You may recall that last December Typhoon Bopha (a.k.a. Pedro) struck the Philippines twice, causing widespread destruction to homes and crops. I was very grateful that Heaven’s Family could send $2,000 within hours of the disaster, and another $2,000 a few weeks later, to provide emergency food and building materials to help those hardest hit. We also helped a year ago in the aftermath of another typhoon that took more than 1,000 lives.
After just visiting there to follow-up on our efforts, I want to report what we’ve accomplished together. I also want to tell you about some exciting new plans.
The first couple of days I traveled with my contact, pastor Alex Montanano, into the mountains to visit three remote villages where our partnering work with Alex has been making a difference. Many of the villagers are already believers, but this nation (like the U.S. and many others in the West) is filled with nominal Christians, so Alex, two pastors in training, and I took advantage of several opportunities to present the gospel to adults and children. Disasters cause unusual openness in people, and this one was no exception.
Next, I visited several believers in the city that were helped last year. Seeing familiar faces and learning how they continue to benefit from our help encouraged me greatly. Even the goats we provided last year are prospering!
This was also my first opportunity to begin a new phase of outreach for the Disaster Relief Fund. Although we’ll continue to respond to disasters with gifts of emergency food, medicine and shelter, many victims live in places that make them vulnerable to the next storm. Rather than continue to provide just enough for them to return to their former lives, we want to begin helping them, when possible, to become more “disaster proof.”
This means that, when poor shanty dwellers living along the riverbank lose their homes during typhoon floods (as occurred December 2011, resulting in over 1,000 lives lost), we don’t try to restore them to their high-risk living conditions. Our goal is to help them survive in the weeks and months to follow a disaster, and to help them out of the poverty that caused them to be so vulnerable in the first place.
To that end, we’re working with Heaven’s Family’s Micro-Loan Fund to help many victims start new businesses or expand existing ones. Rather than see them become dependent on a flow of outside aid, we want to help them get on their feet as soon as possible, rising to a better economic status than before, with their own hard work.
All of the poor believers I talked to in the Philippines welcomed this idea with great excitement! Villagers caught a new vision: they began to see that they weren’t insignificant and helpless but, with God’s power and the empowerment they can receive from their brothers and sisters in Christ, they can rise up and play an important role in God’s kingdom. Those living in the city also were greatly encouraged, seeing their potential in a new way. The gleam of hope in their eyes was thrilling, and I left each of our meetings full of hope as well!
I believe this is a great opportunity for Heaven’s Family to provide a model of empowerment that changes communities devastated by disaster, rather than see them become mired in dependency. I hope you will catch this vision with me, and I’m excited to see the changes ahead in the Philippines because of our partnership with them. If you have questions or want to learn more, please drop me an email at: [email protected].
Because of Him,
Parting shots of some Philippine treasure…