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Baptist aid on Cebu now gearing up

CEBU, Philippines (BP) — Tarps for shelter are among immediate needs signaled by Filipino workers with Baptist Global Response during a Nov. 14 meeting on the island of Cebu.

Nabango Driz, Cris Paño and Adore and Hope Sabido met with IMB missionaries Susan Stokeld and Dottie Smith to discuss ways to partner in relief plans for the island in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan.

Though the Filipino BGR workers each had personal stories of God’s protection, the typhoon crippled the communities and villages where they serve.

On Cebu, the northern part of the island was the hardest hit by the typhoon, with countless homes destroyed, while overall in the Philippines, the island of Leyte sustained the most catastrophic damage.

Baptist relief aid on Cebu, as elsewhere, will “go to the most needy places,” Stokeld said. “We need to help those who will not receive help from other places.”

Driz reported on the need for shelter to replace houses made of bamboo that were blown away by the typhoon’s winds. In the Tabuelan municiplaity on Cebu, Driz said more than 2,100 houses are uninhabitable. Trees and debris block many roads that lead to water supplies.

Since other aid organizations are providing food and water, Driz presented a plan to provide tarps and sheets for people in Tabuelan.

Paño said a generator would be helpful in the village where he works within the Borbon municipality. The government estimates electricity will be restored there early next year. Paño said only six of the 200 buildings remain intact in the village.

Sabido noted there are different categories of damage in assessing post-disaster needs: agricultural damage, infrastructure, residential and loss of life.

Some villages are “100 percent lost,” Sabido said.

Houses can be repaired in one or two months, whereas agricultural damage will take up to nine months to restore, Sabido said, estimating damage to 90 percent of Cebu’s agricultural areas. Driz, who has been involved in BGR community agriculture projects, estimated that 90 percent of fruit trees on Cebu were destroyed, with only the coconut trees remaining. All of the poultry houses in the Tabuelan area also were destroyed in the typhoon, Driz said.

Food is a major need for families in northern Cebu; some have received one or two kilos of rice, a staple in the Filipino diet, with a family normally consuming about 10 kilos of rice in a week.

“When your adrenaline is high, you forget about eating,” Sabido said. “But kids get hungry often.”

Sabido recounted encountering a family on the side of a road under a makeshift tarp. The family had a one-month-old baby who was sunburned. Their home was washed away. “I asked them if they got help,” Sabido said, but the family said they had not yet received any assistance.

The Sabidos journeyed to a small neighboring island on Wednesday afternoon (Nov. 13) which had not yet received any aid. Many people have missed international aid workers because they’ve been out scavenging during the day, Sabido said. He also noted major news organizations as well as relief organizations sometimes don’t know where the people with the most needs are.

As the Baptist team met, a westerner wanting to bring supplies approached Sabido. The man had seen photos of children who held signs saying “we have no food.” Sabido had seen these same children and he gave the man directions on how to find them.

The Sabidos recounted how their family came through the typhoon unscathed. For months, Sabido sent in reports to electrical authorities about a tree that was leaning dangerously close to his home. He said God protected their home because when Haiyan’s winds blew through, the tree fell in the opposite direction.

The Sabidos’ story of God’s protection extended to their vehicle. They work in several municipalities and had parked a van they use for ministry near a mango plantation. During the storm, all of the mango trees fell down, but none fell on the van.

“My words for my children: ‘We are like the Israelites in Egypt, the Lord spared us,” Sabido said. “We are the salt, we are the light, we are here to help.”

Driz, Paño and the Sabidos left the meeting to continue making assessments of areas and families most needing aid. The BGR workers will meet again with Stokeld and Smith in the coming days to make further plans for post-Haiyan relief on the Cebu island.

The workers asked for prayer:

— for God to sustain people in need as they await relief.

— for wisdom in their Baptist Global Response ministry with IMB partners as they assess the most critical needs.

— for people around the world to respond generously to the needs stemming from the typhoon’s devastation.

Every dollar given toward Philippines disaster relief through the International Mission Board goes directly to meet needs, since IMB personnel are supported through churches’ gifts to the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions. Online giving can be accessed at imb.org/helpnow.

Churches and individuals interested in going as volunteers to help with the disaster response should contact the disaster relief director of their state Baptist convention. International disaster response requires teams to be certified in certain skills, with the mobilization of volunteer teams to overseas disasters coordinated with state conventions. Volunteers also can indicate their interest through the Baptist Global Response website.
Caroline Anderson writes for the IMB from Southeast Asia.

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  • Caroline Anderson