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SALT LAKE CITY — A former missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints shared his story Tuesday of experiencing the typhoon that recently hit the Philippines.
When typhoon Haiyan wreaked havoc in the Philippines, Elder Joseph Baker captured it on video as it rolled overhead. For hours the storm roared and Baker knew it was life-threatening. Baker said he and his companion were awakened to the sounds of trees blowing sideways, structures about to crumble and then he said the sky turned a blinding white.
"The roar of it was incredible," Baker said. "It was the loudest thing I've ever heard. This wasn't a normal typhoon. The winds were so much stronger than anything I'd ever experienced before."
The day the typhoon hit, communication was lost in Merida, the area south and west of Ormoc, where Baker and his companion lived. He said they did not get lost and they did not wander around for 40 miles, as his parents in Cache County had heard. When the storm passed, Baker said they went outside and began looking for church members and friends they could help.
"After we helped the first widow, we went to the second and then went straight to the church house and started cleaning up debris there," he said.
Baker said the typhoon devastated the area, causing monumental amounts of damage and that he and his companion stayed very busy.
"This is downtown Ormoc and just everything is destroyed," Baker said showing pictures of the destruction. "Tacloban got the flood, but we got the eye (of the storm.) There was water shortages. There was no riots in Ormoc, from what I had seen — not like in Tacloban. There was no murdering like in Tacloban."
For days, Baker said he and his companion walked or bought rides on motor bikes and went from one area to the next, helping people and even holding church meetings.
"I think 30 members were there (at church) so we had sacrament with crackers and one cup of water," Baker said.
Then Baker and his companion began to search for other missionaries.
"We went to Kanunga and made contact with the missionaries there," he said. "We told them to pack their bags and get to Ormoc. We were living off a meal a day and so we were really haggard."
Although Baker said he hopes never to witness a typhoon like Haiyan again, he said the experience increased his faith and his concern for the Filippinos.
"I was just grateful that I was there and was able to help those wonderful people," he said. "And the only thing I felt like what was keeping me together after everything was the thought of going back there and helping. It tore my heart out to leave Ormoc."
Baker returned from his mission Sunday, and he plans to join a group of returned missionaries who are offering both logistical and medical help where he served. He hopes his story will also inspire people to donate again to church and humanitarian groups to help the people he loves so much.