The hope for a growing Church membership in the Philippines/Micronesia Area rests on the children as their gospel roots grow deeper and deeper, according to Michaelene P. Grassli, Primary general president.
In a recent trip to the Philippines/Micronesia Area, Pres. Grassli and Virginia Pearce, Primary general board member, emphasized to Primary leaders the value of the Primary program and the importance of teaching children in an area where Church growth is at a steady climb.Second generation Filipino members are now beginning to fill positions of leadership and carry on the strength of the gospel in this tropical island country."I could see in some of the young people who were leading and teaching in the Primaries a maturity in the gospel that will serve the Church well in the Philippines."
Pres. Grassli and Sister Pearce were invited by the Philippines/Micronesia Area presidency to visit the area and help Primary leaders understand the importance of teaching children at an early age.
"The area presidency loves the Filipino people and they want to ensure that the gospel will continue beyond this generation by teaching the children," Pres. Grassli remarked.
During their three-week trip, Pres. Grassli and Sister Pearce trained Primary leaders and their priesthood advisers, visited several Primaries and made several home visits.
Members of the area presidency – Elder L. Lionel Kendrick, Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone and Elder Durrel A. Woolsey – and their wives accompanied the Primary leaders in touring the area.
The area presidency conducted the meetings and also helped in training. Eighteen training meetings were held in 21 days. Pres. Grassli and Sister Pearce met with about 3,500 Primary leaders during their visit.
Meetings were held in Manila, Bacolod, Angeles, Davao, Cebu and Dagupan, in the Philippines. A training meeting was also held in Guam. The last five days of the trip were spent in Micronesia where Pres. Grassli and Sister Pearce met and greeted members.
The group visited the islands of Chuuk, Pohnpei, Kosrae and Kwajalein in Micronesia where members greeted them with leis while groups of children sang. Training meetings were then held in Kwajalein and Majuro.
"Our training consisted of active participation by those who attended the workshops," Pres. Grassli remarked. "We used role playing to help teach the Primary workers. We did not want to just talk, but to show them how to do it.
"There were children's choirs in every meeting. As they performed, the children were well behaved and the music was beautiful. The children were usually dressed in white. They looked like angels."
Pres. Grassli and Sister Pearce also attended Primary in Manila, Philippines, and in Majuro in the Marshall Islands.
They were emotionally touched when they attended a sacrament meeting with a family on Marinduque Island, a little island in the Philippines. The Church has only been on Marinduque for a year and members there meet in home branches.
"We rode in a jeepney several miles into the jungle, and then walked about 20 minutes up and down some hills to a beautiful little bamboo and nipa palm hut all alone in a small clearing," Pres. Grassli explained.
The floor of the shelter was the ground that had been swept clean of any debris. A small sacrament table, placed at the opening of the hut, was covered with a beautiful clean, white, pressed cloth.
"In those humble circumstances, they had taken the time to make it so special and sparkling clean.
"There in the jungle with the palm and the banana trees surrounding us and the jungle birds chattering their joy, we partook of the sacrament with deep feelings of reverence for the sacredness of this place and the occasion," Pres. Grassli continued.
"I felt this must have been much the way that our ancient forefathers worshipped in sweet simplicity without the clutter of worldly trappings. I gave grateful thanks in my heart for the privilege of witnessing that sacred little place. We had the sweetest experience."
During the leaders' visit to the area, groups of children – sensing the Primary leaders' love – would follow them as they walked down the streets of small villages.
"Our visit to the Philippines/Micronesia Area helped us to understand the conditions under which members of the Church live and the needs of the children there," Pres. Grassli commented.
"We also learned what is in the hearts of some of the leaders – their desire to live the gospel, teach the gospel better and to devote their lives to making life better for the people around them. It was impressive.
"One of the interesting things we observed was the devotion of the people and their interest in learning. They seemed to take very seriously what we were teaching."