Happy birthday dear mama!
I hope you had a wonderful birthday and felt my love for you across the miles.
Amid the chaos of the storm, I managed to find a doughnut and a candle to sing "happy birthday" and make a wish for you.
This week has been a crazy week. Even though this week was a little hard, I did my best to keep my spirits up and be positive and calm. Times like these - times that are a little bit trying - are the times that we grow the most. Even with the devastation from the storm, I think that this will be a time of growth and progression. I am looking forward to growing and progressing in my new, temporary area, Bayombong. I want to do what the Lord wants me to do. I want to always follow His will. It's been a trying week, but it's also been a huge blessing. The typhoon Lawin ripped through the north part of the Philippines, but we are doing okay. (The typhoon has a different name in the US I think?) Some of our areas are pretty damaged, but the storm has passed and we are picking ourselves back up off the ground. What's important is that we are safe and that we are well. Heavenly Father protects his missionaries!
I'll start from the beginning....
On Tuesday, we were happily gathered in our district meeting, just like any other Tuesday. The weather was so calm....but it was an eerie calm. There wasn't a cloud in the sky and there wasn't any wind. Everything was just still. While in the meeting, we got a text from our leaders telling us that the storm was coming and that we needed to get out of our areas as soon as possible. They told us to grab our 72 hour kits and enough supplies for a few days and to get to the mission home as soon as possible. Our district meeting was cut short; we went home as fast as we could and scrambled to get our things packed. My hands were shaking as I packed up a few supplies and a few things that I didn't want to lose. In that moment, I was so scared. I didn't know what was going to happen. I felt afraid and lost. I prayed in my heart to Heavenly Father to help me feel calm and happy, no matter what would happen. I also prayed that we would be safe and that angels would protect us.
After a few moments of rushed packing, we headed to the bus station and took a three hour bus ride straight to Cauayan. We left at about 3:30pm and got to the mission home at about 7:00pm. From there, we were assigned to stay in a safe apartment close to the mission home in San Mateo. The apartment there was safe and nice, and the two sisters, Sister Baker and Sister Cumpio were nice too. We had a dinner of 72 hour kit canned tuna and went to bed. I didn't sleep well that night.
On Wednesday, the rain started. We woke up and went about our regular schedule - preparation, studies, and such. Then, because we hadn't been on lock-down yet, we went out to work with the San Mateo sisters! I felt like an insane person, going out into the storm. We taught only a few lessons when the leaders texted us to get back to our houses. "You are now on lock-down." As the rain and the wind whipped through the mission, we were safely tucked into our house. To pass the time while being on lock-down, I read books and church magazines. We went to bed right as the power went out. I didn't sleep well that night either. The wind and rain was loud and I just laid awake worrying about what would happen. But nothing really happened where we were staying. We were very safe in the San Mateo house.
On Thursday, we were on lock-down until the early afternoon. Still no power. Our leaders told us that we could go out and work for a few hours, but that we had to be back at the house by dark, which is about 6:00pm. We taught a few lessons that afternoon. There wasn't much damage in San Mateo. The rain and the wind had stopped and it was only a little cloudy. We bought a yummy, non-canned food dinner, and got back to the house at dark. We got home right after the power came back and went to bed.
On Friday morning, our leaders told us to get to Cauayan again. President Hiatt told us that we would not be going back to our areas in Tuguegarao, but that there was too much damage for us to go back there permanently. He told us that we would go to our apartments, grab everything, and then head to a new, temporary area. We rode with President and Sister Hiatt all day and got all of our things packed up. That took all day! It was very tiring. We were very grateful that nothing too bad happened to our apartment. Some water seeped in a little under the doors but that’s all. There were other missionary apartments in Tuguegarao that got the roof torn off and stuff…but nothing happened to ours. Yay! Everything was safe and sound.
The hardest part of Friday was seeing the devastation. In Cauayan, the storm seemed like nothing, but the typhoon was much stronger in the northern part of the mission. I didn't recognize our area when we got back to it. Everything was brown, broken, and sad. All the trees and the beautiful green of Penablanca was stripped away. The people there already have so little, and what little they had was destroyed. It broke my heart. The power lines are so damaged there, they said there won't be power there for a long time. I am not sure what a "long time" means. Because of typhoon Lawin, three zones have been temporarily closed: Tuguegarao South, Tuguegarao North, and Ilagan. I'm not sure how long they will be closed. Hopefully everything can be put back together again before too long. I pray every day for those we left in Penablanca, that they will be safe and that they will be able to feel Heavenly Father's love despite the destruction from the storm. The bad thing is, because we left, we don’t really know what happened to the members and investigators there. We asked the bishop of our ward to check them and Nanay Valeria, and he promised he will. I’ll let you know if I find anything out next week. I hope they are okay!
