as reported by a Sister Missionary
as reported by a Sister Missionary
The following is an email sent to us as received from a friend who is also our Bishop's wife. The sister missionary, Jessica, is one of 10 sister missionaries trapped in one of their apartments during the typhoon. It gives a detailed description of their experience.
I am sending this to those who have expressed love and concern about our daughter, Jessica. I don't know quite where to begin.Jessica was finally able to call us and we talked for over an hour. She is alive!! The miracle of that simply cannot be overstated! It is only by a series of divine interventions that she is alive. What our dear daughter went through was more traumatic than anything I could have ever imagined; worse than any movie I've ever seen. She has seen war-like carnage, and no mother wishes that for her beloved daughters!
Jessica had been relocated to weather out the storm right in the center of the city of Tacloban, to the house she had lived in for the first several months of her mission. They did not think the storm would be that bad in that area - so they had the missionaries just gather in apartments, not church buildings like we had assumed. She was with a group of 7 other Sister missionaries, which I am so grateful for - that it wasn't just 2 of them going through what she would have to endure.
As you all know, if you've looked at pictures of the devastation, the city hardest hit was Tacloban, with 80% of the buildings being destroyed. She was right in the middle of it. They heard everything being torn apart all around them outside throughout the entire night as they huddled in the upper bedroom. By 8:00 in the morning, they could see the water outside had risen up to the second floor. They went downstairs to try to get out, but the lower level was filling with water too rapidly and they couldn't get the door open. There are bars on all the windows to keep them protected from intruders, so they couldn't get out that way either. They struggled to no affect, unable to touch the ground because of the depth of the water, and so Jessica felt consigned to die by drowning as the waters climbed the second level. She pled with Heavenly Father to not let her die this way - not by drowning - that had always been her greatest fear.
Eventually one of the sisters found she could break a piece of plexiglass in a sort of green house window in the ceiling.
They were able to climb up through that to the roof where they laid side by side hanging on to each other to not be blown away in the torrential winds of this category 5 typhoon. The water continued to climb up to the roof line. Once again Jessica was faced with the reality that this was most likely the end of her life. The sister's prayed intently to Heavenly Father to recognize them - that the water must not raise any higher because there was no where else they could get to for safety. At that moment the waters stopped rising and started to recede. They huddled on that roof that way for 3 hours in the cold rain and torrential wind blowing debris everywhere.
Once the water was low enough they decided to try to get into some shelter in a nearby school where others had gathered, but they couldn't get out of their yard gate. The homes have walls and gates around them to keep intruders out as well. A kind man helped them pile things up to climb over and out and they used a rope to hold on to each other to be able to stay together in waste deep water and support each other to get to the school. This is all still during the typhoon winds still going on.
Within 1/2 hour of reaching the school, their beloved mission president came to their rescue. He had stayed at his home as well (which had only been flooded to the second floor, not completely under water as we'd been told earlier), and as soon as the waters receded enough he came out into the storm in search of those 8 Sisters. The 10 minute walk from their apartment to Pres. Andaya's house took them 1 1/2 hours to make. The Elders had been right next door to the mission president's home, and so they had made it there before the storm got too bad, and had come to help find the Sister's. There they waited for the remaining hours of the storm to pass.
The affects of that storm is immense on those poor people. They looked to the 'white' people expecting them to have something to give them - not recognizing that they were in the storm as well, and had nothing to give. They were the first to offer help to distribute some supplies the military had brought in, but it was very frightening because of the way people looked at them and acted towards them. She just cried as she described how the people had turned into animals - killing each other for food and water just trying to survive. She heard gun shots everywhere. They were still not safe.
Days later, Pres. Andaya somehow got them to an airstrip to try to get them out as instructed by church headquarters, but even with all the US military planes and helicopters there (that had promised to help), they would not take anyone out - because of 'protocol'. They stood there for 12 hours. Finally, a military man, who was a member of the church, recognized them as a group of LDS missionaries, and he personally put them in his military plane that can take off straight up (there's no runway left), and flew them to Manila. Once again, the Lord performed a miracle in His missionaries behalf.
She called us at 9:00 p.m. her time Tuesday night, 6:00 a.m. our time this morning. She had arrived safely in the MTC in Manila and said she will be well cared for there. She is very cut up and bruised and will need medical attention. She had lost her shoes and was walking through all that debris and flood waters bare foot - for days. The only things she has left are the clothes on her body. They are concerned about systemic infection from all the open cuts on her feet in that filthy water and will be treating her for that. She hadn't eaten all day, and who knows how long before that, so she finally, tearfully, and hesitantly ended our phone call to go eat and be taken care of.
