Let me break it down. We have two types of congregations, Branches and Wards. A group of Branches makes a District. A group of Wards makes a Stake. It's like the difference between a high school football team and the NFL. A high school team (District) has the same rules and basic game play as the NFL (Stake). But high schools have smaller fields, bleachers, and crowds. And the players are a bit less experienced; not quite ready for the big leagues.
After years of trying, the Guam District has been "upgraded" to the level of a Stake. One key difference is that a District is run by outside counsel, often from mainland US. In a Stake, the leadership is all locals. There are other blessings that come with the change, such as High Priests and Patriarchs, but I think you get the idea.
To make the transition from District to Stake, we had one of the 12 Apostles, Elder L. Tom Perry come to Guam. Some TV stations felt his visit was worth reporting. The best coverage is here:
Part of Elder Perry's visit included choosing the first Stake President. To help him choose the right person within a short time frame, a pre-screened list was prepared. On this list was all of the current local Branch and District leaders. I was on that list.
When my interview came I was a bit less nervous than I would have expected. Partly because I had already met Elder Perry. The day before, he was having connectivity issues with his iPad and cell phone. I was asked to fix both.
During my interview Friday night, Elder Perry saw on my biographical information sheet that I was serving as clerk. He expressed how valuable that position was. He didn't say in so many words, but he seemed to recommend I continue on as Stake Clerk to ease into the transition. I expected that.
The next morning (Saturday) I got a call just before noon. I was about to put Maia down for a nap and grab lunch with Anna when my phone rang. It was the mission president asking me to go to the mission office immediately. I figured they wanted to extend the call as Clerk to me in person. I wasn't expecting that, but was ok with it. They also asked me to bring Anna and Maia.
When we got there we all sat down together. Elder Perry, Elder Stevenson (of the Seventy) and the new soon-to-be-called Stake President. Elder Perry asked Anna if I was nice to her. She hesitated for a second and then answered in the affirmative. Then I was asked if I would accept my new stake calling. Of course, I accepted the call.
After the short meeting, Anna asked if she could get a picture with Elder Perry. We got two. One where Elder Perry is looking down at Maia. One where Anna is blinking. And on both, Maia is on the verge of crying. She missed her nap - I don't think she was afraid of Elder Perry.
After this we were whisked away to a meeting with Elder Perry. He gave us great advice for starting up a new Stake. After that, we had only a couple hours free. It would take us 45 minutes to an hour round trip to go home and come back, so we stayed at the chapel. I set up for the Stake Conference Adult Session that night. Then we had dinner together as a group. Despite skipping lunch, I strangely had no appetite. Then we attended the night session of conference. I got home after 10pm and was exhausted.
The next morning (Sunday) I again went to the chapel early to set things up. When the time came, Elder Stevenson had asked for a sustaining vote to create the new Barrigada Guam Stake. I had no idea it was put to vote. It was unanimous. Then he asked for the sustaining of Arthur Clark as Stake President. He'd been the previous District President and did a great job. No surprises there. Then it was time to sustain Tom Clark as 1st Counselor. He was also in the last District Presidency and not a surprise. Then they called for the 2nd Counselor...Jared W Bodine. It was like in the movies when someone says something audacious in a courtroom. There was a small flurry of quite whispers. Clearly, I was the dark horse.
So now, Guam begins its journey as the Church's newest Stake. When I spoke on Sunday, I related it to a time I was a Boy Scout in Arizona. We hiked into the Grand Canyon to a place called Havasupai. It was a brutal summer hike down. The first thing I did was get into my swimsuit and relax in the cool Colorado river at the bottom. It wasn't long before I realized that despite my victorious triumph at making camp, I was still at the bottom of the world's largest canyon. The true work of getting out lay ahead of me. We have become a Stake and now we must take our new small stake and develop it into a strength in the community.
I'm grateful for the opportunity we have here in Guam. I'm looking forward to the coming months and am grateful that I get to be here for this historic event. Everyone in Guam will have their role to play and I'm grateful for mine. Basically, I'm just grateful all around.
Here's to the Barrigada Guam Stake, the first of hopefully many in Guam.