Sunday, November 10, 2013

Super Typhoon Haiyan

Plywood on windows--now we relax!
Typhoon Haiyan, now on its way to Viet Nam after devastating the Philippines, is a force we hope to never see again. Since we don’t have a TV or follow the news much, we were unaware of the storm until we heard lots of locals talking about it on Tuesday and the younger missionaries started calling us for information.  We were able to track the storm online and prepare for the worst.  Schools closed Tuesday afternoon, and by Wednesday evening all businesses were locked tight.  We covered our windows with plywood and taped them, stockpiled water, and bought a generous supply of batteries and food. 
Emergency water supply for the toilet

Covered sliding glass door

Good job covering those windows

Surangel's, our largest store, prepared for the storm

Learning how to flush the toilet with emergency water supply

Most of the time we visited members asking about their state of preparation and checking if there was anything we could do to help them prepare.  Many live in tin houses, so we were especially concerned about their safety, but many moved to the schools and other government buildings which had been opened as shelters.  The sister missionaries stayed together in the apartment beneath ours while the elders stayed together in Airai.  All were prepared with the essentials, plus we felt the comforting influence of the Holy Ghost reminding us that they and us were in heavenly hands. We talked with President Mecham several times on Wednesday and felt the power of his prayers on our behalf.

Palau issued a curfew for 7:00 P.M. and we all awaited the storm in our homes.  The storm moved into our area Wednesday evening, the power went off at midnight, and the storm hit around 2:00 A.M.  We were never worried for the missionaries, but we prayed mightily that our members and friends here were protected from harm and would find all well at their homes.  We slept fitfully, always aware of the sound of tin roof pieces smacking concrete as the winds tore at the homes in our neighborhood. Trees fell on and around other homes knocking multiple power lines to the ground.  We found prayer an amazing source of peace and comfort amid the tumult of the typhoon.
A downed tree above our apartment (see the man under the arch of the tree?)
That's a home underneath.

A tin roof destroys two cars

A giant mango tree destroyed 

Men trying to clear tree off of home

Lots of vegetation destroyed

The next morning we remained inside calling missionaries and members until Elder Carter couldn’t stand it any longer and had to see first hand the results of Haiyan.  We drove to several neighborhoods but were unable to visit all as debris blocked roads and police asked everyone to stay inside until further notice.  In the afternoon we were able to check the welfare of members and begin clean up efforts.  We are so grateful for our young missionaries who willingly and ably gathered whatever tools they could find and immediately jumped to helped any and all in need.
Another road blocked
Plenty of downed trees

Blocked street

Our backyard

It’s pretty unusual to see missionaries dressed in “civvies” beyond preparation day, but for the rest of Thursday and Friday, we all wore work clothes so we could jump in and help wherever needed.  For part of the day, the young missionaries made a game over how many trips and how fast they could load and unload their pickup.  They took a few videos to prove that their fastest trip was barely under two minutes!  We’re not sure how many trees they cut up, loaded, and unloaded all day Friday, but enough to provide sunburns, blisters, and sore muscles.
Elder Murdoch & Elder Malais riding in the truck

Loading the truck

Plenty of work to do

Elder Fullmer with a loaded truck

Elder Dopp, Elder Fullmer, Elder Malais, Elder Murdoch--tired, but happy!

Have machete, will work

Hot, sweaty, tired, thirsty, but still working!

Overturned tree on the church lawn

When we're helping, we're happy!

All of us were happy to don our regular attire on Saturday and try to resume our normal schedule.  It was a little tougher for us since our neighborhood finally had the power come on near 11:00 P.M. Friday night (which made for a pleasant night’s sleep with air conditioning) only to have it go off again Saturday morning.  After visiting President Kesolei’s home Saturday evening and finding that his power was not yet restored, did we finally appreciate that our power and that of the chapel came on again Saturday evening—just in time to prepare for Sunday meetings.

We are eternally grateful that no one on Palau was hurt during the super typhoon and that they heeded the call to find shelter.  We were finally feeling balance return to our lives when we received a call about a horrible accident on Babeldaob.  Seven family members, the mother, daughter, and five grandchildren, were all burned to death in a house fire.  We visited with the man in our branch who lost his mother, sister, and nieces and nephews, but what can you say to someone who has just lost seven members of his immediate family?  We are grateful for the Plan of Salvation and bore our testimony that they still live and that he would see them again.  In awe we watched him walk into church on Sunday morning with all of his children and know he felt some degree of peace gathering with the saints.
With many trees destroyed, we can now see the ocean from the church parking lot.

Our Sunday meetings were stressful for Elder Carter as he was called upon at the last moment to speak in Sacrament Meeting.  He bore witness of the Book of Mormon as the answer book for all of life’s questions.  He was enjoying the Sunday School lesson until he discovered that he would be teaching priesthood the last hour.  Later he had to prepare and conduct PEC and Branch Council as President Kesolei was on government business because of the typhoon and the other counselor went home sick from church.  Sister Carter didn’t have any surprises but simply provided accompaniment for Sacrament Meeting, Sunday School, taught music in Primary, and led choir practice.

All the missionaries gathered for dinner at our home except for Elder Fullmer and Sister Masiasomua who are both in Guam for zone training.  It’s Sister Masi’s birthday today and we’re hoping she can feel our love across the miles.  They’ll both return tomorrow night.
Roberto's home still standing but with fewer trees.

This week has been a rollercoaster of emotions, and we’re grateful that we’re in the last car raising our arms above our heads and enjoying the ride.  Thanks to each of you for the power of your faith and prayers.  We love you!


  1. Thankyou for the update! I'm Elder Murdoch's cousin, and we have all been very concerned for him out in the middle of the big ocean with that terrible storm! We're so glad that he and the other missionaries are safe. I guess now there will be lots of service opportunities! Sending lots of prayers for those who live in that area of the world!

    1. Elder Murdoch is blessed to have relatives like you who pray for his safety and protection! Thanks for your prayers, and please know that we feel the effects of them every day.

  2. So glad you were all kept safe. You were (and are always) in our prayers as I watched that storm.

    1. We are so grateful for your prayers! We hope you're doing well and are prepared for the holidays. We miss you but hope this Christmas will be your favorite--------so far:)
      We love you!!