In a second she was gone, torn from her father’s arms. He desperately cried out for her: “JOLINA…! WHERE ARE YOU…?” Confused and surrounded by darkness, all José knew for sure was that a wall of water had just swept away his little home, he was fighting for his life amid swirling debris, and his four-year-old daughter had just been ripped from his arms by something rushing violently past in the current.
When dawn appeared hours later, José realized that he had been washed out to sea along with the debris from hundreds of shanty homes. Dead bodies floated around him. Thankfully, a rescue team finally located him 12 hours later.
Typhoon Washi had been pummeling the island of Mindanao, in the Philippines, with torrential rain that horrible night last December. Much of the run-off raced toward the sea by way of the Cagayan River, where José Dalagan’s simple wooden home—along with dozens of other poor squatter shelters scrapped together from old wood, corrugated metal sheets, and weathered tarps—sat unsuspectingly along the river’s edge.
Overflowing the banks of the Cagayan, the churning water swept away everything in its path. One thousand souls perished that night, and the bodies of many were never found—including Jolina’s. José and his wife Marlyn survived, as well as their four sons, but their other daughter, two-year-old Jennica, drowned in her mother’s arms in their own hellish ordeal.
A few weeks later a friend of Heaven’s Family told me their tragic story, and we sent money from the Disaster Relief Fund. Those funds helped provide José’s family and other flood survivors with emergency food, shelter, clothing and medicine. I also began emailing pastor Alex, our key contact there, and made plans to visit to see what additional assistance we could provide.
I arrived to find José and his family living on higher ground in a simple bamboo home, thanks to the friends of Heaven’s Family. They are moving on with their lives with the Lord’s help, but the loss of their two precious daughters still haunts them, and I could see the pain in their eyes.
Although José and his family were obviously very poor by Western standards, I learned from pastor Alex that before they knew the Lord, things were even worse. José and Marlyn had been jobless and not even able to care for their children, who lived on the streets, surviving by selling recyclable trash in order to buy their next meal. The Dalagans heard the gospel for the first time when Alex’s church members began visiting the slum to feed the poorest of the poor. José and his family put their trust in Christ, and pastor Alex has not only discipled them, but also helped them find meaningful employment in the ministry of the church.
To help José become more self-sufficient, I purchased for him a high-quality breed of goat that was already pregnant. She will provide José’s family with an additional ongoing source of income, as they sell her offspring.
In the months ahead, Heaven’s Family will be partnering with pastor Alex on some additional projects—such as a small-business startup fund—that will help flood victims rebuild their lives and improve their ability to support themselves. As we minister to the needs of hurting members of our spiritual family, a powerful testimony goes out into the community. On behalf of José and his family, thanks to all who have given to the Disaster Relief Fund.