Letter from Santiago, Chile temple president

My father and stepmother are serving missions in Chile.  Attached is a letter from the Santiago temple president and matron, Ted and Cheryl Lyon.

Thanks to all of you who have emailed your concern for us. We can state unequivocally that we’re fine. We can also state with the same emphasis that riding through that quake in our rocking fourth-floor apartment was for me the scariest experience I’ve ever been through!

I was sure we were about to die – that either the ceiling would fall on us or that we’d collapse through the floor. It truly was an emotion I’d never experienced before. My whole body shook for the next two hours, and after that I couldn’t stop crying.

We didn’t even have the presence of mind to get out of bed during the quake. I felt paralyzed, staring at the ceiling and wondering when the earth would stop rolling. It was the longest two minutes of our lives! We could hear things falling out of cupboards, and pictures falling off the walls. But the sound and the movement was the worst.

Our sturdy building held up fine. Just lots of dust and a few broken dishes. But elsewhere, as I’m sure you’ve seen on the news, people didn’t fare as well. Lots of damage. Virtually no stores open. Most parts of Santiago still have no electricity. Collapsed overpasses have closed major highways. The airport is closed because of damage, and planes have been rerouted to northern Chile or to Argentina. Our new missionary doctor was to arrive this morning, so I don’t know where he and his wife have ended up.

What a joy to walk into the temple and find it in perfect condition. We just had to close a few drawers and straighten a few crooked pictures. It felt so good to be there in that peaceful refuge and find normality. Moroni did lose his trumpet, however! That was the only noticeable damage.

How grateful we are for how well the Church takes care of us. We’ve often thought the 24-hour emergency lights in our building were excessive, but we were surely thankful for them at 3:30 this morning as everyone was evacuating the building – including the missionaries downstairs in the MTC. It was so disconcerting to get out of bed in the dark and stumble over fallen items in the bathroom. We got just a taste of what the Haitians have suffered, though their damage and deaths have been so much more devastating, even though their quake a weaker one. So far here they’re reporting 123 deaths, but we assume the toll will climb.

We had to decide what to do about the temple. We had every session booked for the day, and wondered if people would arrive. We met with one of Ted’s counselors – who had arrived at 5:00 for the early shift, as faithful as ever – and our registrar. We knew it would be difficult for the employees and workers to get to the temple and there was not electricity at the time. One faithful laundry sister came a great distance to help, but there was no gas for the dryers, so she had baptismal clothes from last night lying out all over the laundry.

The temple has an emergency generator which roars into action the second the power goes out. But we learned that it runs on petroleum which lasts only four hours. By 8 a.m. we knew we were about to go dark again, so we made the decision to simply close the temple for the day. Then, just in the second that the lights began to dim, the power came back on! (We’ve learned since that we’re the only section of Santiago that has power yet.) So then we decided to hold just one session, since we had three out-of-town couples staying in the hospedaje who were expecting to receive their endowments and be sealed today. We mustered all the missionary couples, along with a group of faithful sisters who work the late shift on Fridays and then stay over for the Sat morning shift. We had a most moving morning. The quake had brought such a sense of unity to workers and patrons, and the Spirit was amazing. I’ve seldom had such a moving experience at the veil – with three consecutive young sisters who were receiving their endowments.

Right now we’re sleep-deprived, and Ted has already gone back to bed. The stress has left us exhausted – but we’re alive and well! We’re still feeling aftershocks – called “replicas” in Spanish. They’re reported about 25 of them. One just rolled by as I was writing this.

So, that’s the report. After some rest we may venture out and about to see what we can see.

Thanks for your love and concern.

Ted and Cheryl Lyon
President of the Santiago Temple

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

9 thoughts on “Letter from Santiago, Chile temple president

  1. I’m touched by this report, Geoff. What incredible circumstances in which to receive and officiate in temple ordinances! And the laundress! Wow.

  2. I echo Ben’s WOW! Great letter, Geoff.

    My thoughts and prayers are with the Chilean people and especially with the Latter-Day Saints in Chile.

