Monday, October 21, 2013

Earthquake aftermath...

Below are some pictures taken of the recent earthquake damage in Bohol which is located in the Visaya region of the Philippines. These pictures were taken by Benson Misalucha who is the LDS area welfare director. Shortly after the earthquake he was on sight assessing needs for members and non-members alike in the affected area.

LDS Chapel

LDS Chapel serving as an evacuation center

Relief bags ready to be distributed (not sure what organization supplied them)

As it was low tide assembly line to unload relief supplies

Sunday, October 13, 2013

We Need Backup Singers...

I was thinking late the other night, how cool would it be if we had music indicating for us what hat to put on before stepping into the next challenge. I imagine, prior to assessing a missionary, ‘which conversation do I jump into with this one?’ My personal favorite… ‘Buck up buddy of course it’s hard-we were created to do hard things’, yes I know it doesn’t sound very compassionate but really don’t we often think after we’ve had an elopement this is the way to go? Kaya kong gawin lahat ng mga mahihirap na basay… this is on my office wall. Then thank heavens for the spirit that whispers, ‘shut up Marcia, this is MY son/daughter and listen for 3 minutes’, then the spirit dictates and the softening of my heart begins. Don’t get me wrong, often it’s appropriate to say buck up, but as always, it’s not our call; we are here to represent our Redeemer. Thus, my theme of this month. Visualize for just a second what it would be like if, when one walked in our offices, the ‘Rocky’ theme would play giving us the obvious indicator, yes!, the ‘buck up’ message is great for this one; build trust, a relationship, add some humor and then give it to them! Or if there is someone in great pain and has been a total annoyance because they don’t know how to speak of their true pain a- soft rendition of ‘Be Still My Soul’ played in the background of them entering the room. I really think this would help! Ponder this for just a moment, what if two minutes before seeing your spouse at the end of the day you had ‘heads up music’ to their mood. Don’t tell me that wouldn't be great.

A sweet thought entered into my heart as I stood in Davao with President and Sister Pangan, listening to his missionaries practicing their song for the following day’s conference with President Ardern. Beautiful harmony filled the chapel as they sang ‘Dear to the Heart of the Shepherd’(Hymn#221). For me, the hymns are scripture. I love them, they offer the backup singers! They put to harmony words I may often brush over were I to read them. . As they performed their number for me the music rang in my ears of ‘make me the true under shepherd’.

Undershepherd is not found in the scripture dictionary or index (my favorite go to resource), so I opted to do a little chasing with the inspiration of the spirit in search of what this meant. The melody dictates not one of fervency and triumph but rather one of humility and submissiveness. Of us, the Lord requests ‘earnestly calling’ and ‘tenderly pleading’ for his dearest lost lambs. We then respond, ‘Yes, blessed Master, we will! Make us thy true undershepherd;…’. This is a role we are asked to take on as members of the church, children of God, and most assuredly as ambassadors and representatives of our Savior. To go to those who have kept their first estate and now are in harm’s way. We must ‘BECOME’ the shepherd working for The Shepherd; His eyes, His hands His heart.

In Luke 15:4-7 we see the asking of who will be the undershepherd. 1 Peter 5:2-4 answers this for us- “Feed the flock which is among you...willing...of ready mind...being ensamples to the flock.” That’s us!
Continuing with the music theme, Hymn #335 illustrates the calling of the undershepherd:

Brightly beams our Father’s mercy
From His lighthouse evermore,
But to us He gives the keeping
Of the lights along the shore.
Let the lower lights be burning
Send a gleam across the wave.
Some poor fainting, struggling seaman
You may rescue, you may save.

A beautiful reminder of our stewardship and calling as undershepherds. The earnestness of our mission can be felt through the pleading lyrics of this song. It is inspiring.

Accompanying scriptures I've found include: Doctrine and Covenants 18:10-16 “Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God…” “Cry repentance to all people…repent”…bring others unto the Savior and how great shall be your joy!”. 1 John 2:10-“He that loveth his brother abideth in the light and there is none occasion of stumbling in him.”

