Every year, graduating Leadership Development Program (LDP) students in the Philippines go to work camp where they engage in community service. The yearly work camp usually engages students in missionary work to unreached tribal groups, but this year the students extended a helping hand to typhoon victims.
At the end of October, LDP students from all over the Philippines came together in Manila, Santa Mesa, Novaliches and Bulacan for the annual camp. They were tasked to perform community service for those who had been badly affected by Typhoon Ketsana, which dumped more than a month’s worth of rain in just 12 hours, fueling the worst flooding to hit the Philippines in more than 40 years.
Zechariah, one of the students, was excited to be at this year’s work camp putting the program’s value of Christian servant leadership into practice. As he walked into a community in Marikina City, he recognized the Marikina Bridge that he had seen on TV.
“This was where a family was swept away by strong flood currents and were riding the waves on the remains of floating debris. They passed beneath this bridge.”
Zechariah and his group of 12 others were assigned to clean a church building in the squatter community of Tumana, which was near the bridge. The church is a daughter church of the, a Compassion church partner.
Registered children living in the area come to this church building for their weekly developmental activities. The registered children hadn’t been able to use the building for a month because of the mud and damage from the flooding.
The student workers were surprised that a month after the typhoon the church was still muddied all over up to its ceiling. “It’s as if the flood abated just yesterday,” they observed.
The entire community, too, was still full of traces of the flooding – mud-covered homes, turned-over vehicles, and people ceaselessly talking about how they survived.
Fetching a pail of water a few blocks from the church, Zechariah said, “This is nothing new to us. We are used to this kind of work.”
His teammates agreed, recalling the times when their own hometowns were hit by cyclones.
In the community of Novaliches, the group of LDP work campers was joined by volunteer youths, doctors and nurses to offer free medicine and medical checkups.
Together with volunteers from the Nazarene Student Center and the Novaliches Nazarene Church, they offered medical help to the families of both registered and non-registered children.
One of the volunteer nurses was Dahlia, a former LDP student, who brought along volunteer doctors with free medicine.
Tweela, another student worker, believes that through the work camp she can “project positive attitude against (the people’s) negative experiences.”
She said she has received so much from the Leadership Development Program that it is just right to give to others.
“It feels good to help people knowing that this was for a purpose. There was a sense of accomplishment as we saw the church slowly getting cleaner.”
Marikina City, where the students served, was one of the worst-hit cities in metro Manila. News reports placed the death toll in Marikina alone at 75 out of the total 240 deaths around the metro area.
“I was sure I was going to die that day,” said Pastor Lorenzo as he told the LDP students how he fought to swim to higher ground.
“Here in Marikina people are used to typhoons and floods, but I was shocked to see that the waters kept rising. I knew that this was bad.
“I had to escape when the water rose to my chest. It never stopped rising until it covered the entire church building. Many people from this community died.”
After the water abated the next day, the pastor attempted to clean and fix the place all by himself. Although his members offered help, he refused them because they, too, had to take care of their own lot.
After a few days, the pastor was so exhausted that doctors advised him to rest.
“But I couldn’t rest my mind because I kept thinking about our church. I believe that it was really God who sent you (LDP students) to help me do cleanup this week. Praise God for the LDP.”