Saturday, June 19, 2010

6/20 – MEETING THE PROPHET – A week ago the Prophet was here to dedicate the temple. It was so exciting. We had President Eyring, Elder Oakes, Elder Walker (The Seventy over Temples), Bishop Burton (the Church Presiding Bishop), Elder Dunford from the Temple Dept and several others the Area70 Authority and the Area 70 Presidency (Presidents Edwards. Teh, Ko). We had to move from ouR apartments so that they could occupy them from Wednesday through Monday (Elder & Sister Walker stayed in our apartment). We moved downstairs to the Patron Housing which is a Motel size room with three sets of Bunks. They had never been used so we were there first occupants. In addition to moving all of our earthly belongings we were charged with preparing food for the entourage while they were here. One of the Missionary Couples Sister was in charge of this and it was a grand affair and the Temple Missionary Couples were assigned to assist in the preparation & feeding of the SLC group including the Prophet and Pres and Sis Eyring.

Brother Dunford and Pres Edwards were the only individuals occupying the Third Floor on Wed and Thurs. On Friday we noticed a feverish pitch in the activity as 10 cars/vans pulled up in front of the Patron Housing and were washed sparkling clean. We were in preparing the food for that evening for the Prophet and company so we were in the Kitchen looking out on the parking lot as they washed them. About 3:00PM they pulled out of the parking lot with Police escort and headed to the Airport. The Airport is approximately 20 minutes away. The group from SLC was scheduled to arrive about 4:45 and you don’t want to be late for their arrival. They pulled out on the Airport Runway (just like in the movies) the 10 cars with a police car in front and 2 motorcycle police behind.
We could hear the sirens wailing away as they approached the Temple Compound around 5:15 and the driveway entrance was lined with members hoping to see Him as He went by. The motorcade slowly entered the gated compound and to every ones great pleasure the Prophet was there waving to everyone. No one was allowed close to the Mission Presidents house where he was staying, here in the Temple Compound, but we could see people getting out and milling around and talking for awhile from out vantage point at Patron Housing just 300' away. Pres and Sister Eyring walked over to the Temple Presidents home where they stayed with someone carrying their luggage. Then the cars left, the police left and the other GAs came down the hill to the Patron Housing but we didn’t see the Prophet. Elder Oakes and the Brethren with their wives all came down the stairs where we were standing and we got to shake their hands as they entered to occupy our apartments on the third floor but we didn’t see the prophet. We found out later he has two security guards that are “taller” than he is. When Pres. Monson got out they did also and the Prophet shook every ones hands at the Mission Home (the Temple Presidency, the Mission Presidency, etc.) the guards stood behind him and we couldn’t see him because they were were taller than he was, and then he went into the Mission Home. We were a little disappointed at not seeing the Prophet but we did get to shake the hands and see very close up Elder Oakes, Bishop Burton, Elder Walker, the Area Presidency, etc.
We could live with this for now because each of the Temple Missionary Couples was assigned to take the meals up the hill to either the Prophet or Pres Eyring so we excitedly waited our turns.

That evening’s meals were carried up the hill and the Prophets group arrived back first, we were all excited to hear the report so we huddled around them only to hear that the Prophet was so tired that he went straight to bed. What a Disappointment. The next couple came back and they got to meet Pres Eyring and he visited with them for a couple of minutes, his wife was napping, as they set the table and put the food out and then they left. They were very excited because he was very engaging and cordial.

This went on throughout the weekend each couple taking turns and returning with their tales of their meeting wwith a Prophet or his Counselor. Shauna was asked to go with another couple to help carry food up to the prophet, for Saturday Breakfast, because there were three people staying there, three trays of food. There is the Prophet and his two body guards, so it took three each time to take meal to him. When they got there the Prophet was sitting in an easy chair and spoke with them as they set the table and the food out. She was so excited to at least get to see the Prophet. The next day was our turn to go up the hill and we were to serve President Eyring and his wife. They were very cordial and gracious and engaging.
We did not get to see the Cultural event Saturday night because it was our assignment to fix and serve the meals to the group so we had to stay behind. The event was in the Cebu Arena, an enclosed structure with thousands attending and a cast of thousands. The “feels Like” temperature was 124 degrees outside and no A/C inside. I’m sure the Podium area had extra A/C but it was reported that people were falling like leaves from a tree from heat exhaustion, stretchers everywhere outside with people recovering from the intense heat inside. So maybe it was just as well we didn’t get to go, sour grapes. It was reported to have been a wonderful event though.

