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

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!