Thoughts On Stepping Out

Has God ever asked you to step out? To do something that scares you a little?

This is the week of stepping out: of doing something that has been on my heart for a long time, and God has increasingly been encouraging me to do. I’ve been a songwriter (of a sort) since I was tiny, but this is the week when God is asking me to start the process of recording and sharing some songs. Saturday, Lord willing, will be a whole new experience in a recording studio. I hope to share some on here sometime soon, God willing. But I thought it might be good to use this space as a place to process right now, while I’m messy and in process, and hopefully encourage you, too.

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I feel hesitant; inadequate. How could I think I have something to share; something that matters? And yet, He has been impressing upon my heart that I do. It’s not really about me; it’s about gifts He has entrusted me with; gifts that were meant to be a blessing to others. How could I withhold them if somehow I have something that someone else needs?

Faith is always about walking, one step at a time, in the light that we have, following the One Who leads us.

Sometimes, it’s easier to hold back; to stay hidden away. But how can I, when He is leading me forward? Only, in moving forward, I want to try to do things the right way. Not perfectly: none of us can ever achieve that on this earth. That’s why Jesus died. He died to cover our mess, and, if we come to Him in repentance and faith, trusting and following Him as Saviour and Lord, He covers it forever… and continually. But He is giving me some insight about how to do things in a way that will last. Not that I have this sorted- I don’t! This is just me writing them out. But here they are:

A conviction is growing in me about creativity for the Lord. I love being creative. It’s a big part of why I blog… why I write songs. But, more and more, I’m coming to believe something. What matters is not so much how good something is, or how talented you are, but how anointed it is by the Lord (if that’s the right word). How much God’s hand is on it. How much it has come from the secret place, with Him in prayer. How much it has been birthed in His presence, under His leading.

Of course, it is good to strive for excellence. But it is far better to commit what you do to the Lord, and to do it in His way. That;s the way your plans will bear fruit.

‘3 Commit your works to the Lord,
And your thoughts will be established.’ Proverbs 16:3

Only, success may look more like fruit than fame, if you do things His way. It may look like someone coming to know Him, instead of people knowing who you are. But isn’t that far, far better? Because it’s eternally, wonderfully good.

We can succeed greatly in the world’s eyes, only to find out one day that it was all only ‘wood, hay, straw’ (from 1 Cor 3:12). Or we can fix our eyes on Him and seek to do it His way… which may not look so flashy, or appealing. But it carries more lasting power.

’12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is.’ 1 Corinthians 3:12-13

And behind it all, what you need to know when you step out is that you are loved, no matter what happens.

Peace comes from knowing that you are deeply, deeply loved. That it doesn’t matter how things go. That it doesn’t matter whether you succeed or fail in the world’s eyes. What matters is being faithful with what He has given you. Following His lead. Because that really is success. And knowing that, however things go, He loves you. And He sees all you do for Him.

To the woman whose offering was rejected and misunderstood, He said,

‘6 But Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me.’ Mark 14:6 (some versions say it was beautiful to Him).

And so I’m stepping out. Not that confidently, but confident that He is leading me. Believing that, while preparation is important, prayer matters far more. Believing that, no matter how things go, I am loved, and secure in His grace.

If you would like to pray for me this Saturday, please pray that I will do this His way, with His help. Lord, help me be faithful and fruitful for You!

I hope I have a recording to share sometime. But, far more, I guess we all need to remember what really matters in the end: hearing His voice say,

‘”Well done, good and faithful servant”‘ (from Matt 25:23).

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

(If you don’t know Him yet as Saviour and Lord, you can! You can know complete forgiveness, breathtaking love, incredible acceptance and astounding eternal life. Turn from your rebellion, come to Him and receive His full and free forgiveness through Jesus. Surrender to Him, confess Him as your Lord and give your life to Him. He longs to meet you and transform you forever).

