The My Plan Conference Transitions from Version 1.0 to Version 2.0
In the past, I’ve shared various things about the My Plan Conference including that in my opinion it’s a phenomenal concept that will have lifelong benefits for the Filipino missionaries that attend.
To review, the My Plan program is a three-day immersive experience where Filipino missionaries that have completed their term of service go to a central facility, currently held at the Church owned and managed For the Strength of Youth campus in Tanay, Rizal, Philippines which is a 500-attendee university like campus compete with dorms, classrooms, assembly hall, and cafeteria. This facility was built for the youth in the Philippines (ages 14-18) as a place that will host week-long youth conferences as well as other local community event in the area as well as events such as the My Plan ‘Conferences.
While attending one of the My Plan Conferences a few weeks ago, the returning missionaries that attended were instructed in how to decide on a career, create a resume, learn how to interview for a job or school, how to start a business, how to apply for and get financial aid for their schooling (including scholarships, grants, loans), goal setting, dating, and staying on the covenant path leading to the temple.
The classes are taught by employers, entrepreneurs, educators, Area Seventies, and others with specific skills and expertise in the areas listed above. After personally attending many of these classes, I feel that it would be nice for every young person in the Church around the world to have the opportunity that theses young Filipino missionaries have.
I’ve sat and talked to many of these missionaries as they prepare to leave the My Plan Conference and asked them their thoughts. The universal sentiment is that prior to the My Plan Conference they sort of had an idea of what their future held for them but after the My Plan Conference they have a written, specific, and detailed plan and set of goals to follow. The great thing is that just before they leave campus each missionary calls their stake president and sets an appointment to be released from their missionary experience and then they are instructed to ask their stake president who their local mentor will be. This mentor is someone who lives in their area and will help them follow their post-mission goals and plans.
The My Plan Conference is a pilot program and is being done in this specific format in the Philippines. While attending this last My Plan Conference where I staffed the Church History Center, I learned that Version 2.0 of the My Plan Conference is on the horizon. The feedback from the My Plan Conference Version 1.0 sessions that have have been held over the last year has determined that the pre-mission release My Plan Conference may be premature in its timing.
Starting in December 2023, a new format will be tested. This format will be a post-mission (1-2 months after returning home) My Plan Conference. The new My Plan Conference will likely be in two different test formats. One is where all returned missionaries will travel back to the Strength of Youth campus in Tanay. The other format that will be tested is a regional My Plan Conference format held in three regional areas in the Philippines.
There is another innovation to the My Plan Conference strategy. Filipino missionaries that served in other countries outside of the Philippines when they return home to the Philippines after their mission will be invited to attend the new post-mission My Plan Conference format. Currently, they don’t have an opportunity to attend the pre-mission release format. I think this is a fabulous addition to the program. The post-mission format will help returned missionaries with the realities and the problems that are being experienced vs. the theory of problems that are likely to be experience.
This will bring a new level of ability to address new and emerging problems returned missionaries are having including but not limited to adjustment issues, inability to get a job, school issues, financial and family issues, and most of all, any direct and unexpected temptations these missionaries face after returning home. All of this is aimed at ensuring that these missionaries make good decisions for their future happiness.
Some pictures of the last My Plan Conference at For the Strength of Youth Campus.
Filipino Missionaries visiting the Church History Center during the My Plan Conference at the FSY Campus
This is the November 2023 My Plan Class
Video of Overview of this My Plan Conference
For a complete video overview of the campus, the missionaries who attended, and their excitement of being a part of the My Plan Conference – November 2023 – click on the following link: https://youtu.be/_6y0tU4cswU
Two Missionaries from the same ward serving and returning at the same time
These two missionaries above are life long friends. The one on the left was a member that introduced the gospel to his best friend. After his friend joined the Church, his parents were not at all happy about their son’s decision and forbade him to see his friend or to have anything to do with the Church. Often opposition fuels desire and in this case, these two left best friends left for their missions on the same day to two different missions in the Philippines. They are returning home together.
In sitting and talking to them, they have totally different goals. The Elder on the left is headed to college and his friend on the right is enrolling in a trade school with the goal of getting experience working for someone else and then starting his own business. With the skills they learned on their mission and the focus of their My Plan training, they are very focused not only on the short and intermediate term goals but on life goals which include a temple marriage, a family, and a life of service to the Lord. There is little doubt in my mind that they will achieve most if not more of what they envision for their lives. All of this will be facilitated by a local My Plan Mentor.
Former Mission Leaders Meet with Their Returning Missionaries
In the picture below, a previous blog post profiled President and Sister Ardon, mission leaders in the Davao Mindanao Mission. The Ardon’s finished their mission service in July 2023. These missionaries are some of the missionaries that served in the Davao Mindanao Mission and are now returning home. President and Sister Ardon made a special effort to travel to the My Plan Conference to spend an evening with their missionaries. As those that have served a mission know, the bond between mission leaders and their missionaries is special and endures a lifetime.
The Motley Crew – the Senior Couples that Managed My Plan Conference Event. The couples from left to right are the Linford’s (serving in the Quezon City North Mission office-this is their 4th mission), Tidwell’s (serving as Welfare & Self Reliance) , Marvin L. Storm, and the Meyer’s (Member & Leader Support).
