Mission life: THE KUKMIN DAILY

Brothers in Faith Promise to Rebuild Tacloban Together

2013-11-18 18:08

In downtown Tacloban, I had an opportunity to meet with two Korean missionaries both based here. Rev. Park No-heon and Rev. Sagong Se-hyun were taking care of Typhoon Haiyan survivors. They first thanked to Korean Christians who worried about their safety. They asked for continuing prayer for Tacloban residents.

They both have been serving indigenous people and spreading the gospel for the last six and eight years, respectively. Since November 8, the day the typhoon slammed the region, they have been cleaning the wet church building and taking care of church members and children. They could not communicate properly with outside due to power outage and disconnected telecommunications. Both had just come back to the ruins of Tacloban from Samar Island, a 3-hour distance, where they let their families take refuge. Rev. Sagong said, “I hurried to come back because as missionary I worried about my church members and indigenous people.”

Rev. Park was having breakfast when the deadly typhoon hit Tacloban. His house is 200 meters away from the shore. The house shook like it was an earthquake. Wind tore the tin roof. The ceiling collapsed and rain poured down directly. The bedroom was soon filled up with water. Everything took place all of sudden. His five-year-old Aram yelled to him. “Dad, pray to Jesus!”

At her voice, he finally was able to recoup. His family held together and prayed wholeheartedly. Rev. Park took his daughter in his arm and held his wife’s hand with the other hand. Then he risked his life to run to the church building next to his house. There were around 40 people in the building including his church members. The roof of church building, too, was shaking. He prayed, “God, please save us. Pity these people.”

Tsunami came. Black muddy water rushed in. Rev. Park quickly sent the children to the upper room behind the altar. Then he held the roof in his hands and prayed as hard as he could. That roof was the last hope for their survival. He prayed until the rain stopped at around noon. The water, which was chest-level, began to drop slowly.

He could not rejoice over his survival. Out the window he could see trees fallen uprooted and the shanty houses of the poor all collapsed. The beautiful seashore of yesterday was gone now like it was bombed. Church members came to the church. “The kids in our neighborhood are dead.” “My grandma is dead.”

His heart was beating fast as he went out to the street. Corpses were floating in flooded streets. A young father was wiping the body of his young kid. He could not imagine what could have happened if the church roof had been blown away. He wiped his tears as he walked around to check out his neighborhood. He could not even say words of prayer. “God, oh God….”

At exactly the same time, in a close-by village in the mountain, where Rev. Sagong lives, the windows of the mission center were shaking and the rain water seeped in. Neighbors risked their lives to run to the mission center. They knocked on the door and Rev. Sagong opened the door immediately to let them in. The building was safe from flood because the structure is sturdy and located halfway up the mountain. The roof of his church building, on the other hand, was ripped apart.

As the night arrives, it became as dark as it could. No power, no tap water. Phones did not work. There were sounds of gunfire from downtown. Rev. Sagong and Rev. Park, who live with the indigenous people on the outskirt of Tacloban, went downtown on Saturday to find out what had happened. They witnessed horrible scenes. People were all outside and moving around. They knocked down cars and stores. A catastrophe. There was a rumor about a collapsed building, in which some 8000 people were sheltering, killed many people including the mayor. There were no policemen or soldiers, not to mention any public officers.

Rev. Sagong and Rev. Park cleaned up the church together with other survivors and held Sunday worship service. They decided that they need to let the outside world know what had happened there. On November 11, the Rev. Sagong rode a bike to Ormoc, west side of Leyte Island, because he heard that cell phones work there. Everywhere he went, dead bodies were scattered here and there and people were moving around in groups. He heard that prisoners escaped the prison because the gate was broken and opened. He also heard that martial law was proclaimed. He had back to Tacloban late that night. Church members persuaded him to seek refuge. “Foreigners are getting looted. Pastor, you should take refuge right away.”

Early in the morning of November 12, Rev. Sagong headed to Samal by his car with Rev. Park’s family. There were already a lot of people crossing the bridge to Samar. As soon as he managed to make a place for his family to stay, he came back to Tacloban. Rumor said that there are guerrillas appearing in the mountains. Nevertheless he could not help but head back.

On November 13, the two missionaries looked around the downtown. They said, “It looks a bit better and stabilized compared to the right after” and “It seems the worst has passed.” While I interviewed them, phone calls kept coming in from Korea asking about their safety. He was puzzled to learn that people in Korea are praying for Tacloban and raising relief fund. He said, “Even people of the Philippines have no idea where Tacloban is. I’m so grateful that Koreans are praying for Tacloban.” He added, “Missionaries like us who speak the local language and have been living with the indigenous people have a lot of work to do.” Rev. Park said, “It is heartbreaking particularly because the typhoon hit the most poor in this region the hardest” and “Such an unexpected event left us lost track of things. But we’ll do our best for the survivors so that the Gospel changes them and they all recover.” The two Korean missionaries held each other’s hands and promised to rely on each other like brothers in rebuilding Tacloban.

by reporter Jibang Kim from Tacloban, Philippines

Popular Articles

Total Mission Kuki
Yoido Full Gospel Church


2013 WCC Myungsung church