All LDS Missionaries accounted for in Philippines

Posted at 9:43 PM, Nov 11, 2013
and last updated 2013-11-11 23:43:29-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- Every LDS missionary in the Philippines has been account for.

Here in Utah, family members of missionaries reveal what they went through during the wait to hear from loved ones.

The Filipino community in Utah is also holding out hope. Waiting was the hardest part.

Sara Webber was sent to the Philippines to serve her mission a month ago. When her parents first heard from her last Monday, she had no idea a deadly typhoon was on its way.

Webber’s parents Jim and Gidget waited by the phone for days.

"They have Sara and she's on her way to Tacloban and she's getting on a plane on her way to Manilla,” Gidget said. “I said, ‘oh thank you, thank you.’ I was so overcome with joy."

Her husband Jim shared the same sentiment.

"We were just absolutely overjoyed," he said.

It was the same story for Randy Hughes whose son Preston serving a mission for the LDS Church was in Tacloban, one of the hardest hit areas.

"I was worried for him thinking the worst," Hughes said.

Death and destruction now plagues the Philippines but somehow Preston and his companion, Joseph Baker made it out of the storm alive. The two made the long journey of 40 miles on foot to the nearest city, where church leaders later found them.

"My wife just smiles, breaks out in crying and I started the same thing, so happy," Hughes said.

For Filipinos in Utah, like Bella Jo Stokes, who has loved ones on the island, four days of uncertainty taunted her.

"It is devastating for me emotionally, the trauma was actually the agony of waiting and waiting for the uncertain is the most difficult part, you don't know the fate of your own family, your own family is hard," Stokes said.

"Right now I`m mourning," said Joseph Buenaflor, whose heart is heavy even though his family is OK.

He knows the conditions are dire.

"I'm so worried,” Buenaflor said. “How can I help them, but right now I`m just grateful and thankful that there's a lot of countries now that are helping, especially the United States."

The LDS Church released a statement saying all of its missionaries serving in the 21 missions in the Philippines have been contacted and is safe. The Church says it's providing food, water, shelter and other resources for them.