In Julie B. Becks Conference talk, in April 2010, I found multiple notes which to me dictate how to BECOME a better under-shepherd. Personal revelation, daily prayer, scripture study, an undershepherd must nurture as Christ nurtured. An undershepherd will align their will with the Father’s; selfless; they are okay with not doing what THEY want to do. Undershepherds prioritize well and correctly; are capable of a great deal. They want to do a great deal; know that they are limited; and they seek the guidance of the Spirit to know what it is the Lord would have them do: talents, service, and free time activities included. I think, perhaps, sometimes we are good at many, many things but could be greater at fewer things.

In addition, Pres. Henry B. Eyring (GC April 2010 A.M.) spoke of ‘Rescuers’—people placed along the way to aid ’The Under-shepherd ‘. “Well done thou good and faithful servant [undershepherd]…you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things.”
The undershepherd will “cultivate a relationship of listening to the Holy Spirit.” (GC Apr 2010—Schwitzer). Without that spirit I’m lost, 10 out of 10 times I will pick the wrong pep talk for your missionaries.
Proverbs 3: 5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and he shall direct thy paths.” When I wake up in the morning, I make the morning prayer a dedicatory prayer of my day unto the Lord. I do the things that need to be done throughout the day but I must do them unto the Lord because I love the Lord and He has blessed me with a home to dress and clean, food and laundry of plenty, cleaning supplies, indoor plumbing and sanitary conditions, a job, finances to pay off school debt, car debt, and a mortgage- making a regular, daily, routine a celebration of my blessings and a dedication of gratitude unto the Lord. By so doing, each day, we will begin with the blessings of the Spirit in our homes and missions. As we listen we will know what is needed of us, that day, in the Kingdom. We will know what needs to be top in our priorities for the day and how to best execute them. Our stress levels will be better managed be-cause we will be following the Spirit to accomplish necessary tasks. This is how the undershepherd does his/her job.

One last essential component is humility. It is understanding our position and situation with regards to and in relation to Heavenly Father’s. Humble people are not ignorant, nor arrogant. They have a full and complete understanding of their talents and their abilities and they use them to build the Kingdom and do the Lord’s work. They know what they are good at! The difference between the humble and the arrogant is motive and understanding of position. Humble people use the talents, they know they are good at, in ways the Lord prompts them to utilize them. They use their talents to celebrate, honor, and serve the Lord, our God. As I reflect, on second thought, maybe we do have backup singers!

(Taken from our September 2013 Newsletter to Mission Presidents and their wives in the Philippines)

Saturday, September 28, 2013

From our July, 2013 Newsletter

Removing ourselves to the ‘Exceedingly High Mountain’

A very warm welcome to our new Mission Presidents and their families!

While studying scriptures to prepare for the sessions of the day I
was cross referencing and found myself inspired in 1 Nephi 10:1
where it refers to desiring, believing and pondering and being caught
Laoag Sunrise-Northern Luzon Island
into an ‘exceedingly high mountain’. I pondered that as I realized
every word in the scriptures can be literal and symbolic and I reflected
on how I get myself to a state of mind of being in the ‘exceeding high
mountain’. To be elevated to a level of great heights and feel confident
of our ability to remain at that great height led me to ponder and
liken this unto my experiences and how they can assist me in using the
spirit as I prepare for each session, representing the Lord for His missionaries.

Starting with what I know. My father adored me and I thought he
thought I could do anything, (maybe except read). It wasn’t until
about 15 years of age I realized my mother and brothers were just as
important to him as I was (a painful lesson for another time). This
made it so easy to understand a Heavenly Father who adored me and
would send His only son down even if I was the only one the atonement
would save. I had all brothers and they hung the
moon and still do! The three of them taught me ultimate passion for life, submissiveness to the Lord’s
will without complaint or fear, and the way to find joy in the journey. I felt they would do anything to
protect me and I would walk through fire for any one of them. Thus, a loving big brother, who died for
me made complete sense in my mind. A talented and amazing mother and an adoring eternal companion
taught me all of what it felt to be adored and loved. Life was not easy, loss of jobs, family members to
early taken from this world, dad not a member for years, and all working early in our lives-as now I look
back, what a blessing all that opposition proved to be.

