Members of a Westgate Baptist Church's National Hoops Ministries can't get in touch with many of the people they've been doing teen basketball tournaments with for years.
SPARTANBURG COUNTY, S.C. -
Many people in the Upstate are finding themselves unable to communicate with their family and friends in the Philippines after a massive typhoon.
That includes many members of Westgate Baptist Church in Spartanburg, which has been doing basketball tournaments for teens there for years.
The director of the church’s National Hoops Ministries, Mike Washer, can't help but look at the map of the Philippines in his office a little differently today.
“We landed right here at this airport in Tacloban City,” he said, pointing to his map. "It's really surreal to think about where we were, what we flew into, the parking lot we walked across, and how that's just devastated now."
National Hoops Ministries has been teaming up with a church in the Philippines since 2007.
Just in September, more than 100 Filipino teens competed in a basketball tournament there.
“The church is located very near the seawall where the water came rushing over. So in our minds, we're thinking, how many people that were actually there at the tournament have now passed on into eternity?" said Washer.
Although the church and the pastor's home are both destroyed, Washer hears the pastor and his family are alive. He hasn't been able to actually talk to them.
With communication down in many parts of the Philippines, websites like Google and the Philippine Red Cross have set up "people finders" to help you locate lost loved ones.
In the meantime, Washer can't help but wonder if the photographs he took are the last he'll see of some of his friends abroad.
“To think that death was right around the corner for many of those people that didn't even know it,” said Washer. “And it's just a reminder for all of us of the shortness of life and the importance of what we do now in our life.”
Washer's church plans to help its partner church in the Philippines rebuild. You can read more about it on their website.