Saturday, February 27, 2010

8.8 magnitude earthquake in Chile

This is not how we expected to start our mission.  We left Fillmore at about 9:30 am on Friday morning, had a nice visit with Suz's Mom, Micaela and John and then arrived at the Salt Lake Airport about 12:30.  We caught a flight to Dallas/Fort Worth which went well and we left DFW about 9:30 pm with great expectations of being in Santiago, Chile by morning.  After a nice dinner about 11pm, we settled down hoping for a little sleep before morning.  About 6 am (Chile time--2am Utah) the captain came on the PA system stating that he had a very important announcement and needed everyone to wake up.  He was quick to mention that the plane was in no danger and our safety was not in jeopardy.  After giving us about five minutes to wake up, he informed us that we had turned around and were headed to Miami because of a "substantial" earthquake in the Santiago area.  Power was out and the airport was closed.  Wow, we were utterly amazed and somewhat dazed.  Many on the flight were Chilean nationals and were of course, extremely worried about their families and home.  We wished we could be there to help.  We knew that our family and friends would be concerned about us, and we were very concerned about the people of Chile.

No further information was available to us until we arrived in Miami about 7 am.  We disembarked from the plane and waited until an announcement came for us to reload and go back to Dallas/ Fort Worth where our flight would end and assistance would be given in the form of vouchers or rescheduling when the Santiago airport reopens.  While there we received our first email from Lucho Espinoza, a dear friend from the Benson Institute who is Chilean himself.  We appreciated his interest in us and the information he provided.   We called our son John and asked him to contact our other kids.  We reboarded and flew back to Texas, arriving about noon.  We had now been in an airport or a plane for 24 hours--grateful that we were safe and that the damage appeared to be better than expected in Santiago itself due to the better infrastructure.  The earthquake was 900 times the strength of the earthquake that had leveled Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and so the fear was that the capital itself might be severely damaged.  Unfortunately, the area around Concepcion is indeed severely damaged and there are hundreds dead.  Once in DFW, we waited in line for over 4 hours to get rescheduled.  We were grateful for my iphone which we were able to lend to some of the Chileans in our group and let them email their families about their safety and find out about their families's safety.We were able to contact the Church office switchboard and talk with both Dr. Doty and Missionary Travel and leave a message for the Chile Area office that we were safe.  They reserved a hotel room for us for two days and at this time we have a tentative reservation for Santiago this Friday.  We are hoping that the airport will open soon and we can leave here sooner than that.  We got settled at our hotel about 6 pm.

We just got back from a nice dinner at Denny's after having nothing to eat for 13 hrs., when we had breakfast on the plane.  We are tired but doing very well and grateful for the good friends we have made and the help we have received.   

Saturday, February 20, 2010

We Have Been Called

Here we are, the happy couple , eagerly awaiting a new mission call. We waited six weeks for it to come. Finally the big day arrived and we got an early call from the post office telling us that a special letter was awaiting us. The call was to The Chile Area with a ward assignment to Santiago North Mission. Dave is called as the Area Medical Advisor to the nine missions in Chile and I am his assistant. We were to report to the MTC on April 26 and depart to Chile on May 7. The day we got our call, we left for Salt Lake to attend the theater, the opera and help Micaela move. The next day we got a call on my cell phone telling us that they needed us much sooner as Dr. Dixon, the current AMA is leaving on March 1. The Area Executive Secretary, Elder Stephen Boyden, Paul's past Mission President, assures us that we can come on tourist visas and he will get our resident visas for us in two weeks, or so, once we are there.

We are so very, very excited. We have heard so many wonderful things about Chile and almost everyone we talk to has lived there, has relatives who served missions there or has been on a mission there themselves. We hear that it is safe, developed, friendly and beautiful with a mild climate. We will live in apartments next to the Area offices and across from the temple and the Chile MTC. Apararently there is quite a feeling of 'family' with the missionaries there. They meet every week for FHE and once every two weeks for a dinner on the town. It sounds like we will have plenty of opportunity to speak English but we are continuing to improve our Spanish.

We have spent four days at The Church Office Building and the MTC attending meetings of Missionary Medical. They have quite the system of training and preparation which we thoroughly enjoyed. We had classes with two other couples who are also called as AMA's. The Hills, from Blackfoot will serve in Brazil and the Fords will serve in the North America Central Area and will be located in Chicago. We learned about the Church's resources for their AMA's including a web site for doctors and nurses that contains amazing amounts of reference materials on diseases, mental health issues, medications, pandemics, etc. They also have a process for entering information that can be accessed by the numerous volunteer medical consultants of various specialties which will be very helpful for us. One day of training was to increase our abilities with computers including creating our own power point presentation on the common cold, with graphics and sounds. We met with Dr. Hebertson and his sweet wife to learn about responsibilities of the AMA's spouses and other service opportunities for senior missionaries. They were sweet enough to invite us to share some of our experiences with teaching music and starting a children's library.

We spent one full day with Dr. Woolley at the MTC. He is a wealth of information on tropical diseases, insects and other vectors, disease prevention, safety, clean water, etc. We also learned of some of the crazy situations that missionaries can get themselves into such as a bat bite while holding a live bat for a photograph.

Each day we were up north we spent a night with a different family. That was special for us as we will be leaving those precious grandkids and they will change so much. We even got our own piano recital from two of the grandkids. Their teacher came to their home and they each played about 15 songs for us from books they had just finished. We also finished up our last minute shopping for clothes.

On the Presidents Day weekend, all the Utah kids and grandkids came to Fillmore and spent an entire day working in our yard and helping us finish up the pruning, wood splitting and stacking, transplanting, fence fixing, cleaning out of rain gutters and many other things. It amounted to about 50 man hours and what a help that was to us. We enjoyed two great meals together finishing up a lot of the food we still have and then enjoyed a special FHE with sharing of feelings and saying goodbyes. We also got some great news--our youngest daughter and her husband are expecting their third child in October. John and Traci are expecting in March.

This last week as been spent deep cleaning the home, finishing up financial issues like taxes, getting computer issues fixed, and starting our packing. Suz cleaned all the carpets in the home and Dave has spent countless hours getting all the bills set up for epay, actually paying bills, etc. We are starting to feel like we are almost ready.

For the first few months of our eighteen month mission our home will be occupied by a young couple who are building their own home in Fillmore, Ryan and Angela Hansen. After they move into their new home they will continue to look after the house and the yard. We feel fortunate to have this arrangement with them. We hope that they will feel likewise after it's all over.

The plan for this blog is to file a report every few weeks, or so, as occasion dictates. In so doing, we hope to be able to share these experiences with whoever is interested, and we hope that you find them to be of some use.

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