Sunday after the dedication I was assigned to be at the Recommend desk and was visiting with Mike Asher another Temple Missionary sitting there with me, when a huge hand slapped me on the back. I turned around to be face to face with the Prophet, he shook both of our hands and asked a couple of questions and then walked out to meet a very large group of people waiting outside to see him. He was very personable, he is not just a tall man but his hands are huge, he is very broad in the shoulder and his head and face are large as well. It was so exciting to be so close and be personally addressed by the Prophet, what a thrill, I will never forget. It was a total surprise for both Mike and I.

THE TEMPLE OPENING – This week has been grueling. We woke up Monday and were getting ready when we looked out the window around 6:00 AM to see people gathering to be at the temple. Monday was training day for the locally called ordinance workers and volunteers. In the morning we did training and then in the PM we had 3 sessions so the locally called members to practice what they had learned. It was great, even though we started at 7:00AM and went to 7:00 PM. Tuesday on the other hand was another story, it was a regular day at the Temple and the crowed started at 5:00 AM. At 6:00 the whole front of the temple entrance, the stairs and drive was crowded with people wanting to be in the first session, starting at 8:00 AM. I went early since I was ready to try to organize the attendees before the Temple Presidency arrived with the key to the temple. We were all amazed at the numbers of people. We had a session every two hours ending with the 6:00 PM session. We only have seating for 50 and like the buses and jeepnys we had 65 in each session, bringing in extra chairs. We were so exhausted that we came home and fell into bed. The next day wasn’t much better but this time I was out there with pen and paper and had people sign in as they arrived outside so we could avoid the mass confusion in the temple entrance as people crowded into to attend. The Temple Presidency limited the attendance for those just attending a session to 25 and then with the marriages, sealing and own endowments each session was filled, usually beyond the 50 designed for. Wednesday the crowds were abating and by Saturday we were down to about 25 per session. Our last session was at 4:00 PM. The Ashers and us came home and changed and went out to TGI Fridays for dinner and to do some shopping around 6:30. We hadn’t been shopping for 10 days, haven’t really had a full day off in over 16 days and only one day fully off since ariving on 5/16, working 14 hour days, so we felt we needed to unwind and just relax a little. We got back to our apartments at about 9:30 having partied hearty and shopped until we dropped, as you can tell it didn’t take long.

Today, Sunday, the President-being as dead tired as we are, didn’t assign anyone to visit out of the area for church but we are assigned to attend the 1:30 ward meetings on the Temple Site, which we were so thankful for. We also actually have Monday off as well, which will be spent doing some intense shopping to build up our food supply. Since we haven’t had time to shop this past week coupled with having drawn our food supply down for the SLC visitors, we couldn’t leave anything in our fridge our food stocks are way down. We are basically starting at “O” again.

We have had many spiritual experience this week in the temple. The people are so humble and so small. We feel like giants among them. As we go through the sessions and hold their hands, their hands are so small and frail. You wonder how can they do all that they do with these frail hands. But they are so happy, they all have great big smiles and will give you a hug and so excited to have the temple in their midst now. Their clothes are so white and gleaming and their big beautiful smiles it is just amazing, Despite the abject poverty amongst them. Saturday morning we were in charge of the Baptistery and about 30 kids came to do baptisms. One boy asked another where his brother was and he told him that he had got to do baptisms the day before so it was his turn to wear the pants and shoes. The conversation continued as if it was no big deal to them. I was so struck that I could hardly keep my composure. They are not all poor obviously but by our standards even the better off ones are poor. The average worker makes about P250 (P is sign for Paceo) a day for skilled work – that’s about $6 per day. One of the Temple employees pays P3000 a month for the rent of a room and shared bath, no cooking or laundry. That is about $66 a month from $120 per month potential if work is readily available.

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