Monday, December 2, 2013

Back from Haiyan

My friend and YWAM coworker, VJ, and I spent the last two weeks in the region of the Philippines where Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda left a path of devastation.

YWAM Cebu staff has been tirelessly serving the incoming/outgoing teams with good food and clean beds.  While there I met a Discipleship Training School outreach team from Mexico who arrived to do ministry in the area of YWAM Cebu.  When the earthquake happened, they adapted their ministry to assist with recovery.  Then they had to evacuate due to the typhoon.  They finished their outreach assisting with relief efforts for the typhoon.  What a great group of students - what an incredible outreach experience!  I also had the privilege of meeting others who were on their way to apply their skills and resources to assist with relief and recovery efforts.

While staying at YWAM Cebu, I instructed several teams so they could make rocket stoves where it may be helpful.  We also made a day trip to Bogo at the northern end of the island of Cebu to assist with food distribution.
Preparing relief packs for distribution in Bogo.

Bound for Bogo...
Church in Bogo
VJ praying with a victim of Yolanda in Bogo.
Isn't she adorable?
We also met with two other coworkers from YWAM Baguio to spend a weekend ministering on Bantayan Island.  There was so much destruction there and we heard that many of the smaller islands surrounding Bantayan Island were much worse.  We surveyed the area and distributed tarps to about 45 families; it was more than two weeks after the storm and people still did not have roofs to protect their families from the rain.  We had the honor of helping install tarps on a few of the houses.  At one point I was waiting for my coworkers to come with supplies and had a great time playing games and singing songs with the children who had gathered to watch the "Americano" stand in the downpour digging post-holes with a tool resembling a flattened pipe.

Recovering a boat sunk during the storm.
Bound for Bantayan Island


video
In the video above, the children are singing a song about their "sparkly" house above the clouds. 

Preparing one of the 45 or so tarps we distributed.

Morten, me, and VJ with Moises and part of his family whom we helped by installing a trap on his roof.  Their house was shifted about 6 feet backwards due to the storm.
YWAM Baguio Training Center team enjoying dinner.  There was no electricity, but the flash lit up the room.
Then we spent nearly a week in Tacloban, one of the areas most affected by the storm.  Here the damage was unbelievable.  On Bantayan Island, houses were damaged, moved, and sometimes utterly destroyed.  But in Tacloban not only was the damage to structures so much worse, but the storm surge also washed away their belongings.  When we arrived, no businesses were open.  No food or other goods were available for residents or workers unless it was brought in from outside of Tacloban.

Just a few scenes around Tacloban
 We did our best to minister to people, but a week will not accomplish much in a place where recovery will last for many years to come.  The first morning we went out at low tide and our group recovered or buried 13 bodies.  One day we cleaned the building we were allowed to base our operations out of; the men cleaning the muck and destroyed appliances out of the lower level restaurant.  On other days we cleared the rubble and muck from the house, yard, and street at the home of a resident; assisted a neighboring fisherman build a shack over the water near his boat; distributed water filters to neighborhood leaders; charged phones with our generator and showed Gospel films at evacuation centers; and distributed tool kits so people could begin building shelters for their families.

Charging phones, lights, etc. for residents at an evacuation center.
Setting up water filters in different neighborhoods
VJ writing messages of hope
Mahal ka ni Hesus - Jesus loves you!
Sorting clothes for distribution
It was an honor to be able to work alongside such a great group of compassionate servants.  We had no electricity.  Our drinking water was from a water filter.  Baths were with cold water and a flashlight.  Sleeping was done on the floor with whatever mat you may have brought.  Foul smells were everywhere.  The work was often filthy and disgusting.  Yet there was excitement and joy as we helped the people of Tacloban in any way we could.
Part of the team of YWAMers after cleaning a local believer's home, yard, and street of muck and debris.
In the end, I believe that we were able to reach out to sojourners as they explore faith as well as encourage disciples as they follow Christ.  May God be glorified!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Heading to Help after the Havoc of Haiyan/Yolanda

Image of the path of Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda which hit the Philippines November 8, 2013.
Arrangements have just been completed for me to travel to the area devastated by the recent earthquake and typhoon. I will begin traveling Monday morning (Sunday evening for most reading this email). My friend and coworker, VJ, will travel with me to Manila by bus then fly to Cebu City to join with YWAM Cebu, which is coordinating relief efforts for all of YWAM.  Besides being a faithful follower of Christ, VJ is Filipino and speaks the language used in that part of the country.  (He is also a fantastic cook; I look forward to seeing what he can do with tuna and ramen noodles!)

Once we are there, we will be assigned to a task and location. Currently it looks like we will be sailing over to Tacloban and joining other YWAMers already working in that place. The building has no electricity or water, but does have cell phone coverage.

