Days of Thunder, Days of Woe


The Philippines and Super Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda

The days and weeks after typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines were personally difficult for me. It was hard to find the right words to express my feelings about the devastation and death that the super storm wrought.

Television and social media brought us images and videos of unspeakable destruction and suffering. We also saw the overwhelming compassion that the world can muster when tragedy of such magnitude reminds us of our shared humanity, as many nations came to the aid of the Philippines. In the same way, but largely invisible to the eyes of foreign media, was the massive groundswell of volunteerism that was unleashed in the country, as Filipinos from all walks of life rose up and participated in whatever relief efforts that were summoned in their local communities and cities.

My relatives were spared from the brunt of the storm, as they were in cities located just outside the southern periphery of the typhoon. I am grateful to many of you who took time to ask me personally about the storm. But the region in the direct path of the typhoon included the historic center of ABC missions in the Philippines and, therefore, now the location of the vast majority of churches of the Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches, ABCUSA's sister denomination there. The CPBC is my spiritual home and the ecclesial community of my ancestors.

Typhoon Haiyan Damage 1Perhaps it was just as well, that words were hard to come by for me. It was difficult to describe the indescribable. While my relatives were spared, I know so many pastors, colleagues, and friends, who lost everything - their homes and churches. Many CPBC related institutions through whose halls many church leaders (including members of my own family) have journeyed through, have been utterly destroyed. We cannot lose sight of the larger reality of this tragedy. The humanitarian problem is immense. Some towns and cities have been literally wiped out, and all in the path of the typhoon sustained widespread structural damage on almost all dwellings. More than three million Filipinos have been displaced, and the vast majority of them are poor. It will take many years for the reconstruction and rebuilding of lives and property.

Typhoon Haiyan Damage 3But not lost in our hearts are those closest to us - our sisters and brothers in the CPBC. Hindsight enables us now to celebrate the missionary heart of American Baptists. Our denomination's disaster relief fund, the One Great Hour of Sharing (OGHS), released much needed money in the early few days of the emergency that helped the CPBC purchase basic necessities of food, water, medicine and makeshift shelters. Our ABCNJ appeal continues, and we are working closely with CPBC and with IM/ABCUSA in coordinating where our limited funds can make the biggest impact during the reconstruction phase that is now upon them. The photos in this article (a church and a CPBC related school) from the field relief operations of CPBC's development ministries office represent a small glimpse into the gravity of the damage.

We invite you to join us in this continuing effort. Church donations to the ABCNJ Philippines Response Fund can be made using the ABC missions form - or jsut send your donation to the region office and we will do the paperwork for you. Make checks out to: ABCNJ, line SPECIFICS (SPC) and in the details box write, "ABCNJ Philippines Ministries Response Fund." For individuals, checks should be made out to ABCNJ and write "ABCNJ Philippines Ministries Response Fund" on the memo line.