I interrupt this summer blogging session with a very long over due post!
Mark served his mission for the church in Manilla, Phillipines from 1975-1977.
Below is a picture of Elder Cahoon with the Torres family. Mark and his senior companion, Elder Jeff Shaw(the best trainer in the mission), baptized Brother and Sister Torres along with most of their 8 children due to the age of some of the kids. Before Mark's visit back to the Phillipines in February of this year he got out his old mission box to see what treasures he could find. There were letters and slides and photos and notes and more and found this gem of a picture of the Torres family. Mark's mom wrote regularly to the Torres family during and after Mark's mission and one of the kids, Cherry, found Mark many years ago so we have kept in touch somewhat though the years.
The reason for this post.
Last November, in 2013, a typhoon swept through Tacloban, Phillipines with major devastation.
Mark's mission president and his wife, Ray and Debra Goodson, had been serving a 6 month service mission in Manilla when the typhoon hit. Just before their release, they were asked by the church to go to Tacloban and help out. They decided to contact a few of "their missionaries" to help out with rebuilding. One contact lead to another and to another and that was the start to Mark's return to the Phillipines after 39 years.
When Mark read the email with details about the trip he knew he had to go. He wanted to go.
He has always had a special love for the Phillipino people.
Mark traveled in a group consisting of 2 former mission companions along with some of their friends and family. There were 8 in the group. All the travel arrangements were made so all Mark had to do was drive to Salt Lake and board the plane.
There was a layover in Manilla and Mark's #1 priority was to meet up with the Torres family!
This is Sister Torres. They met at the Manilla Temple.
Here is Sister Torres with 3 of her children and two of her grandsons.
There is Oliver holding up the peace sign. He is a recently returned missionary. Mark was able to help him with going on his mission. Mark's mom has helped a few family members with their mission costs as well.
When I asked Mark through a face time chat about his visit with the Torres family he said that if he had turned right around to fly back home after this visit it would have been worth the trip. Never in a million years did he think he would ever get back to Manilla, although he had longed to. When Mark served his mission there were 2 missions in the Phillipines. There are now 21 missions and 2 temples.
Here is the group.
Mark Seethaler (they worked in the mission office together and met up again at BYU where Mark S. was the Finance VP for the student body. The following year my Mark held that same position) is on the left next to Mark. Mark's son, Jacob, is the tall one in the middle and Elder Kent Lindsley on the far right was one of Mark's mission companions. The others are connected to other previous missionaries who also served in the same mission.
Just a cool looking building in Manilla.
This was taken in Metro Manilla at the American Cemetery and Memorial.
There are thousands of names engraved on these marble walls from all the military divisions.
Mark came a cross a Carol I Cahoon from California. It's near the top.
I did some homework and Mark is related.
Photo: courtesy of Find A Grave
Carol I Cahoon was the son of Joseph Lorenzo Cahoon.
Joseph was the son of Henry Reynolds Cahoon who is the son of
William Farrington Cahoon. William Farrington had 2 wives. His first wife is Nancy Miranda Gibbs Cahoon. William and Nancy were married by Joseph Smith in 1836 in Kirtland, Ohio. William Farrington is Carol Cahoon's great grandpa.
William Farrington Cahoon married his second wife, Mary Wilson Dugdale in 1845 in Nauvoo.
William and Mary had a son, James Cordon Casson Cahoon. James married Ellen Spencer Wilson and had a son, George Edward. George Edward is Mark's grandpa.
So there you have it. Carol and Mark are related........ William Farrington is Marks' 3rd great grandpa.
This mural is made up of little tiny ceramic tiles.
Manilla is on the island or province of Luzon.
Tacloban is the capitol of the province of Leyte
Here is the predicted path of Yolanda, as the Filipino people call it.
The storm tide was actually closer to 20 feet. As you can see, Tacloban was hit dead center.
From Manilla, the group took a plane to Tacloban. This is the church in Palo which is about 10 minutes from Tacloban. There is a Phillipine Tacloban Mission where my nephew, Jake Hatch served. He ended his mission there just weeks before the typhoon. He lost friends there.
3,000 members of the church lost their homes so many of the church buildings were opened up as a refuge during the storm. Many members were saved because of this.
The reason Mark went to the Phillipines was to help build homes for the members.
