Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Braving the Floods

Dear friends and family,

In the Philippines, the homes and lives of millions are at risk daily to the threat of typhoons, earthquakes, and volcanoes. We're now in the heart of monsoon season here, and we're all just trying to keep our heads above water...literally. For the past three days it's been pouring rain in Metro Manila almost nonstop. I actually can't remember a day in the last couple weeks that it didn't rain for at least a few hours. Manila sits at sea level with a relatively poor drainage system, and thus flooding happens quickly during heavy rains. The current torrential rainstorm has left 60 percent of Metro Manila (a metropolis of 12 million people) inundated in floods. The death toll from the storm is at 72 and rising, and around 850,000 people are now either displaced or completely stranded.

Residents pluck useful items out of the rushing floodwater.
A man swims across flooded streets.
Notice how close the water is to reaching a "no-parking" sign.
Since my apartment resides on the fifth floor, I've been completely safe from the floods. Classes at my language school have all been cancelled, along with the classes at just about every grade school and college in and around Metro Manila. If I had any reason to stay inside and hide away in my cozy apartment, this storm could have been it. However, with catastrophe just outside my door and many of my own friends and members of our community at risk, I knew I couldn't just sit idly by. Last night God was tugging on my heart to get involved somehow, and so I texted Tin Tin and we came up with a plan. She made a list of essential groceries and medicines that flood victims would need, and this morning we carefully traversed through the floods to purchase whatever we could carry and bring directly to affected families. Actually, we ended up purchasing much more than we could carry, so we made multiple trips back to the store.

Residents huddle on rooftops as the flood engulfs their homes. 
Rescue workers bring trapped families to safer ground.
I'm certain now that Tin and I didn't fully realize what we were getting ourselves into. Our little afternoon mission turned into 8 straight hours of wading through flooded streets carrying heavy bags of groceries and supplies...but I don't regret a single minute. Sometimes the murky water came right up to our waists as we held our bags up high to keep them dry. The heavy rain and wind rendered my umbrella useless as the sideways rains drenched any part of me that was above water. By the way, I would rarely ever condone walking through dirty floodwaters (for obvious sanitary and safety reasons!), but in our case this was literally the only way to reach many families who had no means of buying food or medicine. Under the cloudy water, we often mistakenly guessed when a street curb began or ended, and thus we had a couple close calls with almost falling. We also enjoyed - or at least one of us enjoyed - our new game of: "Was that object that just brushed up against my leg a plastic bag or a dead rat?". No matter what we came up against, Tin and I were decidedly determined to reach and help out our community knowing that God loves to use anyone who is willing. We prayed that through our small efforts He would show His faithfulness and care to those running out of hope.

A group digs through layers of mud to save victims of landslides.
Thousands take shelter in evacuation centers after their shanties are flooded.
Of course, it can be tough to find hope when you are personally hit with such real tragedy. But one thing is for sure, every family to whom we brought groceries to couldn't hide an overwhelming sense of gratitude for this unexpected blessing. Whether it was through a smile or through tears, I know that they felt cared for. Many of the people we brought food to were people who attend our church, and many others were complete strangers who we noticed just needed a helping hand. I'm so thankful that Tin Tin was there to help and to take charge, because I would have been clueless on my own with regards to knowing which families were more desperate for such help and what supplies a Filipino in poverty would need during a flood. In fact, sometimes I even strategically hid at the end of the street while Tin distributed the groceries, because we didn't want people to conclude that the support was coming from the White missionary. Rather, we explained to them that the initiative was from our church, and that in particular the blessings they were receiving were from God. The reality is that without Him, none of what we were doing would have been possible.

Please pray for the families who have been affected by flooding here in the Philippines. There is much to do before Metro Manila can get back on its feet again. Despite the very real tragedies occurring here now, we know God is at work and using many everyday people to answer a call to help.

Take care!



  1. Wow that's awesome Johno! Don't worry, it probably wasn't plastic bags that brushed up against you, just dead rats. Xoxo

  2. John, thinking of you and the families you work with. You and Tin Tin really were the hands and feet of Jesus for those people. Praying for Manila, and glad you have a safe, dry apartment to go home to.