Philippines (MNN) — Advancing Native Missions has almost 40 native ministry partners in the Philippines, and many of these were affected by Typhoon Haiyan (also called Yolanda).
It was the strongest storm on earth in 2013, and one of the most destructive, with damages estimated at over $5 billion. The country’s economic planning secretary noted that he would not be surprised if the reconstruction cost was closer to $250 billion.
102 days after the storm flattened a dozen islands in the Philippines, the United Nations warns that millions of people still require urgent assistance to rebuild their lives and livelihoods. Thousands died, many more thousands were displaced, infrastructure was ruined, and many lost all they owned.
ANM’s Bo Barredo says, “We already have advanced coordinators there, and in most of these places, these coordinators are pastors and their families and their people.” Because of this, they were ready to provide for victims’ immediate and long-term needs. “We organized 12 relief teams to do relief and medical operations in at least 11 of the islands that were in the path of Typhoon Haiyan. The teams have been so effective and so efficient in doing these relief operations–and medical operations among the victims of the typhoon–because of one reason: we were church-based.”
Shell-shocked by the ferocity of the destruction, Barredo describes survivors “like zombies first, walking around, trying to find enough food for the next two or three days.” Their teams provided the following supplies: “100 kilos of rice, canned goods, bottles of water, hammers, nails, steel wires, fruits, dried fish, dried meat, hygiene products, sugar, salt, matches, candles, even straw mats.”
ANM was one of thousands of groups who mobilized quickly to help. But the other part of their assistance came during a series of pastors’ conferences that were held at the end of 2013. “We had two pastors’ gatherings: One in ground zero, which is Tacloban City, and there were 58 pastors and their wives or more than 100 people. And then the next day on Samar Island. Almost all of whom have lost either homes, or churches, or both.” And Barredo was shocked at what he heard other leaders had preached. “They preached on the wrath of God and the judgment of God on the islands and upon them, insinuating that they had not been good enough Christians, they have not been spiritual, and they have fallen short of the mark. It really discouraged them.”
The danger: discouragement. Since these pastors are the frontline defenders, it was doubly important to encourage them. “When the pastors are struck by the enemy or by calamities like this, the flock will scatter.” ANM brought human dignity along with hope during their conferences. Refreshing these leaders will have other long-term effects.
Teams also share the hope of the Gospel along with the relief supplies. In many cases, people have lost everything. Barredo says he got a glimpse of this when he asked the pastors’ gathering, “’Who are those amongst you here, pastors, who have lost both houses and churches?’ Almost 90% of them raised their hands. It broke my heart.”
Because they are working in their home islands and towns, they will continue to serve as long as there are needs, which will be many months or years. Barredo explains, “God has allowed us to minister and to give out to at least 10,447 families. One Filipino family has the average size of six or seven persons, so this is like ministering to 60,000 or 70,000 people.”
One of ANM’s core values is relationship, so when their partners experience a tragedy, ANM feels it, too. And yet, a little encouragement goes a long way. Barredo says despite the sorrow, there is joy…and more importantly, faith. “In those places where the Gospel was preached by the relief team members, 1,553 of those that were in these relief distribution centers, they raised their hand to receive Christ Jesus.”