Typhoon Toraji was small but devastating. With the earth in some areas of this island nation still loose from a major earthquake two years ago and doubly vulnerable due to unwise farming practices, flooding and mudslides took on record proportions. By the time the floodwaters receded, Typhoon Toraji had done the most damage of any typhoon in Taiwan's history.
In the mountain village of Da Shing in eastern Taiwan, a stream turned into a raging river that demolished houses, vehicles, and everything else in its path. Over 20 people died, and hundreds were left homeless.
The nearest Family International center, in a neighboring county, made three trips to Da Shing to deliver clothes, cooking utensils, baby food and diapers, soap, toys, and more, much of which had been collected by volunteers in the Taipei area.
One Family International center posted a notice on a community bulletin board calling for relief supplies, and the response was tremendous. Neighbors brought bags and bags of clothes and other items, and thanked The Family International for giving them the opportunity to help. One neighbor arranged for a donation of 400 gallons of paint, which made it possible for us to repaint the homes of some of the survivors in Da Shing.
Our team of 19 made the seven-hour drive, unloaded, and went straight to the abandoned school where most of the homeless were staying. We got to know the people we would be helping, and Johnny led everyone in a rousing round of inspirational songs in Chinese.
The next morning, town leaders pointed us to five houses to be repainted. Only then did we begin to fully realize the horror that had taken place the night of the flash flood.
A single mother of two from the Ami aboriginal mountain tribe had only a small pile of possessions left; she had lost everything else.
An elderly Ami woman who lives alone had awakened at 2:30 A.M. in total darkness, up to her neck in floodwater. "Jesama, Jesama!" (Jesus, Jesus!), she prayed. The waters subsided, but soon returned. She kept praying all night, and survived.
Another woman whose shack now looked more like a place to keep animals was sleeping on a piece of wood on the mud-covered floor. She also had lost almost everything.
Before we could begin painting, we had to shovel out several inches of mud that had been carried into the houses by the floodwaters. It was a lot of work, but then there were a lot of us and most were full of youthful energy.
By the end of our three-day stay, the townspeople had found new hope after seeing us foreigners work away to help them get their lives back together.
A little boy at one of the houses we painted would say to his mother every time he saw us, "Look! Jesus has come to see us!" What a privilege it is to be an instrument of God's hope and love to others!
Originally Published in 2001.