By Megan K. Mertz
A disaster team from The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod was attempting Tuesday, Nov. 19, to enter Tacloban, the Philippine city hit so hard Nov. 8 by Typhoon Haiyan — one of the strongest storms ever recorded.
The Rev. Glenn Merritt, director of LCMS Disaster Response and leader of the team, said via telephone that the city is under “a military lockdown because they are trying to clear the bodies and to control disease. But we have a local person from Tacloban with us and we think we will be able to get through the roadblock.”
The Synod team arrived in the Philippines Nov. 16 to help the Lutheran Church in the Philippines (LCP), an LCMS partner church, coordinate disaster-recovery efforts following the typhoon.
After working in Mahayag, “where two [Lutheran] churches and a parsonage were destroyed,” Merritt said, “we’ve done a lot of interviews with members, seen the damage, done assessments and determined that we needed to release another $100,000 immediately for emergency food, medical supplies and shelter repair.”
The Synod earlier pledged up to $100,000 to the LCP for immediate needs, and is offering to match up to $50,000 for donations gathered by member churches of the International Lutheran Council.
At the time of the phone call, he said team members were at a marketplace in Baybay, “trying to buy rice and beans and some other food stuffs to take with us toward Tacloban, where we hope to meet the pastor from the church there,” and deliver the food supplies to him.
Merritt said that the team is on the move on the island of Leyte in “one small van. And we’ve just continued traveling forward.”
He said they would “continue working with the Lutheran Church in the Philippines as they try to respond to the needs, not only in Mahayag, [but] now on up into Tacloban.”
And he indicated that on Wednesday (Nov. 20), “we are going back to the island of Cebu to do some debriefing and strategy planning long-term.”
Merritt relayed in a Nov. 18 text message that the team arrived “in a totally devastated area” on the southern end of Leyte the night before, after a two-hour boat ride.
He went on to describe the scene on the ground that night as “total darkness,” with “the faces of struggling, but not defeated, people peering through the gloom in the soft light of small fires and candles.”
Merritt also mentioned the lack of food and water and the limited availability of communication channels in the area more than a week after the storm tore through.
Those wishing to support LCMS typhoon-relief efforts can make a gift to the LCMS Disaster Response Hurricane/Typhoon fund by visiting www.lcms.org/disaster. Thrivent Financial for Lutherans and the Thrivent Foundation have committed matching funds for donations of Thrivent Choice® points through the Choice® website as well as gifts made directly to LCMS Disaster Response designated for typhoon relief. Details on the Thrivent’s matching commitment are available through Thrivent’s thrivent.com website.
Because the LCMS typically receives nearly half of its annual charitable support in the months of November and December, donors are encouraged to prayerfully consider a gift to LCMS Disaster Response that is in addition to any planned year-end gift intended to help sustain the ongoing witness and mercy work of the Synod.
To make a gift in support of the church’s typhoon relief and recovery efforts:
- Visit here.
- Mail checks payable to “The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod” (with a memo line or note designating “LCMS Disaster Relief – Typhoon”) to The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, P.O. Box 66861, St. Louis, MO 63166-6861.
- Call toll-free 888-930-4438 (8:10 a.m. to 4:10 p.m. Central Time, Monday through Friday).
Megan K. Mertz is a staff writer with LCMS Communications.