REBUILDING AFTER SUPER TYPHOON MANGKHUT
Last Wednesday, I sat across the table from my Assistant Ken at an Indian Restaurant in Manila. It’s his first time to try Indian food and I figured, introducing him to my favourite Chicken Tikka Masala would be a fine way to celebrate. In the short time I have been blessed to work with Ken, I continue to be in awe of the vigor and authentic passion in which he conducts all tasks- both big and small. Curious to get to know more about this excellent human being, I ask about his childhood.
He shared about his late hardworking papa, an engineer known and respected in his village for integrity. His eyes lit up as he spoke about his mama, a woman who warmed her whole home with the fire in her spirit. There was a humble pride in his voice as he shared about how his siblings had gone on to pursue their dreams. Ken recounted how he loves his small province of Bicol, and how as children he and his friends would run through the mountains full of imagination, painting a vivid world of possibilities with the nature around them.
In reflection of the super typhoon schedule to hit over the weekend, I asked Ken if he has ever experienced a mega storm firsthand. “All the time,” he answered. He went on to describe how the house in which he grew up was crafted with wood by a family friend. That every few months a storm would hit, forcing them to evacuate to his aunt’s home. And that on more occasions than he could count, following the storm, he would return to his home to find it shattered to the ground. There were times when it would take days to rebuild only for another storm to pass by soon after, destroying all they owned.
I found myself in a dissonance of emotions as I fought back tears listening to the tragedy in his story and simultaneously was perplexed at Ken’s countenance as he spoke. As I searched his eyes I found not fear, but rather, joy. I was bewildered as he even laughed recounting the constant process of rebuilding what was lost. Then in a sudden moment of clarity, I understood. Ken’s deep anchoring in storms was that his heart was set on that which could never be destroyed: His faith and His family.
I asked Ken a final question before parting ways that evening. “With a storm of this magnitude, what is the possibility that lives will be lost?” His eyes turned solemn and he responded quietly but with a certain sureness, “It is certain.” I then asked, “How will those who survive rebuild?” The hope lit his eyes up once more as he whispered, “They will find a way.”
It has been a week since that life changing conversation in that Indian Restaurant. Since then, Super Typhoon Mangkhut triggered a massive landslide in the country's north, destroying hundreds of homes. Typhoon Mangkhut, the planet’s most intense storm this year, battered the northern Philippines with the strength of a Category 5 hurricane. Rescue operations are underway in the Philippines as 49 people remain missing. 54 people have been confirmed dead so far as a result of the typhoon. Dozens of the dead and missing are believed to be miners who were trapped inside a building buried by a landslide in the mining town of Itogon, in Benghuet province.
One story by CNN shared an account about a 23-year old woman named Adelfa Lunato. On Sunday, Adelfa and her family arrived back at their tiny fishing village. The scene was startling. The modest house that she shared with her parents and grandmother was in pieces. The walls had crumbled and only the thin wooden frame remained. "It was so devastating to see that our house was destroyed," said Adelfa. "We were all crying. Seeing this damage for the first time, it was like losing our will to live. In our mind, how do we start again? What do we do? We know we have to be strong... but it is so painful to see what happened here."
I sit here safe and sound in my typhoon-proof apartment in Manila, overwhelmed with grief as I read through account after account of the resulting devastation of the storm. I feel helpless and angry for the families struggling and out of options. And then I remember Ken’s words: “They will find a way.” In that moment, hope replaces despair. I realize that even though this typhoon isn’t my fault, I have seen and heard of the destruction befalling the communities hit by the storm. And if there is one thing I know, it is that once you’ve seen and once you’ve heard, although it may not be your fault, it is your responsibility.
It is our responsibility to stand in the gap. To stand united with our brothers and sisters across the world who are hurting, desolate, and in desperate need for restoration. It is no longer enough for me to read another terrible headline on the news or on Facebook, feel awful for a short time, maybe share the link, but ultimately do nothing about it. Because now, when I think of the resilience of Ken and his family, it becomes personal.
And I pray that when you read this story it becomes personal for you too. Let’s stand together and follow the lead of Ken and his family. Yes, homes and lives have been destroyed. But anchored in the unshakeable glory and redemption to come, it is time to rebuild.
“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good.” Genesis 50:20
To help raise funds for canned goods, water, and other supplies needed to provide relief for the victims of Typhoon Mangkhut in Itogon, Benguet, please contribute to me and Ken’s GoFundMe Page here (any amount is so deeply appreciated!). A special thanks to Ms. Baby Amor of the PCEC - PhilRads for coordinating with us. We are so grateful in advance for all your support- please share with everyone you know!
Photo Credit: CNN and New York Times