A Christmas Stroll in the Philippines

December 31, 2013 • Philippines
Philippines Typhoon Haiyan

When a staff member went on a walk in the Philippines, he reflected on the reason that Samaritan’s Purse is working.

Andrew Myers is working as a logistics officer with our staff in the Philippines to relieve survivors of Typhoon Haiyan.

After several days of hard work serving victims of Typhoon Haiyan, we took the day off to celebrate Christmas. In the morning, we had an entertaining gift exchange between the expatriates followed by an impromptu candy distribution in front of the hotel with one of our staff dressed up as Santa.

It is tradition here for children to go around singing Christmas carols as they ask for candies and spare change. Children had already congregated outside our doors and more quickly came as soon as Santa and candy appeared.

Typhoon Haiyan Philippines

One way Samaritan’s Purse is responding to the damage left by Typhoon Haiyan is by testing water to see whether it’s contaminated.

Later, we went to visit an area of Tacloban where several ships were washed up on the shore in a place where houses once stood. We walked around the little seaside neighborhood along a road that – having been washed away – eventually narrowed to half a road.

On Christmas day, in the rain, while living in small makeshift huts, the people of the community were out and about with huge smiles on their faces as they greeted us enthusiastically. Kids were running alongside us and greeting us as we passed by. There were also several people taking bucket baths on the road (fully clothed but all lathered up) because that’s their only option.

We saw two creatively engineered “Christmas trees.” One was made out of plates, and one was made out of recycled bottles. It was a “Yolandized” Christmas in the Philippines. In the Western world, our gifts are often more costly than the cumulative worth of these peoples’ earthly possessions after the storm. In the United States, we use our best clothes for our Christmas celebrations while these joyous Filipino people bathe in the streets.

Their elated spirits are contagious to even the biggest Grinch. If we could all just live in their shoes for a Christmas, or see firsthand what I saw, it would change our lives forever. I pray I never forget what I saw today.

When we first arrived at this neighborhood and got out of the trucks, we were snapping pictures of the mangled ships, debris, and general destruction that Haiyan left. After a few minutes, I was convicted, along with those who were with me. I joked that we were snapping away with our cameras like it was disaster tourism. We all wanted to go see these ships like they were sightseeing spots in the city.

But the remainder of our walk taught me something that I didn’t expect. What was most important was the impression the stroll left on my heart and mind; the photos were just the mistaken purpose of that Christmas stroll. When I see these people, I am reminded of the reason we are here in the Philippines. We are here for them, to show them the love of Jesus Christ and the hope that can only be found in Him.

Philippines Typhoon Haiyan

Despite the damage left by the typhoon, many Filipinos are still rejoicing and celebrated Christmas with the family and friends they have left.