Where’s my mommy? This cry, whether spoken through the tears of a small child, or unmistakably etched on his or her face, is all too common in the chaotic wake of a natural disaster. Families are separated or displaced—sometimes permanently—and such perilous circumstances are, for opportunistic human traffickers, like fishing in a stocked pond.
I’m reporting from the Philippines now, where I’ve come on behalf of the Human Trafficking/Slavery Fund, which I co-direct with my wife Karin, and the Disaster Relief Fund (DRF), which I manage myself. In this blog, I want to give you an example of how these two funds often work hand in hand.
Part of my plan was to follow up on a project we did last spring to restore typhoon-damaged and lost fishing boats in order that a small seaside fishing community could become self-sufficient again (read my story God Gives Again by clicking here). I also wanted to explore other ways we could help individuals and families lift themselves economically through micro-loans and rent-to-own programs. I’m excited about discussions I had with our Philippine partner on that front, which I hope to report about in the months ahead.
But less than 2 weeks before my visit, a fire broke out in a slum where Heaven’s Family has been working for almost 3 years, incinerating everything that could burn, including clothing and their few possessions. Before, dozens of families crowded together in a hovel of homes built primarily of bamboo with tin sheets for roofing. In its place lies a wasteland of rubble, roughly a city block in size. Many residents are resourceful, however, and I watched many working hard to put together makeshift shelters that would at least protect them from the sun and rain, for now.
Although not a natural disaster, the destruction of the community was similar, if not worse. Heaven’s Family contributed a total of $3,000 from the DRF for emergency food, tarps, sleeping mats, mosquito nets, clothing and building materials—emergency materials that will, in turn, enable families to turn away traffickers who come knocking.
This disaster was more personal for me because many of the victims are families I’ve come to know on previous visits—but they are now homeless. By showing our support for them at this crucial time, we’ve helped strengthen their trust in Hope House, our partner there. Hope House is building relationships with children and their parents, teaching them how to live biblically (the absence of which has kept them in a cycle of poverty, abuse and misery for generations).
They will eventually rebuild. And we’re hoping that some will be able to move up a rung or two on the economic ladder as we’re planning to send some young parents to vocational school, and help others start small businesses of their very own—all of which will help reduce the likelihood that their children will one day be trafficked.
I’m excited about the changes in hearts and lives we’re seeing in those we’re working with in Cambodia and the Philippines, and look expectantly to the months ahead. Thanks for joining me on this trip!
Because of Him,
Co-Director, Human Trafficking/Slavery Fund
A BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE
PARTING SHOT…a man and his turkey