Monday, June 8, 2015

June 8, 2015 Holy Cow, what a Week

Dear Family,
Well this week was pretty out of the ordinary to say the least,  its up in my top 3 craziest weeks on mission. So I heard that you have seen the weather and the catastrophes that have been happening over
here, and that even 4 missionaries were very close to it all. Well I was one of those 4 missionaries and right in the middle of it all. I am just going to tell you about something that I had a chance to do that was probably one of the most life changing things in my life and
probably one of the craziest things that has ever happened to me. It all started on Wednesday evening around 6, we were out proselyting and the rain just started coming down. We went around and helped of few people and then we went inside at about 7:30 to shower and to clean up. Around 9 I was getting ready to go to bed and I decided that I wanted to go and check on the gutter that is right out side our apartment just over our compound wall. When I check on it, it was a freakin raging rapid , it had completely overflown and was just going
crazy. Just huge chunks of debris flowing down the gutter and I just couldn't believe it. A little bit after that we got a call from our bishop asking us to go and check on his family to see if they are ok.  Me Elder Vandehei decided to go down. We put on some cut offs and headed out. By the time we got to the end of our road we were treading
water up to our wastes. When we got to the road , there was a heavy current that almost took us out , I just remember looking back at Elder Vandehei like are we really about to do this, but I just had a strong feeling that we needed to keep going. Well by the time we got to bishops street, the current was pretty strong and we had to go towards the side of the streets by the shops. As we kept on going the water just kept on getting deeper and we ended up starting to swim. We had so many people yelling at us in building from the side “Where are
you going” “Turn around its not safe” But we just kept going. We ran into my Recent Convert Phillip who was posted up on a wall , completely terrified, the rain just coming , lighting all over the place. I will never
forget the terror on his face. I didnt even recognize him until I heard Elder Vandehei say “Phillip”. Phillip then said, “Elder Vandehei lets pray” and our RC prayed for us all begging our father in heaven to please stop the rain. T|hat is when I started to realize how serious the situation was. I was so scared to what we were going to find at bishops place. As we were swimming me and Elder Vandehei ran into a truck (fun fact).We finally got to his house and found his Wife with there 1 month old daughter strapped to her back, her mother holding her 2 year old son and they were at the highest point where there house could go , under a small tin shelter with water past there knees and rising. When we got there, I literally didn't know what to do. I feel like this is the first time in my life where I felt like I couldn't get out of a situation by my self and that there was nothing that we could do to help our selves. We were helpless. Finally I got the prompting that we needed to pray together, so there in the pouring
rain, water past our knees,flashes of lighting going on all around us, I prayed the most sincere and heartfelt prayer I have ever offered. I was just praying with all my heart that he would show us what we needed to do , and that he would protect us , that we have done everything that we have been asked to do being faithful in keeping his commandments and that he was the only one who could help us. After that prayer, miracles started to happen. About 3 minutes after the prayer, Elder Vandehei spotted what looked like a bucket floating out in the water, so he went and he retrieved it. It turned out to be a plastic trash can, with a lid on top and in nice condition. We decided that we needed to get the baby out of there, that is was getting worse. Bishops wife trusted us enough to place the baby in the bottom of the trash can and then to lightly put the lid on top and then to attempt to swim it out to safety. We couldn't go back the way we came because the current was just to strong but going the other way, we had an overpass that there was dry ground there about 100 yards. Our original plan was to take the baby up to the over pass and then try to pass to the church where we “thought” our bishop was. The last I remember as we set of was bishops wife pleading with us to keep her baby safe. I was at the back of the bucket at the base holding it up while kicking my legs to keep my head above the water, while Elder Vandehei was in the front leading it. Luckily I knew the area and some things that lied in the water so as we went I tried my best to talk to Vandehei to guide him to where I thought I knew where some high ground
was. Another miracle occurred as we were able to find a wall and I would hold onto the wall and the baby as Vandehei would go about 10 feet at a time to go and make sure that everything was safe ahead. We
did that for about 50 yards praying the entire way and then we had another place that we needed to make a decision. We passed by a 2 story building and there were some people up there yelling at us that it wasn't safe to go to the over pass. We had been ignoring people telling us those kinds of things all night but we stopped and thought about it for a second. We told bishops wife that we were going to take the baby to the church, but now these people were telling us to just bring the baby the the upstairs building. At about the same time, me
and Vandehei decided that the best decision was to just take the baby up into the story building. As we were leading the baby inside I realized that I hadnt heard the baby for some time and my heart absolutely dropped. The worst thoughts ran into my head about how was I going to live with my self if that baby hadn't made it through our
journey. I opened the top and stuck my hand inside and felt the baby and she was breathing. I cant express the way I felt when I knew she was alive. We got her inside through the stair well and they took her and some women got her some blankets and wrapped up the baby and put her on a mattress. I was so happy to know that she was safe. We then realized that our companions had no idea what was going on, we told them we were going to be back within 15 minutes when we left. Some guy had a phone and so we used it to call them, come to find out our