I was there to help out with the My Plan Conference and to staff the Church History Center on the FSY Campus. As you can tell, this group has a lot of fun for the time we are at the conference. We are up shortly after 5 am and hit the sack late and then do it all over again the next day while at the FSY Campus and at the conference. When the missionaries board their bus back into the real world and we wave good-bye, the feeling that you made a big difference in their lives is palpable. It also blesses our lives to know that these young people are the future of the Church in the Philippines. When we interview mission leaders, stake presidents, etc., each of these people have all served missions in their youth.
A New Friend
We have been attending a Tagalog Ward for a number of months. There are good things and some challenges in doing attending a Tagalog ward. One, both Marcia and I love the spirit in a Tagalog ward. The people are about as friendly as any place I’ve ever been in my life – they shower you with love. In some wards, we have attended in the past it takes a while before you feel at home. Not in a Tagalog ward. Just about everyone comes up and welcomes you, shakes your hand, and greets you with a smile. This is the great part.
On the other hand, since we aren’t native language speakers, most of the church services are in Tagalog. As I believe I’ve mentioned before, scripture or conference talks, songs, sacrament prayers and the initial greeting at the beginning in Sacrament meetings are in English so you can get a feel for the flow of what is going on but after that…everything is in Tagalog. Young missionaries learn the language so this is not an issue. The other challenge is even if you did learn the language and travel around the country, depending where you are the local language may be speaking in one of the following languages:
In addition, there are seven other languages spoken and well over a hundred dialects of these languages:
English is one of the two national languages. In metro areas, most people understand English but don’t often speak it. In the provinces, you can generally find someone that is older that can understand and speak English but the younger generation not so much. One of the real benefits for the returning missionaries is that nearly all of them learn to speak one or two languages on their mission and most all speak very good English which will bless their lives in the future. A fluent English speaker will generally earn 3x what a non-English speaker will earn.
After a number of months and personal prompting, we decided to attended the International Ward in Makati (a business center city) which is an English speaking ward. We walked in and since we didn’t know people began introducing ourselves. The Makati 4th ward is similar to a US ward and certainly not as friendly (still friendly but not like a Filipino ward we were attending).
One of the young ladies we introduced ourselves to turned out to be from South Africa. This was her first Sunday in this chapel. Also, Marcia noticed a man dress in typical Filipino dress (not typical LDS Sunday dress) and introduced herself. It turned out he is not a member of our Church and had brought his son to the chapel, which is the stake center, for his son to be set apart as a missionary to South Africa.
As it turned out, Noma Dlova, the young lady we met is attending dental student in the Philippines from South Africa, she hadn’t been in Church for several years and was prompted to go online and Google the location of the nearest chapel. It just happened that we were there for her first time back in a long time. Coincidence? uhmmm?
A picture of someone from South Africa, someone that served in South Africa, and someone going to South Africa…all in the same place at the same time. Very cool!!
What I continue to learn about the Philippines….
Because there has been so much controversy in recent elections in the US and while no democratic system is perfect how the Philippines managed their elections has some things that I find interesting an innovative. Two of these items are the day of voting and how the youth participate.
On Oct 30, 2023, Monday, the Philippines held their barangay and SK elections. A barangay is the smallest government unit, and in this election, Filipinos will be voting for their local executive (the barangay captain) and local councilors.
This is a national election day, so it’s a holiday. Making the day you vote a national holiday says something about the importance of how voting is perceived. In addition to voting for their local government, Filipino teenagers registered to vote will also be voting for their local representatives in the Sanggunian Kabataan (SK) or youth council elections.
From my point of view, this is a good thing because a big portion of the Philippine population is comprised of young people with 52% of Filipinos under the age of 24 years old – 52% is a big number. In the US, the percentage is 19%. Think about what this means for the future of the Philippines and the young people of our faith. There will be a lot of opportunities at nearly every level for motivated, well-educated, and focused young people….and in my opinion, the youth in the Church check more of these boxes than other groups.
To encourage Filipino youth to engage in politics, a local youth council was established in 1975 (called Kabataang Barangay) to give young people a say in local government. The youth elect a Sanggunian Kabataan (SK) representative, which is equivalent to that of barangay adult leaders. These representatives are paid and have the same duties and responsibilities as the local legislature. The only difference is that they will also become members of the National Youth Commission, where the representatives vote for a president to address youth issues on a nationwide scale.
To be eligible to run as a youth representative, you must be a registered SK voter between the ages of 18 to 24. Given their age, it’s expected that these youth representatives would be college-age students. So, if someone wants to go into politics as a career, running as an SK representative would be their first step.
Who votes for the SK representative? In the Philippines, you can register to vote for the SK elections when you turn 15 – think about that – 15 years of age and you’re voting in a national election. Then when young people turn 18 years old, they will be eligible to vote in the regular and SK elections.
How Elections are Held in the Philippines
This is an election poster for the Bagumbagum Barangay
which is in the area near where we live.
Youth running for their youth barangay post in the Bagumbagum Barangay
The Dark Side of Filipino Politics
In 1985, President Aquino of the Philippines was assassinated. In the Philippines, if you run for political office, you have a reasonably good chance of being killed in office. In 2022, there were thirteen political related killings (meaning that a mayor or other local governmental official) – about one a month. In 2023, through July there were six government officials killed. In talking to the local Filipinos, they shrug this off as a part of life here in the Philippines. i get the impression if you don’t your opponent, you off them. I’m sure this is an exaggeration, but killings happen quite frequently and it seems mostly in the provinces
Quote from the recent My Plan Conference: Who you are today is because of the decisions you make yesterday. Who you will become depends on the decisions you make today.
Scripture – Philippians 4:13: I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.