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"



  1. Hopefully this link will work for you. I served in the Bacolod Mission 25 years ago and know a few people there now:!/mamalar/media_set?set=a.10200538951208686.1073741825.1005480180&type=1

  2. BTW, the link above should hopefully take you to an album of pictures of the missionaries from the Tacloban Mission. Your daughter is included in those pictures. Pictures were taken at the Manila MTC on the 15th I believe

  3. I came across on this blog and got so inspired reading Sister Ralph's testimony. I am from the Philippines and been living here in Utah for almost 9 years. I am a returned missionary too. Which new mission is she assigned to? Can you please give me her new mission address? My family and I want to support her through sending her letter...Email me at Thank you

  4. I have read many accounts of the terrible events in the Philippines. but today I am deeply moved by the powerful testimony of your beautiful daughter. Her account of reading the scriptures and them coming alive to her was very touching to me. My own daughter is serving the Lord in Arizona and I continually pray for her safety. I can only imagine the range of emotions your family had been going through. May the Lord continue to bless and keep you and your family in his watchful care.

  5. I would like to thank Sister Ralph for her powerful testimony. I am unable to stop the flow of tears! If you would allow me to print her words for my daughter serving in the Baguio Philippines mission, I would be very grateful! Sister Ralph is someone I want to "grow up" to be like! She's an inspiration to the world. I love you all!

  6. Mom - My husband asked me to read this out loud for our Family Night lesson. The testimony of Sister Ralph touched my heart. I love how she testifies of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and how it is not just stories but things that really happened to real people. I too know that God lives and he loves each and every one of us. He is always with us to help and guide us. Son - I felt very moved by this story when my mom read this I love to know that people love others so much and care about each other I'm very sorry this happened to your town I hope everything gets better with you guys I would just like to end by saying I know this church is true and I know that god lives. Dad - A friend of mine shared this on fb and it was such a wonderful story that we read it for Family Home Evening tonight. We are so grateful for the selfless service that missionaries voluntarily give around the world and for their family & friends who support them during their service. We also appreciate the families and friends who watch over our missionaries and lift their spirits when they need it and who accept the service they happily give. Sister Ralph, thank you for sharing your faith, testimony and for your courageous example to all of us. Please share our love and prayers with those who are suffering, let them know that millions of prayers are being sent to them from around the world from people of all faiths for their comfort and that their personal needs will be immediately met through the donations from people and organizations from around the world.

  7. I came across this blog. This story in the Deseret News tells of the missionaries experience and escape from the typhoon. Several pictures show Sister Ralph as well.

  8. This blog contains such amazing stories! We wanted to let you know that your daughter's post-typhoon posts have been featured in Blog the Mission's Missionary Spotlight at Thank you for sharing these great letters for others to benefit from!