are now wards, stakes and temples  (dioceses and cathedrals)."




ELDER RUSSELL M. NELSON VISITS THE VICE PRESIDENT

President Michael John U. Teh, Area President and Elder Russell M. Nelson, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles at the Coconut Palace, Home of Vice President Jejomar Binay

Emman Rama and His Wife, President Michael John U. Teh, V.P. Jejomar Binay, and Elder Russell M. Nelson With Gift of the Christus That Was Presented by The Church to V.P. Binay

Elder Russell M. Nelson Visits With Vice President Jejomar Binay
Below is the article written about Elder Nelson's visit with Vice President Binay.  Haidi (director of Public Affairs in the Philippines) set this meeting up and also accompanied Elder Nelson to the visit. We prepared the gift of the Christus for him! I kept thinking,"does V.P. Binay have any idea how privileged he is today???" It was a great day!

Leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (commonly known as Mormons) met with Vice President Jejomar Binay to renew and discuss their commitment to support the Philippines in its areas of mutual concern, particularly, family values and humanitarian initiatives. 
Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Elder Michael John U. Teh, Philippines Area President, paid a courtesy call to the Vice President at the heels of the Church’s successful celebration of its 50 years in the Philippines, and most recently, its observance of the National Day of Service held April 28 in which Church members provided 150,000 hours of volunteer service throughout the country.
In the Philippines, the Church was established in 1961, and counts to date more than half a million members. In their conversation, Binay expressed interest knowing about the origin of the term “Mormons” and spoke of appreciation of the Philippines Manila Temple.  He also expressed familiarity with missionaries walking in the streets in pairs wearing name tags under the heat of the sun.  In line with Binay’s housing initiatives for the marginalized sectors,  Elder Teh informed him of the construction of temporary shelters in Cagayan de Oro in partnership with Catholic Relief Services.  Elder Nelson further reinforced the Church’s desire to help the Filipinos and expressed to Binay the Church’s willingness to partner with his office for any worthwhile projects that will benefit the people. 
Elder Nelson, who prior to his becoming an Apostle, was an internationally renowned surgeon and medical researcher, said: “We were pleased to meet with the Vice President of the Philippines.  He is an ardent advocate of strong families and of helpful service to others. As Church leaders, we also support and uphold the Filipino family as a basic unit of this society.  We often participate with people of other faith groups in addressing humanitarian and other needs throughout the world.  We do this because we try to pattern our lives after the teachings of Jesus Christ.  We strive to follow his example."

Monday, June 11, 2012

ELDER RUSSELL M. NELSON AND BISHOP DEAN DAVIES VISIT PHILIPPINES


1. Elder Russell M. Nelson, Member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles 2. Elder Russell M. Nelson Greets Sister Bird 3. Elder Nelson and Area Presidency (Pres. Teh, Elder Nielsen, and Elder Ardern) Greet People After Morning Devotional

E/S Bird with Bishop Dean and Darla Davies of the Presiding Bishopric...Visited the Philippines the Same Week as Elder Nelson

Sister Bird Greets Elder Russell M. Nelson

Elder Bird Greets Elder Russell M. Nelson and Pres. Michael John U. Teh 

Elders Muhlestein and Dariagan (Malaya Branch Missionaries) Greet Elder Nelson and Elder Nielsen of the Area Presidency

Elder Russell M. Nelson Greets Missionaries and Members on His Way to the Manila Temple

Friday, June 8, 2012

PHILIPPINE MISSIONARY TRAINING CENTER DEDICATION


President George Taylor Speaks at MTC Dedication as Area Presidency and Elder Russell M. Nelson Look On

