Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Week 42 - 11/18/2013

Hello! I know tons of people are following my story because we made headlines (which I STILL cannot believe) and I do not ever know where to begin. This has been the most incredible experience ever and I am so grateful that I was privileged enough to be a part of the Philippines Tacloban Mission. Right now we are in Manila staying in the temple patron housing-with my ENTIRE mission-regrouping, recovering and having the time of our lives and it is basically a dream come true. Everyone says missions are hard/ amazing and I feel like I got that x1,000,000,000,000,000. With greater trials come greater miracles and I know more than ever that we have a Heavenly Father who loves us. Miracles are very real. The church is true. I will keep this experience as the best and craziest experience of my life.

I guess all I can do is give the story from my point of view.  Starting Tuesday, Our zone leader texts us and says "SUPER TYPHOON! watch out- don't plan on working on Thursday!" Then the next day, "never mind, don't work on Friday!" And in my experiences of typhoons, you stay inside, it rains really hard then nothing happens and you just go back to work. Literally in Catarman there weren't even puddles so we thought, no big deal! We'll just clean and catch up on letters and studying... As it progressed, we received more and more information- stock up on food, recharge your emergency light, get an extra cell phone battery, get rope... and stay in the apartment all day Thursday and Friday just in case it comes early. Thursday was super weird because we just hung out but it felt like it was for no reason because there was no rain or anything. I literally rewaxed our kitchen floor.

Friday (November 8)

We woke up at 4am when our fans turned off. Everyone texted us at 6 to see if we were still okay and just to check in and basically immediately the signal was dropped. It was kinda unnerving knowing that we had no contact with anyone during a typhoon-we've never lost signal before!- but we weren't too worried. Pretty soon we were trying to do our personal study but the wind was SO strong and SO loud. I moved under my desk at one point because my desk faces a window that I was afraid might break at any second and we could not concentrate in the slightest. Basically all our rooms have windows so is SO loud so we decided to make a little safe haven in the one place our windows were guarded by our back porch which is basically our closet. It's technically a room but it's just where our clothes are and is tiny! so we laid out our mattresses, emergency light and turned on our hymns full blast (thanks for the battery operated speakers!) and tried to distract ourselves and I ended up writing a letter which I'm so glad I did because it gives me so much more perspective. And reading the scriptures which always gives me comfort. I was in my holy place. The really strong, loud winds lasted until about noon, we kept needing to check around the house for leaks and set up a few pots and sister Estes' bed (the top bunk) got soaked! but that was the extent of the damage. It was still raining hard but we decided to make our fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy and corn feast. Our closest thing to an american meal and I literally made the mashed potatoes with powdered milk. You learn to improvise for sure! It was still delicious! We ate then weekly planned (planned who we would visit and what lessons we would teach) just like normal. That is how incredibly unaware we were. And since it gets dark at about 5:30, we basically just went to bed super early.

Saturday(November 9)

Cell phone service was still cut out and we were kinda concerned, just because we get instructions from our leaders always! So we decided to do our studies as normal and go find the Zone Leaders (who share our area) and ask them what we should do. We left a note on the door and headed out. Our street was totally fine because we live in a nice neighborhood, but as soon as we walked to the main road, we were pretty shocked. trees uprooted, telephone lines completely fallen over. Of course we expected many members houses to be broken because they live in little wooden houses but we didn't expect that. We then realized the power would be out for more than just a few days- a month or two was predicted- but we just expected to be camping for a while. We visited the Elders apartment and found a tree completely blocking their house (the pathway) and the gate was locked. We realized they could totally be stuck inside and no one would know so we started yelling for them then their neighbors said they had already left. One thing that was SO amazing was that everyone was out, cleaning up and building their houses with a smile on their faces. They know how to get up and go to work and are such an amazing example. We decided to go back to our apartment to wait if the zone leaders would come check on us so we just made lunch and studied some more. We decided to try one more time at their apartment and right when we were on the way, we ran into each other. They had no idea what to do and were trying to contact the mission office by finding a land line to no avail. So we just decided to make sure we get home before dark and go to work. So we visited many of the members houses to see how they were doing and the state of their houses. It was pretty sad to see one member's house completely flattened- complete with a couch just sitting in the middle of rubble. But you know what? They were still smiling. They were still legitimately happy and hopeful. and then another one it like collapsed and so they were living in the church. The other one that their house was destroyed literally cleaned the debris and set up a tent to live out of. They have 8 people in their family. Other than that, it was pretty miraculous that other members houses weren't broken because they were in the same area which probably got hit the hardest. We got home before dark, cooked dinner with a flashlight, studied by candlelight and went to bed SUPER early just because we're bored and can't do much else!

