Greetings from....drumroll please... Naval, Biliran!!! That's right, I'm back in my 2nd area! Still Cebuano! I have no idea why, but I did not see that coming. Like at all. But this week was so good! The definition of bitter sweet but I feel so lucky that I had so much time to say goodbye to everyone and even had one last Sunday to take pictures and see everyone, that never happens! So I feel really blessed.
Sunday at 3 I left by ocean jet to Cebu- usually we just take a bus and are on a boat for like 30 minutes and drive the rest but this way is by boat the whole entire way, 10x more expensive so I thought would be WAY faster, but isn't at all! So that was crazy. The next morning, we hung out in the office- Sister Anderson and I were the only ones going back but 3 others are done with their missions so we hung out until Pres. and Sister Schmutz came to talk to us. With the other two batches of people leaving, they knew exactly what area and who their companion was even in Cebu! but with us, there was just a list of 22 names so we were so curious! We had no idea. President thought they would tell us in Manila...nope! We left at 1 for the airport, waited for two hours till our flight left, even though it's a 1 hour flight, we didn't get to our hotel in Manila until 9pm. And then we had a reunion with all the other Tacloban missionaries from other missions heading back! Sister Kramer, Pettijohn, Adasme, Mier, Ralph, Henshaw, Baylon, and 2 more that I forgot. Elder Davies, Carlson, Ma'asi, Banawan, Parsons, and I forgot the others. I thought for sure we were going to Catarman kay it was untouched and hasn't been opened yet and there were 22 of us which is pretty big! Some people thought Biliran because 4 of us are from the original Biliran zone but our zone was only 16 so I thought we were too many so I thought, no way! We ate dinner and talked. It was SO cool to hear about how everyone loved their other missions so much and their mission presidents and it was so hard to leave. We all got so close to so many of the missionaries we served with and it was really cool to see that even though each mission is So different, rules, regulations, styles of mission presidents, etc., They're all good! And everyone loves it. We all stayed in a hotel in Manila and the next morning at 7, we flew into Tacloban!
The airport was pretty ghetto to begin with but it still definitely had the effects of the typhoon. No walls, just a roof and they unloaded all the luggage by hand. All of us were SO excited to see Pres. And Sister Andaya, even thought we were so tired from traveling the day before, none of us could even sleep that night. When we saw them waiting outside the airport for us with the office elders, it felt like we were coming home! It was so amazing. We were all piled into the vans they rented with our luggage and we drove to Fatima Chapel, the chapel right next to the mission office and home. Tacloban was up and running, but there were so many tents set up among the rubble and life just seemed to move on! It never really felt real to me because I never saw it so it felt good to see it with my own eyes. We had an orientation type deal in the chapel, after they fed us, and as president was talking to us, it felt like we had never left! It felt so right like nothing had even happened. And I forgot how funny he is and how much I missed him! They announced our areas and companions- I'm with Sister Adasme in Naval and they opened another Sisters area with us- Sister Ralph and Henshaw! I thought it was amazing that they were opening areas, but because the attendance has just boomed! We talked to a member today who said our attendance was 200(before was 80-90) and in Biliran (over 500 before 150 and there are only 400 something members on the directory) WOW!!!! We have work to do and I am so excited! We are staying in a different area right now (balaquid) for the time being because they haven't finalized our apartment yet (we moved because they are stepping up the standard of all housing) so we'll be working in their area too. And it's so bukid (not the city at all and a beautiful view). And they loaded us up and took us to our apartments! When we were driving there, I forgot about the crazy windy van rides and the amazing views. My companion is so excited because she has always served in the city so she said, "I finally get to serve in the Philippines!" Like the other areas weren't.. haha Yep, this is definitely as Philippines as it gets and it's so good to be back :)
We were all joking that they need to all reteach us how to be Tacloban missionaries because each mission has different rules and ways of doing stuff so we've all forgot! A lot can happen in 3 months! I'm sure we'll figure it out soon. OH and they said, the goal is to get every missionary back within 60 days and they're taking about 20 every week. I wish I had known that! And all they need to do is find apartments with power, water, cell service and access to food so our mission should be back and fully running in no time! When we met in Tacloban, the church was still pretty broken, lots of missing ceiling tiles and you could see into the rafters. I love you, excited to report how the work is next week!
Love, Sister Pike