Like the rest of the fishermen of Merida Village, Jerome dragged his small fishing boat up the beach, further than usual, and tied it firmly to a coconut tree. Menacing clouds were approaching from the southeast, and everyone knew it was wise to take precaution. Weather reports indicated a typhoon was headed towards the Philippines, but that was nothing unusual for those who call the island of Leyte their home. Most likely, there’d be no fishing that night or the next day. The rising winds were a scant harbinger of what lurked behind the darkening clouds on the horizon.
That night, a typhoon named Yolanda (“Haiyan” elsewhere in the world, where it was reported to be a “record-breaking superstorm”) slammed with a fury into Leyte. Along with dozens of other villagers, Jerome and his pregnant wife of one year, Nessan, took shelter in the sturdy church of Pastor Pitogo, one of Heaven’s Family‘s Filipino partners. There they all waited for the dawn.
When daylight finally arrived, they emerged from their shelter, wondering what they’d find. Jerome and Nessan’s simple, shack-like home was damaged—but still standing. Some of their neighbors were not so fortunate.
Jerome then hurried to the beach to look for his boat—his sole means of providing for Nessan and the unborn child she was carrying.
When he found what remained of his simple craft, his heart sank. His boat had been damaged beyond repair, and he had no money with which to build another one.
Less than three months later I was in Leyte, surveying the needs of our spiritual family on behalf of Heaven’s Family‘s Disaster Relief Fund. Providentially, I met Jerome and Nessan in their tiny home. They were surviving on government-supplied rations of rice that would end in a month—the same time their first child was due. I could see the uncertainty in their eyes that cast a cloud over the joyful anticipation of their baby. Managing a smile, they proudly told me the name they had picked for their hoped-for son: Johanne.
I’m so glad I was visiting Merida Village that day, exactly in the place, I believe, where God wanted me. I’m also grateful that I was carrying funds generously contributed to our Disaster Relief Fund specifically to help victims of Typhoon Haiyan. After inquiring, I learned that Jerome’s former boat was just a simple, wood-hulled canoe with small stabilizing outriggers. A new one could be built for about $400, complete with nets and other necessary gear.
I was blessed with enough funds to help more people than just Jerome and Nessan. In fact, I was able to restore every lost or damaged fishing boat in the entire village, a dozen in all, plus the necessary fishing gear for each one.
God had given, and God had taken away. Would God give again?
Jerome’s new boat was ready a few weeks later—just when the government relief ended and just in time for him to once again provide from the sea for his wife—and newborn Johanne.
Just as with Job of old, the Lord gave, took away, and gave back again. And not only was Jerome and Nessan’s faith tested in tough times, but so was the faith of all of us who were given the opportunity to prove our love for Jesus by caring for the “least of these” among His family. Perhaps that is the divine purpose for some of what we struggle to understand.