Sunday(November 10)

We went to church and it was cool. Taytay Rosales came super early and we asked about his family(who we just baptized) and he said, "we don't have drinking water so they're figuring that out but I said I'm going to church!" He is seriously the coolest most solid person ever. I was really worried about them because they live wayy out in the bukid (forest/mountain) but just their kitchen roof blew off and luckily they evacuated to the school nearby. The talks were super inspiring, we only had just sacrament meeting then MCM which is CRAZY!!!! Missionary Coordination Meeting is for the branch to sign up to work with the missionaries. I kinda thought our Branch President was crazy but i definitely admire his zeal for missionary work that the work must continue. It was here that we heard Tacloban got it worse but we had NO idea how bad. Someone told us 100 had died and we were pretty shocked. Way worse than we expected. Right after we had an emergency meeting which was cool to be a part of. Pres. Ang coordinated to have 4 different motors (motorcycles) go to all the members to record the damage- it was SO organized, I was so proud. We split up the cameras and we went with the Fermin couple and Tay Rosales to the bukid and had quite the adventure. These people were literally grandparents and they were helping US climb up these crazy hills and jumping off walls...they are so legit! And just hilarious. We went back to report to President Ang and went home to make dinner. Every time we went to bed so early and slept so well. Literally our biggest problem was that we had to save our power because knew it would be at least a month before we got power back. We were confident that all other areas were totally fine. Later we heard 1,000 had died in Tacloban and we were even more shocked! We had no idea.

Monday (November 11)

We had a secret hope that we would find a way to email but we just accepted it and literally sent letters to my family saying, hey I'm alive! You hopefully heard from us a little bit before you get this letter cause it might be a month before we communicate. And we weren't super worried because we thought maybe we could go to Tacloban because they probably have power and communication wayy before we do because we're just a little island with a tiny little city(but it's not even big enough to be called that) and Tacloban is the central hub of 3 islands! It's so sad how incredibly ignorant we were. Of course it wasn't our fault! but it's still sad. We left a note for the sisters because we wanted to see them and share stories and we planned to go to Jelo's the restaurant in Naval with a generator and satellite so we hoped to get some news. Luckily we ran into the Sisters (from Cabucgyan and Balaquid (sister Brown and Sister Mier then Sister Robinson and Sister Nunez) walking down the street and we stopped to talk to them. i talked to Sister Robinson and she looked pretty sick. She said, "you don't know do you? We haven't slept in days." What? Why? I've slept like a baby and gotten like 10 hours of sleep a night." "Tacloban is gone. 10,000 people are dead and the count is rising. There are riots, no food and water and they are literally killing each other over every little thing. It's chaos. McDonald's? gone. full cement building swept away. 90 ft tsunami hit and it flooded and is just gone. (which wasn't actually entirely true) We are probably going to pulled out." This was an incredible shock to me. The main city of my mission? swept away and completely obliterated? What about President Andaya and the mission home? The office elders? The San Jose sisters? out of the 10,000 odds are not good. It made me sick. And the thought of our mission ending... so hard. So we made a plan. Gas was running low on the island and their areas were super far away. They didn't have any of their clothes but we decided they would come back and stay in Naval with us until we started to get some answers. They literally hadn't had food in their area and were living off crackers and had already started to ration their food. Their areas were hit SO hard. 50% of members in Balaquid were homeless. And Cabucgayan was hit hard too. And Monday was the first day there was a path cleared to Naval because all the trees blocked everything. There was no food in their areas to begin with- literally they needed to buy everything they need to eat for the week in Naval on Preparation day so now, there is REALLY no food. Literally members were collecting coconuts for meals. We also talked to Elder Burton in Biliran and they got hit pretty hard. They also had no food, no running water in their apartment and had literally split an egg with his companion (he's a big guy) and hadn't showered in days to save the water. So we decided to meet with the Zone Leaders to talk about it because they still were completely in the dark. We waited for a few hours but they still weren't there and the other sisters still had to catch the last ride back to their areas, but they decided they would come back and bring their clothes. Also Elder Burton said they had a member driving to Tacloban to find some things out and the Sisters went to Tacloban because sister Bonagua was sick but they had NO idea what was in store for them. And before that we all went to Prince (the grocery store which was COMPLETELY stocked) and stocked up for weeks. We thought we might be pulled out...but we had no idea where, how or when so we prepared for anything. We bought 20 kg of rice ( to give a reference, Sister Estes and I go through about 3kg for one week.) We did have 6 sisters though but I think we had enough to survive for about 2 weeks. and about 50 pancit cantons(ramen noodle like things that you eat with rice) and tons of snacks. We also had to ration our money with no atms and we had no idea if we would all of a sudden need to travel to escape. We talked to the Zone Leaders and they told everyone to come back tomorrow except for Caibiran who live on the other side of the island and might not have enough gas to make it back so they just stayed.

