Sunday, January 22, 2017

Everyday Life as a Mission President and Wife in the Philippines San Pablo Mission

     I wrote this on my iPad about a year ago and I don't think I ever posted it on the blog so I decided to go ahead and add it now. It is a glimpse into what our schedule has been like for 2 1/2 years. The interesting thing is that the Missionary Department just changed our schedule so keep reading and I'll let you know at the end what has changed now.    

     Every three months we hold 3 separate Zone Conferences with three of our zones at each meeting. We love the Zone Conferences and the chance it gives us to visit, interact with, and teach all of our missionaries. Every three months we have zone interviews where we travel to the different zones and President Mangum interviews each missionary. The Assistants, Zone Leaders, or Office Elders do a workshop and I visit with each of the missionaries and share a thought. We love this one on one time with the missionaries but it takes 3 weeks and we are tired by the time the interviews are over. Most of the time we have day trips but during one week we travel to one of our islands and some other farther locations so we are usually gone 5-7 days. We also travel to another island for a couple of nights on another week. Every six weeks we have Transfer Week where we say a bittersweet goodbye to a group of missionaries that we love and welcome a new group of excited and nervous missionaries. Each time it is amazing to feel the love we immediately have for the new missionaries. Every six weeks we also have a meeting to train the missionaries who will be training incoming missionaries. Four to five weeks after the missionaries arrive we have a meeting with them and their companions called the New Missionary Check up. It's always fun to meet with them and see how they're adjusting to missionary life as well as watch their excitement when they see their "batch". On our "off months" we always think we will have time to catch up but the days seem to fill up quickly with extra interviews, visits, specialized zone trainings, and working with the missionaries. Most weeks we are able to attend a Zone Training or District Meeting, and we also have monthly Mission Leadership Council; quarterly District Leader training; and occasional special Sister Training meetings. Along with the scheduled meetings President Mangum is always on call and so often our plans for the day changes with little notice.  
     On Sundays we attend different wards or branches so we can meet people and support the different areas and missionaries (we have 75 units in our mission). Often our weekends include attending and usually speaking at Stake and District Conferences. Our mission has four Districts that Bart presides over as well as six stakes so occasionally we attend Youth Conferences, Young Single Adult Conferences or other meetings.
     One of Bart's biggest responsibilities is the transfers. He spends many hours in thought and prayer as he seeks revelation to know who the trainers, leaders, and companionships should be. Bart also presides over the four Districts and so he also does some prospective missionary interviews, sometimes sets apart the missionary, and also does temple recommend interviews. Fortunately, he has two wonderful counselors that help him with these responsibilities. He has served with one since we arrived and the 2nd counselor has changed three times. The first time he was reassigned and moved to Manila. Bart went for a while with only one counselor and then called one of our senior missionaries to serve. After he returned home he called another Filipino who is a former mission president. We actually served with he and his wife our first year before they were released. We love the counselors and their wives (past and present).
     I have the responsibility of supervising the missionaries medical needs. This is not my favorite thing. The September after we arrived some friends from our stake came to serve and she was our mission nurse. Not only was she our mission nurse but she is also a Filipina so she could speak Tagalog and it was wonderful! I knew we were blessed to have her but after she left in March 2016 and I had the responsibility again I really knew how blessed I had been. Somedays it's not bad but other days I am on the phone and/or computer a lot trying to help missionaries with their medical concerns. Fortunately we have wonderful Area Medical Advisors who I bother a lot to help with knowing what to do. The healthcare system in the Philippines is a challenge. Often it is difficult to get a hospital or doctor's office to answer the phone. There is no such thing as a real appointment, just a time for the clinic. You go and wait or sometimes you can get a number ahead of time but you still go and wait. The missionaries are covered by insurance but the process to get their LOA (Letter of Authorization) is often time consuming and challenging. Some of the healthcare facilities leave a lot to be desired. Fortunately we do have certain doctors and hospitals that are good to work with. I also have the responsibility to write an annual history. It wouldn't be bad if I kept up with it but I keep up on it about as well as I do the blog. Enough said.
     Once a year a member of the Philippines Area Presidency and his wife come to the mission and stay for a couple of days. They teach at conferences with all of the missionaries, Mission Leadership Council, have a few interviews, and possibly visit apartments. They are all wonderful teachers and the missionaries love Mission Tour and so do we. They stay with us at the Mission Home and teach and train us both formally and informally. Although I thought it would be intimidating to host a General Authority and his wife, it's been an incredible experience to be taught by them and to get to know these wonderful, faithful, and fun people. They have all made us feel comfortable and we have loved the time with them. 
     Twice a year we have the wonderful opportunity to meet with the 21 Philippines Mission Presidents and Wives for a Mission Presidents Seminar. We have three days of inspiring training from the Area Presidency.  It's a wonderful time of renewal and we love the training as well as being able to visit with the other mission presidents and their wives especially the ones we came with. It's reassuring to know that there are others that understand our challenges as well as share our joys. Although we leave the conferences edified we also leave realizing how much more we need to do to teach our missionaries and strengthen our mission.

     Okay, now for the changes for 2017. The schedule for zone conferences and interviews has been changed to once a transfer cycle or every 6 weeks. This is the way it was until a few years ago. During our service we have often said two things: 1) We are glad we don't have to do zone conferences and zone interviews every 6 weeks. 2) We wish we had more opportunity to teach the missionaries. We now have the chance to teach more often and we are grateful for the opportunity. This change began this month so this coming week we will finish our last two zone conferences and our interviews for the first round. We have gone to each zone and so the conferences have been in smaller groups. We love this way of teaching because it's more personalized and you get more interaction and participation. We have also done the interviews before and after the conferences in most of the areas. In larger zones we have taken a second day as well. President Mangum has always spent 20-30 minutes in interviews but this time he has cut it to 10-15 minutes unless there's a special need. It's a change to have shorter interviews but with seeing the missionaries twice as often it balances out. 
     The change is keeping us busy and focused on strengthening the mission. We are grateful for the opportunity to spend more one on one time with the missionaries. 

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