“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares theLord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile. “Because you have said, ‘The Lord has raised up prophets for us in Babylon,” – Jeremiah 29: 11-15, ESV

Everyone has heard the news of one the world’s deadliest typhoons hitting the central region of the Philippine Islands.

Tacloban City aftermath. People walking aimlessly, looking for help.

Tacloban City aftermath. People walking aimlessly, looking for help.

On November 7, 2013, Typhoon Yolanda (also known as Typhoon Haiyan) made its way across the Visayas region, hitting the Leyte and Samar provinces. Being one of the most catastrophic of typhoons ever recorded in history, it carried with it 10 to 15-feet tall ocean waves that swept cities clean. To say that an abundance of anguish and suffering was brought to residents living within the said areas would be an understatement. More than 3,000 people were recorded dead. News reporters from CNN described seeing the devastated areas like “a giant hand [crushing them] from the sky.” The typhoon was not picky in choosing its victims – fathers lost wives and children, single mothers mourned over their children’s missing and dead bodies, houses crumbled to the dirt taking with it everything these families needed for basic sustenance. Apart from loved ones, people lost houses, food, water, and livelihood.

From a bird's-eye-view, victims ask for food and water with chalk on pavement.

From a bird’s-eye-view, victims ask for food and water with chalk on pavement.

A man who has lost his family members quietly mourns.

A man who has lost his family members quietly mourns.

A child is carried to safety by fellow victims of the typhoon.

A child is carried to safety by fellow victims of the typhoon.

Bodies are prepared for mass burial.

Bodies are prepared for mass burial.

To make matters worse, the Philippine national government brought slow relief to the typhoon victims, pointing fingers at the local government units for not taking necessary precautions to prevent the damage done. As corpses rotted away on the sides of the roads and as civilians desperately stole food from abandoned stores to feed their empty stomachs, the world came together, through and with the help of the United Nations and other humanitarian organizations, to give aid to the victims the best way they could.

Masses and services all throughout the country were heard. Social networking sites became the best avenue for people around the globe to express their condolences, reach out to the Filipinos, offer heartfelt prayers and provide help – from the Pope himself, famous world leaders, eager politicians, famed celebrities to ordinary people. It was not until November 17 (Sunday) when the first Catholic mass was held in Tacloban City, the hardest hit among them all.

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Mass held among those who survived the wrath of the typhoon

Mass held among those who survived the wrath of the typhoon

It is during these times one would ask the Lord why He would let this happen. Any person truly affected would at one point say, “Lord, where were you when this occurred? Why did so many people have to suffer?”

If we look into the Bible, we will understand that God never does anything that is not a part of his ultimate plan. He is sovereign in all things, and oftentimes, God uses natural calamities to expose his children’s need for Him. Rarely do we remember to humble ourselves to acknowledge God’s sovereign power and accept His will. An event like typhoon Yolanda teaches us to remember our need for God’s grace in a world of sin. Our response is faith in His goodness, in His kindness, and in His power.

Ultimately, God calls for us to serve others with the Lord’s examples of mercy and kindness. The same way God gave us the Lord Jesus, who took the cross for our sins, is the same way God calls for His children to help and be of services to victims during tragedies like Typhoon Yolanda.

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Today, many of the relief operations have pushed through even at the most remote of places hit by the calamity. This was  made possible not only by the prayers heard from across the world, but through the kindness of the nations who chose to give help and aid where it was badly needed.

The earth may yield to natural disasters, but the power and love of God is eternal.  We may not understand His reasons, but His plan will cradle our hearts in peace, if we let it.

Let us continue to pray for those still severely affected by typhoon Yolanda, and continue to serve those who are less fortunate. Let us keep in mind the example of compassion led in the life of Christ, and be one with Him in helping our fellow men.

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? [shall] tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8: 35-39, NIV

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection.”2 Samuel 22: 3, NIV

“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” – Mark 11: 24, ESV