Philippines (MNN) — As of Wednesday morning, Typhoon Bopha (nicknamed Pablo)–the strongest storm to hit the country this year–had killed at least 274 people.
Packing winds of 160kph (99 mph) with gusts in excess of 210 kph (130 mph), the 500 kilometer-wide (311 miles) storm made landfall at dawn on the east coast of Mindanao island and deluged the Davao region.
Paul Jenks with AMG International says they're keeping a close eye on this storm. "We have several projects on the island of Mindanao. We're trying to maintain contact with the directors of those centers." He adds, "We have Child Development Centers in many places in the Philippines. In fact, AMG Philippines is one of our largest partners in the world."
The heavy rains met with already sodden ground, and the waters began rising quickly. In some areas, landslides took out whole villages, while flash floods surged across the region's mountains and valleys.
Whole provinces lost power, numerous domestic flights were cancelled, and tens of thousands of people fled to emergency shelters. Damages are likely to be severe. Jenks explains, "Many times, we have to have boats to go out to the centers because the families that are a part of our outreach live in marginal land that is generally on the flood plain. Many times, their homes are deeply flooded or even washed away. Because they live in such difficult situations, they generally are the hardest hit."
Government officials say that while nearly two dozen typhoons and storms hit the island nation every year, the southern provinces battered by Bopha are not used to the kind of storms which normally hit the northern and central Philippines.
To put the crisis into perspective: of the 19 tropical cyclones that took a swipe at the Philippines last year, 10 of the storms brought back-to-back destruction. Having barely recovered from the 2011 storm damages, residents were hit by heavy monsoon rains in August.
Many of the families in the Mindanao area who had to evacuate were still in temporary housing. Their needs will be significant as damages assessments get underway, notes Jenks. AMG partners with the local church, which was already geared up in response to the late summer floods. Jenks says, "What we do initially is try to provide clean water. Many times, the water supply is disrupted or it is contaminated. Lots of times the food supplies are washed away or contaminated, so we try to initially provide food and water, especially for the children who are in our Childcare Centers."
AMG's Child Development Centers provide kids with medical care, warm clothing, and the love that Christ would show. This means their teams are well-placed and resourced to respond to emergencies. Jenks says, "Many times, even as the flooding is still rising, they're trying to secure a way to get out to the families to make sure that individual lives are not endangered."
In times of crisis, the family comes to the church because "they don't have many other places to look for help when a disaster like this happens." Jenks says parents with kids involved in AMG programs have already noticed a difference in their children, and curiosity is sparked.
That often leads to whole family involvement in the local church and more introductions to the Gospel. So rather than despair, the situation is an opportunity. AMG Philippines' national director Hector Araña writes, "Far from viewing it as an interruption of their regular ministry, our field staff see these situations as an opportunity to reach out to those with whom they may otherwise never have contact."
Pray that the AMG workers with the Child Development Centers will be able to resume their work quickly. Pray for the funds to make repairs. Ask God for Gospel opportunities.