A Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod team journeys to the Philippines Nov. 15-22 to provide immediate relief and begin planning for long-term recovery. The team is invited by the Rev. James Cerdeñola, president of the Lutheran Church in the Philippines (LCP), an LCMS partner church body.
November 8, 2013
Typhoon Haiyan barrels across the Philippines, killing more than 6,000 people, displacing more than 4 million, and damaging or destroying more than 1 million homes. The storm also damages an estimated 33 million coconut trees, taking away the livelihood of many coconut farmers, a significant loss in a country that is the world’s second-largest coconut producer.
The LCMS approves initial disaster grants of $250,000 to help the LCP’s relief efforts. The LCMS also makes an additional $100,000 grant to Lutheran World Relief in Baltimore for immediate aid in the Philippines.
Seeing the damage firsthand enables the disaster team to develop a “Disaster Action Plan” that will include immediate, intermediate and long-term assistance aimed at relief, recovery and restoration.
Over the course of four days, a joint LCP-LCMS team worships and meets together, using the badly damaged Christ Lutheran Church as a base of operations. The church’s pastor, the Rev. Xavier James Palattao, stresses that nearly every resident of his community is affected by the typhoon.
Carrying backpacks filled with energy bars, bottled water and other supplies, the LCMS group treks by foot and vehicle in the hot and humid tropical weather to visit with Lutherans in Mahayag and Tacloban City, located in the center of the storm’s fury.
In a nearby town, where St. James Lutheran Church suffered significant damage, congregation and community members gather to welcome the team, eager to tell their typhoon stories.
The principals of three public schools attended by children of two Lutheran congregations say the Lutheran team was the first to visit and check on the schools, and they indicate that school supplies and health kits for school children are needed.
The team purchases a chainsaw so church members can turn downed coconut trees into lumber to be sold or used for repairs to homes.
A team from the LCMS travels to the Philippines for three days to document recovery efforts.
Team members interview storm victims, spend time in the community and survey the results of the LCMS. Months after the typhoon killed thousands and displaced millions, they see the island of Leyte springing back to life. They see patches of green and hear the sound of hammers, chainsaws and other tools.
More than 50 homes of Lutheran families and others connected to the church have been rebuilt, restored, new roofs constructed or new walls installed. A new roof, well, dormitory and parsonage will soon appear at Christ Lutheran Church in Mahayag. Before the LCMS group returned to the United States, team members led a spiritual-care retreat for the families of LCP pastors and lay workers who responded to the disaster.
“You can see how there is hope in people’s eyes,” says the Rev. Ross Johnson, director of LCMS Disaster Response. “There is joy that is being restored.”
So far, the LCMS commitment to the Typhoon Haiyan recovery effort stands at $1 million. The LCMS, Johnson says, is walking with the LCP during its long-term recover.