In 1985 I completed an Eagle Scout project which was in response to a flood in Marikina (part of Manila). Earlier that year a Christian man came to our house and asked for flashlight batteries. We asked him why he needed them and he said his whole community was flooded. We were concerned about him, but later that week my parents and I went to see what happened. We were shocked to find out that the whole community, which is near the banks of a river, was submerged up to twenty feet deep. Every home was completely under water. Another missionary, Jack Branan, had already planted a church in that area, but the little church made of plywood did not survive the flood.
I was concerned about the people and wished that I could help somehow. I was preparing for my final step for the Eagle Scout badge in Boy Scouts which required a community service project. So, I started dreaming and planning about building a church building. One that would be big enough and strong enough to survive a flood, and tall enough so that people could get out of rising flood waters. My parents helped me to write to everyone I knew, including senators from my home state of Iowa and asked them for money to help build a church. The money started coming in (usually in donations of $5 or $10 dollars) and so after school my friends and I would go down and help build the church. We dug through raw sewage to build the footings, we helped mix and pour concrete, we laid bricks, and slowly the biggest building in the whole community rose. In those days, all the other buildings were made from plywood, thatch and old rice sacks. But this church, the Malanday Baptist Church, was the first one in that area made of bricks. It is now re-named a beautiful name: “Love Community Baptist Church”.
It wasn’t long after the church was completed that it got tested. The flood waters came up and dozens of people took refuge in the top floor and up on the roof. Everything on the bottom floor was destroyed, but the church building saved lives, literally, as people had a place of refuge to run to. I received my Eagle Scout badge and the project was shown around Asia as a model project. It was then that I found out that most people just planted a couple trees, or built a swing set for an orphanage to complete their service projects!
Every few years, Manila gets hit again and again with massive flooding. A few weeks ago, from Typhoon Ketsana, it happened again. They say this was the worst flood in 40 years. The flooding was devastating, but the church again provided shelter for some 26 people. The pastors, Roger and Rosie are lifelong friends. Rosie used to babysit me! Roger used to fix stuff around the house. They humbly serve the Lord, year after year, in a place which many people might consider a “slum”. While it is poor, all the people who live there actually own the land, but it is in a flood plain. Manila has a population of some 18 million people yet it would be much smaller in area than a typical city in the US of only 500,000 people. I built the church in 1985, but Roger and Rosie have continued to be in the community, incarnational, committed for the long term, and love the people into the Kingdom of God. I love the new name of the church, “Love Community” Church. They demonstrate it day in and day out.
You know how old I was when I built that church? 14. You are never too young to serve the Lord.
Thanks to all the pastors, missionaries (Seales, Ferns. . .) and also to the volunteer teams from Baptist Global Response www.gobgr.org and others who are standing with the people in that village. If you want to send anything to help the church, let me know and I will visit them in my next trip to the Philippines in November and give it to them. Pictures here were taken by Gloria Fern.
Update from Sunday, October 11, 2009: From Rosie Rico “We lost almost everything in the house yet we want you to know that we greatly rejoice for the 30+ souls that came to know the Lord yesterday and today. There were 3 mothers, 10 teenagers, and the rest were young children (ages 5-12).” In the midst of disaster, they are making the most for the Kingdom of God. Way to go Roger and Rosie!