A small-scale awakening continues in Agojo, the Filipino fishing village in the province of Capiz devastated by Typhoon Haiyan last November, as disaster relief workers minister there under the direction of Garry and Sherry McDugle of Bois d’Arc Baptist Church in Palestine.
The McDugles, coordinators for the effort and disaster relief chaplains with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, have been in the area since early January and will extend their stay until the end of April.
Volunteer teams from churches in Georgia and Texas have assisted in the efforts.
Nearly 80 Filipinos have made decisions for Christ followed by dozens of ocean baptisms and the start of multiple Simbalays, or Filipino home churches.
These new believers face challenges and need prayer, volunteers said.
“Some will be ostracized from their families, friends and communities,” Garry McDugle said. “Here, it is not well received for one to be baptized outside the Catholic faith.”
At the conclusion of an ocean baptismal service, the McDugles’ driver, Bert, expressed curiosity and after hearing the gospel, he too asked to be baptized.
Filipino pastor Ronald Calina conducts the beach services. On March 8, at one evening service, 30 adults and 15 children prayed to receive Jesus.
The scene could have occurred on the Sea of Galilee, Sherry McDugle said. Fishing boats rocked gently offshore, nets cast out, while the families of the fishermen—women, elderly parents and fishermen themselves—listened attentively to the gospel.
A young boy took Sherry McDugle’s hand and explained, smiling and pointing aloft, that he was not going to hell but to heaven.
While the gospel is at work, the physical work of recovery and rebuilding also continues.
Much progress can be seen at the local elementary school, painted by volunteers from the Georgia Baptist Convention. The Georgia contingent completed work on 80 sites and even installed windows in the Agojo daycare, Garry McDugle said.
“I just showed them the need and they went for it,” said McDugle of the team who returned to Georgia on March 14.
Teams from Texas, including volunteers from First Baptist The Colony and First Baptist of Brownsville, have rotated in.
“We have over 250 work orders,” said Garry McDugle, who noted that 30 of the needed 55 10-foot by 10-foot shelters have been completed and that 10 carpentry teams remain busy.
Baptist Global Response and the SBTC have provided $100,000 in funds to meet the region’s needs, but individuals are still encouraged to donate to the effort. More DR teams are also needed, said McDugle, who emphasized the effectiveness of smaller two-person teams like First Baptist The Colony’s Wally Leyerle and Jake Martinez.
SBTC DR teams have assisted schoolteachers who live outside the Agojo neighborhood but work at the Agojo elementary school. One, a mother of five named Gina whose husband had suffered a stroke and pneumonia prior to the typhoon, commutes to work 45 minutes twice daily by motorcycle. Her home was in the eye of the storm and debris remained scattered about. As DR workers gathered to pray with Gina’s family, neighborhood residents joined them.
The family of Belinda, another teacher who lives just outside Agojo, had huddled underneath a table during the typhoon’s blast. Belinda’s husband lost his fishing boat, the family’s means of livelihood, to the storm. Tears welled up in Belinda’s eyes as DR workers arrived with sheets of corrugated metal to repair her home.
Just as Belinda will never forget the November day when the typhoon destroyed her island, neither will she forget that March day when SBTC DR workers arrived to help and to pray. She requested and received a new Bible to replace hers that was lost during the storm.
Stories abound of Filipinos coming to the Lord. There is Nenitea, a laborer likely in her 40s, recently widowed, who with her grown daughter trusted the Lord. Jessa, a 16-year-old who was befriended and given a Bible by the McDugles more than a month ago, recently trusted Jesus, as did her best friend, her father and family of six. Even the wife of the local Agojo elected official or captain has expressed interest in learning more about Jesus.
“Please, please keep praying for everyone here,” Garry McDugle said.
“Jesus is wooing the community,” Sherry McDugle added.