Typhoon relief brings hope to rural Filipinos

MABUNAO, Philippines (BP) -- A murmur rippled through the crowd as the first families opened the food packages delivered Nov. 21 by the Baptist Global Response team. Those items included canned meat, rice, noodles, sugar, powdered milk, drinking water and instant coffee.

Most relief organizations were only bringing rice -- two kilos per family -- but the Southern Baptists brought more than twice that amount. It was enough to feed a family of five for a week.

In the rural community of Mabunao, on the northern end of Cebu Island, the entire community gathered at the plaza outside the town hall. They came to receive relief supplies provided by donations from the United States in response to Typhoon Haiyan that had devastated the Philippines Nov. 8. Volunteers from the U.S. accompanied the delivery, which was organized by Nabanglo Driz, a Filipino pastor and BGR partner.

"There were so many people coming by and saying thank you," Mike Beasley, a volunteer with Trimble (Mo.) Baptist Church, said. "There were a lot of happy kids."

Scottie Stice, pastor of Southwest Texas Cowboy Church in Uvalde, Texas, said "they hadn't had any coffee since before the typhoon."

"The people were all very appreciative of what they gave out," Stice said. "The barangay captain [community leader] said, 'I cannot believe how generous you are, how much you have given us. We were not expecting this. This is more than we could have imagined receiving."

Seeing the plight of storm survivors firsthand is very moving, Stice said. Many roofs were torn off houses, while other homes completely collapsed. Some people are trying to live in their now-dilapidated houses. Others are using scraps to build a lean-to for shelter.

"We're seeing desperately poor people who have just gone through a typhoon and lost even more," Stice said. "The immediate need is the housing, but for me, I'm looking down the road. What will these farmers be doing? Their crops were damaged. It's not over with."

BGR's strategy for disaster response looks beyond immediate survival needs like food and water and helps communities plot a course toward recovery, said Ben Wolf, who with his wife, Pam, leads BGR work in Asia Rim.

"We had been having trouble finding suppliers for the food packages we are assembling," Wolf said. "With so much relief work going on, warehouses don't have much on hand. We found one warehouse that could supply us and went back to them today and they couldn't help us. We called another one and they delivered everything we needed. When one source dries up or something happens they can't meet the need, the Lord pops up somebody else.

"I'm continually amazed -- daily -- by the divine appointments," Wolf added. "It's people who are coming alongside to help. It's knowing people are praying. It's arriving in communities and they say, 'You're the ones we've been longing to see."

To learn more about how you can help storm survivors, visit BGR's Typhoon Haiyan project page.


Mark Kelly is a writer for Baptist Global Response. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).