Baptists shed light on Filipino suffering

 BWA shares reports from member organizations in the Philippines about the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan. 

By Jeff Brumley

A clearer picture of the devastation wrought by Typhoon Haiyan is coming into view, thanks in part to reports from Baptist World Alliance member organizations located in the Philippines.

BWA leaders said Thursday they have received updates from those groups that give some detail to what has been known since the storm struck that country on Nov. 8: suffering and destruction on a massive scale.

Ildefonso Alfafara, general secretary of the Baptist Conference of the Philippines, told the U.S.-based BWA that 2,000 families in the province of Cebu, including many Baptists, have lost their homes.

“Approximately 80 percent of homes in the province were badly damaged or destroyed,” the alliance added in the news release. “Several Baptist churches were also destroyed.”

Similar reports came in from leaders of the Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches, the Luzon Convention of Southern Baptist Churches and the Convention of Visayas and Mindanao of Southern Baptist Churches. Leaders of those groups added that communications remain drastically impaired, and that many survivors in more remote areas are hard to reach with aid.

Media reports say the death toll from the storm has dropped from early estimates of around 10,000 to nearly 4,000. CNN reported the number of people in need is so great that there isn’t enough water, medicine and food to meet the needs of an estimated 900,000 people.

Other reports say that 90 percent of the population of Capiz province has been affected by the typhoon, with at least 15 of its cities “wiped off the map,” the BWA announcement said.

“The destruction of the super typhoon has exceeded all predictions and expectations,” Carroll Baltimore, president of the Progressive National Baptist Convention in the United States, told BWA. Baltimore was in the Philippines when the storm struck.

Baptist groups are joining a range of nonprofit and governmental organizations trying to meet those needs.

Virginia Baptists are sending $5,000 directly to a Filipino group it trained in Crisis Care Chaplaincy a few years ago, said Dean Miller, disaster relief coordinator with the Virginia Baptist Mission Board.

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They also are sending $20,000 to BWAid today, he added in the e-mail to Baptist disaster aid officials in other organizations.

The Baptist Standard reported on Thursday that Texas Baptist Men, the Convention of the Philippine Baptist Churches and BWA were collaborating to help pastors in the Philippines administer aid.

The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship reported $12,500 is to be given to various aid groups in the region, and that they are deploying a Malaysian-based missionary to the Philippines to help with damage assessment for further aid efforts.