Braving the Memories: Reflecting from the Philippines, One Year after Typhoon Haiyan

November 8th marked the one year anniversary of Typhoon Haiyan. Candlelit ceremonies and commemorative services were held across Tacloban to remember the thousands of lives taken by the storm. The death of loved ones is challenging to grasp, but doing so while struggling to survive amidst the aftermath of the storm handicaps one’s ability to process. Fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, relatives and friends all gathered throughout their neighborhoods and towns to remember the swift hand of chaos and the lives it claimed. For some, this may bring a time of closure, but to others, only more tears.

Typhoon Haiyan had a wind speed of 195 miles per hour, the highest measured in any hurricane or typhoon. 90 percent of homes in the coastal Leyte province were "significantly damaged or destroyed." 

Mass graves now occupy various churchyards. People littered them with small crosses and names, hoping to give some individual attention to their family members, who to so many others were only part of a statistic. Relief organizations and international help did their best at ensuring safety directly after the storm, but now, a year after nature’s dire assault, the days of relief are coming to an end, and the next chapter is about to start. After the crutch is removed, will the islands be able to stand or will they remain paralyzed by the terror that befell them?

However, this question is not about the local governments, the cities’ businesses, or the infrastructures of the islands that were affected, but about the people. Are the people able to holistically recover? The storm created chaos, not just to landscapes, but inside of people. Jesus speaks about a kind of people who are able to withstand the storms that life can bring, as he utilizes an analogy of two builders; the wise builder constructs his life by applying God’s word, while the foolish man does not. When the winds and waves beat against them, the one whose foundation is in God endures, while the other is consumed by the chaos.

After the storm, 2.5 million were in need of food. In a land where 2 in 5 people make less than $2 per day, the recovery has been slow (The Washington Post). This picture (a queue of children lining up for a charitable feeding) was taken 8 months after the storm. 

In Deuteronomy, we see that remembering is something the people of God are called to do. But this remembrance is not an aimless one that only conjures the pain and confusion from past memories, like poking at an unhealed wound. Instead, when one remembers with God, his word is allowed to order their confusion, heal their pain, and guide them to becoming a person with a firm foundation who is able to endure through life’s storms, and even be a shelter for others.

Written by Clark Miller, G.O.D. South East Asia Representative on the Ground