After the initial settling in and getting acclimatized to the environment, heat, and humidity, we began to roll up our sleeves….let me state that a little differently, since we don’t wear long sleeve shirts here…. we began to dig in and do the work.
What is the work?
There Shall Be a Record – the Work
I’ve had a modest exposure to the world of historical document collecting and preservation. With the exception that years ago I visited the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC and also went to Philadelphia. In these cities, I had a chance to see the Declaration of Independence and letters from George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, and other document from our founding fathers. This provided me a bit of context of what it was like back then and to have a better understanding of some of the issues and problems people living then faced.
Similarly, I’ve had the chance to see historical documents the Church has preserved related to its own history. This had the same impact on me as it did when I was able to see early American historical documents.
For example, when I saw the original handwritten pages that Oliver Cowdrey penned as the words fell from Joseph Smith’s lips as he translated from the golden plates. These handwritten pages, some of which we have today, were used by the printer to typeset and publish the Book of Mormon. Seeing the aged paper that the 521 pages of the Book of Mormon came from nearly 200 year ago is made possible because these documents have been preserved by the Church History Department.
Our charge for the next couple of years is to help collect, compile, and preserve the history of the Church in the Philippines. In starting our work here, I’ve been impressed with the care taken by the Church seek out, collect, and preserve its history – at all levels – wards, stakes, missions through the world today. All of this began with a mandate given by the Lord in 1830 to the Prophet Joseph Smith in Doctrine & Covenant 21:1
“Behold, there shall be a record kept among you….”
During a document gathering trip to city of Tacloban on the island of Leyte which is a little over an hour’s plane ride from Manila. On this trip, oral histories, pictures, and documents were gathered from the early saints who are still alive and live in this area.
The items collected will provide insight of the history of the Church on the island of Leyete. We’re in the process of scanning the collected items and tagging them so future historians will be able to find and use these items. After these documents have been scanned and tagged, they are entered into cataloguing a database to be reviewed by archivists in the Church History Department in Salt Lake City and stored in digital archives to be preserved for future generations.
Also, we are working with over 200 missions, stakes, and districts in the Philippines gathering the annual history reports compiled by these church units who submit their annual history each year.
After receiving a hard copy of these histories, we boxed these histories up and forwarded them to Salt Lake City where they will be reviewed, catalogued, and stored. Some of these histories are submitted to us digitally. We review these digital files and then they are uploaded into the database. These digital files follow a similar process as the hard copies that are sent to Salt Lake City.
Next year these histories will all be submitted via a new website that is being released in a few months which will greatly enhance the ease and ability for missions, stakes, and districts around the world, including here in the Philippines, to compile their annual histories more easily and reduce the work and effort it takes to process the volumes of data that is collected worldwide each year. We will assist in managing this website in the Philippines for the next two years. I image that we will be doing a lot of training of missions, stakes, and districts in the next year on how to use the website. Of course, this is after we figure out how to use it ourselves. Marcia is so eager to learn yet another computer program.
The first Sunday in the Philippines we attended church in the first chapel built in the Philippines over sixty years ago. Today, this building has two wards meeting in it. The Makati ward that we attended is an all-English-speaking ward where most of the members attending are families of Ex-Pats, including US embassy staff, American corporate employees working in the Philippines, visitors, and some of the senior service missionaries.
We wanted to experience local wards so we have been attending church at different local chapels over the last month. A few weeks ago, we attended church at the second chapel built in the Philippines and met one of the first bishops who served decades ago in this ward. This is a Tagalog speaking ward.
Since the church has had been in the Philippines for over sixty years, most of the members of the Church understand English. However, in a Tagalog ward, the services and lessons are in Tagalog. However, often the speakers and teachers alternate between English and Tagalog. Interestingly, most scripture reading is done in English.
Attending church where you don’t understand the language is interesting. Although, one thing that does come through is the sweetness and spirit of the people. Many local members come from humble circumstances yet are so committed to their beliefs that it’s humbling for us.
A week ago, the Tagalog ward we attended, on Mother’s Day (they recognize this day here too) was celebrated. The primary children were to be a large part of the Sacrament meeting. The best way to describe the meeting is that it was semi-organized chaos as the kids did their little parts all expressing their love and devotion to their mothers in short talks and song – some in English and some in Tagalog. It was so very sweet.
