NORTH TEXAS (CBS 11 NEWS) – One of the strongest storms on record slammed into the Philippines. Hundreds of thousands have been forced from their homes and power and communications across a lot of the Southeast Asian country has been cut off.
Here in North Texas, a number of people are waiting for word from a group of friends and family doing mission work in the Philippines.
Many are members of New Beginnings Fellowship Church in Sulphur Springs. The group is working with Compassion for the Fatherless and Fruitful Harvest International Ministries, in the northern part of Mindanao.
The island nation is familiar with super storms, and can see as many as 20 typhoons make landfall each year.
But the typhoon that hit Thursday is expected to be one of the biggest in recorded history. It passed to the north of where the ministry is located, but the people working on the ground are still feeling the effects.
“In third world countries, the flooding really is the worst part, because of the mudslides afterward, and then the disease,” explained Jay Sanders, a captain with the Sulphur Springs Police Department.
Sanders has served with the ministry in the Philippines before. Currently, his 19-year-old son, Justin, is interning with one of the ministry leaders, Charlie Sickles. They left for the Philippines last month.
Sanders spoke with them as they prepared for the storm to hit. “I talked to him Wednesday night. He was packing. They were fixing to move to higher ground,” he recalled.
The two ministries have built a school, delivered medical care, and fed thousands of people on a weekly basis. Recently they began building an orphanage that is now near completion.
Dr. Darrel Pierce, a physician in Sulphur Springs, helped lead the project. “The good thing is we’re there. When something bad like this happens, we can make a difference.”
He said he was able to contact Charlie Sickles on the phone Friday afternoon, and got an update.
Some 30 families were able to seek shelter within the strong walls of the orphanage, and the orphans, volunteers and church members all rode out the storm safely.
Now, they prepare for an unknown amount of cleanup in the days and weeks to come.
“I would go right now if I could. Like I said, its family over there,” Dr. Pierce said.