Teachers at MTC Sing Intermediate Hymn

New Missionaries Sing Hymn at the Beginning of the Dedication

Elder Russell M. Nelson Addresses Attendees Prior to Dedicating the MTC
  
What a privilege to be here for the dedication of the new Philippines Missionary Training Center. It was held on May 20, 2012 in the Joseph Smith Conference Room, and was scheduled to begin at 6:00 p.m., however, many were already in their seats at 4:30! Randy and I were in charge of seating the first three rows of guests, many of which were not members of the Church, and then directing the other guests (Stake Presidents, Mission Presidents, Manila Temple Presidency, and Area Seventy along with spouses) to just fill in wherever they wanted to sit.  We loved it! We had met many of the Stake and Mission Presidents while traveling to Jubilee Exhibits, and we had such a great time visiting with them again.  Also, some of the others remembered Randy, from back in the 90's, when he came to the Philippines to do CES training...they had been the teachers! It was so fun for us.
But the very best was when Elder Russell M. Nelson, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, walked into the foyer with the Area Presidency...I had never met him...he was the kindest, friendliest, most gracious man ever!  He walked over to Randy and me and said (looking at our name tags), "How are my little Birdies"? We had a brief visit and then he moved into the chapel area for the dedication. As he sat on the stand, and the meeting began, the entire "batch" of new missionaries that had just arrived from many Asian countries (they all arrived the day before!) filed into the isles and filled the foyer and sang "Called to Serve" acapella. Oh, it was just so touching...all of the different faces and heights and degrees of skin color trying to pronounce those words in English. ALL hearts were touched.  The MTC President spoke and read many verses from Isaiah talking about the latter days and an ensign being raised to the nations and the restoration...it was excellent. He was followed by each of the Area Presidency....they spoke of their own missions and of learning to know their Savior and the power of the Atonement...each bore powerful testimonies of the reality of the Father and of Jesus Christ and how they know They live.  Then Elder Ardern gave a very brief introduction to Elder Nelson (for those guests not of our faith...among many other accomplishments,  he was a world renown heart surgeon prior to his call as an apostle) then Elder Nelson spoke to the group for only a short time...testifying of Jesus Christ...and then he smiled and said,"Well, I am not here to give a long speech, but I am here to give a long prayer, so we will start", and he asked all to bow their heads and he gave the most beautiful dedicatory prayer.  The blessings he pronounced upon this country and how he prayed for their leaders was just very touching, and he also prayed for every nation sending missionaries to this MTC. Then it ended with all of the congregation singing Battle Hymn of the Republic.  All were invited to come up one side of the conference room and meet Elder Nelson and the other leaders and then file down and out the other side.
There are so many stories I could tell about the guests experiences...really amazing, but I will share one about a guest invited by our Public Affairs Department.  He is in his early 50's, Catholic, and was hired by the Public Affairs Department to help develop relationships with the media in Metro-Manila. It is very difficult to get any media coverage here if you do not pay big bucks and have an "in" with certain people.  This man is a very successful media relations consultant who has been hired by many huge corporations to help them solve various problems...he is also a very good and honest person, and was highly recommended to Haidi. In his 20's he had decided to go into the "ministry" with the Catholic church, but after a year, he felt it just wasn't for him and changed to a different course of study, but decided he would never marry.  We have been meeting with him every week for a couple of months now.  Since we are now one of his "clients", he has done much study on his own to understand who the Church is (he had never even heard of the Church before this), what our stand is on many topics, and what things would be of particular interest to the media, etc.  He is a well respected man here in the Philippines. So, he wanted very much to be in this meeting for the MTC dedication....it would be one more help for him to understand the Church. Well, what happened was the most unexpected for him!  Right after the meeting ended, he came over to where Randy and I were standing and stood by us and just looked at the brethren on the stand.  We asked him how he liked the meeting.  He seriously could not find words to speak....I started to worry that something bad had happened...then he said, " I have been in many meetings in my life, but never in one like this....I have never, ever felt this way before...I don't know what it is...I can't even find words to explain it..." so then Randy said, "Perhaps it is the Holy Ghost"... He looked at Randy thoughtfully and said, "Perhaps it is."  Then Haidi came over and said they should go and meet Elder Nelson and he went with her. I watched him as his turn came and Elder Nelson was so kind and stood there visiting with him for a minute or two. I saw him visiting with President Teh for a while afterwards as they had refreshments.  

After the dedication, we also had the opportunity to take a group on a tour of the MTC...it was mostly those guests that had been seated in the first three rows and some Mission Presidents/wives that had not been here during the MTC Open House. All were such outstanding people among this group. Randy is such a good tour director, and made it so fun and relaxing for everyone.  One man asked how he might get a copy of the Book of Mormon....by then we had become such friends with him, that I was tempted to say "Hmm, we have no idea"...but I controlled my "silliness" and instead asked, "Would you like it in Tagalog or English?" What a great time to be in the Philippines!

