Monday, March 31, 2014
The day is November 7, 2013, and what happens in the next 24 hours will change millions of lives forever. For on this day, a CAT 5 super typhoon is bearing down on Iloilo Province in the central Philippines. The typhoon's name is Haiyan (locally known as Yolanda). Super Typhoon Haiyan will be one of the strongest storms ever to make landfall. With sustained wind speeds of 195 mph and gusts up to 235 mph, the super typhoon tears through the central Philippines on Friday, November 8, leveling everything in its path and causing massive destruction and loss of life.
Almost immediately, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) springs into action. UMCOR approves a $97,000 emergency grant in response to the storm. The $97,000 grant goes to help one of the hardest hit areas, Tacloban City, Leyte Province, providing food, water and other life-sustaining aid. It also provides funding to build the capacity of local Philippines' UMCOR staff and volunteers for meeting emergency needs.
Fast forward to February 20, 2014. My church, North Charleston UMC, is in the planning stages of a missions project to generate funds to support UMCOR's continuing relief efforts. The goal is to raise $2,000 by producing and selling a CD of music, prayer and message and receiving donations from a free benefit concert that is to take place April 5. With thousands of refugees still homeless and living in schools, the need for continued relief funds and support is great.
I don't remember exactly when the idea came to me to recommend producing a CD and holding a benefit concert, but I think it was when my pastor, the Rev. Wendy Hudson-Jacoby, posted an article from the United Methodist Advocate about UMCOR approving the emergency grant to aid typhoon survivors in December 2013.
After surviving Hurricane Hugo in 1989, a powerful CAT 4 storm, I knew the road to recovery would be long and hard for the people of the Philippines, and besides, I had been to the Philippines while serving in the U.S. Marine Corps. My unit participated in a military exercise there in 1983. We were at Subic Bay Naval Base for a few weeks, and I remember what a beautiful place it was with rich, green grass, swaying tropical plants, and trees overlooking one of the most gorgeous bay views in the Pacific.
So, it was armed with this memorable but limited knowledge of the Philippines that I approached Pastor Wendy in December about the idea of producing a CD and hosting a benefit concert. Thoughts of George Harrison and the Concert for Bangladesh (on a smaller scale) raced through my head. She immediately threw her support behind the idea, but, after a brief discussion, we decided it would be best to start a project of this size and complexity after the first of the year knowing that the recovery effort would take months if not years.
The CD is a combination of concert and worship service. It features five songs, a brief narration of “The Storm” and its aftermath, a message of hope, and a prayer. The CD will be available at the event for $10. The concert will feature a local Charleston singing trio, The Glowettes, and the Friends of the Philippines (FOTP) Band comprised of local volunteer musicians. It will have a video presentation narrated by one of our members, our Master of Ceremonies Ceil Fewox. There may even be a surprise performer or two as we are still early in the planning process.
Three of the songs on the CD are originals, and one of them, “Help is on the Way,” was written specifically for the event. It will be performed by the FOTP Band during the concert. Whether the CD and concert will generate the amount of money needed to reach our goal of $2,000, only time will tell, but I'm sure any amount will be put to good use by UMCOR and the people of the Philippines. I think sometimes it's comforting just to know that someone out there cares and wants to help. By making the CD and hosting the concert, North Charleston UMC wants the people of the Philippines to know they are not alone.
If you are interested in making a contribution to the typhoon relief fund, purchasing a CD, or attending the benefit concert on April 5, please call the church office at 843-744-6669 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more details The CD and concert are being sponsored by the North Charleston UMC Missions Team.