Elder Michael J. Teh: ‘Guided each step of the way’ in the Philippines

After he was sustained to the First Quorum of the Seventy during April general conference, Elder Michael J. Teh reflected back on his life’s course and the guidance he has received and said with a smile, “I’d like to believe I’m not an accident.”

Sitting next to his wife, Grace, during a Church News interview in the Church Office Building, he recalled his preparation.

He said that during his service as a young missionary his love for the Lord, and his faith that he could call on Him at any time, were greatly strengthened.

Employed shortly after his mission as a mail clerk in the Philippines Area office, he got to know the members of the area presidency as he delivered mail to them and, as they treated him as a brother, found that they exemplified the Savior's teachings: "... whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant" (Matthew 20:27). That example has stayed with him ever since.

A year-and-a-half later, his employment changed to the area's Member and Statistical Records Division of the Church where he dealt closely with stake presidents and bishops, and learned much of Church government.

Elder Michael J. Teh and his wife, Sister Grace Teh
Elder Michael J. Teh and his wife, Grace, were married after their full-time missions and have been serving the Lord together since. | Shaun Stahle, Church News

Later, he was asked to be the recorder for the Manila Philippines Temple where he was immersed in spiritual depth.

Finally, he was called to be an Area Seventy and second counselor in the Philippines Area presidency.

Looking back, he said, he believes he was being prepared each step of the way for his current calling. He and his wife are ready and committed to move forward in serving the Lord.

Only moments after meeting Elder and Sister Teh, a complete stranger feels like a close friend. Elder Teh is soft spoken and cheerful, filled with optimism. Sister Teh's voice is filled with confidence and kindness. They are young and energetic and share a deep love for each other, their three children and the gospel.

Elder Teh was only 3 years old when his parents were baptized in Davao, Philippines, and he said he sometimes took the Church for granted as he was growing up. He leaned on the testimonies of his parents, friends and bishops until developing his own strong testimony as a full-time missionary back in Davao after his family had moved to Manila.

Sister Teh, on the other hand, was a teenager when her father invited the missionaries to come to their home. He didn't listen to them, but the rest of the family did. Sister Teh said that the first time they accepted the invitation to attend Church, they only had jeans to wear, so her mother took some of their clothes and sewed skirts for the girls. They had trouble finding the meetinghouse and when they finally arrived, Sister Teh said she told her mother that they should just keep walking. She said that her mother always listened to her and usually did what she wanted, and she was surprised when her mother went into the meetinghouse. Later, her mother said she never heard her daughter's suggestion that they keep walking.

"I am grateful for those little things Heavenly Father did just so He could lead us to the Church," Sister Teh said.

When a missionary interviewed her for baptism and asked Sister Teh how she felt about the Church, she recalls answering, "Well, I feel like an empty glass being filled each time I come to Church, each time I read the scriptures." She continued, "I guess that's how I've been feeling ever since."

When Sister Teh's father saw his family attending more and more Church activities, he balked at letting them go, she said, and didn't like other members coming around the house. But, she said, he didn't object to young Michael Teh, who had attended the family's baptism in his ward, and would let him come by to take them to activities. The young man was glad for that, because he had a crush on Grace Weedon, he said.

After her family moved to another ward in Manila, they rarely saw each other. Sister Teh's family eventually moved to Great Britain and she accompanied them. But she said that after a couple of months, she had a dream "where I envisioned Heavenly Father looking at all His creation and saying, 'What are you doing over there? You're not supposed to be there.' So I just came home by myself."

She lived with roommates in a boardinghouse.

Then on the day Elder Teh went to the temple to receive his endowment before his mission, he saw the future Sister Teh there and discovered she was going on a mission as well. Two missions covered the Metro Manila area at the time and she was called to serve in the Philippines Manila Mission, adjacent to the Quezon City mission where she lived. At times, she was serving in a ward literally across the street from her home ward boundary, she said.

When Elder Teh returned home from his mission, he called his future wife and asked her how she was doing. "And that was it," he said. "I never spoke with her again until six months later. That's the amount of time it took me to be brave enough to ask her out."

They were married several months later in the Manila Philippines Temple.

While Elder Teh turned from his pre-mission interest in architecture to full-time employment with the Church, Sister Teh received an opportunity from her former mission president, E. William Jackson, to serve as executive director of the Mabuhay Deseret Foundation which he established to help underprivileged Filipinos receive medical care for conditions such as cleft lip or pallet, club foot or eye problems.

Now back in the Philippines, Elder Teh is continuing his service as a counselor to Philippines Area president, Elder D. Rex Gerratt. They also continue to nurture their three children with great optimism that the Church will continue to grow and strengthen in their homeland.

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