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!