Floodwaters from Typhoon Haiyan inundated their home and took the life of Regie’s four-year-old nephew. As Regie and her family begin to pick up the pieces of their lives, she recounts how God carried them through the worst of the storm—and how they plan to forge ahead.
Q: Were you prepared for a storm of this magnitude?
A: We received warnings about the typhoon and were expecting it, but we had no idea it would be this bad. We are used to typhoons in the Philippines, but nothing like this. The storm started around 4 a.m. with heavy rain and strong winds. We were getting scared. But it wasn’t until around 7 a.m. that the storm really blew in. An hour later water streamed into the house and began rising.
Q: What did you do when the water started rising?
A: We went up to the second floor. We were there on the top floor when the roof came off. Then we had to go back downstairs to get away from the rain and wind. The water kept rising. We had two families with us, eight children in the house. The children were crying. My kids were too. They were so afraid. We did our best to bring the children up again to the second floor. It was really scary. We didn’t know what to do. My husband kept saying, “Just pray, pray, pray that God will protect us in spite of this thing that is happening to us.”
Q: Did you stay in the house?
A: We couldn’t go anywhere. I let the children hold onto a rope that we made to anchor them. We also covered them with boxes. Everybody huddled in a corner for shelter. From upstairs we could see water rising from the first floor. We kept praying. After the storm passed, it was a few hours before the water inside the house went down enough so we could get out.
Q: What did you see when you went outdoors?
A: Many things had washed away. Houses were gone. Things were floating. We saw the bodies of people who had died.
Q: What happened to your four-year-old nephew? Was he in the house with you?
A: No, Gaivan was at my sister Gelyn’s house. He is her youngest son. After the storm we walked two blocks to my sister’s house to check on her family. I don’t even remember how we were able to get through all of the water and debris, all we had on our minds was to find out if they were okay because they don’t have a second floor in their house. When we got there, her husband told us Gaivan was swept away by the flood.
We went looking for him and found his body on the roof of a house that had been destroyed. We were able to fix a coffin for him out of the plywood we picked up outside our house.
Q: What did you do about food or water after the storm?
A: A neighbor gave us food. We stocked up on supplies in preparation for the typhoon, but because of the flooding it was ruined.
Afterschool clubs and other special events are an engaging way to share the gospel with youngsters.
Q: How much damage did your home sustain?
A: The water rose 10 or 12 feet in the house. We lost our roof and the windows are broken out because of the current of the water. Everything is ruined.
Q: Where are you staying now?
A: We are staying with friends at a church in Cebu. The pastor is a friend of my husband’s. Communications are working here. We plan to return to Tacloban the first week of December to begin cleaning out the house.
Q: Tell us about your ministry. What type of work do you have with children?
A: The heart of our ministry is training Sunday school teachers on how to teach children more effectively. We have a lending library for our Sunday school materials where churches can come and borrow our materials for use in their Sunday school and outreaches. We also have training for children on how they can share the gospel with other children. During the summer we hold camps—God’s Little Missionary Camps. We also conduct values classes in public and private elementary schools.
Q: Before the typhoon, how many workers were active with you in reaching children and training teachers?
A: I have 11 volunteers helping me. Their homes got flooded too. They have all called me and informed me that they are okay.
Q: How was your ministry affected by the typhoon?
A: We lost the children’s materials I had stored in our house. The lending library in my husband’s church was ruined. So were all of the Sunday school rooms and his office.
Q: How many churches do you partner with in the Philippines? To what extent was this network of churches impacted by the storm?
A: In Samar we work with 30 churches. In the whole region of Leyte we have 50. There were pastors who came to our house after the typhoon, and they told us they had members who died in the flooding. Their churches were also destroyed. Their members have gone to other places to stay with relatives.
Q: How many children were you ministering to before the storm?
A: About 900 kids in the schools. We have afterschool clubs and Good News classes. I am wondering if there will be the same attendance when schools reopen and we start up the classes next month. I don’t know.
Q: How will you minister to the children’s emotional and psychological needs considering everything they have experienced?
A: Instead of the regular teaching, we plan to have counseling sessions with them, just to talk to them and ask them to share how they feel. Maybe we can encourage them and help them to process what they have gone through because of the typhoon.
Q: Have people asked you, “Why did God allow this to happen? Why did this happen to our country and to our people?” What is your response?
A: Yes, a woman asked me that question already. I told her that God never promised this kind of tragedy or calamity would not strike us or that it would make sense to us. He only promised that He will go through the storms with us. Even with this kind of terrible happening, He will never leave us or forsake us. In everything that happens, God has a purpose. He is a sovereign God. He is still in control of everything, no matter what. It is still hard to believe that this event has happened, but I choose to believe God and trust His promises.
Q: How can we pray for you?
The ministry provides children’s evangelistic materials to churches in Leyte and Samar.
A: Pray that God will provide our needs for the things we lost in the typhoon and that we can continue our ministry. Pray that the people in Tacloban will learn that in all circumstances they can trust God.
Rebuilding efforts will require resources as well as time. Your gifts to Christian Aid will meet practical needs of believers who lost everything in the typhoon and equip them to share the gospel with those desperate for hope. Please remember the people of Tacloban and across the Philippines in your prayers.