Monday, December 23, 2013

22 December 2013

Hello Family,
Mark and Kurt and their little Bro. They are getting baptized on Jan 4th.
   Well I am so happy to be able to write you right before Christmas and tell you about my week and how it went. This week we have some new investigators and one of which I love like Crazy. His name is Chris and he is 14 years old. I love teaching him. He is such a gem, he listens with his whole heart and asks great questions. He lives out in the bukid and has no money. He goes to school and works in the field. His family is Catholic, and so we are just beginning to work with him and the spirit is always very present when we teach him.
   We also did finally move into our new apartment! Woot woot! it's not bad. It is nice that there is always running water now. But the bathroom.... ahhh scary, haha, you have to go outside like 10 feet in order to get to the bathroom and the owner of the lot has 8 dogs that fight all the time but it's all good. We are happy to be settled finally. Ohh, man .. ok so has this week been full of adventure. I don't know why but twice this week we happened to end up talking to women that are just GUNG HO (however you spell that) that they are already saved because they have accepted Jesus and it does not matter what they do now because they are saved. Man... the first experience was actually really really neat...
 Its a crab! there are thousands along the sand literally.
 We are not allowed to swim. We can put our feet in.
The Zone leaders with us putting our feet in the ocean...

   Alright so this first lady is a wife of a LA and she is just SUPER set in her religion. She just kept talking and talking and honestly I was not scared at all. I was not intimidated either, I just listened. I'm finding that SOOO many times the things these people say are either almost exact quotes from the people described in the BOM or they are truths that are just interpreted wrong. It's really incredible. But thankfully I learned a long time ago, actually in High school. I remember there were these Jehovah Witnesses that came to our house and dad let them in and talked to them and told them that he was grateful for what they were doing. I was really surprised. He took what they offered and was so kind and gentle to them. I learned a lot from watching the example of my Dad that day and I'm using it here in the mission field. But at the same time I am able to listen to the spirit and testify of truths... GRABE!! the experiences of testifying are sooo beautiful!
   After that first experience my companion was like WOW Sister Ralph, that was so powerful! AHH! I love the spirit soooo much! I love Heavenly Father for allowing us weaklings to teach with power and authority. We had another experience just like it the other day except it was less spiritual unfortunately. This lady could not believe I was a missionary and could not name all the Books in the Bible... I am unqualified to be a missionary, haha. Oh well. She gave us a pamphlet and we testified and gave her our pamphlet. I read her pamphlet and once again I am just amazed... the pamphlet is great... it's all about Christ and being saved through him. It really opened my eyes to just how subtle Satan is. He is just a little turkey. It's ok....That's what prayer and the Book of Mormon is for! I love the Book of Mormon with all my Heart! There is no better feeling than opening up that Book with a pen in hand expecting to receive revelation and receiving it.
   The last incredible thing this week was we had zone conference. And our president said the Focus of what we will teach is Tithing. I was soo surprised. 
Escalantes Zone during a Zone conference. My companion and I are the only sisters in the zone.

   Any way... soo tithing. I was surprised that he wanted to focus on tithing. For me, up until the point. This was just a commandment that was simple and obvious in order for the Church to progress. I have always paid my tithing and never really given it a second thought -- I know this is because I knew I would never have to worry about it. My parents could help me if I REALLY needed it and so no problem.
   WOW! Has my perspective changed. Tithing is incredible!! This is what we are commanded to do. We meet our LAs walk in and say are you a full tithe payer? They say no. Then we say, "How is your life?" And they say "Pigado" (or poor). And we say... "that's why." period. BAM!

   Here in the Philippines tithing is a HUGE deal. People get scared whenever you talk about money. But president Hinckley promised the Philippines Specifically that if they always paid a full tithe they would ALWAYS have three meals a day, roof over their heads and clothes on their back. WOW! that's a promise! Its real! This is the only commandment where these people are promised temporal blessings. - just like a math equation. And it's true! WOW! How incredible is that! I know God lives and this is HIS work! How blessed we are to have the opportunity to pay our tithing and receive temporal and spiritual blessings.
  Could you forward me Benjamin's last two letters? I never get to read them but want to hear how he is doing.
Sr. Turtal and me in the ocean up to our ankles.
Thank you! Ok! I love you all so much! Enjoy singing... Dad .. no falling asleep during Joy to the World again hahahahahahahah love you all so much! Talk to you soon! aHHH!!!! (=
Thanks for the Christmas package.

