ABOUT Elder SCHLAGER ........
We got pretty tired, and some of the missionaries were not well, and Elder picked it up. He felt crummy on Monday, and Tuesday he was just miserable. So, being a good companion, he drove me in to work and came home to sleep. Boy, was he missed!
I think I have neglected to mention some of the responsibilities that are his, and so I decided to correct that.
All day long, I heard, "Where is Elder Schlager?" "Is Elder Schlager here?"
And my favorite, when I mentioned that he is grumpy when he is sick, and better off at home, "ELDER SCHLAGER????"
So, what is Elder Schlager doing in the mission, besides all the driving?
He is the Referral Manager. We get hundreds of referrals, from Salt Lake, from our missionaries, from members, and from other missions. They are supposed to be acted on in 24 hours. When we came to the office, they were about 1000 behind! He uses Google Earth, tries to locate them, (not easy here, addresses are a myth!) and sends them to the appropriate place. (Again, our missionaries in that area, other missions here, around the world.)
2. All of the "Key Indicators", or missionary statistics, are sent to him every week from the zone leaders. They text them to him,. he enters them and creates reports for the President, the Area Presidency, and the Church. (His phone begins chirping at us on Sunday night about 9:30 pm, and keeps it up until about noon on Monday!)
He is the Mission Clerk. That happened as a result of the need for clerk training in all the wards and branches. In order to give him access to the different MLS systems, he needed a log in. President said, "Let's just make you the Mission Clerk." He and Elder Johnson are now working together to offer training throughout the mission. Sister Johnson and I are really hoping that will result in some "splits" so we can go shopping! Many of the clerks are brand new members, or 18 years old waiting for mission calls!
He does all the mail. This is VERY important to our missionaries. He sends and picks up all the pouch mail at the PAO. He receives all the delivered mail and sorts it and either delivers it or hands it to them, or sends it with other couples. We go to the Post Office about every 6 days, to mail outgoing letters, etc, and pick up packages. They cost p50 unless they are held in customs and taxed. Not sure why that happens, but when it does it is an expensive mess for the young missionaries. This is the woman at the post office, figuring out how much to charge us. We then take the cost of mailing off of the Elder/Sisters support card.
She looks pretty normal, right? But you should SEE the post office. I promise you, NO government employee in our country would work under such conditions.
In addition to their mail, Elder also receives the supplies orders from the zone leaders, packs them up, and delivers them to them at MLC, leaves them for pickup in the office, or sends them out to distant areas with the Johnsons. WE take the ones to Taytay and Binangonan.
He is the mission procurement officer. (Order Clerk?) Not really sure if this one has a title, but it is a lot of work. We receive many orders of materials, and they are often incomplete, and we run out of things we need, like pamphlets and books and such. Also, there seems to be a lot of confusion on how the orders are done. (OH, THIS LANGUAGE THING!!)
He is helping President with Missionary Applications. In the two districts, where there is no Stake President, President Revillo is the Ecclesiastical Leader, and has to submit applications. Often, the ability to upload the attachments is not there, so it all comes to the office, Elder does that part, President sends them in, and they come back to us with what is still missing! (We ARE working on that, and may have it perfect next time.) Today, we ran around the district, found four applicants, their parents, and the Branch President, and got signatures that were missing. We don't have a bit of fun, over here, you know. How would you like to go meet 4 young people today, all excited, ready to go and serve?? And all from One Branch!
Our Branch has 8 out right now. Apparently, the naughtier the Primary the better the missionary percentage!
ONE thing we have learned in this job. WE were the worst Missionary Parents! When we see how much the missionaries look for, love, and need packages from home, we realize that we did not send nearly enough to ours. Please forgive us, our darling children. WE DO love you!
SO, because Elder was ill, Whittakers brought me home on Tuesday night, but she had to make a stop first. She has had several pair of shoes made for her here, and this is her shoemaker, in his shop. He takes a pair she likes, or a picture!, measures her feet, and goes to town. They are not cheap, but they are less than a REALLY good pair at home, and made to order. The leather is just wonderful. We don't need shoes, but maybe before we come home; when will we ever get another chance??
Another top reason to go on a Senior Mission: They need you so much!
This is Elder Ardern, or President Ardern, anyway, he is our Area President. We had to run into the PAO this week to take care of several things, and in looking for one of the Sisters there, we went into the Area Office. While we waited, Elder Ardern came by, sat down, and chatted with us for about 20 minutes. He and his wife are New Zealanders, and I love listening to him talk. He asked us two questions about our mission:
1. What has been your greatest joy in your mission? Well, that changes from day to day. At that moment we felt like it has been working with the young missionaries and watching who they are. Noble and Great is the Lord's definition. We second it .
2. What has been your greatest disappointment? We simply could not answer that one. Frustration? easy! the traffic. our weaknesses. the language barriers.
But we could not relate to disappointment. It was only later that it occurred to me that perhaps we have had no disappointment because we did not set high enough goals for our mission. I hope we were not a disappointment to him!
He told us that one thing he is doing now, is working with the Mission Presidents and trying to get them to "reduce their expectations." They want all the senior couples they can get, but at least 6 (what we have, but tell no one!) He tells them to be really glad if they get any!
Because our life is so normal here in the city, we forget sometimes how much different it is for most of the members we know and work with. As we drove, through traffic, to the office one morning, I took a number of pictures of the houses near there, from the highway. Note that the ones with concrete block walls are the GOOD houses--they stand in the storms, mostly.
As we go around the corner, we are at the bottom of the hill these homes stand on. There are always lots of people there, dressed for work, and getting into vans, jeeps, and trikes to travel. It is just an amazing thing to me, that they come out of that! See the clothes hanging here and there to dry? If you double click on the pictures, you should get them larger, and easier to see. Look for the little narrow paths between the houses, muddy and wet and trash filled. There is always a pile of garbage at the bottom of the street, and people pick through it for things they can sell, before the street cleaners come by. These are people in work clothes with a t-shirt that identifies them, a broom, and a dustpan. Honest! Who would take THAT job at home?
Apparently, In the church, Pioneer Day is Pioneer Day- even in the Philippines. The ward where the office is, held an Open House, with movies and a skit. The movies were in Tagalog--about the Pioneers. They asked the missionaries serving there to be the pioneers. Aren't you impressed with the set?
Here are Elders Crisanto and Hall, the APs, and Sisters Sanders and Acostan, the STLs. Here is a funny thing: They chose just about the only blond in the mission to be Emma Smith. Sister Oyler. Don't have a pic of her-she hid from me!
Today was our Branch Conference in Binangonan. The choirs were impressive--really. Here is the youth choir. They opened and closed the meeting. Then, we all went to the cultural hall for photographs before the went on to classes.
There is a lot of honor bestowed on those who have any kind of authority here, especially in the church. (We have none!) But honor by association is important. Before the Barlows came, he had been serving as a Stake President for quite a long time. They told him, "Go on a mission. Stake Presidents are a dime a dozen, but a good missionary is priceless". Well, over here, any kind of president is very common. I frequently find myself writing letters like:
I am writing in behalf of President _________________________, in regard to your recent discussions with him and President_________________________, President____________________, and President _______________________.
Have you considered working with President __________________________of the ___________ Stake on this issue?
That is NOT a joke! I work with 7 Stake Presidents, 2 District Presidents, 10 Branch Presidents. and all the attending Elders' Quorum, RS, Primary, and YW/YM Presidents. Also with the Area Presidency and the Mission Presidency. Those are just the ones I might actually have a conversation or a correspondence with. Sadly, when released, they sometimes feel that they have been "fired", or disrespected. They have a way to go to understand that is an honor, too!