Monday, June 1, 2015

Working with the Red Cross!

Our service group 
Ruined apartments

HOLA!  So this week we did a bunch of service!  And we went to the temple as a mission!  So that's most of what I will write about today.

Well, on Wednesday we drove up to the city, to a complex that was hit by a tornado Sunday night.  It was pretty destroyed and super sad to see. Supposedly a small tornado went straight threw it and destroyed about 80% of the apartments to the point were they are not livable and will have to be torn down.  So our first job was to trek through the complex, through all the mud, washed out road, broken trees, trash..., and see if anyone was still in their apartment.  If we found anyone, we filled out Red Cross forms with them to see what help they needed to get back on their feet.  Most of the people had either left with all their stuff or were out talking to the Red Cross in front.  But it was fun climbing around and seeing all that happened.  I'll send some pictures of it, but I didn't get too many because I kinda got in trouble for taking so many, haha.  

We saw a lot of third floor apartments that didn't have roofs anymore.  Almost all the windows were broken.  Most of the insides had everything all blown around and mixed in the middle of the room.  But after tracking a couple buildings, we came back and they gave us a new job.  I would go through the Red Cross forms that had been filled out, find the people that matched them, and then send them to go get food, money, supplies... just wherever they needed to go.  And it was super cool because almost none of the Red Cross could speak Spanish.  So that meant that pretty much all the 30ish missionaries that were on site were in charge, haha.  And Red Cross pretty much told us what needed to happen, we would talk to the residents, and then tell Red Cross what they could do to help.  It was sweet to watch all the experienced workers trust a bunch of 20 yr old missionaries that had just got there and taken over.  It was a super fun day!

Then the next day, we went to help at the Tornado Shelter.  A few streets away they had turned the community center into a shelter for all those who lost their homes and didn't have anywhere else to stay.  And once again, only one of the workers spoke Spanish... So they brought us in and put some of us at registration to organize the people and get them signed in. Then some were put in the dining area to serve meals.  And others were put in the living area to just talk to people, help them be happy, see what they need, play with their kids, etc.  It was super fun too, but not as much physical work :(.

And then Friday, we woke up at 3 am in order to go to the 6 am session at the temple.  It was super cool!  We did a full session of about 40 missionaries or so.  Then afterwards, we had a 2-hour training from the Ashtons and the Cranes (temple president and matron).  It was so cool!  I learned so much.  We focused on our identity, as in who we truly are, and also on sacrifice.  And because it was in the temple, we could ask any questions we wanted about what goes on in the temple or the session or the symbolism or anything... That was pretty much the only opportunity people could have to do something like that.  President Ashton said afterwards that the experience was probably one of the greatest revelatory experiences of our lives...  That's a powerful statement right there... Too bad we couldn't take notes, so we had to come home and we could only right down what we could find in the scriptures.  Pretty much that is what I've been doing for my last few personal studies.  

And then for the rest of the day, it was really one of our only days to go out and teach a lot, and we found a new family to teach!  The Sierras met a guy named Sami and now he works for Jose and when we passed by, he and his family were there so we taught them!  And the best part is that Sami and his family are now best friends with the Sierras and so they are at the Sierras house all the time!  Sami is huge!  He used to be a personal trainer so he is like 6'3", ripped, and has long hair.  Pretty much like Hispanic Hercules.  If you imagine the cartoon, that’s about the best description you could give, haha.  We are going to start teaching them a lot soon. Too bad they don't live in our area... But if we play our cards right, maybe they will move here!  I have faith!

And finally, Saturday, we went back to the tornado site!  This time, what they needed us to do was to translate for the caseworkers.  Pretty much, they would bring in one of the residents, and a Red Cross worker and a missionary would sit with them and get their info.  Family info, job, residency, where they stay now, what they need, their description of what happened... everything we could.  Then on the spot we would determine how much money we could give them, what food we could give, what supplies, where we could move them, etc.  We also set them up with other agencies they could call and get help.  It was fun to talk to a bunch of Hispanics and hear their personal stories of what happened.  We did that for about 6 hours.  Pretty much, without missionaries, the Red Cross operation here would take about 20x as long.

And while Elder Tate and I were in charge of getting missionaries involved with the Tornado site and also the shelter, there were other zone leaders on other projects throughout the city.  There was another group that went around and knocked all the doors and did the same kind of casework that we did at the tornado site.  There was another project that went and just helped rip out carpet and floor and do clean up.  Then a third that helped rebuild houses and complexes.  It was crazy how much service was going on. This week, missionaries gave more than 2,500 hours of service just for the tornado and flooding.  We spent all of our nights calling the city and the red cross and the zone leaders just to coordinate which missionaries could go where and how we could rotate and spread our efforts best.  Pretty much, the 2 zones that cover the city have done 15-hour service days this whole week. No one is even having Pdays until it’s done.  

One super cool thing is that the entire Houston stake went to church in service clothes yesterday, took the sacrament, and then all left immediately to serve all day!  That’s so rad!  So the best part about all of this is the fact that the church looks super good now!  The mayor has given a lot of thanks.  We have been all over all the news.  Everyone knows that Mormon missionaries were one of the biggest helps here.  It was just super cool to see how much trust the Mayor and all the disaster agencies put in the church, and how missionaries are just so prepared to help in situations like this. Missionaries are always coordinating, always conducting meetings, always working their hardest with no breaks, etc. And it just went so well with what needed to get done!

Plus, I learned that if you volunteer for the Red Cross and speak Spanish, then they will call you first and send you all over to help out. They pay for your flight, hotel, food... pretty much it’s a free vacation and you get to help people.  What could be any better?  Could be something to do in the summer...

This week was so rewarding!  I loved it!

Elder Lund

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