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Sunday, March 07, 2010

The Chile Santiago East Mission Prepared for an Earthquake: Lessons from Inspiration Given to a Mission President's Wife

At LDSChurchNews.com, there is a report on the earthquake from the Chile Santiago East Mission. There is an MP3 of an interview with a missionary who was near the epicenter. There is also some information about the preparations that the Mission President and his wife took a few weeks before the earthquake in response to a strong prompting given to Sister Lisa Laycock, wife of Chile Santiago East Mission President Larry Laycock. Here are some of her words:

"When we were set apart for this calling, Elder [Richard G.] Scott of the [Council] of the Twelve Apostles taught us many important lessons. He spoke from personal experience when he was a mission president in Argentina. One message that he shared with us is this: 'At times, during your mission, you will be awakened in the middle of the night or the early morning hours with thoughts of specific things you should do for certain missionaries. Do not ignore these thoughts. They are promptings from the Holy Ghost who will communicate with you in the stillness of the night or the peace of the early morning hours. He will speak to you then because that is when you are still enough to hear.' Elder Scott further instructed us to keep a notebook beside our bed so that we could record these precious promptings. He said that by the next morning, we would be likely to forget the promptings if we didn't write them down.

"We have been astonished at the fulfillment of Elder Scott's prophetic words. We have received many promptings in the exact manner that Elder Scott described. We are so thankful that Elder Scott taught us how to recognize and act upon these precious promptings. Had he not taught us, we may not have given these promptings the attention they require.

"Nearly two and one half weeks [before the earthquake], I was awakened at around 4 a.m. by just such a prompting. I did not hear a voice, but the thought was as clear as if it had been in the form of spoken words: 'There is going to be an earthquake. Prepare your missionaries.' I sat up in bed and immediately remembered Elder Scott's counsel. That morning I told Larry what had happened. He immediately set to work organizing our missionaries to prepare for an earthquake.

"In talking with our office missionaries to arrange for them to put together a list of everything we would need to prepare...in both Spanish and English...we discovered that the Lord had also let two of our office missionaries know of the possibility of an earthquake (in the form of dreams) and the need to prepare our mission. We set a goal and arranged our schedule so that we could visit every apartment in the mission to check for safety and to review with our missionaries what to do in case of an earthquake. What a wonderful experience we have had as we have met with them and shared scriptures with them about being spiritually and physically prepared. '...if ye are prepared, ye shall not fear' (D&C 38:30). We instructed every missionary to have a "go-bag" (36 hour kit). We reviewed our emergency action plan with them of where to go and what to do if they had phone service and in case they did not. We gave everyone a paper with all instructions in English and Spanish, and we reminded them that 'this life is the time to prepare to meet God' (Alma 34:32-34). We shared with them our thoughts and feelings about the need for spiritual and physical safety. Some of them became frightened and asked us if we knew something they didn't know. We smiled and repeated '...if ye are prepared, ye shall not fear.' We didn't want to unduly alarm them, but we did want to impress upon them the need to be prepared. We tearfully reminded them of our recent transfer conference where we had shared our feelings about our dear Elder McKay Burrows who was unexpectedly called home in January while serving his mission in Romania...how he was prepared in every way to meet God. We reissued our challenge to 'be prepared' in every way. Then we knelt with them in their apartment and dedicated each apartment, asking for a blessing of safety and security to be upon every apartment.

"When the earthquake came, we were prepared. We did not experience the panic that many felt. We knew we were prepared. Because of the words of the Lord's chosen apostle, Elder Scott, we had listened and heeded the quiet, but clear promptings of the Holy Ghost. We were blessed with peace in the midst of chaos. We learned an important lesson: our preparation helped us to avoid panic and fear, but the Lord, in His wisdom, allowed us to experience enough discomfort to know that He has all power. He is in charge. We are nothing without Him. We are dependent upon Him for every breath we take. Only He can save us from death and destruction. He is the way, the truth, and the life. He is our perfect example. If we follow Him, we will be saved through obedience to the laws and ordinances of His Gospel.

