The Night of the Typhoon
Early in the morning of 24 October 1988, the radio reported a typhoon was headed toward the Philippines. The announcer advised those living near the Aklan River to pack up and go to one of the evacuation centers. Our home was near the river, and my mother, my sister, and I were terrified, but we could not evacuate. My mother was too old and sickly for us to take her from our home. We had no choice; we had to remain. Being the only member of the Church in my family, I prayed alone for my family’s protection from the storm.
The radio announced that the storm would worsen in the next few hours. The wind howled and the lithe trees swayed to and fro as I took my umbrella and ran to the store for supplies before the worst of the storm hit our home.
Shortly after I returned, the great storm came chasing into our community. It blew down houses and trees as if they were straw. The wind hissed by, snatching at the thatched roofing of our house.
As the storm raged, we tried to hold on to a semblance of order. We had supper early so we would have time to prepare for the rising water of the Aklan River, which was expected to begin flooding about six o’clock. We placed our clothes and other belongings up as high as we could in our home. We watched as many of our neighbors ran past our house, taking their swine, ducks, and chickens to town for safety. I listened to the radio to help me keep my mind off the storm.
About ten o’clock in the evening, the flood reached our home, covering our bamboo floor with ten inches of water. The night was cold, the rain fell heavily, and the strong wind blew at our house.
I crowded onto the bed with my mother, my sister, and our three pets. We trembled through the long, cold hours, fearful that our tall star apple tree would be uprooted and would fall onto our house and kill us. I struggled with confusion and depression, especially as the flood waters began to rise again.
But when all hope seemed gone, I still relied on my faith in Heavenly Father. I prayed again, and after my prayer, I felt comforted. I began singing “Brightly Beams Our Father’s Mercy” and “Master, the Tempest Is Raging.”
I sang the songs over and over to bring comfort to my mother and sister. We soon felt the presence of a warm, loving Spirit that seemed to say, “You’re going to be all right.” This calm reassurance wiped away all my fears.
Just before dawn, the storm weakened. In the early morning’s light, I saw our tall star apple tree. The storm had uprooted it and dashed it into pieces. In the process, the tree had torn down our five big banana trees, but it had lodged in a vacant space in our backyard and had done no harm to our house. I thanked Heavenly Father for his protection during a time of great danger.
My husband and I had just moved to Paonia, Colorado, when we noticed our new neighbor, Flossie. She was a small woman, a widow for many years, and walked with the aid of a crutch.
One morning when I met her outside, I greeted her cheerfully. But Flossie only mumbled something and turned her head.
Each time we met, Flossie made it clear that she didn’t want a thing to do with me, but I continued to smile and greet her. Soon I noticed she had started to use two crutches and could barely get out of her car.
One day I noticed Flossie in her backyard, struggling to hang clothes on the line. I went outside and offered my help.
Flossie scowled and snapped, “No thanks—I’ll do it myself.”
I retreated inside, saying a little prayer for her. A few moments later, I glanced outside again and saw that Flossie had fallen. I knew I couldn’t lift her by myself, so I ran to get help from some neighbors.
We helped Flossie up and settled her into a lawn chair. Luckily, she wasn’t hurt. The others left, but I started to hang the clothes on the line.
Flossie watched for a while, then I heard her chuckle for the first time. “I guess I don’t have much of a choice now,” she observed.
As I continued to hang her clothes, we began to talk and she asked me if I was a Mormon. I nodded and asked what religion she belonged to.
Her haughtiness returned as she answered, “I’ve been a member of my church for over fifty years, and I don’t want to hear one word about your religion.”
“We can be friends, and I won’t talk about my religion unless you ask me about it,” I assured her.
Flossie went from crutches to a wheelchair. We became her family; my husband took care of her yard, my daughter took out her trash, and I fixed her breakfast. One day she asked if we could give her her daily insulin injections. My daughter volunteered, and she continued to do this every day for five years.
“Certainly I do,” I answered. “In fact, we are studying the New Testament in our Sunday School class this year.” Thus began our daily habit of reading the Bible aloud to her.
