“At 5:30 a.m. on August 12, 2015 our UCC delegation of 11 arrived safely in Tacloban, Philippines and were warmly greeted by Ric Jondatiego, Coordinator of Task Force Haiyan, and other staff of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines. The Task Force Haiyan’s theme is: “Rebuilding Lives – Restoring Hope”.
We were there to take part in house blessing ceremonies in three communities to be held later in the day, as 150 homes would be dedicated and turned over to families who had lost their homes in Typhoon Haiyan’s devastation in 2013.
We visited parts of the East Territory of Tacloban, the Visayas Region which was hard hit by the super storm. In that region we went to San Roque, the largest village in the town of Tolosa where there are more than 30 villages representing nearly 800 families!
We learned all about the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan; the lack of government assistance; the struggle to create a sense of hope; and little ability to provide tangible needs. I thought of the resilience of the people who lost everything and in the midst of recovery welcomed us extravagantly with a spirit of graciousness and joy! As they thanked us for blessing them with assistance, I knew in my heart we were the ones being blessed by them.
But God was not done! Beyond anything I could have imagined we were graced by dancers wearing bright yellow and red costumes, and smiles as big and as bright. They danced in the midday sun with temperatures approaching 100 degrees. Yet, the heat of the day did not dampen the vigor or excitement with which they offered their gratitude and thanks. They danced with delight and with joy that spilled over-top of all who watched!
The dancers, all individuals who lost their homes during Typhoon Haiyan, and who later the same day would receive keys to their new homes, gave us hope too!
Of all that was lost, 150 homes seemed like so very little. But to each of the recipients, and all in the communities where we visited, prayers were answered by the United Church of Christ’s Disaster Ministries.
It is the tradition of the Southeast Conference before any major event to say, “It will either be a good time or a good story!” I can say with gratitude, ‘Today was a good time and many good stories’. Today was a Great Day! We experienced a message of Truth; a message of Love; a message of Justice; a message of Compassion; a message of Hope; which is the Message of God! Amen!
–Susan Mitchell (yes, that’s the Susan Mitchell who did the feasibility study for our capital campaign!)
The One Great Hour of Sharing (OGHS) special mission offering of the United Church of Christ involves you in disaster, refugee/immigration, and development ministries throughout the world.
When a disaster strikes or people are displaced or made refugees by violence or extreme poverty, you are part of the immediate response and of the long-term recovery. Through OGHS you engage in holistic development programs including health care, education, agriculture, food sustainability, micro-financing and women’s empowerment.
Because the UCC relates in mutual partnership to churches and organizations through Global Ministries and worldwide response & recovery networks, your contributions to One Great Hour of Sharing put you in the right place at the right time for the relief, accompaniment and recovery of the most vulnerable. You meet immediate needs and you address the underlying causes that create those needs in the first place. Thank you for your generous contribution.
At Old First, we will begin to take up the “One Great Hour of Sharing” offering next Sunday, March 6.