She is very affected by all this. What she has experienced was very much like being in the middle of a war zone. She has seen so much death and carnage, and her tender, sweet heart and soul have been severely traumatized. They will give her and the other missionaries counseling and keep them there until they are stable. She feels her companion will not be able to handle staying out to finish her mission. It's been too much. She was just new, and Jessica was her trainer. Pray for her too, her name has been removed because of privacy issues, so please pray for Jessica's "New Missionary" who is contemplating leaving her mission.
After Jessica is stabilized, they will re-assign her somewhere near Manila. She doesn't know if this is permanent, or if she will eventually be sent back to Tacloban when things settle down. The terrible thing is, that Tacloban is going to be hit by another typhoon tonight. It's only a category 2, but the people have NO shelter now, and it will pick up all the debris - killing many more people. They already have no food and water either. She knows the reality of what all that implies since she's lived it first hand - and those thoughts are devastating to her. Please pray for those people.
I'm sorry this is so long. I just know you want to know how she is and what happened. At least now we know a 'little' bit about what she went through. It was very healing for her to be able to talk to us and cry to us and get out much of what she has had to hold inside for many days now. I am so grateful they let her call and talk to us for so long.
They will allow her to call us again tomorrow and we will try to skype so we can see each other. The hardest thing for her in all this was that she felt so alone and abandoned through all this. She didn't think we were aware of her and what she was going through, because she knows we don't watch the news. Even her leaders didn't think it was going to be that bad, and so they had not sufficiently provided appropriate protection for them.
The only thing she could hang on to was her faith that Heavenly Father was aware of her, and even then, she felt He was going to let her die. She just kept pleading with Him to spare their lives. That He did - even though they were threatened time and time again.
Now she KNOWS Heavenly Father is there and that He DOES hear and answer our prayers. She already had great faith before, and even though she lost it for a while there when she felt so abandoned and hopeless, she has come through this with a firm faith that God IS in charge. I am so grateful for her to know that, but what a traumatic way to learn that truth. My heart just aches for her, and I can't hold her and comfort her. All I can do is pray and trust her to the Lord's care and comfort. I know He has, He will, and He will continue to do so. Please keep these poor missionaries and Filipino people in your prayers. They are not out of the woods yet, it is not over, and it will not be over for quite a while.
One more miracle. I sent her her Christmas package quite early. I remember thinking, "Oh I hope it didn't make it there yet, because I know it will have been washed away in the flooding of Pres. Andaya's home."
Fortunately it DID make it there. Through all the flooding, it was still in Pres. Andaya's home. She knew I would send her something, and so while she was there she went searching through the debris and found it! All the clothes were ruined but the European chocolates were still sealed, and the missionaries melted them and put it on rice to make 'sweet rice'.
Also, all the vitamins and essential oils I sent were still sealed! That was one of my greatest worries (since I really thought Jessica had been removed far from where the storm hit hardest), that she would lose her vitamins and oils she had taken with her to stay healthy. She is the only missionary she knows that has not been in the hospital with some disease or infection, and I wanted to keep her from needing to go to one of those 'haunted house hospitals', as she describes them. Even though she lost all she had with her before, she got the ones I sent her for Christmas!!!!!
I am so happy. I am so heart-broken. I am so humbled. I am so grateful. I am so overwhelmed with every emotion and feeling - just like it describes in the Book of Mormon after their terrible wars. Joy for those who survived. Sorrow for those who have lost loved ones. Happy that those who died in the faith of their Lord and that are now safely in His care.
Desperate for those who are left to themselves to struggle for survival - knowing there is nothing we can do. Grateful that the Lord knows His sheep and He gathers them in. Etc., etc., etc.
This is long, I know, but it is only a fraction of the reality of her days. Please, please, please, do not stop praying for Jessica, all the missionaries and their families, and the Filipino people who are in such desperate circumstances. There is power in prayer. I know that. I felt all your prayers in our behalf when we were still waiting to hear if Jessica was OK. They sustained me. She still needs to be sustained and she will feel that strength as we continue to pray for her and others, and her heart and soul WILL be healed.
I love you all. I am so grateful for your love and support.
Suzanne, MM to Jessica