Reflections on OperationSAFE Zamboanga from Craft Station Leader Mho
A long time ago, I desired to go to Mindanao. After the Operation Safe training with the Wilsons, I sat in on the meetings for Opsafe Zamboanga even though I knew at that time I would not be able to go. But surprisingly, by God’s grace and will there came the opportunity to be part of the first Opsafe Camp in the Philippines.
Truly, I was blessed serving those kids together with people of the same heart and faith. Even spending Christmas and New Year celebration away from my dear family, I know Jesus is worth it all.
DAY 00 REFLECTION– HONEYMOON STAGE
Everyone was getting excited the night before. I felt the same way as well. I enjoyed listening, talking and sharing with Dr. Jojie. God imparted in my heart after the conversation that I have to make the most of the time I have left. That kept me going and more excited.
We had volunteer orientation. It was so smooth with the help of Jemima (OpSafe coordinator in Zamboanga) with
amazing effort – to the max! Even before the conversation with the team, I was thinking what if possibly those volunteers have been in trauma. But truly, I was so blessed seeing them trying to understand what Opsafe is during the orientation. Some might not grasp everything about this trauma care process but God did amazing things in short amount of time like what He did in Nehemiah’s life. He was able to rebuild the wall in 52 days. Amazing isn’t it? In a short amount of time OpSafe volunteers were able to be part of the first aid for those kids in trauma. I saw that they were the best people to really understand those kids because they also experienced the same thing. But still, it depends on their heart (if it’s ready) and responses.
After the orientation, I talked to the mother of two volunteers. She told me that her son was so depressed and kept asking her about his father’s death. They grew up without him. His father was killed without any valid reason – she added it’s normal in their area. He was just one of those who are broken not just because of war but also because of their own emotional poverty. I saw that God really uses people even they are broken.
DAY 01 REFLECTION – A CHALLENGE
The first day with the kids became more exciting. I was busy preparing for my station. I was down in the registration area and I was fascinated by a group of cute little kids. I acted like a kid to get their attention. Then, I was shocked when Kuya Ruel told me that the number of participants is more than of what we were expecting. I saw Pastor Ceasar and he told us to give them snacks and afterwards they will be sent home.
While entertaining the kids, there was one of them whom I called “Batman” and asked his name. He cried and his mother told me that after the war her son became fearful and cried a lot. He didn’t go back in the group. Batman was one of the cute little 5-6 years old.
The team thought that if we sent them home – it might not be helpful because they might be the ones in pain.
It was a challenge. Most of us bore the burden for those kids. By God’s grace and wisdom the team ended up taking the responsibility for those kids. We took the challenge. Everyone has been flexible and it stretched our faith.
In every station there were challenges because of the increase of number of participants. We prepared for 150 participants only but there were 180 kids. The first day was finished and everyone was so amazed in God’s hand. He made the day. Its worth to trust Him even it seems so impossible (that’s faith). If it is His will it will be done!
I was thinking the whole time in my station how will everyone be able to make their own craft. God made it possible. It makes my eyes roll and my head spin when there were two pouches and one towel left. Everyone was able to make their craft. Incredible!
I got back in my devotion that day, it says in Philippians 2: 13 “For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose”. Beyond doubt He did, and He let us saw His invisible hand working.
In addition, I remember the child who made an abstract drawing on his pouch. He used dark colors in his craft. The crew leader caught my attention when she said that this kid made an abstract. Although, I know it might say something regarding his emotions and thought that he cannot express we just let him finish the way he wanted.
DAY 02 REFLECTION – A LITTLE BIT OF CULTURE SHOCK
It was my first experience to be asked to stop using Jesus name in teaching. I was not hurt because of who asked me but because of the thought that I was restricted to tell Jesus. I was used to share who Jesus in my life and His teachings in my work place, in church, in Luzon (technically). I was shocked that the freedom I have became limited when I get to the south. I was so sad that day not because I lost my eyeglasses or I was tired but because of the burden in my heart.
