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Bringing Hope To The Hopeless In Tacloban
by Frank Caguin
Edited by Wendy Bytheway
While pastoring in the Philippines ten years ago, I assisted many typhoon relief operations. I thought I knew what to expect in Tacloban at the end of January. But nothing could have prepared me for the scale of the devastation.
It was three months after Typhoon Haiyan (locally Yolanda) had struck and it looked as if it had been yesterday. Typhoon Haiyan is believed to be the strongest tropical cyclone to hit land anywhere in the world in recorded history. Praise God the typhoon struck during the daytime and not at night or many more people would have died. Experts say it will take up to five years for life to regain some level of normality. Yet the plight of the victims is already off our media. I pray that these people are not out of sight - out of mind.
Sydney Saesoon Presbyterian Church gave a generous donation to help survivors of the typhoon. They asked me to lead the relief effort. SydneyCare provided clothing. This was a great opportunity for GRN, and our GRN Philippines staff joined the team. We toured the area to see the extent of the devastation wreaked by Haiyan. Reports had not been exaggerated. Listening to survivors' stories was heartbreaking and it was impossible not to cry as they retold their experiences. How can God allow these things? We clung to the promises in His word that He is just, and that good will triumph over evil.
The people in Tacloban are accustomed to regular natural calamities, but not of this magnitude. When Haiyan struck, the water rose from 20cm to 8m in minutes. Eight cargo ships 2km from Anibong shore broke loose from moorings and were swept through the residential area, destroying 2000+ homes. But God provides; one ship was full of bottled water so residents survived until help arrived two days later.
Before arriving, our contacts said local people needed construction materials and means of generating income. So in Manila we bought 1200 kg of candles, mosquito nets, mosquito coils, rechargeable torches, vitamins which we transported to Tacloban. On arrival in Tacloban we also purchased generators and chainsaws to clear felled trees whose timber went into rebuilding homes.
We chose to help five locations, based on the damage level and the local people's willingness to work hard for their community. The generators are used to power local government offices, to light the streets at night (dramatically decreasing rape and robbery) and to generate income through charging individuals to recharge their cell phones. When we distributed torches and mosquito nets, we decided to prioritise senior citizens, pregnant mothers and families with babies. We also spent time working with six US based Filipino doctors, and nurses and midwives from local churches.
In addition to our relief assistance, we used GRN's recordings and Look, Listen & Live and Good News picture books to share salvation through Jesus to queuing patients. This region has traditionally been one of the hardest to evangelise in the Philippines. So praise God that many adults and children accepted Christ as Lord while they waited for medical care.
Surrounded by despair on earth, we were privileged to be part of the great rejoicing in heaven over these precious souls. As Joseph said, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." (Gen 50:20).
As of June 2014, the number of Filipinos displaced by the typhoon remains at 4 million - with 130,000 survivors (equivalent to 28,000 families) still living in tents.
Out of this visit 'Project Bagacay' was born. The objective of Project Bagacay is to provide a safe, decent and sustainable living environment for at least 400 families in Tacloban City who were displaced by Typhoon Haiyan. With a background in architecture, my role was to give input into the housing project for these families that is least cost without sacrificing the dignity and safety of the owners. (See the concept drawing on the next page). Others are now working to make this project a reality.
Please pray for these people whose lives have been turned upside down by a typhoon, and if you have any questions please contact me.
Prayer Points . . .
- Praise God for the salvation of souls and ask for spiritual growth for those who accepted Jesus as Lord.
- Pray for more help to alleviate social, moral, spiritual, physical and emotional needs.
- Pray for aid to be released soon, and that corruption and political issues will be resolved.
- Pray for spiritual revival and healing of the Eastern Samar Region (including Tacloban City).
- Pray that Project Bagacay phase1 will be finish by Christmas 2014.
- Pray for divine protection, provision, strength and the joy of the Lord for all Project Bagacay workers and others providing help.
- Pray that the GRN Philippines team will be able to provide spiritual food in a hungry nation.