Philippines Typhoon

What do the efforts of Far East Broadcasting Co.’s First Response Radio team look like on the ground? We talked to team leader Maggie Yrasuegui about the devastation she sees around her and what it takes to get an emergency radio broadcast running in a disaster zone.

What is the present situation that you’re experiencing in Tacloban?

Maggie: I wish I could say that things are improving a lot, but they haven’t yet, because the roads are still impassable. You have to give the government credit, because they’re trying their best to move debris and clear the debris so that relief organizations and relief workers can go to the outskirts of the city. The airport is still on and off, closed or sometimes open to commercial flights. The army is taking full control of the airport, meaning that we’ve seen a lot of helicopters and planes coming in and out 24 hours a day. They’re bringing the stuff that the people of Tacloban need: food, water, hygiene kits, and medicines.

You’ve been broadcasting for a couple of days already. I hear that you were able to connect with the city government there through the city administrator.

Maggie: We accidentally went up to what used to be the city hall and we know that it was not an accident … that God sent him [the administrator] here. He saw what our situation was. Imagine a penthouse, it’s supposed to be really beautiful, but the roof is now gone. It had been raining on and off, and pouring when it rained, so it was ankle-deep water inside our studios. He came and he saw what the situation was, and he was actually so happy to see us. He and the mayor were just discussing at that time that they needed somebody who can send out information to the community from the government, from the NGOs, from the humanitarian organizations … but there was no way of communicating vital and critical and information to the affected community. So when he saw us, he was grateful. But then I told him, “Sir, we would love to help, that’s why we are here, unfortunately we cannot broadcast for long, because we are running low on fuel. He said, “We need you, so let’s do an exchange deal: continue what you are doing, we will provide the gasoline.”
Looking out from Tacloban City Hall, FEBC’s First Response broadcast location.

Last Friday, you were broadcasting still out of the penthouse where everything was getting wet. Are you in a better place at this time?

Maggie: We are in a much better place. We have roofs above our head, and that’s the main thing. It’s still leaking, but not as much, so we can continue doing broadcasts without endangering the equipment.

How far does the broadcast of First Response reach in that particular area of Tacloban?

Maggie: We can cover a 10 kilometer [6.2 miles] radius clearly. We can even reach up to 12 km [7.45 miles], but it will be cutting off. For a clear signal, 10 kilometers, which is really a big reach already.

Right now, being one of two broadcast networks that’s broadcasting means that every single message that you can send out, no matter how small that voice is, people will be listening to you.

Maggie: We have been interviewing the local authorities. The chief of the fire brigade came to our studio. I cannot speak their dialect but I can understand them perfectly, because they’re language is similar to one that I’m familiar with. So I asked them questions in my dialect and asked them to answer me in theirs. So we’ve gotten really positive comments from affected communities because it makes them feel that the very people whom they are looking up to, to help them, their local government … they are all speaking their own language, so they can understand them better.

Maggie Yrasuegui, FEBC First Responder in Tacloban City

How are you able to encourage the listeners right now? For those who are listening to you over their cell phones or over their transistor radios?

Maggie: We always make it a point to share positive information and encouraging information from the government and from the people as well. Every interview, they give vital information, but we also use voice clips to encourage their fellow Taclobaners to just hold on, to believe in God, keep the faith, and that they are going to move forward as a family.

What are the current needs and how can people pray for you?

Maggie: For the roads to be cleared ASAP. So that the goods at the airport can be delivered. We still need food. The affected communities need shelter. I’m looking at storm clouds again right now, so they need shelter ASAP. Because of the blocked roads, the help can’t get through, but slowly but surely, I am quite positive in the coming days that it will get better. Pray for the team because it’s been so taxing and emotionally draining as well. Pray for the people of Tacloban, that they will hold on to what little they have left. I cannot fully describe the devastation that I can see in front of me and around me. It’s not just fallen trees. It’s not just houses that are destroyed. But people walk aimlessly. You try to tell them something and they look back at you with blank stares because it is really hard for them emotionally. But we are still at the emergency phase, so it is still food, shelter, and clothing that are being given now. Pray for the broadcast, the gasoline and oil, and for the strength of the team.

If you want to help the efforts of Maggie and the rest of the FEBC team, we promise that 100 percent of your donation will reach the Philippines by wire transfer as soon as humanly possible. Your money will go toward keeping the broadcasts about emergency relief and the hope offered in Jesus Christ going. 

Christ is reaching those who are hurting.

Convoy of Hope, an arm of the Assemblies of God, has sent in its first semi-trailer of 100,000 meals and is comforting several Filipino provinces that are harder for the government, military, or international relief organizations to help.

World Vision is using four trucks to haul 25 tons of supplies into remote villages north of Cebu City, offering food, blankets, mosquito nets, tarps, hygiene kits, and emergency shelter.

And Far East Broadcasting Co. (FEBC) is the only radio or TV station on the air. They are “The Voice of Hope in the Midst of Calamity.” Through the local relief arm of the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches, FEBC is offering humanitarian aid as well as broadcasting emergency information and words of hope in Jesus Christ.

Not all of us are called to physically go to the hard places in the world, but all of us can be the hands and feet of Jesus. As the momentum of Christian relief efforts begin to build, help us show Filipinos that, though Jesus did not cause their suffering, He can supply physical comfort—and in the end, eternal safety. 100% of your donation through Haven Ministries will reach typhoon survivors, and all in the name of Jesus.

I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” – Isaiah 6:8

While the U.S. military has arrived and multiplied the means to distribute food and water, it is the Christian organizations like Samaritan’s Purse that are distributing aid in the smaller, harder to reach places.

As these groups meet victims’ needs for food and water, the next area of relief will be medical care and shelter. In a tropical country such as the Philippines, the sun bears down hard and the humidity is close to 100 percent. The super typhoon has long since passed, but a torrential afternoon downpour is still a daily occurrence. This makes it very hard for everyone, especially the children, who are exposed to the elements.

While the 100 or so volunteers from Convoy of Hope were offering relief, residents from Bito-on, a tiny nearby island, came seeking food. They came in the only boat they had left – their small island’s only hope for outside help. Convoy of Hope provided 150 kilos of rice, two boxes of noodles, and a case of canned corned beef.

What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish. – Matthew 18:12-14

Praise the Lord for Christians who are eager to help, and for Christian unity as the body of Christ comes together to help those who are suffering!

Pray for the many Filipinos who are wondering why good karma has failed them and allowed disaster to strike. This is a unique opportunity for the gospel to penetrate the hearts of those who believe they have lived a good life, and have put their eternal hope in their own merit.

Tragedy almost always leads people to reach out for God. Join us in praying that the messages from Christian relief workers and radio broadcasts would communicate God’s Word effectively to those who are desperate. 

And for those who feel as though God has deserted them, pray for the insight that, like Job, we must confess that we don’t understand God’s ways. We must trust Him and plead before His throne that, through these trials, His mercy may be shone and that many would come to know the only source of Hope for life and eternity.

Pray for the FEBC first response relief workers, who are broadcasting and handing out food and water in the name of Jesus Christ. Please also pray for the Haven broadcasts airing there, that the Holy Spirit would use what we say and the relief aid that we send to be the hands and feet of Jesus.

With the hymn writer Charles Wesley, may our hearts sing, “Jesus, lover of my soul, let me to thy bosom fly, while the nearer waters roll, while the tempest still is high. Hide me, O my savior, hide, till the storm of life is past; safe into the haven guide; O receive my soul at last.”