apartment was also flooding and they had put everything up on the top bunk beads and were on the roof of our land lords house. Luckily the water didn't get to deep on that side. They also said that president Hill was worried sick about us, so we quickly gave him a call and then we swam back to bishops house. We told Bishops wife that her baby was safe and she was so happy, but we still had there family there and the water wasn't going down and things looked like they were getting worse. They all decided that it would be best for bishops wife to go
to be with the baby so she could take care of her, so we found a wooden self thing that was floating in the compound and we came and put her on the top. She was pretty dang scared, no of them knew how to swim and she was so nervous. We already knew the way and we were able to get her to the story building pretty quickly, they got her there and gave her a dry pair of clothes and she was able to be with her baby. I just felt so happy that they were together and that we made it safe.  Now we went outside on the balcony of the house to figure out
what we were going to do next and the next thing I know I hear this huge explosion. I turned around and just saw a huge cloud of black smoke and then a huge flame rising up. There was people screaming on the over pass and running. I felt like I was just in a movie, rain, thunder, and flood on both side of me and then a huge fire burning in
front of me with people screaming and running. I just remember turning to Elder Vandehei asking him if it was the 2nd coming haha. It turned out to be the gas station that had exploded and it was probably only a half a mile away from us. Luckily we looked down and the water had started to go down. That was probably one of the greatest feelings as well to see the water starting to drop.  We decided that we were going to go down to the bishops house again but as we got the the bottom of the stair well, the people at the top started shouting at us that they had a brother inside his room at the bottom of the story building who needed help. We got to the house and we had to budge the door open, it took me and Elder Vandehei all we could to open the door. To be
honest, I don't know how the people survived in that room with the height of the water, but they had a 12 year old daughter inside who was just traumatized  that they wanted to send to the top. I put her on my back (the water was probably about waste deep now) and she about choked me out she was holding on to me so tight. We were able to get her up to safety as well. We then headed back to bishops house and I just heard “Elder Bowring, Eldre Vandehei” And then I got close and I realized that it was bishop and he just looked at me and just gave me
the biggest hug of my life and said thank you. I cant describe how that even felt. He explained to us that he had been trying to get to his house ever since he called us but that he just physically couldn't. He said that we were the last phone call he had made , and after he had called us he phone died. There was one point where he was
over looking his street and he just bowed his head and he just prayed that his family would be safe. We were a literal answer to his prayer. We went to his house and picked up his 2 year old boy and then we took him to his wife. I cant describe the feelings I had to see that family reunited after all that had happened. We stuck around for a little bit but decided that we probably needed to be going now that things had settled down and the flood under control now. As we were walking back me and Elder Vandehei just started talking about what had just happened and I just had some an overwhelming sense of Gratitude to our heavenly father, he was literally there with us every step of the way , and I could feel his presence going through it all. When we had the baby, he led us to know what to do, where to go and protected us. He helped us make the decision to take the baby to the story building instead of taking it to the church where our bishop wasn't  even there.  The only thing that I could think of was the promise that I received in my patriarchal blessing and my setting apart as a missionary that I would see dangers and be in scary situations but as I was faithful to the gospel that I could approach life with a sense
of peace and direction and know that things would work out. I have seen that promise fulfilled so many times on my mission but never so much as I did Wednesday night. The lord was with me and Elder Vandehei with out a doubt that night and we were protected. I am just so grateful and my testimony has grown so much that god is always there and he will always fulfill his promises he gives to as as long as we do our part. I am sure it was quite the sight for president Hill when we showed up to his house that night. We got there around 12:30.
and Forrest and Uzoho were already there. Me and Elder Vandehei were just in cutoff tee shirts, shoe less and soaked from head to toe showing up to President house. It was kind of funny to be honest. This week because of all the flooding, we have done a bunch of service around the community and helped a lot of people. Come to find out that the people who we carried there daughter out are from Liberia , so we will definitely be going back there. I dont really know what else to say, I am just not the same as I was last week haha. We are now homeless haha, we had to stay at the president house for 2 nights and now we are with the AP's and the office elders. Most of my stuff is ok, some got destroyed in the flood but nothing to serious. We dont really know what the plans are for the future, I think here in a few hours we will go back with our president to the apartment and look at things. We cleaned it all out Saturday and all the furniture is destroyed so it might be a week or so before we get back in.  All that stuff doesn't matter to me now though, I am just happy that everyone is ok and that everyone one is safe. I hope that this letter does some small justice to what has happened this week. Just know that I am totally fine, I have never been better. I love you all so much and I love this gospel so much and I love my father in heaven. If I have forgotten anything I will tell you in 4 weeks ;) Love you all, 
Elder Bowring

