Building New Foundations in the Philippines
April 10, 2014
It’s a long road to recovery for millions of Filipinos who are trying to re-establish their lives, five months after one of the strongest typhoons in history struck the central Philippines.
It has been five months since Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest recorded storms to make landfall, laid waste to the Leyte and Samar islands of the central Philippines. That seems like an eternity for Regie, who saw much of her city reduced to rubble in a matter of hours.
“Nightmare is the best word to describe what happened to us and what Typhoon Haiyan has left for all of us in Tacloban,” said the children’s ministry leader and a friend of Christian Aid Mission. “What a traumatic experience for me and my kids. Even now we still have sleepless nights.”
Regie and her husband, Edgar, lost virtually all of their belongings when floodwaters rose 10 feet in the house. Fierce winds ripped off the roof, leaving no shelter from the pouring rain that drenched everything they had hoped to salvage upstairs.
The couple, their children, and several members of another family huddled together on the second floor while the storm raged. Everyone survived, but two blocks away Regie’s sister and her family were not as fortunate. Her four-year-old nephew was washed away in the deluge.
Recovery has been slow, both for Regie’s family and for Tacloban. It was perhaps wishful thinking when officials told city residents electrical power would be back on by Christmas Day. While electricity has been restored to many parts of this city of 220,000 people, it has not been fixed in her neighborhood. The massive cleanup of debris continues, and bodies are still being pulled occasionally from the rubble.
In the immediate aftermath of the storm Regie stayed with ministry friends in Cebu. She returned two weeks later to begin the daunting task of scraping out mud and washing down the walls with bleach to prevent mold infestation. All of her family’s water-logged furniture had to be tossed out. The roof and windows had to be replaced.
“It is difficult to move on when you know everything you worked hard for is gone, and knowing that you will have to start from nothing,” she said. “But still God’s grace is sufficient for us, and despite what happened, we continue to experience His love and care for us.”
Nurtured in God’s Word
As her daily routine returns to semi-normalcy, Regie finds solace by focusing on those dearest to her heart—children. She believes firmly in the verse, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6, KJV).
The ministry makes children’s evangelistic materials available for Sunday school classes and Vacation Bible Schools.
Evangelism and discipleship may be terms most often associated with adult outreach, but Regie sees the need to ground youngsters in God’s Word early on to help them develop a Christ-honoring character and prepare them for a lifetime of faithful service to the Lord.
“We want to teach the children how to live according to God’s way by having right attitudes in everything,” she said. “We share the gospel with them and give them the opportunity to receive Jesus in their hearts as their Savior.”
Through a network of volunteer teachers, Regie’s ministry holds weekly values education classes for students in the public schools in Tacloban City. Children learn the importance of kindness and honesty in interpersonal relationships. Youth receive instruction about the dangers of drugs and alcohol, and they are encouraged to abstain from sexual intimacy until marriage.
Local churches play a critical role. For afterschool activities, children are invited to attend Good News Club meetings in participating churches every Sunday afternoon. The children hear Bible stories and memorize Scripture verses. They learn how to pray and study about missions and the life of missionaries. They also enjoy singing, snacks, and games.
Regie helps train Sunday school leaders and those who are interested in teaching the values-based curriculum to students in public schools. She recently wrapped up a round of training sessions with Sunday school teachers in the Siquijor Province and will be training teachers in southern Leyte next.
The ministry supplies educational resources to some 80 churches in Leyte and Samar. Regie also maintains a lending library in her husband’s church containing children’s evangelism materials for area congregations. Unfortunately, that collection was ruined in the typhoon and is slowly being replaced.
“The small room I rented for an office has been fixed up by the owner, so I now have a place where I can put all my new teaching materials for prayer and reporting,” she said.
However, the extent of the damage from the storm continues to present unexpected challenges. “Just last week I hired a truck to deliver the 4,000 gospel books I ordered from Manila for the children,” Regie explained. “Since there is no direct boat from Manila to Tacloban, they were shipped to me through BayBay, Leyte. We traveled eight hours to get all the gospel books.”
Psychological scars will require a longer time to heal. Regie said the children “don’t like to talk about the typhoon anymore.” For the most part, they have returned to their normal routine of going to school and playing with their friends.
Although some lost their homes in the storm, no children involved in the Good News Clubs died, nor did any of them lose their parents. However, 100 of the children from the values classes in the local school system were killed.
Only when it rains do the signs of emotional trauma re-emerge. The children quickly become anxious and cannot concentrate on their classwork. Some cry uncontrollably. Others just want to hurry home.
To help them cope, the children were asked to write or say something to express how they felt during the typhoon and what they experienced.
“We continue to share the care and love of God with them. We have singing and games to let them know that their lives can return to normal again, no matter what happened to them,” she said. “As they learn how the Lord loved and protected them, they thank Him.”
At Good News Clubs, children enjoy praise music, prayer, and games.
Regie acknowledged two children in particular who experienced emotional distress as a result of the powerful storm. Because of the support they received, Hannah, a second-grader, and David, a fifth-grader, were able to finish their coursework and receive special recognition by their teachers and classmates.
Their resiliency in turn encourages Regie. In addition to training Sunday school teachers, she is in the midst of developing Vacation Bible School programs for children in Samar and in Tacloban City.
Then there are post-typhoon tasks to cross off her list at home. Repairs to the bedrooms are far from completion, and they will need an electrician to rewire the inside of the house.
“Pray for me and my kids, as the traumatic feelings are still there. We need good health and strength,” she said.
“My deepest thanks to you all for being my partners in teaching precious children about Jesus, and together we will see how the Lord will do great and mighty things in the lives of the little ones.”