Tuesday (November 12)

We did not sleep like at all. Our minds were on the other missionaries. On our families and friends worrying who don't know we're alive. We don't know who is dead and what other areas were affected. The fact that Philippines Tacloban Mission is done and we have no idea if we will ever come back. We can literally not communicate with any members because they don't have computers and the only way is through pouch mail (aka you give it to missionaries who take it back to the areas to give it to them)  It was a lot to swallow. and wayy too much to think about. We went to the church to meet the other missionaries. We were supposed to a Zone Training Meeting, but it did not even occur to me that that would continue. We got there a little late and all the elders were already there. We talked to Elder Burton who said President Corbin (Branch President of Biliran) who returned from Tacloban and had talked to President Andaya. He said officially Tacloban mission is closed. All missionaries will be reassigned. People are being pulled out. That was actually a relief because we heard SOMETHING. But still didn't know when. And then we started Zone Training meeting and talked about normal missionary work. I admired their commitment to continue but I just felt they were kinda avoiding the big problem. I think they were literally just in denial and it was just too much to handle all at once. The sisters came in halfway through carrying all their stuff and looked exhausted. We were just happy to see them but we were just worried they wouldn't be able to find a bus and they would be walking back- it would take hours- because gas was running low.  After some talking we decided it would be best for all the sisters to stay in Naval together even though there was just one tiny apartment but we knew in the end that when they came to look for us, we wanted to make it as easy as possible. But we had no idea when that was. And they had had a SUPER hard time because their companions were Filipino and just would not understand the situation. They just thought they were two dumb Americans who were overreacting. Every time they wanted to get food, be safe, come to Naval, they basically refused and just laughed at them. "I felt like I was taking crazy pills!" They constantly had to reflect and think if they were doing the right thing. Which they were! you can't really help the members if you have nothing yourself. We knew (even though they didn't believe it) that people were coming for us and we wanted to make sure we were playing it smart until they made it. It was really hard for them- warning, not all Filipinos are like this, it was just really hard. We heard word there could be another typhoon- not serious at all- but we were extra cautious and stayed inside playing the- lets-pretend-everything-is-okay-so-we-don't-have-an-emotional-breakdown game. But I was super lucky because between Sister Brown, Sister Estes, and Sister Robinson, we were very distracted and cracked jokes, told stories and laughed our heads off. I didn't feel like at all like a missionary but very therapeutic and exactly what we needed. As you can imagine, we became closer than close and I don't know what I would've done without them. The zone leaders said to stay in the apartment and they would come back and check on us. I literally got 1 hour of sleep and just talked all night because when it was quiet, we just wanted to cry.