"As the earthquake became more violent, the mission home groaned and wailed. The power died, so the whole city was black. The windows made a hideous screeching sound, and flying objects banged against swaying walls. The printer/fax machine, books, book ends, and fifty-pound television burst from the entertainment center and crashed to the floor, cabinets emptied, drawers flew open, the refrigerator moved, water sloshed out of the toilets, the floor jolted up and down as we ran across it trying to hold onto the walls to keep from falling down, and the piano toppled over like a small toy. As we made our way to the back yard, I remember thinking, 'God is all-powerful. He is our only refuge from this horrible mess.' I prayed and prayed for Him to still the earth. When we reached the back yard, we watched in terror. By the light of the moon we could see the swimming pool water form giant waves and crash out onto the rocks. House and car alarms screamed into the night...some from being crushed by falling debris and others I guess from the bizarre movement of the earth. I am not sure if the intense rumbling sounds came from the earth itself or from everything else that was shaking so violently. Finally, it stopped. When the calm came, we had to sit down because our legs were weak and unstable. My legs stayed wobbly all day and night yesterday. Today (Feb. 28) the muscles in my legs hurt like I ran a marathon. The aftershocks have been extremely unsettling. Each one begins like the one last night started. We just close our eyes and wait to see if it escalates or dies down. I have never experienced anything like this!


I think it's noteworthy that the inspiration to prepare for the earthquake came to the President's wife. I am grateful that he listened and acted on the promptings she received! This may have made a significant difference that allowed the missionaries in Chile to be much more effective in helping those around them in dealing with this disaster.

The scope of the disaster in Chile was far less than in Haiti, for Chile has long prepared for earthquakes with building codes often superior to those in the US, yet this was so powerful. Hundreds were killed, with tragedy striking believers and non-believers, old and young, rich and poor. I am grateful that the missionary force there was able to be part of the solution as they jumped into gear serving and helping in afflicted regions.

Humbly listening to spouses and others can be one of several ways to gain inspiration that can make a difference in our callings and lives.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful story!

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful story!

Dallin said...

I've heard of similar miracles around the temple in Santiago. It is incredible the way the Lord uses these events to build our faith.

Paul said...

Jeff, thanks for sharing this story.

Rich said...

Now here is the amazing thing, my nephew is in the rancagua on his mission and we recieved an email from him that his mission presidents wife also had promptings weeks before the earthquake for the missionaries to store water. I don't remember him talking about food but she also did not say anything specific about an earthquake coming, as far as my nephew's email saying so. Plenty of miracles coming from Chile, and also knowing that the work continues. They had babtisms just this last week in rancagua.

Anonymous said...

The mother of one of the missionaries in this mission shared parts of this story with us in sacrament meeting yesterday. She smiled when recalling her son telling her about the "Armageddon backpacks" the missionaries had prepared :)

Mike Parker said...

You know, someone mentioned this story in Gospel Doctrine yesterday. I rolled my eyes and thought "here's the latest Mormon urban legend."

I'm glad to know that it's a true story!

Mormanity said...

The bogus faith promoting stories out there have inoculated many of us against the real ones when we hear them.

jeremy said...

Thanks for sharing!

Bookslinger said...

Sometimes Church News gets so treacly sweet it can seem incredulous, or at least make you wonder what mundane but otherwise pertinent things they are leaving out of a story. I subscribed for a while to the physical delivery edition, but the reporting and writing was so insipid I let it expire. The only column I regularly read was the "Missionary Moments" every 3rd week on the back page.

I had to keep reminding myself that the actual facts and news and events reported are true, regardless of what is left unsaid. This really is a church and a gospel of honest-to-goodness miracles in our day. All the amazing events of the past, as documented in the scriptures, are happening in some form, or at least could be happening, today.