Monday, December 16, 2013

15 December 2013

HI FAMILY!!!! MAN I LOVE YOU! Here is a pix of where we shop for meat. Sorry this keyboard is terrible so sorry if a lot of this does not make sense.
   This week was normal. Oh I did get to ride on the very top of a tricycle this week- it was like riding a roller coaster but with no seat belt haha everyone smiled and waved more than usual, haha.
Pillow cases given to every missionary in the mission.
 It is Christmas time and so every single night we have little kids coming to our apartment and sing like crazy until we open the door and give them food. It's kind of funny they just keep singing no matter how long it takes for us to open the door. We have an investigator -two actually this week and they live so far away. It's awesome... we literally are hiking in skirts. It's so much fun! I love the bukid (foresty area). They are brothers and love the church and are getting baptized on January 4th!
   Yesterday was the first time in my life I only partook of the water and not the bread during the sacrament, haha. I got the Elders attention and told them we were skipped but they just kept on going.... it was kind of weird. Slightly funny.
   I had a number of experiences this week where I was chastised by the Lord-- especially through the scriptures. I really have a testimony that God speaks to His children through the scriptures. A few days ago I was outside with my companion and we were waiting on a member to work with us and we just looked up at the stars and moon. I was thinking about my faith and how crazy of a concept faith is. I was staring at the moon and thought... wow... people have been there. People have walked on the moon. I know that, it's easy for most people to believe.... so how is that any different than my faith in Jesus Christ. I didn't see the people walk on the moon but I have no doubt they did. My faith in Jesus Christ is much the same. It's weird being on a mission because you're past life kind of feels like a dream. Sometimes it's weird to think that I actually lived with the most incredible family on the earth, I have the most loyal and true best friends any one could ask for, I've listened to prophets and apostles preach, I've entered the house of the Lord multiple times, I've graduated from college... what? really? I don't's kind of hard to explain but it helped me put faith into perspective for me. I know without a doubt that Jesus Christ is my, is our Savior. I know that my Father in Heaven loves me and I love Him, so very much. I know the Book of Mormon is true and I love reading it. It fills my soul with peace and hope. I just love the gospel, and I love being a missionary and seeing how it changes lives and families.

   Yes it's a baby bunny of a member. The kids are singing another language mom... I don't know haha they mix in English too but it's all out of tune. Most Filipinos including my companion are tone deaf haha, haha, sooooo I'm not always sure. No meat shop mom... that's in the middle of the market. Where nasty infested dogs and wild cats run around and I didn't take a picture of the dead lamb heads next to it.... I will save you the sight, hahaha.
   I am excited. During Christmas time I'm trying not to think about my family. Haha, this is my favorite time of the year with my family, but we are doing our best to just look outside of ourselves and spread the Gospel, the Good news to everyone.
   My stalker is gone. We have not moved yet- this week. And yes I think the elders are doing a little better. One of the elders in the my ward is a punk... love him;... but he keeps touching me and I might get sent home for "decking" him if he keeps it up.
   My ward is pretty good at fellowshipping. Please thank everyone for their prayers mom. I should get going but please Tell Dad, Francene, Beka, Samuel, Jess and Hadlie and Mary Kozy that I love them very much and Merry Christmas! Mom, you are so wonderful, thank you for always uplifting me. You are such a huge manifestation of God's Love for me. I know He is so proud of you. Please be safe and always remember I love you!!
   ALL My Love,
Sister Ralph

Monday, December 9, 2013

8 December 2013 -- Gift of Tongues

Love the word
Ok, so here is my letter. 
   Last p-day was pretty fun. We went to the church to play basketball only to find out it was not allowed for sisters to play with elders (the rules in this mission are very, very strict) so instead we got to play with a bunch of adorable kids. Reminded me how badly I want to be a mom... don't worry I wasn't losing focus; I just loved the light that they have inside. Their father had died, their mom was in the hospital but they were just glowing and loving. I played wrestle and horsey with them. It was such a blast. I love Filipinos. They are sooo easy to love.

