The Transylvania Times -

By Eric Crews
Staff Writer 

Couple Thankful After Typhoon Hits Home – Brevard NC


(Above) Timothy Owen, his wife, Gera, (seen here with their two children) are missionaries in the small island of Malapuasca in the Philippines, which was recently hit by a typhoon. The island the couple live on received a significant amount of damage.

As missionaries, Timothy Owen and his wife, Gera, know that sometimes the only thing one can do is to trust in God.

Recently, when the couple was back in Brevard with their two children on furlough from a mission trip, they were left to watch nervously as Typhoon Haiyan raked across the 2-mile-wide island of Malapuasca in the Philippines where they live and work.

The only thing they could do was hope and pray as news reports from nearby islands told of devastating loss, including the possible loss of lives of more than 10,000 people in Tacloban City, located roughly 100 miles east of the island where they live.

Meanwhile, to the west, additional reports of catastrophic loss of life poured in.

But for four days they didn't know what had happened to their home, to their family and friends, and to the small church they built earlier this year.

Owen said not knowing what had become of their friends and family on the island was nerve wracking.

"We were so distressed," he said. "My wife had a list of people and she called everybody who she knew, but couldn't get in touch with anyone.

"Finally, she did get in touch with a few people and got some broken reports of what happened on the island, but we didn't really know what had happened."

When his wife finally reached her mother and learned that not only was she safe, but everyone on the island was as well, he said they were overjoyed with thanks.

"The island is completely devastated and leveled," he said. "The houses are destroyed. Miraculously, though, the reports that we have so far are that our church was the only building untouched."

The church is now being used as a staging point for the relief effort, most of which has been provided by money raised through Anchor Baptist Church in Pisgah Forest, thanks to the Owens' efforts.

Recently, more than 400 emergency supply kits were handed out by people at the church, including rice, canned food and other supplies.

While Owen said he is thankful to know that his wife and children are safe and didn't have to deal with the dangers of the storm, which included winds of more than 180 mph, he feels conflicted that he isn't there to help his community rebuild in a time of need.

But, since he can't be there to help, he's doing all he can to raise money to further the relief efforts for the island.

"I really want to be there with the people right now," he said. "But I felt like if we weren't there, we could be effective here in helping to raise money."

Owen said the Transylvania community's response to the needs of his adopted home have been phenomenal.

"We're very thankful in the way that people have responded here to help," he said. "The response of people has been a real blessing. We're continuing to try and raise funds, and we'll just keep doing what we can for as long as we can."

While the amount of support he's been able to provide remotely isn't going to fulfill all of the people's needs, it will help, he said.

"What we're giving seems inadequate, but at least we are reaching some lives," he said. "With those 400 packets of food we delivered we were able to give a packet of food to at least every family. It wasn't much, but it helps in this time of emergency."

Since lines of communication have been reopened on the island, Owen said he has slowly begun to learn about what the storm was like.

He has heard reports that the wind didn't stop for four hours.

During that time, a group of people gathered at his family's house, but were forced to flee to a separate building when the roof of the home was blown off during the storm.

"When a hurricane of that size comes, there really is just nowhere to hide," he said.

He believes it is miraculous that none of the roughly 4,000 people who live on the island died. For that, he said, he is most thankful.

"We've got a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving," he said. "On one hand we just feel devastated because what we have worked to build for so many years has so much damage. But on the other hand, the people are alive and our church building is still there."

But rebuilding isn't going to be easy.

In January, he and his family will head back to their island home and will work to rebuild their home and help with the needs of the island that they've called home for five years.

"It's life changing for us," he said. "We sustained a lot of damage to our home. We've got so much work to do when we get home.

"We'll be continuing to preach, but we'll also be working to rebuild our lives while helping with other people's needs, as well."

But despite the devastation, Owen said he is confident the people of the island will work to rebuild.

As they do, he said he's thankful that the church they built earlier this year can serve as a place of refuge for the people.

"It's miraculous that the church was unharmed," he said. "It's as if God said, 'I want this church to remain to help this community.' All you can say is that it is amazing. I feel like it's certainly needed right now. I'm thankful that the people there were spared and that our church is there to help in this difficult time.

"The immediate needs are being helped, but there is a long road to rebuild."

Owen said donations are still being accepted at Anchor Baptist Church, with 100 percent of the money they raise going directly to support the recovery efforts.

So far they have been able to purchase and deliver two loads of emergency supplies through a fellow missionary who lives in a nearby village.

"We're happy knowing that the money is being used effectively," he said. "The basic needs of the people are starting to be met. The problem is getting back on their feet by getting their boats back.

"Fishing is their main source of income. Once they get their boats back they can survive. In the meantime, we're trying to do what we can to help them sustain themselves."


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