Wednesday (November 13)

We woke up, got ready and studied, waiting on the zone leaders to come. They were taking forever and we were anxious to get to work helping the members of Naval and we were tempted to go to work and just leave a note but something told me to stay and it was a miracle. They came and we talked about what we were planning on doing for the day- which we NEVER do and the elders told us exactly where they'd be and suggested that we go help the Lugagay family clean up the debris of their collapsed apartment, but to stop by the church to talk to the family first. So we left to go buy brooms. Funny story- We stop by this store and "ayo"- or yell for the store owner to get there- and this really old nanay(lady) sticks her head out the window and she's in a towel. We say we want to buy some things but expect her to finish and we'll just wait. Literally she walks out in a towel, standing on the sidewalk, and takes our money and does business as usual. We're just cracking up so hard! she was literally like 70 years old standing on the street in the city in nothing but a towel like nothing was wrong!- only in the Philippines. We continue to the church and the members say, "Sister pike! There was a man from Salt Lake looking for you!" I was so confused. "For me or for all the missionaries?" "ikaw lang"(just you). What?! I'm on a tiny island in the middle of the Philippines right after a huge typhoon and someone is looking JUST for me? I realized we had just left our apartment with no note and maybe they (they mystery searchers) would go there next. Sister Estes and I decided to walk back but the other 4 sisters didn't need to walk all that way with us and they couldn't go to the house we were planning on because it wasn't their area so they had no idea where it was so they just decided to wait at the church which is another little miracle. We go back to the apartment leaving a note saying when we'll be back in case anyone comes looking and return back to the church to get the sisters. When we get there, we see these guys walking around outside in these official looking orange rescue pants and think, what is going on? This is not normal. and we are so shocked when we walk in and see the 4 sisters sitting in a circle talking to...PRESIDENT ANDAYA! I didn't recognize him in his normal shirt and orange legit rescue pants but we were so relieved. We meet Elder Ardern of the quorum of the seventy and in the area presidency shakes our hands and says, "Sister Pike, we are so relieved to contact you. I have talked to your parents multiple times and it's so good to finally meet you." We sit down and they brief us. "We are so glad to find you, you have been in the prayers of the First presidency, quorum of the twelve, all the brethren, all the missionaries in the world and the entire church. We are so relieved but of course we had the utmost confidence that you would be found safe. Tacloban is basically no longer on the face of the earth so it is necessary for us to close the Philippines Tacloban Mission for the time being until things are more stabilized. But don't worry, we will return. Right now, we are locating all the missionaries in the mission and getting them to Manila where they will be fed, cleaned, taken care of and receive their new assignments to other mission in the Philippines(we were so relieved because we were terrified some would be put in America and we would not be able to handle it). Everyone has been contacted and you are the last group out of the mission." I felt like I was in a movie! Is this really happening? Does the whole world really care about this? We had no idea. Then he pulls out his phone and says, "Can I take your picture? The First presidency of the church wants a picture of all the rescued missionaries." The first presidency?!?! I would have never even guessed it would make the news. We tell them we know exactly where the elders are and we leave! They parked at the end of the street- because they couldn't fit the car in because it was so narrow and there were fallen telephone lines so me and Sister Estes RAN to the members house. 

