As dad put it: “The world turned to the Philippines this week” as bagyo (typhoon) Yolanda hit this country hard.” We were in Naga on Tuesday for Mission Leadership Council and President informed us that there was a bagyo coming and it looked big. When we got back to our areas we went into emergency mode calling all of the sisters to make sure that emergency evacuation plans were set and 72 hour kits were ready to go. I don’t know if I ever mentioned this but my darling companion was on a search and rescue team back in Manila - so she is pro at emergency preparedness. We moved everything off of the floors in our apartment in case of flooding. Then she had us all pack a back pack with an extra pair of clothes, food, candles, matches, and anything we would need if we had to evacuate. We charged all of our emergency lights and cell phones and felt that we were as ready as we could be. On Friday the entire mission was in lock down. I am pretty sure every mission in the pines was in lock down. We experienced heavy rains and wind. The typhoon scale reader signals one through four... we were at a one and these were some of the strongest winds and rain I have seen. I can’t imagine what the signal four was like for the islands to the south of us. But the pictures we have seen tell the story.
On Thursday night around 3 a.m. I woke up to complete darkness. The electricity was out and I couldn’t see anything. I lay there in my bed waving my hand back and forth in front of my face trying to figure out if I was dreaming or awake. That kind of darkness disorients you. Luckily my rescue companion had us pack up our stuff so I knew right where my flash light was at the foot of my bed in the front pocket of my backpack. As I clicked the little button, light filled the room and sister b and I both commented on the peace that came from a little bit of light.
We are just north of the Tacloban Mission. We were worried on Friday night because the storm was moving through Legaspi and we didn’t know if it was going to keep moving north and come right through us. Luckily it changed course.
Sister B's cousin is in the Tacloban mission and they havent heard from him yet. Understandably, she is having a hard time. I want to go down and work on the volunteer groups. They need so much help. The members’ are grateful for the gospel and the perspective it gives. The missionaries from Cebu and Tacloban are also struggling because their families just survived the earthquake and then had to go through this. It is actually amazing that so many people live here because it can be so dangerous – especially when they don't have much of a defense against the elements.
This week has been one full of contemplation. I have been thinking about the substance of my life, what gives my life meaning and purpose. On the mission you really don’t have too many possessions. Everything you own you can fit into 2 small suitcases and that is all. As I filled my small backpack with the things I would want and need, the things I cared about most were my journals. They were the only things I really wanted besides the essentials. The journals hold my memory of what I have experienced over the last 17 months. When it is all and said and done - those words may be all I have to hold on to of these people I love so much. This makes me once again realize that in this life the things that matter are people. In life we have a kind of spiritual survival kit. What we put into this depends on what is important to us. It takes time to build up this supply but I think that like our physical survival kit we had this weekend, our spiritual reserves can sustain us in times of need. For me, I am making a goal to have a better supply of quiet prayer, of making memories of laughing instead of running from one appointment to the other, of taking pictures of the beauty of the earth, and serving other people, of singing and listening to uplifting music, and of consecrated time spent in the scriptures.
I read in Alma this week and Alma tells his son Helaman how he has a testimony not of himself or of a carnal mind but of God. I was thinking how that is the trick of life... to see things as godly. We know that we cannot carry the riches of the world but it is not enough to not place our hearts on the things of the world. We have to see the world through Godly eyes. That means seeing the man who drives a padyak and picks up our trash can be Godly. The sweet woman with only a few teeth, a frail, thin body seemed to take on the godly traits of goodness this week as we sat on her cement floor and talked about the gospel. She sat with her knees to her chest and tears in her eyes. She has a difficult life trying to make a small 5 peso candle work in a 72 hour kit because the 10 peso candle was too expensive. I know that God lives. I know that this is his work. Typhoons and darkness come into our life but that is why we have the gospel. It brings us peace, even if only a little and gives us the strength to carry on.
Thank you all for your care and concern and love and especially your prayers. They are still needed for the Tacloban mission! If the church does a clothing drive, feel free to donate my closet. The sun is out today and I get to be a missionary again this week and try to do a little good in a world that is hurting and seems dark. I feel so grateful. I am much more blessed than I should be. I love you all and hope you have a wonderful week.
Love from the Pines,