It would not be a pretty picture at all. Weeks ahead of its arrival, there was already talk of how huge this super typhoon would be and how it would devour and wreck everything (and sadly everyone too) in its path of fury. And yet, regardless the warnings, the preparations and the evacuations, when Super Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) finally swept through the Philippines on 8 Nov 2013, it left in its trail scores of lives lost, persons missing and homes destroyed.
This was what I woke up to the day after the Super Typhoon hit. It was the main story in The Straits Times and the pages were just filled with photos of devastation and loss, especially in Tacloban City. As my eyes scanned the pictures, a desire arose in my heart to visit the place and to help the people of Philippines in any small way I could. At that time, I didn’t know when or how.
In the next days and weeks, humanitarian and relief efforts mounted up and funds poured in. Singapore did her part along with other nations who gave thousands of dollars directly and through established agencies like Red Cross and World Vision. Somehow, I was not moved to contribute. Deep within me, I knew that regardless these there would still be pockets of locals who would have to wait for quite a while before anything reaches them – if at all*. It was clear to me not to begin anything but to wait for the media and publicity frenzy to abate. As with most major catastrophes, people are stirred for a moment and then promptly forget as the next big thing unfolds. But the rebuilding of lives and homes takes more than a few weeks; it would take years.
I started communicating with my pastor friend in Davao City. I shared my strategy with him and he readily agreed that we should wait, make a proper assessment of the local needs and then move in to help at least for the medium term. He connected with me another pastor in Davao whose hometown was flattened by the super typhoon (thankfully, his family are all ok). After our initial exchange, he made a trip to Tacloban and touched base with a local pastor from Tanauan Leyte. I have since been introduced to Ptr Joel and we have discussed a few details. It’s taken a while but I am now ready to share my heart a little more. This is what this post is about.
There are still many in Tanauan, Leyte (about 18km from Tacloban) who are surviving in make-shift shelters. Click here to view photos of the damage caused by Haiyan. Ptr Joel’s intention is to begin building houses, one at a time, to help these families. Each house costs about Php82,000 (material & labour), just under S$2,500, and takes about 12 days to build (see Building Plan below). The idea is to construct at least 20 such houses this year. These are not limited to his church members only but will be extended to others in need too, whether Christians or not. In his own words, “My goal with this project is to provide decent homes for my members and also reach the unbelievers who lost their homes. And disciple them to become Christians.”
Ptr Joel would like me to visit Tanauan as soon as possible so that I can have a better feel on-site. However, my schedule only permits me to make this trip in March. So that there is no further delay, I decided that I will personally transfer funds for one house first so that Ptr Joel can proceed building. When I get there in March, God willing, I will get to see this house plus survey the general condition so that I can share more. I believe that as I sow this seed of faith, God will move others to respond likewise 🙂
Please pray for me as I undertake this little project as directed by the Lord. By His grace, He has already led a brother to me who is willing to join me on this trip over the weekend of 20-24 March so I don’t have to travel to this unknown place alone. The plan is to fly to Manila and then to Tacloban. I am trusting the Lord to provide the necessary funds for both the travel expenses and the houses.
* I just spoke with a Filipino pastor this morning, 26 Jan 2014, and he confirmed that people on the ground are struggling on a day to day basis. He explained that the reason for the slow distribution of food and supplies aid is unfortunately political.
If you’d like to partner me to contribute to this re-building initiative to bless the people of Tanauan Leyte, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please do not send funds yet as all I require at this point is an indication of interest (amount, number of house/s, etc). I will get in touch with you after my visit to Tanauan. If you know of others who might like to participate, please feel free to share this post with them via email, Facebook or Twitter. My request is that they let me know how and through whom they came to know of this so I have an idea of the source of referral.
Thanks for your support and co-labour in the work of the ministry so that together we can do more to bring hope to the people of Tanauan Leyte in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ!
NOTE: This project is strictly undertaken on a personal basis and not affiliated to any church, ministry or organisation hence funds will be directed to my personal account. As such, if you are not comfortable with that, it is perfectly ok. I will do my best to provide information and details, and to remain accountable to those who are led to contribute to this cause. Thank you.