Help Arrives for Typhoon Haiyan Victims

November 21, 2013

Ministry partners in the Philippines are distributing emergency aid to superstorm survivors, even as they struggle with personal losses that have turned their own lives upside down.

Typhoon Haiyan–the strongest storm to make landfall in 30 years–showed no mercy as it flattened everything in its path on the islands of Leyte and Samar. Several missions groups that receive financial assistance from Christian Aid have reported significant property damage and, more tragically, the irreplaceable loss of family members and friends.

In its initial response to the crisis, one ministry dispatched teams to Bohol Island to assist Christian families impacted by the typhoon. Canned foods, noodles and rice, used clothing, and hygiene items were among the materials handed out to local church members who lost their homes and belongings in the deluge.

Hard-hit Tacloban City will be the focus of the second phase of their relief efforts, the ministry spokesman said. As roads are cleared of debris, gospel workers can gain access to neighborhoods that were cut off from the outside world for nearly a week, after high winds and tsunami-like waves ravaged the coast. Electricity and telephone service are out in many areas, making communication challenging to say the least.

Most of the area ministries have contacted Christian Aid with reassurances that they survived the worst of the storm. Their updates convey a mix of heartbreak over the devastation and thankfulness for God´s presence and provision. What has blessed them the most, they say, are the faithful prayers of believers from around the world who are standing beside them during these difficult times.

“After all this turmoil it is very inspiring and encouraging to know that prayers are brought forth for us,” a ministry leader commented in a recent email. “After the civil war in Zamboanga last month, followed by the deadly earthquake a few weeks later and now Typhoon Haiyan, it is God´s grace and love that is making us strong. Your prayers serve as our inspiration to move on and continue our faith.”

Many church buildings were not spared the storm´s wrath. The New Life network of churches experienced substantial damage to their structures, and in some locations, the entire building collapsed.

A member of New Life Church in San Jose lost her 4-year-old son, who drowned in the flooding. Most of the congregation lost their homes. A pastor and his wife were among the casualties in eastern Samar.

In the city of Ormoc, about 65 miles west of Tacloban, 86 families from one church lost their homes. The pastor´s house and the church building were also destroyed.

“We are doing our best to gather anything we can to send help to them, but the need is so great,” expressed another ministry director. “I believe God is in control, and His eye is on the sparrow. May His Word bring comfort in the midst of this tragedy.”

The country faces a long period of recovery, but already there are new signs of hope on the streets. Temporary shelters are under construction. Relief workers are helping to remove downed power lines and massive heaps of rubble from roadways. And officials promise to make the region´s obliterated infrastructure a top priority.

Deep emotional wounds, however, will take much longer to heal. While saving lives is paramount now, Christian Aid has long-term plans to assist Philippine ministries in reaching their people with the good news of eternal life through Jesus Christ.

“The typhoon was tragic, but I believe God can bring great good from it, and only the gospel is the great good,” said Stephen Van Valkenburg, who serves as Christian Aid´s area director for Southeast Asia.

“In the meantime, the funds we are sending are meeting needs. Many churches need to be rebuilt. Many houses need to be rebuilt. People need food and water and medical care. The compassion of Christ must be abundant,” he said.