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From Pago Pago to Atlanta, churches cope with natural disasters

Though half a world apart from each other, the people of north Georgia and the Philippines both are coping with the aftermath of devastating floods.
As Churches of Christ responded to both crises, a new disaster struck — a tsunami in the South Pacific.
AMERICAN SAMOA: Tsunami kills more than 100
A magnitude 8.0 earthquake off the coast of the Samoan islands Tuesday, Sept. 29, generated a tsunami with waves 15 to 20 feet high, according to the Associated Press. At least 111 people were confirmed killed Wednesday in the nation of Samoa, neighboring American Samoa and the island of Tonga.
“Everything shook for what seemed like a long time,” said David Willis, a missionary in Tafuna, American Samoa, who felt the earthquake during breakfast Tuesday. The missionary said he and his family are safe and are contacting other members of the Tafuna church.
Randy English, a missionary in American Samoa’s capital, Pago Pago, had just returned to the U.S. — after a mission trip to Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands — when the earthquake struck. English was working on his computer to update a gospel radio program that broadcasts through radio station KULA in American Samoa.
“All of a sudden our EAS (Emergency Alert System) flashed up an alert notice,” English said. The missionary called church member Rocco Pierce in American Samoa for updates.
“Although there was very little time between the earthquake and the time that the tsunami actually struck our island, there was enough time for EAS alerts to be received and then sent out through our station to the people residing in American Samoa,” English said. “Many people were able to get to higher ground, but still there were those who did not have access to the warnings.”
Video of the tsunami’s aftermath in American Samoa shows overturned cars and homes reduced to matchsticks.
“At this time it appears that members of the church in American Samoa are OK,” English said. “We do not have any update on members of the church in Samoa, but we hope to obtain that soon.”
Those interested in contributing to relief efforts can send funds to English’s supporting congregation, the Forest Park, Ga., church:
Forest Park Church of Christ
P.O. Box 1405
Forest Park, GA 30298
PHILIPPINES: Typhoon brings killer floods
Three days before the tsunami, Typhoon Ondoy swept across the islands of the Philippines, inundating the capital, Manila, in a matter of hours, according to news reports.
“As I write this, many families in Manila are perched on top of rooftops waiting for rescue,” said church member Chito Cusi in a Sept. 26 e-mail. “Everything is at a standstill — and people are suffering and in a panic situation.”
“My nephews were able to commandeer a rubber boat to rescue my sister’s in-laws, who were stranded in the third floor of their apartment building,” Cusi added. “Along the way, they rescued as many people as they could.”
Bonifacio Patricio and fellow church members are attempting to deliver relief supplies to families cut off from main roads. Patricio listed five Churches of Christ that were impacted by the floodwaters. Some members were evacuated. Others are missing. Patricio expects the list of affected churches to grow.
At least 246 people died in the floods, according to the National Disaster Coordinating Council. In addition, the typhoon destroyed more than 180,000 tons of rice in the impoverished nation, the Philippines agriculture department said.
Texas-based Rapha International, a church-supported relief ministry, is assisting Cusi and Filipino churches as they provide relief. For more information, see www.raphainternational.org.
Checks marked for “Manila Relief” may be sent to:
Rapha International
402 Blue Smoke Ct. W
Fort Worth, TX 76105
GEORGIA: Record rainfall causes severe floods
After years of drought conditions in the Southeast, Georgia received record rainfall in late September. Floods destroyed homes in parts of the state’s south-central region, the northwest (near Chattanooga, Tenn.) and metro Atlanta. At least eight people died in the floodwaters, according to CNN, and total damages are estimated at $250 million.
Nashville, Tenn.-based Churches of Christ Disaster Relief effort sent two truckloads of relief, including food, cleaning supplies, baby supplies, water and linens, to Mableton, Ga. The organization also sent supplies to the Rossville, Ga., Church of Christ, near the Tennessee border. For more information, see www.disasterreliefeffort.org.
The flood “has affected thousands, filling their homes with muck and many with raw sewage,” said Laura Cremeans of Churches of Christ Disaster Response Team. The West Melbourne, Fla.-based ministry will work with congregations in the Douglasville, Austell and Powder Springs areas as they “reach out to their members and community teaching the love of Jesus by example,” Cremeans said.
The ministry requests volunteers and funds. For more information, see www.churchesofchristdrt.org.