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Remembering How God Worked in me in the Philippines…

More from the Philippines, Summer 2007, Part 2

Well, another week in Manila and, as ever, I am a living testimony to His faithfulness. Still trying to learn what it means to relax in His loving Hands because, honestly, if we are His through Jesus, we are so, so safe and we don’t have to be afraid of mosquitos and crazy driving and rabid animals (things I am currently scared of!). In His Hands, I am safe: It’s like a security bubble all around me: Nothing can touch us without His permission! He doesn’t promise His children long lives or that we will never suffer, but He does promise that He is in control of everything that happens to us.

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A Refreshing Break

Last weekend, seven of us went on a mini-trip to Bagiuo, which is a city in the mountains in the north of the Philippines. There were four of us British visitors, escorted by Kuya (the word of respect for a man) Amor, Ate Cathy and Ate Reah. It was really helpful to get away, actually- to have a chance to breathe and relax and get to know some people.  One precious element of the trip was Christian fellowship: the church family in Tomay (near Bagiuo) were so hospitable. They fed us and let us stay in an old house that one of the families owns and were so warm and welcoming… It’s beautiful to see the character of Jesus in people you have never even met before.

On the Saturday, we had a fun, touristy day. Went to look at an amazing view of the mountains (Our Creator God is mind-blowing amazing!), visited some botanical gardens, and then went shopping in a huge mall. We had lunch in the mall. It was a flashy new food hall with lots of takeaways dotted around the edge and chairs in the middle. I was just buying my lunch when it suddenly hit me that… I AM IN ASIA!!! I looked around the mall and all of the faces were Asian… I’m on the other side of the world! It wasn’t at all threatening- just so exciting! I’m learning that God is so amazing and you just never know what is around the corner when you belong to Him!

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We went shopping- good but also challenging- I guess shopping always is. So tempting to buy and buy and buy, especially here because everything is dirt cheap by UK standards. I was beginning to be sucked in by the greed, until God gently rebuked me on the taxi ride home, through someone who humbly said, “It’s so easy to get greedy”. Yes. It is. The thing is that, if the pound can buy so much in poor countries, just think of how much good it can do! It can even help people (many people) have the chance to know Him.

The Little Girl at the Market

We went to the market, and the Lord really dealt with me there through the precious street children. We were wondering through the market, looking at the trinkets and things, when some small boys and girls came up to us, trying to sell carrier bags for us to carry our shopping in. Of course, I did as I had been advised: a firm “No”, not matter how much they persisted. But then the Lord began to work in my heart. One of them, a little girl, was trying to sell us carrier bags (small blue-striped carrier bags- a pitiable attempt at trying to earn money). Suddenly, God broke my heart for her. There she was, dirty and poor, trying to sell me carrier bags so that she could eat… and God helped me to see how precious she is. She is not just some little nuisance who was trying to take our money. She is a child with an eternal soul: a child who laughs and cries and struggles and could have been me. It’s not really about her, either: it’s about all of them: all of the precious little children who are falling off the cliff into eternity, crying out for food and love and with no idea that they are in so much greater need of the only message that can save their souls…

Finding Far Away Family

On the Sunday, we split into two groups to support two churches in the localty- the two English guys who were with us (currently doing church apprenticeships) were both preaching. I went to a tiny little fellowship that meets in a hotel room in Bagiuo City. The maximum amount of people they get on a Sunday morning is about sixteen. It was lovely to meet with them, and the sermon was so helpful; living by faith in His Word- it’s all about seeing the unseen, and yet the unseen is so, so real! After the service, we went to join another church for lunch, and we managed to catch the end of the service, which was lovely- they were looking at the hope of Heaven. We stayed for lunch and it was lovely to meet the church family there. How precious to have brothers and sisters with the same Saviour, yet on the other side of the world!  Eating the food was also an experience. I tried seaweed salad, which tastes a bit like pasta!! The whole trip was a great blessing from Him and it was so helpful to have a chance to get to know Ate Cathy and Ate Reah better. I’m beginning to feel a bit more at home amongst everyone now.

