“When the earthquake struck, my children and I were thrown to the ground and we had to crawl toward an open space. Then the ground rolled unevenly underneath us. I panicked when two of my little children got separated from me and my youngest because the ground rolled them upward while we were below. Thankfully we all survived.”
“My brother escaped an avalanche of rocks coming down on him. He had a nervous breakdown and is now undergoing 2 months of psychiatric treatment.”
“I was at the market when I heard a loud explosion and rumbling. I fell on the floor and heard a lot of smashing. I crawled my way out of the market and obtained cuts and bruises.”
“My classmates and I ran to the exit of our room when the earthquake came. My teacher paled and panicked but didn’t move. A guy grabbed her and pulled her out of the room. They barely escaped the collapsing roof and walls. She could have died.”
(These testimonies are translated from the vernacular.)
The town of Tayasan in Negros Oriental was considered the epicenter of the earthquake that shook the entire island last February 6. Our outreach took place 12 days after the calamity because there were still a host of aftershocks. And as expected, most students were unable to help due to conflicting schedules and parental concern. Still, the love and compassion for the afflicted tugged at our hearts and we finally made our move just yesterday.
With the help of concerned donors, we were able to purchase and pack goods in less than a week. A short session on post-traumatic stress therapy was held on Friday, and kind-hearted fellow believers provided us with transportation for free. The few students who came with us were already trained to share the gospel, and so off we went, despite earlier reports of people in distress, the possible ruckus that might take place over the relief goods, and the unexpected ground-shaking and landslides. By faith in God’s sovereign grace, we pushed through, covering the entire program with prayers.
Some of our highlights/experiences at Tayasan:
The people and children were calm and orderly. They willingly followed instructions and were patient all throughout the morning’s program.
The people were grateful. We expected otherwise due to the stress of their situation but our experience was the opposite. Several people approached us and profusely thanked our group for extending help.
The people expressed two major material needs (at least in my group): Cebuano Bibles (Old and New Testament) and drinking water. They wanted Cebuano Bibles for comfort and spiritual growth. As for the water, they claim that their present drinking water tasted like urine, even after boiling it. Several children suffered from diarrhea. There are water stations provided by the provincial government and charitable groups, but they weren’t enough.
Lastly and most importantly, the people realized that their greatest needs are salvation, comfort and assurance that only God could give. The ladies in my group, after hearing and responding to the gospel, planned to share what they received from the Lord and His Word that day. In their outdoor tents, among families and friends, they want to serve God by proclaiming His Word. I gave away Cebuano Four Spiritual Laws booklets and demonstrated how to share these to others.
The situation in Negros Oriental’s upper north towns continues to be unstable economically, emotionally, physically and spiritually. With the help of the larger community of believers, we were able to show them that God deeply loves and cares for them. And He is actively on the move to provide what they needed the most in this temporal, uncertain life: Jesus Christ, and the eternal life He offers freely to those who believe in Him by faith.