  • Feedback
    As you can imagine, we are still busy with relief efforts following the tsunami.
    14 members of the Otomoetai Church of Christ in Tauranga, New Zealand worked very hard the entire time they were here. We spent last Monday in the village of Poloa. We delivered clothing, toiletries and Bibles on Tuesday before they caught their plane back to New Zealand. One member stayed until Wednesday. He and I delivered two-burner gas stoves, pots and pans, food and water to 4 families before he left on Wednesday.
    Last Saturday, a group of 8 from the Tafuna Church of Christ went to Amanave and worked all morning helping clean up. We will return this Saturday for more work.
    David Willis
    Tafuna Church of Christ
    Iliili, American Samoa
    American Samoa
    October, 26 2009

    (we have a photo to submit…is this possible?)
    Randy English
    Leone church of Christ
    Leone Village, Tutuila Island
    American Samoa
    October, 24 2009

    “…When we came to the location where displaced people are temporarily staying, the children were very slow to come close to us. Then, one by one they began to draw near. So, I sat down and talked with them for awhile, after we had finished giving the supplies to the adults. I spoke to each one, individually. I told them my name. I asked them each their names, and how old they were. As I spoke to them, I took the opportunity to I look at each one of them closely….and I noticed that many of these little children had cuts, bruises, gashes, etc. from having been in the tsunami. What clothing they had on was either torn, worn, and in many cases either too big or too small. From the outside, one could tell that they are suffering…”
    Randy & Sharon English
    Leone church of Christ
    Leone Village, Tutuila Island
    American Samoa
    October, 24 2009

    Twelve members of the Otomoetai Church of Christ are scheduled to arrive tomorrow (10/15) to assist in the relief efforts in American Samoa. Coordinating their efforts with the Tafuna Church of Christ, they will be sharing the love of God through their service. In addition to delivering needed supplies, this group will aid in the clean-up projects in 3 villages during their stay. Their impact on the people of American Samoa will be unmeasurable.
    David Willis
    Tafuna Church of Christ
    Iliili, American Samoa
    American Samoa
    October, 14 2009

    Today’s relief distribution (10-13-09) was well received by local residents of Asili Village. Members of the Leone church of Christ were again on the fronts lines serving, just as they have continued to do from the first day of this disaster. The items that we distributed were purchased with funds that congregations and/or individual members of the church have sent to us via our overseeing elders. Each dollar spent was carefully considered, and in distributing these goods, we were able to insure that those who received the goods were those who actually were in need. Although the people have been through a lot of suffering, they’ve not yet given up hope, and in whatever ways possible they are working to return to their normal lives.
    Randy & Sharon English
    Leone church of Christ
    Leone Village, Tutuila Island
    American Samoa
    October, 14 2009

    …We are working on a daily basis to assess exactly what is most needed, visiting people in the villages and also village chiefs and other officials. We’ve been purchasing what items are available here and then distributing to areas that were most affected by the tsunami…..shovels, hammers, saws, water containers, cloth, cookware, personal care items, and more have been assembled together and neatly organized so that we can quickly place relief items directly with the people who are in need. The members of the Leone church of Christ, working together with your contributions, have been wonderful in their continuing efforts of this relief work.
    Randy & Sharon English
    Leone church of Christ
    Leone Village, Tutuila Island
    American Samoa
    October, 10 2009

    White’s Ferry Road Relief ministry has been doing relief around the globe since 1979. You can see the latest appeal letter for help at http://gracedigest.com
    Royce Ogle
    Whites Ferry Road
    Monroe, LA
    October, 9 2009

    I visited the villages of Leone and Amanave today with Tia Misa and Amataga Taito. We were able to visit with people and offer our support and promised future visits with supplies. The village of Amanave, for all practical purposes, was wiped off the map due to the Tsunami. I was able to see at least 8 to 10 homes while standing in one place that were leveled. Cars, and other large objects, were in the ocean or inside of buildings. Large concrete barriers had been moved by the tsunami as if they were matchsticks. People have only the clothes on their backs.
    David Willis
    Tafuna Church of Christ
    Tafuna, American Samoa
    October, 2 2009

    I just spoke with Alani None in Tonga. He and the church are fine. He had heard there were 7 deaths in one of the northern islands of Tonga.
    Mary Nelson
    South Pacific Bible College
    Tauranga, Bay of Plenty
    New Zealand
    October, 1 2009

    A lot of things yet need to be done! My congregation Paranaque Church of Christ along with Manila Church of Christ are collecting old clothes, blanket and food for the victims who are housed in SOCOL CHURCH OF CHRIST in Laguna.
    There are 25 families who are taking shelter in that small chapel and they need help. They felt left out since most of the relief (as you may read and see in the papers and tv) are centered in PASIG, CAINTA and MARIKINA, all in METRO MANILA. The victims in the provinces are being left out like LAGUNA, BULACAN and CAVITE.
    Ronnie Cariaga
    Paranaque Church of Christ
    Bacoor, Cavite
    October, 1 2009

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