Nights of fear, prayer as storm rages outside

Sunday, Oct. 25, 1998

We heard news that a tropical storm in Panama was coming in two hours, but no one imagined it would come so quickly to the coasts of Honduras. Still, I was worried all night, especially about the members who lived on the north coast of Honduras.

Monday, Oct. 26

At 2 a.m., the president of the Villa Nueva Honduras Stake and his brother knocked on my door, very alarmed about the news that the tropical storm had now become Hurricane Mitch and was coming for Honduras. I was left to think and pray to Heavenly Father about what to do for the members and the missionaries. At 4 a.m., I made the decision to remove the missionaries from their areas and take them to San Pedro Sula. I called my assistants and secretary and they began to contact all the missionaries to immediately come to the mission offices. I contacted the missionaries on the islands in the bay and told them to take the 6 a.m. flight to San Pedro Sula. As the missionaries began arriving, we opened a meetinghouse and we were told of the situation that was about to occur.

I continued calling the missionaries on the islands, and they told me they were not able to get a flight because the authorities had closed the airport. I grew more concerned to hear they had contacted a helicopter service, but were refused because no one was allowed to use the airport. As I learned that taking them from the islands was impossible, I poured my soul to the Lord asking protection for the missionaries.

While we were not always praying vocally, we remembered the missionaries on the islands in the prayers of our hearts. We met with the other missionaries who had come from all parts of the country and told them of the situation with the four elders [still on the islands], and we prayed for them. That night, no one in the mission home slept as we listened to the news and prayed to the Lord because the rain grew continually more intense on the islands and northern coasts of Honduras.

Tuesday, Oct. 27

The hurricane began to move toward the north and later northeast and we gave thanks to the Lord. We were in constant communication with the missionaries on the islands and with the presidents of various stakes, working with evacuation teams to protect the members. We knew perfectly what we had to do.

On one hope-filled morning, we thought the hurricane was moving away, but suddenly it changed direction. Again, we asked the missionaries gathered in San Pedro to join in prayer for the four missionaries on the islands of Roatan and Utila. The rain was torrential throughout the north and we had problems with electricity and drinkable water. The hurricane stationed itself on front of the coasts and didn't cease its downpour. Again we didn't sleep and we made telephone calls all night and during the small hours of the morning, believing that all would be well. We also sent the missionaries in Belize to Belmopan in the interior as the hurricane began to arrive in that country also.

Wednesday, Oct. 28

The hurricane changed direction again and began to cause destruction in Trujillo in central east coast of Honduras. We lost communication with the members, and could only plead with Heavenly Father to protect the Saints in those regions. Many regions were by now devastated. Bridges were washed out, the roads opened with holes, and the hills crumbled. People ran to save their lives. On this night, the rain grew yet more intense, terminating our communication with the four missionaries on the islands. We continued to unite in prayer and we felt peace in the midst of our tribulation that all would be well for them.

Thursday, Oct. 29

The rain and fierce winds continued. We were well, but in anguish. The area presidency strengthened us emotionally during this ordeal. All the area was flooded; the water had reached the roofs of the houses, and the people cried for help. As the water filled the southeast area of San Pedro Sula, the members there began to run from their homes looking for high places. The wind tore off palm trees, tree branches and roofs of houses. In the midst of this, we continued searching for food. We had neither water nor light. As night came, all around was a tragedy. Again we didn't sleep listening to the wind, knowing that hundreds of families were without a roof over their heads. We had to remain alert for imminent danger. The international airport was closed, and we were unable to communicate by land or air, and the people felt this storm would never end.

Friday, Oct. 30

The storm began to lighten and the Saints were saved, but hundreds of other families were not able to find their children or brothers or sisters or parents. They searched in the rain without success until they saw corpses floating on the water; some of animals, some of humans. In the afternoon, the rain and wind ceased. The people wept; now no one had anything left.

Saturday, Oct. 31

We began to survey the nearby areas to determine the damage, but we were not able to travel more than 15 kilometers (9 miles). We had to find water and take it to the mission home and the chapel where the missionaries were. We began to search for food. It was extremely sad to see the rivers carrying tables, chairs, balls, refrigerators, roofs of homes, trees and all kinds of objects. This was a time of deep anguish. We gave instructions to the district presidents of the missions to obtain food and share the necessities, and spoke to all the missionaries. At last we were able to contact the four missionaries on the islands, who were well. We even learned that the missionaries on the island of Utila had, in the midst of the storm, baptized a 20-year-old young man whom they had taught. The members on the island said that the Lord protected them because the missionaries were there.

Sunday, Nov. 1

We held a sacrament meeting with the missionaries where we felt the powerful influence of the Spirit, and we spoke of the three phases of adversity: tribulation, problems and anxiety, and that these are experiences the Lord gives us to gain spiritual progress to enable us to return to Him.

The missionaries were soon reassigned to areas where food was available.

We are thankful the Lord preserved the lives of the missionaries and members of the Church. In reality, this is a miracle.

This is a time of much reflection and much prayer. We are totally dependent on the Lord. With this experience, He opens the hearts of the people to seek spiritual things.

The government doesn't speak of reconstruction, but of construction because there is nothing left. The missionaries, too, will work to build new hearts and new minds that are open to receive the Lord.