This is the account written by Elder Vandehei:

This is Elder Vandehei's account of what happened. Thought you might want both sides.

This week was by far the craziest week of my entire life.... haha at one point i wasn't even sure i was gonna live to email this week. I dont know if anyone has heard of the flooding in Accra or the gas station explosions but
that all happened inside my area... Il go back to Wednesday and just give kinda a play by play..

So Wednesday evening it just started raining as could be expected during rainy season.. so we were just heading back a little early because of the rain and it was about 7 o'clock that evening.. we were all just excited to
be able to get in a bed a little early that night and catch up on some sleep, around 8:00 the rain hadn't stopped and it was coming down pretty hard. Combined with the rains from Tuesday the gutter was already very full so we went out there to take a look. When we got out there the gutter was crazy and we were all just joking around about flooding and the wall in our compound breaking down than we went inside thinking of course that could never happen. So about 8:30 we gave our Bishop call because his area is notorious for flooding and was effected last time the rain came but just very small. So we called him and Bishop said no dont worry nothings wrong im at the church but its all good dont worry about it. So we all get into bed till about 9:00 we get a call from Bishop whos asking us to go and check on his family he had a bad feeling.. So Bowring and I got ready and we went out.. The rest of the night was absolutely insane after that i dont really think any words can describe what happened and the feelings i had the entire time but il try. So once we got outside the water out on the street was about up to our knees and we were just thinking holy cow man we gotta get going this cant be good for Bishops family, Bishops family just consists of his wife, a 1 month year old baby, and a 2 year old, they would have no chance if something happened to their house. As we started out though everyone was just screaming "dont go!" "You cant go there" "You will die over there" "Its dangerous" "Come come stay" but we had decided the voice we wanted to listen to and we started picking up speed on trying to get there by the time we got to the end of the street the water was up probably 6 inches over my waist line and the current of the water had ripped of my shoes. When we got to the junction of our street the water was just gushing down and to be honest the current was so much stronger than i would have ever expected and to get bishops wife we would have to fight up the current... A picture that will forever be etched in my mind is Elder Bowring looking back at me with this look on his face like
"Are we really about to do this?"  It was pretty obvious that any slip or mis-step when we going up the current would be the end of us and we would just be swept down into who knows where.. i dont even know if it would have been possible for me to re surface for air had i gone under. The whole time i was just praying so hard saying "Lord if you protect me il never sin again" haha i was thinking back on the few days before that trying to make
sure i had repented of everything and was asking for forgiveness on everything just in case... Something came over me though just maybe 5 seconds after stepping into that water though and i could truly feel the love that compelled Christ to suffer and die for our sins. My mind changed from "holy cow i could die right now" to "I gotta get to bishops family". We fought a way up the current just to their street where we got a whole new wake up call.. We thought that current was strong now this one was probably 2 times stronger and the water going down the street was over our head we had no choice but to try and swim it out. We were hugging as close
as we could to the side of the road since the main current was in the middle of the street and the sides it wasnt too strong just kinda flowing water... we ran into something big hard metal under the water only to find out that it was a truck that was completely immersed in water. Just to give you kinda an understanding of the water at that point standing in the back of the truck bed maybe 2 of my hairs would be sticking outta the water.. This wasnt just rain water either it was gutter water filled with all kinds of crazy debris. There was care tires, parts of houses, parts of cars, poop and all kinds of just complete trash floating around the water was just brown. The only time we could