The typhoon-battered Philippines was still reeling from the devastations brought about by typhoons Pepito (World Meteorological Office name: Saudel), Quinta (Molave), and Rolly (Goni). Then, typhoon Ulysses (Vamco) ravaged the already wind-wracked and rain-drenched eastern and northern regions of the country on November 11, 2020.
As the latest typhoon entered the country’s area of responsibility, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration(PAGASA) raised its threat level to storm signal number 3 over provinces that were in its path. People in flood-prone areas were evacuated, but the majority were still taken by surprise at the torrential amount of water the typhoon poured over Luzon’s central and northern parts, destroying crops, infrastructure, and livelihood.
Typhoon Vamco left major roads impassable because of flooding and toppled electrical and communication towers. In the mountainous regions of Sierra Madre, several landslides were reported, making relief operations difficult. Major dams across the northern region overflowed, causing 50-foot-deep (15-meter-deep) flooding in downstream towns and barangays, or neighborhoods.
The Philippine government reported 73 deaths, 24 injuries, and 19 people missing after Typhoon Vamco.
Saw Samuel, president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Southern Asia-Pacific Division (SSD), called every member across the territory to fervently pray for the safety and comfort of those affected by this typhoon. “It is during this time that we seek earnestly for God’s protection from the wrath of such natural disasters. No matter how big the storms that will come our way, we always remember that God is our shelter and that this too shall pass,” he said.
Adventists Responds to Displaced Families
The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) in the Philippines has been on the ground since the preceding three typhoons hit, responding to affected individuals and families. As soon as Typhoon Vamco left the Philippines, the ADRA team conducted rapid assessments in areas affected to identify the community's primary needs and address those needs accordingly.
ADRA Philippines responded through local ACS teams with funding from ADRA and individual donors, reaching more than 500 families. It extended 250,000 Philippine Pesos (about US$5,200) to the Northeast Luzon Mission of the Adventist Church, where Adventist Community Services (ACS) is spearheading relief operations in the region. According to ADRA officials, food, medicine, blankets, and potable water are the families’ primary needs in evacuation sites.
Digital Evangelists Keep Serving
The Philippines is home to more than 150 volunteers known as “prayer warriors.” This group includes digital missionaries praying around the clock for prayer requests coming from all around the world. Moderators also answer emails, follow chat conversations, provide pastoral care, and give Bible studies.
According to local church leaders, most of these digital missionaries come from areas greatly affected by the series of typhoons that recently hit the Philippines. Despite their ordeal, digital missionaries remain faithful to their commitment to pray and fulfill their Christian duties, team leader Ace Vhirsul reported.
“A lot of our missionaries were affected by the typhoon, but despite the interrupted power and intermittent internet connection, volunteers remained resourceful to make sure they can perform the tasks assigned to them,” he said.
According to regional church leaders, digital missionaries continue to reach more than 4,000 people every day.