Sami singing the song she wrote

Monday, March 8, 2010

Words of Wisdom from a Daughter of Heavenly Father

First, Sami's email to us:
Hey Family,

You are right about this part of the mission being a little ¨safe haven¨. It´s actually really strange because it´s almost like nothing happened, except for all the houses and fences that collapsed. And the people that are still sleeping in tents instead of their houses. But a lot of the people are acting like it is no big deal. Like we should just get on with life. Which is true, but a lot of the people who say that only lost a few glasses or a mirror or two. I really like something one of the members said in fast and testimony yesterday. He said that each one of us experienced the earthquake which we all know was huge. But also that everyone is also experiening their own personal earthquake inside. And people are trying to deal with it in the way they think is best. For some people they would rather pretend like nothing happened instead of think about all the people who are homeless or who have lost family or who still don´t know if their loved ones are ok. On the other hand, we can´t just curl up in a ball and give up. I tried that when I didn´t know if Hermana Grahn or my friends in Concepción and Penco made it out okay. That didn´t last very long because it doesn´t help anybody. There are people who lost everything. And here in San Carlos it is almost like nothing happened. I´m sure we have the least damage of everywhere. But even with that, a lot of houses collapsed and I heard they might demolish the two huge catholic cathedrals here because they are now structurally unstable. Which is probably for the best because one of them is about 3 stories high and you can see the cracks in the walls from the other side of the street.

It is such a strange situation to be here in the safe zone while it seems like the rest of my mission is falling down. President Chavez has asked our zone to keep working as normal since Chillán and San Carlos seem to be the least affected (Chillán was already destroyed by an earthquake and rebuilt more earthquake - proof and San Carlos doesn´t really have anything big enough to fall down since it is almost completely houses except the part around the plaza)
So here we are. Working as normal. Not watching the news because it only gives me anxienty. We still don´t really have communication with President Chavez which is absolutely fine because he has things a lot more important to deal with than whether we are going to have interviews or cambios. These past 3 months President and Hermana Chavez have shared Doctrine and Covenants 58:26-28 A LOT with us as missionaries. It reads, ¨(26) For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward. (27) Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness; (28) For the power is in them, wherefore they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.¨ They have focused especially in the last part, we are agents unto ourselves. Do you think that is a coincidence? I don´t think so. Heavenly Father has been preparing us without our knowing it. Who knows how long we will be without good communication as a mission. That doesn´t really matter. The thing that matters the most now is that we are in good communication with our Heavenly Father because there is nothing or no one that can cut that line of communication except our own selves.

So I guess the summary is I have no idea what is going to happen. You guys probably know more about my mission and the effects of the earthquake now than I do. We are here working as normal, giving service, bringing comfort. The fear here in San Carlos that there will be another big aftershock is pretty much gone, which is good. Not even all the active members had food storage for emergencies like this let alone all the thousands of people who are not members of the church. So I would just like to send a voice a warning to everyone who reads this: if you don´t have food and water stored for an emergency, please make the effort to prepare. I know Chile is a sysmic country that has a lot of earthquakes but that doesn´t mean this type of thing isn´t going to happen in other parts. I don´t care if you believe in the Second Coming of Jesus Christ or not, or if you think the spirit of the earth is mad because we have polluted it so much, or if you just know natural disasters happen once in a while. The thing is they are going to keep happening whether we are prepared or not. And you can´t just run to the store when something like this happens. The store here didn´t open because the roof fell down. It doesn´t have to be as grave as Concepción or Constitución or any of the coastal cities (which as far as I know still don´t have water, electricity, or adequate food, but I could be wrong). Here we had very little damage but it is sad to see how many people didn´t and still don´t have enough food. People with kids that don´t have food or milk to give them or money to buy anything now that the stores are actually open. People who have to wait outside their houses until trucks that are giving out food pass by because they don´t have other options. So please get your houses in order. Prepare yourself as best as you can for an emergency because we don´t know what or when things like this will happen. And this isn´t paranoia, my friends and the people that know my irrational fears might think that. It´s the sad truth that I´m seeing that cities can be destroyed in a matter of minutes or hours and the time to prepare is before because after something like this happens you don´t get a second chance. The few neighborhood stores that were open after the quake (and by neighborhood I´m talking about smaller than a gas station store) were charging 2500 pesos a kilo for bread when it is normally about 700 pesos a kilo. And the same for flour. People will take advantage of your necessities which sounds sad but it´s true. Not with everyone, but that 2000 pesos difference in bread is a big deal when the banks, supermarkets, and atms don´t work and you are running out of money.

