Relief teams with CBN's Operation Blessing (OB), the international humanitarian organization based in Virginia Beach, Va., spent the Christmas holidays in the central Philippines serving victims of Typhoon Rai.
The storm, which hit the country on Dec. 16, killed almost 400 people and displaced more than half a million.
OB team members went to remote islands bringing cheer, hope, and God's love to thousands of typhoon survivors.
Local Annalisa Plutado told CBN News how horrified she was as the catastrophic category five cyclone slammed through her town.
"I thought I would not make it. I was scared to death. The walls were shaking and about to collapse," Plutado said.
At the height of the storm, she and her neighbors huddled under a piece of plywood they used as a shield against flying iron sheets and other debris. Although they fled to an evacuation center for safety, strong winds and rain tore the roof off the building, exposing them to even more danger.
Plutado explained that in the midst of their panic and helplessness, it was the faith and prayers of 8-year-old Janine Doña and her 10-year-old sister, Rhein, that gave them hope.
"I told them, 'Don't cry. Papa Jesus will save us. Just relax, Papa Jesus will stop the storm.' I said, 'Papa Jesus forgive my sins. I will not be bad anymore,'" she said.
"We repented of our sins," noted Rhein. "Papa Jesus rescued us. We were able to escape to the other room where we were safe."
No casualties were reported in their village, but residents are now in urgent need of food and clean water.
Grace Capangpangan is due to give birth anytime. She is distressed over the tragedy they now face since all of the houses in their village were destroyed.
"We don't have a house and we don't know where to start," Capangpangan tearfully said. "Where to get money to buy food? All our rice got wet and all our belongings blown away by the strong winds."
OB immediately coordinated with the Philippine Armed Forces, local government units, and church partners. It was the first non-government organization to help most of the communities of Siargao and the Dinagat Islands on Christmas Day.
Capangpangan was overjoyed that OB came to her village, saying, "Without your help, we will not have anything to eat today. Thank you so much to all of you who extended assistance to us. Thank you so much."
Also, on the island of Leyte in the central Philippines, tens of thousands were left homeless by Typhoon Rai. Many of them like Jennifer Danhao and her family now live in makeshift tents along the road.
"I just want for my family to be more comfortable especially during the cold nights," Danhao told CBN News.
She got her wish when another OB team saw them camped along the road and gave her family and her neighbor food bags containing rice, noodles, canned goods, water, coffee, and New Testament Bibles.
They also received much-needed mats and blankets.
"I am so happy because you gave mats," Danhao emphasized. "And the blanket will keep us warm. We can use them for the rest of our lives. And we have food for Christmas that will last until the New Year! Thank you so much."
Despite some difficulty transporting relief items, OB made it to the hardest-hit islands during Christmas. Teams also brought the spirit of good cheer, hope, and love to the typhoon victims.
OB efforts to assist survivors will continue in the days and weeks ahead.
Based in Virginia Beach, Va, Operation Blessing provides humanitarian services such as strategic disaster relief, medical care, hunger relief, and clean water. Founded in 1978, the humanitarian organization has touched the lives of millions of people in more than 90 countries and territories, including the U.S.
For more information about Operation Blessing, please visit https://www.ob.org.