Supertyphoon-devastated communities show the way to self-support

by: Floyd Lalwet

The devastation was massive in the aftermath of the strongest typhoon that has ever made landfall in recorded history. Indeed, super-typhoon Yolanda has turned communities into virtual wasteland. That was about three years ago.

Much has been written about how these communities have risen up from the horrible disaster. In the ECP’s engagement, a housing project has been almost completed and livelihood projects have been established in several barangays.

But the greatest irony lies in the establishment and growth of the congregation in the area. Never in the history of the ECP has there been a situation where a newly opened frontier mission area is able to immediately fully support itself.  But this is exactly what is happening with the work of the Episcopal Church in the region.

It maybe recalled that while the Episcopal Church did not have mission work in Leyte and Samar at the time of the super-typhoon, it participated in disaster response due to the unprecedented level of devastation in the region. At that time, the ECP has adopted the Asset-Based Development [ABCD] approach and the Receivers-to-Givers Policy and it was faced a dilemma whether it would pursue this approach in dealing with people who had almost completely lost everything. But the Church resolved that it could no longer go back to the needs-based development approach that only worsened dependency and mendicancy among communities. To the pleasant shock of its leadership, the communities embraced the approach and stories of how they were able to maximize their assets and local resources and share these with other communities have been greatly astounding.

The same spirit of ABCD and R2G has been fully embraced and applied in congregation-building. The Prime Bishop assigned a full-time priest to minister to the partner communities and it was expected that the National Church would shoulder the cost of the frontier mission area. But from January up to June 2016, the communities partnering in the R2G livelihood program of the Church have already given a total of P205,341 for church support. It is projected that by the end of the year, the giving of these partner communities would be more than enough to pay for the salaries and benefits of The Rev. Alvin Sion who works full-time in the mission area.

The established congregation, named the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection, is now fully self-supporting. It is currently based in Sabang Bao, Ormoc City where the ECP’s housing project was implemented. It has started with 25 persons in regular attendance. During the blessing of the first 30 houses in December 2015, 12 persons were received and at the final inauguration of the project last June 23, 2016, 6 more persons were similarly received into the Anglican household. Every Friday, Bible studies are held in the houses on rotation basis. The next day [Saturday], a Bible school is held for  20 to 25 children and their families take turns providing for their snacks. The recently-concluded Vacation Bible School was able to graduate a total of 70 children. As of June 2016, a total of P30,564 was spent for linens, candles, bread and wine for the congregation and these were all paid for by the congregants and the E-CARE staff working in the area. The church’s bank statement still showed a positive balance of P15,000 and cash on hand of P11,000 for the period.

In the housing project, one unit was reserved as a church center where services and other community activities are currently being held. But the congregation feels this is very small and so it has launched a fund-raising for the construction of a bigger church building that would be suited for the services. They have started by selling scrap materials left-over from the housing project and now have a collection that they hope would lay down the foundation of an edifice of the church they envision to arise in the community at some future time.

These communities almost had nothing three years ago. They have grown their livelihood projects and now fully support their own local church and we keep on asking by what miracle had these been done. But there is nothing really difficult to understand in the situation because it is very clear that all these happened simply because people SHARE what they have. And maybe that is, in fact, the miracle.

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