Lisa Whelchel and brother Justice Coleman
12/04/2012 at 04:00 PM EST
They're hungry. They're tired. They're uncomfortable. But by day 31, Survivor
contestants can often struggle with crippling homesickness.
As one of the most emotional contestants on Survivor: Philippines
, Lisa Whelchel
developed a coping mechanism to survive being away from her family. "I tried not to think about my loved ones at home, except to pray for them," Whelchel tells PEOPLE. "But I couldn't help but anticipate and hope that I made it long enough in the game to get to see my brother."
On Wednesday's episode of Survivor
, Lisa is visited by her younger brother, Justice Coleman, 28, a pastor from Chatsworth, Calif., and the visit didn't go as planned.
"I came running out to give her the biggest hug of her life," Coleman tells PEOPLE. "I wasn't prepared to see her at that level of desperation. It was immediately obvious she had hit rock bottom."
"She broke down in my arms and was sobbing so hard and it was hard for me not to cry," he continues. "I wasn't expecting her to be at the end of her rope. She is a Survivor
super fan and so I imagined her enjoying the game and having a blast."
"I almost didn't recognize her," he adds. "She looked absolutely ragged: physically and emotionally torn up
. I was imagining a big smile on her face, since she was so deep into the game and doing so well, but she started crying so hard. I was legitimately concerned for her."
After the tears were dried, Coleman maintained he's proud of his sister
for making the final six. "My sister has always been my role model growing up," he says. "In fact, she still is."