Archive for November, 2013

Phillipine Disaster – Our Mission

November 14, 2013

My first job when I left school in 1985 was in an art and frame shop, owned by a man from Hong Kong. His fiancée and her sister, who were from the Philippines, worked there as well, and I became particularly close for a time with the sister, a young woman named Sonja. We got along very well and she shared some of her culture with me, a person who had never been outside of the US (except to Canada, and that doesn’t really count) or even known anyone from another culture. Eventually I left the job and lost touch with Sonja, so I don’t know if she still lives in the United States, or went back to the Philippines, or is somewhere  else. But whenever I see something about that country, either on the news or in a travel magazine, or somewhere else, I remember Sonja and what a nice young woman she was.

That was almost 30 years ago, but I was still reminded of Sonja when I heard reports of the Super-typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) that was approaching the Philippines. I also had been following the blog of Bruce Reyes-Chow, the former moderator of the PCUSA, who is in the Philippines teaching some classes at the seminary there.  So I have been paying particular attention to what’s been going on there, and wanted to share some of it with you—and also share how we can help with disaster relief. (To follow Reyes-Chow’s blog, click here.)

The Philippines is an archipelago—a group of more than 7000 islands in the South Pacific Ocean.  Being an island country, they are used to tropical storms and typhoons coming through on a fairly regular basis; still, typhoon Haiyan, with its estimated 190 mph winds and 25 foot storm surge, was on a scale that hasn’t been seen since early in the 20th century.  (For photos of the devastation, click here) the death toll, which stands near 1800, is far from complete, and experts expect it to rise above 10000. In all more than 9 million people have been affected by this storm. Hardest hit was the city of Tacloban, a city of about 220,000 on the island of Leyte, where the winds and the storm surge combined to destroy a good portion of the city. Thousands are without shelter, food, and water; rescue workers have reported that many survivors are wandering the streets in shock, with nowhere to go and no idea how to begin to clean up.  (NPR news reports here; also, Tons of Aid in Philippines, but Not Where Needed on Comcast news.

Compounding the misery is the fact that, being an island nation, it is very difficult to get relief aid where it is needed (much like in Haiti after the devastating hurricane there several years ago.) Most travel between the islands is by boat or ferry, and many of the smaller islands are very difficult to get to. Clean water and food is scarce and difficult to get to those who need it; houses and buildings are destroyed and with a new low pressure system coming in, people have no shelter from the elements. One of the biggest dangers is disease that is spread when people drink the water that has been contaminated by flooded sewer and waste disposal systems.

Help is on the way, but more help is needed; if you’d like to help, below is a listing of agencies that are trustworthy and actively involved in the relief effort. Our mission includes helping the helpless—and so many in the area impacted are truly helpless. Let’s help any way we can—prayer is a good place to start, and anyone can do that!

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance—if you’d like to give, you may bring a check made out to the church, with “Philippines Typhoon Relief” in the memo blank, to put in the offering plate this Sunday. Or you may donate online here.

The following list is from Bruce Reyes- Chow’s blog page:

Cobbie and Dessa Palm [MISSIONARY CONNECTION] Mission co-workers in Dumaguete, Cobbie and Dessa are well-respected by local folks and do amazing things here with the arts, community organizing and relationship building. Also, be sure to sign up for their newsletter.  

National Alliance for Filipino Concerns [DONATE] If you would prefer a secular agency, this Fil-Am group makes sure that donations go to families and communities who need it the most.

Close Encounters

November 5, 2013

Nov. 5, 2013

This morning as I was making my daily Dunkin Donuts run (Hello, my name is Sharon, and I’m a tea-aholic), I was sitting in the drive thru lane waiting for my food and I noticed a man walking from the very busy road next to the DD/ gas station where I was sitting, up toward the building and my car. I didn’t think much about it; he was a middle aged man wearing a black sweatshirt and black jeans; and as I sat there he walked up to the car and said something like, “can you buy a veteran a Red Bull?”

I stuck my head out the window and he said, “drive around the building and order it and I’ll wait for you here.”

Well, I was kind of in a hurry, and while I didn’t mind buying the man a Red Bull, I wasn’t thinking very quickly and I didn’t really want to go around the building and through the drive thru again, so I pulled up a little bit and said, “I’ll give you a couple of bucks for a Red Bull, and handed him a $5 bill.

He came over to the car and was thanking me (whether I deserved it or not) and he asked me what I do for a living, and I answered that I am a minister. And the next thing I know I was embraced in a big hug through the window of my car, and he was saying (again, I paraphrase) “God bless you! Don’t let the evil out there get you down.” Then he backed away from the car and said “have a nice day,” and I said “you have a good day too.” And I drove away.

As I drove down the road I was filled with a sense of regret. Why didn’t I stop and offer to buy the man some breakfast? We could have gone into the DD, I could have bought him some food (and a Red Bull) and perhaps had a conversation, maybe I could have heard his story, maybe I could have known him a little bit as a human being. But I missed the opportunity because I was in a hurry and I honestly just didn’t think of it in time.

If we pay attention to Jesus in the gospels, we see him having encounters with people all the time. The woman at the well who had had more than one husband. The Samaritan woman, who only wanted whatever crumbs he could offer. The woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears. Zacchaeus, who climbed the tree and then came back down to speak with Jesus. The child he drew upon his lap. Blind Bartemaeus, the 10 lepers, the man with dropsy, the woman with a hemorrhage, Mary and Martha. Lazarus. All of these people and many more, who we find in the gospels or who have been lost to history. And when Jesus encountered them, he made sure he really saw them, he spoke to them, he offered something to them more than a couple of bucks or a can of Red Bull. He offered them the love of God and the opportunity for salvation without strings. He made a difference in their lives.

Now, I’m not saying that by buying this man breakfast I could have saved him or made a difference for more than one day, one morning even. But it’s the missing the opportunity I had to see this man, really see him and perhaps have a conversation with him, hear his story and share a little of mine, that I regret. Because this is what we’re called to do—we’re called to share ourselves with the world in the way that Jesus shared himself, even with strangers and especially with the down and out—and in that way we share the gospel as well.

I hope there will be another opportunity to have an encounter like the one I missed today. If it would be with the same man that would be awesome, but any opportunity will do. I just hope I don’t miss it again!

Welcome to the Pastor’s Blog

November 5, 2013

This is the Blog of Rev. Sharon Carter, Stated Supply Pastor of Community of Faith Presbyterian Church in Covington, Ft. Wright, KY.

Begun on November 5, 2013.