I made it back from the Philippines last Wednesday night. It was a huge privilege to be able to help in a small way with the relief efforts going on there after Typhoon Haiyan. Thanks for your prayers! Wish I could have produced more updates from there, but alas time was in short supply and the internet was very slow, when available.
Here's some random shots that gives a bit of an overview of what we were doing there. It was a combined effort, with MAF providing logistical support and disaster/relief experience to NTM and Helimission, who were providing the aircraft, helicopters and associated personnel. And we were all working with the local national church. Below, a flight-related, strategy/planning meeting at the end of the first week of operations there.
Gathering information and advice about devastated islands in the area from a local pastor who lived on one of the islands hit hard by Haiyan.
Another local contact on one of the islands. The people were all so very grateful for the help, and repeatedly expressed appreciation to all who were involved in delivering relief supplies to them.
Here's a group shot of some of those involved from MAF and NTM at the end of the first week. There's a whole bunch of people that were playing vital roles, that aren't in the picture for a variety of reasons. It was a huge group effort--from the people who gave money to help fund the operation, to the folks back at headquarters, to the logistics people behind the scenes, to the tribal missionaries and families of pilots and other personnel who were working directly or indirectly behind the scenes, to the national church itself, which played a huge role in acquiring, packaging, and helping to deliver the relief supplies.
And here's some of the people involved in the initial effort up in the Coron area. The following week we returned to this area with the larger Jet Ranger helicopter and delivered additional tens of thousands of kilos of relief supplies. What was so neat about this operation was that it was headed up entirely by the national missionaries and church leaders from the national branch of NTM.
This is an early morning scene from the airport that we based out of in Busuanga (near Coron). You can see buildings damaged in the picture, and the airport buildings (out of the picture to the left) were heavily damaged. The scene in that area was very surreal, b/c whereas the grass was very green, the hills and trees were totally brown. Virtually all of the trees were either blown over, or if still standing, they were totally stripped of leaves, for miles in all directions. There was heavy damage in the city itself, where several dozen people died in the storm.
NTMA pilot, John Mark is helping NTM national pastor Nonoy to unload family packs of food to eagerly awaiting villagers in the background. The Jet Ranger could carry about 400 kg per load, and we were delivering 10-15 loads per day.
It was very impressive to watch how Pastor Nonoy, organized and oversaw the distribution of the relief supplies. While the helicopter made multiple runs to the same village, he organized the people and took a count of the number of families present. First he always gave them a little talk about helicopter safety, which made a big difference on subsequent runs. Then he gave them a brief (15-20 minute) talk in their local language about where the stuff came from and why we were helping them. He later shared with me (in English) some of what he was telling the people, and it was very powerful and moving and strategic to the sharing of the Gospel! The NTM PI (national branch of NTM) missionaries are working on a handful of church plants in this area, and this was an extremely strategic opportunity to both help meet immediate physical needs, and also to build trust for long-term relationships.
The Jet Ranger departs a small beach after delivering a load of relief supplies.
Here's an example of how the people were organized and waiting for the distribution of relief supplies to begin. The local pastors made sure that it was done fairly, without the opportunity for local power players to hoard provisions, or play favorites.
Relief supplies are being transferred from the NTM hangar, to a waiting truck, to be taken to a port and shipped to the staging areas from where we could then ferry them by helicopter to the more remote, small islands.
NTM temporarily re-positioned a Kodiak from Indonesia up to the Philippines to help with the delivery of fuel, relief supplies and personnel to the remote areas where the helicopters were operating. I have flown many, many hours in a Kodiak in Kalimantan, so it was fun to see and fly in one again, as I almost certainly won't be flying or seeing one in Uganda in our new, upcoming, assignment. Below, the Kodiak just delivered several NTM personnel, as well as a Filipino Red Cross Team, and their supplies to one of our forward staging areas on Cuyo Island.
In the foreground, Stephen and Larry are doing a standard follow-up torque check on the Jet Ranger Rotor.
The damage in Coron was extensive. In all directions it looked like this. I was told that 50-60 people died in this town.
This little village, located on a very small, flat beach between two hills, was decimated by a tidal surge that ripped through like a tsunami. The people heard the wave coming and fled into the hills just before it tore through. As a result, no one died directly from the storm. But two boys got lost in the jungle when they fled, and died of exposure before they were found.
Although there are several houses still standing, about 80% were washed out to sea, along with almost all of their boats. They were in a bad way here, unable to fish for food without boats and nets, and having lost almost all their pots and pans, food, and other supplies. It looks much worse in real life than it does in this vibrant photo.
The Jet Ranger departs after delivering another load of relief supplies.
Each 40-50kg sack contained a number of smaller "family packs" like these being distributed below. Inside each family pack is enough rice and sardines, noodles and coffee to provide one meal for one family of 6-7 people. In some cases, this was the only meal that people were eating each day, as they had no other food available, and no means with which to acquire it.
An overhead view of one of the villages hammered by the storm. I was impressed by the skill of the helicopter pilots, who expertly worked their way safely into and out of some very tight places to deliver supplies.
I have hundreds of pics, but I'll stop there. Actually, I think I'll do one more post in a day or two, showing some of the faces of the folks we served. They're truly wonderful people!