So I think I´m going to step off my soapbox now. Just be smart and listen to what the prophets have been counseling us for years because guess what, they were right.

Hermana Smith

Now her email to Jen:
Hey, if I have learned anything this past week it´s that there are a lot of things in this world that don´t matter. And more importantly that there are a few things that actually do. One of these things is life itself. A lot of people talking about things breaking or their house falling have said ¨it doesn´t matter, they´re just details¨. And it´s true. Our lives are full of things that are ¨just details¨. I´m not saying we should go and throw out all our junk (even though we really should, okay, I am saying that) or that we should give up the extra activities that make us happy. But there are a few things I´ve realized that are relevant to me and I imagine to you as well.

Things that are important: Family, and because the family is so important - temple marriage. Why put so much effort into loving people here and nothing into being with them for the eternities. It just doesn´t makse sense. We know that life continues and that we have the ability to be together forever. Don´t ever settle for anything less.

I didn´t have my family here with me in the earthquake but do you know what I did? I made a family. I hungered for that relationship so much that I made my own family. Sure it was a family in the ward that I already really liked but I consider them my family now in a way. They took care of me and helped me keep from feeling alone. And how much better was it that they could strengthen me with their own testimonies and the scriptures? I can´t even tell you the difference that makes.

Think about what makes you really happy. And then think about the things that stress you out. Sometimes we confuse the things that stress us out as the things that make us happy (for me: basically every boyfriend I´ve every had, for you: I´m going to go out on a limb and say Ryan). There is a difference between happiness and joy and that difference is the gospel of Jesus Christ. You can not experience the same level of joy in any relationship without that connection. It just isn´t possible.

I am also giving you a mental hug. And remember all my words of wisdom that were rude and made you cry when you were still with Ryan? I would imagine they still apply and that they probably would come out the same. (Just because I am a missionary doesn´t mean I´ve developed any sort of tact. :)

Maybe I just like to throw people out and I will end up and old maid but at least I will have hope in the Celestial Kingdom!!!!

Keep it real, J Lynn.
Hermana Smith

And some excerpts from emails from other Chilean Missionaries to their families:

From Elder Garey, who is in the chapel in Chiguayante. His area is Hualqui (Concepcion South)
Most importantly yesterday the water started trickling in to the chaple in Chiguayante and also the food started to arrive.  For the last 8 days I have been sleeping in the chaple with 11 other missionaries.  We shower with a spray bottle in the baptismal font. I am going to try to go back to my sector today or tomorrow.  The road to Hualqui was pretty bad after the earthquake so only small cars and bikes can make it to the town.  They still don´t have water but they do have
electricity.  Our house was fine after the quake but we have a neighbor whose house fell down.  In some parts the sidewalk got ripped up and goes up and down like a roller coaster about 10 ft.  There are also cracks in the ground that I can jump into pretty easily.  We feel tremors about every 10 or 20 minutes still.  The first week the only service we could do was pull water out of wells for the people.  Everything else was too dangerous.  That is also the reason we didn´t get food until yesterday.  On saturday night Elder Amado and Elder Corbridge from the quorum of rte seventy visited us with President Chavez- We had a very spiritually uplifting fireside with them and their wives.  We basically were just told to help in every way possible.

From Elder Pulver, who is also in Chiguayante.

We´re still all livin in the chapel, but we have orders to move back into our houses as soon as possible.  So, now we´re trying to figure out how to survive on our own all over again.  We need to get some government inspector and check our apartment.  It is a miracle that that building is still standing though...the whole foundation and first story walls are all cracked and moved out of place.  The situation here in Chiguayante is still a bit sketchy.  The main parts have power now, but running water is still rare to see.  They turn it on at intervals to find where the pipes are busted and fix them.   A lot of people have gotten sick from trying to use water from the river.  The firefighters also come around at times and disperse clean water to the citizens.  Food is going to be a problem very soon.  All of the  he major supermarkets were completly cleaned out and some were even set fire to.  We´ve seen one that is open again, but under strict military control.  Theyre trying to reopen others, but that might take a while.  Food was sent to the chapels here from the Bishop´s Storehouses in Concepcion and Santiago.  All the food was seperated into smaller trucks and traveled sort of under cover since a giant semi filled with food probably wouldnt get very far because the roads look like something out of Toontown and people are still attacking and looting trucks carrying food.  Also, a ton of helicopters have been flying over and dropping off food at Hualqui since its so hard to get there by road.  The Church sent a ton of supplies from the states, but all that goes to the government to dispense.  Martial law is still in affect, but violence is at a minimum now.  There is a military base set up at a school by our sector and that is where most of the food supplies is being gathered.  We spent all day yesterday unloading trucks of food and hygenic kits with a bunch of troops guarding us.  The whole stake is volunteering with that.  The idea is to find those who really are lacking food.
It was a terrifying experience.  But then I thought of I made the quickest most important prayer of my life and then was when I went into action.  I suddenly had a firm idea of exactly what I needed to do...protect myself, help my companion and when possible, leave the building as fast as I could...and we did just that.  We are alive and well.  Every missionary within the power of this earthquake is alive and well, even those who lived in towns that no longer exist.  The members of the church are helping each other fill the mouths of their children and comfort those who have trouble sleeping.  I remember that scripture in Mark saying that rain and sun falls on all of us.  No one was spared from the earthquake, but some were more prepared...physically and spiritually.  I urge you all to make sure that you are prepared for anything that may come...because something always comes your way.  Be prepared physically and spiritually.
And from Elder Pulver's phone call with his parents:
He is in very good spirits.  He says the violence and looting is "chillin down".  About a month ago the first presidency just decided to send all of the missionaries in Chile water filter bottles.  They can put water from the creek or well and it filters it automatically.  Makes you wonder why they did that???''

