We have been told that we “blew” into town. We arrived at the McAllen, Texas airport on the afternoon of June 28th. We were warmly greeted by the out-going president, Gary Miller, Sister Miller, and the two Assistants to the President, Elders Brower and Torres. We then traveled to the mission office where we were introduced to the office staff- Elder and Sister Goldsberry, Elder and Sister Snyder, Elder Clayton and Elder Castillo.
We learned that the father of one of our missionaries had passed away the day before. The missionary had made the decision that he would stay in the mission field and not return home for the funeral. That evening we, accompanied by the assistants, visited the missionary. My husband gave him a blessing.
Also that night, we had previously been scheduled to meet with the local stake presidents, but the schedule did not work out as planned because a hurricane was set to make landfall somewhere near the Brownsville area (in our mission boundaries) and the stake presidents were involved in preparing their members.
We retired to our "new" home and bed exhausted and knowing that we would need to put our entire faith in the Lord in the days and weeks to come.
JUNE 29, 2010
June 29th, our first full day on the job, turned out to be one of the longest days of our lives. I think that we really did “blow” into town. We bid the Millers good-bye that morning and instantly felt overwhelmed by our circumstances.
After arriving at the office in the morning, we began to meet with the staff. We also learned more about the impending hurricane. The latest predictions had Brownsville within its possible targets at landfall. We knew nothing yet about the topography of the mission or even where all our missionaries were living. We had to rely heavily on our very capable assistants and office staff. Many phone calls were made and the area authorities reminded my husband that the church policy is to evacuate the missionaries before a general evacuation is issued by the government. I felt peace as I recalled the words in the blessing Elder Anderson had given to my husband just days before: "You will know what to do to keep your missionaries safe."
In the meantime, I was well aware that the mission home had no emergency supplies. I needed to purchase some essential items like water, candles, and flashlights, and more food- before they were sold out. Even though McAllen is inland enough to escape the harshest portion of a hurricane, we could possibly lose power and I felt like there may be others that may count on the mission home for help in an emergency. Sister Snyder helped me find the local Sam’s Club where I stocked up on some groceries and I bought the last set of flashlights in the store. Lines were long, but people were pleasant to each other.
I returned to the office to find President Trayner working hard with his assistants. In addition to his concerns about the hurricane, he had been receiving many phone calls from the family of the elder whose father had just passed away. They wanted their son/brother to come home for the funeral. This also involved more phone calls with his stake president and church travel. Our Elder would travel home for four days and miss his opportunity to enjoy the winds and rain!
President Trayner made the decision that the missionaries from the Brownsville and Harlingen Zones would evacuate at 7:00am the next morning. The evacuated elders would stay with other elders in the McAllen area or at a local stake center. The six sisters serving in the evacuated zones would be evacuated to our home. I made another trip to the store to make sure I had enough supplies for all. It was my first full day on the job and I felt a sense of frustration as I pushed a heavy grocery cart to my car in the rain while trying to keep the wind from blowing my skirt up. Our moving van with our belongings hadn’t yet arrived and the beds only had sheets. We could sleep three on beds and we needed air mattresses for the other three. We asked the sisters to bring their own bedding. I vowed that once we were through this, a better emergency plan would be in place, not only for the missionaries, but also for the mission home.
We lucked out. The eye of the storm hit about 100 miles south of our mission. We were sad to hear about heavy damage to our neighboring mission. We knew that all our missionaries were safe as we heard "buckets" of rain dump on our home all day and through the next night. The locals told us that it was more like an extremely heavy tropical storm. For me, it was the heaviest rainfall I have ever experienced.
I enjoyed getting to know the sister missionaries that came to stay with us. It reminded me of the time I spent with the Young Women, but with much more "mature" young women. These sisters are talented, spiritual, willing, encouraging, and cheerful. They said that when they get to come to our house, it's like being on vacation. I love them all so much all already!