   Me and my companion really felt the need to really push our obedience--exact obedience this week being the only sisters in our zone.... These Elders need some serious guidance or good examples here and so that is one of our many goals. And it feels good. I really felt impressed that the Lord wanted us to do this and we are called here for a reason.
   How crazy miraculous is this... we have 17 new investigators this week!! My last area we were happy to get one.... We have 17!! Just this week and 9 of them came to church! Wow! We are so blessed! We have been able to teach families... which I have not really had an opportunity to do yet. So we are so happy and excited for the progress here.
   We got Ariel a less active member who has cleft lip really bad and is 17 years old to come to church! He is shy of course but was so happy! Ahh! Oh joy!!!
   We are teaching a family way out in the Boonies. Yes I know I told you that my area is rich and way different but for some reason haha most of our investigators live out in the sticks... and I mean sticks. It's gorgeous out there... fields of sugar cane and coconut trees and mountains are all you can see. We are teaching a family who are living "in the wilderness like Lehi" haha multiplying like crazy out there. And we really, really hope they are able to continue to come closer to Christ as we keep going back... hinay hinay... or slowly, little by little.

    Any way another investigator that we taught... hahah, oh man did we get a kick out of her. She is this very old lady and is very catholic and I think she has a hard time hearing but when she prayed she probably prayed for 5 minutes or more and would say "Oh God for all our blessings Happy "p" P "P "p"p "p "P " over and over and over and she would say other phrases always with Happy p p p pp pronounced like "pee" hahahah it was so funny. You kind of had to be there but just know we got a kick out of it AND even though she is not super interested her daughter listened in and we were able to teach her and she came to church! Ahh! Love is everywhere!
Loving the kids.

   We still have not changed apartments, but that's ok. It's not a big deal. We should by next week.
   Oh man!! Ok so we were teaching another investigator and she is 16 almost 17 and her step lola (grandmother) was there... she is a DEVOTE Catholic, oh my goodness, haha. We could barely say a word without her going off about saints and how there is no gospel and we are Catholic we are Catholic. There were tons of kids sitting in and listening to us, lots of her grandchildren and as we sat there and just smiled and listened to her the kids would give us faces like "yeahhh she is crazy!" hahah. We just smiled back and waited for a chance to say something. This of course has happened to us before but not like this. It was bad...and she kept snickering and laughing at us after we said just about anything. Also realize this is Sister Ralph's perspective, which means I'm only picking up half of what she is saying and am not super great in the language (haha this is my third time switching languages). BUT... after a while we all could just feel this grossness in the room.... I promise I was patient and smiled and polite and all that... but inside I was BOILING. Beyond boiling... I just wanted to sasjdajdsjgk I don't even know. But when she literally took a breath, I kind of butted in and just looked the children square in the eyes and somehow asked them to identity the feeling in the room. And how it just was not good... and I can't remember the word I used. But I went on to testify with all the energy of my soul that I knew for MYSELF through the Power of the Holy Ghost that our message was true. That the gospel is the only and true way... and I just felt the spirit burn. I know at that moment the spirit was with us and I was blessed with the gift of tongues. I love the Lord so much! He is so good to us. Many of those children wanted to learn more (=
   Oh last thing... I have a stalker hahahah oh boy! I dont know who it is. But we randomly got a text last night from someone who "wanted to come closer to god" and my companion being naive and young told him our names and ever since then his texts are directed towards me and where I live. Texts all through the night at 4 and 6 this morning... he wants to know how I slept etc...... creeepy!! Don't worry I never respond but I'm grateful we are moving next week because he lives in our neighborhood. I gave the elders the number and we should be ok.
   As to how I'm doing...I'm good. Only every once and awhile I just have flash backs but other than that... I'm ok. I'm just trying to love where I am at and struggling to trust the Lord will help me understand these people. Just normal missionary struggles, but I'm ok. Thanks for asking. The president told people they were not allowed to ask us about it and that is nice for me. And every once in a while we see planes going to Tacloban and the members always tell me how much help is going there from many countries.... so I'm ok.
   Thank you all so much! You mean the world to me! I love you all! Be safe and Merry Christmas!!!
Sister Ralph
yes I was the only one to hit the bulls eye.... that should ring familiar to Austin and Jon hahahaha

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

1 December 2013 - Miracles, Angels and Moving On

Sister Turtal and me

Helping members in the Tubo (sugar cane) fields.
 Ok again my letter will be short. I wrote down everything I wanted to talk about in my planner and like a stinker... I forgot my planner. I am so ridiculous sometimes. The work is still coming along slowly but progress is progress. Yes I am doing better. I just have been doing a lot of reflecting and pondering and really eating up the scriptures... and because (I KNOW this to be true) because of all of the prayers in my behalf I have been so strengthened. Honestly... it's a miracle. I have felt angels literally holding me up and on one occasion I felt so close to them that I could have a conversation with them. I know that God answers prayers and I am so grateful that He loves me. I think growing up I always knew I was incredibly blessed and I don't know why but I felt guilty for it. I felt bad and almost embarrassed that I had so much. I had no idea why I was so blessed and I guess that kind of bugged me,... weird I know. But this last week my perspective has changed so much. I will not be asking why any more. All I know, and I know with my whole heart, is that God WANTS to bless me and all of us and if we are obedient and put Him first--- He will. So right now I say "BRING ON THE BLESSINGS" I will take everything I can get.

