Outside, the typhoon was raging. But inside, there was a calm, peaceful spirit.
Gathered in their small Philippine home in December 1987, the Paronda family was kneeling in prayer. Brother Ruben Paronda, normally soft-spoken, had to raise his voice almost to a shout as he prayed. Even so, his wife, Nelly, and their children had to strain to hear his words above the pounding rain and the relentless howling of the wind. The prayer was filled with pleadings to the Lord to calm the storm.
The town of Tigaon, Camarines Sur, Philippines, is in the typhoon belt—and the Paronda family has seen many storms. But this time they were more desperate than ever for the storm to stop. It was keeping them from traveling to Manila to be sealed in the temple. And this was the second time their temple trip was being threatened.
A year earlier, everything had been in place for the journey. Both of the parents and all eight children living at home had worked hard to earn and save enough money. (The oldest son was married and had moved from home; another son had died.) Brother Paronda and his boys raised and sold corn, rice, potatoes, melons, and bananas. Sister Paronda and the three daughters tended their sari-sari store (a small neighborhood retail store where they sell “a little bit of everything”). And the older sons took turns driving the family’s jeepney (a small passenger bus) to earn extra money. Then, when all the preparations had been made, Brother and Sister Paronda and the eight children had received temple recommends.
But just before they were to leave for Manila, their jeepney was in an accident, and two passengers were seriously injured. The jeepney was not insured, and the family’s temple fund was depleted as Brother Paronda paid for medical treatments, including hospitalization, for the injured passengers. The temple trip had to be postponed.
“Sometimes in the world we encounter a lot of problems,” says daughter Marilyn. “But whatever hardship or persecution we encounter, we can live happily by obeying what the Lord asks us to do. Nothing is impossible with the Lord if we have faith that he will help us.”
Eleven months after the jeepney accident, they had finally saved enough money again to make the trip. Then the typhoon hit! Their home and store were spared, but their crops were destroyed. Streets were flooded, and travel was impossible.
Surrounded by chaos, they still felt that their most urgent need was to get to the temple immediately. “We were in a hurry to be sealed,” explains Brother Paronda. Unfortunately, in only two or three days the temple would close for several weeks.
Finally, during the night at the height of the storm, the family knelt in prayer. “We asked the Lord to stop the storm so we could go,” says Brother Paronda. “Heavenly Father answered our prayer. The storm stopped during the night, and we had good weather for our journey.”
The next day, they rented a jeepney (their own was still not in running condition), and Brother and Sister Paronda and the eight children crowded inside for the fifteen-hour trip. After driving through the night, they arrived at the temple the day before it was to close. Immediately they changed into white clothes, and everyone who was old enough (father, mother, and six children) received the temple endowment.
Then the parents were sealed to each other, and the children were sealed to them—including their son Alan who had died twelve years earlier as an eight-month-old baby. “Even though Alan isn’t living with us at this time,” says Marilyn, “we know that someday we will be together again. He is still a part of our family.”
“I am so grateful,” says Sister Nelly Paronda, “that my whole family can now be together forever.”
When they left the temple that day, it was late. And they had had no rest from their journey. “But we did not feel tired or hungry,” says Marilyn. “We felt very happy that the Lord had answered our prayers.”
The following day, they attended the temple again. Later, the oldest son, Noel, was sealed in the temple with his wife and children. And family members have returned to do ordinance work for grandparents and great-grandparents.
Brother Paronda was the first Filipino to serve as president of the Goa Branch. He is currently serving as the first Philippine president of the Goa District. Looking back, he puts the jeepney accident and the typhoon into perspective: “They were trials and challenges to prove how faithful we would be.”