We are packing a selection of hand tools, my emergency medical kit, some donated medicines, safety gear, a sleeping mat, and a mosquito net. Before leaving YWAM Cebu, we will need to purchase our food since there is no functioning market and all of the crops have been destroyed so no food is available. Not long ago, this area was known for the tourists who flocked to its beautiful beaches to unwind. It is amazing how quickly things can change.

Please keep us in your prayers. Although the stories and images are beginning to fade from the headlines, the situation there remains dire. Pray for our safety throughout the journey and while doing our work there. Pray that we will be an encouragement to those who have been at work there already, many of whom were responding to the earthquake in early October when the typhoon struck. Pray that we can bring comfort and hope to those who have lost everything and live among those who have lost everything in a place that has lost everything. The Filipino people are strong and resilient, but this is a heavy blow for any people.

YWAM Philippines is committed to walking through the recovery over the long term. Prior to the disasters we already had a network of ministries partnering with local churches in the areas of training, mercy ministry (like what is going on now), and evangelism.  YWAM has been in the Philippines for decades and we will continue to serve as God provides opportunities.

Tom

Friday, August 30, 2013

Welcoming a Precious 14yo Into Our Family

With joy we welcomed a precious 14yo into our family on August 29.

Alayna quickly discovered the beautiful earrings her sisters had given her.  But our gift to her was another story.  Those were hidden inside 14 balloons.


Besides an animated opening of gifts from us and her sisters, her birthday included Belgian waffles with whipped cream for breakfast, sushi for lunch, relaxing with her dad in the hammock, sisters making cookies together, then painting their nails, homemade personal pizzas, ice cream, and cookies before getting settled into sleeping bags for a fun sister slumber party.


 Happy 14th Birthday, Alayna Marie!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Adriana's New Adventure

The past several months have all been leading up to a major transition for our family: Adriana leaving for college. There have been many forms filled out, still more emails sent and responded to, appointments scheduled, and even a couple of flights between the US and the Philippines.

Saturday morning a new journey began. Adriana said "See you later" to her sisters and grandparents.
One last shot
Then we were off to Grace College.

The Welcome Weekend was a busy time for all of the incoming freshmen. There were activities for students with their parents, students only, and parents only.

Of course, getting settled into the dorm room is very important also.  Adriana will be staying at one of the most beautiful buildings on campus.

But a dorm room is still a dorm room. With a few modifications, the beds were lofted and there was a lot of space available. Adriana had just fallen asleep when her room mate arrived at midnight on Saturday. (She and a few other students had just arrived from South Korea.)
"Home" in "Westy"
Lisa and I did not get to meet Adriana's room mate, Yelee, until Sunday afternoon during a last minute Walmart trip.
Yelee and Adriana
During Chapel service Sunday morning the three of us did have a time of tears as we held each other and prayed remembering God's faithfulness, reflecting on His promises, and looking forward to what was ahead of us. 

Sunday afternoon we were doing some final touches on her dorm when her floor mates came and pulled her away so they could all have dinner together. So our "See you later" was without tears - no prolonged goodbyes, just one more hug and a quick prayer of blessing and she was out the door.  But as Lisa and I were driving home, we were comforted by the many assurances God gave us that Adriana is where she is supposed to be.  We look forward to what God will do in her life in this new adventure of college.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Celebrating Adriana's High School Graduation

Just days after our arrival in the United States, we gathered with family and friends to honor the high school graduation of our oldest daughter, Adriana.  Through the efforts of many loved ones, we were treated to a wonderful time of celebration with plenty of food, conversation, and hugs.  This opportunity to gather together was such an encouragement to Adriana.
The coconut, raspberry, and lemon flavored cakes tasted as good as they looked.





Thursday, August 8, 2013

Introducing Our Favorite 11 year old


The clouds prevented us from stargazing but it was such a joy to celebrate Annalise's birthday with family.











Happy Birthday, Annalise!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

By Boat or Plane?

Before we left the Philippines, we were blessed to share some time together with friends.
Dinner with Patrick and Rufina's family
Our journey began with a long drive to Manila. We stayed at the UCCP Shalom Center like we usually do when traveling to the US. They only have a few rooms in which we can all fit. This was our first time in this particular room though. When we noticed the painting on the wall, we began to wonder whether we would still be flying or whether our voyage might be on the Dawn Treader.  (If that sentence made no sense to you, may we recommend The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by CS Lewis or the recent movie of the same title.)
Dawn Treader?
Well, the room did not flood, but the alarm went off at 1:45 am so we could all get a shower before heading to the airport for our journey across the Pacific and North America.
Did you ever notice that people look happy at the beginning of  a flight?
Actually, all of our travel went very well; everything departed and arrived on-time. Although we would have welcomed a voyage on the Dawn Treader we were thankful for the much quicker travel available on modern jetliners.  We also appreciated the individual touch screen entertainment monitors installed in each seat back.  They helped to distract us during the long flights.
Friendly faces at the airport-the best part of our trip!