Manila Flood Report
Family Experiences as a Window Into God’s Goodness
On Monday, September 29th, we drove to visit and to pray with several families that had been hard hit by the epic flooding which took place last Saturday, the 26th in Manila. The families we visited experienced water levels in their homes that forced them to seek refuge on their second floors or on rooftops. If you have been following the situation here via internet or newspapers, the locus of the flooding took place along the Marikina and Pasig Rivers, affecting the cities of Marikina, Cainta, and Pasig in Metro Manila, near where we live. We assembled at Faith Fellowship church, which was undamaged by the flooding. We had prepared some prepackaged relief supplies, such as bottled water, food, cleaning supplies, and typical toiletries. Our car was undamaged, unlike thousands which had been swamped completely under muddy water, so we used it for transport. By 2pm we and a team of fifteen left the church. We dropped off 6 people at one point, who walked about 1/4 mile with their bags of water and supplies to deliver and to lend prayer support to families in a hard hit area. We drove on to visit 4 other families in another area. In normal times, this would have been a 20-minute drive, but it took about 90 minutes to get to the first destination because of the heavy mud covering many of the roads. On the way, we had to drive through a huge squatter area near the Marikina river bank called Tumana where several thousand people live. Along the mud-slimed road stood hundreds of people wearing muddy clothes, waiting in line for food handouts from the government. We don’t know how these people survived the flood. At its apex, it had to have been over 20 feet deep in that area. Most of the houses were single story shanties.
Our first destination was about ¼ mile from Tumana. We visited Ning-Ning’ and her family. Her husband is an OFW (Overseas Foreign Worker) in Taiwan, which is common here, as the number one export of the Philippines is its own people. She is a faithful attendee at Faith Fellowship, and lives with their three sons. The flooding happened so fast that many families were separated as they went about their daily activities. Her two oldest boys had left the house early, as usual, to go and have a “routine” Saturday. The terror for this family was the “not knowing” of the safety of other family members. Ning-Ning and her youngest son retreated to the second floor. They had no time to salvage much. The water rose swiftly. Some cell phone towers were knocked out; communication circuits were overloaded; electricity was lost; all these rendered communication impossible. In addition to the terror of “will the water stop rising?” was the added fear of “are my boys OK?” One can only imagine the depth of her fears at that time. Yet, Ning-Ning could only praise God for protecting her missing sons, who found refuge with cousins elsewhere in the city. And what of her loss of possessions and the days of cleaning and salvaging ahead of her? These she never even mentioned. Do they not pale in comparison to her “gain?” The Lord saved her most valuable possessions–her sons.
Next we visited Sol’s family. Sol is a widow who operates a family business that caters food and meeting rooms to small seminar groups. A daughter, grand daughters, and hired help assist her. Many of our ministries have used this venue for spiritual and planning retreats over the years. The ground floor contains a small, decorative swimming pool, tropical plants, and statuary, with meeting rooms, food preparation areas, etc. that form an outer wall enclosing an open-air, Spanish-style courtyard. Sol and her family live on the second floor. The homes surrounding her are mostly one-floor structures. This fact lays the foundation for her story: The floodwater rose amazingly fast. Decisions had to be made swiftly. What to move higher? What do I save? Will the level really go higher than the 2nd floor? Should we really put ourselves and what we can carry on to the roof? But add to this chaos the reality that every neighbor is screaming for help. There are small children, elderly people, people you have known for years scrambling for their lives. Sol instinctively knew that her place had to be a sanctuary for as many people as possible. Ultimately 50 or more people scrambled up onto her second floor. But the water kept rising. The rooftop was needed! In such pandemonium, a ladder is simply not a thing one thinks to have readily available. This small mass of people needed a ladder–and quickly. And what did God provide? A 50-foot length of extension “appeared” at just the right time. Yes, an extension cord served as a ladder, a lifeline for fifty people. It proved “strong enough” to be used over and over. Despite surrounded by the destruction of her home and livelihood , Sol possessed a grateful heart and a positive spirit. If I had not heard it with my own ears, I could not believe hearing her say, “These have been the happiest days of my life, seeing God use me in such a way and witnessing people help one another is such a blessing.” How is such a sentiment even possible in this situation? The only answer is God provides. God equips. God strengthens.
Our third visit of the day was to Kuya Sammy & Tita Fely. This is a couple in their 70s. Sammy is a former elder of Faith Fellowship. Their livelihood is an in-home grocery store, big enough to provide snacks, sodas, canned goods, and common household items for neighbors. Like older citizens in a country lacking an adequate retirement income structure, children constitute a social security. They live with one of their daughters and some grand children. On the day we visited, Sammy and Fely worked hard at rebuilding their lives. Where does one even begin? Sammy told us that they spent all night, the 26th, on their second floor with water up to their ankles. He told us he sat down on a sofa fully expecting that the next thing to happen would be his behind would get wet. But, the water stopped rising! Though he had furiously poked a hole through a wall so that they could climb onto a roof if necessary, Sammy and Fely thanked God for His mercy. As we talked to them, Cecille, a church employee we see everyday, wandered by (she lives a few blocks from Sammy). She broke into tears upon seeing us. She explained that in the midst of her terror, she knew she did not know how to swim and fully expected to die and never see us again. It is hard to explain, but people were just so grateful that we had come by to see them. What a valuable lesson for future use. One does not have to do anything or bring anything–just show up and listen. Despite their loss, you can see in the attached photo that they have found a peace in their God. They know that the future lies in His capable hands. They “fear not.”
Last was Lino’s family. Lino is the 74-year-old patriarch of a family that truly fits the description of a “pillar of Faith Fellowship.” A widower, he has three daughters and four sons, all with their own spouses and families. All are very active in church life. One daughter, Penny, serves as Children’s Pastor for Faith Fellowship. She had left the house early and went to the church on Saturday. A typical, rainy day lay ahead? Not! She called us about 4 pm and started crying because her father and extended family were on the family roof waiting for rescue. She had not heard from them for hours. No one else had heard from them–and would not for another 18 hours or so. Lino explained that he and the others stayed on the highest part of the roof all night with water up to their knees. At about 4 am, the water started receding. They were all saved and the cleanup began in earnest the next day.
If you would like to contribute to help families of Faith Fellowship like those above, you may send checks to OMS International, P.O. Box A, Greenwood, IN 46142 for Account number 407720, or you can give online at www.omsinternational.org using the same account number.