Being thrown into a culture they had little to no prior knowledge of was a challenge for Tylan Glines, Connor Peck, Davis Blount, Jake Mingus and Sumner Mahaffey as they served missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Philippines. But what they learned and how they used that new knowledge has changed their lives forever.
Serving in the Philippines Cebu Mission, the five young men learned to preach the gospel in Bisaya, a dialect of Cebuano. When the Filipino people interacted with the missionaries from America, the locals were astonished that the Americans had taken the time to learn their language, something that they had rarely experienced before.
While Mahaffey and Mingus were companions, they briefly talked about making a short, single video of them speaking Bisaya, since it was such a novelty to the Filipino people.
Later, at a mission conference, they mentioned their idea to Glines and Blount, who were also companions at the time, and Peck. While they all agreed that the idea was a great one, they had about a year of their missions left and pushed the idea to the back burner.
All five missionaries returned home in 2014 and finally brought their idea to life. The first video they ever made was simply each returned missionary introducing himself and expressing his interests and hobbies, all in Bisaya.
Although Blount says their “first video was not groundbreaking in any sense,” the reception of it was astonishing. According to Blount, the video initially garnered hundreds of views, prompting the men to continue making comedic videos.
“It was so successful because they had never had entertainment in their own language,” Mahaffey said. “We were trying to put out good, wholesome, clean entertainment to help them, and once we started doing that, we got these messages saying, ‘Thank you so much for making us proud to be Bisaya people,’ and that is what kept us going. We want to make them as happy as they have made us.”
They decided to call their channel Hey Joe Show. In the Philippines, Americans are nicknamed “Joe,” and wherever the missionaries went, they were always greeted with “Hey Joe!” The name was fitting for five Americans speaking Bisaya.
“We really, really wanted to go back to see the people and really interact with them, not just through videos but person to person. There’s a big difference,” Peck said. “Especially with the kinds of things we wanted to express with the Hey Joe Show, like our love for the country, our love for the people, all those things we really wanted to do in person.”
Glines organized Hey Joe Show’s first tour. Last April, the young men returned to the areas where they had previously served their missions and performed five live shows in five different cities.
“Over the Internet, you can see likes and comments on the page, but it never feels real,” Mingus said. “We didn’t know if we really had fans going back to the Philippines. From their end, it was the same thing. They didn’t really know that we really cared that much about their culture.”
Prior to their first show, the men said, they didn’t know quite what to expect. Their goal was that a couple hundred people would come to their shows, but they only expected about 25 to show up. The goal was exceeded far beyond their expectations when an estimated 5,000 people came to the first show.
“We were just blown away at the response,” Glines said. “It was exciting because we love the people so much and to know that we are now even more permanently tied to the country that we love and served with was so exciting.”
In addition to the five live shows, the moen of the Hey Joe Show spoke in firesides and were able to visit families they had taught and served with on their missions.
“The love is incredible, and I hope we can, by the end of our lives, explain or show the Filipinos how much we love them,” Glines said. “The tour kind of did that, but I still don’t think they will ever know how much we love them.”
With the success of Hey Joe Show, its founders hope to continue making videos and to do another tour next summer. They eventually want to collaborate with charities and schools in the Philippines and perpetually serve the people they love.
“Finding the happy medium between school, our personal lives and Hey Joe (Show) is often a difficult task, but we’ve been validated,” Glines said.
As far as personal goals go, the returned missionaries, who all currently attend Brigham Young University, have hopes for graduate school, marriage, families of their own, and promising careers.
“There are few things that I love more than the Philippines and the Filipinos,” Blount said. “I feel like I speak for all of us when I say there is nothing better. For as long as we possibly can, we are going to do Hey Joe Show things. For as long as I can have a voice and be a force for good, especially for the Philippines, I’m going to use that to the fullest extent.”