Devastation brought on by Typhoon Yutu, the year’s strongest storm to date, which slammed into the Northern Mariana Islands on October 24, 2018, activated response efforts by Adventist Community Services (ACS) in the North American Division’s Guam-Micronesia Mission. The Category 5 typhoon destroyed homes and buildings, killed at least one person, and flooded roads, especially on Saipan and Tinian. The islands had widespread power loss.
“Not surprisingly, we don't have electricity yet,” said Mark Bugbee, principal of Saipan Seventh-day Adventist School. Bugbee reported that the school is running its generator when needed. “It is going to take some time to get the school up and running again. Our biggest problem is water,” he said. “Our tanks will only last a few days. We have a work bee on Sunday, and I hope to have quite a bit of the downed trees and debris cleaned up.”
Bugbee added, “But God has been very good to us. Many schools are completely destroyed. We lost our awning, our bleachers, a shed, the roof to the trailer, and have extensive damage to our grounds, but the school building is intact.”
Reports have come in that 80 percent of the San Antonio Seventh-day Adventist Church in Saipan has been destroyed.
Guam ACS director Max Mays said he has committed to purchasing supplies for the island’s relief efforts. Further, Mays has coordinated efforts with the Ayuda Foundation, a medical non-profit organization in Guam, to secure the transport of the supplies to the territory. Currently, ACS in Guam reports that the only flights being allowed into Saipan are humanitarian.
Mission and Division Responses
The storm made landfall as the president of the Guam-Micronesia Mission, Ken Norton, was traveling from the Marshall Islands to Tennessee. Once briefed, Norton expressed gratitude for Mays’s work and thanked ACS for its support.
“Thank you, everyone, for moving ahead with plans to coordinate help in the aftermath of this storm,” Norton said. “Praise the Lord for the foresight of our NAD ACS leadership in sending funds a couple of months ago that can be accessed immediately for this. And thank you, Max, for your leadership on the ground in Guam.”
NAD sent out appeals for cash assistance that will be shared this Sabbath during church services throughout the North American Division.
Concurrently in the U.S., NAD ACS Disaster Response (DR) is operating six distribution sites in Donalsonville, Georgia, to aid Hurricane Michael relief efforts. The Category 4 storm struck the Florida Panhandle on October 10 and moved into parts of southern Georgia and up the east coast of the United States. Local officials estimate that the storm made between 10,000 and 20,000 people homeless.
“NAD is working with several responding conferences to Hurricane Michael and is currently reviewing a number of grant applications that will assist our teams in this present effort,” said W. Derrick Lea, director of NAD ACS DR.
ACS DR has drawn volunteers from Alabama, Georgia, Florida, and California. The volunteers have helped manage the distribution centers. One site served more than 400 people in one day.
“Regardless of what conference they represent, each [blended group of volunteers] is working to deliver superb service to people of all races, faith, and economic status,” said Lea.
“Many rural areas still don't have electricity, so their food has all spoiled, and they are desperate for supplies,” continued Lea. “There is still a lot of poverty in some of these areas that need to be served.”
Members of the ACS team are preparing to travel to Panama City, Florida, a city that was hit with substantial damage from Hurricane Michael. Airlink and United Airlines are providing free flights through a partnership that was established last year in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. The free service will also help transport volunteers from the Northeastern Conference.
According to Lea, efforts of the Southeastern and Florida Conferences, coupled with South-Central Conference, have created a strong unit that will support future relief efforts in Florida.
“The readiness the conferences have shown is encouraging and truly makes us stronger as a whole,” said Lea.