A little "cane fight"... of course I won!
   So I have learned so much this week. So much! Everyone thought I was this quiet person at first because my personality at first... I just like to observe before my personality comes out. Well it came out a number of times this week and ahh!! Work really is the answer... loving people is the answer. I love the ward and am excited to get to know them. My ward missionary leader and my Branch President and I joke all the time and the kids are so much fun! We have a few investigators and three of them came to church. Mark and Kurt who are 9 and 13 and they are the most adorable little boys. They love the church and even go to seminary even though they are young. The other is Sister Jhona and she does not quite understand our message yet but came to church and was fellow-shipped. We are confident she will come to understand and feel the Love of the Lord for her with time.
   Honestly... I really felt like the angels were Nathan and Danielle. It was so wonderful Mom...

   We have been doing lots of FHE's this week and still trying to figure out our area. Its been an adventure.

Eating Halo halo.

Burning sugar cane fields....

Your questions....
Hahaha, they burn the sugar cane fields. It's always like that here,...always smoky. The dress???...someone donated the dress... I got it when I was at the MTC.  

   My companion does not understand all my English so the first week was kind of rough but I am a HUGE fan of communication and so we are doing really good. It was so nice to hear her express her love for me the other day.... I don't know why it's in my head that most people don't like me or I'm hard to love but it was such a blessing and comfort to hear. We are learning a lot and doing our best.

Heavenly Father has blessed me so much with companions that are just so lovable (= There He goes again.. blessing me like crazy!

   I am so, so grateful to my Father in Heaven for having such incredible servants of the Lord as my parents. Thank you for your love and examples. 

 ALL My Love,
Sister Ralph

Smoky all the time...

Sugar cane fields ready to burn.
Ward Mission Leader with the missionaries... ;-)

Sunday, December 1, 2013

24 November 2013 - Email dialogue

Sister Turtal and Sister Ralph

Mom, I'm not writing a legit email. I'm not sure what you want to hear.

Mom: Tell us what you have done since you arrived. What it's like where you are. What you eat, what the differences are from where you were.

Sister Sarah: Mom ok, I am here in Bacolod Mission. My area is Escalante. I am speaking
Cebuano and Ilanggo. My companion is Sister Turtal she is Philippina and ahhh!!
Mom... am I not being strong if I cry??

Mom: No, crying cleanses the heart. You are strong but the Lord is stronger and He will help you.

Sister Sarah: ok, I agree. But every time I cry people tell me to be strong and it kind of makes me sad that they think I'm not being strong. Apparently I cry a lot more than most people.

Mom: They don't understand your feelings. You are strong and tears can be a strength. Don't worry about people telling you to be strong, they haven't experienced what you have. BTW, Your batch mate and ex-companion, Sr. Sousa, is living in the apartment with Laura Nielson in Cebu.

Sister Sarah: OHH!!! I miss her! I love Sister Sousa. That is crazy. I don't know. We are opening an area so we have literally just been following members around to houses and trying to get to know people. It's more like a city here. There is no ocean (for me first time without ocean)-sad. There is tons of sugar cane fields here. People are richer... it's weird. I eat the same thing...rice. We haven't done any food exploring yet. The difference is that there are TONS more mosquitoes here and they invest our water a lot. I don't know mom... I'm still new and trying to figure out where I am all the time. 

Mom: Dad says he can see that (speaking of your directional challenges). Don't eat too much rice - it makes you FAT! haha

Sister Sarah: Haha I know. I'm still pathetic in terms of directions. I don't have much of an appetite since being here actually. I will do my best not to get fat.
I actually had super bad Last Area Sickness for the first two days I was here in my area. I just miss and love them so much, Mom. I just want to be with them. But I prayed and cried and prayed and prayed harder. And Heavenly Father literally changed my thoughts. I know it was not me. He would not let me think about them. He put into my soul this ability to smile and continue. I KNOW my Savior is aware of me and Our Father in Heaven and I am so blessed. I know they are supporting me, and I am falling in Love more and more with the Book of Mormon. How blessed I am.

