(As I was unable to post on my blog in the Philippines due to the lack of a strong internet connection, I am going to post my journal entries from my time there over the next few weeks.)
I arrived tired but ready to go – what I am going to be doing here is still a bit blank. I came with the desire on my heart to serve God and the people here without any preconceived ideas. I have a backpack with children’s art supplies, and that is a first for me as I haven’t ever done group art therapy with kids – just individual therapy.
The landing on the island did not go as I had hoped – I am not a fan of flying and on our first approach to the island of Leyte and the airport in Tacloban we were re-routed to Cebu due to a “loss of contact with the control tower.” After circling for 15 to 20 min. we went to Cebu to refuel. We took off for Cebu shortly thereafter being told that contact with the ground had been made, but as we approached for our landing, the pilot quickly pulled upwards telling us the clouds were too low for a visual landing and we would have to wait and try again. The next attempt the wheels were down before he again pulled up, explaining to us he had overshot the runway. Thank you for letting me know that! By the third attempt the Filipina women to my right were crying and making the sign of the cross after the pilot said, we would, “…try one more time…” What does it mean to, “try to land?” I asked Matt, by now white knuckled and thinking my fear of flying had returned after years of finally getting used to it. On the fourth attempt we did land midst shouts of joy and relief from the passengers.
The drive to the elementary school turned maternal and healthcare clinic was about an hour long, and every where I turned there was total destruction. The tidal surge has destroyed everything in its path, leaving a wake of death and destruction behind it. As a tropical island will do, the growth has sprung up with some bizarre growth from half broken trees and shrubs. Most of the grass is still gone or sparse, and I am told the beach is a fraction of the size it was pre-storm.
The clinic is in the San Jose elementary school where there are tents set up inside, and I am told the roof which was completely torn off is in the process of being repaired by Mercy in Action. There is a UNICEF tent at the entrance to the building as well, donated to Mercy, now used as the medical portion of the clinic, so the birthing, pre-natals and post-partums can take place inside.
I am thankful to be here in hopes that I can bring just a small bit of the peace and presence that only Jesus can give, to the suffering on this island. I know that I will learn a tremendous amount from the people here, who I already can tell are quick to smile and help me, a stranger, without reservation. God is here.