Sunday, August 26, 2012

FLOODS IN THE PHILIPPINES


Photos top left to right 1. Flooding Marikina River out Window of Missionaries Apartment 2. People Under Umbrellas Watching as Water Rises in Marikina 3. Boat to Rescue Stranded Members in Provident Ward 4. Bags of Food Packaged by Volunteers at the Area Office 5. Flooded Homes Along Marikina River
August proved to be a disastrous month for Metro-Manila.  Within two days, we quickly had a "water" problem to match that of Ondoy in 2009. Seven sets of our young missionaries had to move into their respective Mission Homes, as their apartments were completely submerged. Eight of our chapels were under water. Sixty chapels of the Church were used as evacuation centers for members and non-members alike. Thousands of members dawned their yellow Mormon Helping Hands vests and began packing food and hygiene kits for distribution to affected families. For most of the people living in Metro-Manila, it was Typhoon Ondoy (2009) revisited! From the evening of August 6th to the afternoon of August 7th, 24 inches of rain fell…that is double the amount of rain that fell during Typhoon Katrina in the U.S.
Once again the area of Marikina became a rolling river.  This is the area that we drive through every Sunday to go to our branch in Malaya.  It is so sad to see the water, but even worse is when the water recedes leaving behind several feet of muddy sludge in everything! The people of the Philippines deal with these disasters every year…in 2011 the Philippines had more natural disasters than any country in the world! It's easy to see why it is so difficult for these people to get out from under the poverty. 
It has been such an experience to see the Church in action. In response to this disaster, the Church immediately released relief funds to buy food, sleeping mats, blankets, and hygiene kits. Volunteers were called for…we were hoping for 150, but almost 400 showed up…it was amazing to see. Then a couple of days later we needed more volunteers and once again they came…so happy to be able to help. This has truly been an eye-opening and humbling experience.

Monday, August 6, 2012

LOST AND FOUND IN THE PHILIPPINES

Roehl
 
Elder Bird with Roehl
 
Roehl's Office Sign
 
Sister Bird with Merlyn

I have had a wonderful opportunity of helping to find a few "lost" aquaintances while here in the Philippines.  This has been a most rewarding experience.  I will share a few of them briefly.

Roehl:
When we arrived in the Philippines, Roehl had already been looking for “his missionary” for 15 years. He was employed as the Director of Purchasing for the Church in the Philippines.  Because his office was housed in the Manila Philippines Administration Office, he was used to seeing many senior missionaries come and go. Each time he would meet a new missionary he would ask them where they were from.  If any said they were from the state of Idaho in the U.S., he would ask if they knew anyone by the last name of Arave....he was looking for “his” Elder Arave.  The 2nd week we were in the Philippines, Roehl saw another new face in the hall, and stopped to introduce himself, and, of course, to ask where this new missionary was from...this new missionary happened to be my husband!  Randy had been asked by many Filipinos where he was from and he always said Utah, but when Roehl asked him where he was from, he said “Utah...but I am originally from Idaho.”  So Roehl asked if he knew anyone whose last name was Arave.  Randy knew that one of my college roommates (who later married my brother) had the last name of Arave.  I contacted her and she said she would do some checking.  A couple of days later I received an email from her, and sure enough, her nephew had served in the Philippines Baguio Mission and had taught and baptized Roehl.  Roehl had become interested in learning about the Church while attending LDS Institute with some of his friends. He had become friends with these guys because their values were in harmony with his.  He said he was a "tough case" and made the missionaries work hard...he wanted to be very sure he had his own testimony of the restored gospel.  He then served a mission himself and later married in the temple and now has a beautiful family.  The Lord has continued to guide his footsteps along the road of life. Both Roehl and his missionary friend have had much joy in becoming reaquainted!

Merlyn:
I met Merlyn at a Jubilee Exhibit in the city of Binalbagan on the island of Negros.  What a wonderful woman...so talented and selfless and kind.  I loved the brief  period of time we had together.  When Randy and I were ready to head to the airport for our trip back to Manila, she told me she had one big favor to ask of me... could I help her find her mission companion from almost 30 years ago.  Her companion was from the U.S. and had lived with a family in Idaho Falls by the name of Johnson....I thought...hmmm, that ought to narrow it down!!!haha  She thought this friend had moved to California and then they had completely lost contact with each other.  Well, I started doing some research, and with some extra resources I had here at the Administration Office, I was able to find her companion.  I called Merlyn for Christmas and told her I had a gift for her.  She started to cry and said it was the best gift ever!  I must say, that was fun!
 
Brenda:
I have decided the Jubilee Exhibit and our assignment to follow it throughout the Philippines has been a wonderful blessing in more ways than one.  It seems that when we have become acquainted with members out in more remote areas, they have been willing to approach us seeking assistance to solve their own frustrations. That was the case with Brenda.  I met her in the city of Laoag. It is located way up north along the west coast on the large island of Luzon.....a beautiful area...one of our very favorites in the Philippines!  She was a physically challenged sister that had to use a type of crutch fastened to her arms to aid her in walking...possibly the results of polio...I didn't ask.  She had 2 beautiful children with her. She had served a mission in Quezon City in 2003 and was looking for a senior missionary couple from Mississippi that had served in the Manila Temple.  They had befriended her as a young missionary and had truly been the greatest help to this young sister. She had tried to keep in touch so she could tell them how blessed her life had been....here she was now happily married and a mother to these beautiful children....but she wondered if they had ever received the letters she had sent.  Brenda wondered if perhaps they had died and she had no way to know....would I help her!  Once again, I could hardly wait to get back to Manila to start researching!!  This one was easy....she had been sending the letters to Hattiesburg and they were really in Harrisburg, Mississippi!! They are all still living and now reunited!
 
There has been one more "find" while serving here that I will not go into detail about...but perhaps the most joyous of all, and another in the works. Randy is now calling me the "super sleuth"!! Who ever knows the many reasons we are called to a certain mission....only the Lord knows. I am most grateful.