Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Drops of Hope

3:30 a.m.

Click here for photos & video clips.

After six hours of training with the pastors and teachers of Children of Hope project we set out to visit a couple of the churches that were badly hit by the flooding. There was no point in spending all of our time in a classroom with pastors while their communities had been badly impacted by the flooding.

Our van was fully weighed down by bags of rice, clothes and canned foods.

As we entered the narrow road leading into the community the damage was obvious – the further downhill we drove the worse it became.

People had emptied their belongings into the streets and were sorting through piles of debris saturated by filthy water. Soaked and ruined mattresses were being used by children as trampolines. Clothes were hung on every available wire, drying out in the sun. Important documents were carefully laid out to dry. Televisions were disassembled in an obvious hope that they would dry and work once again. The smell of rot and trash at times was unbearable and overwhelming.

Our van included two pastors and their pre-school teachers. As we made our way into the community they pointed out the members of the churches and the children of their schools. They told us their stories of wading through the water to higher ground – carrying their own children from their homes as their belongings were engulfed in the flood.

At times we were forced to stop the van and the street had to be cleared in order for us to continue down the narrow road. It was obvious that a car hadn’t been into this area since the flooding took place five days earlier.

The waterline was clearly marked somewhere above the first story of the houses. Plastic grocery bags completely filled the trees where the water had passed (apparently Manila Bay had filled with these trash bags – spilling into the ocean in a mass the size of Texas).

Men walked by with loads and loads of metal, wood and plastic – going to barter the trash with a recycler in hope of being able to buy some food for dinner. Half drowned animals sunned themselves in their own effort to recover. Women toiled over the wet clothes and the tedious effort to remove the mud from their homes. The streets were packed with children – some who had their feet and legs wrapped in plastic bags in order to create makeshift boots.

The churches that we visited had been flooded. The school supplies were completely soaked in muddy water – beyond recovery. Sound equipment was drying out in the hope that it would work again. The flood waters had stripped the walls all signs and d├ęcor. The building itself had been spared.

When our van stopped we were immediately surrounded by a clamor of people; Smiling children, curious men and women, church members.

We were the first people in their community to bring them “relief”. This brought them hope. They speculated that perhaps Bryant was one of the Presidential candidates – a politician securing supporters. When they found out we were missionaries they pleaded with us that their government had failed them again – No one seemed to care about the plight of their community.

The pastors got some young people to help carry the goods to the church. A young man with short and flip flops – his skin covered with mud from his toil, hoisted the bag of food onto his shoulder and proudly walked through the trash filled street to the church where we laid out the goods.

We had brought them a “drop in the bucket” to help out. A drop in the bucket in an ocean of need. I felt like a 25 lb bag of rice and some canned foods was a laughably feeble effort to help.

But it was something. And “something” brought hope. All you can ever do is help the individual. If you look at the massive needs it is overwhelming. But we did help someone.

Pastor Rickson and his staff know that this is a strategic time for them to reach out to their neighbors. As they take care of their own personal losses they also are addressing the needs of their members and neighbors – some who have had their homes completely washed away.

Today we will continue this process of gathering goods and visiting the most badly hit areas. A proper assessment of the damage to the churches will take a couple more days.

We’ll keep bringing “drops of hope” into these seas of suffering. In times like this we must do all we can to help our neighbor.

If you want to help, then pray about what you can give – Money is needed to replace mattresses and clothes. People have been out of work for a week so they need food. Disease will press into these communities as the conditions are horribly unsanitary. Medicine must be purchased and distributed. Schools need to be re-supplied.

Before this week is over we’ll come up with a clear strategy for relief. For $500 we can probably replace the workbooks and school supplies, purchase emergency food and medicine, and replace some of the equipment. We will give more to the most badly hit churches. We will set up a “relief” fund for the Children of Hope project of the Foursquare Church. (You can give to Manila through, by following the Secure Give link).

Thanks for your prayers. Stay tuned.


amvanlierop said...

Thanks for sharing, Pastor Matt. Manila has been on my heart all week. I'm horrified at the damage, but also amazed at the hope I see in the eyes of the children, parents, teachers and pastors. Thanks for being there and bringing a few drops... amazing how the Lord multiplies what we have to offer. Please give Patty and Bryant a hug from me. I'm writing down your prayer requests and taking them out with me today. - Angela

Veritas said...

Thanks for the update Matt. I wish I were there to help. Praying for you all. Let me know what else we can do from here - or as a team as we prepare to come down there. Dios ang Mabuti!