TACLOBAN, Philippines — Last year’s devastating typhoon in the Philippines killed more than 7,000 people and hundreds are still missing.
In a storm-wracked coastal town, the heartbreaking loss of a family has become an inspiration to many.
Their lost children
She sat at a table and counted on a piece of paper the members of her family who died or went missing during Typhoon Haiyan.
« Ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen… Thirteen of them are dead, but many are missing, » said Dolor Lingo, as she wept. « It was very painful at first, but slowly I came to accept what happened as God’s will. »
Among those who died that day were three of his sons who drowned when tsunami-like waves engulfed their home.
“The only surviving child is here,” she said, holding up a photo of her only remaining child.
On Saturday, to mark the one-year anniversary, Dolor, her husband and her 13-year-old son visited a makeshift grave that houses her children and six other relatives.
« I can only imagine them happy in the presence of God, » Dolor said.
A new hope
A year later, the Lingos have nearly rebuilt their home, and Dolor is engaged in children’s ministry.
“We have a baby feeding program and a ministry for at-risk youth,” Dolor said.
Her husband Dante leads a small church called New Hope Evangelical in the neighborhood.
« Even though what happened to us is so painful, I know that in everything God has a purpose for our lives, » she shared.
And 13-year-old Dante Jr. plays drums in the church band.
« For me, playing the drums lifts my spirits. Even though I lost my brothers and sister, I want to continue playing, » he said.
The Lingos strongly believe that God is using the tragic deaths of their three children to point people in their neighborhood to Jesus Christ.
“Most of our neighbors were non-believers, but after the death of our children and the example we have tried to be in the community, many have now become Christians and attend our church,” Dolor said.
Keep faith in God
The Lingos say they have a special burden on the young people in their neighborhood.
« A lot of kids sniffed glue and some of them gambled. We started contacting them and inviting them to church. At first they didn’t want to come, but slowly things changed, » Dante said.
Lingo’s testimony resonated throughout the community
« Before the typhoon all the young people you see sitting in the front row were non-believers. But after the typhoon the pastor encouraged us to serve and trust in God. We did. Now let’s talk about Christ to others, » said the new believer Rashbert Pedrero.
« After the storm I thought there was nothing left in life, everything was destroyed. But then the pastor helped me to understand that material things are not important. I am happy to be here to serve God, » said another new believer , Duke Villanlino said.
Dante Jr. said he has tried to connect with other children but finds it difficult as he still misses playing with his siblings.
He said that he is studying hard and dreams of becoming a sailor one day. But for now his heart is right here behind the drums.
« I know God has a purpose for me because He spared my life », Dante. Jr. said.
It is a theme that runs through this precious family, devastated by an unspeakable loss, but determined to reverse the tragedy for the glory and honor of God.
« No matter what storms, calamities or tragedies may come, we must do our best to get back on our feet and keep our faith in God, » Dolor said. « Whatever happens, God is always there. »