  3. President and Hermana Lyon! I’m so glad to hear you are both ok and am so glad there was no major damage to the Temple…that was one of my first thoughts when I heard about the earthquake, was how the Temple had handled it! I still can’t believe the devastation and keep wondering how all the people in Osorno are doing. You are all in our thoughts and prayers; please keep us updated and take care!
    With love,
    Christina Brouse
    (Hermana Wolfgramm)

  4. I love going to the temple, Thanks for all the work you ALL do at ALL the temples. I know that the lord will bless our temples because of all the work we need to do in them. I am glad you are all doing okay and that you sent the email out to us other members Thanks again and Thanks to God for blessing us. Love to all my brothers and sisters,

  5. This was sent to me by a non-member friend with the heading “ONLY MOTMONS WOULD THINK OF GOING TO THE TEMPLE DURING AN EARTHQUAKE”

    That would certainly be the first place I would think to go were it to happen in my area.

    Our love and prayers are with you all,

  6. A special report by Santiago Times reporter Loretta van der Horst after visiting Concepción and Talcahuano

    Concepción — a paralyzed city trying to get back on its feet. This past weekend shops were closed, some robbed empty.

    Eva Salinas, The Santiago Times.

    The stray dogs – which normally calmly rest in the sun – were barking nervously. Houses were still crumbling as people swept the streets into piles of rubble on the sidewalk. A group of nurses stood at the military base waiting to get their evening pass. The curfew has now been set between 9 p.m. and 10 a.m. Anyone on the streets during that time is checked thoroughly. It is a week after the earthquake, yet anyone is a potential looter.

    A family camps out outside the collapsed 15-storey building, hoping for signs from a relative still trapped inside. Sunday, the search was given up and the building, only three months old, has now been demolished.

    Walking through the streets several houses have signs written on them: “Municipality, help us, we lost everything, but nobody has come yet.”

    For most people the military has come too late. “If Bachelet had sent troops sooner she could have prevented a lot of violence and looting,” says a woman in line at the only pharmacy that has opened its doors. It’s a common complaint.

    Both foreign and domestic aid is coming in steadily, but often doesn’t reach the small villages on the outskirts of Concepción. “It’s terrible,” says a man waiting to use an ATM machine that has just been fixed. “My parents in a village nearby haven’t received anything yet.”

    But the citizens of Concepción seem resilient. “Fuerza Chile!” (Chile, be strong!) is written on just about every car and neighbors keeping a lookout for looters have a white flag on their car. With whistles they try to warn each other when thieves are spotted.

    Luis Vargas Aravena had his butcher shop looted and is now waiting for the situation to stabilize before reopening. “We must go on,” he says. “Some people I know don’t want to have anything to do with this place anymore and are moving up North. But I can’t, for me there’s no other way than to get back on track as soon as possible.”

    His house in Hualpén, next to Concepción, is still intact, and even has electricity. That’s why he has six families living with him who all share their food and drinks. “The best way to survive is to work together.” With several others, he goes back to the street where a fire is supposed to keep away looters. “It’s a sign of life, they won’t loot with us on the lookout.”

    Luis’s daughter was working in the hospital of Talcahuano during the earthquake. “We had to leave patients behind because they couldn’t walk,” she tells us. “It was horrible, I saw a woman eight months pregnant being crushed by a locker and could do nothing.”

    Talcahuano, where we went later in the day, smelled like rotting meat and fish. Hundreds of sacks of fishmeal spread over the city from the fishing ships. Boats stood stranded up to 300 meters on land, a bizarre sight in the middle of a ruined neighborhood.

    Amazingly, most people survived as they ran into the hills before the tsunami struck. Without a home to go to, they now set up camp there until help arrives.

    And now, the real work begins.

  7. Geoff, where did you get this story? Is Ted you father? How do you know this isn’t just an email story spreading around like so many other false stories?

    Just curious.

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