Monday, May 28, 2012

INTERNATIONAL DAY OF THE FAMILY


Banner Commemorating International Day of Families
"Ensuring Work--Family Balance"
Pictures (l-r)  1. NCFF Delegates 2. Elder Benson Misalucha Delivers Keynote 3. Little Girl Plays with Family Enrichment Book 4. NCFF Leaders with Haidi Fajardo, Our Director


The National Committee on the Filipino Family (NCFF), led by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), conducted it's yearly forum in celebration of the International Day of Families on Saturday, May 19, 2012, with the theme, “Ensuring Work-Family Balance”.  Our former PA Director, Leni, served on this committee...and to our great surprise...Haidi learned 2 weeks prior to this event that SHE was the host for it this year! It was the same weekend as the MTC Dedication, and we were already very busy with that, but we did some fast scrambling...looking for a large enough venue, getting a keynote speaker, lunch for 200, drinking water, flowers, a banner, and all of the technical equipment we would need! 


About 200 family advocates, representing the different sub-committees of the NCFF, participated in this forum which was held in the cultural hall of one of the  stake centers...the Marikina City Stake.  The former director of the DSWD, Ms.Lina Laigo, presented the theme. She is a wonderful woman that shares many of our same values.  She mentioned that the word, family, stands for “father and mother, I love you”.and that home is spelled t i m e.  Then she encouraged everyone there to tell parents and children, often, that they love them.

A little history: The International Day of Families is observed annually on the 15th of May as proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in a 1993 resolution. This year’s theme emphasizes that “work-family balance lies at the core of the ability of the family to provide economically and emotionally for its members.”

Elder Benson E. Misalucha, an Area Seventy for the church, gave the keynote  address. He gave a fantastic talk on balancing work and family life. He mentioned three ways to help achieve success in this balancing act: 

      Commit to what matters most

      Dedicate time and attention

      Say “NO” as needed to things of lesser importance

As part of his explanations, Elder Misalucha encouraged those present to play with their families, have daily family prayer, regular scripture reading as a family, and hold weekly family home evenings. He referred to our church's Proclamation on the Family, and the special Philippine edition of the Family Enrichment Manual (a non-denominational Family Home Evening manual produced by BYU), both of which were offered to those in attendance. Every copy was taken.

We have had our attention brought to several parts of the Philippine Constitution, and it truly recognizes the family as the foundation of the nation, and this nation is known for giving importance to strong family ties....hopefully they will be vigilant in protecting the family!

2 Side Notes to this Event:
  • In October 2009, one of the most devastating typhoons hit the Philippines...Typhoon Ondoy. The water level was up to the ceiling tiles in the cultural hall of the Marikina City Stake Center (see above photo)...and when you pull into the parking lot of this building you go up a steep incline from the street...so it gives you an idea of how deep the water was that covered this area of Manila.
  • We ordered 200 boxed lunches...including drinks... from Kentucky Fried Chicken to feed this large group.  All of it had to be delivered on motorcycles by 3 employees.  It was very hot and they worked so hard!  A few people had left before eating, so when the last of the boxes was delivered, we offered a lunch to each of the deliverers.  I was really taken back by how excited and grateful they were that we would give them lunch..they were so happy....I didn't realize how hungry they were.  Haidi said these employees could never afford to eat the food where they work...it is too expensive!  I just love these humble happy Filipinos!  