Obedience and hard work, then hard play were important concepts in our home. We were taught the 3
levels of obedience and work, though I would say my folks never gave an indication the first level, obedience
out of fear-the telestial level, was ever acceptable. They began at the ‘terrestrial’ level of why we
should obey and work hard, out of a sense of duty and honor for who we were and our name, the ‘Mount’
name, it meant something. No higher compliment could I pay than in my heart and mind to make someone
a Mount Brother…the ‘exceeding high Mount’ if you will.

Then as we matured it was to become obedience out of a deep sense of love. When you feel completely adored and loved you will do anything for those you love, and offense isn’t part of the equation! This is the ‘exceeding high mountain’ to be obedient and work as hard as you can out of a sense of love. My favorite leader in the Book of Mormon is Pahoran! Even when Moroni unrighteously slammed him he took no offense, he felt more love for him which made him look only for the good. This kind of blind love to others faults is my goal!

Now as I take these things I know and liken them unto our here and now. Many of our missionaries have no such orientation. To feel completely loved and adored is often experienced as fear and an ongoing fight to feel Christ-like love while their only memories are filled with abuse, abandonment and hopelessness. As they may never be able to understand my world where those few men make everything ok, I most probably will never comprehend their past horrors. Instead of adoring and seeking out those men of the earth who a loving Father gives us to provide, protect and preside over us allowing us to feel safe and loved, they fear further victimiza-tion. So we are it, we may be the only, or at least the first time, they get to feel totally adored and loved. Whether they are the best or least productive missionary in the field, we are what our Father uses to help them recognize their amazing worth. Sometimes the spirit has whispered when the most challenging missionary speaks to me, you have no idea what a miracle it is they even got their papers in, quit judging and help them feel my love! How do we help them feel the Savior’s love with the few minutes we have with them? Each one is different but I know that as I immerse myself each morning in the scriptures and prepare for each ses-sion, I have the right to call upon the spirit to lead those sessions, and he does! When I first arrived, even with my husband at my side, I too was overwhelmed, and had thoughts of desperately wanting to run back home to my family that loved me. Then I went to a fireside and President Neilson was speaking, I looked at him and felt his love, he knows how to represent the Savior! We spoke after the fireside and that feeling like I was the only one in the world and he would do anything for me filled my heart, he knows the spirit! How my heart jumped for joy as he was announced as our Area President! Then I spent time with my mission presidents, one working through the night and as I stood outside a bathroom door and listened to him with all the love of our Savior help his young missionary remember how to shower, clothe and dress, after a psychotic break. Another President working all through the night and sitting in my office with his arm around a Pacific Islander, whom it took all night for him to help his missionary feel the Savior’s love. Tears rolled from each of our eyes, as the spirit of our Savior sat in my office disguised that day as a mission president. I could go on for pages about the many experiences I’ve had with you mission presidents, but suffice it to say, my brothers are here! I testify to you when your missionaries leave this MTC they have felt that love, working with President Beck and Raul V. your missionaries have been ministered to, not just had the administering of their MTC provided for them. As with President Neilson, I have seen them connect, laugh, eat and teach with tender hearts with all the love of a big brother. These mentioned names and the Mission Presidents of the Philippines are my ‘Mount’ broth-ers, for your work is out of love, you are here representing the Savior and it is you and your beautiful brides that bring to these missionaries the ‘exceeding high mountain’ as our hearts are knit together in love! I pledge to do all I can to be worthy of your great spirits and example! I love you and thank you.

Your little sister,
Marcia French

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

What we do...

What do we do here in the Philippines?

We actually do quite a variety of things since we have been here. Marcia is busy counseling, teaching and searching for country resources to help our missionaries and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints here in the Philippines. She either has the phone next to her ear or is talking with someone in her office. It is a job that is on call 24/7. It is not an easy task for her as she cares for the Lord's missionaries but the blessings have been tremendous.

My job is to support Marcia and am her faithful side-kick. One of the things that I do is put together a newsletter each month. This newsletter is then distributed to all the mission presidents and their wives and other leadership around the country. I am the nuts and bolts guy of the letter as I edit it, put in filler pieces, and pictures. Marcia puts together a monthly note that is addressed to the mission presidents to help them in working with their missionaries. Over the next few weeks I will post those notes on this blog to give people an idea as to what information Marcia is sharing. It is informative and worth sharing. For those of you who aren't dealing with LDS missionaries-substitute college student, teenager, aging parent, or yourself. There is application for you and your needs.