I submitted and respectedthe authority. The next batches I used God instead of Jesus. During the session for the last batch for the day, I was thinking if we will pray again. In my thought I was really struggling I wanted to pray the way I used to be but I know I have to obey and respect the Opsafe mission and goal. But I was so surprise when one of the kid called me and said, “Ate Mho, pray tayo” (Ate Mho, lets pray). I was relieved and I prayed the way I used to be.
The staff or the team should be trained well. I remember what Pastor Jonathan said, you will do what you are trained to do.
We had time to talk in small group and share things that burdens them. In my group – compose of three girls and a boy, all of them were from broken family. Brokenness is one factor that burdens the kids. One of them told me that her mother left them and her father really works hard for them. Many stories were shared regarding their issues in their families but I keep on telling them that Jesus our Lord always catches them in times of trouble.
Unfortunately, the time was very short to keep the conversation.
DAY 03 REFLECTION – TIME PRESSURED
In craft station, our craft for the day was the key chain. We struggled for time. Most of the kids choose different beads so it took time. Most of them also did know how to make the key chains. They find it hard to tie the chain. And also, it was agreed to lessen the time. But in craft station it was really hard to do that. The kids were pressured because we have short time to finish and the next group was waiting outside.
But somehow, the kids were able to ask help during this time due to time pressure. It also helps the leaders and for me to spend time with the kids even for a little while. There are stories of fear. I was roaming around when one of the kids was alone making her own key chain. She said she witnessed how the rebels cut the arms of some men. I felt like it was normal for her to tell the story. I observed also that the same kid was telling the same story to other leaders. It
seemed that she wanted attention from the ates and kuyas. I heard the same stories from the kids. They were afraid but I saw that most of them were taking those things normal now.
After the day, I was able to talk to craft station assistant leader. She said it was normal for her to have a nightmare. She always saw in her dream that she was one of the rebels, shooting people using firearms. When the thoughts are coming back she struggles. During the war she and her family immediately evacuated the area because once the rebels saturated the area they could not go outside to buy food. By God’s grace they were able to escape. Now, they prepare themselves for possible attack again of the rebels. They have their emergency bag anytime the war starts they can just grab it and go.
She also shared what the rebel did that was blocked in media. The rebels used human shields during the war.
I can’t help but pray for her, so we prayed together.
DAY 04 REFLECTION – CHANGES OCCURRED
I changed the craft for the fourth day because the material was not applicable. The colors that we have are non-toxic and it didn’t make a good result. So, we decided to let them draw anything or anyone who gives them courage. The crew leaders were also able to talk to them and pray for them also.
The additional waiver that the children wrote also pressured them. The waiver was for their parents to know that there will be Christmas party the next day. I saw in the first batch that they really find it hard to enjoy the craft and conversation with the crew leaders because of the short time and additional task to do. In the next batches, I tried to write the waiver on the papers before they start. My assistant was the one facilitating while I was writing the waiver for the next batches. It helps and by God’s grace the kids were able to enjoy the craft.
DAY 05 REFLECTION – BLESSING IN DISGUISE
Kids became more excited and some expressed separation anxiety. We have the teddy towel for the last craft. I love this craft much.
Being love is our theme for the last day. Even I expect that they will find it hard to do the craft I was so amaze how the kids make it easily. I just stand in front above the chair and demonstrate to them how and let them follow one by one. Incredible they’ve got it.
I remind them that Opsafe team will not be forever be here but there I will leave the one that will love them forever its Christ.
As soon as they finished I asked them to give name to their teddy. It might be the one they love or the one who love them so much. Most of them enjoyed the craft.
There were stories of the kids naming the teddies, “Milari” and “Misuari” – they are the leaders of MNLF. Surprisingly, most of the poor families in the area were so thankful to what had happened because they received plenty of food. They received relief goods in bulk. Compared to their situation before the war, in evacuation it is more convenient because they don’t have to work hard to get food.
In our eyes what happened was worst but for some of them it was a blessing in disguise.
