Barkman’s Newsletter – Typhoon Haiyan (“Yolanda”) Relief

When this horrific super typhoon hit Central Philippines, Darnell and I sat comfortably in our house listening to the rain crash down and praying for the millions of people in the line of devastation. A few days later, we sent three Peace Church members to join the Peacebuilders Community team (also a ministry of Mennonite Church Canada) to help with initial assessment, training pastors in relief distribution, and organizing relief efforts. It was emotional sending three friends that are like family to such devastation, uncertainty and chaos and I recalled how my mom felt when Darnell and I distributed relief in 2008 to families displaced by armed conflict in Mindanao.

Our three volunteers returned, two after 12days and the other after 18, with many stories to tell. Reg recounts, in her blog (radicaljourneyist.blogspot.com) about a pastor who recently finished building his “dream” house after years of saving. Thinking they would be spared by the typhoon because of their location on a mountain, the church members gathered in the church building, bracing for the storm. Reg writes, “The strong winds lifted the roof, slowly damaging the walls and leaving the whole church bare. He looked around and realized, “I have no more house!” He couldn’t believe they were not spared by the typhoon. It wasn’t the flooding that hit them, but the strong winds that totally devastated the church building and his own dream house. He was also injured on his right hand due to debris falling on them.”

Peacebuilders Community, with the leadership of Mennonite Church Canada workers, Dann and Joji Pantoja and under the umbrella organization of Philippines Council of Evangelical Churches, is training hundreds of pastors in the affected areas with disaster response management skills and trauma healing. Local pastors and volunteers are now active in distributing relief from the many international organization that are channeling funds through this effective system. Peace Church is thankful to be part of this important work in various ways. We are also in a planning stage as to our further involvement in midterm and long term relief in Central Philippines and will keep you all posted about some exciting possibilities.

Travels North and South

During the month of November, our family went on two trips. At the beginning of the month, we attended aboard meeting with the Integrated Mennonite Church of the Philippines in a rural northern province. We enjoyed reconnecting and the boys loved being out of the city and meeting new friends, including chickens, pigs and dogs! We then drove straight to Baguio, a cooler mountain city, where Darnell attended a coffee conference with staff from Coffee for Peace.  I did some sightseeing with Cody and Makai and our friend, Fread, who came along to help me with the kids. We all had lovely time!

A couple weeks later we packed our bags again and flew south to Davao, where we lived in 2008/2009. We hadn’t been back since July last year when we first arrived back in the Philippines so it was really great to visit again. Darnell joined Coffee for Peace staff on a day long trip to visit and train coffee farmers in the mountains, a place we had visited many times years ago. We spent much time at Coffee for Peace, shared meals with Peacebuilders Community staff and joined their board meeting. We also attended our old Bible Study with many dear friends and Darnell was (very last minute!) asked to preach at our former church, Davao Bible Community Church. His message of Peace was well received and despite only having a few hours to prepare, he did a fabulous job. This was the first time our pastor in Davao asked him to preach, so we all laughed about how he’s not a young intern anymore, but really a pastor! It has really been amazing to see Darnell grow in to his role as pastor at Peace Church, he is huge blessing to our whole community.

This season of anticipating the birth of Jesus is certainly a joyous one, but living so far from home also makes it difficult. We long to scrap our T-shirt and shorts for wool coats and mittens.

We ache for the change of seasons, cool crisp air, and views of snowcapped mountains.<

But mostly, we miss the faces and embraces of the ones we love so dearly our family and friends.

May all you lovely people be blessed this Christmas by the Good News of Jesus, Saviour of the world!

With much love,
Christina, Darnell, Cody and Makai
Witness Workers Mennonite Church Canada
cdbarkman@mennonitechurch.ca