How are all of you? I am doing great. Thank you for all of the prayers and your concern for us in the Philippines. Over the last week we have heard more of the news of what has been happening in the areas that were effected by the typhoon, and it is really horrifying. Worse than Hurricane Katrina? And Tacloban Mission is being closed? That blows my mind. I am so grateful that we are safe and all of the missionaries have been accounted for and evacuted from Tacloban.
Since last Monday, I have found out more about how Panay was effected...The northern part of our mission, Aklan and Capiz provinces, were wiped out--even the huge trees and many bamboo homes got blown apart. None of the missionary apartments were damaged or flooded. Estancia, a city on the north east that took the brunt of the storm, was described by some elders as looking like bombs had gone off. Some people were killed there as well, and it was a very humbling experience for the elders assigned there. We missionaries are required to assemble a 72 hour kit and keep it ready in case anything happens. The Estancia elders said they had just gotten to the end of their 72 hour supply of food and water on Monday, they weren't sure what to do next, and then the APs and other office elders came to their rescue and evacuated them to the mission home for a few days.
It is so important for all of us, not even just in the Phlippines, to be ready for whatever can happen. The signs of the Second Coming are already here in full force. Disasters and wars and rumors of wars. Just in the 6 months I have been in the Philippines there has been 1) a small civil war with terrorist rebels in Zamboanga on Mindanao (the large southern island), 2) A devastating earthquake on Cebu, and 3) Typhoon Yolanda. I am so grateful and blessed to not have been effected by these events, but I know it is no joke when our leaders warn us to prepare ourselves, our homes, and our families for the worst case scenario. We have to be prepared and self-reliant. Even with all this bad news and devastation though, of course we have reason to hope. The gospel...the GOOD news. Christ is our hope, and as long as we focus on Him and follow His teachings we will be saved. Look forward with a perfect brightness of hope. (2 Ne 31:20)
So, in happier news, We had mission conference on Thursday! Woo, fun! Elder Larry Echo Hawk came to teach and speak. It was super interesting. He is the 4th generation descendant of an American Indian, so he is a Lamanite. The Book of Mormon was written to his people, he said. He and his wife are both converts so it was neat to hear their conversion stories and just to hear about his life was awesome, he has held many positions in state and national government. I like US gov't and politics, so that was way cool to hear about his career. It was even neater to hear him share many of his experiences with the Spirit as he has served as a general authority.
Sorry, I forgot my camera, I'll send some pictures from mission conference next week. Here is a talk by Elder Echo Hawk. http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2012/10/come-unto-me-o-ye-house-of-israel?lang=eng&query=
We attended a small funeral service for an old lady who passed away, the mother of one of the members. In the Philippines, the traditions for funerals are veeeeery different. They leave the casket out for viewing in their home or another venue for many weeks. And the cemetery here is vertical, kind of like a wall of cement cubbyholes for the caskets, and then they seal it with cement and put a grave marker on the front. Random facts. Anywhooo...
That is cool that we got a new bishopric. That'll be different when I get back. I am very grateful for Bishop Wright. He taught me so much as a youth and I am so grateful for his example of gospel living.
I love you much family! Have a wonderful week. Fill your lives with the goodness that comes from living the gospel. Halong Pirmi and Be Prepared!
Love, Sister Winward