Mom: We love you so much Sarah. Thank you for sharing some of your feelings. We can tell that you are still very tender and grieving. That is very understandable. We also grieve with you but we realize that at some point the Lord desires us to move ahead. Let us know when you are ready. Our prayers will always be with you.

Sister Sarah: Thank you mom. I am just trying to get my feet on the ground.
Mom: We looked up Escalante city and it appears fairly close to the ocean, not on it but close. Is there a chapel there?

Sister Sarah: Yes, there is chapel. I think they want to make it a stake this next year. We are moving next week again.

Mom: Are you serving in a ward or branch?

Sister Sarah: I'm in a branch. 

Mom: Are you living in the city of Escalante or outside of the city? You mentioned sugar cane, is there a lot of farm workers in the area? Is your companion a "greenie?" Are you both opening this area? Have there been any Elders there? You have a branch and a church building, are you in a district?

Sister Sarah: I think we are in a district. There are elders here. There are lots of farms. We live... I'm not sure... I would say in the more city part. Like 2 min walk from the terminal in habitat is what it is called. My companion is not a greenie. She has been out a few weeks and got an emergency transfer to be with me. We are moving to a old computer shop that belongs to a member next week.

Mom: Did you get to your new area last Monday? Have you been there a week now? Is your P-day on Monday? You mentioned an emergency transfer for your companion, when are transfers usually?

Sister Sarah: I don't know when their transfers are. I have been here since last Tuesday. P-day is Monday. I was told by my president that I will probably finish my mission here... in this mission.... slightly breaks my heart... But I will go where He wants me to go.

Mom: We know that you will go wherever the Lord sends you, you will say whatever language He desires you to speak and you will be what He wants you to be. We also know that it will be challenging but you are worthy of His help and blessings. Dad wants to know if Ilanggo is similar to Cebuano? Are you teaching in both?

Sister Sarah: I am just trying to speak Cebuano now, Ilanggo is a straight mix of Cebuano and Waray... at least to a small extend. It's very different. I just really want to go to Carigara again.
I don't know what I want though. I think I will need time to fall in love with these people before I do or say anything ... what or what not

Mom: You have time. I know that you want to see those loved ones you left behind. If that is to be it will happen. I also know that your heart is great enough to love the people that the Lord wants you to serve now. I don't know if this helps or not but I want to mention something that Ben mentioned a few weeks ago. He was asked why He was on a mission. There are lots of good answers but the right one is because you love the Lord. That was very profound for me and for him. He has changed in his perspective, not getting upset when people don't accept his message because he is there for the Lord not for himself or even for the people he serves. Does that make sense?
When you love the Lord, where you serve does not matter. Who you serve does not matter. What matters is doing what He wants you to do. I hope that message helps.
We love you so much.

Sister Ralph: Man, my baby brother is all grown up-- yet another reason for me to cry hahaha. Thank you. I will remember that. I love you all so much. I am going to go now, but know that I love you and am soo grateful for all your prayers and love. I do love the Lord and will do my best to serve him with all my heart might mind and strength.

All My Love,
  Sister Ralph
Gifts from people in the MTC

Countryside in Escalante.

Me and my companion, Sr. Turtal

Sunday, November 17, 2013

17 November 2013 - Reassigned to the Philippines Bacolod Mission

   Hey Mom and Dad I am here in Bacolod at the mission presidents house and they wanted us to email you and tell you to look at their facebook for pix or something like that... Im honestly not exactly sure. But.. oh they want you to add my president- Marlo Oliveros Lopez.
   This place is beautiful and I am excited. I will be learning Cebuano and Ilanggo and I am really excited. The president has about 270 missionaries so he is organized talaga. I do not think we are emailing tomorrow. We are having orientations tomorrow. I am having an interview with the president in about an hour or so and so I think I will ask him for a blessing. He has a son at BYU. I am doing good from what I can tell hahaha and am excited to get back into the flow of missionary work- pray its a fairly smooth transition. Thank you for your love and support. HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!! Take pictures for me please.

