To date, the church has constructed 921 homes through the project. But the organization is building more than homes, said Elder Ardern. “In the face of disaster, we are building people.”
Strength to continue
In the days after losing his daughter, Gemmer Esperas gathered abandoned sheets of corrugated metal and built a new home.
But the gaps in the metal did not protect the couple from the wind or the rain. Most of the time they were forced to stand. They could not sleep.
Then a counselor in the bishopric of their LDS ward, Joy Operio, found them. “Go to the church for shelter,” he told them.
That night in the LDS meetinghouse they slept for the first time since Annammer's death.
Before the storm, church leaders had been working with the couple — both Latter-day Saints — to attend the LDS temple. They were saving money to travel to Cebu.
“We pray to ask Heavenly Father to have strength to continue,” said Gemmer Esperas. “Because of the gospel I learn at church, I have the courage that someday my daughter and my wife and I will be together. That is the reason we continue.”
The LDS Church’s home construction program is not only taking place in Tacloban, but in areas across the disaster zone, said Jairus Perez, a project manager for LDS Humanitarian Services.
“This is just a temporary shelter,” he said. “But for most members this is already a permanent home.”
He said the church will finish building all the homes by May 15.
It wants to build the homes quickly and help the program participants qualify for some of the 250,000 construction jobs available in the area.
“We are doing our best to provide for them and minimize their suffering,” Perez said.
He is also distributing flashlights and lanterns. “Most place are still in darkness — no electricity,” he said.
“We are directly helping people,” he said, “giving them the light that they need and the hope.”
Gemmer Esperas is working as part of a five-man construction team, sponsored by the LDS Church.
Using tools provided by the church, the team built the Esperases' house and has constructed six additional homes. When the team has completed 10 homes, members will receive construction certificates. Then they will be paid by the church to build additional homes and help train others.
Gemmer Esperas said it felt good to build his house, which is 12 feet by 14 feet.
His wife feels safe in the home. “I am very comfortable here,” she said.
Now they just need to select a color of paint, provided by the church, and complete the project. There are many bright colors available.
Church leaders hope the colors will literally brighten Tacloban.
The Esperases don’t have to think about the color they will choose.
Gemmer speaks without hesitation; he will paint their home pink.
It was Annammer’s favorite color.
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