While media attention has subsided after Typhoon Haiyan decimated the Philippines in early November, U.S. Foursquare church donations to disaster relief there have continued to climb.
Ted Vail, co-director of Foursquare Disaster Relief (FDR), said gifts have surpassed $250,000, most coming from local Foursquare churches. Just over half of that amount has already been spent on emergency food, clothing and supplies. An example of the latter is a truck used to shuttle people and emergency supplies to various locations. Ted says that strategic purchase is helping with rebuilding as rescue and recovery efforts conclude.
An equally encouraging aspect of the relief effort is the accompanying response from the Foursquare family around the world, Ted says. In addition to the U.S. donations, Foursquare churches in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, France, Indonesia, Nigeria, Panama and Switzerland have also contributed to the relief effort. So have churches and residents of the Philippines.
“It’s encouraging to see other nations pulling together,” Ted remarks. “This is not just a U.S. response. The TV cameras are long gone, and most first-response agencies are planning their exit. However, we’re still active because our emphasis is on the local church. This is a phase where we feel we can shine even though the spotlight is gone.”
Ted applauds Foursquare Philippines National Leader Val Chaves, whom he labels “their President Glenn Burris Jr.,” for his caring approach in visiting damaged churches and offering encouragement.
“He’s out there with them, sleeping on concrete and riding scooters,” Ted says. “The heroism of this thing is how hands-on the leaders are.”
Chad Isenhart, international operations chief for FDR, says interest has been more intense than after other disasters because of the denomination’s strong presence in the Philippines. There are 1,900 Foursquare churches across the country.
“It’s captured Foursquare members’ and churches’ hearts,” Chad says. “The fact that we were there to help three days after the typhoon hit to work with churches and families stirred people up to respond.”
The latest tally is 21 Foursquare churches and 476 members’ homes damaged or destroyed. Eighteen members were either killed or are still missing after the deadliest Philippine typhoon on record.
In the face of such a disaster, Foursquare members can be assured that their donations will reach the field. This is because of FDR’s infrastructure—most personnel draw salaries from local churches or other sources, Ted says.
“There is low overhead working through Foursquare missions and local churches,” Ted explains. “We do have a few part-time employees, but for the size of operation, it’s unheard of; it’s the uniqueness of our family.”
Plans are to use these donations to focus first on 14 churches that were destroyed. Next will come the seven that sustained serious damage, and then the 476 members’ houses.
And, although planning is still in process, Chad says at least one shift is being considered in Ormoc City. Although there had been discussion of using up to $20,000 to rebuild the main church, Chad says funds may be used for more modest repairs, such as replacing the roof. Then, residents can handle long-term repairs of walls and other tasks while remaining funds are used to repair members’ homes.
Chad says at least one GO Team (FMI short-term missions team) from the U.S. is scheduled to travel to the Philippines in January, with two others contemplating trips. Val Chaves has requested teams be limited to between six and 12 members.
The personal touch means the world to locals, says Chad, who accompanied Val to Ormoc City. Chad recalls sitting on hard floors to eat rice by candlelight and often hearing how much the Filipinos appreciated that.
“They were appreciative and thankful for water filters, food and clothing,” Chad says. “But they were more appreciative that we could come and share a meal with them and listen to their stories. The fact that we were there to encourage them was worth way more than money or all the supplies in the world.”
To volunteer for a short-term missions trip to the Philippines in 2014, fill out a short application.
By: Ken Walker, an award-winning freelance writer in Huntington, W.Va.