Three weeks after the strongest storm to ever hit land tore through the Philippine city of Tacloban, I had the privilege to spend five days helping with disaster relief. When I was down in Tacloban I mainly did feedings. We would load up tub after tub full of food and boxes upon boxes of fresh fruit to give to the people. Sometimes we went to specific locations and other times we just drove down roads stopping wherever there were hungry people. We did not just hand out food to help the survivors physically, but we took the time to talk to them and share God’s love, helping them mentally and spiritually. I had the honor to listen to many survivors’ stories.
On my second day in Tacloban I met this family. The mother’s name is Amarlyne and she has three sweet little boys; Ken Ken (4), Ken Jin (3), and Ken Jux (6 months). Their house was destroyed but praise the Lord that the whole family survived. I asked her what the storm was like and she told me that they had to run to higher ground and the water came to her chest so she had to hold Ken Jux over her head. I cannot imagine what it would be like to hold your baby over your head to keep him alive knowing that if the water rose any further, you would both die.
The picture of the older lady standing in front of a pile of rubble is Estaleta Abud standing in front of what is left of her home. During the storm Estaleta lost her husband and a granddaughter. Her husband was 64. When the storm started, he had a heart attack and when it came time that they needed to swim, he did not have the strength and drowned. Her granddaughter was 21 years old, the oldest of five children, and had only been married for three months. She did not know how to swim so she drowned when the wave came. I and another volunteer talked to Estaleta and listened to her story. I could tell she was hurting but it did not fully hit me until she started crying about how much she missed her husband. We cried and prayed with her holding her hands. I learned that just a simple touch or taking the time to listen to a survivor can help them so much.
I learned a lot from my time in Tacloban, I learned how powerful hope is and how strong these survivors really are. Often we would be driving around and I would just see random signs saying things like “Don’t give up.” or “We will rise again.” These people are strong….so incredibly strong.