The United Church of Christ in the Philippines exemplifies what we are called to do in Deuteronomy 15:7-8 “If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be.” In spite of the demands and destruction wrought by the typhoon, the Church here still seeks out the welfare of other people over its own.
Traveling to Bohol, a team of over 40 medical professionals and students organized and served nearly 1,000 people over the course of three days. These people suffered the devastation of last October's earthquake just to be subject a few weeks later to Typhoon Yolanda. Throughout many of the provinces, local community health clinics and nutrition centers were irreparably damaged or were lacking staff and supplies. The selfless ecumenical efforts by these doctors and clergy met demands where they could, but extended their healing to something less tangible and no less important. While children needed to receive medicine for fever and coughs, they also needed to play games and laugh. While mothers needed vitamins to battle malnutrition, they also needed the sisterhood that encouraged mutual nurturing and caring. While fathers needed treatment for their hypertension and pain relief for their aching backs from years of tireless labor, they also needed camaraderie. The Church offered to help heal the souls and spirits of those affected by a storm that hit more than buildings.
UCCP has been providing this kind of trauma healing for the communities we visit as it's the soul that will stoke the coals of the people to continue laying bricks, repairing roofs, and cleaning streets. The Church sharing medicine in addition to worship reminds us of God's promise in Hebrews 13:5, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."
When I spoke to a bishop while visiting their relief headquarters in Cebu, I had asked what things other than money could the churches abroad offer to the brothers and sisters here in the Philippines. She had said “Send us your love.” When we need healing, be it a broken bone or a broken heart, may we turn to the Church with assurance and comfort that this will be possible, as all things, with God.
Matt Fehse is a Global Mission Intern who is serving with the United Church of Christ in the Philippines. Formerly, he was assigned to the Human Rights desk, but is now being utilized in disaster response as the UCCP works with communities and congregations to rebuild after Typhoon Yolanda.