Can you imagine if we had been at this random members house helping them? Can you imagine if the other sisters had been in their areas (aka the mountains with no real roads or trails? Can you imagine if we hadn't talked  to the Elders earlier that day and known exactly where they were? We go to the members house but they are not there, they went to another member further down but he was asking what was going on. This was the member whose house got completely flattened and it hurt to see the look on his face when we told them we were leaving. Like we were just abandoning them in their greatest time of need. They probably still have no idea how incredibly dangerous and horrible Tacloban so it looked like we were just peacing out after a tiny little thing. Well, it wasn't tiny- it was the worst storm ever but all we had to worry about was the situation of Naval, we could've easily stayed and helped. It broke our hearts. We ran a little further and asked where the elders had gone. So we kept running and were SO tired. We made it to another member's house who had collapsed and we yelled for the Elders. They could only open the front door a crack and through it I said, "President Andaya is here. We're being pulled out and going to Manila. Philippines Tacloban Mission is done." That's a lot to process through a door! They were still in shock- "Naval is fine! We'll just stay here! The members need our help!" But they still didn't fully understand and I didn't have time to explain. " Our rescue team is waiting for you, we need to leave immediately! RUN!" So we ran. Actually they ran and we took a pedicab back (a guy riding a bicycle with a seat attached to the side) because we would not have made it. All the missionaries piled in, it was squished! and we went to our apartments. They dropped off the Elders to pack. Then us. We thought we had more time to pack because we thought they were going all the way to the other sister's areas to get their luggage before coming back but they came back WAY too soon. I had unpacked the stocked fridge so we could give it all the members- that was so nice! Usually it's not allowed for us to give food or money as missionaries to members because they need to get the help from the church a different way but now we had an excuse so with 20 kg of rice and a fridge full of food, I'm sure there were many members extremely grateful. They came back to get us- turns out there was a different rescue team searching for the sisters who would take them to their areas so we needed to go now! Two other sisters grabbed everything I owned and threw it in. by the time we left, the place was an absolute wreck. It looked like we had been robbed and kidnapped. This process was made difficult because of the complete lack of communication but we made it through somehow. 

We made it back to the church. Some members had randomly showed up and were seeing us leave. It was nice to get a few last pictures before we had left. I have yet to have a normal transfer where I actually have enough notice to say goodbye to anyone! Crazy huh? The other 4 sisters and 2 elders went to their areas on the other side of the island with a different rescue team and we piled in to head to the Biliran chapel to wait and regroup. Luckily, District president Gerez was there and offered his truck to help take us to Ormoc (2 hours away) which was such an amazing miracle and blessing because we would not have any room for everyone otherwise. Looking back, the hand of the Lord was so present in every little step, it is impossible to deny. We hopped in and got the LUCKIEST SEATS EVER. In the car with President Andaya and Elder Ardern. On the 30 minute drive, he asked us what we wanted to know and we just said tell us about Tacloban, we still can't believe what happened. So he asked, "Do you mind if I read from my journal my experience?" "OF COURSE NOT!" So he did and we just cried our eyes out. Especially when he mentioned my MTC companion, Sister Schaap, saving the day when they escaped to roof of the San Jose apartment and almost died. I just love them so much and cannot imagine the scarring that will leave on them. And then we waited at the Biliran chapel for the other missionaries to come back with their stuff and just talked to President Andaya and he told us everything that happened to them and showed us the pictures. He is the most humble and amazing man and an incredibly wonderful example of giving his all to the service of the Lord. His house flooded, his whole family was in such danger and yet he was worried about all the other missionaries, everyone they couldn't contact. I talked to Sister Schaap last night and she said rumors are the worst because no matter where you were, no one had contact. So everyone thought everyone else was dead. We all had faith that the Lord could protect us but we also knew that it wasn't impossible for missionaries to die on their missions. She said that everyone said Ormoc and Biliran were gone and it's of course not true! And then watching the news- a lot of their facts are off, I've heard the real stories and I never realized how wrong they could be. Let the facts be known that not a single missionary had a 72 hour kit. But it sure would've helped. We were told to get food and that's the extent of it. We had no idea. Any way, they eventually came and we were on our way to Ormoc and once again in the luckiest place ever. Back in the car with President and Elder Ardern receiving a general conference and advice and every single thing he could think of. It was probably the coolest thing of my life and I learned so much! One thing they were SO good at was not letting us be silent. Keeping our minds occupied so we couldn't think hey, this is so sad. I'm leaving the members, that I have served and grown to love who have become my family, in their greatest need. And not knowing if we're ever going to be able to come back. 

