Here in the Philippines the storm is known by the name typhoon Yolanda and will not ever be forgotten; to the rest of the world it is known as typhoon Haiyan. While certain areas of the country were completely devastated, the entire nation was left to deal with its horrific aftermath.
Six months later I can still vividly recall waking early in the morning following the storm to start checking email to see if we had heard from all of our co-workers. There were those we knew in the direct path of the storm. One of the teams we were concerned for called in stating that they and nearly 200 people from the village below spent the night beneath the missionary homes in the village. This is the same Cuyonen village I had visited just a few months prior. Praise be to God though, all were unharmed by the storm. Despite my relief for this team, my heart sank when I heard that our Agutayen Islands team still had not checked-in.
Speaking with one of our co-workers in the region where this team serves, he reported being in communication with them until 9 pm the night prior. At that point the storm was strong upon them and they were working frantically to keep their roof from flying away. The last question they asked was, “How far are we from the eye of the storm?” Our cause for concern was obvious.
As the hours ticked by and as we watched the first reports of this storm on the news, our anxiety grew. It was finally decided that we should send one of our aircraft to check on their well-being. Despite the high cost involved, no one on our team argued. By this time however it was already late in the day and with the weather still an issue, we decided we should wait until the next day to send someone over. Preparations were being made to follow through with this plan but then to everyone’s relief, a call came in around 5pm reporting everyone ‘safe.’ All praise to God! Cell signals were lost for most of the day as towers were destroyed during the storm.
One other team from among our NTM nationals was also directly affected by this storm and found numerous people also taking refuge beneath their home. Once again praise the Lord. Despite the incredible destruction around them near the island of Coron as the storm exited the country, everyone who took shelter with them was unharmed.
Time to Assist:
With each of our co-workers now accounted for, our attention now turned to those devastated by the storm. What could we do to provide some level of relief and hope in the face of such tragedy? With much of the world focused on relief to the more populated areas, and rightfully so, given the resources available it only made sense for us to help where we already served, among the least reached people groups of the Philippines.
Within two days our team began providing immediate relief to indigenous people groups who lost their homes and livelihood as a result of typhoon Haiyan. For the next thirty plus days, and with great joy, we were able to utilize a multitude of aircraft and personnel to provide relief to thousands of people scattered on more than two dozen islands. This was accomplished as God provided partnership through dedicated leadership personnel from Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF), Helimission from Switzerland who provided both aircraft and personnel, along with various NTMA personnel from neighboring countries, the USA and Canada.
Our leadership team and a large number of our church planting teams also set aside time from day to day responsibilities and the work they were doing to pray and assist however they could. By His grace and with an incredible amount of sacrificial giving on the part of His people around the world, we were able to provide relief and hope for many in need during a horrific time. Our hope is that many will follow Christ as they have witnessed His blessings. Already the Lord is clearly at work in the hearts of many.
Lessons Learned and a Request for Prayer:
Given the primary responsibility for overseeing crisis response, one of the earliest lessons I learned was to consider available resources, both equipment and personnel. A proper assessment allows us to understand our capabilities. Secondly, given assessment of our resources, determine where those resources can best be utilized to their greatest potential. Lastly, it seems to me that with all the best laid plans, we need to ask God and trust Him to provide wherever we lack. This is actually an ongoing process from the very onset of any crisis and is not last all. Only as we look to Him can we see any good thing accomplished.
Please pray for continued wisdom in ongoing reconstruction efforts as we continue to trust the Lord for guidance in the re-establishment of lively-hoods. Pray for the ongoing disaster recovery and reconstruction throughout the entire affected area by various NGO’s, gov’t agencies, and mission organizations. Crisis response is just one small part of seeing our efforts in church planting move forward and I am grateful for the privilege of having a part in that. Praise, glory and honor be to our risen Savior.