From Elder Law in Concepcion (Concepcion Mission)

Friday night was a little crazy, about 3:30 in the morning we woke up to the earth shaking... and I remember my companion jumped down and hid under my bed... and as I stood up.. I organized my thoughts and recieved the revelation that we needed to make it out.  I calmly knew exactly what was needed to be done, and I called my companion...I got our consecrated oil, and grabed water.. and headed outside.   It is amazing how the Lord blesses you with the exact revelation that you need in the hour and moment that you need it.  But you have to be ready to recieve it.  It was such a great blessing to feel it come in that moment.    We went and immediately checked on all the members and our investigators, and during this we had some big aftershocks too! It is so hard to describle the feeling of the earth moving, and the sound that comes with it too and the darkness!  There were walls and houses falling, and people panicking.  But the entire time I felt the peace from our heavenly father, and a feeling of how nothing we are.  It is such a humbling feeling, knowing and experiencing, that anything could happen in a split second and lives changed forever. We went and helped people all day re build and get organized, and that night met the zone in our chapel and stayed together waiting for information from the mission.  We slept outside that night... and it was pretty cold but we made it.  Everyone was sleeping outside due to the terrible aftershocks. Really we have felt the blessing and protection from our savior.  The next morning we entered the chapel, and tried to organize things.  I felt revelation from Heavenly Father which we needed again in that time, then I knew what we needed to do.  The spirit was such a great help as it enlightened my mind to the things that we should do.  What a great blessing it was.  We stayed in the chapel, and later that night... saw what a tremendous blessing it was to be protected in the church as thousands of people went to the streets to loot all the stores.  It was such an awful sight.  But really we could feel the protection of angels.  We knew that no harm would come. We didn´t have light or water for a week, and so we organized a schedule of searching for water in a nearby well, and living in conditions without light or gas.  But we had a good scheldule of showers in the baptismal font, and sleeping on the ground, and cooking food for twelve hundgry elders. Ha  But what an amazing blessing it was to have the help and guidance from the Lord, the true feeling of protection and awareness. We have stayed in the chapel for a week and 2 days now, and the water is now coming back on slowly but surely, and we are probably going to move back to the house tomorrow.  And then we have to clean up the house and get things back to normal..  But as for now we have assigments to serve the people and to teach if we can... but to help out with anything that we can do.  So as a zone we have helped the military and the church unload boxes and boxes of food from trucks... and we are bringing them into schools and trying to help the community become rejuvinated.  Things are going really well, and I love
serving these people here in Chile.  It has been tramatic, but it has been an experience that makes me so grateful to my Heavenly Father... How much we owe him!!

From a call with Hermana Amanda Legget, serving in Constitucion (Concepcion Mission)
She said all the Constitucion Hermanas are living with the Bishop at this time for safety reasons. They are being well fed and taken care of. They did not get any damage to their apt. They still have all their belongings. They have been doing service all week. She said yesterday was the first day she has worn a dress since the quake. They have to haul their water from a wood factory that has a well. They got to take a real shower Saturday night at a members home in an area that did not get alot of damage. Before that they took a couple showers in the baptismal font using some kind of firehose LOL.Yesterday they only had sacrament. She hopes that next week they will be able to have all their meetings. The church has a little damage, some cracks in the walls. She said in the central part of the city it is  demolished. I guess alot of adobe buildings. She also said the seashore is a wreck. The Mission President offered to move them out of the city but they begged to stay and continue to serve the people they have come to know and love, so he agreed to let them stay. They have to be in before dark and I think they are limited to how far they can venture out until it is safer. They have been shoveling mud out of some kind of factory this past week. I know they will be very busy for a while helping with the cleanup.

