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Thoughts from a Creation Care Advocate visiting the Philippines

In Davao I caught up with an OMF colleague, just back from leading a team taking a 20 tonne container lorry to one of the areas devastated by Typhoon Yolanda.

They expected to help build temporary shelters, but the people welcoming them said they wanted to build permanent homes themselves. So the team were happy simply to give them the materials that they had brought. Flexibility and local knowledge are essential to any meaningful response in such a situation.

The needs in the Eastern Visayas following Yolanda are very great; some 4 million people have been displaced; farming communities face up to 10 years of poor harvests because of sea salt contamination of the soil; coastal communities need new mangrove planting to protect them from future storms, and new fishing boats to restore their livelihoods. And many communities have little or no Gospel witness.

In November 2013 Typhoon Yolanda was a devastating event for the Philippines; in October there was an earthquake centred on Bohol; in September 110,000 people lost their homes through fire and military action during the sectarian fighting in Zamboanga; and in 2012 Typhoon Pablo caused much damage and loss of life across Mindanao. How quickly these events become ‘old news’, yet the suffering continues.

In Zamboanga providing hospitality for some of those who have lost their homes and a project for a safe water supply have been much appreciated. Slowly hearts are being softened and trust built. Pray for new life. Elsewhere in Mindanao, mining, illegal logging, storm damage and poor farming practices have led to severe soil erosion and increased flooding. Manobo church leaders are making model fruit and vegetable gardens and setting up tree nurseries to encourage livelihood development and soil conservation as part of their discipleship ministry.

Similar work is being undertaken among the Mangyan peoples of Mindoro, where for many years an OMF ministry of disciple-making has centred on training in church leadership and in sustainable agriculture and land-use. This is a model of integral mission that could be helpful in other contexts in the Philippines and beyond.

A seminary in Manila is including creation care in its programs, and there is a growing movement within the churches to provide Biblical teaching and encourage appropriate responses to the many challenges arising from ecological degradation and ‘natural’ disasters. These responses include calls for ‘prayer and fasting for repentance and restoration’. In March 2014 a conference sponsored by the Lausanne Movement and WEA was held in Manila with the theme of ‘creation care and the Gospel’; with participants from across South East Asia.

The task of mission in the Philippines is far from complete. Pray for the Philippines Field and Homeside at this time of great challenge and opportunity. Pray for others to join them.

‘I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations… Be exalted, O God, above the heavens, and let your glory be over all the earth.’ Psalm 108

Written by David Gould, OMF Creation Care Advocate, shortly after Typhoon Yolanda.

Will you pray for the Philippines?

  • Pray that communities affected by Typhoon Yolanda would find new sources of income and ways to protect against future storms.
  • Pray that Filipino churches and seminaries would continue to catch a vision for creation care.
  • Pray that more people would turn to God to comfort and heal the pain and trauma caused by Typhoon Yolanda.

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