The motivation for our staff members working with typhoon victims in the Philippines goes beyond physical aid
By Chelsea Charping, a Samaritan’s Purse staff writer who went to the Philippines in the immediate aftermath of the storm to report on our work with typhoon victims.
I’m in the Philippines again. It’s so miserably hot. Sweat is covering my scalp and running down my neck, adding to the layers of dirt and sweat that have already been there for a day or two.
I pull out my bottle of water and remember that I at least have this. I have fresh, clean water to drink while those around me are reportedly breaking water lines just to survive. In some areas, the water is still clean, but people are afraid to drink it because they are concerned that the seawater and decomposing bodies on the ground have contaminated it.
Everyone I meet is smiling at me. The people at the food and hygiene kit distribution are laughing together. The patients at the hospital sit and talk with their families.
Sometimes they wince with pain in their head wounds or cut legs. Occasionally they allow the fear of having no home enter their voices. Usually they cordially shake my hand, hug me, and tell me thank you. These people are different. They’re happy despite their circumstances.
I’m lying in bed with two nurses because we just arrived in Tacloban and we don’t yet have enough room for everyone. We lie across the bed with our feet hanging off the end so that we fit. Mosquitoes buzz in my ear, and I pray that I don’t get dengue fever.
I remember the people who are sleeping out in the open, and I pray that they don’t get dengue fever. I pray that God will keep me strong because right now, I feel so, so weak.
Sweat is still covering me. I didn’t even bother changing my shirt because it was so sticky that it was difficult to take off. There is a dog outside that never stops barking, and in between its howls a cat meows, a baby cries, something makes a chilling noise. Occasionally, the sound of a military vehicle zooms down the street. No one else is outside. Curfew lasts until 5 a.m.
And suddenly, I wake up. I’m at home. I hear the heat kick on to fight this cold, fall night. My husband is beside me.
I get up to use the bathroom, and I’m thankful that I can flush the toilet and wash my hands. I remember that thousands of people are still desperately searching for water, not to wash their hands but simply for a drink to survive.
I’ve been home for about three weeks now, but I can’t forget the people in Tacloban.
I haven’t forgotten that most of them are blessed if they even have a bed left to share. They’re blessed if they still have family with them. They’re blessed if they can’t tell stories of having their children ripped from their arms by the water, of getting knocked out with debris, of finding a neighbor’s body outside their home.
But no one that I met had experienced that last blessing. Everyone in Tacloban lost someone. Everyone is in pain.
I try to fall back asleep, but I think about how weak I felt that first night in Tacloban. I knew I would leave in only a few days, and yet I felt so helpless. Everything was so destroyed that it was hard to find hope.
I have never prayed like I prayed that night. I prayed for myself, for my teammates, and for the people who were out there with no home, no food, no water, and no family. I prayed that they were praying to the same God who was listening to my prayers because I knew hopelessness could easily creep into hearts in this situation without Him.
I prayed that He would make them strong and encourage them even though discouragement lurked everywhere on the streets.
Although my eyes are closed, I continue picturing all of the people still in the Philippines. I see the couple at the hospital who wanted to stay there simply because they had nowhere to go home. I see the woman at the distribution whose fear I could hear when she told me about losing—and thankfully finding later—her four children during the storm.
I see Dr. Agnes, who told me about how she ran from her church to the hospital as the wind and rain pounded against her just because she knew only one doctor was working and the sea of patients would be overwhelming. I see Mel, the hospital administrator, who I met 11 days after the storm and who said that she still hadn’t been home and didn’t even know if she had anything left.
I see my teammates, hot and hungry and sleep-deprived. I see them smiling and talking with survivors and sharing the only hope we have.
And I see so many victims who already have that hope. They’re smiling and thanking God.
For those who don’t, this is difficult. Those people are the reason we’re here. They need food and water and shelter and clothes. But most of all, they need the hope of Jesus Christ.