TABUELAN, Philippines – Social media and news programs around the world have reported on relief teams entering Filipino communities devastated by Typhoon Haiyan. But hundreds of other villages in extremely isolated areas have yet to see any relief.
Many of these villages are tucked away in northern Cebu’s rolling hills. They can be found down winding, bumping roads barely wide enough for vehicles to traverse. They are the villages that Southern Baptist relief teams hope to find.
While millions of dollars in relief aid is flowing into some hard-hit areas, many smaller communities must fend for themselves.
People in remote areas far from the main roads often are neglected for one to two weeks in the aftermath of a major disaster, said Larry Shine, a member of the four-man Baptist Global Response (BGR) team sent to Cebu Island. The team’s goal is to go into areas not highlighted in the media and partner with local pastors to bring relief to neglected communities.
Shine, pastor of Pine Forest Baptist Church in Onalaska, Texas, and Scottie Stice, pastor of Southwest Texas Cowboy Church in Uvalde, Texas, traveled Nov. 16 to work with Filipino pastor Nabanglo Driz. Shine leads the international disaster relief task force for Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. Stice is the assistant state director of disaster relief for the convention.
They were the first people to visit three mountain villages after the typhoon. On a rural road, their van passed a sign tacked to a post that read “Help Us.”
The North Carolina team packed almost a ton of supplies, equipment, and gear to help the people of Tacloban with medical assistance and water purification at Bethany Hospital. The team packed Nov. 19-20 and left Nov. 20 to volunteer in Tacloban.
The houses in this area are perched on hilltops, which left them exposed to Typhoon Haiyan’s ferocious winds. People in these villages are still living in their collapsed homes. One family with a 1-month-old baby is living in a badly damaged hut not even tall enough for someone to kneel.
To get relief supplies, villagers must hike to the main road and carry the goods back down windy, bumpy paths.
In one village the team visited, the five concrete houses of Leonilo Liquigan and his extended family look as if a wrecking ball came through. People in the village came to his home because it was concrete and stronger, but even his concrete home was unable to withstand the storm.
Living without electricity, Liquigan said he’s cooked coconuts and taken the oil and inserted a wick to make candles. Shine holds Liquigan’s hand and prays a blessing over him. He asks God to “bring order where there is chaos.”
Survivor with a scar
In the village of Kapilya, 5-year-old John Carl Ulila plays with a plastic lid, a metal bolt and a rock. He does not have any toys. He is a survivor, but he carries a scar that he may have for the rest of his life.
During the typhoon, a flying piece of tin hit Ulila and cut his nose and cheek – coming dangerously close to his eye. His mother took him to a medical clinic but they were referred to a more expensive clinic the family could not afford.
They returned home without any medicine.
Stice noticed Ulila’s eye when he arrived at his home. He gave Ulila’s mother antibiotic cream to treat the wound.
Driz, the Filipino pastor, identified Kapilya as one of the neediest villages out of the nine he serves. There are 30 families in Kapilya, where a house church meets each week for worship. The gazebo they meet in was destroyed by the storm.
The closest water reservoir to Kapilya is 11 miles away. The village’s water system operates off of a pump, but because the power is down, it doesn’t work. Right now, Ulila’s mom says they are collecting rainwater to drink. Stice and Shine discussed having a pump station to help bring water closer.
Later that day, the team discussed how to handle aid relief and sharing the gospel among women in the area who aren’t open to hearing about Jesus. “The best ministry is to come build the house, share with her and tell her why you came and built the house,” Shine told Driz.
Driz believes this distribution project will open doors to the community. Many people close their hearts when they see him approach with a Bible, Driz said. Showing Christ’s love by helping the hurting is a bridge to sharing the gospel.
“With this project, I believe there will be more fruit,” Driz said.
Cowboys and pastors
That evening, Driz, Stice and Shine sat down and continued their discussion about the areas they visited. Shine asked questions to help Driz think through the rebuilding process and what resources they would need.
He encouraged Driz to use Filipino church members to deliver the relief supplies.
“By using an existing network, it is more effective,” Shine said. “The church is the best network in the world.”
Filipino churches know the people and the culture – and will be there after all the international aid workers and media have left, Shine said.
“What Western churches can do is provide the financial aid resources he [Driz] doesn’t have,” Shine said.
Shine encouraged Driz and his church to train others and then encourage them to pass the knowledge on – an approach to humanitarian aid that facilitates church planting.
The discussion then moved to what to include in relief kits – items every Filipino family must have in their kitchen to survive – and how best to transport the goods. Shine asked Driz to make himself available to minister to the families while others of his team are distributing supplies.
Driz, Stice and Shine formulated a plan for aid relief and packets to be delivered the following week. Baptist Global Response will purchase supplies for the relief packages with funds donated by supporters in the United States and elsewhere.
“We have full confidence in your ability to do this,” Shine told Driz.
A medical and water purification team departed for the Philippines on Nov. 20 to work in Tacloban at Bethany Hospital. The team of eight will assist with relief efforts and also assess future involvement for Baptists on Mission, also known as North Carolina Baptist Men, in this effort.
Medicine and water purification equipment has been purchased in order to provide much needed assistance. More than 100 personal/family water purifiers are targeted for distribution.
Prayer concerns were shared:
Pray for those affected to receive the help they need.
Pray also for the team that they may be effective in their service in both word and deed.
Pray that the team and all of the equipment arrive safely.
The Burnt Swamp Baptist Association is collecting funds to be given directly to relief efforts as well. Designate funds for “Philippine Relief” and mail to Burnt Swamp Baptist Association, P.O. Box 1207, Pembroke, NC 28372.
Every dollar given toward Philippines disaster relief through the International Mission Board goes directly to meet needs, since IMB personnel are supported through churches’ gifts to the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. Online giving can be accessed at imb.org/helpnow.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Caroline Anderson writes for the IMB from Southeast Asia. Dianna L. Cagle, Biblical Recorder production editor, contributed to this report.)