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‘They heard rain falling. . . it was raining rocks’

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LIAGO, Philippines — On June 24, members of the Ligao Branch in the Philippines were attending Church services when they heard rain falling.

"As we looked out the windows, we realized it was raining rocks and ash," said Norberto Magno, president of the Ligao District.

After belching smoke for six months, the Mayon Volcano finally erupted, causing widespread disaster. Advance warning prompted the evacuation of more than 13,000 people from 31 villages. The evacuees found shelter in schools and relocation centers in safe spots.

The Legaspi Philippines Stake priesthood leaders instigated an emergency plan developed earlier in their regional welfare council meetings. All Church members were accounted for and reported safe. Forty Latter-day Saint families were evacuated using a plan developed and approved by the area welfare office in Manila. The welfare office coordinated its efforts with the Philippine National Red Cross.

Church members began offering compassionate service almost immediately to ease the pain of evacuee families. On July 4, members of the Legaspi Philippines Stake gathered at a local meetinghouse to fill thousands of food bags with rice and canned sardines.

Full-time missionaries were enlisted the next day to distribute the food bags to 2,557 evacuee families.

"We didn't feel any pain when we were doing the work because we were happy," said one missionary. "But when we finished we were exhausted."

"Our gesture in public service is so simple, but it has great impact on the lives of the people who we reached," said Legaspi Philippines Stake President Noel Lucillo. "In one way or another we were able to touch lives. Although some cannot correctly pronounce the name of our Church at least they will remember the Mormons."