Thursday, October 01, 2009

Test of Faith

Last Saturday, I asked for the gift of faith. Little did I know that my gift would be tested right away.

During the height of Ondoy's wrath, I was at a facilitators/care group head workshop conducted by the Light of Jesus (LOJ) community. It was a whole day affair and, though we received text messages about the heavy downpour, we were still quite oblivious to the destruction that was going on outdoors. By lunchtime, my sister informed me that the waters entered the ground floor of our house. It happened before (while I was left at home) so I wasn't that worried.

One of the workshop activities was conducting a baptism of the Holy Spirit. It was during this workshop that I prayed for the gift of faith. The sister who prayed over me whispered in my ear, "Aby, receive the gift of faith. In the name of Jesus," then prayed in tongues. Her hands trembled as she said her prayer. I felt at peace.

On our way home, we (my papa and I) were stuck in heavy traffic. The floods in Taytay were pretty bad. Thankfully, the water in our street subsided. Although we didn't have water and the phone lines weren't working, we still had electricity.

As we watched the Channel 2 news, it was only then that the whole situation hit me. Thousands of people trapped in their homes, houses that were completely washed away by the torrents, people dying from landslides, flash floods, or other forms of catastrophe; it was heart-breaking. While watching, I prayed to God to save them.

In the news, they mentioned how bad the floods in Cainta and Pasig were. I was immediately worried. My lola and her helper were trapped in her home in De Castro subdivision (Pasig). Also, my uncle and his family live in VIllage East, Cainta, another place submerged in water. We tried to call my uncle and lola but the lines were busy.

The following day, we checked the news, hoping that the waters subsided. It was actually the opposite. The water levels in De Castro and some areas in Cainta were more than ten feet. Though I worried over my uncle, I knew he'd find a way to provide for his family. My lola, who's turning 80 in November, is diabetic. I know she's still strong but I was worried that two days of no food, water, and her medicines would weaken her. I wanted to go to her right away but, from watching the news, we knew that we couldn't do anything yet. Seeing rescued lolos or lolas who were sick or dying on TV didn't help lessen my worry.

After we went to mass and had dinner, I told Papa that we had to go to Lola's village. It was almost ten in the evening when we packed candles, food, and bottles of mineral water. At that point, I was already sending text messages, asking for prayers from SOLV and LOJ bros and sisters, as well as my other friends. We still couldn't contact our relatives who were trapped at home.

When we reached one of the side streets of the village, we saw marines, firefighters, medics, and other volunteers, as well as those who were rescued. The scene was straight out of a disaster movie. There were army trucks, amphibian vehicles, rubber boats, ambulances, fire trucks, and rescue vans. I realized that they were all parked there because it was the only spot that wasn't flooded. When we walked down the road, the water deepened. I spoke to the group of rescuers about the situation. They told me they were doing the best that they could. I believed them but I was desperate to get to my lola's house. I even insisted in riding the boat with them and helping them give out food. The person-in-charge politely refused. What worried me more was how the rescue team discussed in hushed and somber tones. The situation didn't look good. The waters were still more than ten feet deep and they needed more boats. I tried to remain calm and be brave but it was really hard, especially after I spoke to the rescued people in the emergency tents.

After a few hours of watching the boats leave, Papa told me that we were going home and that there was nothing we could do to help. Besides, we needed to rest so we could return early the next day. I resisted several times and talked to a few other rescuers. I really didn't want to leave. There were a few families waiting there as well. It was a depressing sight. Then, I heard God tell me to have faith. I remembered my prayer the day before. It was past midnight when we went home. God continued to assure me that He is taking good care of my lola, uncle, auntie, and cousins. The text messages of the brothers and sisters also gave me hope.

We left early the next day. The worry was still there but I continued to pray and asked for intercession from the SOLV and LOJ communities. Thank God, the floods receded.

On our way to Lola's house

A lot of vehicles were wrecked by Ondoy

Check out the amphibian vehicle parked outside Loloa's house!

Tonet, my sister who resides in Laguna, reached Lola's house first.

Lola's safe! I was finally able to breathe a sigh of relief. When Gelli (my youngest sister) and I reached Lola's place, we found her and Tonet chatting outside. Lola and Ching (her helper) haven't eaten and drank anything for two days. We found out that Ching's husband (who lives a few streets away) swam to their house the day before to keep them company. It was the first time (and I pray, the last) that floods reached the second floor of Lola’s house. Even if she was hungry and wasn't able to take her medicines (they were lost in the flood), she was still strong. In fact, we had to tell her to stop cleaning and fixing her things!

Talking to her, it was as if nothing happened. She even gave away some of her jewelry and chocolates (a habit of hers whenever we visit her). It felt good to laugh again.

Lola's neighbors, both doctors, tried to salvage their documents

Reisidents don't need their rubber boats anymore

People clamored for food, instead of the donated clothes

Some of the trash were still usable

Ahh, to be stylish amidst the calamity

What's in the plastic? Hmm...not bad.

After lunch, Papa and I drove to Village East, Cainta to check on my uncle. They were okay as well! Thankfully, the water didn't reach their second floor, so my uncle was able to grab some food for them to eat. While I watched my uncle wash the mud off their floor and my aunt rant about how they lost everything in their ground floor, I said a silent prayer of thanks to God.

Though the floods were gone, the streets were packed with mud

I cannot express how grateful I am to God for saving us and keeping my relatives safe. For a few minutes, I felt ashamed for ever doubting Him. God has never failed me and He never will.

I would also like to extend my gratitude to all the people who kept in touch and prayed for me and my family. Your support kept me strong as well!

I know that my faith in God will still be tested. I am striving to keep that faith. Though it is challenging, at least I am comforted by the fact that He will always remain faithful.

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. – Hebrews 11:1 (NIV)