Stories & Commentaries

This Just In: Bible Worker Reports on Conditions in Saipan After Super Typhoon Yutu

According to Adventist Bible worker, hearts are hurting, but hope still abounds.

The San Antonio Seventh-day Adventist Church in Saipan was destroyed by Typhoon Yutu on Oct. 24, 2018. Photo provided by Eric Mahinay

The San Antonio Seventh-day Adventist Church in Saipan was destroyed by Typhoon Yutu on Oct. 24, 2018. Photo provided by Eric Mahinay

As a Gospel worker, I share Jesus' warnings to those who live at the end of the age. The Bible speaks of a time of trouble such as the world has never seen before, a time when no one can buy or sell. Many of my friends believe that time has arrived has arrived in Saipan.

Super Typhoon Yutu destroyed our tiny island. I could tell you there are 300 power line  poles down because of the 178 m.p.h. winds, or that more than a thousand homes were destroyed, or about the dozens of flipped-over cars and buses, but the hurt in our hearts, seeing our friend’s homeless, and our church destroyed, cannot be enumerated.

In the morning at first light, after the typhoon, I checked in with all my church members, finding them wherever I could. I was shocked to discover not just my home had been damaged, but essentially every home I encountered was damaged to some extent.

Often, I would see a person alone sitting in the pile of garbage that used to be their home with their face in their hands crying. After I checked in with all my people and, to God be the glory, found them safe, I went to the see the churches and school. The main Adventist church was flooded and the school severely damaged. The San Antonio church was destroyed. The walls had collapsed and the roof was gone.

I climbed over the broken pieces to get to the sanctuary. Here too the roof was gone, and water was pouring in. I wanted to save what I could — the Bibles or the hymnals or something — but everything that hadn’t blown away was swollen with water. The night before I watched the roof come off my home without fear or anxiety, but seeing God's house, the church I love, and helped build ruined was too much. Just before I lost control of my emotions, God sent "Elder Eric" Mahinay and his son Michael. They came in at just the right time with smiles and encouragement. “It is bad,” Eric said, ”but with God's help we will rebuild.”

The mad scramble to set a place back in order can be overwhelming. God's people immediately went to work. The people gathered at the church and school to clean and make repairs, everyone smiling, shaking hands, and working hard together. People with machetes and chainsaws attacked the fallen trees, children gathered garbage in bags, all the water was shop vacuumed from the central church. The broken glass was removed without a drop of blood being spilled. If you could have seen God's people working together, joy would be gushing through your heart. It was awesome! I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God!

There are huge lines of cars, miles long, zigzagging through the downed power lines, waiting to buy gas and water. Some were waiting in line overnight to purchase essentials. The school and the church both have generators that need gas to run.  I wanted to be a help, so I gathered all the gas cans I could find, loaded them into the church van, and prepared to spend the night waiting for my turn to buy gas for the school.

As I was driving to the gas station in my village, I realized that I was helpless. Even if I waited all night in line there was no guarantee there would be any gas for us. Some stations had already run out so I stopped and prayed and I asked God to provide for us.

I continued to drive and all of a sudden I came to a gas station with no line. The attendant was putting up a sign that said "cash only." With the power out and no access to the ATM, people didn't have cash, but I did, and I was able to go and purchase gas without waiting in line.

I returned to the school and they were shocked to see me back so quickly. They expected me to be gone a long time waiting. I told them what had happened and all the teachers and the principal filled their cars so they could get to and from work the following week. God provided.

I am thankful to God. Through the typhoon experience He’s teaching me that He can provide for me in every circumstance of life and when that time of trouble comes, I will know that I can trust Him, because I am trusting Him now.

A few days after the typhoon Sabbath came and the church members gathered for worship. I drove the church van, picking up people for church. I thought it was going to be a sad occasion, but there was joy like I’ve never seen!

Everyone was happy; everyone was praising; everyone was even singing! It was the influence of the Holy Spirit like I’ve never seen before. When I got to church I found the Holy Spirit present in a powerful way, people were smiling singing and hugging. It was the highest, holiest Sabbath I’ve ever experienced.

God’s love was immediately put into action as the church had assembled care packages filled with things such as water and rice for needy church members — people with nothing were so happy to have something.

And during the service, I got to offer the pastoral prayer. I was upfront and able to look at the faces of the people as we sang “He Leadeth Me." I watched the people give their hearts to God, loving Him even in adversity.

I’m so happy I’m here in Saipan, I’m so happy I’m a Christian. And I’m so happy Jesus is coming soon.

— Kris Akenberger, is the Guam-Micronesia Mission Bible Worker in Saipan.