However, to everyone’s surprise, the planned hour-long Sacrament meeting ended with thirty-five minutes remaining in the meeting. No one blinked an eye when the meeting ended early. The remainder of the meeting gave the young bishop time to address his congregation. One phrase probably sums up the culture here – laid back.
Amazing Sister Missionaries and a Bishop
The couple in the picture below is a senior missionary couple we are getting to know well. The Filipino man (on the right) is the bishop of the ward. He was initially unable to accept the calling of bishop because serving as a bishop takes a lot of time and this would preclude him from working overtime to earn extra pay to be able to support this family.
To solve this dilemma of not being able work overtime to be able to support his family and accept the call to serve as the bishop in the ward, he decided to voluntarily move in with his in-laws to eliminate their rent expense. The in-laws house is just barely large enough for his parents, now there is a family with three kids living in the house.
Since their family is not paying rent currently, after moving in with their in-laws, their expenses are low enough that he could stop working overtime and to be able to accept the call to serve as the bishop of the ward. When you see this level of dedication and faith, it makes some of the problems we have seem relatively insignificant.
The young missionaries in this picture above are two Filipino sister missionaries. Both are from Mindanao, which is the southern group of the three islands that make up the Philippines. One of the major religions in the Philippines is Islam. Mindanao has a population of 24M of which are 24% Muslims. However, over 93% of Muslims that live in the Philippines live in Mindanao.
The young sister missionary (the one on the right) is from a family where she is the youngest of seven. A month after she left to serve her mission, her mother passed away of cancer. She never missed a beat because it was her mother’s desire for her youngest daughter to serve the Lord on a mission. The other sister (on the left) is from a family of eleven. Both are converts to the Church.
Our first night out, a week ago, was to attend a performance of Vocal Point from BYU. The group was founded in 1991 and is at nine-man group that performs contemporary music in an a cappella format.
It was interesting to see the reaction of the young Filipino girls….this was like going to a concert for a boy band, which I guess Vocal Point technically is. I was surprised by the crowds reaction with some young Filipino girls in the audience having names of the members of the group on signs the were waving as the band sang.
After the performance, while signing signatures, these young men were mobbed….reminiscent of a rock concert with young people today including the fact that the performance was sold out. The group is on an Asian tour and the Philippines was their first stop where they will perform nine concerts in five cities in the Philippines before leaving the county.
Things We Are Learning
Basketball is a thing in the Philippines.
Somehow, this never occurred to me.
When we arrive at our apartment in the evenings, there is a large, covered basketball arena with basketball games going on with announcers calling the game. I haven’t figured out if these are pickup games or an organized league but they play most evening.
During our first few weeks in the Philippines, we were asked to help with an activity night for the young missionaries at the Mission Training Center. I was blown away at how good some of these Filipino missionaries were…some of them were wearing NBA jerseys with the names of NBA stars on their jersey. You could tell that they had watched Steph Curry, LeBron James, and other NBA teams because of the way they shot the basketball from the outside and drove to the basket mimicking the style of their favorite NBA players.
Volleyball is also big. I would have thought soccer would be bigger than it is but it isn’t as popular here as in other parts of the world. Now I know one of the reasons Aaron Bliss, (a 6’10”) high school super star from our ward in California that is now serving his mission in the Philippines, is so popular over here. I know this because we happened to bump into his Mission President and he said everyone knows Elder Bliss.
Hot water is not the norm here. The hotel we stayed in our first night in the Philippines didn’t have hot (or warm) water in the showers. Our apartment has warm water for the showers that is provided by an in-shower insta-hot water heater. We have only cold water for dishes or to wash clothes. We use cold water from the tap and pour it into a small 1.5-liter sized hot water heating device that brings the water to near boiling in less than 30 seconds. We use this to wash dishes. Our clothes are always washed with cold water which many people say this is the best way to do wash anyway.
The Power Grid
This is a scene where Marcia is gazing into the heavens after attending the Manila Temple a few weeks ago. She is standing next to our pickup truck we drive.
One final thing.
I have to hand it to my wife. She’s a real trooper. The other night we went for a stroll in the area where we live. After a while she asked me what I thought about the temperature and humidity. I said I thought it was nice out – very pleasant. As sweat was running down her forehead, she just glared at me.
You know you have hit the jackpot when you have a wife who comes with her husband when she knows it’s likely going to be hard for her. That’s my Marcia.