Soon I was called to teach seminary. We were learning about Church history, so I had to study a lot in order to increase my knowledge of the subject. For four days in a row, I cut my Bible-reading sessions with Flossie short so I could go home and study for my seminary lesson.
On the fifth day, Flossie said, “Oh, go get your books and study here. You can read them out loud to me.” So I did. After a few days of reading, Flossie began asking me questions.
Once she decided to learn, she learned fast. My son, serving a mission in the Philippines, wrote faithfully to our dear neighbor, answering her questions and paving the way for future missionaries to teach her.
At one point, Flossie had to have surgery on her eye. I asked her if she would like a priesthood blessing.
Her refusal was adamant. “I think the Lord will hear my prayers just as well as he would anyone else’s,” she observed dryly. But after only a few hours, I received a call from her. Flossie had had a change of heart and wanted a blessing immediately. In the blessing, she was promised that her surgery would go well and her eyesight would return.
Her surgery went well.
I soon asked Flossie if she would like to have the missionaries visit and teach more about the Church. She agreed. And when they invited her to be baptized, Flossie gratefully accepted.
I was thrilled and deeply grateful. A relationship that had had a rocky beginning had turned into a source of joy, comfort, and truth for all of us. Flossie seemed like a member of our immediate family as well as a member of our Heavenly Father’s family.
Blessed with Peace
The woman standing outside the door had a small bundle in her arms and anguish on her face. My companion, Elder Wilson, recognized her as one of the members of the small Bolivian branch to which we were assigned as full-time missionaries.
Elder Wilson and the woman talked for a few moments, and then he invited her in. He quietly explained to me that the woman had come to receive a blessing for her two-year-old child, who was ill.
I looked at the little girl, wrapped in a heavy black wool blanket. The mother explained that the day before, her other children had been playing with a large dog and had placed the toddler on the animal’s back. But her grip was not strong, and she had slipped off the dog, hitting her head on a rock. Unable to afford a doctor’s fee, the woman worried all night as her daughter moaned with pain and a high fever until she was too exhausted to cry. Even now, the baby’s eyes were rolled back into her head and her whimpers were weak.
Elder Wilson and I had given a number of blessings that particular week, and it was my turn to seal the anointing and pronounce the blessing.
As my companion anointed the child’s head, I silently pleaded with our Father in Heaven to inspire me with the words and promises I should offer this baby and her grieved mother. Yet my mind remained blank.
I placed my hands on the child’s head, stating the authority I possessed and repeating a few common phrases. Still my mind was empty. The child’s moaning seemed to grow stronger and echoed in my head. I have never prayed so hard as I did at that moment, silently pleading to know the will of the Lord concerning this tiny girl.
Suddenly all my tension was replaced with a peaceful sensation, and the words seemed clear to me. I opened my mouth to speak, and in an authoritative voice I commanded the child to be relieved of her afflictions and to rest with no further pain. The blessing continued for almost twenty minutes.
I closed the prayer in the usual manner and opened my eyes. I couldn’t remember exactly what I had just said, but I did realize that the girl had stopped moaning the moment I said amen. I saw my companion and the mother weeping. I assured the woman that everything would be fine. I felt certain that the Lord had helped me in bringing to pass his will concerning this baby.
The woman covered her baby and then hugged me, thanking me for saving the child. I took the bundle from her arms, wanting to witness a miracle face to face. As I uncovered the baby’s head and looked into her eyes, I realized she had died.
Tears filled my eyes as I felt my heart break for the very first time in my life. That mother knew her baby was dead, but she thanked me again as she took her lifeless child and left our apartment.
After she left I dropped to my knees, sobbing in total confusion. Had I abused my authority? Had I said things I shouldn’t have?
But then, for the second time that day, I felt the peace of the Holy Ghost as he testified to me that I had been an instrument in the Lord’s hands and had said only that which I was prompted to say.
To a young missionary living in a modern world in which many attempt to explain everything by attributing all to science and luck, this experience made a lasting impression. From a grieving Latin mother clutching a lifeless baby, I learned about priesthood power and accepting God’s will.