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November 2013

Relief Work and Rehabilitation After Haiyan

According to the recent news, the numbers are close to 4,000. Super Typhoon Haiyan has claimed the lives of about 4,000 lives, people who once lived in Tacloban City and its vicinity, Ormoc City, Guiuan, and other municipalities of the provinces of Leyte and Samar. Many more are injured, and thousands more are homeless, ravaged, and distraught. It will take years for the survivors to rebuild. It will take a lifetime to recover from the loss of love ones and from the trauma of going through a super typhoon with wind speed of up to 195 mph, and gust winds of about 230 mph. Tacloban City will never be the same.

I am here in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. I am writing this reflection from a distance. I get information from the news about the progress of the relief operations of various groups on the ground. I hear stories of our brothers and sisters of the Free Methodist Church from my pastor friends who are on-hand and physically present in the ravaged areas helping and doing their best. I write from a distance.

However, my personal experience with super typhoons in the Philippines is still very real to me. I have been through many of these kinds of typhoons. I once resided in Surigao Del Norte, and I had the luck of going under the eye of a super typhoon--twice. They were not fun experiences. In all of these experiences, the greatest challenge is the time of rehabilitation. When people start rebuilding their lives and picking up the pieces, that is when the real trouble begins. I do not mean to belittle the loss of lives of many at the height of Haiyan's visit last week, but more lives will be lost if we do not give the same money and energy to the work of rehabilitation.

One of the biggest problems in rehabilitation work in the Philippines is corruption. Once money comes in to financed recovery efforts and reconstruction of small communities, corrupt government officials will come in and take their cuts. There are many United Nations studies that corroborate this dire phenomenon. You would be fortunate if the local people, the recipients of these financial aid, get only one fourth of the intended funds. I have seen it happen. Every Filipino can tell you despicable stories of corrupt local officials and greedy national leaders carting away most of the funds.

I applaud the efforts of international groups. In the area of relief work, they are doing a tremendous job. It is such a shame, a slap on the face of our national leaders, who could not get their acts together to be there in Tacloban City and other affected areas when the people needed them. 

However, in the area of rehabilitation, small local groups are still the best way to go to help typhoon victims rebuild their lives. Unless big organizations like UNDP, World Vision, and others, do not connect with indigenous groups, then all the efforts will be useless. They will just make some corrupt official happy. 

I am fortunate to belong to an organization that is connected with local groups and indigenous populations. Our pastors of the Free Methodist Church of the Philippines are doing a wonderful job of giving relief work to its members. They maybe small efforts, but they are making a difference. I look forward to the years to come when I can participate in the efforts of rehabilitation and rebuilding the lives of the Filipinos in Leyte and Samar. These projects maybe small but they will go a long way. There will be no corrupt officials to pocket the money "cuts." There will be no red-tape and debilitating procedures and hegemonic organizational rules. There will be no fancy media coverage or big-name people to please. Everything will be for the locals, both Free Methodists and non-Free Methodists. 

Before that day of rehabilitation comes, we all need to support the efforts of giving food, medicines, and other relief and rescue efforts for these Haiyan victims. When you are not giving, you can pause and pray to our God for help. "Be not far from us for trouble is near and there is none to help." (Psalms 22:11)


Making Sense In The Midst Of The Storm

I am back in Kaohsiung. It is good to feel the warmth of love from my family. And yet, my heart is still confused trying to make sense of all the devastation and turmoil from the aftermath of the supertyphoon Haiyan (Typhoon Yolanda). Right now, many of my friends are still searching for love ones wondering whether or not they are still alive. Please continue to pray.


Every Five Years, A Super Typhoon Comes To The Philippines

I am in Manila, Philippines (for a time of teaching tomorrow). Right now, I am watching the morning news of a live television coverage of Tacloban City (about 400 miles from Manila), in the province of Leyte, east of the country. I do not want to be too dramatic and alarming, but a video of flood waters entering the city streets of Tacloban is scary. I have been to our Free Methodist Church in Tacloban City. From what I remember, it is not an elevated location. Please pray for safety for the people of Leyte and Samar. They are ones who are affected the most by this super typhoon Haiyan (Typhoon Yolanda). Pray . . .


An Answer to an Illinois or Michigan Prayer

Last year, I was visiting churches in Illinois and Michigan and sharing about God's work in Taiwan. In my sharing, I spoke of the need for my American friends to come and visit Holy Light seminary and help some students in their English language learning. I mentioned about Jiadzwou (Paul) and Duoen (Jane).

Pictured here (below)are Paul, Jane, and Joycelyn. These three are committed to serve God in the ministry. They are passionate about cross cultural missions work. They are hoping that in the near future they will go and become a missionary in another country.

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Joe Noble, a music teacher from Greenville, IL, is here helping Holy Light Theological Seminary students in their English. It is such a joy for me to witness God's answers to the many prayers of friends from Illinois and Michigan happening right before my very eyes. Thank you Jesus!

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Here is Paul and Joe, in one of their English tutorial classes. I remember back in 2012, I said, "When you come to Taiwan, I will make sure you spend time with some of our students who are committed to cross cultural missions work. In that way, you are also involved in missionary work because you are helping someone who is, in the near future, going to be a missionary from Taiwan."


Eight Years Of God's Grace and Abundance

Eight years ago, on this very day, at about 10:00 PM, we arrived in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, from Illinois, USA, to begin an adventure with our Missionary God helping in the work of the Free Methodist Church here in Taiwan and Asia.

Eight years ago, my son Jacob was only 10 months old, and my daughter Carmen was almost 5 years old, when we came to Taiwan. God's loving care and abundance is written all over their faces, evident in their lives. They are growing up beautifully. 

Eight years ago . . . after eight years of missionary life and work, the adventure with our God who is full of surprises and overflowing grace still continues. Just like any other missionary family, we went through difficult times, culture shock, embarrassing moments speaking the local language, and many other trials. In the midst of it all, God was victorious. His presence with the four of us made all the difference.

Below is a picture of the four of us in one of our weekend getaway, a time of recreation at a nearby university. We look tired, especially Jacob. This was our first month, so the expressions on our faces were kind of expected. I was surprised that Carmen was still able to smile.

Clemente - Nov 2005

Eight years ago, and we are still here, continuing the journey that God has ordained for us. We are grateful for all your prayers. We are here because God has called us to be here. We are here because God is answering your prayers for us. Thank you for praying.