In the last few weeks of November, a series of strong typhoons have brought destruction to the Philippines and hit the headlines. The Philippines is used to severe weather, facing around 20 typhoons or tropical storms each year. However, in November five storms in four weeks followed almost exactly the same trajectory across the islands. The effects of typhoons such as Goni and Vamco last much longer than our news cycles.
Long-serving OMF worker Andy Smith reflects on the most recent typhoons and how you can pray:
Pastor Roger grew up in the Bikol region hit by the recent typhoons in November. Now in his sixties, he has experienced hundreds of typhoons. He remembers two that struck back-to-back in the late 1960s. They caused so much destruction that his family, though middle class, ate only one meal a day for the following year. That meal consisted of rice. Occasionally, it also included a sprinkle of salt.
Pastor Roger plants churches in Albay province. He has laid the foundation of a new one in Oas. He learned of a house and lot for sale that looked like a potential long-term meeting place for the congregation. He rented it and began making improvements to it. On November 1, he called me in the early stages of Super Typhoon Goni. Its wind had ripped off much of the roof the house. The nearby dike had failed, causing water to rise rapidly in his neighborhood. It was already neck-deep. He had taken cover on the staircase leading to the second floor. I could barely hear his voice over the wind and rain. The power had been turned off in the province, and he did not expect his phone’s charge to last much longer.
He called again a few hours later. He needed to evacuate. His plan was to go to the church facility in Guinobatan, two towns away. But his motorcycle, as well as nearly all of his other possessions and the church’s equipment, was completely submerged. He assumed that no public transportation was operating and that the national road was cluttered with fallen trees and power poles. Plus, he was struggling to contact people by phone and its charge was all but consumed.
I started contacting other ABCCOP (Alliance of Bible Christian Communities of the Philippines) church leaders and workers in the area. Most of their neighborhoods were also flooded. A few were still getting online to upload updates on Facebook Messenger. I asked one, a lay-pastor engineer with a sturdy pickup truck, to try to get to Pastor Roger.
It was impossible that night. Pastor Roger tried to sleep while sitting on his staircase. By the morning, the water in the neighborhood had receded. Thankfully, the storm had moved on relatively quickly. He carefully walked down the stairs. He found a foot of mud covering the floor of the ground level of his house.
Two hours later, the lay-pastor engineer and a few others made it to Pastor Roger’s house. They told him it was a good thing that he did not try to evacuate to Guinobatan. Mudflows had buried several hundred houses there. The fence of the church facility’s next-door neighbor had failed due to the weight of the mud. As a result, a foot of mud also covered the floor of that pastoral house and sanctuary.
Susan is ABCCOP’s Community Development Supervisor. She happened to be in Ligao City, Albay, visiting her family. She also went into action the next morning, trying to contact each congregation and to visit those she could. She learned that the houses of scores of church members were greatly damaged. Many of their livelihoods were destroyed. A few of the district’s sanctuaries were also greatly damaged.
Two days later, Pastor Roger moved to another house. Although far from ideal, it was one of the few available. Five days later, he called me again. The next typhoon, Vamco, had made landfall. It was strong, but its wind and rain did not drown his voice as badly as the previous one. However, this one brought extensive flooding to many parts of Luzon island.
ABCCOP’s national office, member churches, and partner organizations have sprung into action. We are supplying initial relief packages to families in the most affected areas. Leaders on the ground are making a list of members whose house was destroyed or damaged. They are also surveying the damage done to sanctuaries. Pray for them as they engage in the demanding work of leading relief efforts. Like Pastor Roger, they are both helping many families recover while also trying to recover themselves.
Please pray for:
- those affected by the recent typhoons as they try to rebuild their lives
- for church leaders and others seeking to help their communities, while also rebuilding their own lives
- God’s comfort for those who have lost loved ones
International Coordinator for Evangelization
Based in the Philippines, Andy Smith has served as the International Coordinator for Evangelization for the past few years. Prior to this role, he spent 16 years planting churches, providing leadership and training other church planters in the Philippines. He began facilitating training events throughout East Asia before coming on as the International Coordinator for Evangelization.