We might not able to record some stories but in God’s eye it wasn’t hidden. There are reasons behind all what happen. These must awaken the believers to be the salt and light of this world. Opsafe Camp is short-term yet I believe God can make things worth even to the least thing that we’ve shared and done to help the kids and to let them find hope in Christ. This experience helps me more and more to stand in the gap for Christ and make Him known.
Praise God for all of these. Jesus is worth of all the cost of my obedience
OPERATIONSAFE CAMP IN ZAMBOANGA
In late December, OperationSAFE held a child trauma resiliency camp in Zamboanga, Mindanao in the Philippines. This was the first of its kind in the nation and the staff found parents begging that their children be allowed to participate because of the trauma that they had experienced.
OpSAFE Snack Station
You are Loved
You are Loved
Be Strong and Be Brave
OpSAFE Adventure Station
Pete teaches “You are not Alone”
Wally teaches “Everyone is Important”
Aurora teaches “Follow and Believe”
Sally teaches “Be Strong and Be Brave”
Pete asks his friend Sally, “What’s Wrong?”
Children love stories.
Bible Story Station
Each day has a message from the Bible.
Children hear principles through familiar stories
Leaders help children write their dreams.
“I want to become a teacher and help my family”
Children decorate their bag with their name.
Each day they receive a character pin.
Children make a toy that also teaches resiliency
Can you catch it?
Children learn best through play
Each child’s creation is unique
Some of the beads glow in the dark!
Girls love the pretty crafts
Draw someone who gives you strength
Children draw who encourages them.
Building a bear out of a towel.
You are not alone!
Groups play together and make new friends.
Lets play together.
Children need to play even after trauma.
Local youth leaders join in the fun.
You are not alone.
Can you listen and follow?
When you can’t find your way alone, having a friend helps!
Small groups share what it is like.
Water relay race
Be strong and be brave
You are loved
You are loved
Send your dreams a flying!
Opening and finale with 180 children.
Local youth crew leaders
The little ones needed care too
Small groups are the heart of OpSAFE
Children love dancing
Friends make everything better
Friends make everything better
Everyone gets to dance, even leaders!
Because of the armed conflict, guards ensured the security of the camp.
A special program was held for little friends.
Christmas gifts after the program.
The whole OpSAFE Zamboanga team.
QUINAPONDAN, EAST SAMAR
The first OperationSAFE child trauma camp in East Samar will be held in Quinapondan from February 2nd to the 7th for 200 1st and 2nd grade students. East Samar is the area in centre right of the country marked in red in the map. This map shows the % of the population that lived below the poverty line BEFORE the disaster. The region is not as heavily populated as some of the other areas hit by Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) but it bore the brunt of the surge and the winds and has received much less help.
I. Background on Crisis situation
Typhoon Haiyan (known locally as Yolanda) swept through the central Philippines on 8 November killing over 6,000 and displacing 4 million people. The storm flattened homes and damaged schools, health centres and other infrastructure. Some experts estimate the storm was among the strongest ever to make landfall. About 100,000 people remain in evacuation centres six weeks after the storm. According to Philippine government and the UN the storm has affected 14.1 million people, leaving 4.1 million people displaced and over 1 million houses damaged. 6,069 have been reported dead and another 1,779 are missing as of December 16th.
II. OperationSAFE Child Trauma Camps
OperationSAFE is a child trauma intervention held to raise the resiliency of children who have been through mass trauma situations. It has been used successfully in China, Haiti, Tibet, Japan and the Philippines. The 5-day camp is run by trained volunteers in a Vacation Bible School format in cooperation with local churches. Each camp can serve 150 children between the ages of 5-12 and helps the majority of children to recover from post-traumatic stress and screens more severe cases for further care. OperationSAFE camps have been requested in 58 elementary and 78 pre-schools in East Samar.
III. Short-Term Mission Involvement
We are looking for churches to “adopt” one OperationSAFE camp. The responsibility of the church would be to raise money to sponsor children to attend the camp ($33 per child covers curriculum, supplies, staffing, travel and housing), send a short term team for a period of 10 days to assist the camp and local church host, and to provide prayer and on-going encouragement as the community recovers.