The Republic of the Philippines suffered major devastation as a result of Typhoon Haiyan, known as Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines, which occurred in early November 2013.The powerful tropical cyclone ravaged many portions of Southeast Asia, with the Philippines being one of the hardest hit areas. The storm, recorded as one of the most deadly Philippine typhoons, claimed the lives of some 5,924 people, and not one missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (inadvertently referred to as the “Mormon” Church by the media and others) was numbered among those who perished.

The Aftermath of the Storm

On 12 November 2013, 71 missionaries from the Tacloban mission arrived safely by bus in the capital city of Manila. There they were greeted by Elder Brent Nielsen, Philippines Area President, who had been expecting their arrival.

Mormon Tacloban MissionariesThe missionaries had little more than the clothes on their backs as most of their belongings were washed away by the typhoon. They were given warm blankets, taken to the Missionary Training Center (MTC) cafeteria for a hot meal, given clothes that they could change into, and were able to notify their families of their safety via Skype and telephone calls.

Although the missionaries were relieved to be safe, their concern immediately turned to the loved ones that were left behind in Tacloban. Their Priesthood leaders had stayed behind to minister to the needs of members and to coordinate relief efforts.

Mormon Missionaries ManilaThe air was permeated with mixed emotions as some cried silently, others clung to their companions who had been their main support throughout the ordeal, and still others huddled in groups and shared their adventures. Many of the missionaries had walked as much as 50 kilometers (an equivalent of 31.0686 miles) to rendezvous with other missionaries at the airport. Their Mission President, Elder Jose Andaya, and Elder Ardern, Benson Misalucha were at the airport and arranged for the flight to Manila. The other 133 missionaries were expected to arrive later that day.


Not One Was Lost

Not one of the 204 missionaries assigned in different parts of Leyte was lost.  Each had a story to tell.  They spoke of the tender mercies of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ who had been their companion amidst the ferocity of the storm and the devastation they witnessed after.  As they walked from their areas to the airport, they related seeing dead bodies on the streets and people in a daze walking aimlessly searching for food and water while others were carrying dead family members and relatives. [1]

Tacloban Mormon MissionariesAll of the missionaries were given a stress debriefing by Sister Marcia French, the Area Mental Health Officer, and also a trained therapist and first responder. They were to stay in Manila until such time that they were reassigned to the other 9 missions in the Luzon area. Those whose missions were drawing to a close were given the option to return home early to be with their families at Christmas. One American missionary even embraced the opportunity to learn Tagalog since his training had been focused on learning Cebuano.

About Keith L. Brown
Keith L. Brown is a convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, having been born and raised Baptist. He was studying to be a Baptist minister at the time of his conversion to the LDS faith. He was baptized on 10 March 1998 in Reykjavik, Iceland while serving on active duty in the United States Navy in Keflavic, Iceland. He currently serves as the First Assistant to the High Priest Group for the Annapolis, Maryland Ward. He is a 30-year honorably retired United States Navy Veteran.

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