News Release

Missionaries Share Christchurch Earthquake Experiences, Insights

Four sister missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were caught up in the devastating 22 February Christchurch earthquake. They recently shared some of their experiences and insights from that day.

Sister Geraline Fafai, from Brisbane Australia, and her companion Sister Taake Moantau, from Tarawa Kiribati, were supposed to meet a woman at 1pm outside the Christchurch Cathedral. They had planned to have a discussion together about the gospel of Jesus Christ. Around noon the woman called the sister missionaries and cancelled the appointment as she had been called in to her work.

Their appointed meeting place, the cathedral, was one of the buildings in downtown Christchurch that was severely damaged during the quake. The cathedral's steeple and many bricks fell to the ground during the seismic event. Sister Fafai believes it was a miracle that she, her companion and their friend were not near the cathedral just before 1pm when the earthquake struck.

Instead of going to the cathedral the sisters decided to go to the doctor to seek advice on a minor ailment. As they climbed aboard a bus the driver said: "No, this is the wrong bus for you." They got off and boarded a second bus. Then the quake began. In horror the sister missionaries watched as a building fell onto the first bus, the one that they had almost taken.

They climbed off the bus and started walking along the road, the buildings still shaking.

Sister Fafai recalls that people around them were running, with looks of shock and fear on their faces. "But we were both calm," she says.

Her companion, Sister Moantau, adds: "We were walking along the road. There were big cracks on the road, and mud up to our knees. Then my shoe got stuck. I called out to my companion, 'Sister Fafai, my shoe is stuck.' She said, 'Have faith, Sister.' I said, 'I have faith, but my shoe is stuck.'"

Then the sisters saw an elderly man, fallen in the mud. They helped him to his feet and he said to Sister Fafai, "Thank-you, grand-daughter."

Sister Fafai says that she and other missionaries are continuing to pray for those who lost loved ones and impacted in other ways due to the 6.3 magnitude earthquake, "that they may have comfort and peace."

Two other missionaries, Sister Emily Wu from Taipei Taiwan, and Sister Evelyn Tepa from Brisbane Australia, were also in Christchurch on the day of the quake. They were buying some laundry detergent in a store during their lunch-break when the earthquake occurred.

"I had never experienced an earthquake before," says Sister Tepa, "so I just stood there, while everyone else was on the ground."

Her companion, Sister Wu, recalls that after the quake people around them were trying to call loved ones on their cell phones, but the coverage was knocked out by the quake. She noted that earthly communication lines are not always reliable. "I feel that prayer to our Heavenly Father is a wonderful resource, especially at times such as these."

Watch the missionaries talk about their experiences on this YouTube video .

Missionaries from the Church have been involved in clean-up and other community service in Christchurch since 22 February.


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