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Relief team ‘reminder of God’s presence’

CEBU CITY, Philippines (BP) — In just 30 seconds, more than 10,000 homes were destroyed. The ocean retreated as the earthquake thrust the shoreline upward a full six feet.

The Oct. 15 quake that struck Bohol Island in the Philippines displaced more than 80,000 families and killed more than 200 people. The traditional bamboo and wood houses shook and rattled in the 7.2 quake, but cement homes, schools and 17th-century Spanish cathedrals collapsed in the violent tremor. Many families fled to the mountains for fear of a tsunami.

Baptist Global Response teams spent three days surveying 17 towns in the hardest-hit areas of the island. While government and major relief organizations are delivering food, water and medical supplies in the stricken areas, Stan Smith, the BGR project director, reported a clear need for shelters more permanent than the tents in which families have taken refuge. The need is especially great in small mountain communities far off the main roads.

The BGR relief team decided to focus their efforts on one remote village in which every home was destroyed, Smith said. Their project will help 125 of the poorest families rebuild their homes. Using $10,000 in general relief funds donated by Southern Baptists, the team will provide the basic supporting posts for each house, tin roofing, nails and “nipa” for siding. The project director expects the effort to continue to the end of November.

When the team arrived in that community after the earthquake, they met a woman who is a member of the county council.

“She calmly explained the devastation of her area. Before we left, we paused to pray with her,” Smith said. “After I prayed for God to bring great good out of this great bad, she looked up at me with tears in her eyes and a shaken voice to tell us her deep thanks — thanks for coming, thanks for praying, thanks for being there to see their destruction.”

In a remote community Westerners rarely visit, people find it strange when foreigners show up — especially when those foreigners speak their language and offer to pray for them.

“It was to them a reminder of God’s presence, stirring hope at a time when hope is strained,” Smith said. “I realize how small I am, how much I can’t do, how many places I can’t be — but I can be an agent of God’s grace where He leads me to be.

“Thank you for your support,” Smith said in reference to Southern Baptists. “God’s being at work through you allows him to be at work through us on this side of the planet. Please pray that God would bring great good out of this great ‘bad.'”
Mark Kelly writes for Baptist Global Response, on the Internet at www.gobgr.org. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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  • Mark Kelly