From a call with Elder Riley Harper serving in Talcahuano in the Concepcion South Mission
He said he felt like he was in a movie.  He was in Talcahuano and the thievery, looting and Tsunami related incidences were terrifying. There were 10 missionaries with him staying at a members house in the hills.  President and Hermana Swenson literally rescued them yesterday and brought them in safely to the San Pedro chapel.  Hermana Swenson was in tears when she saw them and gave each of them a huge hug.  Because of the curfew they all had literally 5 minutes to grab what little they could.  All 10 missionaries plus the President and his wife crammed into Presidents truck (not a big one / no bed) and endured the 2.5 to 3 hour drive to San Pedro.  I am sure they had some great conversation. Bless President and Hermana Swenson.
Tonight in the San Pedro Chapel all of the missionaries and displaced families staying there had a big talent show.  It was so loud and I heard a lot of laughter. I heard there were some great new lyrics and music performed that pertained to the recent disaster.  They are eating  a lot of bread, oatmeal and soy meat and my son says it sure tastes good.  The families living at the chapel with them are cooking for everybody. The filter water bottles they were given for Christmas this year were literal life savers.

I recommend checking out his blog at for more details on his adventures.
From email from Elder Nathan Keller (Concepcion Mission serving in Tome) 
Hey everyone! I'm alive and safe as are all of the missionaries in the'mission.Things are fine dont worry at all were all ok and safe. I'll send more info when i can but for now this is all I have time to
send.The town of Tome is fine were just without water but we have ways of getting it so dont worry.
From Elder Barton in Coihueco (Concepcion Mission)
I realized that we were in an earthquake. So I went downstairs and waited inside the front door frame with Elder Nina and just kind of enjoyed the ride for the next few minutes. Our house is perfectly fine, the only things that happened were that our plates fell down, the fridge opened up
and spilled, and that our one shelf upstairs fell over. No real damage to the house itself.
We´ve been spending the past few days visiting members and investigators making sure that they´re all right. Some of the houses in Coihueco got hit hard, but everyone is safe and there aren´t any injuries among the members here. We got the news that Chillán and the surrounding area has the least damage out of all the mission. Coihueco, although several buildings and
walls have crumbled, is basically the same. The instructions we got from President Chávez is go to work if we can, but offer service as needed. We´re doing what we can to help the people o

From Elder Skyler Miller in Chillan (Concepcion Mission)
All of the missionaries in the mission are safe and well. The only real problem is the lack of electricity and cell phone service so we couldn't contact anybody for a while.  Well, the earthquake woke me up at 3:30 in the morning and was pretty strong. The bed was bouncing around the room and all of the stuff in the house fell over. The house was still standing thankfully but the cement fence fell over and the walls have some big cracks in them. And the foundation is broken.  Elder Barajas and I jumped out of bed in the middle of the earthquake and ran outside. I was the wierdest feeling in the world because there was nothing we could do while everything was shaking. The shaking continued for at least 3 minutes and the it felt like everything was spinning for at least 10 more minutes.
The communication was cut so we couldn't call and find out about other missionaries so we just walked out to Dieciocho in the morning and got together with the Zone Leaders to see how they were. We spent the morning over there and then we went back to our sector for lunch and to help out the members. Thankfully, none of the members were hurt and most of their houses were standing. So we basically went around all day checking up on the members and seeing if anyone needed help. But we slept in the chapel of Dieciocho with the other missionaries and some other families of the stake that don't have houses.

From Elder Forrest Allred, who is serving in Quillon (Concepcion Mission).
e woke up to the bed shaking really hard, at first I thought it was my comp having a seizure, then i realized that it was an earthquake, we jumped off the bunk bed and ran and stood under the door of our room. we huddled there for about 5 minutes until the quake passed and then whent back to bed, we didnt´really think anything of the earthquake until we got up in the morning and realized that we didn´t have any water or electricity, when we whent outside to go to work we realized that there was a whole bunch of damage to roads and fences and houses. then later we realized that we were the only people who sleped that night, everyone else had been running around screaming all night. since there was no electricity we had no idea what was happening outside of quillon for like half a week. we found out that a whole bunch of cities totally got destroyed, and that Quillon was miracuoulosly spared. after like 3 days we finally managed to get enough water to take a shower, now all the electricity and water is back. they only let us have water in the mornings and in the night, the real problem is food, there isn´t much of it, they only let like 10 people at once go into the supermarket and all the little stores are selling food for more than double what it was before.

