Baptist Global Response

Filipinos ‘just overwhelmed we are truly there to help them’

ORMOC CITY, Philippines --- When he arrived in the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan, Don Hargis was deeply distressed by what he saw. Buildings leveled. Trees down. Human need on a staggering scale.

Five months after the storm, however, California Southern Baptists are enthusiastically engaged in helping Filipinos in Ormoc City rebuild their lives.

The Californians took on the challenge of restoring seven elementary schools that had suffered severe damage in the storm. Roofs were torn off. Some walls were down. Houses in the neighborhoods slowly were being rebuilt, but there was no money to repair the schools.

Each day the schools were crippled, the future dimmed a bit more for the children.

The six-month rebuilding project cycles new teams in every two weeks, says Hargis, who directs disaster relief efforts for the California Southern Baptist Convention. On-site construction coordinators stay a month at a time.

“We’ve got every team filled. Churches from all over California,” Hargis says. “Our state disaster relief program helps volunteers with their travel costs. We’ve had enough money donated that we were able to have all the funds in place. We’re just so happy God is providing a way for us to do this great ministry.”

When the effort is completed, California Southern Baptists will have sent in six on-site coordinators and approximately 84 volunteers, and repaired ten elementary schools, Hargis said.

While California churches are supplying six to eight volunteers per team, relief donations made through Baptist Global Response are purchasing supplies locally, which helps revive the local economy.

“We buy all our supplies from the local hardware stores,” Hargis said. “We’re buying our wood from the local mills.”

And the Californians aren’t working alone. “A lot of the locals are helping us,” Hargis says. “They’ve got so many people who want to pitch in.”

A local pastor also works alongside the volunteers in each neighborhood, Hargis noted.

“We let the people know that if it wasn’t for the pastor, we would not be there, because he’s the one who asked for someone to come and help,” Hargis says. “We let them know that here is a man of God who cares about you and is here to serve. We’re hoping that helps give a leg up to each one of these local pastors.”

Another community-building aspect of the work is the task of rebuilding each school’s outdoor stage, Hargis says.

“The winds from the storm completely blew the roofs off. They need these stages for their outside graduations,” Hargis says. “We’ve been able to repair every one of them.”

Residents of these neighborhoods in Ormoc City are deeply moved that someone would come from so far away to help them, Hargis adds.

“I’m hearing nothing but good stuff from teams as they come back. They just fall in love with the people. There is such a great attitude of thanks, of gratitude, for us coming and helping them,” he says. “The people are feeding us. They are working with us.

“They are just overwhelmed we are truly there to help them. It’s been wonderful.”

The challenge of rebuilding lives in the Philippines will stretch on for months. Learn how you can help by visiting BGR’s Typhoon Haiyan project page.

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