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Neuse Baptist aiding in relief, rebuilding effort.
“It’s going to take a literal financial miracle, but our God can do anything.”
By David Leone
WAKE FOREST — The typhoon that struck the Philippines last weekend is being called the worst storm of its kind ever recorded there. Thousands upon thousands are feared dead; infrastructure and housing on entire islands destroyed; and millions displaced.
The horror has also hit close to home. Howard Wynn, temporary Wake Forest resident and former youth minister at Neuse Baptist Church (which draws much of its membership from northern Wake), lives in Tacloban City, the capital on the island of Leyte, where an estimated 10,000 people were killed.
He lost his house and all his possessions, but on Monday he found reason to be thankful: his son John escaped the flooding with his entire family. Just.
“He and his three children and another woman and baby escaped (the surge) by knocking a hole in the ceiling, or they would have drowned,” Wynn said Tuesday when reached by phone.
“My son and I live a fair distance from the sea and the water got eight feet deep. It was not a rushing wave, it just started rising. It got deeper and deeper and deeper and he had to think fast,” Wynn said.
So John took a piece of drywall being used as a room divider and made a makeshift raft, laying it flat as the water came in, piling his wife, Christi, children, Joshua, 13, Emily, 11 and Jacob, 4, along with another woman and her baby on top of it.
The water kept rising until they were sure they were going to drown. There was nowhere to go.
“Just a few minutes from dying, he was able to beat a hole in the roof,” Wynn recounted, shaken.
Neuse Baptist missionaries David and Jill Coltrane also escaped with their lives and are now in Manilla, according to Wynn.
But the congregation Wynn pastors, Grace Baptist Church Worldwide Ministries in Tacloban, lost parishioners to the storm, and everyone who lives there has suffered either personal loss or had their homes damaged or destroyed.
Howard Wynn has been in contact with his church via phone relay and has seen pictures of his community posted online.
“Looking at Facebook I have been sick, burdened beyond comparison,” he said.
Neuse Baptist has sprung into action, and has created a relief fund to help the people in Tacloban, to be administered through the remaining members of Grace Baptist Church — and Wynn, when he is able to return.
The Wynns have been building their ministry for 36 years at Grace Baptist. Neuse Baptist in Raleigh is one of many American churches that have supported their efforts, focused primarily on planting new Baptist congregations in the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Burma, Taiwan and Thailand.
They had developed a Bible College and seminary and ran one of the most acclaimed K-12 schools in the country.
They also would sometimes minister to the needs of the people in the community. Those needs are at their greatest now.
Though people on the coast of Leyte and those within 300 to 500 yards of the ocean were told to evacuate, the size and scope of the storm overwhelmed the island.
On the news, ships were seen beached miles inland; there were reports of storm surges coming in over the treetops on Leyte and elsewhere in the Philippines’ and such a large swath of destruction officials were having trouble even beginning to estimate the total number of deaths or overall impact.
In places, there were reports of people who hadn’t eaten or had anything to drink in days, and many, many stories of family members, friends and neighbors washed away, not to be found again.
U.S. Brigadier General Paul Kennedy, arriving on Leyte with a U.S. Marine contingent from Japan to deliver emergency supplies, told a Filipino news agency he was shocked at the damage — that roads are impassable, trees are all down, posts are down, the power is out and every building in every village on the island is damaged or destroyed.
Kennedy was directing tilt-rotor Osprey aircraft, which don’t require runways, and search and rescue helicopters to the efforts, but didn’t want to bring in troops whose needs for housing and feeding would add to the problem on the ground.
Determined to help
Howard Wynn, though he is desperate to get back to his home and start rebuilding, made the same determination.
“I have tickets for Dec. 5 to fly back. I cannot go to Tacloban. There is no place for me to stay. Our vehicles are destroyed,” Howard said.
He thinks he could room with friends in Manila, the capital city of the Philippines, and if he had funds, “I would buy a vehicle and travel back and forth to Tacloban to minister to people.”
It’s an idea he realizes is unlikely to happen on the schedule he’d like, but he believes they’ll find a way, somehow, and expects to play a large role in Neuse Baptist’s efforts.
“There are hundreds of thousands of places that are destroyed. It will take cargo ships by the hundreds just to bring in materials to fix it — even if we had billions of dollars,” he said of his adopted country. “We’ll need to find roofing, steel bars, cement.”
He’s heard from the surviving parishioners at Grace Baptist, who are already banding together, making sure they have food and their basic needs are met.
One hundred percent of the funds donated to help will be used for the relief efforts, according to Neuse Baptist website.
And, Wynn added, those efforts will be documented with pictures, along every step of the process, so people know where their money is going.
“The people that we love have a big need, more than anybody could know,” Wynn said. “It’s going to take a literal financial miracle, but our God can do anything.”
To donate, make checks payable to: Philippine Relief Fund, c/o Neuse Baptist Church, 3209 Gresham Lake Road, Suite 134, Raleigh, NC 27615.
A way to give online will soon be added to their website at neusebaptist.com.
For more about Grace Baptist Church, see gbctacworldwide.com.