Philippines (MNN) — Natural disasters are devastating, not only because they damage properties and take lives, but also because they leave behind scars of trauma. Though it went little-noticed in February, an earthquake continues to haunt the people of the Philippines on the island of Mindanao near Surigao.
According to a news alert from Operation Mobilization, the earthquake reached a 6.7 on the Richter scale. Eight people were killed and a couple hundred injured. Aftershocks continue to shake the region and terrify the people. For this reason, OM says the biggest need in the area is counselling for those who have been living in fear since the first quake.
We spoke with Operation Mobilization’s Sally Ababa, their national leader of operations in the Philippines. In addition to concrete houses being damaged, she says, “Because it’s in the southern part of the Philippines, which is not necessarily urbanized, what has been damaged are the infrastructures like bridges, some hospitals, churches, and some of the commercial buildings.”
Dwellings made of bamboo and other similar materials were mostly unaffected, but more official buildings like schools did incur damage. But while the OM team surveyed the damage, it was obvious the people here were still living in fear.
“Children are quite afraid when the tables start to move and all those things,” Ababa says.
OM is offering two training opportunities — one on a curriculum that helps children deal with the fear surrounding disaster, and another that helps the Church react quickly in the aftermath of disaster. Ababa says they learned a lot about disaster relief in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, the storm that killed over 6,000 people in 2013.
The first training equips Sunday School teachers and other youth workers with material that helps children cope during disaster. The curriculum, called “Operation Safe”, can be used in VBS camps and other similar settings.
“It is focused on allowing the children understand about calamities and disasters. Alongside with that, they will then understand that while it is dangerous, they have actually someone to go to, they have some friends that they can talk to, and they have Bible verses that they can hold on to so they won’t be afraid,” Ababa explains.
This program helps children focus on the God who is in control of the situation. Even though there are many unknowns during something like an earthquake, these kids can hold on to a knowable and unchanging God.
Ababa says this material, and in effect the Gospel, will be available not only to children who attend the churches they work with, but those from the community who are invited to VBS schools each year.
OM will send a team this month to begin training leaders so they will be prepared for the week-long VBS classes in April and May. This year, there are 200 youth leaders looking to take the classes.
Disaster Relief Training
In addition to the VBS training, OM is being proactive as they help church leaders prepare for future disasters. This year, they are planning on 200 Christian leaders taking the training.
“This is teaching the churches on how to respond when disaster strikes like earthquakes and storms. So please pray for us, because this will be huge for our staff.”
Many Christians understand the importance of the Church stepping into situations like this to help. It is not only important from a humanitarian level, but an evangelistic one as well.
“When we experienced Typhoon Hyan, it was very devastating, and we also had an earthquake involved. But now, three years later, we also saw how the Lord turned this into something to open up doors of ministries all because a lot of people around the world are praying and a lot of people also came to my country, ” Ababa says.
She asks that you pray for provision for the training. The group sizes are four times what they’ve hosted in the past. She says you can also pray for safety as there is some danger from extremist groups nearby.
Ababa says this is only the beginning of a commitment OM is making to serve the Island of Mindanao. If you’re interested in getting involved in the ministry here, consider contacting OM USA here. You can also find ways to give financially.
“My prayer is that we may continue as one Body of Christ all over the world to continue to pray for one another, to provide, give, and share what we can with others. And if you have time, just come and be a blessing to others who are in need.”