Elwood man’s mission to the Philippines
CJ Roberts is taking a journey of love. But this is no friendly social visit. Roberts is traveling a world away in an attempt to help friends in desperate need, some of whom he hasn’t see in 20 years. These are people who lost everything when Typhoon Haiyan struck their communities. This trip is personal.
As a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Philippines from 1991 to 1993, he got to know and love the people of that country. His final city of service was Tacloban on the island of Leyte, the city hardest hit by the devastating storm last week.
Now he has joined with other returned missionaries from around the country to take supplies, needed equipment, a strong back and caring hands to again give service. They leave Saturday to oversee the distribution of nine pallets of provisions collected from businesses and through private donation during the past few days. For two weeks they will do what they can, where they can to relieve some of the overwhelming loss felt by so many, all at their own expense.
Roberts was prompted to plan the trip after receiving a Facebook post from his old mission president urging help from all who still carried Philippine people in their heart. “We as Americans have resources not available over there,” Roberts said. “He wanted us to do whatever we could do to help.”
After communicating with another returned missionary in Kentucky who has family in Park Valley, and working out details with church leaders, a plan began to formulate. They were put in touch with a non-profit group known as Charity Vision International, who already has doctors in the Philippines. Soon others joined the missionary group headed overseas, some of them just back from service, others long past being full-time missionaries.
His group’s job will be to make a record of the people. He said few have been into the part of the country hit hardest by the storm. Theirs will be the second group going into the heart of the devastation.
“We as missionaries are a resource. We have the knowledge of the area and the skill,” he said. “We will be making a contact list of the people we know.” The sisters going will be responsible for locating the LDS members and comforting those who have nothing left or who have loved ones among the heavy death toll.
The men will be opening roadways, clearing debris and helping get water and food where needed.
That is where the miracle of this operation can been seen, Roberts said. Chain saws, hammers and building tools were generously donated by Home Depots throughout the state. Eagle scout projects were organized to collect even more materials and humanitarian kits compiled. Financial support was offered to help purchase more needed items. All those supplies were shipped out on Wednesday.
Roberts said the supplies will dock in a port away from the worst of the destruction so that his group can recruit aid from “the healthy and strong of the population so they can help their neighbors.”
He hopes others here at home will also open their hearts to help if they can. A sub account has been set up at Zions Bank under Charity Vision International, but financial donations can also be directed to Kimberly Roberts, 435-257-5047, who will see that the money gets to the non-profit group.