Riffing off of this story in the Deseret News about sister missionaries surviving Typhoon Haiyan: My most dangerous mission moment (apart from LTM stuff†) happened in Metz, France, during January 1978. It was P-day (preparation day — essentially our day off, when we would go to the laundromat and grocery shopping and such); Sister Blue and I had gone to Auchan, a big "hypermarché" a fair ways from our apartment in Borny, but still walkable. At least a good foot of snow was on the ground; I don't remember if the buses were running or not, but even if they were, we decided to walk back to the apartment with our groceries.

It was damned cold — quite possibly the coldest day of the coldest winter in my lifetime to that point. About half-way to our apartment, I remember coming to the harebrained conclusion that it might be fun to freak out Sister B (an ER nurse) by pretending to be suffering from hypothermia, so I sat down in the snow. But apparently I wasn't really pretending. She got me up and going again and we made it back to our place with our groceries… and then the fun began: my fingers were half-frozen and I needed to thaw them out by holding them under tepid running water.

This hurt like bloody hell, and I screamed a fair bit. Fortunately, the ordeal was over fairly quickly and I suffered no lasting damage. But I wonder what Sister B would have done if she hadn't been able to nag and cajole me to get up out of the snow and keep moving. We were in the middle of a frickin' frozen field, and it would have taken a good 10 minutes or so for her to have gotten anywhere to find help.

My other possibly dangerous situation occurred up north in Lille: my tiny comp, Sister Charette, and I (when I weighed all of 103 lbs /47 kg max, which was still heavier than Sister C) were on our bikes heading back to our high-rise apartment building. When we got to the building garage driveway, we realized that a car had been following us. We entered the garage — and to our dismay, the car followed us in. We managed to stash our bikes in the missionary stall and dashed for the door before whoever it was could get out of their car and come after us. Very unnerving. Maybe the person(s) just wanted to freak us out — which they certainly succeeded at doing, if that was their goal… but maybe their intentions were more serious than that. On the other hand, maybe they just happened to live in the same building (a thought which did not occur to us at the time, and only occurred to me now). Regardless, we were on edge for days afterwards.

My missionary dangers obviously totally pale in comparison to what the sisters experienced in the typhoon. Of all the things in the article, what surprised me the most is that the "lead sister" in the story apparently first learned about the pending hurricane from a local, rather than being contacted directly by someone in the mission.

In my day, we missionaries didn't have the internet nor even good access to telephones. If Something Bad was going to happen, the mission home was supposed to send us a coded telegram: "Pack books" meant to hunker down in one's apartment, get ready to go, and await further instructions; "send books" meant flee — I assume to the mission home? — That is Mr Mo's assumption as well. But seems to me that heading to the mission home from the far corners of our mission could have been a very dangerous endeavor, depending on the nature of the emergency. And as ATMs had not been invented yet, if one was short on cash, getting anywhere could present a problem. (We were supposed to keep enough emergency cash on hand for such contingencies, but I'm sure I'm not the only one whose monthly allowance barely covered even my basic living expenses….)

I'm told these days that various missions (perhaps all of them?) have asked the local congregations to set up safe houses for the missionaries in their area… and I guess such safe houses would be meant as gathering points (and hopefully shelter) during natural disasters as well as civil disorder. Given today's technology, it seems quite likely that some missionaries might know about impending doom long before the leadership. (Which may also be true in terms of the long-term impact of the internet on the church's truth claims as well. "Pack books," indeed.)

† There was at least one horrible moment at the LTM (language training center) when it was nothing short of miraculous that I didn't try to kill myself. Yes, I felt that wretchedly bad: never underestimate the power of a perfectionist nature coupled with impossible expectations to wreak havoc on one's self-esteem and desire to live. (Did I mention that I was chronically constipated the entire time I was there? Oh, yes, I did… and again, little wonder. "Send books," indeed.)