On November 8, 2013, Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) hit Tacloban hard, killing at least 5,800, and as many as 20,000. It was the deadliest typhoon in Philippine history, and according to Wikipedia & Scientific American, it was “unofficially the strongest typhoon ever recorded in terms of wind speed.”
Devastation in Tacloban soon after the Typhoon hit in November 2013 (from the web)
Tacloban – Summer 2014
Mangled building near Tacloban – Summer 2014
This 10-day trip was 13 adults, 11 of which were from The Next Generation Youth (TNY) in Springfield, Massachusetts.
I had known for months that TNY was a group of Russian/Ukrainian-Americans and that they didn’t seem to be very organized. I was a little skeptical about how the trip was going to go. I’d never had any interaction with Russians before, but the stereotype (at least to me) was that they were serious, cold-hearted communists who wore the quintessential ushanka( )hats and drank vodka (no offense guys). I didn’t know what to expect. I talked with the trip leader, Toliy though, a couple times before the trip and he seemed pretty cool.
I arrived in Cebu about 24 hours before the TNY team arrived. I made it to the guest house in the middle of the night and got some rest and then arranged airport transportation for the team. Two other participants were already in Tacloban (5 hours away by ferry & van) because they were on our previous two Philippines mission trips.
I still didn’t know what expect with this team though. I had no idea what they were going to be like, and I was pretty exhausted from leading trips the previous weeks in New York. Then add to that the quick turn around (from NY) and subsequent flight halfway across the world, AND the fact that I was still personally grieving my still-very-fresh ended engagement. I was nervous too because TNY was coming two-days earlier than what we had originally planned for, (even though we had some notice) and we didn’t have ANYTHING, besides lodging, set-up in Cebu. I didn’t know what the heck we were going to do and how the team would handle that.
But… let’s take a moment and remember that God is good. So very good.
Soon after meeting the TNY group at the airport, I could sense a joy about these people. They were genuinely thrilled to be there and excited to jump into ministry! I found out they were a part of a Pentecostal church, and they were praying prayers of thanksgiving in the van on the way to the guest house… and even broke out into worship songs. (I’m not actually sure I’ve ever experienced spontaneous worship singing before… outside of a set worship time).
On virtually every Adventures In Missions – mission trip, teams will do some sort of Holy Spirit-led prayer/ministry exercise. Sometimes it’s just called a listening-prayer exercise or ministry, or a treasure hunt, but usually it’s taught as and referred to as an ATL (Ask The Lord). These guys ended up doing one of these ATL ministry times COMPLETELY on their own! They met people at the mall… spent time playing soccer with locals in a park… and got invited to a Sunday morning church service the following morning.
God is so good man! When I felt weak and unable to do something (lead and model ministry well)… God was bigger and still accomplished something incredible despite me!
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.
For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 9-10
We made it over to Tacloban the next day, joined up with the other two participants who were already there, Carol & Kayla, and dove right into ministry with Kids International Ministries (KIM). (For years, Adventures has partnered with KIM up in Manila. They’ve been one of the most popular ministry partners that The World Race works with. Our shorter-term trips have started to work with their base in Tacloban within the last year, and the staff and facilities there are incredible!) Our ministries were feedings to people in need throughout the area who were affected by the typhoon, construction work at the base, kids ministry and general outreach. The staff there at
The KIM base in Tacloban – Summer 2014 (taken by KIM)
Sam & Alesya during a feeding – Tacloban – 2014 (photo: Emily Adams)
Some of the TNY girls after painting nails during a feeding. (L-R: Katie, Tanya & Yulia) – near Tacloban – 2014
Toliy (in the black t-shirt and baseball cap) leading a prayer time during a children’s outreach – Tacloban
It didn’t take long at all to come to the realization that this group of Russians were easily some of thee most friendly and personable people I’d ever met. Everywhere we went they were making friends with locals and taking selfies with them. They interacted with everyone it seemed like. Quite different from what I always expected Russians to be like.
Sam making friends with his GoPro – Tacloban
Yuliya (center, in the blue) leading a song during the children’s outreach. She has such a gift with kids! – Tacloban
Kayla (not Russian) and a little baby – Tacloban
One of the last days a lot of us got to help transport about 1,000, 35-lb boxes of dry soup mix (for the feedings) from a shipping container at the port → into vans and flatbed trucks → to the house and into KIM’s shipping container.
Mission accomplished: 1,000 boxes moved from the shipping port to the house! – Tacloban
All in all, it was a very successful trip. Lots of Filipinos heard about and experienced Jesus and a lot of participants got stretched in new ways and got a better understanding of who God is.
Here’s what a couple participants had to say about their experience on the trip:
“God showed me so much and he answered a lot of my prayers. My connection w/ God grew a lot!!! I learned to be more grateful for what I have. God took me out of my comfort zone and it really tested me. I learned how to rely on God more and allow him to move in a given situation.”
“Through much prayer & support… I saw how people who went through much tragedies and live in such poor environments have such faith in God. It is really inspiring.”
Most of the team at the end of the trip. – Cebu
YOU should consider going to the Philippines soon too!
In 2015, we have a 3-week, adult trip scheduled for July 5-25. And a 1-month high-school age trip scheduled for June 26-July 24. Whether those trips go to Manila or Tacloban… it’ll be an awesome experience!