One thing he said that made me laugh, we talked about our siblings serving in the states and he said, "pshh that's not even a mission! Now THIS is a mission!" As we're being rescued and driving through a jungle of twigs from broken trees and houses destroyed. Never ever in a million years thought of this being a possibility but it definintely is a mission to remember! (as if it wasn't crazy enough before haha) Also, He was so funny! President Andaya too! They have a great sense of humor to keep us laughing. Then we arrived in Ormoc chapel. Tons of members were living there because their houses had been destroyed and they fed us dinner of pork and beans and bread and it tasted so good! Through all the hustle of the day, we had not even stopped to eat. They set us up in the chapel to sleep on the pews with the elders with on the floor in the gym. The floor was still wet from the floods and smelled like a funeral home but it was one of the only chapels in the whole mission with cushions on the seats so that was a score. But no matter how tired we were, we could not sleep a wink. Our members. Our mission. Our friends the other missionaries and the horrors they must have witnessed. Sister Robinson and I just talked in the dark all night long until we could finally sleep at 5 only to be woken up at 6. We could see guards walking around all night with flashlight because this desperate community was no longer safe. Especially since the church is known for being wealthy. We were woken up, shoveled in some breakfast and were on our way. They gave us Mormon helping hands jersey things and we were told to hide our name tags because as missionaries, we were not given priority to get on the boats. We posed as volunteers who had come in to help with the aftermath. Legit, huh? We were smuggled out! Driving through Ormoc was just sad. It was just a sad place. People on every corner starving. The Hospital with cracked windows and nothing but an empty shell. All stores boarded up. We saw Sister Kramer's pictures from right after the storm and it looked way worse when we saw it. This isn't about surviving the actual storm, but it's effects. We got on the boat and Sister Robinson called being the last missionary in region 8! (Tacloban mission) Everyone was on the boat and she stepped on last then an elder ran back and touched on foot back, ha! It was so hilarious. But she still claims it as she should. We rode for 3 hours to Cebu, which is so fancy! Nothing like Tacloban which is like the ghetto of the Philippines aka the best part:) and had Mcdonald's. After a week of no power, fresh food or cold food, it tasted SO good. They were SO good about taking care of us, planning everything so perfectly so there was always someone to meet us then pass us on to the next place. 

Then we flew from Cebu to Manila (1 hour flight) and we were picked up at the Airport and drove back to the MTC/MRC. What should have been 30 minutes took 2 hours in the crazy and Manila traffic and we were so dead. On one hour of sleep and in the same exact clothes we had gone out to work in. We were in the shock of our lives when we get out and get debriefed by the Philippines Area Presidency. They were so happy to see us after working so hard for so many days to find a way out for us. They told us about our mission calls and that the next 3 batches of missionaries would be going home and  the rest of us would be getting our mission calls with the rest of the mission that night! All we wanted to do was shower and get clean and eat and sleep but we went to see the rest of the mission and it was one of the most rewarding experiences ever. When the other missionaries saw us- the very last of the group coming in- they ran and tackled us, many tears and lots of thanks. I've never felt so loved. I was just so happy we got to see everyone again! We had asked the rescuers if we would be reunited one last time before we got shipped off to various missions but they couldn't give us a for sure answer so we feared the worst and got the absolute best. We met as a whole mission for the first time ever and they told us the plan. We would get our mission calls that were assigned by the area presidency and they knew they were revelation from God. They specified that we would never lose our identity as the Tacloban missionaries as we went out to serve other areas in the Philippines and share our testimonies that have grown SO much through this entire ordeal. They told us that we would be receiving a mission picture with a list of all 204 missionaries, their emails to keep in touch and a dvd with all the media that had come out while we were experiencing it all. It was really a dream come true and they could not have done more to help us cope with this difficult situation. 

