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CULTURAL NEWS
Philippines: Help for the Hurting
27 February 2006

It's been more than a week since a deadly landslide wiped out a village in Leyte, Philippines. Search operations continue, despite dwindling hope that more survivors will be found.

While families wait for news of their loved ones, Operation Blessing is on hand to bear some of their burden.

Elsa Pagodon is still horrified as she describes the landslide. She says she saw how the mountain cracked and exploded, sending rocks and boulders racing down towards their village.

Elsa, her husband and four children ran to safety. But her other two children, aged 9 and 11, were in school and now they are among those missing in the landslide.

Elsa told us, “I dreamt of my son. He was saying, ‘Mama, I am hungry. I am eating only paper.’” She said with tears, “I ask God why this has happened? I never expected this can happen to our life.”

Each of the 256 families from the village of Guinsaugon has their own tragic story to tell.

The people who were saved from the landslide are mostly the men who were working in neighboring villages when the landslide happened. In addition, teens were saved who were in the public high school located outside the village. They are the ones grieving over the loss of the mothers and the children.

Most people point to fate or misfortune as the reason for such tragedy. But there are those who believe that, aside from the rains and the earthquake, illegal logging is a factor to consider. Ceferino Suhillo is a resident and a pioneering pastor in the village of Guinsaugon.

Pastor Ceferino is a Church Planter with the Assemblies of God. He said, “There is a type of tree that is big and sturdy. It was not washed away by the landslide. If only they did not cut those trees, we would have been spared from the calamity.”

The Pastor added, “I know them, and God spared them so they can see the consequences of their actions, and for them to repent of their wrongdoing.”

Ceferino says he and others are bewildered as to why the landslide was only confined to Guinsaugon and did not go beyond its boundaries.

Pastor Ceferino commented, “I hate to say what happened is a punishment. But I saw how gambling, prostitution and materialism prevailed in this place. The villagers were even instructed, by a religious group, to close their doors to people carrying Bibles.”

There will always be questions when tragedy strikes. In the midst of the grief and confusion, Operation Blessing is there to reach out to the families of the victims. OB workers listened to the victims’ stories, empathized with them and prayed for them.

Operation Blessing also visited the 16 survivors who are still in hospital. Loreta suffers from broken ribs, but she is thankful that God kept her alive. She is still hoping that her two children can be found.

Anthony's one-year-old son was miraculously dug out from the landslide. Now for Anthony and the rest of the survivors, and the families of the victims, Operation Blessing gives mats, slippers, plates, fruits and toiletries.

But the greatest relief these families can ever receive is the eternal hope in the promises of God, written in His Word. New Testament Bibles were also distributed to the surviving families.

Aside from immediate needs, Dr. Kim April Pascual, Head of Operation Blessing Philippines, looks into long term plans.

She told us, “We will conduct trauma counseling. We can/would like to give them permanent livelihood, once they are transferred to their permanent residence. We will see how we can help the children in education: we can enroll them in our Back-to-School project.

Above all, Dr. Kim stresses the importance of prayer.

In fact, Dr. Kim emphasized, “When you pray, God's hand is being channeled through you, and they feel it tangibly—the hands of people who have Jesus Christ—and the blessing is channeled [to them]. And they smile, and you have given them hope.”

Elsa Pagodon affirmed that, “I would like to thank Operation Blessing for their help, especially the prayer. It gives me strength to face this trial in my life.”

While tragedy can bring a person to his lowest point, it can also bring out the best from man. With God's help, Operation Blessing—along with the different organizations helping the victims--is able to turn tragedy into triumph.

Source: CWNews

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