When I got back to Manila, Becky had arrived. She’s another English visitor who will be staying in Masinag (where I am) now that Ate Mary has gone back to Scotland. She’s a speech therapist from Lancaster. It’s lovely to have another English friend, and she’s also an inspiration- she came here three years ago, and she knows quite a bit of Tagalog, and she’s been so quick to practice it, learn it, use it as much as she can… Obviously you can only learn a little amount, but even a little makes such a difference with the people and the children. I feel His challenge- I’ll try harder now!

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Tales of Heartbreak

This week has been based around editing reports in the two offices (at the home or in the city), but there have been plenty of experiences alongside reports, and it’s good to be useful. I’m glad that being English makes me useful here, because the CCM Social Workers have so many reports to write (to send back to people who sponsor the children), and it makes such a difference to have native English speakers to check their English. It’s also so helpful for me to read the reports and learn the backgrounds of the girls. On Tuesday, I helped to make some profiles of some of the children who are now in the homes here. It was so heartbreaking. Tales of failed relationships, tangled families, unwanted and abandoned children, sexual abuse…Some of the children don’t even have birth certificates. We have no right to think that these children aren’t so, so precious.

Life is So Short

On Tuesday night, I went with some of the teenage girls to a traditional Filipino wake- their schoolteacher’s father had died. It was a really good chance to get to know some of the girls a bit better, and to begin to build relationships with them. I think the lesson of the evening was that it’s not supposed to be about me or my strength: just coming in helplessness to Him and letting Him use me. On the way, I was feeling pretty useless at communicating with the teenagers- although they speak some English, some of them don’t speak much, and you can literally only say “Hello. How are you?”, and then you’ve run out of words! But I gave it to Him anyway, and, as ever, He answered- I ended up having a great chat with one of them. Her story is what this is all about. It was so encouraging to talk to her and to see, again, the hope and transformation that the Lord can bring.

The wake in itself was an experience. It was more like a celebration. They were a Christian family (the man who had died was a Christian), and what happens is that they have the body in the coffin in a room and people come and go, looking at the body in the coffin and then chatting to the family and eating food. Looking at the body was, once again, His reminder: the body was so lifeless; so cold. A few days before, that was a person. Now, he has gone. He knew Jesus, but many do not. Another day, and 80,000 have perished without ever hearing the Name of the Lord. The urgency does not diminish.

Placing Hope in Their Hands

On Wednesday night, after the prayer meeting, a group of us went and handed out tracts in the streets. It was sheer joy to place the message of life into the hands of tricycle drivers and street vendors and people living on the streets… In only a few moments, you can give a person the message that could save them from an eternal Hell. For a long time last year, I resisted God’s call to tract… Now (only by His grace), to do so is a joy most of the time… oh, the hope of giving someone the Word of Life! What a privilege to hand out the cure to the world’s deadly cancer on a piece of paper! What a privilege… what potential… and what a responsibility, with all the knowledge that we have!

On Wednesday, Ate Nida took me with me to visit some of her friends who live nearby- my first experience of visiting people in poverty, I guess. We went to a few houses, visiting people she has been studying the Bible with. They live in very, very small, basic houses, and, as you progress through the community, they get closer and closer together, and there is a lot of disease. I felt pretty inadequate again- how can you communicate when you don’t speak the language? And I’m very conscious of being white… and rich. But it was so good to see the people, even if all I could do was smile. Ate Nida asked me to pray a couple of times, and she said the people would have understood my prayers, which was encouraging. She also said it encourages them to have a white person visit. I keep forgetting I’m white, because obviously I don’t see it, but I’m beginning to realise that I stick out… a lot! When we walk down the streets, a lot of people stare or say things to me. It’s bizarre to be the outsider, and yet such a privilege to be here, too!

