Philippine Typhoon – A Last Minute Trip That Changed My Life!

Check out photos from the Philippine Typhoon below:

I was so eager to share this story when I first returned from the Philippines. But what happened? The busyness of life and work that I put on myself – that’s what happened. I’m in a season of re-engineering my life so more things like this can occur. I think you have to force yourself to get outside of your comfort zone in order to develop a lifestyle of being others focus. If you wait until you arrive at some imaginary milestone something else will occur and your goals will continue to get further and further away from you.

So what happened? It was approaching the end of the year in 2013. Usually the busiest time of the year for a me when something happened on the other side of the world. Super Typhoon Haiyan (Typhoon Yolanda) hit Southeast Asia. It was one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever recorded killing over 6,300 people in the Philippines. After hearing the news I called my missionary friend Calvin Houser and immediately the plans to go started formulating.

Before we knew it plane tickets were purchased and our trip started to formulate. We had no idea how it would all come together but as we took small steps forward doors were opening up and our plans were becoming more and more clear. It was seriously amazing how all of you responded in giving. With your help we were able to raise around 20k in a matter of a few weeks.

Once we landed in Manila we connected with a missionary and stayed for a bit in San Jose del Monte. Before long a small team of Filipino’s was assembled to join us in the journey to Leyte. We eventually boarded a small plane and headed over to Tacloban City which received the most damage from the storm. I clearly remember sitting in between two people on the plane. To my right there was a doctor who was traveling back and forth from island to island helping wherever needed. To my left there was a lady who really wanted to share her experience with me. Her accent was challenging to comprehend but I could sense she survived the storm and was headed back to find loved ones.

On the decent into Tacloban it felt like we were getting dropped off into a war zone. The view from above was complete devastation. I’ve never seen anything like it! When we arrived the people were not in a panic as I suspected. You could tell something bad happened by the look in everyones eyes but they seemed to be accepting of the incident and just moving forward with life. And so it began… story after story. Everyone had a unique experience and a different perspective on the storm.

Because of your giving we were able to provide 3,600 pounds of rice, canned goods, and clothing. That’s at least 8,500 family meals provided. We were able to completely rebuild 3 homes (including labor and materials) that were completely destroyed. We were able to help with general cleanup, scooping muck out of the buildings and sorting through rubble to find what was worth salvaging. We took down several trees that had uprooted or fallen, cleared land covered with debris, and even built a fence that had broken down. We worked on some homes by replacing roofs and repairing existing structures. Families were fed, homes were rebuilt, but most of all, lives were changed.

More than just our tangible efforts the Gospel was proclaimed and is continuing to spread throughout the Philippines. Conversations about life and eternity are being spoken of more now than ever before. There is an awakening happening in the Philippines and Jesus is being exalted even through this devastating storm. I’ll continue to share more stories and photos from the Philippine Typhoon trip below. Don’t worry there is nothing too graphic.

As we were driving a good distance I told the driver to stop so I could get out and capture this moment. So much meaning behind this.
We were able to fully fund the rebuild of this veteran and faithful church members home. The whole trip he was so busy helping out at the church and driving us around all meanwhile his home was destroyed. He was eternally grateful and tears filled his eyes as we told him the news. Wow!
Here is a widow who lost her home. This was her reaction when we mentioned she would be getting a new home. It’s moments like this when giving is so much better than receiving.
Here are some little Christmas gifts we gave away. After handing out a few the whole neighborhood of kids started coming to us.
This was very interesting to watch as this guy would create perfectly cut blocks of wood from palm trees.
Troops were being flown in and out for relief.
I almost didn’t capture this mother with her son because it felt too private. Glad I did though. It says so much to me.
Family pictures in a home worth salvaging.
Mass graveyard where multiple bodies and families would be buried together.
This was a really sad story. As the storm was coming a lot of families with weak homes gathered in this strong stadium for refuge. Families of all sizes camped out in here through the night. However, surges of water flooded the lower levels killing almost everyone inside. They were trapped and could not escape.
Missionary on our bus crying as we took a common drive for her to their church. From what I gathered she was emotional because of the scenery being once so beautiful and now it’s gone.
Here are the gifts my wife and some friends put together for us. I was hesitant about taking them because of the amount of things I was already bringing. However, it was the best item we brought over. It was the closest thing to Christmas these kids would receive. Giving these out to the children made them so happy. Seeing that joy in the midst of tragedy made it even more precious. Thank you Marie.
More candy from the socks.
Just looking at this kids feet made me cry.
Our truck broke down and crowds of people came to help fix it. Selfless people. Amazing!
It was hard for me to look at these brothers together.
If you look into the distance you can see where a ship was tossed up onto land.
Was able to hand out Gospel stories to street kids.
One mans trash is another mans treasure. Literally.
Made me think of my little boy back home. Missed him so much!
They love their basketball.
This was a really strong image for me. This guy was putting up Christmas lights just in time for the holidays.
One of my favorites.
One of our team members from San Jose joined us in our trip to Leyte. He moved away from his family as a young boy and returned home to his village for the first time in years. Here was him seeing his uncle for the first time.
Love this shot.
Here is a shot that brings back a lot of memories to me. I was standing on the roof where we slept at night. I remember each night taking a cold bucket shower. At first it was terrible but after a while it was rather refreshing. It was the only moment where our bodies weren’t dripping with sweat because of the heat. After my shower I would cover my body in this African bug repellent which kind of stung. I would get fully clothed again and jump into the mosquito net which covered my bed. Once inside I would put a flashlight up to the top of the mesh to attract/kill any remaining mosquitos that made their way into the covering before going to sleep. Sometimes I felt like the only one that kept getting bit. I think it was my sweet American blood they liked. Who know’s! In the morning it was very challenging to sleep in. Roosters would crow which would set off dogs barking and goats moaning and all sorts of things.
There is something unexplainably beautiful though about suffering even in the slightest form. You start to really see the things in life that are important. The comforts of life can sometimes mask our vision for Truth. You begin to notice what’s temporary and what’s eternal. The smallest things in life become so much more noticeable. Take this flower for example. I probably would not have noticed it if I were in a garden filled with flowers. Instead I noticed it because it was surrounded by destruction.
I remembered at this point just really wanting to go home and be with my family.
Trips like this stir me up. They really get me thinking about what it is I am doing with my life. I love being able to serve others and inspire them by artistic visual storytelling. If you know of a ministry, a church or some non-profit organization that has a story that needs to be told, I want to hear about it. Yes, I love weddings and I will always shoot them. But sometimes I want to find ways to visually tell stories for those who’s stories will never be told. I think the contrast of doing so means much to me. So please feel free to contact me.
If you’re interested in directly supporting those affected by the storm you can reach out to my friend Calvin Houser with The Filipino Focus. Him and his family are missionaries to the Philippines.
1 Comment
  • Faith Holding

    February 20, 2015 at 1:29 am Reply

    So I was looking through your pics to get ideas for my upcoming engagement session when I stumbled upon this.
    My heart is overwhelmed looking at all these photos! Photo after photo moved me to tears. These are my people!! Most of the world have long forgotten this devastation, but I haven’t. I hurt for them. I pray for them. I long to help them. Thank you for reaching out and showing the love of Christ to these Filipinos. Praying that the Gospel will be spread throughout the Philippines. May the Lord receive all the glory for all that you have shared on here. God bless you! Thank so much!

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