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EFC Philippines Mission Trip (May 8-17, 2014)

At the direction of the EFC-GA, Shirley Gackle (wife of EFC-Houston senior pastor, Andrew Gackle ) and Teodosia (Teody) Lastimoso (EFC-Houston member), both native Filipinas, were assigned to oversee the distribution of aid donated by EFC members to victims of Typhoon Haiyan (which hit central Philippines in November of 2013). Five members of EFC-Houston (Shirley, Teody, and Antonioi/Cecilia Samson & daughter, Karen Solinap) had relatives, or families of relatives, living in cities directly affected by the typhoon, so it was decided that this mission would target those 3 cities. In the Philippines, the “barangay” is a smaller area of local city government (similar to a large subdivision). The 3 cities targeted were Burauen (in the Libas Barangay, with 350 households)) and Biliran (in the Naval Village, with 510 households), both in Leyte Province, and President Roxas City (in the Poblacion Barangay, with 1700 households), in Capiz Province.

Pastor Eduardo Liao, a pastor from Metro Manila, one of Shirley’s younger brothers, did crucial advance work in facilitating logistical preparations for the mission outreach (the 3rd week of April). Invaluable logistical assistance was also provided by Shirley’s younger sister, Melly Clavel, and her family (husband, Ike, and daughter, Emily) in Metro Manila.

The 3 cities targeted in this mission outreach have received very little aid/assistance from the federal or provincial government there. Christian organizations and churches (from within the Philippines & abroad) have actually been the most effective in assisting the typhoon victims. We were aware that the majority of residents in the 3 targeted cities are traditional Roman Catholics (without a personal relationship with Jesus Christ), so the spiritual needs of the people are as great as their material needs, so it was decided that, besides the preaching of the Gospel, we would give the people (1) New Testaments in their own language (2) Food and (3) Sheet metal for roofing repair in Burauen, which is near Tacloban City, where most of the buildings had roofs destroyed by the typhoon. One hundred percent of the donated EFC relief funds went toward the purchase of those 3 items. The remainder of the total cost of those items, plus all other travel and related expenses, was covered through additional funds raised through EFC-Houston members and Christian friends outside of EFC.

The following people joined Shirley and Teody on this mission trip, providing needed assistance for so many things: (1) Pastor Eduardo Liao (2) Carlos Liao, another younger brother of Shirley (3) Alma Liao, Carlos’ wife, whose hometown is Biliran, the 2nd city visited (4) John Liao, oldest son of Carlos/Alma who, among other things, was the mission photographer (5) Mark Liao, youngest son of Carolos/Alma, who currently is a Bible school student, and led the children’s ministry in each city visited and (6) David Liao, 2nd son of Carlos/Alma, who assisted Mark with the children’s ministry.

First Stop: Burauen (Libas Barangay), Leyte Province

This city is 45 miles from Tacolban City. This area was the hardest-hit by the typhoon, but most aid has been channeled to Tacloban City, leaving surrounding areas very neglected, as far as receiving aid. The team flew from Manila to Tacloban City on May 8th. While there, the team picked up the New Testaments (at the airport, stored after being previously sent by air cargo), that would be distributed in the first two cities on the mission trip. The team also purchased food for distribution at the only large supermarket in the city. This first city (Burauen) would also be the only place where the team would give away sheet metal for roofing repair, as so many houses/buildings had roofs damaged in the typhoon. The 350 households targeted were in Barangay Libas (in the city of Burauen), because that is Teody’s hometown and one of her relatives, Cesenio Oronos, is the current barangay chairman/leader there. The Lord gave the team favor to not have to meet in the open air (thanks to the arrangement of Barangay Chairman Oronos, who was previously led to the Lord by Pastor Ed Liao). Adults met in the local Catholic church (under the part of the roof not damaged in the typhoon) and the children met in a small nearby building. The Gospel was preached and the response was overwhelming. The team reported that all people present made decisions to follow Jesus and that there was complete silence during the altar call. The next day, May 9th, even more people came, some who had not attended the day before, and they also responded to the Gospel overwhelmingly. New Testaments, in the Waray language, were given to every household (one Bible per household). Snacks and cooked food were given to the people on-site. Pastor Ed Liao administered Holy Communion to all the new believers and all of the other Christians there. The sheet metal would arrive there by boat and truck after the team left, and Barangay Chairman Oronos would oversee distribution to designated families in the barangay, who needed their roofs repaired. This is very timely, as the rainy season would start a month after the team left there (9on May 9th). Another relative of Sis’ Teody, Helen Oronos, has already volunteered to follow-up with the new believers in Burauen (Barangay Libas).

