Dear Elders and Sisters,
Sister Schmutz and I have so much enjoyed the opportunity these last three weeks to visit every zone and share in the spirit that you all have. I have been happy to take some time with each of you for interviews. In these interviews I have the opportunity to discern your spirit, share the experiences you are having, observe your growth and development and offer some counsel. It is also an opportunity for me to become better acquainted with each of you and express my love and gratitude for your efforts in this great cause. It is a tiring three weeks but something we love to do.
I thought it might be of benefit to you if I could offer some of my thoughts and feelings about the mission after the close of the interviews. There is a not a single district in the mission where the missionaries are disobedient. There are very very few missionaries that struggle anymore with the rules or the morning schedule. Almost every missionary in the Cebu Mission is focused on his or her purpose, and has moved beyond obedience in their effort to please the Lord. I have found that most of you are focusing on how to become more sanctified by the Holy Spirit, and how to become closer to Jesus Christ. I have found that you are striving to learn more of faith and put faith into action in your lives as a principle of power. This was not always the case. It hasn't been too very long ago when I felt that I was constantly battling with the consequences of missionary disobedience, and the negative influence that the disobedience of some missionaries had on areas, districts and zones. I feel that the spirit of forgiveness and cleansing has washed over our mission, and we are more qualified as a mission to gather in the sheaves and tend to the Lord's vineyard. We are becoming closer to finding out how the 2,060 stripling warriors were able to reach a level of obedience so that every single one obeyed with exactness.
I urge you with all my heart to continue improving and seeking to purify your service to the Lord. Encourage one another, support and encourage your companion. Use your "idle time" to talk about the Savior, his atonement, his restored church, his doctrine and your purpose as the Lord's missionaries. The effect of using your idle time in this manner is powerful. It is like telling the Lord you are willing to put yourselves in his hands, to submit to all that he is willing to give you as experiences and lessons for your good. It is part of the process of passing through the refiner's fire.
I have also felt that all of you missionaries truly love one another and you try to support and serve your companions, your district mates and zone mates. You cannot fully appreciate how much this gladdens my heart as your Mission President. I feel like the spirit of love for one another is the best thing about our mission. This spirit has mostly reduced or eliminated contention in the mission and allowed the Spirit of the Lord to be present throughout our districts and zones.
I am grateful for the leaders in the mission, those who serve us as APs, zone leaders, as district leaders, as trainers, and senior companions. And to all of you, your are preparing to become leaders. In the Lord's church leadership is service. Thanks for your faithful preparations. We need you.
Thanks for what you have done to make this mission the best mission in the world.
We have come to another transfer week. How fast time flies!!! We are saying goodbye to 12 powerful faithful missionaries who have completed this special time in their lives, and we are saying hello to 17 new missionaries. We are receiving 4 missionaries from the Provo MTC and 13 from the Manila MTC. So 17 of you will be training. By Friday, most of you will be transferring to join a new companionship or receiving a new companion. At present, we have 71 companionships. All but 11 companionships will be affected by this transfer. It will be a big transfer day.
I thought it might be instructive and enlightening if I tell you about the transfer process. Usually a week before transfer day, when we know the number of missionaries leaving and the number of missionaries arriving, I begin to prayerfully prepare myself to seek the Spirit as a guide in the transfers. I first look at the board in the Mission Home and take all the missionaries off the board who are going home. I look at the zone leaders and see if it is time for any of the zone leaders to return to the field for more important service, such as training a new missionary or providing experience and faithful mentoring somewhere they are needed in the field. Every other transfer, I release one of the APs to send them back to the field. This is not a "step down"; it is a wonderful opportunity for an elder who has contributed to the leadership in the mission to serve fellow missionaries in a more personal ministry. When I know how many zone leader positions need to be filled, I prayerfully review all the elders to see who has the experience and who has become ready through obedience and diligence to lead. From those missionaries, I fill the ZL spots. Next, I seek to know from the Spirit which elders and sisters are ready to train, which will be needed by those new missionaries. As you know, I truly feel that trainers are the most important positions because we are raising a righteous generation of missionaries.
