Friday, February 21, 2014

College Day and Valentine's Day

The Sunday before Valentine's day, we had our annual "Sweet Sunday" at church. We encouraged everyone to invite some visitors and we asked that they bring some small sweets to share. After the conclusion of the church service, all of the sweets were distributed and everyone went home with a bag filled with candy - and possibly a sugar rush!

On Valentine’s Day, we held our annual “Love Banquet” at church. This was our biggest year yet, we had almost double the amount of attendees compared to last year. We started the evening with a delicious buffet that was prepared by several members of our church. We then listened to Ptr. James Montenegro, our guest speaker for the night, as he spoke from 1 Corinthians 13 and talked about love as it relates to the marriage relationship. We then wrapped up the evening by playing some group games. We were thankful that we had some new people attend the banquet and that they were able to hear about the greatest love of all, the love that Jesus showed on the cross. 

Last Monday we took 12 high school students (juniors and seniors) to Manila to visit Asia Baptist Bible College for their annual "College 4 a Day". They attended several 30 minute "sample classes", including the one that I teach, that introduced them to some of the different subjects that are taught at the college. Some of the current students moderated the main program and led all of the visitors in some group games and singing. Dr. Boyd Lyons, the president of the college, then delivered a challenging message encouraging the students to be open to God's leading. Please continue to pray for the young people in our church that they will follow the Lord wherever He will lead them. 

God Bless,

-Matt, Rina, and Liam-
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Sunday, February 2, 2014

Typhoon Haiyan "Yolanda" Relief

As you well know, this past November 2013, the Philippines was devastated by Super Typhoon Haiyan. This massive category 5 typhoon, locally known as Yolanda, struck the Visayan region of the Philippine Islands with record setting strength. It left in its wake a path of death and destruction.

According to the most recent update published on January 22, the "official" toll is listed as 6,201 dead, 28,626 injured, and 1,785 missing. More than 16 million people were affected, over 4 million people were directly displaced, over a million homes were damaged or destroyed, and well over 3/4 of a billion dollars in total damages have been incurred.

In response to this great calamity, many countries, corporations, churches and individuals responded with compassion for those who were suffering as a result of this catastrophic storm. We were thankful to help with a small portion of the relief effort due to the generous donations from countless individuals and churches spearheaded by and funneled through a ministry of the Quentin Road Bible Baptist Church called Victory in Grace.

In late November, almost 3 weeks after the typhoon first struck, we were able to make our first trip with relief goods. We left our house in Baliwag, Bulacan at around 3am on Wednesday morning and made the long drive heading to Tacloban City, Leyte.

Our destination was a small church in the heart of Tacloban, Faithway Baptist Church. This church would be the drop off point for the relief supplies. Since our time was limited and many of the roads were not yet clear, the most practical way of distributing the relief supplies was to have different pastors from area churches meet in one location and then bring the relief back to their specific areas for distribution. Among the different relief goods we brought were generators, antibiotics, vitamins, sugar, instant coffee, mosquito nets, antibacterial soap, alcohol disinfectant, high energy biscuits, clothes, instant noodles, and lots of canned goods.

I can't adequately describe the experience of being there in Tacloban. It looked like what I would imagine a war zone to be like. There were piles of debris everywhere, houses and buildings were either heavily damaged or destroyed, telephone poles were snapped in half, and in many areas you could still vividly smell the stench of death. It was something that I know I will never forget.

One particular area that we visited was right next to the sea, and so it was among the first to be hit by the tsunami-like storm surge that was said to be 15-20 feet high. This area was completely devastated. It looked like a demolition site. Several large ships had washed ashore burying both houses and people. It is hard to describe how I felt as we walked through the debris, seeing clothes, toys and shoes, scattered on the ground among the wood, metal, and concrete. 

Typhoon Yolanda made landfall five different times. One of the other places that suffered from the typhoon's furry was Panay Island. Early in December, we were also able to provide relief goods to the provinces of Aklan, Antique, and Iloilo, all located within Panay Island. Once again we met at several central locations and distributed the relief goods to different pastors who then went and distributed to the people in their area. 

In early January, we made a return trip to Tacloban. The airport was functional again and open to commercial traffic, so we flew down there for a couple of days to distribute a second wave of relief supplies. A truck filled with relief goods met us in Tacloban, and this time we drove to around 8 different areas in both Leyte and Samar. The people were always very grateful for the help!

Returning to Tacloban two months after the typhoon struck, many of the original emotions that I had when we first went there, returned  There weren't as many large piles of debris lining the roads, and you could see signs of people trying to rebuild their homes and their lives, but the scenes of devastation still lingered everywhere. Although not as bad as before, there were still a few areas where you could smell the dead bodies. In fact, we were told that at that time they were still recovering on average 5-6 bodies per day. It was especially heartbreaking as we passed areas with informal grave sites by the side of the road. You could see large graves, and listed on the make-shift tombstones were the names of six or seven family members.

Thank you to everyone who generously donated to the relief effort for typhoon Yolanda. Thank you to Victory in Grace for launching the relief aid. And thank you so very much for your prayers. Please continue to pray for all those who have been effected by typhoon Yolanda. Their ordeal may have passed from the headlines, but their lives have been forever altered and they have a long road ahead as they rebuild. By God's grace, may they rise again, and by God's grace, may they come to find the hope that is in Christ.  

I want to leave you with a video from one of the churches that we visited in Basey, Samar. The pastor's children are the ones who are singing, and in the background you can see some of the damage in their church. The storm surge knocked through the wall and reached up to that top beam while the family took shelter above. I hope you are blessed by this precious song of thanksgiving.

God Bless,

-Matt, Rina, & Liam-
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