Typhoon Morakot devastated eastern and southern Taiwan during Father’s Day weekend, prompting the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan (PCT) to set up 9 rescue-and-rebuild stations immediately to help thousands of victims who became homeless overnight after the typhoon struck their village.
PCT relocated typhoon victims to 16 churches across the country and efforts are still underway. Pastors involved in helping and relocating victims said once clean up efforts conclude, they will enter a new phase focused on counseling and mending the hearts of victims. This phase will emphasize psychological services, character education, kids’ after-school programs, etc. PCT hopes that when the time comes, church members who are experts in the field of medicine and psychology can volunteer to help victims.
Taimali rescue-and-rebuild station received material resources donated by Taipei churches and with the help of two sisters from Taipei and Taichung and the coordination of Rev. Liu Shih-chun, these resources were delivered to disaster areas. With assistance from volunteers from East Amis, East Paiwan, and other eastern presbyteries, these resources were sent to Taimali. Christians living in Taimali then delivered resources to residents living in aboriginal reserves deep in the forest who were still stranded and unreachable.
In the evening of August 14th, pastors and relief workers from Christian organizations worked together to evacuate residents from Jialan, Taimali, and Chinfeng because it was believed that the barrier lake upstream on the Taimali River was about to burst.
Volunteers in Pingtung station focused on cleaning up the environment and local churches devastated by the storm included Chiatung, Kanting, Tungkang, Linpien, and more. Since the station opened on August 10th, volunteers from Taipei campus ministries, Kaohsiung campus ministries, Taichung presbytery, Tainan Theological College and Seminary, Taiwan Theological College and Seminary, and volunteers from other church denominations have joined clean-up efforts.
According to Pingtung Church and Society Committee leader Rev. Hong Ruei-lang, there are enough material resources for now but the station lacks cleaning appliances. It also needs long-term volunteers who have their own mode of transportation and lodging arrangements while volunteering.
Hong pointed out that once most areas have been cleaned up, the station will focus on rebuilding the hearts of victims and he hopes to enlist the help of professionals to counsel victims and share the gospel with them. Hong believes this crisis is a good opportunity to introduce people to Christ.
South Bunun station
The most damaged regions in Kaohsiung County belong to Bunun Presbytery and church members in the area have been evacuated and relocated to churches across Kaohsiung and Shou-Shan presbyteries. Central Bunun Presbytery Moderator Biaz-takechunang has already visited these churches to reach out to victims of the typhoon and encourage them.
According to reports, some Christian victims were placed in Buddhist organizations when government agencies rescued them from their homes and they haven’t been able to get used to the food and atmosphere in Buddhist relief stations. Hence, presbytery leaders are contacting government agencies to help these people relocate to Christian churches where they can feel more at home, recuperate from trauma, and resume church life.
A Christian memorial service for those who had died in the typhoon was conducted on August 14th at Chishan hospital and many pastors met at Chishan station afterward to discuss the best way to coordinate relief efforts, organize resources, relocate victims, and cooperate with public agencies.
According to Kaohsiung Presbytery Moderator Hsia Wen-Hsueh, financial donations from churches will primarily be channeled to help churches transformed into shelters for flood victims. As the start of the school year is also approaching, Hsia urged Christians to contribute financially toward paying the tuition fees of children displaced by the typhoon. He also said the next phase of rebuilding efforts will focus on psychological rehabilitation, character education classes, and after-school programs and urged churches to help recruit volunteers and contribute teaching materials. He also welcomed volunteers to travel to churches housing victims to lead them in some activities.
Aborigines from mountainous areas near Pingtung County were relocated to elementary schools in Neipu and Sandimen. According to reports, residents from 8 reserves have been relocated. Though there are enough material resources, there aren’t enough volunteers from churches. Though college students and Buddhist Tzu Chi organization volunteers have already helped victims resettle, these volunteers haven’t been able to speak to the hearts of victims and the station needs Christians to volunteer and comfort victims.
Many aboriginal villages in the area have been utterly destroyed by the typhoon and mudslides and the few that remain are in danger of being wiped out by heavy rain. Therefore, it is unpredictable whether victims will ever be able to return home and financial support is urgently needed to help resettle families so that they can begin a new chapter in their lives.
A station was set up in the offices of Chiayi Presbytery and help has been directed mostly toward Tsou aborigines living in Alishan mountain who were relocated there.
Church members in Chiayi area reported flooding in their houses and local churches have already gone out to help their own members clear out mud and water from their homes.
Because of broken roads, Chiayi Presbytery enlisted the help of youth from Atayal Presbytery to help deliver material resources worth $500,000 NTD to Shanmei Church and more aid will be delivered in time. About 200 volunteers have been recruited to help daily rescue and relief efforts and organizers are still looking for places that can house victims who are now being airlifted out of devastated areas.
According to pastors at Nantou station, many roads in the area have been washed away so the only way to send material resources to help victims is to drop packages from the air. Wounded victims have also been rushed to hospitals.
Central Bunun Presbytery has sent out workers to every village to survey damages. Nearby presbyteries and Catholic churches have contributed material resources and Central Bunun presbytery has been busy collecting and redistributing these items.
Volunteers in Tainan station have focused on repairing damages and cleaning up after water receded in Tainan area. Tainan Presbytery decided to assist church members by giving out $5,000 NTD to every family with a house flooded by more than 60 cm of water. Pastors may receive up to $10,000 NTD if their house was flooded by more than 60 cm of water.
Paiwan Presbytery had to deal with two regions severely damaged by Typhoon Morakot – aboriginal reserves in Sandimen area and those in Taoyuan Township. Of these two areas, damages in Taoyuan Township were worse.
Lions Clubs International received word of the devastation in Pingtung area and sent volunteers to help and also donated $2,100,000 NTD to Paiwan Presbytery. It also donated material resources and equipment to help victims. Because of the Ma administration’s slow response, the club has come to distrust government agencies and has promised to offer financial aid directly to aboriginal churches instead to help rebuild reserves devastated by the typhoon.
According to pastors volunteering in the area, victims have been living in classrooms and chapels, but such an environment is a far cry from a real home. Professional counselors are needed to help victims cope and heal emotionally before they find their new homes.
Reported by staff and Written by Lydia Ma
[Source: Taiwan Church News]