Monday, October 5, 2009

From the Missionary Mom website

From last Thursday...

...Here is his story as told by his mom, Angie Miller, in Brentwood, TN, after she talked to him on the phone:

Friends and family, Elliott just called from Samoa still in shock but safe. He relayed what just took place during the tsunami and I wanted to pass the info along while it is fresh. I am still in shock and am trying to focus. I will send out an email and post this info on Facebook so you may get a duplicate. I was just at a meeting when my cell phone rang. I didn't recognize the number so I almost didn't pick it up. But the ladies in my meeting encouraged me to so I did. It was Elliott calling from Samoa sounding a little in shock and raspy. Here is what happened and I'm still reeling from relief and gratitude.

Yesterday morning at 6:48 Elliott was in the shower when the 8.3 quake hit. He said it was strong but not destructive. He and his companion got a laugh at the thought of him in the shower during an earthquake. They were staying in the home of another family in the village of Malaela on the southeast coast of Upolu. Just as he was drying off and getting his underwear on a family member from the house was up working on a hill and called down that a tsunami was coming. Elliott didn't think it was serious but threw on some shorts and his white mission shirt. He went outside to see what was going on and saw people running and screaming toward the forest. He grabbed some sneakers and started running too. He picked up some kids and started running with them. His companion turned around and the water was right behind them. There was no high ground to go to so they ran to some trees and climbed them. As he got up in the tree the water hit the tree and started rising quickly. He said the water came up about 5 feet and started pulling on the tree. He was afraid the tree would be pulled out and taken out to sea. Pretty soon the water receded and they got down from the tree and ran deeper into the woods. His companion thought they should stay in the woods through the day and not go down to the beach which made Elliott mad. He thought they should go into the village and try to help. Finally later in the afternoon they went down to their village and the whole village including their home (which was made of cynder block and wood) and all their belongings were swept out to sea. They did the best they could to try and find debree and other things but did not find anything. There were people in the distance picking up dead bodies. Around 4:00 2 other missionaries happened to be going by and saw Elliott and his companion. They were able to help some and then took Elliott and his companion to Apia to the mission home which is where he is now. They were able to shower and eat and he is borrowing some clothing. He is still getting transfered in 2 days to Pago Pago as was planned. The day of the quake was transfer day meaning missionaries change locations and companions. His friend Elder Larsen was coming in on a ferry from Western Samoa during the quake and when the ferry got to the port they saw the water emptying out and the ferry was able to back out and avoid the shore. Elliott said from the time of the quake until the tsunami hit was 6 minutes. The patriarch and his wife perished in the tsunami. The temple was not damaged but the trumpet fell off of the angel Moroni. Elliott noted that had the man on the hill not called to warn them or had the earthquake been in the middle of the night the situation would have been much different for him. During the drive to Apia another alarm went off and people were running and screaming so they floored the car to get out of the area but it was a false alarm. He is sunburned and tired. He's lost his clothing, camera, journal, scriptures, notes, study material, toletries and travel documents. He wanted to know if it was on the news here and I told him it was and that friends and family have been calling from all over to make sure he was ok. I told him to be strong and that we love him and and for him to help in the recovery. I can't believe how close we came to losing him. I wasn't worried when I heard about the quake but then when I heard about the tsunami and knowing that his last location had been on the southeast coast I was very very scared. He said he and his companion got the worst of it but noted another set of missionaries were driving and a wave hit their car and tossed them but they are fine. He said he figured I was worried and I said it wasn't like he had a cold or something. I told him that Sage was warning me throughout the day that he would be mad if he knew I was worrying. Sage said she now understands why we pray every day and that it does help. Thanking you all for your nice words of comfort and love. I'll let you know if anything new comes of Elliott's life changing experience. Angie

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