MANILA, Philippines - Thousands of people in the Philippines have lost their homes to a huge fire. However, Operation Blessing International and Christian churches have been responding to meet that need.
In a shanty town in Manila, residents desperately tried to save their belongings as fire raced through their homes. Two people died in the tragedy and more than 7,000 families were left homeless.
Many residents have pitched makeshift tents where their houses used to stand, breathing air polluted by the smoke from the burned buildings, and left exposed to the scorching heat of summer.
Olive Garduque worries for the health of her four children. Their home is now some cartons and a bedsheet over their heads. While Garduque and the other victims spend the day waiting in line for relief supplies, her children look for scrap materials in the fire debris that they can sell for income.
"I pity my children because of our difficult condition," Garduque said. "They get sick because of the changing weather. But I cannot do anything, our house is gone now and I don't know until when we can live like this."
In this crisis, many see Operation Blessing as a source of divine intervention -- as it partners with the local church to minister to the victims.
"Initially, Operation Blessing has given food, used clothes, mats to the fire victims," said Mayla Malana, Operation Blessing Coordinator. "But more than the material things, we counsel them and share with them the hope that they can get from God."
Some relief operations are carried out in the streets. But Garduque and other fire victims sit comfortably inside a church. Everyone is given the chance to pray to receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. The goal is to offer a physical and spiritual oasis -- even for just a few minutes -- allowing survivors to unload their burdens to God.
Garduque was able to bring home supplies and clean clothes for her children, as well as a heart filled with hope.
"I cannot complain to God," she said. "I am still very thankful that all of us are alive, my whole family. We are still together. I would like to thank Operation Blessing for the help that they gave us. This means a lot to us."
A water purifying station was also set up in the area to provide free, clean drinking water.
The government said it will take several months before the victims' lives can be restored to normal. That is why Operation Blessing will continue to provide counseling, relief goods, and feeding programs for the fire victims in the days ahead.