Sunday, November 17, 2013

A Story of Survival

What a week.  This week has been an adventure. The highlight of the week was welcoming 13 missionaries from the Tocloban Mission here to the Manila Mission. One of them, Elder Carlson, has been assigned to labor in my district and lives with us! Such a cool guy.  He's from Idaho.  He's 6'4" and loves sports, music, and oreos (Sounds a lot like Chandler, huh. That's probably why we've become such great friends so fast).  We have a ton in common and it's been awesome getting to know him.  He plays football and basketball and will be playing for Utah state when he gets home. I've spent a lot of time talking with him about his experience in Tocloban and it is seriously amazing.  It's great to be talking to a primary source, someone that was actually in the middle of the storm. I'll give you guys a little summary of some of the things that he told me concerning his experience.  The night before the storm, the missionaries and the members in their area gathered at the stake center because the building standards of the church are far higher than those of the their apartment and the surrounding houses. They went to bed that night and awoke the next morning to the storm.  The storm hit at about 5:30 in the morning.  The next few hours were spent huddled together and running from room to room as the roof began to be ripped from the church. Through the windows they could see trees falling all around them, a heavy rain, debris and small animals being whipped side to side by the 200 mph wind. The storm finally subsided later in the day.  They exited the church to discover their surroundings to be unrecognizable.  The once forested area was transformed into a far stretching valley.  No trees, no houses, nothing. The place was completely leveled. They began running around to check on members of their ward.  In this area, all the members were safe, but they no longer had a place to live, water to drink, or food to eat.  There was no service and thus no communication with anyone.  The missionaries didn't have food or water. They didn't have 72 hour kits.  They were barely surviving.  They lived like this for the next three days.  Finally, a man arrived in a military vehicle, pulled the missionaries out of church and took their names. The man informed them about the magnitude of the storm.  Elder Carlson was told that thousands of people had been killed. The man left a box of candy bars, some water and said "this should last you the next few days" and then left.  The next day, Elder Carlson and his companion made their way to another area where they were informed that all the missionaries were being evacuated. Within a couple of hours, all the missionaries were gathered together and on their way to Cebu.  Not a single missionary was seriously injured in the storm. They are now being placed in missions all over the Philippines. Elder Carlson told me that the news has been lowering the Death Toll in order to down play the storm.  He told me that over 10,000 people were killed by the storm. How these missionaries endured what they did is amazing.  They saw an entire region destroyed as they were standing in the middle of it. Their lives have been forever changed by the things that they have seen. The stresses and difficulties of missionary work have just been multiplied ten fold. Elder Carlson is now serving in a foreign mission compared to the Tocloban mission.  That mission is a Cebuano speaking mission with other dialects in some areas.  He has spent the last 13 months learning these languages and is now expected to start anew and learn Tagalog. I cannot imagine what these missionaries are going through right now.  The place that they once knew to be their home is gone.  The members of their wards that became their family are suffering unimaginable trials.  These missionaries don't even know if these close acquaintances made it through the storm. They are amazing. They have truly built their foundations upon the rock of our savior Jesus Christ. They have endured "mighty winds...and shafts in the whirlwind." They have endured "hail and a mighty storm" and it has had "no power over them to drag them down to the gulf of misery... because of the rock upon which [they] are built".  Elder Carlson is an amazing example to me. If our foundations are not built upon the rock that is our savior, then we should begin now to begin the sometimes difficult process of repentance and begin building. Do whatever we have to in order to establish ourselves in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Make a conscious effort to improve. Never forget the little things (prayer, scripture study, etc.) If we do this, the devil will have no power over us and we will capable of enduring whatever storm comes our way.  Keep these missionaries and the people of the Philippines in your prayers. 

Well I don't have a ton of time to discuss other aspects of this week. Just a quick list of things that happened.  
-Had a mission wide service project on Thursday. 
-Mark came to church. 
-Angel (one of our awesome investigators that we met at church.) will be baptized on November 30th. I'll talk about her more next week. 
-My first primary program in the Philippines.  Holy crap, I love the kids here. 

PS. I'm experiencing a miracle right now. I haven't washed my socks in like 2 months and they still don't stink. No clue how that works. I guess that's why it's called a miracle. 

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so very much, Elder Obray for your very tender and loving message. I read it to Uncle Steve and it brought tears to both of our eyes. We are so thankful for strong young people like you that can be an inspiration and blessing to many. Thank Elder Carlson. We love you and our prayers are with you daily. Aunt Loretta