In Matthew 25:40, the King says “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me”.
These are the words of the Lord Jesus put into practice as Evangel Family Church in coordination with JECPP held its “Typhoon Pablo Disaster Relief Operation” in the Municipality of Boston and Barangay Carmen in Davao Oriental Region last December 18, 2012.
The activity was spearheaded by none other than our Founding Chairman, Rev. Dr. Robert Lim. Pastor Wee, together with some members, surveyed the area and coordinated with the Barangay Officials and the Police Department for systematic distribution as well as for the safety of our team.
Typhoon Pablo first made landfall in Davao Oriental, particularly in the towns Baganga, Boston and Cateel last December 4, 2012 and affected thousands of lives, young and old. Hundreds were buried alive who, up to now have not yet been recovered. The intensity and magnitude of typhoon Pablo has exceeded that of typhoon Sendong. It was tagged as the strongest tropical storm, PAG-ASA labelled super typhoon, to hit the country this year specifically in Southern Mindanao. As described by Pastor Lim, it was 700 kilometer wide like a lawn-mover and vacuum cleaner combined, blowing up and sucking up the whole Davao Oriental area. Typhoon Pablo caused widespread destruction resulting to destroyed properties, disrupted communication lines, cut-off power, flooding, landslides and uprooted trees and thousands of homeless families. Pastor Chua said that compared to the Visayas, the impact of the typhoon was so great in Mindanao. He described it as mind-boggling as he himself saw the devastation. This was indeed very rare that a typhoon will be passing this area; its devastation can leave one speechless.
Moved by the sight, Pastor Lim thought of how to help and took a greater leap of faith to raise funds for this relief operation. A close Malaysian friend of Pastor Lim, who was so generous, gave a certain amount of money on time, which was used to purchase the goods. A total of 1500 bundles containing rice, canned goods, noodles and loaf bread were packed. Aside from that, 105 bottles of 6-liter and 100 pieces of 21- liter water from Crystal Clear, goodies for the children and clothes coming from donations of our church members and EFC-Singapore were distributed. With the help of some of the church members, who voluntarily offered their time and effort, the packing of the goods lasted for a week from December 10-15 under the guidance of Pastor Christine. They were grateful to God for sparing Davao City from the destruction and in doing so; they have become a part of God’s work towards the victims of the typhoon. They gladly and enthusiastically did it in service to God and man.
On December 17, 2012, we started to load the goods to the two trucks. Thanks to Brother PJ Pascua, who initiated and offered a closed Elf truck where we can stack half of the goods. The other half was placed in a Forward truck that was rented. Some members came to load the goods onto the two trucks. Pastor Christine together with Bro Sam Simpas and Bro Michael Barrera left in advance with the trucks at 12 midnight reaching Boston area at around 7:00 am to finalize and coordinate with the Barangay and Military officials who will aid us during the distribution. Another team left Davao City on December 18 at 4:00 am and met up with a separate team in Tagum City. Along the way, the rain was pouring so heavily. In our hearts, we thought the operation might not push through but God was awesome and merciful that by the time we reached the place at around 9:00 am, the sun shone through every dark cloud to put a smile on every face. Pastor Lim shared to us that he texted Pastor Marion to uphold us in prayer because of the rain. Pastor Marion reminded him that as God was in the storm with Elijah, then God is also with us in the rain. How great was the impact of her words to put our trust in our God earnestly.
Upon reaching the place, we could see people already lining up inside a church to avail of the relief goods. We waited for about an hour because another truck was set ahead to bring down their goods from another company. Nearly 11:00 am, we started to hand out the goods. At first, we had a difficulty managing the crowd because they were so desperate that they started pushing towards the distributors. Thanks to our military officers who were there to supervise. Some team members even went up the truck while the military officers collected the green cards which the residents used to acknowledge that they have received their portion. A total of 1, 010 residents were served in the Municipality of Boston.
Then, we headed towards Barangay Carmen and distributed about 490 packs to the residents there. In this area which is along the highway, we saw the immense wreckage of the typhoon. Most the houses don’t have roofs anymore, and some even tumbled down. The people were so thankful for what they have received. In their own language, they said “salamatay” to us. We could see happy faces when we left. The remaining goods were sent off to a small barangay called Linggi, which was very difficult for the truck to manoeuvre through the small lanes. Kagawad Altizo offered to carry the clothes and goods to them.
The team left Carmen at about 3:00 pm. And just as we began driving off, we suddenly noticed a brilliant, beautiful rainbow above the sky, reminding us there is always hope after the storm. After a four-hour travel, we reached Tagum City for our dinner. Following that sumptuous meal, we bade goodbye to the Tagum team and headed home to Davao. The testimonies I could hear from my companions were so heart-warming that they put aside every complaint of tiredness. Their hearts were filled with joyful sentiments of extending help to strangers by giving food to the hungry, water to the thirsty, and clothes to the needy. As we do these things to them, we do the same to our God. Our stories were full of gladness.
Finally, Pastor Lim shared his words to all of us during the appreciation dinner, that one thing he admired of the Filipinos is that they can smile amidst devastation, and they can handle any disaster. His heart goes to the old and the babies who are suffering the most. He further pointed out that this activity is just short term and that we are going to believe that God will touch people for resources to come in to help families. He also mentioned about a desire to plant a little church there. And through this we can share God’s love to them and the hope that we have in Christ Jesus which is lasting and eternal. He added that there’s hope for the living, and their hope is Jesus.
We are very thankful to Almighty God for keeping us safe during our travel, for giving us healthy bodies to do His work and the joy to serve Him. We are also grateful to Him for giving us such leaders who were willing to go and support us in this very challenging task. Together as we join hands, we can do much more for the long term assistance of the victims. Thank you for all your prayers, and may God continually bless us to be a blessing to others.