GIBITNGIL ISLAND, the Philippines – It’s a tiny island of 449 families accessible only by a 30-minute canoe ride, but Gibitngil island – just off the northwest tip larger island of Cebu – has been assigned to Missouri Baptists to help in its recovery, a move that opens the door for sharing the good news of Jesus along the way.
The island, which measures less than one square mile, lies directly in the path of Typhoon Haiyan which hit the nation Nov. 8. More than 120,000 people evacuated before storm made landfall, but news reports say at least 5,900 died as winds reached 235 mph. More than 4,000 have reported injuries, and 1,700 are still missing. Dwain Carter, director of disaster relief (DR) for the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) is back in the Philippines for his second trip in less than three weeks and said officials estimate three out of four people in the nation have been affected in some way. On Gibitngil, it goes up to four in four. Every single structure sustained major damage.
Even before the typhoon, there was no electricity or running water. Most of the 2,500 residents’ drinking supply came from collecting rain water off the school roof into a cistern. The school’s roof, however, was torn off by the storm.
Just before Thanksgiving the island leader – known as Captain – rejected Carter’s initial offers to rebuild homes.
“He said ‘I don’t want you to do something for one person you can’t do for everybody on the island,’” Carter said. “So I asked ‘What if I could feed your entire island for a week?’ His frown turned into a smile and he asked how I could do that. ‘I said, ‘With my God all things are possible. I’ll be back in two days.’”
Missouri Baptist Disaster Relief helped Carter distribute rice, sugar, powdered milk, canned meat and water to sustain each islander for a week.
“You would have thought I’d given them a brand new XBOX,” he said. “It meant the world to them.”
That gift opened the door to share the gospel. In the long term, Missourians are endeavoring to rebuild the school house and other community buildings, continuing to share the good news of Jesus along the way. The Missouri team there now brought portable water filters as well.
“The Captain said ‘My island is your island.’ We didn’t beat them over the head with it, but we got to share our faith, share with them, and let them know why we were there. We’re going to reach everyone on this island.”
In addition to a trip last month and a second team that left Dec. 13, at least three more trips of Missourians are on the calendar. They are Jan. 10-19, Jan. 31-Feb. 9 and Feb. 14-23. There is no need for special training to participate in a work trip. Call the DR office at 1-800-736-6227 ext. 315 to volunteer or for more information about volunteering.
Carter asked that Missouri Baptists consider donating to the relief effort, noting that 100 percent goes directly to victim relief. Individuals can give through their local church to MBC DR or donate directly online at www.mobaptist.org/dr.
Koonce earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism from Oklahoma Baptist University in 2005.