Philippines: Serving in the Wake of a Disaster
A sobering monument to great loss
Little drives home the seriousness of a disaster like visiting a mass grave of its victims. Hurricane Yolanda, one of the strongest tropical typhoons ever recorded, tore through South East Asia in November 2013, ravaging the Philippines, where it killed over 6,000 people. Bodies were still being discovered in January 2014. An estimated 500 bodies are interred in a 26 square-yard mass grave site in front of a church in Tacloban Leyte, where the massive storm meted out some of its worst destruction.
What language can I borrow?
Stretched out like a monument to despair and hopelessness, the mass grave, hastily dug and quickly filled, is a gathering place of shaken local survivors. One small stretch holds the remains of 22 members of a single family, one piled on top of the other. No one survived to visit their grave and remember them. Hoping to soothe the suffering souls of Philippine survivors, Bible League volunteers visited the area and mass grave sites to provide 20,000 copies of God’s Word and words of hope to the grief-worn survivors who remain.
Volunteers encountered a young boy named Rainier at another burial grave site sitting on the grave of his family. In a shaky voice, he described how the storm took his mother, his siblings and his home. The despondent boy was ready to take his life. Bible League volunteers prayed with him and gave him a copy of God’s Word. Later that day, as they left Rainier, he was reading his Bible and smiling. When words were not enough, God’s Word had pulled him back from the brink of darkness and despair.
“If I had not found joy in your teachings, my suffering would have destroyed me.” Psalm 119:92 ERV
Thailand: From Helpless to being Confident in Christ
After Somsak’s sister married several years ago,she was unable to bear children. “This made everyone in the family very unhappy and restless,” remembers Somsak. The family, members of Thailand’s Karen tribe, had nowhere to turn in their grief. “I felt helpless,” says Somsak, “ I did not know what to do to help her.”
“I didn’t even know who he was…”
Around that time, Somsak’s family sent him away to study at a high school. Staying at a Christian boarding school hostel, Somsak heard people talk about God and Jesus Christ. “They asked me to pray to Jesus when I didn’t even know who He was,” he recalls.
After three months, a team of volunteers trained to use Bible League’s Project Philip came to visit the school. “They led us in worship and taught us how to study God’s Word,” Somsak says.
An answer to prayer
One volunteer challenged him to pray to Jesus whenever he had difficulties. “With God’s grace, after three months of my continuous prayers, I heard from home that my sister was pregnant. I was very happy and excited that God answered my prayer,” he remembers. From that moment, “He became my God and personal Saviour,” Somsak declares.
“I really thank and give praise to God that He sent the team from Bible League to help me find Jesus,” says Somsak.