What if when you pull into the entrance of your neighborhood this evening after work, you notice billows of thick black smoke?
Your heart races as you pull around the corner, following the smoke -- then you see the flames. They bounce ferociously from rooftop to rooftop, quickly ravaging your neighbors' homes one after another as firefighters struggle to thwart the blaze. Reality sets in as you pull around the firetrucks and see it -- the heap of smoldering ashes that use to be your home. Everything is gone. The feeling of hopelessness crushes you as you consider what happens next, standing with your neighbors thankful to even be alive.
This is the story of over 1,000 people in the Philippines who tragically lost their homes to fire in two separate communities. Within a matter of just a few months, two events involving massive fires burned through families' homes in a matter of minutes, leaving them with nothing.
One fire, in late 2016, destroyed over 70 houses and most victims had no means to rebuild their lost homes. The second fire, in early April 2017, left thousands more homeless overnight. No place to sleep, no food or water, no additional clothing -- nothing was salvaged.
"Since that time, we have visited the area on several occasions to bring provisions as possible, and we have placed a cry for help to our sponsors and to IDES," our mission partner in the Philippines said. "Thanks to their response, we were able to hold an event to reach out to these families."
Hope was possible for these families because you decided to show up for them during their greatest time of need. Your generous support made it possible to purchase both immediate and long-term care items for the families.
"The goal was to demonstrate the love of Christ by providing relief," our partner said. "Initially they were provided clothing, rice and other items to help the immediate need. As things stabilized, they were given wood, cement, and other building supplies to begin the rebuilding of their homes."
Well over 1,000 individuals showed up for the distribution. Leaders and members of four local Christian churches volunteered to facilitate the distribution.
"It was a hot day, but the people gathered by the hundreds...church members carried and carted box after box and set up tables as the people gathered in lines that filled the entire area. Our pastor prayed and our members helped distribute items, keep people in line [moving], encourage them and invite them to attend Sunday worship," our partner reported.
The response of the suffering families was overwhelmingly positive. During the distribution, our partner also provided the elementary-aged children from each family with a "Life of Jesus" book which contains pictures and English/Tagalog translated Bible verses. This opened the door for gospel-centered conversations with the families who were receiving the assistance.
"There were so many families affected by the fire, many of whom have struggled to rebuild a house since then. Compared to the needs of these people, we are able to do so little; but God is at work in their hearts and their lives. They were filled with joy as we gave out the donations and interacted with one another," our partner said.
As a result of the assistance, the local ministers from the four churches are now hosting Bible studies with many of the families who were served. One follow-up visit, 49 individuals were baptized into Christ! Praise God.
"Many are open to the Gospel message. Out of the disaster of this massive fire, the love of Christ is being proclaimed. Thank you IDES for making this project possible! Lives are being touched with the Gospel message thanks to your partnership."
Your love by the grace of God is making hope possible for these families. Please continue to pray for them as they rebuild their homes, and as the local churches continue to bless them in Jesus' name.