Letter from Santiago, Chile – Earthquake – Lessons from a Mission President’s Promptings – Listen to the Spirit and Be Prepared
My dear family. We received a very insightful letter from Robert’s Mission
President’s wife in Santiago. I thought it was worth sharing for many
reasons. First, it can help you understand the organizational structure of
his mission and that he has leaders who are responsible for his well being.
Second, it will provide the background behind the effort to assemble
earthquake backpacks mentioned in his Feb 22 letter. Finally and most
important, I believe that it demonstrates that we are all entitled to
inspiration from a source much greater than each of us. I am very grateful
for a Mission President and a wife who live their lives in a manner that
prepares them to be in tune for such inspiration.
I hope you don’t mind me sharing this with you. I also added this to his
blog and put another photo up from the conference held yesterday mentioned
near the end of the letter….
I am writing to let you all know how very grateful we are for your prayers,
concern, and love. Please keep praying! We need the Lord’s help and guidance
in order to do all He would have us do to learn what He would have us learn
from this earth quake tragedy, and to minister in the way He would have us
minister. During the past few days, we have witnessed many events which
serve to remind us that the Lord is in charge and that as missionaries and
members of His church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we
are performing His work, and as President Monson teaches, “When we are on
the Lord’s errand, we are entitled to His help.” I want to share with you a
few miracles that will help you to understand our profound feelings of
When we were set apart for this calling, Elder Scott of the counsel 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
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 ago, I was awakened at around 4:00 AM 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 earth
quake. 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 [note by bob: reference to two missionaries who died from
carbon monoxide poisoning in an apartment without a CO detector]…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 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!
We were awakened this morning by a very strong after shock. Larry jumped out
of bed and yelled, “Welcome to another glorious day in Chile!” We just had
to laugh. We moved a mattress into the floor in our bedroom and made Landon
sleep in our room. He was in his room with the door locked the night before
and we couldn’t wake him up. He never locks his door, but he was playing a
joke on Larry because every morning Larry wakes him at 5:30 AM for seminary
by tickling him unmercifully. So Landon had decided to stop him. When we
couldn’t open his door, in the middle of the quake, we thought he was
trapped, so we screamed and banged. Landon thought that everything was
falling off the walls because we were banging so hard on the door. I think
we scared him more than the earthquake did!
Today, we attended a strong ward where Larry was invited to speak. The
entire chapel and beyond was filled. People were so humble and so teachable.
Larry taught the importance of doing the small things. He taught about Jesus
Christ and the opportunity we have to love one another and to share what we
have with others. It was a great blessing for us to be with these beautiful
Chilean people. Some have lost their homes…or at least parts of their
homes. But they are strong and they want to serve the Lord. He taught of the
scripture in Luke 21:11,13, which says, “and great earthquakes shall be in
divers places…and it shall turn to you for a testimony.” He also welcomed
the sweet young woman who was in the congregation with the
missionaries…her first time attending church…and then he invited her to
be baptized from the pulpit. He asked her to please invite us to her
baptism, and she said, “I will.” The Lord always knows what His people need.
Landon was reading in Alma 15:17 today. He said, Mom listen to this. This is
what is happening here in Chile just like in happened in Ammonihah. The
people were humbled and “checked as to the pride of their hearts and began
to humble themselves before God, watching and praying continually that they
might be delivered from Satan, and from death, and from destruction.”
Our hearts are filled to the brim with gratitude for all of the blessings we
have received in the Chile Santiago East Mission. We see miracles every day.
In the midst of great pain and suffering, we can always find our Savior. He
stands with His arms open, pleading for all of us to humble ourselves and
come unto Him. He loves us. He invites us to accept His gift…the
atonement. He invites us to repent. He wants us to love one another and to
serve one another. He wants us to bring our families and those we love to
Him. We can do it. We can do all that He asks, no matter how difficult it
may seem. “With God all things are possible”
OK, sorry this is so long. I will end now. We are having a devotional
tomorrow for all of our missionaries to talk about the last week of Christ’s
life in preparation for Easter. We want to remind our missionaries to teach
and preach with increased vigor and animo of Christ. Last Monday in our
office meeting, Larry suddenly stopped in the middle, and said, “During the
prayer, I had a very strong impression that March 2010 is going to be our
best baptizing month we have ever had in this mission.” Now we know why he
received that feeling. We are going to prepare to bring many souls to the
waters of baptism in March. Please continue to pray for us and for the
people of Chile. Please pray for the missionaries to have strength and
courage to do all that is being required of them, even in difficult times.
We are so thankful that the tsunami did not turn out badly in Hawaii. Who
would ever think that an earthquake in Chile could threaten the shores of
Hawaii? Thankfully, the Lord is in charge. He is the one to whom we must
turn for refuge from every storm. He has the power to save us.
Con mucho amor,
President Larry and Sister Lisa Laycock