Hard-earned experience has enabled Foursquare Disaster Relief (FDR) and Foursquare churches in the Philippines to respond swiftly in the wake of Super Typhoon Mangkhut, the biggest storm of the year, which claimed more than 100 lives and left a widespread trail of damage when it swept through the northern part of the country.
With communication limited, an FDR/Philippines national church assessment team personally made a series of onsite visits to discover the extent of the impact in the area, where Foursquare has around 150 churches. Four were damaged by the storm, with a Bible college also affected and more than 100 members’ homes totally destroyed or partially damaged. In addition, some have lost livestock or seen crops destroyed.
Even before finalizing their impact report, the assessment team was able to begin offering help. Visiting the area in an FDR response vehicle, purchased last year to continue the work of rebuilding the area following a previous typhoon, the team distributed emergency relief supplies packed by Foursquare Bible school students and church members in Manila.
Meanwhile, some church members in the affected area had already begun trying to help some of their neighbors from their own limited resources, reports Samuel Pinzon, supervisor of Foursquare’s North Luzon District.
“Our visit brought hope and encouragement, knowing that the Foursquare family is concerned and of help in situations like this,” Samuel says. “Some of their neighbors who saw Foursquare visiting to help and assess the situation appreciated the effort and love. Before we left the places we visited, we encouraged them with the assurance of the love and provision of the Lord, and prayed for them.”
Chad Isenhart, FDR international response director, praised the national church response. “It’s amazing to see the Filipino church lighting a candle like this, offering a cup of cold water and a bowl of hot soup, and telling people, ‘God did not forget about you,'” he affirms. “That’s what the church is all about.”
The quick and organized response was possible in part because of the partnership that has grown between the national church and FDR through previous disasters, Chad notes. Experiencing several major storms every year, “they have become accustomed to this sort of thing, and have built up some real resilience and experience” in knowing what to do.
With nearly 7,000 Foursquare churches and meeting places across the Philippines, volunteer help is plentiful, with teams expected to go to reroof and rebuild homes. However, money is needed to provide materials for the rebuilding, and to provide food and other basic supplies for both Foursquare families and others in their communities whose livelihoods have been affected.
“Many people in the area are subsistence farmers, or otherwise have only minimal income, so when that is lost, it is a more immediate and serious impact than it may be in the West, where not being able to work for a few days might be a problem but not have as immediate a consequence,” explains Chad.
Tammy Dunahoo, vice president of U.S. operations and general supervisor, appeals for support for FDR’s efforts from Hong Kong, where she arrived for some speaking engagements a couple of days after the typhoon hit.
“A lot of people have experienced a lot of tragedy in Asia,” states Tammy, who filmed a Facebook update showing trees downed and power lines damaged by Mangkhut. “People who have lived here many, many years say they have never experienced winds quite like that before.”
The crisis gives the church an opportunity to extend both practical and spiritual help to the thousands of people affected by the massive storm.
“Extending help to the affected members will bring the consciousness of God’s expression of love, especially to their neighbors,” says Samuel. “Thus, we are planning to take this opportunity to conduct an evangelism program to an identified community through the distribution of groceries and basic needs.”
For more information, updates on the recent storms and FDR’s response, and to donate, visit FDR’s website.