(MCC Photo/Ann Campbell Janz)

Pastors, from left, Philip Manlupa, Susan Garbe, Virgie Beduya (orange shirt), Lorenza Ecalde and Tony Mantua participate in a water rescue simulation that was part of a recent four-day peace, reconciliation and disaster preparedness workshop for 23 pastors.

AKRON, Pa. – A crucial part of MCC’s response to last November’s Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines includes training pastors to build networks to respond to future disasters and to improve their skills in helping people heal from trauma and resolve conflicts.

MCC is partnering with Peacebuilders Community, Inc. (PBCI) – a local Philippines organization with ties to the Integrated Mennonite Church of the Philippines and a ministry of Mennonite Church Canada Witness – to train pastors in each city in Samar and Leyte provinces.

PBCI’s four-day trainings and ongoing education build the pastors’ capacities in disaster preparedness and trauma healing and their skills in conflict transformation in a church context.

“The process includes a continuing dialogue in which each participant can identify their strengths and areas for improvement,” said PBCI’s Kriz Cruzado of Davao, Philippines, who is active in the project and also helps monitor MCC’s other typhoon response efforts.

“Capacity building should provide a space where participants can collectively design a mechanism to address their needs and provide understanding about how to strengthen their teams,” she said.

As part of trauma healing, pastors share stories of the challenges of ministering to typhoon-affected church families in the midst of rebuilding their own homes. The conflict transformation sessions promote peaceful methods of dealing with stress in the ravaged communities.

In addition, pastors are encouraged to create plans of how they will build disaster response networks in their own communities and how they will share plans for these with local officials.

Pastors also train in practical disaster response skills. PBCI encourages each pastor to purchase basic rescue items such as a 50-meter long nylon rope. Instead of life vests, they suggest using something more accessible and affordable such as empty bottles in a backpack.

And the training includes a simulation of a water rescue in case of flash flooding.

“The physical exercises built my confidence that I can share what I have learned with others,” said Lorenza Ecalde, pastor of God’s Glorious Church in Samar.

In reflecting on the trainings with Ann Campbell-Janz, an MCC staff member who traveled to the Philippines to monitor MCC projects in May, several pastors said they now see the importance of heeding typhoon warnings early, protecting a certain amount of water and food with plastic, preparing a survival kit and encouraging all their congregants to do likewise.

Each pastor who took part in the training is expected to form a disaster response network in her or his own community. Cruzado is working alongside pastors to help them plan and to ensure they have the support and confidence they need to pass on their learnings.

“These networks are learning how to encourage their local government unit to develop a disaster preparedness plan and to offer their volunteer services so that their churches and local government can work hand-in-hand when and if another disaster occurs,” Cruzado said.