Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Not Victims but Survivors

Survivors of super-typhoon Megi, which struck the Philippines in October 2010.
Photo: Melissa Crutchfield/UMCOR

In a letter to UMCOR head, the Rev. Cynthia Fierro Harvey, a United Methodist pastor in the Philippines writes of her community’s experience of survival and hope following last year’s typhoon.

Dear Rev. Cynthia,

It is my hope and prayer that you arrived home safely after your short visit here, in the Philippines. We appreciate that visit so much, and we hope and pray that someday you’ll have an opportunity to come again.

For sure, you’ll not expect me to write you, but I just want to thank you not only for that visit and acquaintance, but for the “words of wisdom” you uttered during our meeting at San Jose Norte UMC. You mentioned that you do not want us to call ourselves “victims” but, rather, “survivors.” It was indeed an inspiration for us to move on after all our difficulties and pain in the past months.

Nine months had already passed since that terrible typhoon on October 18, 2010. That typhoon made our living very difficult for a few months, as food was scarce after that disaster. Harvest time usually comes the last week of October; however, the typhoon came earlier and then was followed by a week-long, non-stop rain, which aggravated the situation. Nevertheless, the grains that were left buried in muddy fields were gathered and patiently cleaned so that the farmers and their families could have food to eat for a few weeks.

Our church members are mostly tenant farmers. Only a few are educated and employed. Usually, the farmers make their offering after the harvest season, so most of the time, their pastors’ salaries are delayed. I sometimes joke when I am with my District Superintendent, or DS, that “I also am a “D.S.,” a “Delayed Salary.”

After that terrible typhoon, there was no harvest. The people could not make their harvest offering to the church nor provide support for their workers. This, of course, lasted also a few months. But God is good all the time. He has his own wonderful way to meet all our needs in spite of all the difficulties. He did not allow us to be discouraged, but, rather, he gave us hope that everything would be alright. And indeed, we were able to survive.

As one of the chosen recipient communities of an UMCOR grant, I’m quite thankful not only for the financial aid you selflessly rendered to those families that needed it most, but also for your prayers, which made us all strong to survive and see that there is always hope.

Thank you so much, and may the Lord continually make your good office a channel of God’s redeeming love to everyone in this world.


Pastor Janet M. Manuel
San Jose Norte United Methodist Church
San Jose Norte, Mallig, Isabela , Philippines