First off I want to thank you for your love & prayers for me and for all the missionaries here in the Philippines, and for the people here who I have come to love soo much.
We are all safe here in the Cebu mission-and I am SO thankful for wonderful zone leaders, district leader, and everyone who has been looking out for me and my companion and the people here.
The Tacloban/Leyte area was hit the worst-and I have heard from some of my friends from the MTC who are in the Tacloban mission and it breaks my heart to hear of the things that are happening there. They are safe, they are evacuating Tacloban and being reassigned. Please keep them in your prayers!! They have dealt with soo much!!
We were warned last week by President Schmutz of the typhoon, but nobody could have predicted the amount of devastation that it caused. Our zone leaders called us on Thursday AM to warn us that this storm was much worse than what was anticipated. We were told to prepare 72 hours kits, and be prepared to evacuate if necessary. We were told to be home at 5 pm that evening instead of the 8 pm curfew. Not going to lie, I was scared. But we have been SO protected during all of this.
Friday was the day Typhoon Yolanda/Haiyan hit us. It was scary. We were studying in our apartment and then the rain started to fall and the winds started to come....and it was SOOO LOUD that I could barely even hear Sister Tueller speak. We of course, stayed inside all day. The power flickered on and off until it just completely went out.
I wasn't really worried about myself, but I was worried about my dear friends here. Since I am in a pretty poor area, and it is coastal, and most of these people live in huts, I was really worried about them.
It was about 7 pm and the storm had subsided, and we got the OK from our zone leaders that if we wanted to stay close to the house, we could go out and check on people. WE found out that a lot of our members and neighbors had evacuated to the church, and we live close to the church, so we prayed that we would be safe, and we went to the church to check on my friends. They are so cute! They weren't even worried about themselves really, or their homes. They were worried about us! They wanted to feed us and give us hugs, and it was just really eye opening for me to see these people who could have potentially lost everything, not even worrying about themselves, but turning outward to help us. We made sure they were all ok, we weren't out for more than like 15 minutes, but that was probably the biggest turning point of my mission so far.
We have spent a lot of time this week, just checking up on our dear friends and making sure everyone is OK. We have only two "houses" that were damaged badly enough to need help from the church-and that is such a huge blessing. Because people were out of work during the time of the typhoon, some of our friends who literally LIVE for the money they make each day-were pretty hungry and needed rice and water. But everyone is doing ok now. We really are so blessed here.
It is still pretty rainy, and kind of windy, but that is partly the season we are in. I can't believe that crazy first month I have had in the Philippines, but it's nothing like what the Tacloban missionaries have had to endure. Please keep them all in your prayers.
Some other things that happened this week:
I met a Stella in the Philippines, but it was a guy! Anyone who knows me well, knows that I want to name my first daughter Stella. Hmmm kinda interesting now. :)
Sunday/Church in the Philippines:
Church here has to be the CRAZIEST experiences ever. Be so thankful for the organization of the church that you have in America. Here, our branch president rolls up to the church at about 8:59 am on his little bike, and we wait for everyone else to get there, and by then we are starting late. This week we helped our RS president prepare her lesson, we also gave the YW lesson, and we spoke in Sacrament Meeting! Sister Tueller played the "piano" a.k.a. a synthesizer. Sometimes thing are so ridiculously funny that I ahve to really try with everything I have not to laugh. You all would think the church situation here is quite funny-it is frusturating at times but they don't know anything different. We are trying to help them.
P.S. We did find out that there is a primary teacher, but she heals people with herbs, and she wasn't able to come to church on Sunday because she was "too busy".
Here are some things we have been told by random men on the street this week:
"so beautiful..." The security guard at the grocery store
"you are all very cute" random group of drunk people
"mam harris....i love you but I cannlt shake your hand because I ahve seen you 3 times this week and I might die." .......another drunk man ( I don't know him)
Also, someone approached Sister Tueller and asked her if he could come back to America with her....haha!
Updates on Investigators:
Sister Reyes, RS Pres and our landlord. She loves us and we LOVE her so much! She spoils us and and is great. She never wants her pic taken so I am working on that.
Roselyn, & LinLin-I told you about linlin a few weeks ago. Linlin is the mom and Roselyn is the daughter. Her nick name is BangBang. :) Roselyn is a member and is 14 and we are teaching her mom. We are trying to get her to stop smoking. It's interesting. She wouldn't give us her cigarettes, because she said if she is going to give them away, she wants to sell them. I am not sure if that is ok, but would NOT give us her cigarettes. So, just to make sure she wasn't tempted to smoke, I gave her some Christ stickers to stick all over her cigarette boxes so she would remember that she promised Heavenly and Jesus Christ that she would not smoke.
Brenda- is super awesome! She is 26 years old and her dad was taught in the 90's by the missionaries. She prays like a champ and we have committed her to baptism, so we will see where that goes.
Mary Jane, Mary Grace, and Ninia were the three I committed to baptism my first two weeks here. I don't know why the people here have such a hard time going to church. I am trying to help them.
Eugene and Marichu
are the elders landlords and we are teaching them. Marichu was a member, but converted to another church, and Eugene is an investigator. They are super funny and nice. It's sad to see someoen who left the church because they weren't fellowshipped, or looked out for. We don't just baptize people, we need to retain them too, so this doesn't happen! They have a crazy 4 year old son named Manuel who loves the toy I gave him from Trudy Palmer!!
Well, that is about all I have for this week, Thanks for all your love and support and prayers!! You are all so special to me and I love you all!!! Make this a good week!!
Sister Joslyn Harris