Relief work in Pampanga, Philippines
We carefully stepped out of the canoe into the filthy flood waters on the small street leading to higher ground. As we waded through them, we were not reassured to be told that these waters also flowed out of a local cemetery 40 yards away.
We were there to bring relief goods to just a few of the thousands of people affected by two typhoons and incessant rains. I still had my umbrella up as we waded through.
The floods had been exacerbated by the fact that three reservoirs in the mountains had to open their flood gates wide, due to the enormous amounts of rain falling, hence burying at least three towns and their surrounding villages in the floods, often up to the roofs of two storey homes.
The Philippinesis usually hit by 20-25 typhoons a year. They bring torrential rains and extremely strong winds.
The Philippines has been particularly hit this year by floods in Central Luzon, with mud slides and very strong winds causing havoc in the extreme north of the country.
We are just one church who has brought aid. The team of 13 volunteers from the Cubao Reformed Baptist Church were helped by a local Baptist church in the town of San Simon, the pastor of which is a student of our Grace Ministerial Academy in Cubao.
We had travelled to San Simon, which was greatly affected by the floods. It is about an hour and a half north of Manila. We were only one small group of helpers, but every little helps.
Many relief teams from many organisations were seeking to aid the people of Central Luzon, because the area is large and hundreds of thousands have been affected.
We had been able to obtain the help of the Philippine army, who transported all our relief goods in one of their large trucks to the town of San Simon.
There the many gallons of bottled water, tins of sardines and other foodstuffs, along with 4 kilos of rice per family, were unloaded. We had enough food and water for 500 families, to whom we were able to bring some small relief.
Many of these were staying in makeshift shelters, on higher ground out of the waters, while others returned to their still flooded homes.
Safe drinking water is one of the serious problems in these areas affected by the floods, since many in country regions do not have water on tap, but rely on wells and hand pumps. Disease is a serious problem in such flood devastated rural areas.
The local Baptist church members had visited the outlying areas, assessing those in most desperate need. They had issued tickets to be able to claim the relief goods we were distributing.
Hundreds more were asking for help, but the Bible Baptist Church of San Simon had sought to find those most in need for the distribution of the resources we could bring.
There were three distribution points on higher ground above the flood waters, which were now beginning to recede somewhat. The people waited patiently for many hours in the light rain that continued to fall.
Word of life
Suddenly, Pastor Ramen approached me and asked me to speak to the people who gathered and stood there waiting. We were giving out food, but we should also give out God’s Word of life. For about ten minutes I addressed the people.
At the second distribution point, the message was on the great Flood in the days of Noah. At the last distribution point, the message was from Luke 13 on the tower of Siloam that fell and killed eighteen people.
Were they worse than any other people? No! Yet, if we do not repent, we shall all likewise perish. Yet there is one who came to seek and to save.
Tracts were distributed with the food rations, and we pray that people will read them and remember that it was Christ in his love who bade us seek to help these people in such need.
The vast majority of people in the Philippines would call themselves Christians, but it is a Christianity void of any true knowledge of Christ. So often Mary is exalted and processions full of idols fill the streets during times of religious festivals.
Sadly, it is also devoid of the true teaching of the Scriptures. The town of San Simon and its neighbouring town of Apalitare places where, at Easter, many penitents flog themselves and do acts of penance.
This is the area where some men each year are literally nailed to crosses and lifted up above the crowds who come to watch. They are places bereft of knowledge of the living Saviour, our Lord Jesus Christ.
May the message in love and deed, which we sought to bring, speak of the mercy of God to some lost sinners and bring them to salvation. It is a great privilege to know and work with our church members, who give themselves to this work.
Half of the team were social workers and housemothers from our Christian Compassion Ministries, our church’s main benevolent ministry. They are a great challenge and boundless joy to me, as some of them I have known now for many years and count them amongst our dearest friends.
We are very grateful to the friends who have helped us over a number of years with prayer and funds to be able to carry out such relief work when it is needed.