On Saturday, we headed to our new, temporary area - Bayombong in the Solano zone. I have always wanted to be assigned in Solano! Although I miss Penablanca, I am happy to be here. We have to awesome housemates, Sister Ruyeras and Sister Wiiri. They are so fun and welcoming. We feel right at home with them.
On Sunday, we had our first "normal day" in five days. I was so so so tired. My eyelids were all droopy during church and for the rest of the day. All the traveling, worrying, packing, and sleepless nights left me wiped. It felt so wonderful to arrive in Bayombong and to feel like we have a home and a place to be and live and work. My companion and I felt kind of homeless and like refugees for a few days. We are happy to have a place now. My companion and I are excited to open up an area here in Bayombong and start working hard. We miss our old area, but we know that Heavenly Father will watch over it while we are gone. My companion and I are doing well together and I know we will do a great job together working in this new area here, even if it may only be for a short time. I am so thankful for all of your prayers for me and the other missionaries here that were affected by the storm. Thank you for loving us and helping us. I am thankful that we are safe and that Heavenly Father protected us. I am happy to be a missionary! Even though things are sometimes hard, I am so happy to be here, serving my Savior.
Experiencing the storm reminded me of a talk by President Uchtdorf last April about the destruction from WWII. It's titled, "He Will Place You on His Shoulders and Carry You Home." Here is a part of his talk:
"If man can take the ruins, rubble, and remains of a broken city and rebuild....how much more capable is our Almighty Father to restore His children who have fallen, struggled, or become lost?
It matters not how completely ruined our lives may seem. It matters not how scarlet our sins, how deep our bitterness, how lonely, abandoned, or broken our hearts may be. Even those who are without hope, who live in despair, who have betrayed trust, surrendered their integrity, or turned away from God can be rebuilt. Save those rare sons of perdition, there is no life so shattered that it cannot be restored.
The joyous news of the gospel is this: because of the eternal plan of happiness provided by our loving Heavenly Father and through the infinite sacrifice of Jesus the Christ, we can not only be redeemed from our fallen state and restored to purity, but we can also transcend mortal imagination and become heirs of eternal life and partakers of God’s indescribable glory."
I am grateful that broken things can be fixed and made whole again. I am glad that whatever storms may come into our lives, there is always a chance for us to become new. Through the Savior, broken things become whole and hearts are healed, no matter how badly they were destroyed before.
I love you all so much! You are always in my thoughts and prayers.
xo Sister Allen
Our district meeting before we were evacuated from our areas...
we look happy but we were very stressed and worried.
Thank goodness for my 72 hour kit! If you don't have one, get one! I never thought I'd have to use mine, but I did. This is my proselytize bag, my 72 hour kit, and an extra backpack with some extra clothes and toiletries.
This is where we stayed after the evacuation and during the storm. I slept on the mattress and my companion slept on the couch. We were there for four days. Of course, I couldn't leave Monkey! I would be so sad if he was destroyed or lost in the storm. No one has ever commented about Monkey. Hahaha. Usually I hide him under my pillow. :)
Our district before we all got split up...we were all temporarily reassigned to different parts of the mission because of the destruction from the storm.
Some of the rice fields after the storm. They got flattened! The rice farmers will have a really hard time harvesting, which is really sad. This was in San Mateo (San Mateo is in Cauayan and is where we evacuated to and stayed when the storm hit).
This is the road to Tugugareo....good thing there's another route! The power lines are all messed up, and up the road a little, the road is covered with water. All of the pictures of destruction are from our area in Penablanca and Tuguegarao.
The river flooded so much it looked like a lake. It almost reached the road where we were driving.
This is outside of the apartment after the storm. All the trees and leaves are almost gone.
This is the same view, outside of my apartment a few weeks ago, before the storm.
It looks like fall in Tuguegarao! There's no more of the pretty green.
Some destruction from the storm in our area.
Many houses got torn apart. There was metal and wood everywhere.
The Filipinos started cleaning up the storm really fast. They had already piled a lot of the wood and debris into huge piles in front of their houses.
Damage and debris.
Lots of metal and wood...debris from the storm.
Some flooding from the rain. Luckily flooding wasn't a huge problem. It only flooded a little.
Some army dudes helping out after the storm.
Us, after being in the car for the whole day driving to Tuguegarao and back. We went back to our apartment, speed packed all our belongings, and left again. Yep! That's me and my stuff! Alive and well and none of my stuff ruined. :)
This is my new area where my companion and I have been temporarily reassigned - Bayombong in Solano zone. It's beautiful! It's up in the mountains.
Me and my cute Nanay, Sister Maroket! I haven't seen her since I finished my training, but I got to see her because of my reassignment. I was so happy to see her! She goes home this Wednesday.
These are the sisters in our new district in Solano. They were all kind and welcoming to us.