Sunday, November 6, 2016

Chapter 32 - Things are getting better

Ok so we are still alive. I have so many things I want to say but don't have the time. This week has been really crazy. I am back in Florida, my old sector so it's kind of nice because I know it and know the people. We live in a tiny house still and there's 8 of us in there. It's kind of stressful but we are making it work. For those of you who haven't heard the whole story, here is part. Hermana Dennis asked us to write our experiences and send them to her and this is what I wrote:

I don’t know where to start. These past few days have felt like a dream. I have never been through anything like this ever before in my life. Well, everything started on Saturday evening. Everything was going fine during the day, except pretty much all our lessons fell through. We had some good lessons, but I remember the sun was unusually hot. I didn’t think anything of it though, and we just kept working. Around 6:30pm we were trying to think of what to do because the people we had planned to go see weren’t home and we started walking toward where some recent converts live. As we passed the street of one of our recent converts, I thought, no, we had better go to the other recent convert a street away. We had recently visited this other convert and I thought, logically, that we should then visit the other, but I know it was the Lord that led us to the other house. I don’t know what would have happened if we had visited that convert instead, but I am certain that we were blessed for visiting the family that we did.

Anyway, we went to their house and they were home and invited us in. This in and of itself is a miracle because there were various times where we would pass by their house and they wouldn’t be home. Their schedule was really inconsistent but they were there and I know it was for a reason. We all sat down and started talking. I had recently received a new companion and so they were getting to know her and everything was going well. My companion said the opening prayer and after the prayer I opened my scriptures to start the lesson when the ground started to shake a little bit. I stopped and thought, this is just going to be a few seconds, it’s going to pass just like it has in the past, but it didn’t. The sister started to panic and ran into the kitchen with her husband and I was just sitting there on the couch with my companion. Every second the shaking got stronger and stronger. We were seated on a couch and behind us, on the wall, were big pictures. Around the middle of the earthquake, when the shaking was the strongest, the lights went out and we were sitting there in darkness. I thought the pictures behind us were going to fall on our heads. I also thought the roof was going to fall through. They were sectioning off a part of their house and making it another room and the wall, although it was completed, was fragile and could of fallen on us as well. The picture that keeps replaying in my head is that their car was parked in the garage and it was rocking side to side because it was so strong. In the middle of everything, I just sat there, holding on tight to my companion and praying. I didn’t know what else to do in that moment. I felt so helpless but knew that I needed to pray. All these memories came back from elementary and middle school when we had earthquake drills and they said to go under a table or something but there was nothing we could do, all we could do was sit there, and pray.

As I think back on that moment, in the moment when we couldn’t do anything, I know without a doubt that angels were there protecting us. I feel like we were just huddled there on the couch, but angels had their arms around us. It was honestly a miracle that everything on the walls didn’t fall on us and the roof didn’t fall in. Angels were there holding up that house. They were holding the pictures on the walls and keeping the roof from falling in; I have no doubt about it.

Anyway, after everything had pretty much passed, my companion immediately asked for the cell phone and asked me to send a message to our zone leaders. I didn’t have hardly any time to think about what to do but my companion was completely calm and organized. I am so very grateful for my companion because thanks to her calm attitude, I was also calm and we were therefore able to help the members in the house. I feel like my emotions were confused because in the moment of the earthquake, part of me wanted to cry but another part of me thought “no, you’re fine, stay calm”. We left the members house and the streets were completely dark. There were phone lines and cables that were fallen and everyone was outside of their houses. I remember the first person I saw was an elderly woman sitting on the curb just in shock with her head in her hands; everyone was in shock. We had all just survived a 7.8 earthquake. We walked in darkness, hand in hand, to the church which thankfully wasn’t too far. It was our safe place and we knew that was where we needed to be. We went directly there and opened up the church. We sat there with the members for about five minutes until the other Hermanas got there. They were both crying and in panic. We calmed them and went inside the church to wait. There wasn’t much we could do because our text messages and phone calls weren’t getting through, all we could do was keep trying and keep waiting. Eventually we got a hold of our zone leaders and we told them that we were in the church and that everything was okay.

Another thing I want to bare testimony of is the power of prayer. We were sitting there on a bench with the other Hermanas and we all felt uneasy, like it was going to happen again. They said it was likely that there would be aftershocks but we didn’t know when they would come. I wanted to feel peace and cam and knew the only way I could was if I prayed and so I did. When I finished, I honestly felt a peace and tranquility that was unlike any other. The difference that I felt before the prayer and after was incredible. The scripture that says “My peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you, not as the world giveth, give I unto you; let not your heart be troubled neither let it be afraid” has never meant so much to me. I felt completely calm and knew everything was going to be okay.

