Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Our First Typhoon and Our First New Batch!

Our first typhoon (and I hope the last to hit us directly) was quite an adventure!!! The wind and rain were so loud that you could hear and feel the force even though we were in a nice, solid home. l had a hard time sleeping and got up and wandered through the house, flashlight in hand, looking out the windows. As the morning light started peeking through I took photos and videos of the storm but since I didn't go out into it I really didn't capture it very well. Many of the members have told us that it was the worst they had seen or at least the worst for many years. It has caused a lot of damage and some deaths; but nothing like typhoon Yolanda last year in the Tacloban area. Some of our zones were really hit hard and the members lost their humble homes or least roofs and had significant damage. The beautiful jungle area has really taken a hit; trees were torn out by their roots, bent over or stripped of their foliage. It's been sad to see. A few of the missionaries are still camping out without any power. 

Photos taken during and after the storm around the mission home and office--really difficult to capture.

After being here for just over 2 weeks we were unprepared for a typhoon of that intensity. We had been told that last year when Yolanda hit they had extra rain and wind so that's what we thought it would be. Even some of the missionaries that had been here last year didn't think much about the warnings. Well, we all got a big surprise! Our yard and the surrounding area was torn apart with leaves and branches all over, potted plants tipped over, a bigger tree was damaged and limbs fell onto one of the mission cars. The rain was inches deep but after the rain finally stopped the ground soaked up the extra water quickly. We had rain come in through doors in the dining room area and leave a nice shallow pond. Many of our missionaries had rain in their apartments. One of the sisters told me she had read President Uchtdorf's talk on being "Grateful in Any Circumstance" that morning. He said we should not wait for the rainbow to be grateful but be grateful for the rain. She said that as she was bailing water out of their apartment into the rain she told herself, "I'm grateful for the rain." She's a darling sister and it was a lot of water because she went through 4 outfits in the process. There are many stories of what happened to the missionaries and members. Fortunately the missionaries were safe; but without cell phone access, power, and limited traveling it took us about 2 1/2 days to make contact with everyone. That was very difficult for me. Bart kept reassuring me that they were fine but I needed to hear from them. One of our islands wasn't really hit so they were trying to call the mission office and when no one answered they tried calling various missionaries in different areas and when no one was answering they wondered what had happened to the main island. Along with worrying about the missionaries I was concerned about their parents not knowing if and what coverage the typhoon had received in other areas of the world. On Saturday morning we were able to go to a nearby church where they had internet access and send an email to let the parents know the missionaries were safe. That helped me feel better. We had called one of our sons as soon as we had cell phone coverage so he could let our family know we were safe.

These were taken a few days after the typhoon so a lot of the clean up had been done.We got a flat tire when we were out delivering water to missionaries.

We have been amazed by the resiliency of the Filipino people. They immediately started cleaning up and putting their homes back together. There are still piles of wood and fallen trees and power lines in many areas but life just kept going. The Sunday after the typhoon we, along with the office couple and elders, took water out to areas where they didn't have any clean water. It was about a 13 hour day by the time we got home. We stopped at a couple of chapels and visited with people along the way. We were so touched by the members who when asked how they made it through the storm would answer, "Our roof fell in . . ." "Our mango tree fell through the house. . ." "We were holding the walls to keep the wind from blowing over our house while the kids cried and prayed. . ."  and then they would say "but we are okay, it is a new day." "One cute sister said, "My roof blew off so I just put up my umbrella." We have heard stories from the missionaries of some of the members who lost the top of their home or had severe damage and when they checked on them the families were singing in the dark. The active members here have great faith. This experience has taught me a lot about gratitude and not taking things for granted. Fortunately our chapels here are sturdy and although a few had damage it wasn't significant. The church buildings in some of the areas were able to house many of the members during the storm and for a couple of days after as they made repairs. The missionaries that were in areas that were hit the hardest have spent a lot of time doing service to help rebuild the homes and clear the limbs, etc.  The sisters' service has included washing clothes by hand--that's how the missionaries and most members wash their clothes.

Our First Batch of New Missionaries

Part of our adventure was that we were scheduled to receive 13 new missionaries the day of the typhoon (it started late Tuesday night, July 15 and continued through about 9:00 a.m. Wednesday, July 16). We were up early and dressed and were talking about when they would send our missionaries; rather it would be later in the day or the following day. After the worst of the storm had ended Bart decided to walk around the yard and survey the damage. He heard voices saying "President Mangum" and looked over to see the 13 missionaries standing in the now drizzling rain. He called into the house, "Our missionaries are here." We couldn't believe that they had sent them in the typhoon (still can't)!!! They had ridden a bus through the torrential rains and winds. A few of them were pretty frightened. It had taken them about 4 hours (it's usually 1 1/2 to 2 hours) to get here because they had to stop many times due to the wind and things flying through the air and the rivers of rainfall, etc. 

Our first amazing batch!

They pressed forward through the bus ride in a typhoon, they will accomplish great things.

We felt badly because they were dropped off the bus at the end of a lane with no one to greet them so they started walking trying to find the mission home. We had originally planned a nice breakfast but they enjoyed their cold cereal and fruit before starting interviews and orientation. The office elders got the generator going to give us limited power during our orientation. (They had to use a car battery to get it going but it worked for a while.) We weren't able to fix the dinner we had planned but fortunately the stove top is gas and we were able to light the burners and make some spaghetti. We cooked by candlelight and I felt like I was back at girl's camp as the cook. (President Eyring told me I had experiences that had prepared me to serve this mission, I just hadn't thought about one of them being a camp cook.) Along with no power the water was limited because the water pump is electric so we were on water conservation as well including limited flushing of toilets, using lots of hand sanitizer and only quick sponge baths. The missionaries usually stay the first night in a nearby hotel but it had been damaged so badly that it wasn't open so we had 3 rooms of missionaries mostly sleeping on the floor on mattresses. We found out that in this big home there were only 3 flashlights so we gave each room a flashlight and Bart and I used our cell phones and candles for light. They went to their rooms early and it was sweet to hear them as each room began singing hymns together to pass the time. 

Along with receiving the new missionaries we also had transfers scheduled for the next day and we were unable to contact everyone so the transfers proceeded. It was pretty crazy to say the least but at least we were able to talk in person to many of the missionaries and see how things were in their areas. A couple of the trainers were on the islands so it took them extra time to get here to join their newly arrived companions. We also had a new senior couple arrive that afternoon. Through all the craziness we pressed forward and did the best we knew how with our limited knowledge and experience of typhoons and being a mission president and wife. We knew our first transfers would be memorable but we had no idea how memorable!

 Ironically a couple of days after the typhoon we received a great "Emergency Preparedness" booklet from the Area Presidency. It is a great resource because it was written especially for missionaries in the Philippines and made to fit in their white handbooks so they can have it with them at all times. It talks about typhoons and earthquakes. We have a senior couple here who are Filipino although they lived in the states for 17 years. He told me, "In the Philippines if it's not typhoons, it's earthquakes or possibly volcanos." I'm so excited! We are thankful for what we've learned and are in the process of evaluating what could have been done differently and better. I'm trying not to worry about what could have been but rather plan and implement what needs to be done now to prepare for the future. I have a new and stronger testimony of 72 hour emergency kits and water storage, as they really blessed the lives of some of our missionaries. They would have been very hungry and thirsty without them. I pray that I will always be grateful for the many blessings I have and not take for granted the daily blessings of food, water, and shelter. I need to remember the wise counsel given in Doctrine and Covenants 38:30 ". . . if ye are prepared ye shall not fear." I better get prepared so I can get rid of my fears!

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