see anything that was going on was when lightning was lighting up the skies and it would just be momentarily. So just up past the truck there was a barber shop where we saw one of the recent converts of the ward whos name is Phillip he was sitting on the roof of the shop because the rest of the shop was under water.. he called us over and was just screaming with nothing but pure horror in his voice "we need to pray! we need to pray!" so we asked him to pray for us and he was just almost screaming in his prayer begging the Lord to spare all of our lives and to take the water away. We started trying to go again but everyone was just yelling at us still telling us that we were insane and telling us we were gonna die.. after Philiips prayer Bowring and I just looked at each other and we were just like holy cow man what did we get ourselves into... We kept swimming though it felt like every stroke we took the water just got deeper and dirtier.. by the time we got to bishops compound we sway over to the side where the gate of their apartment is supposed to be. The gate is about 12 feet tall and was completely under water we just swam right over it. The next thing i saw will also forever be etched into my mind as well.. Bishops family was all huddled on top of this pyramid lookin staircase with nothing but this tiny roof covering them. The water was still up to their waist and was still rising and they were all shaking, with bishops wifes newborn baby just strapped onto her back. So we told them that we were gonna need to go to figure out something and leave.  They were so reluctant to go though they just wanted to stay and try and wait things out. After a group prayer though sister bishop knew something was gonna need to happen and asked if we had an idea to get her baby out. About that time we saw a giant blue trashcan with a lid floating in their
compound. I just swam out there and grabbed the trash can and brought it back. So our completely insane idea was empty out the trash can place the baby inside than put the lid on and take it off from time to time to give
the baby air. I cant believe the amount of trust Bishops wife had in us and she told us whatever it took so we placed the baby inside, the plan was to swim with her about 150 yards(which felt a whole lot longer than that) till
we could get to a big highway get out there and than carry her to bishop up at the church so she could be with her dad. So we placed the baby inside and we began our swim.. the tactic was to hug the side as tight as we
could, we would swim about 10 feet. stop. Than i would swim ahead 10-15 feet to find a good path while Bowring sat there and held the trash can with the baby than i would swim back, hold the baby with him and than move
and we just repeated that process for some time. The whole time people were yellin at us the same normal things just come and all that nonsense.. When we got further down close to the overpass though we noticed that the current got crazy strong and there was no side to try and escape the current. We kinda sat there treading just looking at eachother and our conversation was basically just "Man we have this babies life in our hands
right now we cant make any kinda quick rash decisions or its the end of us all" After what felt like forever we decided to swim over to this big two story house just right before the overpass. At that point the baby had
stopped crying and we thought there might have been a chance that even after we did all we could do it still wasnt enough. So we swam over to the house and took the baby up the stairs and thankfully found a woman who knew the family pretty well and agreed to take care of the baby while we went to get bishops wife. We took the baby outta the trash can and thank heavens it was fine, nothing harmed it.. a little bit wet but nothing too bad, we
dried the baby off than they took her into a room covered the baby in some blankets and things and they out her on a bed with the woman. After all that happened it had been around an hour and a half if not longer since we