Second Stop: Biliran (Naval Village), Leyte Province

This is the hometown of Alma Liao. Carlos & Alma were the keys in preparing the way for the team’s eventual arrival there (on May 10th), because they left Tacloban City on May 8th (soon after arriving there with the rest of the team from Manila). They purchased groceries in Tacloban City to take to Biliran, where Alma’s family would help with the cooking and distribution of food on-site. For the adults, the meeting place was a meeting hall, but the next day the team was allowed to use a big open-air basketball court. The children, again, had a separate meeting-place nearby. Sis’ Teody led the singing (of worship songs) in all 3 cities where the team visited. Here, 510 households were reached with the Gospel and, again, the response was enthusiastic. This area of the Philippines is known as a “Roman Catholic stronghold”, but the people received the preaching of the Gospel with very open hearts. New Testaments in the Cebuano language were given to each household (one per household). The final meeting there concluded around midnight (May 12th) and the team went directly to Tacloban City, where they flew back to Manila on May 13th, in order to fly from there to the 3rd destination (as there is no quick direct transportation between Biliran and the final destination, President Roxas City). Carlos & Alma would stay on in Biliran, with Alma’s family (before eventually returning to Metro Manila), so the remaining 6 would continue on.

Third Stop: President Roxas City (Barangay Poblacion), Capiz Province

The team would arrive at the final destination on May 14th (staying through the 16th and leaving on the 17th). The noteworthy development here was the tremendous cooperation and help of Anjoe Samson (son of Antonio/Cecilia Samson and brother of Karen Solinap, all EFC-Houston members), who is the current barangay chairman of Barangay Poblacion. Barangay Chairman Samson had 20 people (men & women) working for him, and they worked hard in packing food (rice and other grocery items) that would be distributed to the 1700 households in that barangay. The Gospel was preached (to adults & children), again with an outstanding response, and one New Testament (in the Ilongo language) was given to each household. The Lord gave Shirley wisdom in directing that the New Testaments purchased for each city be the “Catholic Version”, which meant that there was an “imprimatur” stamp, certifying that it is approved by the Catholic Church (though the actual contents are the same as any regular New Testament in our homes). This was to ensure that no local Roman Catholic priests, or others, would dissuade/discourage the new believers from reading their New Testaments, on the grounds that they were “Protestant New Testaments”. In all 3 cities, the people treasured the New Testaments they received, some saying that the NT’s were more important to them then the food they received! Some local people, in all 3 cities, also commented that the team’s visit was like “angels coming to them” from heaven, as these areas have received little assistance or help since the typhoon hit last November.

The 6-person team returned to Manila on May 17th, rejoicing in the grace of God, demonstrated in the 10-day mission. The Gospel of salvation was proclaimed to many (adults & children), who had never heard it before. The tremendous response of both adults & children to the altar calls (Shirley presided over the altar calls in all 3 cities, except for 1 altar call, presided over by Pastor Liao, when Shirley was ill. Pastor Ed Liao also played an important role in preaching messages to the people, after each altar call, to reinforce the decision they had just made.) was the result of the Holy Spirit’s moving in their hearts. The gifts of EFC members went toward the funding of this mission. In all, at least 2560 households were touched by the love of Jesus. To God be the glory. Great things He has done!

EFC Philippines Mission Trip (May 8-17, 2014)
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