All My Love,
Sister Ralph

Elder Panganiban! One of my favorite Philippinos who is going to a different area than me )=

The pix with the older man is Elder Ardern. He is the area 70 that risked his life for us and flew into Tacloban and was there until each of us were out and safe. He is a hero. He is the one who called my family.
This is me and my companion and my AP's that I love to death. They are both going home rather than being transferred to a temporary area.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Pictures from Manila MTC....

Tacloban Missionaries prior to reassignments.

Can't miss Sr. Ralph...

The gym with Tacloban missionaries at the Manila MTC.
In front of the Manila Temple with the Ralph Family Shirt that was saved.

Friday, November 15, 2013

My Story - News From Manila MTC

Manila Temple
Well turns out that I have time right now and my anak (companion?) wants to email so here we are emailing again. Haha there is free time because all of the missionaries get a chance to go through the temple. So I will try again to share my thoughts with you.
   I think we all have heard enough about the devastation, death and starvation going on right now in Tacloban. Unfortunately, other than prayer and fasting there is not much more many of us can do right now.

   So I want to try and paint a picture for you of what I had to leave behind. The few days after the storm were hard and frustrating for me and my companion. We walked all day for three days just to see more and more suffering and we felt overwhelmed and had no idea where to start, but we also got to spend more time with members. I love the members of Carigara 1st ward. Despite the fact that they ALL had nothing- no dry clothes, no money, no food, no water they were soo happy.
   Monday morning we went to the church where there the Alecha family was staying. 

The church where the Alecha family was staying.

They had all just eaten the little amount of rice they had to divide amongst each other and of course they offered us their food and we declined. About 20 minutes later Sister Alecha found out that Sister Agreda and I had not eaten a few meals at that point and when we turned down the little food she offered she began to cry- sob actually. She loves us so much and was so willing to give everything she had, even though she had 6 children to feed and nothing else. I love these people so much.

A member's home
I was so upset that morning, just because I felt so helpless and did not know how to help and I just cried. But I had all these members around me and they would not have it. They did everything in their power to get me to laugh and smile. We ended up playing games and laughing despite the reality of our situation. The night that I was taken from Carigara, I was sitting at the church building with the members and they were all sitting around me and talking about how they wanted me to stay with them forever and how much they loved me.... I did not want to be anywhere else in the world. I said over and over again that there was no way I was leaving and I kept telling them to stop joking about me being pulled out because at the time it was just a joke. Who would have thought 30 minutes later it actually became true and I would not even have a chance to say goodbye to these people who have changed my life. How I love them. Not one of them asked- why did this happen? Why me? Why us? They just smile and are happy despite the million reasons they had to complain- despite the fact that they knew there would be people coming with guns wanting whatever food they had left in a short time. They exemplify hope like nowhere else I have seen in my life.
A wealthy widow member gave money to the bishop to buy food for members without anything. These bags of food would be for the Alecha family and an investigator family for the week. That would be all they had to eat.
 But Brothers and Sisters I want to testify with my heart and soul that God lives. God, Our Loving Heavenly Father, Our Creator.... He Lives and He is in control. As I was packing my little bag through flooding tears to leave Carigara forever, I fell to my knees and pleaded with Father for a few specific requests and each one was granted to me. Each and every one. They were granted in such a way that I could not doubt that God heard my prayer and answered it specifically due to my prayer.

God has never been more real to me in my life. I can not deny Him. He is in Everything. I have seen the countless miracles that had to happen for ALL of us missionaries... for all 203 to be alive.. its a miracle. Each of our lives is a miracle. My life... my being alive is a miracle. I felt the presence of angels around me as we waited for the airplane at the airport. I know that the power of the priesthood is real. I felt that power as the Elders directed us and protected and comforted us.
Waiting for evacuation at the airport. This picture does not do it justice.
  I know that despite the intensity and tragedy of the storm my ability to remain calm through the actual storm was a gift from God. I was able to focus on the reality of God rather than the possibility of death.
    My love and testimony of the Book of Mormon is 100 fold. After I was in Tacloban the first time I read the Book of Mormon..... its hard to describe. But the words came alive to me. I could see what was happening in the words of the prophets. I felt like I understood a little bit better of what they felt and what they saw. The Book of Mormon is not just scripture... everything in those pages actually happened!!! It really happened, its not just stories to help us come closer to Christ that someone made up. They happened!!! Those prophets lived, they saw angels, they saw Christ. They were not perfect men. They were not God.... they were simple people like you and me. They were men who CHOSE, who chose to trust Christ, to have faith. I think I fell into the trap of thinking that the prophets had it so much easier because they had God with them and they were given the ability to endure the stoning and death because they were prophets. I pictured their lives like movies... how every conversation is dramatic, there is music playing in the background that adds to their power or ability to break the cords that bound them, I pictured God distinctively answering every prayer almost immediately .... but its just not like that. The stripling warriors....not one was killed. They were taught by their mothers....I am alive and I have a mother who knows.
   Brothers and Sisters we are just as capable of receiving direction and revelation as those in the Book of Mormon. We are capable of becoming like those in the Book of Mormon, more importantly like our Savior.
   I am sure many would expect that after such an experience as I have had that my testimony would become this fat big list of new things I never knew before... this is not the case. After such an experience what I already knew has become more intensified, more a priority, more the center of my life and my purpose. My desire to share, to spread the news has increased and my desire to be who my Savior wants me to be has increased.
   I have a message. I have a message for the world and I am so grateful that I am a missionary right now in order to share what I have learned through the spirit with the world. God lives. God loves us and we simply need to trust Him.
   I love you all so much. I love who you are and I love Our Savior who allows us to become so much more.
Sister Sarah Ralph

