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Filipino family of 6 count Baptist aid as ray of hope from typhoon

BANGON, Philippines (BP) — A Baptist pastor found Jesusa and Michael Booc with their four children in the ruins of a destroyed chapel, sheltered under a table covered by a tarp.

The chapel’s walls were blown off during Typhoon Haiyan and lay in a stack on the side of the battered structure.

The face of the Booc’s one-month-old baby, Ella Mae, was sunburned from prolonged sun exposure since Friday, Nov. 8, when the typhoon’s furor swept across Cebu and other islands in the Philippines.

The Boocs’ home now sits in a crumpled heap.

All of northern Cebu looks as if a rampaging giant had visited. Thousands upon thousands of banana trees — the source of income for many villagers –- were crushed. Electricity poles lay on their sides, the wires twisted and lying in roadways. A brand-new gymnasium’s roof looked like the giant had sat on it.

A house was left completely upside down. Hundreds of houses were smashed as if they’d gone through a trash compactor. Still others lay on their sides.

The Booc family soon realized the strength of Typhoon Haiyan as it bore down on Cebu. Their bamboo thatch house shook violently and they knew they could not stay. They ran in the midst of the typhoon’s fury with their children to take cover in a chapel with a concrete foundation.

During their flight a banana tree fell, miraculously missing them. They had to dodge flying sheets of tin that were blown off of roofs.

The walls of the chapel were not built to withstand the winds. The family then ran to Michael’s mother’s house, which also was proving to be an unsafe structure. All of the homes in the area are made of lightweight materials such as bamboo while the roofs are corrugated tin.

When their third place of refuge lost its roof as the eye of the typhoon hovered over their village, the family decided to make a run for the high school that was nearly two miles away.

Jesusa said they thought Typhoon Haiyan would be the end of them. The family held hands.

Jesusa reflected, “[If] we just wait, we will die.” She, Michael and their four children made it to the school.

After the storm, the Boocs returned to take shelter in the chapel but realized it was too hot, especially for their baby.

The sunburn on Jesusa’s baby’s face started to peel when IMB missionaries visited.

The village of 61 households had not yet received aid from the government as of Thursday (Nov. 14), six days after the typhoon’s onslaught. The government is providing families with several pieces of tin for their roofs and two kilos of rice.

Two kilos of rice does not last long in the Philippines. Rice is the staple meal for most families, and for a family of four, it barely lasts a few days. A family normally eats around 10 kilos of rice in a week.

The community gathered together and shared what food and supplies remained in their village.

Their village name, Bangon, means, “rise up” in the Cebuano language. The villagers say they are people who indeed rise up from catastrophes.

“That is what we are,” Wilma Booc, Michael’s mother, says. “Our name gives us hope.”

They will rise up, they say. They are asking for help to lighten their burden and load. They know they cannot do it alone.

“We pray God will hear our prayers and help will come,” Wilma says.

For having gone through such trauma and tragedy, the Booc family and their community seem positive and hopeful. Villages throughout northern Cebu share this positive attitude, according to various reports.

Baptist Global Response teams have now assessed the village’s needs, and relief funds donated by Southern Baptists will help provide food in the coming days.

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.

In prayer:

— Pray for good health for the Booc family and families in their community

— Pray for the rebuilding process in Bangon village.
Caroline Anderson writes for the IMB from Southeast Asia.

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  • Caroline Anderson