I was blessed with the opportunity to serve as a volunteer representative of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The first leg of my journey was in the Philippines Quezon City Mission, where I learned to speak Tagalog, ride jeepneys, and appreciate the local culture and customs. I learned true happiness from the Filipino people, who always find a reason to smile, no matter what misfortunes they have been dealt. I’m grateful for the wonderful friends I have made there!!
The COVID 19 Evacuation
I wanted to include the email I sent out shortly after being evacuated:
March 30, 2020
"These past two weeks have been pretty crazy. On the Monday of my last email, we ended up getting put into strict quarantine, and by last Monday I was home in Michigan. It was a crazy week. Tuesday we got the call to pack up everything and be ready to leave, and then it ended up being a few extra days in quarantine before we were able to coordinate our departure. We had it super nice, we were just in quarantine in our apartment while all the other missionaries in the Philippines had to travel to Metro Manila.
You may have heard that we were on some planes with just missionaries. It was crazy cool! I was sitting in the emergency exit row and was able to talk to some of the flight attendants. They are the nicest people! You will be proud to know that they made an announcement over the PA at the end that we were the most courteous group of passengers they have had! My last companion, Sister Frasca, was actually on my plane to Detroit, so I got to walk her almost all the way to her connecting flight before I went to get my luggage. #tendermercies
Coming home was tough, and I miss the Philippines already, but it has been good to see family. With this pandemic hitting us in the face, it's been kind of hard to adjust; it's like I got off the plane and realized the world is on fire. To make things worse, the Cafe Rio in SLC and the Chick Fil A in McNamara Terminal were closed because it was late night/ early morning, which is the airport food I was most looking forward to (joke ko lang but only kind of haha).
I was worried at times. Not so much that I so doubted, but rather that I listened to my fears first, just like when Peter was walking on the water. The waves got big, and they shook his focus. This current pandemic is a trial, but I get the feeling that the next few years likely won't be easy ones either. However, learning from Peter, I know that moving forward, as I focus on Jesus Christ, I will be able to keep my calm, even if there is a storm raging all around. Even if I start to sink, my Savior will rescue me if I reach out to Him. I am also grateful for the faith of my family and their support sa akin (to me). I was talking to my siblings about what would happen as I continue my mission. Their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His gospel astounds me!
* https://markdriscoll.org/peters-walk-on-water/ - these were some really good points from some random internet pastor about the story of Peter walking on water!
I gave a talk about Helaman 5:12 (when not if) and the importance of home-centered gospel learning (Therefore, I was Taught, Theadore Tuttle 1979: https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/1979/10/therefore-i-was-taught?lang=eng ) in the ward devotional yesterday, and I called into MCM! Think, if all your family knew about the gospel was what they learned at home, how would they be? Our mission president in the Philippines has challenged us all to read the whole Book of Mormon over again before general conference. Wish me luck! The stake said that a district is being organized of all the quarantined missionaries here waiting on reassignment. I am excited for those meetings! I never in a million years would have guessed that I would have the opportunity to be in a district with old friends from back home, especially after we all were originally called to serve in different corners of the world.
Philippines work-wise, the time difference makes it hard to communicate with people in the Philippines, but I have been able to get ahold of a few recent converts and member families! I know Kaingin, my old area, has been struggling with food insecurity because no one can really go to work, but the branch did a relief project and delivered food to members! I miss my branch!! They are so awesome. It is a hard balance between staying quarantined to remain healthy/safe and prevent the spread of the virus and struggling financially. I have realized this is becoming a problem in the United States as well. I am grateful we have developed infrastructure here to better accommodate welfare at this time. The people here with better jobs get paid by the week, and most get paid by the day. Even just a few days without work and many in this community would struggle.
The people of this branch have been super faithful about paying tithes and fast offerings, as well as living with their means, and I have seen this become a very real blessing in their lives during this crisis. They have been more prepared for what is happening, and they have small funds and food on hand to fall back on. I am ever grateful for living prophets who have extended the invitation to prepare for emergencies. 72 hour kits, store some food, and live within our means to prepare for emergencies like this one. I am also grateful for President Nelson's inspiration to prepare Come Follow Me and make the home the center of worship. As we are now confined at home, it falls to us to step up and take care of our spiritual health and our relationship with God.
My kabahay/housemate Sister Petersen joked a few weeks ago about the text updates we would get about our situation in the Philippines. They would always say "Do X, but just in case". And then the just in case always happened. She said, "Maybe they just mean, do X. Y will happen, we aren't sure when, but we just don't want you to stress out. Just be prepared." When prophets get revelation, I think it is like that too. We would be wise to follow their counsel, for whatever they invite us to do will prepare us for something to come. Think what would have happened if they sent the "just in case" text and I didn't act on it. I wouldn't have had food in my house during quarantine, my bags would not have been packed, and I would not have been ready to go when the time came. Let us all do that which we should in order to be ready when the time comes, the second coming of our Lord or whatever and whenever that time may be!
Also, being home has been a good opportunity to serve my family, and it has been a good opportunity for family to help me. I remember getting picked up from my apartment in Pansol, my last area, and seeing the driver wearing a relief efforts shirt, and chuckling to myself, "Missionaries should be taking care of the members! This is the other way around", but this is teaching me to be more humble, and I feel so loved!
I am in good spirits, and I am anxiously awaiting news of reassignment. I haven't been worrying about it too much though, and I will be happy to have an area again, no matter how long it takes to get one. I am so lucky to even be able to get reassigned. I'm sure the Lord has people prepared for me to reach wherever I go!
It really makes you think though- if all of the missionaries had to leave, how would the members be able to continue to carry out the work? Crazy times ahead.
Me with my Guardian Angel I made when first thing when I got back from the airport. The air here is cold and dry. Wisdom ni Elder Tafisi, "It's not the skill set; it's the mindset." I know that as we trust the Lord and go and do what is asked of us (1 Nephi 3:7), we will find that on our own, we accomplish more than we thought we could, and with Him by our side,we become more than we ever imagined possible.
I saw this the other day. I love it. Church is just a building. We should be able to live and practice our respective religions anywhere and everywhere we go as we serve others and strive to better ourselves.
Take care! Sorry this is such a long one. What can I say, I'm on quarantine. \( ^ ^ )/"
These are a few small thoughts I had during that time, and I think it fitting as the COVID pandemic wears on to remember the love shared and the lessons learned during this time of our lives. This email was sent 10 months ago. Crazy how much can happen in such a short season of our lives.
Alix from Utah