I got a scary email this week.
As a bit of background, in December we were notified that our sponsor child Merlyn lives in an area that was expected to be hit hard by Typhoon Ruby, which hit the Philippines pretty hard. We didn't share much about it at that time because we didn't know much- her center never appeared on the list of affected projects, so we just assumed that everything had worked out ok. We knew from following the news that the loss of life was much lower than originally predicted, due to the fact that people living in the Philippines had a good amount of advance warning, and were able to prepare. When we didn't hear anything in the month that followed, we assumed her family weathered the storm with no problems (though we did continue to pray.)
A few days ago, an email showed up in my inbox saying that Merlyn had been directly affected by the typhoon, and I should call Compassion for some more information. Brandon and I had just sat down to watch a movie together before I had to go to work, and I thought about waiting until we had finished to call, but I decided I would sit there and worry and think the worst unless I made the call to find out exactly what had happened. It took some time and transfers and a lot of digging to find out what had happened, because apparently Merlyn's information was filed in a slightly different way. Since her center wasn't on the "affected" list, there wasn't a red flag immediately presented. But with the help of two call center workers and one dedicated Compassion employee in Colorado, we finally got the info we needed. Merlyn's home was badly damaged in the storm, though it wasn't destroyed completely. There were no injuries or loss of life in her family.
Now, people reading this may think "oh, her family's home was damaged. Well, that's not too bad." It isn't bad, but it isn't great, either. First, consider that where Merlyn lives, almost every home is constructed of bamboo and palm fronds. Damage to a house made of what are essentially twigs and leaves could be much worse than what we might think of when we hear "storm damage", like a few lost shingles or peeled-up siding. Hail damage. And on top of that, most of us have homeowner's insurance or landlords to help out with that. Finally, families in Merlyn's community earn an average of $30 per month. That's less than the cost of child sponsorship. With $30 a month, you're supposed to feed, care for, and clothe your entire family, plus repair a home damaged by a typhoon? I don't care what your home is made of, that's a challenge. Merlyn's family wouldn't be participating in Compassion's program if they didn't need help.
While Compassion is working with the families affected by the typhoon, I am limited in what I can do to help. I can send Merlyn more encouragement and rally my friends and family to pray for her, but I want to do something more. This is the first time that one of my kids has been affected by a natural disaster, or had a circumstance urgent or bad enough that Compassion has contacted me about it. My own resources are extremely limited- I will do good to get out a couple of $10 birthday gifts at the end of this month, a few weeks late for my kids with February birthdays. But I have felt restless about this, and I feel like God is telling me to try to do something more than just send a card, just repeat that I am praying for her and her family.
I've set up a fundraising page at GoFundMe to try to raise money for a family gift for Merlyn and her parents. My goal is very small- just $100- but it is something that I definitely can't afford to send on my own. I do have a lot of really wonderful and caring friends and family, though, and I'm hoping that together we can chip in, contributing tiny amounts, to raise this amount to send to Merlyn and her family. The gift might be used to help replace some of what they lost in the typhoon, or might be used to buy food and medicine (which might be considered "backburner" priorities while they work to rebuild their home) or they might be used to build a home of more secure materials than bamboo and leaves. Maybe because of this gift, Merlyn's family will be able to improve their living situation in a way that will help keep them safe from the next storm that passes over them (living in the Philippines, they will definitely endure more storms.)
If you would like to donate, you can click on the widget in the upper left corner of this page. And if you have questions or anything like that, feel free to email me at hellojessi01(at)gmail.com. Even if you don't donate, please join me in praying for all the families who are working to rebuild after these destructive storms, not just the Compassion kids and their families. I can't imagine how challenging and frustrating it is to live in an area that repeatedly gets smacked around by Mother Nature.