Philippines (MNN) – In 2014, the East Samar province in the Philippines was struck by Typhoon Hagupit, also called Typhoon Ruby. It ended up killing 18 people and causing millions of dollars of damage. Today, the communities which were most impacted by the typhoon are still recovering.
Immediately after the storm hit, AMG International workers moved in to help with relief aid. Bill Passons of AMG International recently visited the area. He says the ministry has progressed from relief to recovery to a process of sanctification.
He explains, “Obviously when you’re responding to a disaster, there is short-term realities and we always try to come in and meet those. But our goal is to have a long-term impact, a long-term presence.”
The first step was to organize community members in the steep uphill processes of relief and restoration.
“Not only were people’s lives lost, but also houses were destroyed, all their income-producing agricultural businesses were all destroyed. You know, they kind of had nothing and it was basically a hopeless scenario.”
But over the last few years, AMG has helped these communities look beyond the present to a hopeful future.
In the first two years after Typhoon Ruby, they helped build houses and get agricultural businesses going again. And, they boosted the market for the farmers’ produce while bringing the community together through a co-op market program. Today, these farmers are even selling their goods to the surrounding region. And through this platform of practical help, God brought about a spiritual opportunity.
Church growth in East Samar
“Our workers were there working day in and day out, we also were doing education programs and just ministry focus on child and youth development. And our workers were there and they started meeting together on Sundays to worship. And the people in the community started saying, ‘Hey, can we do that, too?’ So we, of course, said, ‘Sure! … Come on in.’
“We ended up outgrowing a couple of buildings along the way. But three churches were born out of this process where people just saw the hands and feet of Christ, saw the love of Christ through very tangible ways, and then heard the Gospel proclaimed through these pastors that came in.”
Today, Passons says the ongoing restoration process is mature enough to continue without outside help. But with this shift, the challenge was to find a way to stay relevant in the community so that they could continue the church and education ministries.
How eggs led to more ministry opportunity
During the relief and restoration process, the AMG team made an important discovery—the community did not have a good source for eggs. And this became their answer for maintaining a relationship with the community.
Passons says, “One of the projects that we ended up starting was a poultry farm that produces eggs. There was a great need in the area; they were having to get their eggs from far-off places. And so, we started that project. Within a month, that became an income-generating project. So it was a very quick turnaround. And as the demand kept growing—we could never meet the demand and we kept expanding—it just kept growing and producing enough income so that we can actually support all the work that’s continuing on in these areas.”
The eggs are sold to the locally run co-op which in turn sells them to the community. The money from the poultry farm is helping to fund the AMG ministries. And the margin the co-op makes off the eggs is helping that program stay strong, as well.
While the restoration process has taken off, there is still a lot of room to grow. Passons explains, “The current needs, primarily would center around the Gospel. There needs to be more and more believers and families from that community that are following Christ. We’re able to have an impact because of those churches that are there.”
But hope is growing, and this community has become fertile ground for the Gospel to spread.
“I walked through that community, and I saw the people smiling and saying hello. And I saw the kids playing and giggling at us walking through. I’ve been in disaster areas, I’ve seen what it’s like right after, and I’ve seen the hopelessness. And as you walk through this community, because of what we’ve been doing—because of the showing Christ’s love in both word and deed—the thing that’s returned to the community is hope.”
There are still challenges ahead: poverty abounds and the educational opportunities aren’t great. But, Passons says, “They can see past the day, so to speak. They’re not trapped in that cycle of just barely [existing]. They’re actually able to dream and have hope.”
And, Passons says, “One of the most beautiful things about this whole story is the fact that this process or this opportunity is reproducible. We are able to do portions of this, although they might not need the beginning relief stages, there’s many communities that need development.”
Want to help? Consider investing in the work AMG is doing to help start income-generating projects. Click here to learn more.
Also, please pray for this community as they continue to heal from the typhoon. Pray for the co-op to stay strong and bless the new relationships it’s fostering. Finally, ask God to give AMG wisdom as they look for more communities in which to replicate this sustainable development model.
Header photo courtesy of Oxfam International via Flickr.