In the aftermath of the widespread damage of Typhoon Yolanda, the Philippine Navigators, like most groups, focused much of its relief efforts on hardest-hit Tacloban City. But we also wanted to do something that was lasting and supported the vision of expanding the Kingdom. For the leaders, staff, contacts, and volunteers who participated in and supported these efforts, this meant spending considerable time and working with survivors to rebuild their homes and lives beyond distributing relief goods.
These efforts would later develop into a pioneering and community-based ministry that seeks to holistically minister to the locals, sustained by the partnership of organizations like Kids International Ministry, Japan Food for the Hungry, Badjao Bridge (Dan Johanson), Community Help Alternatives Inc. (CHAI), Bless Yolanda Survivors (Kaye Koo), and many more of our supporters from the country and outside.
The center of activity has been the home of Sharon Singson, Navigator staff from Samar in Tacloban City. The volunteers and staff first used it for the feeding program and later decided to rent it as a Navigator House, serving as an office, lodging for volunteers, and eventually as a place for fellowship, Bible study, and discipleship. After initial assessment and planning with the national leadership and staff, the team in Tacloban started with about eight people, including Ronnie Saguit of Cebu and Celso Moreno (to lead the ministry) and local YDF Floricel Bajado (as stay-in staff), Keiichi Kitahara from the Japan aid group (volunteer up to May), and Sharon’s Aunt Diding (cooking and upkeep of the house).
Using the Book of Acts as a blueprint, the team envisions a local ministry work in four phases:
Phase 1: Finding the men of peace—getting to know the locals through the feeding, counseling, and medical and dental missions.
Phase 2: Journeying with the men of peace—through livelihood, scholarships, and specific projects.
Phase 3: Discipling the men of peace—organizing community meetings and Bible Studies.
Phase 4: Raising up laborers from the men of peace—recruiting them to get involved and align their lives in advancing the Kingdom among their neighbors, community, the next towns and cities in Eastern Visayas, and to the nations.
From December until toward the end of February, the ministry has engaged in a number of projects already, including the following:
- Continued feeding in Barangay Utap, later adding Barangay Hillside
- Toys distribution for children on Christmas
- Construction of three footbridges to connect the neighborhood to the main road
- Purchase of a generator set
- Purchase of a motorbike
- Multicab rental (from Celso’s brother, at P9 per kilometer)
- Establishing relationship with men of peace Chris (a trader of old tires) and Romeo (village councilor in Barangay Hillside)
- Pass on the Blessing Program
- CHAI scholarship for Julie Ann
In the process, the team will also involve students in ministry through a volunteer/outreach program with the Eastern Visayas State University (EVSU). The idea is to immerse the students in the feeding and livelihood projects so that they would catch the vision of caring for a community first materially and then beyond, developing leaders among them.
Ronnie Saguit says that in dealing with the locals, he identifies the team as part of a community of friends bonded by the love of Jesus, here to listen and to journey with them. “And one of our main tasks is to see the needs in the community and present those needs to people who are interested to help and bring that help to the community, no matter how small the help is.”
“We want to journey with them long term, and to share to them the vision that someday they will become the blessing to their neighbors and to the community and beyond. Our target is five communities in two years. May the Lord guide us into the next community if it is His will,” he says.
To get updates about the Navigators’ efforts on Yolanda, especially in Tacloban, join the Yolanda Task Force group on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/groups/181369175389868/.