 Addendum from Sarah's mother:
I'm adding some comments from people who have sent emails to us from Manila.
Hello Brother and Sister Ralph,
   My name is Amber Folkman and I am expat living in Manila with my husband and two young boys. I had the opportunity to volunteer at the temple today and help the sisters pick out a new wardrobe.
I had previously read the post that you shared on Sarah's blog. I hope you don't find that too intrusive. Being an LDS expat in the Philippines during this time has me clinging to any others I can. I was able to find Sarah and give her a huge hug and pick out some clothes. She is so beautiful and despite the severe trauma they have had to be a part of she was happy, chipper, friendly and a ray of sunshine. She stuck out to me. She seems like a strong young woman. The only time she shed a year was when I mentioned making a trip to Winco in her honor. ;) We previously lived in Woodinville for 5 years prior to here so I know Kent well.
   I know you are proud of her and you should be. I am so impressed. She is being well taken care of. If there is anything you would like me to do I would be more than happy to.
Hugs and prayers to you and yours,
Amber Folkman

This one is from a Brother Morello via his sister Sharon:
   I received this message from Bro. Morello, someone we have known for years, who is from Ohio. He and his wife are on Public Affairs in Manila. I had send him a message via facebook. He sent me this message late yesterday evening. I thought I would it on to you. Sarah, all your family and those in the Philippines continue to be in our prayers daily. 
Sister Missionaries shopping for "necessary" items that were left behind.
    "I am in the same building as your niece. Please pass on to her parents that she loves them. She looks good, but a little shaky. I gave her 2 big hugs. She has been checked out by the doctor and will share her story with us in public affairs. She has also done a little shopping at the missionary donation area. You can keep up current developments at"


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Phone Conversation with Sister Sarah

