Philippines (MNN) – Another fire in the Philippines has destroyed 3,500 homes and left 25,000 people homeless, says a report by Sun News Online.
This fire took place in Jolo town, but it’s only one of many that have taken place in the Philippines throughout the year. According to Reuters, over 2,200 fires have broken out in Manila alone.
Why is this happening?
“What’s happening in the Philippines, much like a number of other places in the world, is there’s a real movement to the urban centers. And so, people are coming into the cities because they feel like that’s their opportunity,” World Mission’s Greg Kelley says.
However, for a majority of these people, life is even more difficult for them once they move to the city. Many are unable to find work and end up in more impoverished situations than they were living in before.
They’re forced to move to slum areas that have unsafe and unhealthy conditions.
“Most of the homes that are in these slums are just a basic wood shack [and] will have four to six families living in it, and they’re all just tied together one after another as far as you can see,” Kelley says.
“When these fires happen, the people are cooking and they have open fires going on, and when a fire breaks out as someone’s cooking something, and one of these wood shacks catches on fire, it literally just takes all of them out in that area.”
Fires have also broken out due to bad wiring, electrical problems, and discarded cigarette butts.
Because of the overcrowded areas, efforts to save people and possessions are far more difficult for firefighters. Thousands of homes in these areas have often been destroyed before they’ve been able to contain the fires and put them out. Many people have been displaced because of this.
However, Kelley says even when people do return and start to rebuild their homes, he doesn’t believe life or safety conditions in the slums will change.
“They’re living in places that were never meant for people to live in. It’s like a tent city that’s made out of just kind of basic wood and slapped together some tin roofs. And so, you’ve got thousands and thousands, and thousands of people in these highly-congested areas that are living in some of the worst impoverished conditions that we’ve ever seen as an organization.”
In order to initiate change in the slums, there needs to be a different approach to the problem.
A Different Approach
“It’s not a matter of their physical sort of lifestyle changing. The issue for the Christian community is that we need to share the Gospel with them because when the Gospel brings transformation on the inside of a man, it changes their outside condition,” Kelley says.
“And so, now the standards that they abide by, they’re going to be looking for situations where they can improve the lifestyle of their children and local churches begin to plant. A community then takes over. And so now, people start looking after one another. They start caring for each other.”
World Mission’s partners are helping to start this community care by going into areas and providing for those who have lost everything.
They’re providing people with tin roofs, clothing, water jugs, food packs, school supplies, and distributing their solar-powered audio Bible, the Treasure, in the Cebuano and Tagalog languages.
Kelley says because many of the people living in slum areas are illiterate, World Mission partners are helping to set up dozens of listening groups that are excited about listening to the hopeful Word of God.
“There’s a real church planting mobilization going on right now inside of these slums. And, ironically, the attention came because of the fires. But now, the Christians are mobilizing because of that. They’re going in, loving these people, sharing Jesus with them. And, we’re seeing new churches be established because of it.”
World Mission is even hearing stories of the community providing for one another.
Kelley says some families who are a part of the Church have been affected by the fires, but because of the relationships they have in the Church, friends have supported and provided for them.
Join World Mission in prayer for those who have been affected by the fires throughout the Philippines. Pray the Lord would protect the residents and firefighters. Pray World Mission’s efforts in supporting communities would open their hearts to God and encourage them to help one another.