had left the apartment.. So we decided it would be best to borrow someones phone and call Elder Uzoho and Elder Forrest who were back at the apartment just to let them know we were ok. We called them only to find out that at that point the wall in our compond busted down and that our apartment was also filling with water.. they told us they had thrown most of our goods on the top bunks and wherever high they could get it but they didnt know how much we would have when we got back.. they were outside sitting on the land lords roof patio thing and said that they didnt have anywhere to go... We were in complete shock and thought they were joking around but we didnt have much time to worry about that.. we still needed to go get the rest of bishops family to safety. So we swam back up to their house and we were trying to find a solution to get the 2 year old and bishops wife over at the same time. The 2 year old would not go though.. anytime we put it on something or in something he would freak out and just start screaming and get out as quick as possible so ended up having to leave it with Bishops mother in law and take bishops wife to the baby. So we found a floating bookshelf and we put her on the back and than just did a very similar thing with her as we did the baby and swam her up safely to the house and she just went inside. The people were so incredible though one man gave them his bed they gave them dry clothes and let them into his room for the night and said he would just being helping people that night. So we went outside and we were kinda contemplating what we needed to do next.. President Hill told us just to get to his house that night and not to do anything that would put our lives in jeopardy... It was a little too late for that one though. While we were out on the balcony though we just heard a loud BOOM and turned around to see a massive flame that lit up the sky and turned the sky orange.. you could see large black poofs of black smoke just filling the air and the flames were topping at probably around 100 feet.. the flames were coming up above a nearby sky scraper it was just totally insane.. Bowring just looked me and said "man is it the second coming" haha we began looking around thinking any minute now we would see Christ. It was like a scene from a movie though we were just looking out on this huge flooded landscape with this massive flame that gave everything an orange tint.. it was coming up on 11 o'clock by that point and we were gonna go back to go try and get the 2 year old since the water was finally going down small small. At that point some people were screaming for us to come
help though and it was the people in the first story of the 2 story building. We were a little bit confused how they had lived through it though since the whole first story was entirely under water. All we did there though was push open two doors (which is alot harder to do when your pushing it through water) and than put a little girl on our backs and carry her to the second floor.. Come to find out that she had just been floating on a mattress basically touching the ceiling just praying the water would go down. Than we went back to bishops house and we ran into bishop on the way and he was just so grateful that we had saved his family and things he told us that right after he called his phone battery died so he had no idea what was going on and how to find out. The water was low enough at that point that we could just walk up to the second story house with the 2 year old on our back. After that though we went back to our apartment only to find it truly was completely hammered the wall had broken down and everything was just scattered.. So we walked up towards the high ground for some time found a taxi and caught it to President Hill's house.. I can only imagine that picture though haha bowring and I just covered in mud, barefoot, and im sure we looked like we just survived a war. But for the hobo side for 2 days we spent at presidents house than from there we went to the AP's apartment where we have spent the past 3 days now... We have no idea when were moving back in or if were moving back in but at this point we have gotten a lot of our stuff back.. thank heavens again i didnt lose anything really to valuable.. don't have everything yet but hopefully we
will continue to find stuff.. So ya thats been the week for us, it was pretty intense but a very cool experience. I personally learned alotta lessons and really got a better understanding for the love Christ feels for all of us.

Im sure i left some small things out but ya thats kinda been my week! On
the bright side the rat problem i had found out about last week was

-Elder Vandehei


  1. Holy smokes! What an amazing story! You guys are heroes!

  2. Reading both accounts really added a new dimension to the events described. I experienced a lot of rain on my mission, but nothing adding up to that! I did some reading and apparently the flooding was caused by obstruction of the rainwater by a poorly placed dumping area so that it couldn't flow into the river. Wow!