Friday, May 25, 2012

NATIONAL DAY OF SERVICE


National Day of Service at Quezon City Circle

On Saturday, April 28, Randy and I attended the kick-off event for the National Day of Service here in the Philippines. This is a yearly event sponsored by the Church. It takes lots of planning in each district/stake.  About 3 months prior to the event date, a project was chosen by each group and then had to be registered with the city government.  All details had to be cleared.  Then, depending on the service project, businesses in the area were approached to see if they would like to donate supplies needed. The one we attended involved about 1500 of our youth and their leaders from 6 stakes....and required 50 gallons of paint.  Randy had been asked to address all of the youth at the first of the kick-off...it really did take us back to our EFY days, and so he started with the “Bird Cheer” that we used to teach at all of the EFY sessions we directed. Yes, now the cheer has reached the Philippines! It was a success!  He then made a few short remarks, followed by Kim Antenorcruz, the Multi-stake Public Affairs Director, and then the youth were sent off to their assigned areas to begin their service...to paint the fence that surrounds the Quezon City Circle (an enormous roundabout with an amusement park and other things in the center of it)...plus a general cleanup of the entire area...yes, quite an undertaking! It was so so hot, but they showed up and did a great job. While we waited to get started, we visited with Atty. Ed Bellen, the Deputy Secretary for Legislation in the Philippines, along with Orly Ramas, a professional media consultant hired to work with our office. The four of us decided to follow one of the groups and take photos for a newspaper article.  As we were walking and talking with them, Elder Bird had just taken a photo, and suddenly he fell right into a storm drain, from which the protective steel grate had been removed! The hole was about 3 feet deep and half full of flowing water! It was quite painful and embarrassing for him....I assured him that he went in quite gracefully with both legs, without hitting his head or knocking out any teeth, AND held the very expensive Public Affairs camera up where it remained unharmed!! The three of us pulled him out of the drain...it was really quite alarming, knowing that many serious injuries are not noticed immediately, but he kept saying he was okay and we proceeded to walk to where the youth were painting. As we walked, he could feel lots of pain in the toes and ankle of his left leg. Ed and Orly went right to the guard station to complain about the open drain....the worst part was that the guard said they had noticed the night before that one of the grates had been stolen but had done nothing to cover it for safety purposes!!  We kept thinking of how grateful we were that a little child had not fallen in....they could have been swept away before anyone missed them!  We took more pictures and then knew we had better get back to our apartment to take a look at his foot.  He got by with one broken toe (the rest were sprained, swollen, and turned black and blue),  and a gash in the front of his ankle.  The doctor said it should feel better in about 6 weeks!!!  Nice! The "Day of Service " was a great success, in spite of our accident...over 150,000 hours of service were given throughout the country.....doing such things as:  planting mangroves (helps stop beach erosion), planting mango trees, clean-up projects of all kinds, painting schools and big fences, and all kinds of beautification projects.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

BACOLOD JUBILEE EXHIBIT AND TRAINING


Amie Vargas at Entrance to Jubilee Exhibit

Some of the Volunteers for Jubilee Exhibit in Bacolod

VIP's Attend Exhibit and View Local History

Youth Sings During Opening Ceremony

Bacolod Public Affairs Training Group

On Friday, May 4, we flew to Bacolod, for the final Jubilee Exhibit and Stake Public Affairs training. It was the very best experience yet of flying, while here in the Philippines.  Our director of Public Affairs, Haidi Fajardo, flew with us. The city of Bacolod is on the island of Negros....a one hour flight to the south. This was the first time we have had a flight leave on time!!!  Truly a miracle!  The Bacolod airport was quite nice and modern...the toilets in the CR (restroom) even had SEATS on the them....but still no toilet paper! While I was in there, a MAN was also in the CR cleaning.  I chatted with him while washing my hands....yup, lots of great new experiences. Another great thing about this trip was our hotel room...it had a soaker tub and lots of hot water....that was a first! On Saturday we did stake public affairs training with all seven stakes on this island. The training went so well, and we really loved meeting so many new members that seemed to be very on top of their callings in PA.  Many of them traveled a great distance to be at the training...they were such a fun group! 

This final Church History Jubilee Exhibit was done in grand fashion!  It started on Monday morning with a well prepared cultural program followed by remarks from Evelio Leonardia, Mayor of Bacolod City and Benjamin Candari, Bacolod Stake President. The exhibit ended on Friday night after having 1,066 visitors attend, including many civic and community leaders.

