Those were some of the craziest three days of my whole life. First, we had four sisters coming in from the West to our tiny flat (they were supposed to leave this morning, but it looks like they might be with us for a while). Managing six sisters from four different countries has been a test and a joy, and we’ve got a special bond that only power outages in a cyclone can create.
That night, we found out a category five cyclone was coming while we were sitting in a lesson with three teenage boys who immediately began preparing their emergency phone chargers after watching the warning on the TV.
We woke up in the morning to stormy weather and found out we weren’t allowed to leave the flat until further notice, but it was also the day we were planning on meeting President Eyring. The sisters had spent the whole morning straightening their hair, picking out their favorite sulu jabas, and otherwise prepping for a “once-in-a-lifetime” experience. All of us were ready, just about to head out the door, when we got the text to stay in the flat. We dragged out the mattresses, flopped down together and prayed the storm would pass. Thankfully, we found out about an hour later that the missionary meeting was still on, and we ran to the taxi stand and made our way over. We all were reunited with previous companions, district leaders, and dear friends inside the chapel while we waited for President Eyring and Elder Cook. They came, we stood, and President Eyring walked in with the biggest smile I’ve ever seen on anyone, on his face. He’s got such a sweet, humble spirit about him, and after some testimonies from a missionary and the area presidency, he and Elder Cook shared their thoughts and experiences in a very personal, heartfelt way. It was one of the best experiences of my whole mission to be with two of the Lord’s apostles and to see how much love they had for us and for missionary work, there was such a special feeling in that chapel. President Eyring told us they had almost cancelled our meeting after watching the weather forecast, but he had a feeling of complete peace and knew everything was going to be alright.
From the chapel, we went straight to the cultural celebration which started early because buses weren’t going to be allowed on the roads past five. We all hurried inside and started a joyful, colorful celebration of the temple. It was fun to see all the kids from all around Fiji performing the dances they’d been practicing for months, and the opening parade was my favorite part. Seeing children that I knew from Lautoka, Nausori, and Suva, some of them wearing costumes that I had helped to make. The celebration was cut short by the cyclone weather, but it was still an amazing experience. We weren’t worried until the announcers’s voice shook a little as he told everyone to take their places for the grand finale and go as fast as they could.
The winds outside were whipping the trees and throwing little bits of debris around, but the missionaries and everyone inside were still smiling, laughing, talking. We were enjoying the special spirit of that day and the unity and safety that we felt despite the storm outside. They hurried us onto the buses. Except, Sister Mitchell and I were already in our area, so we decided to try and catch a taxi for the ride back to our flat (It normally only takes about a minute). But there were no taxis out, so we were going to run home. We took off our shoes and started jogging down the slick concrete when the wind almost threw me into a nearby gutter. After that, we decided to head for shelter instead until we could find transportation, so we jogged to a nearby shopping plaza. We were completely out of options, just about ready to give up. We walked to the side to pray, and just as we were about to close our eyes, we saw our bishop and his wife parked in front of us in the shopping plaza sitting comfortably in their beautiful, sturdy car. Our prayer was answered before we even said it. They bought us some groceries and emergency supplies and dropped us at our flat. Our hostess opted out of the taxi option and ended up in Samabula in the rain and strom for a couple of hours.
Anyway, that’s all the time I’ve got for today. I’m safe and sound. Everything has simmered down, but there’s some damage to nearby trees and buildings.
I love and miss you all. This story doesn’t even do Cyclone Winston justice, but know that the Lord loves and protects His missionaries.
Emailing time is cut short since there’s hardly any places to email and all the missionaries are sharing. Hurrah for teamwork!