After the meeting, we lined up and opened our calls and I just happened to remember that exactly one year ago, I had received my call to the Philippines Tacloban Mission. To the day! Wow. November 14- Philippines Cebu Mission, Cebuano speaking!!!! Relief came, and I knew it was exactly right. There were only 3 Bisayan missions (aka Cebuano speaking) and 7 Tagalog speaking so I knew there was a chance to speak Tagalog and I would've done it but I was so relieved to be actually able to know my language. But many Americans that don't know a word of Tagalog are going, and I'm sure they'll be just fine. After that, we all rejoiced and shared our mission calls with each other and there was just pure happiness. All missionaries love their mission and the other missionaries, but I'm afraid no other mission in the world could ever be closer than this. Experiencing this together made us more like a family than anything ever could. I saw the coolest thing ever. Right before I opened my call, An elder who had been in Tacloban and the heart of it all opened is call- also to Cebu and just started crying and dropped on his knees instantly and stared out loud thanking heavenly father for his call. It was incredible to witness. Heavenly Father knows exactly what we need. Then we got to call our families! Jenny and Julie were the shock of their lives cause no one else answered the phone! And you should all be pretty impressed that I still had remembered everyone's number.

Since then, We took a mission picture and had our first and last mission conference, everyone was in tears and it was an experience I will never forget. I feel so grateful to be a part of this mission. I can't believe how much we are on the news and whenever we go to the temple, random people come up to us and call us heroes. I don't really think so but I'm glad they're inspired by each of our stories. Everyone's experience is so different and I'm so uplifted by them all. I'm surrounded by some pretty incredible people. These past few days have just been the best and I've been savoring every minute. Everyone going to Cebu(there are quite a few! Yay! Lots from my batch and I'll get to see 3 elders from my MTC district!)  and other missions have already left but some from my group are staying a little longer to rest and process everything because we're were the last ones so we got way less time than everyone. They take care of us so well, and I really couldn't ask for anything more. Even though it was hard and still is emotionally taxing thinking of everyone we left and my while mission being destroyed, I'm grateful and I would do it again in a heart beat. The things I have learned are worth too much and I'm sure I will continue to learn and grow from this experience. And in Cebu, I will embrace the opportunity to get 2 missions and 2 loving mission presidents and I'm sure I have much to learn from them and so much to share. It's funny cause it's almost exactly half way and since being here feels exactly like being in the MTC I really feel like I'm starting mission #2! I'm so stoked. And that's my story. I've heard some amazing other ones that make me cry but help me grow.  I wish I had time to share them all but this is the longest thing ever! I love you. Thank you for your love and support!

Funny story- In mission conference, Elder Ferrin said, "Now that we all saved you and we spent a lot of money, it's time for pay back. for every minute of your parents call's to us, you owe 1 peso. for every minute of ours to them, you owe 10 pesos. Elder Oaks, you owe 200,000(ish). my thought-wow that's ridiculous! Then he said and Sister Pike, you owe 12 million (ish) pesos! Everyone looked at me and clapped haha I was super embarrassed. But felt super loved. It was hilarious.

Sister Pike

 Back when Life was normal...

 Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan)
Sleeping during the brownout - still completely unaware
the streets - all the trees...
Our investigators whose roof was blown off and she was alone with her 5 kids huddling in a corner until the end of the storm. 

 The Rescue

Saying goodbye to members who just happened to be there.

Sister Repollo! My branch missionary who we got to see in Ormoc! She was out of town during the storm but her house was damaged. 

Us incognito.. 

long day of travel..
The last missionaries out of Philippines Tacloban Mission! Biliran Zone!
I got to visit Elder and Sister Wood in the MRC again! Never thought that would happen! Especially under this circumstance!
The Manila Temple

Fun being distracted. Sister Kramer and Sister Dumas.
Story of our lives, staying up talking because we can't sleep then falling asleep when we can't move on.
MTC reenactment for the road before we're splitting up.
Saying goodbye - so sad! Going to our various missions

MY NAY VISITED! Sister Somera went home last month and lives 3 hours away from Manila so when she heard we were here, she came!!! She is just the best.  And Sister Robinson and I were always close because she was our Nay (trainer) but after this, closer than ever. She's the best. 

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