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Philippines disasters hit closer to home

Two Christian missionaries from Henderson moved to the Philippines in 2007 with the intention of making that country their permanent home. No agency sent them, they just went on their own and settled in Bohol Island.

Carolyn and Mel Ragodos, who met in a Bible study class, knew they’d face adversity when they moved to Bohol, the 10th largest of the Philippines’ 7,000 islands.

But what has happened since October is beyond mere adversity. Since October, both islands have suffered terrible damage, first from an earthquake on Oct. 15, followed by Typhoon Haiyan on Nov. 8.

News reports say there were at least 69 killed in the earthquake just in Bohol, and there was damage to roads, bridges and historic churches.

Carolyn’s mother, Joan Woolard, raised her daughter in Henderson, sending her to the Las Vegas Christian Academy, and is keeping in touch as best she can. Woolard, 75, visited Bohol, planning to perhaps move there herself, but the life her daughter and Pastor Mel were living was not for her.

Even before the two natural disasters Woolard said living in Bohol was tough. She said there are so many ants that “if an ant travels across your plate, if they don’t stop and eat, you just ignore it.”

Now Woolard worries about the back-to-back disasters, which have made life so miserable for the family, including their 4-year-old daughter, Abby.

Carolyn, 31, has written her mom and puts out a newsletter to describe conditions for them and for the college students they teach through the Christian Youth Campus Ministry. She said donations could be made to help them through the First Baptist Church, PO Box 91222, Henderson, Nev. 89009.

Even before the earthquake, Carolyn and Pastor Mel, 37, an American-born Filipino, were asking for help because of the 29 percent poverty rate in Bohol. “That translates into nearly a third of the island’s people making only $2.50 a day,” Carolyn wrote.

In her Oct. 20 letter to her mother, she said “we have been nonstop shaking” since the earthquake with a magnitude of 7.2. “Abby has had the hardest time with it, she tells me she’s scared because God might shake us again.” She told her daughter, “God might shake us but we will trust in His goodness anyway.”

Their house was damaged from the earthquake yet they took in students who needed help, so for a while there were 18 people living in their home, sharing one fully functioning bathroom, because the other three bathrooms were damaged.

Following the typhoon, the situation became more grim. The latest total death count from the typhoon across the Philippines is 5,632, with 1,759 missing, 26,000 injured and millions homeless.

Carolyn wrote in her newsletter that the typhoon damaged the power, and without power the water supply shut off.

“In the city where we reside, they turn the power on for only two hours a day,” Carolyn wrote in November.

“During this time our water tank refills and we fill any container that can hold water so we can wash with it and boil it for drinking water. Most of our neighbors do not have the reserves we do so they rely on the city to provide for them and it is very difficult, even desperate.”

At one point, she was down to two cups of water, and she admitted to her mother she was scared. Carolyn wrote about her daughter asking for a cup of cold water and not being able to give it to her.

“I’m not ever going to complain again,” Carolyn told her mother.

Despite an earthquake and aftershocks, despite a typhoon, the Ragodos family plans to to stay, along with Abby.

Woolard doesn’t worry about them. “They’re in God’s hands, and God led them there.”

Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. Email her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call her at 702-383-0275.

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