I received this email from the missionary community in the Philippines. I posted it so that you can read about this families pain and pray for their comfort and strength to pick up the pieces of their life after their tragic loss.
Mike Gingerich wrote:
To all who mourn in Israel, he will give beauty for ashes, joy instead of mourning, praise instead of despair. For the LORD has planted them like strong and graceful oaks for his own glory (Isaiah 61:3)
On a recent Wednesday morning I was supposed to meet with six pastors who have been working with Village Handcrafters to reach the community around our factory. But one was not there.
Pastor Ogie had been out leading a Bible study the evening before. His wife, Gina, stepped out of the house to visit a friend, leaving their four children at home for just a few minutes. Since they have no electricity in their two-room home they had left a small candle burning. Somehow the candle ignited a blaze that engulfed the whole house very quickly. The fire only lasted 15 minutes but because the door was locked, neighbors had a hard time getting inside to rescue the children. Two younger children died in the fire and a third died the next day from his burns. Only their oldest son, Inok, 8, survived.
That afternoon I visited the charred stick frame that was once the family's home. Witnesses pointed out the back corner of the bedroom on the floor as the location where the blackened body of three-year-old Nadine had been found. As I imagined the fear and pain of the little girl a few hours before, I stared at the cursed corner. But something there caught my eye. On the floor in the very place where the little girl had died there was a burned and tattered Tagalog Bible.
It was as if God was reminding me that He was there with Nadine as she huddled in the corner. Even there, even then, He was in control. And that he will give Pastor Ogie and his wife beauty and joy in exchange for these ashes and mourning.
Please pray that God’s purposes would not be thwarted in the lives of this family and the church they shepherd. Please join us in praying for God’s glory to be planted like an oak in their lives.
The family lost its home and all the humble belongings it contained in the fire. If you would like to assist the Ogies during this time of need you can donate to Action International Ministries Philippine Disaster Relief Fund. Please note that it is for “Pastor Ogie fire relief.”
I just wanted to send out a bit of an update and relate a couple stories to those of you who have helped with the Pastor who lost three children in the fire. Today, Ed Landry and I met again with Pastor Ogie, his wife Gina, and their only living son (8). We visited what remains of their house. Kind of an emotional experience. I asked if they had been able to salvage anything. Gina, who seems to be doing a little better than Ogie with handling all this, told me that everything was destroyed. But that they did recover a partially burned folder of important papers. Miraculously, the parents' marriage certificate and birth certificates, as well as their oldest son's birth certificate, were not damaged. Interestingly, the fire destroyed the birth certificates of the three children who died. They were all kept in the same place. It was just kind of a reassurance to Gina that God was even in control of all that took place on the most terrible day of her life.
As we were getting ready to leave, a burned up book amongst the pile of rubble caught Ed's eye. It was a charred copy of Tuklasin. Ed wrote this spiritual workbook for new believers 20 years ago, early in his ministry here in the Philippines. He got pretty teary eyed as he realized that at that moment God was bringing him full circle with his work here. It was Gina's copy of Tuklasin which included a prayer she had written for her family. Ed and I both lost it as we saw on the last blackened page the lyrics to the song "Why so Downcast O My Soul? Put Your Hope in God." Again it was amazing what God had chosen to preserve from the flames that took everything. In a country and a place where needs and tragedies seem to be everywhere, it was God's special word to Ed and all of us at Village Handcrafters assuring us that this is a family He wants us to come along side and help through this difficult experience.
We also did a bit of investigation while we were there and came to the conclusion that the parents clearly did not lock the door to the home when they left the evening of the fire. In fact the oldest son ran out the door when a piece of his burning mosquito net fell on his leg. He sat on the grassy, unpaved "street" crying while the fire quickly grew. The only way to lock the door was to put a screw driver through a couple bent over nails from the inside. So there is no way this could not have been done by anyone who left the house. When neighbors arrived, they tried desperately to get inside but thought the door was locked because they could not get it open. What actually was happening was that the door, which was made of galvanized metal over a wood frame and did not even have a door knob or a latch, expanded in the door frame because of the intense heat inside. This was apparently so tight that it took several minutes for rescuers to break through. Learning this brought some clarity for Pastor Ogie and Gina, as to what had taken place on that terrible evening. It will help them, and their neighbors, not blame them for what happened.
The couple is very thankful for the help that has been given. We also looked at an available home in the area. It is a rent-to-own situation. We had thought about buying a lot (they were renting the home that burned) and building them something new but that would take time. They need a place to go as soon as possible. The rent of the home we looked at together today is $30 a month. Hopefully, eventually we will be able to raise the money to pay off the home for them. It is $3000. When we can help them get moved in (next week?) they will probably need some home furnishings and other household items. I think Gina may still need some clothes. She is quite thin. I think they could also still use some clothing items for their son who is eight. By the way, he seems to be doing well emotionally - smiling, running, playing, happy kid. (We compared our "Snake II" high scores on our cell phones).
Some have asked about donating some English books for Pastor Ogie and Gina. He did do a couple years in a Bible school so I'm guessing he can read some English but I'm not sure how much really. I'll try to remember to ask about that. So far we have collected $240 here to help the family. That and some assistance from Department of Social Welfare took care of their funeral expenses. I know of couple other cash donations that I still need to coordinate. ACTION has made relief funds available to be used right away if needed and then paid back as donations come in. Please let me know if you have specific questions about what may still be needed.
It has been really good to see the area Pastors come along side Pastor Ogie and Gina during this trying time. Without this I'm not sure where they would be. Pastor Ogie's church is in a small section of the community where there has been an ongoing land dispute. Church members have struggled with unity and showing love. This has been very difficult as church attendance continues to drop. And now this tragedy. Also I should mention that Pastor Ogie has TB but has been living in denial. Last week we got him to Scott Nelsen's clinic and started on TB meds. All of this has been pretty tough. Ogie has only been a Christian for three years. So, it looks like now Pastor Ogie may take a break from working in his small struggling congregation and help Pastor Rey in our Village Church plant. He really needs some healing and could benefit from a Paul -Timothy type of mentorship with Rey. Please pray for God's clear leading in this.
Thanks for helping us as we assist Pastor Ogie and his family,
ACTION Philippines Missionary