After I have selected the trainers, I go over every single missionary in my mind, seeking guidance from the spirit. I make changes based on many factors, but most importantly it is the Spirit that guides. Many times, I am surprised by the feelings that I have to moves a sister or elder and make new companionships. Quite often, I feel the spirit guiding a transfer to move an elder from a position of being a trainer or district leader to becoming a junior companion, because I know that is needed for the area and to prepare for the next transfers in that area. If I felt the Spirit whisper that an AP, a zone leader, a district leader, or a senior elder or sister would be more effective as a junior companion to show support and provide "shadow leadership" to a younger missionary, I would not hesitate to make that transfer. So don't jump to conclusions about any missionary that might move from being a senior companion or leader to being a junior companion or having no leadership. We do what we are called to do in this church, and we do it joyfully and faithfully. In this transfer cycle, there are several missionaries who will become junior companions to missionaries who are about to conclude their mission in order to prepare for the next transfer and bless the area. Please do not assume that a missionary has done something wrong if he is transferred from being a district leader or a zone leader to a junior or senior companion without leadership. I want you to know that I do not think that way. I simply seek with all my heart to follow the Spirit.
When I have completed this first review of the transfer board, I ask the Assistants to meet with me and review every proposed transfer. Of course, we are prayerful together and the APs are humble and seeking the spirit. For any of you who may doubt or wonder, THERE IS NEVER A SINGLE TIME THAT THE ASSISTANTS SUGGEST A TRANSFER TO SEND ONE OF THEIR FRIENDS TO AN AREA BECAUSE OF A REQUEST FROM THE FIELD. This never happens in this mission. Together we take between two and four hours to prayerfully discuss and review all of the transfers I have proposed to see if there is something more the Lord would reveal. In this effort, I sometimes learn more and feel the spirit of refinement to the proposals. When this happens, we make a few modifications. Then, in order to finalize the transfer, we kneel and prayerfully seek a confirmation from the Lord that the proposed transfers are correct. I bear my witness to you that the Lord guides the transfers. There are no random transfers.
I have learned that in almost all transfer cycles, there are a number of missionaries that wonder why they have been assigned to a certain area or given to a certain companion. Many times, the adjustment to a new companion can have challenges or difficulties and you may miss your old area. You will all be blessed immensely if you can come to a have a testimony that the Lord guides the transfers. Be patient to find the purposes the Lord has designed. Many times, the Lord will give you to a companion in order to bless your companion. That transfer might be more for your companion's benefit than for your benefit. But even in these transfers where your companion NEEDS you, if you are faithful and humble and loving, you will find that there are many lessons designed for you to learn. Please try to learn that God is in charge of your lives. If you will accept every transfer, every area, and every experience in this mission as a custom designed experience intended to bless your lives, and if you will examine each such experience to see what the Lord wishes you to learn from it, you will be richly blessed and will grow and develop so much more rapidly.
A couple of other things you might wish to know about transfers: (1) If you have ever wondered how I select APs, I can tell you the most important thing I look for is humility and obedience. I don't seek to find the elder who is the most polished or funny or likeable. Each time, there are a number of elders who are qualified to serve as an AP but not all can serve so the timing of an elder's mission becomes a factor. (2) There are times when very good elders are never given an opportunity to serve as zone leaders, but you should know that I have prayed much about this and learned by the Spirit that elders are often more valuable to the Lord and the mission when they are serving in other ways in the field. Often, some of our best teachers and missionaries are needed more to serve as district leaders or to stay in the field than to serve in zone leader callings.
You are all sons and daughters of God, who are chosen to serve in the Philippines Cebu Mission. Your calling was given by the spirit of prophecy and revelation by an apostle of the Lord. You were sent here at this time to serve under my direction, and so that Sister Schmutz and I could become a part of your lives. We have found joy in the love the Lord has given us for each of you. We love you as our sons and daughters and we feel blessed because of it.
Make us proud, elders and sisters. We love each and every one of you!
We will be blessed in May with the visits of two general authorities. On May 23, 2012, Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles will visit our mission. He will hold a missionary conference in the Temple Complex chapel from 4:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. I have arranged to allow every missionary from all areas to attend. Please be sitting reverently in your seats no later than 3:45 p.m. We will have prelude music. Use this time to read your scriptures, ponder on sacred things and extend your heart in prayer as your prepare to learn by the Spirit from Elder Nelson's teachings. This is your preparation day and we are asking that you sacrifice your preparation day to attend. There will not be another preparation day during that week. Please prepare for Elder Nelson's visit by fasting for spiritual preparation on Fast Sunday, May 6, 2012.
Starting Tuesday, May 1, 2012, Elder Brent Nielson of the First Quorum of Seventy, and a member of the Phils. Area Presidency, will visit to conduct a mission tour. He will preside over zone conferences throughout the mission: Cebu North zones on Tuesday, Bohol zones on Wednesday, Negros Oriental zones on Thursday, and Cebu South zones on Friday.