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By Linda Bloom*
Three days after Super Typhoon Haiyan flattened part of the Philippines, relief was beginning to trickle in to survivors.
United Methodists are among those starting to provide emergency supplies while assessing damages from the powerful Nov. 8 storm, known as Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines, that made direct hits on several islands. Much of the early media attention has centered on Tacloban, a Leyte Island city of 200,000 that was nearly destroyed.
The United Methodist Committee on Relief announced a $97,000 grant Nov. 11 to provide emergency food, water and water purification tablets to 7,500 individuals (or 1,500 families) in Tacloban City. The funding also will help local UMCOR staff and volunteers build capacity to meet emergency needs.
The Rev. Jack Amick, UMCOR’s executive for international disaster response, has been consulting with Ciony Eduarte, UMCOR Philippines Head of Mission, and will travel Nov. 12 to the UMCOR Philippines office to work with field staff, partners and needs assessment.
The National Council of Churches in the Philippines, a United Methodist partner, has called for international ecumenical support as it coordinates relief efforts with the ACT Philippines Forum, local churches and community organizations.
Church World Service has announced it will support early response and recovery efforts of UMCOR and other fellow members of the ACT Alliance with significant operations in the Philippines, including Lutheran World Relief, Christian Aid and the National Council of Churches in the Philippines.
Filipino bishops in U.S.
The three active United Methodist bishops in the Philippines and at least two retired bishops are attending the denomination’s Council of Bishops meeting this week at Lake Junaluska, N.C.
The destruction wrought by Typhoon Haiyan was on the minds of the entire council. During the Nov. 11 opening worship, Nashville (Tenn.) Area Bishop William T. McAlilly prayed for those affected by storms “where lives are lost and homes destroyed and crops are drowned. … We ask you, oh Lord, to heal us, to save us that our hearts might be pure.”
About 200 United Methodist families live in the affected area, said Bishop Ciriaco Q. Francisco. He leads the Davao Episcopal Area in central Philippines, which encompasses the islands devastated by the typhoon.
“They need food, water, shelter and of course, the prayers of the people,” Francisco said.
Hardest hit was the Visayas Philippines Annual Conference, where six of 28 local United Methodist churches were heavily affected. There was no immediate report of loss of life among church members.
With internet service down and power not expected to resume soon, communication with the affected area remains spotty and church-related reports are coming in via text messages. Several local church buildings in Leyte, Panay, Aklan and Capiz were damaged, according to reports, and homes of church members destroyed.
Retired Philippines Bishop Daniel C. Arichea Jr. said the broader United Methodist connection “is very important” to providing needed aid.
Several bishops, including Louisiana Area Bishop Cynthia Harvey, a former top executive of UMCOR, and Philadelphia Area Bishop Peggy Johnson have sent out a call for support for the Philippines.
In a letter on its website, the National Association of Filipino American United Methodists said it has been in touch with the College of Bishops in the Philippines and is hoping to coordinate with responders.
“Our people of faith in America and Canada stand in solidarity with all that suffer, and all efforts in providing succor,” the letter said.
The Davao Episcopal Area is contending with the destruction of two natural disasters in less than a month. On Oct. 15, a 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck the island province of Bohol, which also was in the typhoon’s path. In that earthquake, the homes of 17 church members were destroyed, along with the local church and parsonage.
Support UMCOR’s relief and recovery work in the Philippines by contributing to International Disaster Response, Advance #982450.
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service multimedia reporter based in New York. Follow her at http://twitter.com/umcscribe.or contact her at (646) 369-3759 email@example.com. Heather Hahn also contributed to this story.