EUGENE, Ore. — A journey for a local group that started as a church mission quickly morphed as the missionaries witnessed the aftermath from perhaps the most damaging storm in recorded history.
A team of seven from the First Baptist Church in Oakridge returned home Tuesday after experiencing Typhoon Haiyan.
Our cameras were there as they got off the plane at the Eugene Airport.
The signs and smiles at the Eugene Airport only hinted at the building anticipation for this welcome home party. The group some had dubbed the Mission Seven just wrapped a two week trip to the Philippines.
“The day after they arrived there, the hurricane hit the island that they were to go to,” said church member Sandi Jones.
What was supposed to be a mission to share the gospel and make disciples quickly changed after Haiyan made landfall.
“A lot of the people there live in really poor houses built out of fibers, leaves and they were just completely flattened,” said missionary Ronda Pennock.
The group made its way to Ormoc City just a few dozen miles from where the storm made landfall.
“I don’t think there was one person who wasn’t impacted by the storm,” said Pennock.
After seeing the damage, the group found a local church and dug in.
“We helped the Filipino people clean up. We were out there laboring beside them,” said missionary Linda Klohn.
“At first they were like what can you do, there’s just too much. Just one at a time we started cleaning up and we got the whole area in two days completely cleaned up and they were just so grateful,” added Pennock.
In triple digit heat and with humidity levels nearing 100 percent, the group made up of six women and one man did what they could in the middle of disaster.
“By the end of the day we were standing around, down to the cement and were saying to the glory of God,” added missionary Tom Klohn.
After nearly a week of work their accomplishments are hard to quantify. Their impact, impossible to measure.
“They of course were distraught, discouraged, but we gave them some hope,” said Tom.
“It gave them hope that they could go from there,” added Pennock. “They’re going to go from there, to other houses to help.”
A new sense of direction that those in the group couldn’t predict.
“We just did what God wanted us to do, added Linda. “We didn’t go over there to cleanup from a typhoon, but that was the need at the time.”
“It’s an amazing emotional experience to see those people and see what they’re going through and knowing our help was so little, but we tried to do what we could while we were there,” said Pennock.
But for now the only direction this group was wanting to go was back to their own homes for a good night’s sleep.
As for the storm, itself the group experienced it but only strong winds. The group members say they look forward to sharing their experience with the congregation over the coming weeks.