Society

Doing God’s work...even through the storms

Frei Ministries, Ati people survive epic Typhoon Haiyan
By MARIE BAKKEN
Reporter Staff Writer

I magine being thousands of miles from where you grew up, on the other side of the world perhaps, awaiting the strongest typhoon ever to hit your new home country, your spouse and three small children, along with the orphans who are staying in your home instead of sleeping outside on a table where they usually sleep. And you are OK with this because that is exactly where God needs you to be.

“Without His hand of protection over my house, my family, we should be dead,” 29-year-old missionary Ashley Frei recently told a large crowd at Milano First Baptist Church during one of her many talks while she was home on a two week leave recently, after Typhoon Haiyan hit her family’s new home in Malay, Philippines.

Typhoon Haiyan, known as Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines, was an exceptionally powerful tropical cyclone that devastated portions of Southeast Asia, particularly the Philippines, in early November. It is the deadliest Philippine typhoon on record, killing at least 5,680 people in that country alone.

Haiyan is also the strongest storm recorded at landfall, and unofficially the fourth strongest typhoon ever recorded in terms of wind speed.
Ashley Frei serves food to a line of young children at one of the mountain community feedings they organize in Malay. Ashley Frei serves food to a line of young children at one of the mountain community feedings they organize in Malay.

CALLING—James and Ashley Frei both grew up in the Central Texas area. James, 31, graduated from Rosebud-Lott High School and Ashley is a Milano High School graduate. The two have been married almost eight years and have three small children Daniel (6), Lydia (4) and Samuel (2). Earlier this year The Frei’s followed God’s calling on their lives to be missionaries, sold everything they owned and moved to the other side of the world.

James left to get things together on Aug. 19, with Ashley and the children joining him on Sept. 17.

ATI PEOPLE—In Malay, they fight to live each and every day, especially the Ati people, according to Ashley.

“The Japanese hated the Ati people and invasions of the Philippines during World War II caused the Ati to either be killed or flee to the mountains, like in Malay,” she said. “Over there the Ati people are considered scum. They can’t go to public school or shop at the market.” Ashley teaches at the elementary school where her two oldest kids are also students with the Ati people. The Kindergarten class ranges in children ages 4-14. It is because the Ati people are the lower class in Malay.


The Freis and some helpers cross a river for one of the many feedings they do as part of missionary work in the Philippines. The Freis and some helpers cross a river for one of the many feedings they do as part of missionary work in the Philippines. By the time the young boys reach the age of four, they are considered old enough to take care of themselves. The girls are “kept” so that they can more than likely be sold to earn the family money.

FEEDINGS—The Freis do feedings each day to various parts of the island. One in particular they do is a 40-minute hike (with food for the feeding in tow, along with their three children) up a mountain. There they have 75 small, malnourished mouths to feed.

“Have me disappear so that you can appear,” is what she tells God while helping with the feedings or simply just loving on those small souls that she is there to help, some as young as two-years-old who come to the feedings alone, 100 yards up and down a mountain.

“They don’t get the food without hearing The Word first,” she said. They feed them food for their bodies and their souls.

“They trust God the first time they hear the Gospel, they accept Him. It is the first sign of hope they’ve had in a while,” Ashley said of the Ati hearing about God. The Freis have to walk across the river sometimes as high as their waist, but do they turn back? No.

“We don’t turn around because there are starving children on the other side,” Ashley said.
Four-year-old Lydia Frei serves other children during a feeding in Malay, Philippines organized by her parents’ missionary organization Frei Ministries. 
Photos courtesy of Frei Ministries Four-year-old Lydia Frei serves other children during a feeding in Malay, Philippines organized by her parents’ missionary organization Frei Ministries. Photos courtesy of Frei Ministries

They knows that what they are doing is what God wants them to do. There are many children who truly touch the Frei’s hearts, but there are a few who the Frei’s hope will become their own when the orphanage which they feel God sent them to Malay to build is opened.

HAIYAN—They have nothing materialistic, especially after the typhoon, but the Ati people are resilient.

The typhoon was huge. It stretched for hundreds of miles. Imagine a storm so big it stretched from Florida up to the U.S.-Canadian border.

In the middle of the storm, the Ati people were outside trying to save their things, what little they had, holding on to the bamboo that made up their homes.

During the Nov. 8 storm the Frei’s lost power in their modern style house. They have not had power since either.

Lydia suffered a bad fall during the storm, believed to have broken her hip and because of road conditions they could not get her to the hospital.

Through prayer, Ashley said Lydia was healed and had just a busted chin and bruised hip.

For three hours while Haiyan passed over them it was scary, Ashley said.

“We did what we could to stay calm,” Ashley said. “During the storm we heard emergency crews go by our house and I hadn’t wanted James to go out to help like he normally does. But God told me he was suppose to go.”

And it was a good thing he did. There was a woman pinned under a tree and they were having to move other trees to get the emergency crews to her.

“James is a big guy and he helped moved those trees. She probably would not have made it if he had not gone,” she said.

The fact they and most of their belongings were pretty much unharmed was a miracle.

“We were in a protected pocket,” Ashley said. “All within 100 yards around us there was nothing left. We are so thankful where God had placed us.”

During all the strong winds and blowing rain (the water was being blown in through their windows and under doors at the Frei home) the only structural damage they endured was a blown down fence and a broken flower on one of the rose bushes. Members of the neighborhood helped put the fence back up within hours of the storm’s passing. “Within an hour after the storm had passed they were out there starting to rebuild their homes,” she said.

There were 164 people in the church and all were alive and unhurt.

All the kids at the school near the Frei’s home were alive, most didn’t have a home to live in anymore, but most barely had homes to begin with.

The Freis made the decision that Ashley and the three children would come back to Texas for a couple of weeks—to get refreshed and to tell the story of the Ati people back home. James stayed in Malay to help.

It took Ashley and the kids 36 hours to get from Malay to Houston and they did it with just $9. All their other funds had been used to help their new neighbors—those that God had sent them to serve. And their communities back in Texas have rallied behind Frei Ministries to help even more.

“The outpouring has been amazing. I am so proud to be from Milano. I want to stay home because it is comfortable, but I have to go back,” Ashley said. “But I am going back with hope.”

All the money sent to Frei Ministries goes directly to the people of the Philippines. Anything left after they pay their normal monthly bills for rent, electricity, etc., is used to feed the people— their stomachs and their souls.

“We are to meet them where they are. Don’t discriminate...We are the hands and feet of Jesus,” Ashley said.

She said as little as $100 would rebuild a home there. And $15 per week would help feed 60 children and their families.

To keep up with this ministryand the things they are doing, visit www.freiministries.com or join the Frei Ministries page on Facebook.


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