Philippines (MNN) – The Philippines are in the midst of one humdinger of a natural disaster season. World Mission CEO Greg Kelley notes that none of this comes as a surprise to the Filipinos. “Of the 12 disaster-prone cities in the world, 10 of them are in the Philippines. It’s not a matter of ‘if,’ but ‘when’ that typhoon is going to come through, or the earthquake, which is most recently what’s happened.”
Although expected, the typical one-two punch can get pretty overwhelming. For example, “They’ve been hit by a number of 6.0 plus earthquakes. Now they get about 2000 earthquakes a year. So, you know, getting a cluster of them in such short order is not anything new. But the devastation and the intensity of these, in particular, are what are so unique. Dozens of people have died hundreds, and now more than 1000 people have been displaced and lost.” Then came Tropical Storm Nakri, and on its heels, Tropical Storm Kalmaegi (Ramon, in the Philippines) developed into a Typhoon.
The epicenter of the deadly quakes was near Mindanao. Kelley says, “It’s in the southern part, which is where we do a lot of our ministry because of the influence of Islam as well. There’s a great humanitarian effort that’s going on right now responding, food, shelter, clothing, basic survival, and we’re doing it in the love of Jesus.”
Crisis,new opportunities in the Philippines
To put it bluntly, that they’re there at all in the name of Christ, is nothing short of a miracle, says Kelley. “When it’s in a place that (prior to the disaster) there’s hostility to the Gospel, when these disasters strike such areas like the southern Philippines, there’s no doubt it creates a wide-open door for the Gospel.” How hostile?
Some areas of this region play host to ISIS training camps. In 2018, ISIS tagged Mindanao as part of its province in East Asia. However, because of some of these courageous Gospel workers, they found themselves well-placed when disaster struck.
By developing a network of churches, these church leaders mobilize quickly. Because they invested in the communities around them before the crisis, people recognized World Mission’s partners when they came to help in the hours after the quakes struck.
A cup of cold water…
Now, “They’re bringing rice. They’re bringing beans. They’re bringing filters. Most people won’t think about this in the Philippines, but when these disasters happen, a lot of times, water is filled with bacteria, and infrastructures/utilities are damaged as well. So we distribute a lot of water filters in this area of the Philippines. It costs us about $20, but it lasts for three years, and it will filter water for a family of 10 people for three years.” Kelley says the ministry teams don’t go with an agenda. They’re going to meet the most basic of human needs in disaster, but they are also distributing solar-powered audio Bibles in the Cebuano-Tagalog language in these areas.
Compassion changes everything. “These are basic expressions that soften that previously hardened heart so they’re at a place where they’ll receive Jesus; they’ll talk about the Lord. They’ll listen to the Bible. In many cases, they become followers of Jesus, and we see churches planted.” That’s not to say everyone who responds to the hope of the Gospel is an ISIS fighter, but it sure does go a long way to changing a community.
What can we do?
Kelley says, aside from praying for creative wisdom and boldness for their partners, tangible help can be efficient. For example, $40 gets a solar-powered audio Bible, called the Treasure, into someone’s hands. $20 gets a water filter or food for ten days. There are places these partners go to that are so remote, a four-wheel-drive SUV or a motorcycle can’t reach, says Kelley. “The only way we get there is with a horse. So we buy horses, which cost about $250. That goes to evangelists and missionaries who are now going into the most remote places.”