I will now share a few sweet moments we had: 
  1. On the flight to Bacolod, I had an Ensign sitting on my lap, while I was sitting there with my eyes closed.  This lady, sitting to my left, tapped me on the shoulder and pointed to the magazine and asked if she could look at it.  After going through it, we started talking. She was returning from a very large family reunion...cousins from Europe, the U.S., and Australia attended. I pulled out a copy of The Family Proclamation and she read it and loved it. I left that with her and gave her one of our business cards, which has web sites printed on the back to go to if you would like to learn more. It was nice.
  2. A sister named Gerlie gave a spiritual thought at the beginning of our PA training.  She told of how very shy she had always been, never having many friends because she would avoid any kind of social interaction.  After joining the church in her early 20’s, she reluctantly accepted a calling and started to realize that she truly had talents and the Lord blessed her with confidence to develope them and use them to serve others.  Now she can approach political leaders with confidence and she loves it. She was really an amazing woman possessing great social skills!
  3. A sister named Sarah, who teaches business courses at a university there, told us she was baptized last October.  She was Catholic (almost everyone is) and had been really studying other religions and trying them out for a very long time and none ever felt right.  One day someone told  her about the LDS church, she decided to try it out, and for the first time in her life she feels so happy.  She reminded me of Irene Javier (Malaya Branch), because she just wants to tell everyone about her journey. 
  4. On Friday night, Randy, Haidi, and I walked to a convenience store to get bottles of water for the training.  As we left, this beggar boy followed us holding his hand out.  Haidi said not to give him money, but she gave him a brownie she had bought.  I felt so bad. So on Saturday night we went to a sandwich shop and bought some sandwiches, along with a couple of desserts.  I told Randy that I was giving this to the first little beggar children that approached us.  We walked up the same street we had been on the night before, and sure enough, two little skinny girls came walking toward us...holding out their hands...saying “Please, po”  I went over to them and asked if they were hungry...they said, “Yes, po”...I told them they needed to share the food in the bag.  They were all smiles and said thank you and ran down the street holding the bag. I sure hope they got to eat that food or perhaps shared it with a little brother or sister.  
The great thing about the gospel is that it helps people to become self-reliant, and the poor are cared for in the very best way...the Lord’s way. 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

HAIDI F. FAJARDO--NEW AREA DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS FOR THE PHILIPPINES



Haidi F. Fajardo--New Area Director of Philippines Public Affairs


                                                       Gerome and Haidi Fajardo Family


Haidi F. Fajardo embarked on her journey as the new Area Director for Public Affairs on January 9, 2012. She saw this new chapter in her life more as a calling than an employment. Like all public affairs directors, she offers up her time, and talents to the building up of the Lord’s kingdom here in the Philippines. I knew the Lord had to have been preparing someone to fill this position left by the passing away of Leni...and it only took a few days of being around Haidi to know that she had amazing talents and experience. So one day I asked her if she would mind if I looked at her resume....she laughed and said, "no problem, I will send it to your computer." Wow! I will now share some of what I learned about her.

She is from Lapulapu City, Cebu ...yes, where Magellan landed... and her parents were converted to the Church in 1972 when she was two months old. Her childhood is dotted with memories of ballet and piano recitals as well as creative writing and academic achievements. Being taught the gospel early by her parents made her realize the importance of seminary, institute and in seeking the kingdom of God first. When she was 17 years old, her father passed away. This pushed her to be independent early on and she learned to rely most on the Savior for important decisions in her life. Her favorite music has always been the Young Women song “I Walk by Faith.”

Haidi had been working in public affairs in Cebu for well over a decade, and was currently the multi-stake director of Public Affairs. She made huge contributions of her time and expertise to the Cebu Temple Committee and the Cebu Jubilee Celebration, besides her work as a Cebuano hymn-translation reviewer, she was an all-around gospel teacher, and Primary and Young Women leader. None of this surprised me, but I really had no idea of her professional accomplishments.

She is not just a distinguished architect with a thriving architectural and construction business that she runs with her husband… She is also a prolific writer, a university instructor, a school founder and administrator, and an advocate championing worthwhile causes.

As a writer, she was regularly published in an architectural magazine. She taught Visual Techniques, Architectural Design, Theory of Architecture and Architecture History at the University of San Carlos College of Architecture and Fine Arts. She was among the founders and served as the administrator of two schools, one for autistic children and the other aiming to help children with special needs make the transition to mainstream education. Autism is a very personal matter with her, as her 16-year old daughter, Menfreya, has autistic spectrum disorder. She has also been involved in many civic organizations. Whew...and she is only 40 years old!!!


Last but not least, she is the mother to three beautiful children: Menfreya “Pia”, 16 years old; Vaughn Nephi, 11 years old; Dantzel Chloe, 1 year and three months old. The other love of her life is her husband, Gerome R. Fajardo, who previously served as a missionary in the Manila Mission and also served as bishop of the Pajo Ward for 5 years and a counse­lor in the Mandaue Philippines Stake Presidency for 9 years. They were married in the Manila Philippines Temple in January 1995. She goes home to Cebu every other weekend and looks forward to May, when her family will move to Quezon City to join her.


On top of all this, she has the happiest and warmest personality. She is extremely kind and thoughtful of others....and best of all....loves to laugh with all of us. We love her already and are so grateful to serve under her watch.