The devastation is amazing. An estimated 10,000 dead. An estimated 10 million adversely affected. As I followed the news stories I was deeply moved by the suffering represented in the pictures and descriptions. That's not unusual for me. I'm a sentimental, emotional guy. But this went beyond sentiment. I felt that I, personally needed to do something.
On previous occasions I have felt that way, but allowed myself to use excuses. I'm already a medical missionary, serving the poor and needy in a developing country. My work here in PNG is important. This time, somehow it was different. My work here is indeed important. But at the moment, maybe not as urgent. And besides, I already work for an organization that is active in the relief effort in the Philippines. Couldn't they just shift me around a little?
So, on Wednesday afternoon I picked up the phone and called my "boss"--Field Strategy Coordinator Harmon Schmelzenbach. I just told him that if the church wanted me in the Philippines, I'd be willing to go. There. I'd done my part. I had expressed availability. Isn't that, after all, all God asks of us? Just to be willing? Harmon and God didn't apparently see it that way. By that evening the first of what became a barrage of emails began to come in. From the Regional office in Singapore. From the Philippines. From around Kudjip Station. This continued through the day on Thursday, and by that evening I was scared. These people, and this God are taking me seriously! Now I was really in trouble. It would take a pretty big excuse to back out now.
Scared, but I really wanted to do this.
There was just one big problem. The work in PNG. Two of our doctors have been away. There have been two volunteer docs doing a great job of filling in, but when two of the regulars are away, you can feel it. But they will both be back within a few days.
Would my colleagues support this plan? Would they resent the added burden that will be on them while I'm away? By this morning (Friday), enough of my immediate leadership has given their approval for this plan that I felt safe sharing it with my colleagues. So this morning in our regular medical staff meeting, I shared what is unfolding. And held my breath. Immediately, they started speaking up. With support. With encouragement. With ideas. With offers of items that I'll need for the trip. With a plan to build support of the entire Nazarene Hospital staff. This was the "fleece", the "litmus test", the "open door" that I needed. I have committed to go to the Philippines to serve in the relief effort for about 4 weeks, starting within a few days.
Technically, I'm still waiting for an invitation from the Philippines Field Strategy Coordinator, but he's tied up in the affected area. Everyone who knows him says that he will be happy for me to come. So I won't say for sure just yet, but there is a good chance that I'll arrive in Manila Wednesday evening, and be in Tacloban City by Saturday. From then on, I have little idea what I'll be doing. I'll probably be living in a tent. I don't know what I'll be eating. I'll be sipping water from one of those filter bottles that y'all take camping. I'll be working long, hard days. Longer and harder than we ever work in Kudjip. My arthritis will be acting up. I'll be very tired. I'll be happy. Well, at least part of the time. I'll touch lives as best I can in the name of Jesus, and trust Him to work.
Do you want to help me? I'd love for you to.
First, please pray. Pray that all the arrangements will fall into place. Pray that we will have the supplies we need there in the Philippines. Please pray for the people we will interact with--other aid workers, government officials, victims. Pray that Judy and I all have wisdom as to whether she should accompany me. Please pray for the other doctors I'll be with (I know of one at this time).
Second, if you are a doctor, come and volunteer with me! Message me, and I'll put you in touch with the folks at Nazarene Disaster Relief.
Third, give some money to our deputation account. The money in the account had other plans. The things we were planning to use it for are still important. The cost of the air fare is going to be covered by various funds (I don't honestly know which ones, but I've been assured that it will be covered), but there will be many "incidental expenses" (a tent to live in, a couple of tarps, a mosquito net, other equipment and supplies that will come out of our deputation account. To give, follow this link on the left-hand side of the screen.
We'll be in touch!