The mission office and the mission presidents home is right there in the compound with the Tacloban chapel. The chapel parking lot was set up as a staging place. Mark and his group were able to stay at the mission office. There was no electricity or water, but with a mosquito netted tent and a nice pad Mark slept pretty well.
This is how they loaded up the supplies to be taken to an area to build.
Neal wants one of these.
A view from the back.
These are before and after photos above and below.
These are the homes that Mark helped build where most are only 12X12 made with boards, plywood and tin roofs.
That is Mark on the ladder he built.
Below are photos are of the devastation. These were taken after three months so some of the foliage is starting to return. The clean up is slow and there is still so much to do.
That is a coffin in the back of the vehicle. Each time President and Sister Goodson would go to the airport to pick up more of their "missionaries" there were more bodies being found and taken to the airport grounds.
The little piggy is resting.
This is a ship that had rice in it. The typhoon hit at the peak season of rice harvesting.
In fact, after the typhoon while people were looting rice from a warehouse the building collapsed killing well over 100 people. So sad.
Mark helped build this home for this family.
Cute little twins.
This is a make shift temporary home for the family above.
The wives of the missionary volunteers gathered different items to be taken and handed out. A dentist brought lots of toothbrushes and toothpaste. A daughter of one of helpers made little bracelets. A wife gathered clothes and items from her Relief Society and I gathered books, ball caps and coloring books/crayons and some white shirts and ties.
Look how cute these kids are and so so happy.
There was a day where no building was going on due to lack of materials and bad weather so the group took the opportunity to visit Tacloban Bay.
MacArthur made his promise to return to the Philippines when the Japanese occupied the country in 1942. By this time, the Allies had already decided to attack Japan directly rather than battle the Japanese in the Philippines. MacArthur, however, convinced President Roosevelt and Pacific Commander Chester Nimitz to send forces to the Philippines to fight against the Japanese forces that had overtaken the country. The U.S. 6th Army stormed the beach, following which MacArthur arrived in the company of Osmena, Romulo, the U.S. Fifth Air Force, and the U.S. Seventh Fleet under Vice Admiral Thomas C. Kinkaid on October 20, 1944. The U.S. Forces defeated the Japanese soon afterward in the famous Battle of Leyte Gulf.
Statues were erected at the site to commemorate the event. During the term of President Ferdinand Marcos, First Lady Imelda Marcos, who originated from the province, developed the memorial site. It was then named Imelda Park but the original name MacArthur Park was restored after the Marcoses left the country. The historic stretch of beach was turned into the MacArthur Landing Memorial Park in time for the golden jubilee of the Leyte Landing in 1994.
This woman was selling coconut milk along side the road. She would use her machete to crack it open and then give you a straw and after you finished drinking the milk she would fashion a spoon from the coconut and you would use that to scrape out the young coconut meat. Mark said it was delicious.
This is a pile of garbage that was in the middle of the street in downtown Tacloban.
I think I'd go through that pile of stuff too. You never know what treasures you might find.
These kids loved the hats that Lou Lou and I gathered for Mark to take.
This little boy is playing with spiders on the stick. It is a favorite past time. You put two spiders on the stick and then watch them fight. Mark took a video, but the spiders just never really did much.
One night the volunteer groups were entertained by the youth with song and dance in thanking them for all of the work they had done for them. Mark has a video of the kids singing a song that was written especially for the volunteers.
He has a lot of stories from some of the people he met and talked to and so many of them are sad, but this is my favorite one and really shows how wonderful the Filipino are and why Mark loves them so much. He has said that the Filipinos are some of the happiest people and are so resilient. I know he would love to take me there someday.
Mark was in a meeting where the stake president was speaking about the loss and devastation. He said to the group that Yolanda was the best visiting teacher there ever was. The people learned skills to help themselves become self sufficient as well as helping their neighbors. They learned charity and service in a big way.
A Sunday School class.
Sister Goodson, Elder Cahoon, President Goodson and Elder Shaw, who was Marks' first companion.
If you would like to read about how the church has helped the Filipino people you can click on the link below.
I have to say that I know I am not doing this blog post justice as I wasn't there to experience this all, but it's better that I do some sort of post to document this trip for Mark.
On their way home from the Phillipines, the group Mark was traveling with made a detour through Beijing. I need to work on that post and will get that up before too long.