The recent typhoon that hit the Philippines has shocked and moved us. I watched as day by day the angry colors on the meteorological map of the BBC website move closer and closer toward the island where one of my dear friends has lived for decades. Knowing someone there makes the crisis more personable; it’s a land filled with people we’ve prayed for since she and her family moved there (she was one of my roommates at university, and one of my friends since junior-high school). I was relieved to hear via Facebook that my friend and her family were south of where the typhoon hit, and thus not in harm’s way. My heart goes out to all those who have been affected.
I wanted to put a human face to the Philippines, so below is an interview with Lynette Tillman (she has lived their since 1992). She also shared with me the incredibly moving story of fellow missionaries, who live in Tacloban, where the typhoon hit. They went back to their home before the typhoon arrived, feeling called to be an incarnational presence there even though they were putting themselves in danger. Don’t miss their story of floating inside their house on a mattress while the 235 mile winds blew out their windows. I love that cans of Dr. Pepper floated over to them to slake their thirst…
A Blonde in the Philippines
Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines on November 8, and went through the middle part of the country. Several small towns were hit, but the hardest hit city was Tacloban City. I have not been there since the typhoon hit, but the images are jarring. Whole subdivisions of cement houses have been flattened. In as much as I would like to go and help with the recovery, it is not yet time for that. Right now, what is needed is for experts to go in and clear the areas of debris (and, unfortunately, dead bodies), and to get the initial aid of food and water out to the survivors. I hope to go in a few months to help either with debriefing the survivors, or to help in the rebuilding.
I felt a call to be a missionary since I was a young teenager. My husband, Andy, felt the same call. When we applied with a missionary-sending organization, we did not specify where we would like to go. At the time, however, there was a need in the Philippines as many missionaries were at retirement age. We have been involved in traditional church planting, and now reaching out to those of other religions (animism, Muslim, etc.).
Being blonde – with three blonde kids – in my country means we are always looked at, always noticed, usually stared at. One gets used to it. When I was newly married I received more attention; once I had children, much of the attention transferred to them. Now that my children are heading off to university in the USA, they are having to adjust to not being noticed so much!
Right now I have three jobs. I am a high-school science teacher at Faith Academy Mindanao. Faith Academy Mindanao is a small international school in Davao city in the southern Philippines. We have approximately 150 students, with 60 in the upper level (high school). We exist primarily to educate the children of missionaries, but also are the only international school in our city, so we have several children of business people as well. I teach freshman science (physical science) as well as chemistry and physics. Second, I run a guest house for workers who are reaching out into difficult areas in this country. We provide an inexpensive (US$3.50 per night) accommodation for these people, who come into the city for meetings, in transit, or just to get away and rest. We provide a venue for trainings, as well as member care for these hard-working missionaries. Third, I am the child safety officer at Faith Academy Mindanao. As we are in the two-thirds world, and generally educate foreign students, we are not adequately held accountable for reporting suspicion of child abuse. A group of like-minded mission organizations have banded together to hold each other accountable in this area. So I work to keep our campus (and community) safe for child and adult alike.
Filipinos are some of the most hospitable, loving people in the world. Currently we are working with the unreached peoples in this area. It is heartbreaking to realize that although there are many in this country who call themselves believers, they do not share their faith. The rich culture of these unreached peoples will only be enhanced as they come to know Jesus as the Messiah.
We are now experiencing one of the costs of being a missionary in the Philippines – our eldest child, Marisa, is away at university in the USA. It is difficult to be so far away from her, especially as she struggles to find places where she feels comfortable spending holidays (such as the upcoming Thanksgiving break which she will spend with 3 different sets of people, as she does not feel that she should stay at any one of these places for more than a day or two), and when she is just not feeling well (she has had a fever and cold this recently, and it is difficult not being there to mother her). Another cost is that if we were in our home country, we would not be able to live off of our current salary. Monetarily it is difficult, and as we are looking at retirement age not too far off, we do not have the means to retire.
But there are so many joys. We are able to see the joy on the faces of people that are helped. We have seen many come to know Jesus. We have seen people fed, and clothed. An example is that in early December we will host a Christmas party with any local missionary who is reaching out to the unreached in our area. This annual event is such a joy. For several who attend, this is the only chance they have to freely celebrate Christmas. We are able to also give gifts to the children of the workers. A simple doll or other toy (which may be their only gift for Christmas) brings such joy to these children.
I hope you’ve been able to support the disaster-relief projects through prayer and finances – Tearfund or Compassion or World Vision are good organizations to give through. If you’d like more information on Lynette and Andy Tillman’s work in the Philippines, you can visit here.