I hate transfers! It hurts too much to see people leave.
The speaker, a new convert who feeds and loves the missionaries almost every day, had a point. As we stood in the terminal saying good-byes and watching the missionaries get on the bus to go to their new areas, it was heart-rending. It is never easy to say good-by, even if only for a while.
Newly called missionaries spend six weeks in the mission training center, and then are sent to the area where they will be serving. When they come, they are assigned an experienced companion who will be their “trainer.” Therefore, other companionships must be changed as the trainers go with their new companions.
With the pain of saying good-by, there is the joy of meeting new enthusiastic missionaries who are excited to devote all their time and talents to serving the Lord. This transfer, there were only two missionaries who went home. Last transfer, there were four and the transfer before, there were nine. That means that a year and a half to two years ago, there were very few missionaries coming to the Philippines Cebu mission. Now there is a virtual flood of new missionaries. The Lord is planning miracles for the Philippines.
Elder Hall, can you come and go the airport with us to get the new missionaries on Wednesday? We have thirty-three new missionaries coming, and their LUGGAGE.
Sure. What time to you need us to be here?
The plane is scheduled to come in at 8:30, so could you be here by 7:30?
Do you want to come the night before and spend the night here?
No, we will come in the morning.
We started at five o’clock Wednesday morning. The road from Toledo to Cebu City winds 60 kilometers up, down, around, and over the steep mountains and deep ravines of the island of Cebu. The island of Cebu is only about 15 miles across as the crow flies, but the tortuous path the road must take requires at least an hour and a half of white-knuckle driving.
We had not been to the airport since the day we arrived, so we followed Elder Ernstrom, an office senior missionary, who promised to drive “safely and somewhat sanely.” We followed all the signs to the arrival area, only to be told that the plane was late, and we should wait in a parking area until 8:40. We waited, then drove back around to the unloading area between two large buildings. Eventually a few missionaries trickled out of the building. They had come from the Mission Training Center in Manila.
Did you see the missionaries from the United States?
Another missionary spoke up.
We were there at 2:00 AM. We didn’t see anyone from the Provo MTC.
We waited. The mission presidents from the Cebu and from the Cebu East missions walked to the corner of one of the building to confer with some officials.
The plane hasn’t arrived in Manila yet. No one knows why.
We stood by the vehicles and waited. No vehicle is to be left unattended. After two and a half hours, thirty-three missionaries for the Cebu mission and seventeen for the Cebu East mission streamed out of the building. All were greeted with smiles and hugs.
Wow! What a trip!
I am loving this heat!
Has anyone seen my bag?
Sister, how do you ever get used to this heat?
Elder, you can take your suit jacket off now. You won’t need it here.
It was crazy! Our plane was an hour late leaving LA, and then we stopped in Hawaii for an hour. Nobody knows why. We missed our plane connection in Manila, and had to run to catch the last plane out of there for today. I think we’ve lost some of our luggage.
Sister Schmutz carefully checked off each name on her list.
I have nightmares about someone running back for something at the last minute and getting left behind.
We drove back to the mission home, where the planned breakfast became “brunch.” As the missionaries began their orientation meetings, our phone began ringing. The zone leaders needed us to help bring the transferring missionaries from outlying areas to Toledo and Balamban, where they could take a bus to their new areas in the morning. We said our goodbyes and prepared to leave.
Take good care of the missionaries from Tacloban. They had some really tough times there. But their biggest fear has been that they would be sent home early and not be able to finish their missions. They are glad to be working with us here.
We are so glad to have them. Thanks, President. We appreciate all that you do.
Lamac is about 40 minutes from Pinamunggajan over extremely rough, narrow, sometimes-graveled, pot-holed mountain roads. The elders from Lamac usually travel to Pinamunggajan to e mail their families on the Wednesday preparation days, and to come to the Monday District Meetings. They travel by hubal-hubal, the two of them on the back of a motorcycle. Lamac can also be accessed from Toledo by driving 30 minutes east to Lutopan over crowded, but paved, roads and then another 30 minutes on a sometimes-paved and sometimes not-paved road that is not quite as rough as the one from Pinamunggajan.
Pinanungaggjan is about 30 minutes south of Toledo along the coast road. Aloguinsan is another 30 minutes past Pinamunggajan.
Casoy is about 45 minutes north-east of Toledo into the mountains. Balamban is about a half hour north of Toledo. Missionaries from all of these areas were to be moved during this transfer, and new missionaries moved in. There is no such thing as a quick easy drive in the Philippines.
When we got back from Cebu (“the city”), we went to Lamac through Lutopan. We got there at 4 PM, but the missionaries weren’t expecting us until 5, so we waited. The missionaries can’t carry all their luggage by hubal-hubal. When they were ready, we took the rough road to Pinamunggajan. We waited there for the missionaries to come from Aloguinsan. The missionaries who were not transferring stayed in Pinamunggajan, and we took the others to Toledo. It was close to 9:00 PM and the missionaries from Lutopan still needed to be brought to Toledo. Those missionaries who were to be trainers for new incoming missionaries needed to be in Cebu by 8 AM. They would leave from Balamban in order to be there on time.
Elder Hall, I have a Philippine drivers’ license. Could we take your pick-up and get the other missionaries?
Elder Hall gladly handed the keys to the Zone Leaders. It would take another three hours of driving to finish the day’s work.
We will come and get the truck in the morning.
But you don’t have a way to get here.
We can take a tricycle.
We expected that Thursday would be another long day as we took the missionaries to their new areas. It also took most of Friday. But we did get back to Toledo in time to make some visits to investigators with the sister missionaries.
Thank you for letting us go with you tonight. This has been the highlight of our week.
Thank you for going with us. I really wanted to go with you one more time before I leave.
We shook the sweet sister missionary’s hand and gave her hugs. There really isn’t an easy way to say good-bye.
On Saturday morning we planned to pick up beds for the new missionaries and deliver them. It took most of the day. At four o’clock, when we thought we were ready to go home, we received a call asking us to take a missionary and his companion to Cebu. He was one who had experienced the horrors and devastation of the typhoon in Tacloban, and needed to meet with President Schmutz. We drove back to Toledo, then through Lutopan to Lamac, then back to Toledo and to Cebu City. President Schmutz was in a meeting so we left the missionaries with the Assistants to the President (AP’s).
Do you want to go to McDonalds?
We never liked McDonald’s hamburgers at home. But somehow when we can get them here, they taste good. We took a card from the guard at the gate to the parking lot, and went inside to order and eat. The AP’s met us as we got out of the truck.
Elder and Sister Hall! It is so good to see you again!
They reached inside the back door to pull out scriptures and bags that the missionaries had left in the truck.
Elder Hall, it was an inspired decision you made to come here. We didn’t know how we were going to get the things for the elders.
We hadn’t really considered McDonald’s an inspired place before.
We spent Sunday in church, trying to stay awake, and contemplating the miracles of God. In one week, He added fifty new missionaries to the Cebu Mission. In one week, the missionary force was increased by over 25%.
We will go to Balamban in the morning to get two suitcases for a sister newly transferred to our area from Tacloban. Her bags were found by some members in Tacloban as they sifted through the rubble; another small miracle as God tells a young sister that He loves her.
We didn’t celebrate a traditional Thanksgiving Day this week, but we have much to be thankful for.