From  Elder Wilhelm is serving in Concepcion, Laguna Redonda
We had a 2 minute phone call twice. His companion is Elder Michels. They have food and water and in the church where they are sleeping, had been to the Bishops storehouse, and everyone "is very generous in helping the missionaries." It is locked down at night, and the city has a military shut down 9pm to 6am due to looting. He said the city is "crushed" and when he saw the families that came to church on Sunday he wanted to cry for them. One family in particular that he just loves had lost everything. He assured me they are "going to be fine" and they are trying to help where they can. Still had no power or water lines up. Apparently, when he and Elder Michels were dashing out of their apartment during the earthquake, they helped a paralyzed man get down 6 flights of stairs by carrying him down in a wheelchair. I believe they are all growing up very fast.

From Elder Ryan Mayberry in Talca (Concepcion Mission)
Not too much happened to our house, other than that things fell and got moved around.  And from then started the time without electricity and water. So yeah, it finally stoipped, we put on some shoes and went to a members house closeby.  Then we were outside until about 6 in the morning, then we decided to head back to the house to sleep for a bit. Then like good missionaries we woke up at 7.  Soon after that was a strong aftershock, i heard it was like 6.9. But it wasnt very long, but still it was strong. So all the houses and stuff by our house were very littly damaged.  So we really didnt know the extent of how bad it was until later.  So then we headed to the church to go see where help was needed.
On the way to the church is when we realized that a lot more damage was done than we originally thought.  Because then we were getting closer to the part where its downtown, where a lot of buildings are hundreds of years old and made of adobe. Then we started to see the damage. There were houses and buildings here and there completly destroyed.  So we arrived at the church, and not too much hlp was needed there. The church nothing happned to it. So then we went back to the house, got a couple things and then headed off to see the members and investigators to see how they were. SO thats what we did for that whole day.  One members wall fell over, we helped with that. Another the 2nd floor wall fell over and crushed their car, but theyre all fine.  So thats what we did yesterday. A lot of the people here have been sleeping in tents in open areas, because we dont know exactly if there will be anoher that does a lot of damage.  So that was an experience.


From Elder Aaron Mayberry (Santiago East Mission)
o you know, we live on the third floor of an apartment building, just imagine it being high up haha.  So i wake up, and feel he bed shaking.  Im on the top bunk and i asked elder frost if he was feeling it too.  He said yeah so i figured it was an earthquake.  It started off pretty calm, just a little shaking, so i jumped off the bed and got into the doorway.  And as soon as i got there the shaking got harder.  And then it started shaking harder and harder and HARDER.  I cant even tell you what it was like.  It was insane.  The noise was so loud, the walls were shaking ridiculously hard.  My thoughts were the following.  Without even thinking i said a prayer, then came the thoughts of panic.  It seriously felt like the walls were falling down.  I thought for sure the building was coming down, and there was nothing we could do on the third floor.  It was too hard to move because everything was shaking.  I remember thinking at one point, because it really felt like it, that the building was collapsing.  I have never feared for my life, but in this moment i really did.  It was pretty darn scary.  And it didnt help that at one point a man outside started screaming.  I thought, oh man, that guy is dying, we´re all dead haha.  Then the shaking got even more intense.  The earthquake itself lasted for like a minute and a half or something, with a majority of the super hard shaking.  But then it ended.  Finally.  We all 4 elders threw on shirts, shoes grabbed phones and keys and RAN outside.  I was expecting to see pure destruction outside, like buildings on the floor and everything.  But there wasnt any of that when we got outside.
We then got a call from our leaders and they told us to go out and work in our sectors in street clothes and offer service to people that need it.  So thats what we did.  Actually first we ate lunch.  We had no power, water or gas, so we couldn't do anything.  So we went to a little store and bought bread, ham and cheese and ate sandwiches.  There there was a tv and we got to see exactly what happened everywhere, the damage and all that good stuff.  Anyway, we went back, ate, and then left to the sector.
Going to the sector we expected to see a lot more damage and stuff but surprisingly nothing happened in our sector.  The only damage there was was that some walls that were around houses fell down and also that big wall with all the graffitt on it.  Some of that wall fell down, so thats disappointing.  But we went and visited all our investigators and the members houses to see if everything was all good.  And it was so that was good.  All our investigators worried about us haha.  Every single one of them said, oh we worried a lot about you elders all alone and stuff.  It was funny, cuz they all said it haha.  But yeah, thats how we spent our day the day of the gigantic ridiculous earthquake.

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