SAWSO leader reflects on visit, work in the Philippines
By Bill Mockabee, Lt. Colonel –
In my first few days as the new national secretary for the Salvation Army World Service Office (SAWSO), I traveled to the Philippines to meet with the territorial commander and delegates from other Salvation Army offices to discuss the current needs of the Philippines four months after Typhoon Haiyan caused massive destruction to that nation. We visited Tacloban and other areas hit hard by the storm.
I was immediately struck by the resilience of the Filipino people. In the middle of undeniable devastation, I saw signs of it everywhere…children were playing basketball in the debris, and there were hand-made signs, thanking the world for its response. One of my favorites read: “Roofless, homeless… but not hopeless.”
Yet, the clearest sign of hope I saw in the Philippines was a ship.
Blown up onto the shore, it had come to rest against a concrete sidewalk. The front of the massive ship was tied with a rope to a little tree with a sign that reads: “For Sale.” So, they have humor. They also have a bold plan to move this ship back to the sea—a distance of about three city blocks—by hand. Fifteen men are working around the clock, digging underneath the ship, and using block and tackle and rolling boards to make the ship sail upon their shoulders. While they’re doing this, there is another crew aboard the ship, preparing it to sail once it reaches water. They are convinced they’re going to make this happen in just two months.
Though I admit to some doubt when I first saw this, I am now convinced they are going to do it because of faith.
The Philippines experiences 24 typhoons a year. They knew Typhoon Haiyan was coming and they know more are going to come. Even the ship movers are pretty sure people are going to be hurt during their project, because small earth tremors make it very dangerous to be under the hull. But faced with so much reality, they arrive at a place of faith in their own ability to recover.
The Salvation Army, by contrast, starts from a place of faith, and transmutes that love into a concrete reality. We, too, know that the tides turn and turn again, and we want to do more than help people to survive…we want to help them thrive.
In the next few years, we will be working with the Filipinos to help them prepare for future storms. We want to help with new warehouses to store dry goods, with strategically-placed emergency canteen vehicles that can begin immediate service, with seeds for coconut farmers to get back in business and replacement equipment to get fisherman back on the sea, and with community centers to provide service and education programs that will also serve as hubs in times of need. We will also train Filipino Salvation Army personnel to work even more efficiently in disaster response.
The success of these efforts I don’t doubt because I can’t doubt the combined faith of the Filipino people and The Salvation Army.
We are committed to supporting them as they sail their recovery efforts forward. We will pray with them, work hand-in-hand with them and we won’t stop until they reach the open sea, stronger than ever.
The Philippines Territory hosted a conference as the immediate emergency response to Typhoon Haiyan came to a close to discuss how best to transition into early recovery and development.
Hosted by territorial leadership and facilitated by staff from International Headquarters’ Emergency Services and projects and development teams, territorial officers and lay staff from the Philippines attended as well as representatives from Salvation Army donors including the Salvation Army World Service Office (SAWSO) from the USA, and the Australia Eastern, Canada and Bermuda, and Switzerland, Austria and Hungary Territories.
Attendees visited Tacloban, where the group met with local Salvation Army personnel who responded sacrificially during the crisis. The group also spoke with the mayor of the Municipality of Dulag and the head of the cluster group in Tacloban that is responsible for people’s livelihoods.
The plans in development as a result of the partnership conference will assist The Salvation Army in its ongoing response to the disaster.
See more about The Salvation Army’s Typhoon Haiyan response at sar.my/haiyan.