I also want to bear testimony of how inspired our leaders are, especially our mission president. So we have emergency backpacks but we hadn’t gone back to the house to grab them before going to the church. The other Hermanas went back to the house with the bishop and his wife to get them as we stayed in the church. All I can say is that the scripture that says if we are prepared we shall not fear is so true. We were prepared and therefore didn’t need to fear. I would think “oh, I wish I had this” and then would be like “oh wait, I have it”. It really was such a relief to have those back packs. I honestly never thought that I would have to use my emergency backpack but I am extremely grateful that President Dennis told us to have them. Not every mission has them but President was inspired and therefore, I believe, saved his missionaries. President Dennis had a dream about two years ago that a tsunami was going to come and felt impressed that he needed to start preparing his missionaries. A little while after the dream, there was a big warning that went out that there was going to be a tsunami but it never came. The missionaries in that time didn’t have their backpacks yet, but afterwards started getting everything put together. Anyway, a few months ago President Dennis had the same dream and he knew something was going to happen again. He said that every day he would leave the house thinking “is this the day that it’s going to happen?” He felt strong impressions to prepare all of us and make sure that every missionary had their emergency backpack complete and I am so glad that I did. My testimony with respect to the revelation that mission presidents receive for their missionaries is that it's real. They are men inspired of God and were chosen to lead us. Their wives as well are inspired and care so much for us. We are like their children and I know they love us and take really good care of us.

Anyway, back to the story. We slept in the church that night and then returned to our house the next day. At around 4pm the next day, there was an aftershock and we knew we had to get oursevles back to the church. We went to the church and stayed there until around 7pm when we got a call from our zone leaders saying that we needed to pack clothes for 5 days and go to the terminal because we were going to Guayaquil. We practically ran back to the house and threw all our things in a suitcase and left. We got to the terminal as fast as we could and then got on the bus. 
We started going and at first it was going really fast and I felt really uneasy. An earthquake had just happened and so we didn’t know how the roads were going to be. Could we even get through? And if we could, were their parts of the road that were broken up? Because if there were and we were traveling at the speed we were, I felt sure that we were going to roll. These buses are tall because they have space underneath for suitcases and things and so going at that high of a speed was scary. Also, if we went around a bend at the same speed, we could also possibly roll. Something that eased my tension a little bit was that there were cars coming the other way so at least I knew we could get through. We were still going really fast though and I just grabbed the hand of my companion and started to pray. As soon as I ended my prayer, the bus slowed down and went that speed the rest of the ride. I know for a fact that God not only answers our prayers but comforts us in our times of need.

We got to Guayaquil safely and we all felt so much safer being there and being on temple grounds. The next day, the elders arrived from Pedernales and Bahia which was such a relief for everyone because we didn't know where the elders from Bahia were. We didn't have any communication with them but when they arrived, everyone felt a sense of relief. God protected every single one of his missionaries during this experience. We had a testimony meeting that night where we just listened to everyone's experiences and from what I have heard, God was most certainly watching out for us. Some people mentioned how this is just like in the Book of Mormon where the people didn't listen until the Lord sent thunderings and lightnings and earthquakes and it's true. The people were waxing strong in their iniquity and this was the only way to "wake them up." It was interesting because lots of elders and hermanas told stories of how people were just screaming and crying in the streets and saying Repent! Repent! and the scripture just comes to my mind that we cannot procrastinate the day of our repentance. We cannot come to the final judgement day and plea for forgiveness; it just simply doesn't work that way. We need to constantly teach the doctrine of repentance and not only teach it, but also live it. I know God loves each and every one of us so much. He loves his missionaries. There's a quote that I really like that says God puts his strongest warriors in his hardest battles. I know each of us were in the place that we were for a reason. One thing that everyone kept bearing testimony of was that almost everyone had appointments that fell through and went to contact or a less active or an investigator and normally wasn't home but they were there that day and I know it's because on one hand God knew that he needed to have this happen, but didn't want his missionaries to be hurt. I heard many stories about how the houses that we were in were all safe but the houses to the side had just fallen to the ground. There were many miracles and many angels in the Provinicas that day. I know that Jesus Christ is our savior and that He loves us. I know that each of us are in this mission for a reason. We are not ordinary missionaries, we have an extraordinary call and are here to now rebuild the lives of these people. They need what we have. They need the hope that only the gospel of Jesus Christ can bring. These are the last days that the prophets have talked about and we are here to warn the people. I am thankful for the opportuntiy that I have to be a missionary and help everyone come unto our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I know this church is true and bear testimony of this work in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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