January 12th marked one year since the devastating Taal Volcano eruption in the Philippines. It forced tens of thousands from their homes and the evacuation cost 39 lives.
Then, the pandemic hit shortly after which has hurt recovery efforts, especially among fishermen who lived right on the volcanic island.
Operation Blessing was among the first to provide disaster relief efforts, and on the first anniversary, it helped these fishermen get back in business.
The island used to be a famous tourist spot and home to 6,000 families, but now it's a no man's land because it's been declared a permanent danger zone.
Former resident, Sherwin Puso recounts how frightening it was when the earth began to shake
before the volcano erupted.
He told CBN News, "I was feeding fish on the lake when all of a sudden I saw smoke rising from the crater. I can hear the rumbling of the ground while there was an earthquake. That's when me and my wife who was then five months pregnant fled the island."
Losing their home, Sherwin and his wife had to move to the city and stay with relatives. He found a job as a factory worker but then after the pandemic hit, he was among those laid off.
As a Christian, Sherwin surrendered their situation to God. After his wife gave birth, Sherwin brought his family back to their hometown.
"If you really trust in God, you will have confidence in His perfect will. We went back to our hometown because I believe that whatever was lost, God will replace them," Sherwin said.
His pastor, Javier Sante, shares the same belief. Despite losing his house and their church building in the eruption, he continued to trust and serve God.
Pastor Javier shared, "The body of Christ and His everlasting Word will never be destroyed. I believe He is a miraculous God and I will forever trust in Him. He uses many people to help those in need."
God has honored the faith of Sherwin and Pastor Javier. Operation Blessing took advantage of Pastor Javier's boat-making skills to provide boats as part of the rehabilitation and livelihood program for survivors of the Taal eruption.
Operation Blessing Philippines President Peter Kairuz was present in the handover of the fishing boats to the fishermen of the island.
Kairuz told the crowd, "Exactly one year ago today was when Taal volcano erupted. And Operation Blessing is back here giving livelihood to our fishermen. This is the first batch of nine
fishing boats that we are giving to them."
Sherwin was grateful to be among the first recipients.
He said, "This is a big blessing. First of all, I thank the Lord. And I also thank all the people whom He used to help us."
Mayor Joan Amo also expressed her appreciation to Operation Blessing for their assistance in the midst of the pandemic.
"I thank Operation Blessing for your unending support. I pray the Lord will continuously bless you with good health so you can help more Filipinos in need."
John Tan, General Manager of Operation Blessing, Philippines, gave them this assurance, "Operation Blessing is here. We are commanded by the Lord to help those who are in need. And so as long as they need help. We will stand by them until they get back on their feet."
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