What follows is from November of 2012.



Happy Fall and Thanksgiving! 
Close your eyes and picture the beautiful colors, the crisp cool air, and enjoy these gorgeous Philippine Islands-see the best of both worlds.  I have chosen to take different concepts that are common among missionaries and share some insights on each.  This first month’s focus: homesickness and separation anxiety.  Please let me know if there are specific topics you would like me to address sooner than later.  This is not to give you the information and have you learn and implement, but rather to just give an overall insight on the topics.  I also have a great testimony of humor and feel it is vital to keep a reason to smile in our minds at all times. Thus I am adding a paraprosdokian each month.  As always it is such an honor to serve each of you… Mahal Kits!
Sister Marcia French LSCW, MSW, CPP
Philippine Area Mental Health Adviser

Picture by Sue Anderson

Homesickness often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.  It commonly comes as a surprise to the individual involved.  Usually there is an absence of social supports.  There is frequently a brief window of opportunity to intervene.
Characteristics of individuals prone to homesickness/separation anxiety:
· Low self-directedness
· A highly tentative approach to unfamiliar situations
· Rigidity
· A wishful thinking coping style —dwelling on the wonderful aspects of home
· When homesickness takes them by surprise they may say, “I didn’t come out on the mission for the right reasons,” or “I don’t have a testimony.”
· Normalizing the homesickness—letting the missionary know feeling homesick is pretty normal.
· Help him/her build new social connections.
· Help them see their situation in perspective—typically they can see only two alternatives:
(1) go home; or (2) live in an unendurable situation.
· Help them use distractions- focus attention on current things-their work and relationships in the mission field.
· Sometimes it helps for them to speak with their family on the phone with the family reassuring
      them of their support.  One AMHA uses the phone call once, another may use several calls
      reducing the frequency and phasing them out over time.
· Give the missionary permission to go through the problem rather than going out of it (ie. home).
· Shrink the problem down to size (works for people with disabilities too).  Missionary has 324 new things to adapt to, but has already gotten the list down to 210.  The things he has already faced are familiar now and don’t require getting anxious over again.
· Affirmations are helpful.  Do in first person—“I will go, I will do. . . .”
· Review promise of God to Joshua (Joshua 1:5-9, be not afraid, turn not to the right hand or the left).
· Medication can be helpful at times.
· Tell missionary, “I’m here to help you-you’re going to be fine. I’ll e-mail material to you and then  I’ll call and we’ll go through it together.”  Call two days later.
· Give specific assignments to get the focus off home and the past to the present.  Examples of             assignments are:  (1)  learn the names of the other missionaries in your district; (2)  learn the   names of your local Church leaders (Bishop, Branch President, etc.); (3)  check out local grocery store; (4)  check out location of local barber shop, etc., anything to focus on the present and help the local environment to become more familiar.

Approaches which are not helpful include:
· Telling missionary, “If you don’t like it you can go home,” which gives the missionary the message that all he or she needs to do is wait you out.  The missionary may sometimes view you as an obstacle in the way of getting what he or she wants, i.e.. going home.
· Imply to missionaries that there isn’t anything they can do about homesickness.
· Saying or doing something mean is like “upping the ante” for them if they want to go home.
· Missionaries who are homesick or have separation anxiety are in the same state of mind as someone  addicted to a substance.  All they can think of is getting that substance (in this case going home).
Interventionsometimes doing an “intervention,” like is done with alcoholics or substance abusers, is  useful.  Have multiple people present—the Branch President, the Relief Society President, the zone leaders, the missionary’s companion, the Elder’s Quorum President.  Each of these can describe when they have felt the same way in the past.  Each can discuss how they can help the missionary  feel better.  The Relief Society President can figure out who can invite the missionary to dinner, etc.  The leaders can devise ways to get the missionary involved in the community and focus on other  things than going home.

Catching problems early is best.  Do not hesitate to call me at any time with this or any other issue!