(I'm not aware of any recent Pentecost-like outpourings of the Spirit, where a group of missionaries speaks in several languages previously unknown to them, and has 5000 converts in a single day. But on a much smaller scale, I do believe it happens. And if the need is there, if people are ready, and if the Lord is willing, it still _could_ happen on the same large scale. The Lord doesn't change. We do.)

Ammon and Moroni were right. With the Spirit, you could do anything that is expedient in the Lord, said Ammon. And as Moroni said, if miracles aren't happening, it's our fault (or our lack of something), not God's.

Tom said...

I only wish the Lord had warned the poor members and non members of the coming earthquake. I wonder why some were warned and not others.
This really does show that our missionaries are special. Great story.

Bookslinger said...

Tom, maybe not specifically, but in general, members have been warned, to keep a 72-hour "grab and go" emergency kit.

The spiritual warning to the Mision President's wife was not time specific, was it? If I read correctly, it was "prepare for an earthquake."

Missionaries generally don't keep, and aren't generally instructed to keep (as far as I know) a "grab-and-go" kit or "72 hour" kit.

So in essence, those missionaries merely got through their channel what members have been told for years now. And yeah, sounds like good advice to follow all the time for all missionaries all over.

Anonymous said...

I'll warn everyone now, for the record: Stuff's gonna happen. Something's gonna 'splode. Waves, quakes, fires, and shabang is all a coming. Get ready, folks.

Anonymous said...

You may recall Elder Scott suggested to all of us that we ought to find a way to record the promptings that we get during his talk in Conference last fall. Perhaps the real moral of the story here is that the spirit speaks softly to each of us from time-to-time, but we are always expecting the pillar of light, rather than the quiet voice. For that reason, many of us miss the opportunity to act on inspiration.

Matthew said...

Perhaps things happened as stated. I don't quite get why god tells some and not others. I'd imagine that on an average day there is some portion of people that dream about a horrible event and 99% of the time nothing comes of it. Of course that 1% of the time when someone is correct then it is seen as an act of God. It's definitely interesting stuff.

On my mission we were told to prepare for danger during an election. We had to stay indoors as the mission president had received a prompting. We all did, and there were no riots or danger. Would this be evidence that god does not talk to mission presidents? If not then why does the previously stated example show us a definite miracle and yet the ones that don't come out to be true are never seen as signs that point to the contrary?

Ryan said...

We had to stay indoors as the mission president had received a prompting. We all did, and there were no riots or danger. Would this be evidence that God does not talk to mission presidents?

I would tend to take it as a sign that we don't know what would have happened, though it apparently wasn't related to rioting.

There are an awful lot of "small and simple things" by which terrible things can be brought to pass. I have been sure for many years now that, looking back on our lives, we will be astonished at the veritable minefield which we navigated in mortality, guided by promptings so small we didn't even realize we followed them much of the time.

Matthew said...

@ ryan,
While one can look at it this way (and there is no way for me to prove one way or the other) it seems difficult to say that this is the correct way to look at the situation. On any given day there are billion things that could happen. For 99% of those things you won't even notice them because they don't have any apparent consequence for you. You have millions of thoughts in a given month and most of them have little to do with forseeing a future event. After the event occurs people tend to notice how crazy and exact their knowledge of the event was and boot out the thousands of thoughts that didn't ever go anywhere.

Essentially what I'm saying is the success rate for things using a miracle explanation seems to be about the same as the rate of things happening with out any sort of divine influence. We decide after the fact which of all these things are the 'important' and 'amazing' insights.

Again, perhaps I'm wrong. I just think people should use the same measuring stick with all occurences instead of the ones that affirm what they wish to believe.

Matthew said...

To further clarify. I guess I mean best explanation of the circumstances and not 'right'. It's impossible to say with certainty who is 'right' in such a circumstance as I can never disprove that such things are miracles which come from god. I merely suggest that this explanation doesn't seem to be the most likely or probable. I suppose by definition though that miracles are supposed to be acts which don't have a rational cause and effect though so perhaps the point is mute anyways.

Anonymous said...

Felt need to say this to you although I don't know. Its starting I know it too..