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.|
|A member's home|
|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.
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,
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.|