Kumusta po kayo, ang aking pagmamahal pamilya! (I hope that isn't disrespectful... pagmamahal is used to say beloved son in the first vision...)
*means-- How are you, my beloved family!
I'm so sad to have missed such a fun, family weekend... Idaho, cabins, Yellowstone, and of course my dear brother's farewell and eagle scout award... What an exciting week!
I too had an exciting week... in the opposite sense of the word.
It all started , when we received a text, "Prepare your 72 hour kits, there will be a typhoon tonight." That's all it said, and that's all we knew. We get texts when ever a typhoon hits, be it big or small so we weren't too concerned. Just another day in the Philippines... until... we noticed that there was a thick covering of dark clouds as far as the eye could see. We couldn't even see the tall mountains in our area. They were completely invisible because of the fog. I looked at Sister Maagad and said, "Is that normal?" Her eyes got really big. "I've never seen that before. This is going to be a big typhoon."
And then we forgot about it and went on our way to our appointment. We had 5 lessons that day, one after another. We were so happy because we've been opening and it's been rough trying to get even 2 lessons a day. At our last lesson, the news was on when we walked in. We asked what grade the typhoon was supposed to be. She said 3. I shrugged and said, "Oh, iyan lang? Hindi masama siya." Meaning, "Oh, that's all? Not too bad." Sister Maagad laughed at me. "No, 3 out of 4!" If you are wondering, Yolanda was 4. So this was supposed to be just a little better than Yolanda.
Of course, I was really excited. I mean, typhoon? Not many people experience those. And in the Philippines? Cool, right? Nope, not really, as I was about to learn. After our last appointment is when it began. It was about and the rain was beating down in sheets. The wind was whipping the rain into our faces, so that having an umbrella was pointless. I asked Sister Maagad if we could stop by the ATM before going home, but she just shook her head. "No, this is going to get worse. We need to go home now." The sense of urgency in her voice should have awaken me, but it didn't.
We got home and planned and then sat around with the other sisters laughing and joking about. (We were celebrating the last day with Sister Vaka because she would be transferred . )
Every once and a while we would hear a loud gush of wind or something and stop, but we really paid the typhoon no mind. We had been told that we were in a safer area and that typhoons don't normal hit us that hard. Finally, we all went to bed and tried to sleep. But after all the fun and it was quiet in the house, I realized that the storm was actually pretty strong. And it was getting stronger and stronger. I sleep right under the window and I was watching the trees across the street whipping in the wind like wet noodles. I was pretty sure one would come crashing through the window any second... It sounded like a motorcycle was ripping by our window no stop, or a train was going by or something. The wind was literally howling- the pressure was hurting my ears. About Sister Maagad sat up and exclaimed, "I can't sleep!!!!!"
I laughed because I had thought I was the only one awake. Just then we heard something crash outside our window. We went rushing out onto the balcony to find that our laundry trolley had fallen and all the clothes were lying everywhere. We hurried about trying to pick up the clothes, literally soaked to the bone. Sister Williams came to help but a huge gush of wind slammed the door shut, catching her hand in between. Don't worry, she just has a bruise, no break... :) We didn't have any electricity or water, as we later discovered.
If you want to really know what it looked/ felt like, go watch The Other Side of Heaven. That typhoon scene was EXACTLY what we were experiencing. We all gathered into the other room because my room at this point was flooded with water. (Only ankle deep though.) We started singing hymns together to help us sleep. That's when we started getting texts from members saying that they needed help, that their roofs were caving in. We all felt really terrible. We knew that their was no way our mission president would let us go out and help until AFTER the storm. So we knelt together and said the most heartfelt prayer I've offered on my mission. As we thought of all the people caught in the storm, people with simple homes made of bamboo wood, we prayed hard that they would be safe.
About an hour later, the typhoon stopped suddenly. It was unnaturally quiet outside. The rain and wind were gone and we couldn't even hear animals noises anymore. Silence, complete silence. I had no idea what that meant, (after all this was my first typhoon.) So I assumed it was over and went immediately to sleep. (It was 5 in the morning at that point and we hadn't slept all night.) Little did I know that we were in fact, in the eye of the storm. meaning the storm was hitting us directly.
At exactly , (Missionary wake up schedule) The storm began again. It was EXTREMELY STRONG, if not worse than before. All our doors started slamming open and closed, the windows were swinging back and forth like they were nothing. We were watching roofs fold like paper, fragments breaking off and blowing away in the wind. It was intense. The street started flooding and we decided it would be safe to start packing in case we had to leave suddenly. (Both the up and downstairs were flooded now.)
Thankfully, we didn't have to leave and about the storm stopped for good. (The storm lasted for over 12 hours.) As soon as we were sure it was safe, we began texting our Mission President to get permission to leave so we could help the members. But we couldn't get through to ANYONE in San Pablo. So we decided to just leave anyway. We went directly to one member in particular, that sounded like needed the most help. As we traveled, we were astonished by the damage. Most of the places didn't look the same. There were broken windows, caved in roofs, and even crumbled buildings all around. We arrived at the members to find the house was completely destroyed. It was made of concrete brick, which had crumbled down into nothing. We helped them all day uncover all their belongings from the rumble. I was so surprised with how they were taking it. Instead of being depressed or even angry, they were the complete opposite. They were smiling, even when the first met us at the damage. They have such strong faith and courage, that I could never have. I was so touched. Who are these amazing people that I am serving? Even when they loose everything, they have faith in Christ. They are such happy, faithful, strong people. This whole week we have been rescuing the members. We have helped repair damage, obtain food and water, and clean up. It's been crazy and busy, but I have been so inspired and I love these wonderful people.
We did eventually get water and electricity back, after about 3 days. In the meantime, I learned to be thankful for those simple blessings of lights at night or even running water. We had to shower with 1 and 1/2 ladles worth of water (about 5 cups) which made me feel really, really bad for complaining about our shower and bathroom earlier.
All in all, I'm great. Don't worry! It's been an unforgettable experience, this past week. But I'm fine and we are even going to teach later today. The work moves on!
Love you all!