On October 8, 2009, Typhoon Parma passed over the Northern part of the Philippine Islands for the third time, leaving in it’s wake massive destruction and more than 200 casualties. Baguio City, and the surrounding areas were at the center of the storm, and experienced extensive flooding and landslides.
On the worst night of the storm (Friday, October 9) the Baguio City, Youth With a Mission Discipleship Training School was wrapping up the last day of their lecture phase. We were gathered together for a night of celebrating together, and commissioning the students for outreach. Little did we know that the next day we would be facing the aftermath of the worst natural disaster to hit the Philippines since the earthquake of 1990.
The next day we met with all the staff of the Baguio Training Center to brainstorm about ways we could help the victims of the storm. Our Training Center is located about 50 meters from the Baguio City Airport, so the building is a great place to recieve and distribute relief goods. The first decision we made as a team was to immediately transform the Training Center into a Relief and Distribution Center. The next thing we decided was that the DTS students would do their outreach in Baguio; an easy decision as all roads leading out of Baguio were closed. All of the staff and students committed to focus 100% of their attention on bringing relief to those who needed it most.
We had no idea how to go about organizing a relief effort, but everybody on the team had different giftings they could contribute and soon things started to come together. Some of the team went out to town to research which areas were hit the hardest, and what relief supplies were needed most. Others began making phone calls to their friends, families and churches and asking them to donate money to purchase relief goods. Our base accountant began organizing the accounting system and coordinating with the National Leadership Team on the best ways to get the money here fast.
By the next day (Sunday) we had received enough donations to go out and start purchasing relief goods. All of us skipped church (a rare occurence), and went out to raid the supermarket. We started with a budget of just over $2,000 dollars which we were able to stretch by negotiating discounts of up to 50%. We spent the rest of the day putting together 144 care packages, containing two blankets, a sleeping mat, 6 litres of fresh water, 3 kilograms of rice, and other various food products.
Monday morning we filled one jeepney (a local mode of transportation that usually seats about 20 passengers) with relief goods, and one jeepney with YWAM staff and students. We drove to an evacuation center located at Puguis Elementary School, housing over 100 families. We distributed the relief goods to the families and then spent the rest of the time talking with them, praying with them, and playing with their kids. We listened to their tragic stories and tried our best to be a comfort for them. One staff member talked to a man who had lost his wife and kids in a landslide. After listening to his story, she asked him if it would be alright if she prayed for him, he answered ” Why would I let you pray for me, I asked God to help me save my family and He didn’t help me.” It was a sobering reality of the deep pain these people were grappling with.
Tuesday, we went out to a more remote area in the mountains called Tublay. We had to hike a little way through mudslides to get to the victims, but it was well worth the effort. The families there were relieved to see that help had arrived and were more than willing to help us distribute the goods to the houses people had been evacuated too. The people in Tublay had received very little relief and still needed basic necessities such as water, underwear, rice and soap. We came back to the base with a long list of things they badly needed. We contacted a friend who works with WE international who commited to bring a plane full of relief goods on Friday, October 16. After the plane lands on Friday we will fill up our backpacks with relief and take a two to three hour hike to a village near Tublay that is cut off by mudslides.