Sunlight gilded the waves over the depth and breadth of his vision when Nonoy emerged from his home the morning after Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines. On that November morning in 2013, each ripple echoed like a thousand tiny voices singing the power and beauty of God’s creation.
Then the surf thundered ashore, roiling the debris of hundreds of lives torn apart by the destructive power of the storm, and drawing Nonoy’s eyes to the damage onshore.
Docks were splintered. Boats driven ashore, their hulls torn or even twisted. Trees uprooted. Homes and livelihoods shattered.
Worst of all was the human toll. And that would increase if help did not arrive soon. Treatable injuries would become life-threatening. Then exposure, disease, hunger, and thirst would sweep through the islands like a scythe, taking down all those left standing.
The needs were clear to Nonoy.
You might ask, “What could one man do in the face of such need?” The better question is, “How could any believer do less than all he could do?”
He was equipped … but not for this
His name is Gualberto B. Ortiz Jr., but everyone knows him as Nonoy. At the time Typhoon Haiyan hit, Nonoy, a native of the Philippines, lived on a remote island chain where few had the opportunity to hear God’s Word and respond to Him.
He was equipped for that need. Trained by NTM Philippines in cross-cultural church planting, his 24-year ministry was ongoing. Some had responded. In other places, entire villages and islands had turned their backs on his work. However, Nonoy never gave up. He rolled up his spiritual sleeves and went to work where he was welcomed.
The needs facing him in the aftermath of the typhoon were no less an opportunity to demonstrate God’s love to the people of these islands. He had no idea how all the needs would be met, but he knew where to start.
Doing all that he could do
Before the typhoon, friends had helped Nonoy move his boat deep into a mangrove swamp. It rode out the storm unscathed. Now he recovered it, and set off for a larger island.
There, he found relief supplies already trickling in. There wasn’t much available yet, but there was enough for his small boat. He took what he could fit in, and headed back. On the islands, he unloaded his meager cargo to thankful crowds.
Again and again he crossed the open water in his small boat. Again and again he delivered food and water, medical supplies and tarps. He wondered how long he could keep this up. He had little time to rest or eat, and no time to maintain his boat and its motor. On any trip, there or back again, he could become another statistic—another casualty of Typhoon Haiyan.
Worse, he knew the people of the islands needed so much more — more than he could bring across, and faster than his boat would allow.
The problem was not supplies. The church in the Philippines had responded generously from the minute the typhoon hit. As word of the enormity of the disaster spread, more aid poured in from the Philippines and around the world.
But Nonoy was only one man, stretched thin, with one small boat. He lifted his eyes to God — again — and asked for help. God already had the answer in hand.
A perfect fit for a specific need
In a different part of the Philippines, Brian Pruett and his co-workers with NTM Aviation were wrestling with the same problem on a different scale.
“I remember getting emails from other mission organizations and churches who had people they knew in the ground zero area,” Brian said. “They were begging us to fly in and get their friends and families. It was such a sick feeling at first to know there were so many needs and we couldn’t possibly meet all of them.”
A couple of missionaries who work in a different chain of islands from Nonoy brought the situation in their area to Brian’s attention. “There were tremendous needs … and there were no air agencies working in that area,” Brian said.
People who lived on fish and rice had no way to get either. Fishermen could not fish. “Their boats were all broken,” Brian said. “Literally, all of them were broken. Their inedible seaweed farms which they used to sell … to get money to buy rice had also been destroyed. Their homes were flattened, and for many, everything they owned had been swept out to sea.”
“We saw a need that we were uniquely qualified and equipped to meet. We just didn’t have enough equipment, people or finances to do it. … We felt it was the thing to do and we needed to trust that God would provide.”
A need that seemed too big
Even so, trying to meet these overwhelming needs with two tiny airplanes and one small helicopter brought to mind another crowd who needed feeding. A crowd that was fed — and even had leftovers — when a little boy gave Jesus his meager lunch of fish and bread.
“We decided to give everything we had to try and make a difference even though it seemed hopeless,” Brian said. “I remember someone told me that even though what we have might be small compared to the overwhelming disaster, it won’t be small for the people we help.”
They began flying “from sunup to sundown.”
And then it got harder. The area where Nonoy and others work came to their attention.
“We learned … that there were 14 islands where our
“The problem was that we didn’t have enough aircraft or people to handle it. Whatever we did we wanted to do it well and complete it, so it was hard to think of splitting our already small fleet to start another operation.”
God provided resources
Nonoy and Brian saw God at work – abundantly.
“Once we stepped out in faith, God supplied all we
needed,” Brian said.
MAF sent a team experienced in disaster relief that provided vital logistical support. NTM Aviation could not have kept flying without their help obtaining fuel, providing a place for pilots and mechanics to sleep and food to eat, as well as arranging for the supplies themselves to be at the right places, helping with paperwork and more.
NTM Aviation brought NTM’s only Kodiak airplane from another country in the Asia-Pacific region. The plane had about four times the capacity of the Cessna 185s that NTM Aviation had in the Philippines. A helicopter owned by Helimission and operated by NTM Aviation was also flown in from the same country.
This provided the capacity to serve both areas.
Nonoy himself was an asset to the NTM Aviation team. He helped them identify areas of greatest need, and went along on flights to pave the way into isolated villages.
And NTM Canada’s team helped raise more than $73,500 dollars to help with relief efforts. They provided an online conduit for gifts, and kept stories flowing to illustrate the need and to show people how their gifts were helping. God’s people responded, trusting that whatever they gave, God would multiply to meet needs.
The results God provided were astounding.
“As the flying picked up, God provided mechanics, pilots, logisticians, pastors, contacts, government officials, and everything else we needed when we needed it,” Brian said. “We set out to help
Relief becomes rebuilding
As the need for relief supplies tapered off, rebuilding began.
NTM Aviation brought in seedlings to restore the seaweed farms that provided a cash crop. New Tribes Mission also helped with house rebuilding and boat repairs or replacement.
ANI, an international relief and development organization, got further involved. Jody Crain of ANI asked Nonoy to check with local leaders to find out what they needed. “Fishing nets,” was the answer. “We want to be able to provide for our families, and right now we are still dependent on food from the outside,” Jody was told.
“This was seven months afterwards,” Jody added. “There were islands where about 80 percent of the people on the islands were still dependent on outside food sources.”
Rebuilding has also been spiritual.
Doors opened because Nonoy, New Tribes Mission and ANI had what Jody called an “open hand,” sharing with any and all in need regardless of religious affiliation or interest.
After two or three months of aid and rebuilding, Nonoy began to hear a new message from village leaders who had previously told him he was unwelcome. “Well, next time you come, why don’t you plan to stay a little longer and let’s have Bible studies?” they said.
Today, three churches are well on the path toward being established, and Bible studies are taking place in two more villages.
Why? Because people were willing to step out in faith.
Will you step out in faith?
Our Western culture tells us to plan things out, and get all our ducks in a row before acting. Some believers take the parable of the tower (Luke 14:28-29) out of context and draw a similar conclusion.
Sometimes God does provide a way while you watch. That’s what He did for the Israelites at the Red Sea (Exodus 14). But when they came to the Jordan River, God expected them to act first (Joshua 3). The priests waded into the river, and then God parted the waters.
God has probably shown you the way forward time and again. He has likely opened doors for you more than once, providing the means to move ahead.
Maybe this is a time you need to wade in, trusting God to act. Maybe you ought to hand Jesus your lunch, even though you don’t seem to have enough to meet the need, and trust Him to multiply it.
He will act. He will meet needs when we act in faith.