Philippines (MNN) — It’s been two weeks since Typhoon Haiyan ravaged the Philippines. Speaking from Cebu City, EFCA ReachGlobal director Mark Lewis says they’re just now getting access to some of the islands.
Even though dozens of tropical storms hit the Philippines each year, a native pastor says Typhoon Haiyan was something else.
“[Pastor] Sam said for several days, they were just surviving,” Lewis shares. “People were just crying; they didn’t have food for three days, and they lived off of the coconuts that had fallen as a result of the storm.”
“There is a lot of trauma, especially among kids. Many people survived near-death experiences,” Pastor Sam told Lewis. “People didn’t understand storm surges. We had never experienced this before.”
On Friday, the Philippines’ National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) updated Haiyan’s death toll to 5,209 casualties.
Lewis shares gratitude for the protection of most EFC church members in East Samar; very few casualties were reported among believers there.
“They were praising God actually, because they had prayed…before the storm came, for the Lord’s protection. And by God’s grace, no one from their church had died,” says Lewis. Hear how some of the survivors were saved through prayer.
The future for Haiyan survivors, however, looks bleak.
“All of the trees, the entire economic engine in that region, palm trees for miles and miles: it’s just all been devastated,” Lewis said about Guiuan.
“Trees being down means livelihood is almost gone for people,” Pastor Sam clarifies. “80% of the population here depends on coconut trees and farming.”
Things aren’t much better in Hernani.
“Our hearts just sank; the majority of the town of Hernani is gone. It got hit by a 30-foot part of the storm surge,” says Lewis.
“A lot of news coverage has been given to Tacloban, with the devastation there, but many of these smaller towns outside of that city have just been wiped out.”
Pastor Sam recently shared concern for the region’s young people. He fears human trafficking will become a problem as hope and resources grow increasingly thin. Samar is already the poorest island in the Philippines; tourism, fishing, and coconut farming were its biggest economic producers.
With many homes, businesses, and schools destroyed, desperation will increase as time passes. Pray that church leaders in East Samar will find development solutions soon.
“Young people will be forced into making decisions about how they would be able to provide for their family…with no hope, no future there locally,” says Lewis. Pray that they will not sell their bodies as a solution.
Lewis spent the last week with Pastor Sam, assessing damages and giving communities hope for tomorrow in the forms of fuel and food. Pray for local churches in Hernani and Guiuan as they respond to needs in the name of Christ.
“This is a huge responsibility and challenge,” says Pastor Sam, “but I think we can do something for the people of this province. I know we’re limited, but at least we can do something.”
“We need to pray for the local church in this devastated area to… have the capability to bring ministry and hope to many hurting people who are lost,” adds Lewis.
Pray that “as many other things happen in the world, this area would not be forgotten.”