The news reports from the Philippines continue to show the scale of the crisis wreaked by typhoon Haiyan. The death toll has been heavy, and the need now is for the continued care and support for the survivors. Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced, with 1 in 10 Filipinos having been affected.
There is the added concern that when a catastrophe strikes a country such as the Philippines, the level of suffering is borne by those least able to cope because of poverty and overcrowding. This was obvious in one media broadcast showing orphaned children standing in the ruins holding up signs that read “Please help us.” It is not possible to ignore such a cry, but in the face of the enormity of the situation there comes a sense of helplessness.
As I thought about these children, I accepted that although I couldn’t go to them physically, I could embrace them in my heart and prayers. I knew that prayer was a powerful force that could reach those who were desperate and alone. It also became clear to me that I needed to change my thought about those who were caught up in the aftermath of the typhoon. It had become easy to see them as victims instead of beholding them as beloved children of God. To see them as victims overlooks their God-given birthright of dominion.
I had an experience a month ago that showed me how important it is not to accept victimization in any situation, no matter how frightening. I live in Australia’s Blue Mountains, near Sydney, and bush fires began in two communities that were only 20 minutes from my home. Fanned by ferocious winds, these fires soon were out of control, and in one community 199 homes were lost. Fear that the two fires would merge was escalating, and it was predicted that there would be a mandatory evacuation. People all around me were packing their belongings and leaving their homes. Panic and fear were making victims of us all, but I knew I didn’t have to accept this attack on my dominion.
I was supported and encouraged by a hymn from the “Christian Science Hymnal” (No. 189 © CSBD), which begins, “Mine eyes look toward the mountains/ Help cometh from on high.” These words were particularly helpful:
My foot shall not be moved,
My keeper is the Lord,
He never shall forsake me;
I trust me to His word.
As I prayed with these ideas, I felt strengthened, and it became clear that no matter what alarming predictions there were for the following day, I would stay in my home. At the same time I was certainly ready to cooperate with a mandatory evacuation. I also knew that neither I nor any of us were victims, but instead we were the beloved children of God, and I could safely trust His care.
Throughout the following days I continued to pray and to witness the wonderful strength and commitment of the firefighters in containing the fires. People began returning to their homes, and life in the mountain communities returned to normal. But more important came the understanding of the authority that comes as we refuse to accept that we are victims. When we do this, we are empowered to discover the ideas that God is providing us for our safety and security.
Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of The Christian Science Monitor, wrote: “No power can withstand divine Love.... Whatever enslaves man is opposed to the divine government. Truth makes man free” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” pp. 224-225). This is the truth that triumphs over disaster and overcomes fear and chaos.
Our prayers are needed now for the Filipino people as they move forward and rebuild their lives. The task could seem overwhelming, but it is so important not to lose sight of the continuing need to support not only the relief efforts but also the ideas that underpin the planning and management of the recovery. We can know not only for the Filipino people but for all humanity that the love of God can never wane. As we acknowledge that those caught up in the disaster are not victims but are precious children of God, the strength and purpose to rebuild in new and productive ways will be seen.