Dear Friends and Family,
   I don't know if this is the place to put this message. I need to write this down before some of the thoughts and feelings are lost.
   We received a call this morning at 5:00 from Sarah in Manila. She is now at the MTC and will probably be there for about 4 days before being assigned to a mission close to Manila. It was a very emotional phone call as she started to cry as soon as she heard her father's voice on the phone. She was very grateful to talk with her dad and mom. We asked questions about where she was and how she was doing. We asked how the area was and what happened and what she saw. I am going to attempt to paraphrase my understanding of what happened.
   Sarah and her Filipina companion and another companionship of sisters, one Filipina and one from Toole, Utah were housed in an apartment in Carigara an hour west of Tacloban. They were told that a typhoon was coming and that they should have water and food. They stayed in their apartment through the storm which struck early Friday morning and lasted about 2 1/2 hours. Sarah said that they prayed a lot and the building shook badly but they were protected miraculously as their bedroom where they were was the only one not flooded. She did say water was coming in through the ceiling and stained their clothes brown but she felt that they were protected. After the storm passed and they went outside they saw that only concrete buildings were left standing, over 85% of the buildings were destroyed. She said that all the members of the church had homes damaged except the bishop who housed lots of people for two days before his home caught fire from a kerosene lamp accident and was totally destroyed. The church building where they were assigned had the roof collapse. She didn't mention any injuries or deaths in her area just complete devastation. She said that they didn't know what to do since there was no equipment to work with, no electricity, no communication, no food available and no water. People who didn't have water were using the water in coconuts to drink. She spent four days checking on families and walking to different areas to help. The ward mission leader in their area came to check on them soon after the storm passed and was very helpful later as they were evacuated. Sarah was very upset about leaving the people of Carigara, especially since they were so destitute with very little before the storm and nothing after it ravaged their community.
   On Monday night she and the other sisters were contacted by the people sent out to "search and rescue" the missionaries. She was told to take 5 minutes and grab a bag of stuff and go. She took a pillowcase and stuffed it with her journal, scriptures, a skirt, and a change of garments. Her camera was in her purse but she left all of her luggage, clothes, phone and camera charger and every else behind. That was when she started to cry, she was in tears because she was leaving people that she loved.
   They were loaded in what she described as a van/jeep type vehicle. Again her ward mission leader was there to help them get evacuated and rode in the van with the missionary sisters. She was told not to look out the windows or be seen as they traveled on the road to Tacloban which was filled with desperate people who would stop any vehicle that might have food in it or appeared to have "wealth". The stake president, who had lost his home and had been awake for the past 4 days caring for his members, was the driver. They had to drive very slowly as the road was filled with people trying to get to Tacloban for food. During this trip and a little while in Tacloban were the times that she feared for her life. She said they passed people stealing rice and then trying to protect it from others. As they entered Tacloban she said there was a terrible smell and the bodies of people were just piled up. She was very upset about the bodies of all the babies and little children that she saw. There were people who just sat there with a vacant expression on their faces. No food, No water and they just sat there.  She said that every building was damaged. She had a hard time seeing the devastation and destruction. They were taken to the mission home compound which had one usable room of the 3 buildings, a church, the mission headquarters and the mission home. All the buildings had been flooded and damaged badly. She was told to stay inside and not let anyone see her because they would be a target for attack or theft. From the mission home they were taken to the airport in a van. The Elders walked around the van as the sisters were inside and told to not be seen. They moved slowly for the 2 miles to the airport. At the airport, they had tickets to get on a plane but not all the missionaries were allowed on so she was sent back to the mission home.
   Sarah heard of some of the missionaries escaping the storm with their lives, being flooded in buildings where they barely had a little pocket of air at the ceiling. She said one brother was making his way to the church building with his brother and sister and both his siblings were killed in the time between buildings in the space of 20 feet from building to building. Sarah was so grateful for their escape from harm but related that one companionship of sisters didn't fare as well. They had to cling to the roof of their building in the storm because of the extreme damage to their apartment. All the missionaries in Tacloban city were flooded out of their homes. She knows that it was a miracle that not one missionary of around 240 was killed. There were a lot of close calls but not one missionary was killed.
   Late that evening they again drove to the airport for a flight to Manila. Even with tickets and money exchanging hands they weren't sure if they would be able to get on the plane. While they were waiting for a flight, an American pilot came over and saw that they were missionaries. He told them to get on the plane quickly and he shepherded them on board a cargo plane. They arrived in Manila where they were fed and allowed to call home that night. It was 10:00 pm which was 5:00 am Tuesday morning Seattle time.
   Sarah left her luggage, clothes, and essential supplies... everything behind. We asked her to tell us what her address would be when she knew it so we could send her some supplies. She needed sleep as she said she hasn't slept in 4 days. She was so grateful to everyone in the MTC. They were very solicitous to her needs for which we as her parents are very grateful. Her main concern was for the people that she left behind. She was told that they would be sent back as soon as possible but it will take months if not longer.
   Sarah's next concern was for her siblings. She wanted to know how her siblings were doing. She hadn't heard from them in awhile and she wanted news from home. She said that some of the Elders were using skype to call home but she didn't want us to see how bad she looked after so many days without "conveniences". She did say there were things that she couldn't talk about right now and we didn't press her for more. She seemed very tired and drained. As her parents, we were drained after hearing what she had experienced but also very grateful to our Heavenly Father for protecting her and keeping her safe. We are so grateful for all the prayers sent heavenward on her behalf. When we told her of all the people who sent messages and comments on Facebook she was overwhelmed. We know that God lives and He loves His children. Not all of His children need to stay in mortality for long and perhaps He takes the most innocent and sweetest souls to His rest early for a reason that we cannot comprehend now but we will eventually see the wisdom in His plan for each of us, individually and collectively.   
Asking for God's continued blessings to All,
Sister Sarah's mom

Pix from Mormon Pinoy Newsroom: The the Manila MTC