Hope in a Slum

One of the most amazing experiences this week was joining a Bible Study in a slum area. Ate Cathy took me with her to join the Bible Study, and it was so amazing to go. The people live in tiny, one-room shacks made of corrugated sheets, cardboard and other makeshift materials, all joined together in one big structure with one room on top of the other. They’re all so close together, and it’s pretty dirty. There are quite a few animals walking round, and they suspect that a lot of the people have TB, although some of them are too scared to check whether they have or not. CCM are trying to organise a mass check-up. The people rent the shacks, struggling to make enough to do so, so that they don’t end up on the streets. The Bible Study was in a tiny room rented out by a family of seven- I think that they might have more than one room, but there certainly wasn’t much space! They had made the room really nice with decorations etc, but it was still so small and it’s hardly safe for a family to live there with so many germs floating around… When it started raining, they put cloths across the makeshift windows. 

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There were about 6-8 mums at the Bible Study, I think, plus one man and a few children, who were a bit of distraction for their mums. It was such an experience to sit there, in the slum, seeing the precious people hear the Word of God. Last summer, I went to Madeira on holiday with my family and God was breaking my heart for the people but I couldn’t (or didn’t) respond. To see how response is not only possible but can happen is beyond amazing. Oh, the joy of responding to the deep, urgent and real need!

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A huge encouragement followed: We went to see Rubie Joy (the girl who had Dengue Fever last week), who is now out of hospital and basically well again! Thank you for praying. I’m beginning to learn that prayer works and it is such a resource and so I should use it for all it’s worth, because it’s a resource from God and it does change things, by His grace!

The Drop-In

On Thursday night, I went to the Drop- In run by the church. The idea is that they serve a meal for people who live on the streets, and also share a Gospel message at the same time. Ate Virgie has also just started taking the children out to do a mini kids’ club at the same time- I love the way she is just grabbing the opportunity and using it to do a makeshift Sunday School right where the children are! The whole experience of being at the Drop-In was amazing. So, so many people came- the room (the church hall) was packed with people. The kitchen was crazy- lots of willing volunteers from the church were working so hard to make the food, put it on plates, send it out, clear up…  I went out into the hall for a bit and tried to chat to the people. It was a little daunting because there were so many and I don’t speak much Tagalog, but also so necessary- I came here to be as challenged as possible! I spoke to people a little, and then spent a bit of time with the children, some of whom were very intrigued by a white person! It was humbling and challenging to be with them. One of them, a little toddler, was really dirty and his teeth were black- some had already fallen out. He’s just a little toddler! And he is as precious as the children we treasure in our own families. How the Lord must care for these forgotten little ones. Some of the little ones kept holding out their arms to me, to be picked up. They were dirty, but the Lord helped me to see that they are so precious, so I picked them up, one at a time… putting one down so that the next could be picked up afterwards! It was an unforgettable moment.

Peeza!

Last night, I led a Bible Study for a group of teenagers from Faith House and Hope House- the homes where the older teenagers go after CCM or when they are taken off the streets. I had dinner with Pastor Ellis and Ate Necy beforehand. On Wednesday night, Pastor Ellis had told me that he would get takeaway pizza for me, but I didn’t understand what he meant- I thought he said “peas” or something, and that it was some Filipino food, because he said “peeza”, not “pizza”! I found it so funny when I found out he had meant pizza all along!

There were about twelve girls at the Bible Study. Pastor Ellis translated as I spoke. I hope God used me. The girls are so precious! What a blessing it would be to see a generation of seriously godly women raised up out of CCM! God can do it, and He tells us to pray!! 

Celebrating With Family

This afternoon (Saturday), Cubao Reformed Baptist Church had their 28th Anniversary, and they had such a lovely service- lots and lots of the church family came, plus unsaved visitors who know the church through CCM, and we had a very encouraging message on the need to endure in the light of the Glory that awaits- so, so helpful. It’s a little strange to hear the message on headphones through a little FM radio, translated by someone out the back, but so, so good- it’s such a blessing to be fed from the teaching, and so kind of CRBC to translate the message for us. I’m really learning how crucial it is to feed on the Word, and to pray! After the service, we had dinner together- they had put it all in polystyrene boxes- rice and meat and this stuff like pasta- I haven’t learned the name yet. So good to eat together as a huge family in the Lord, celebrating His utter faithfulness over so many years. Praise the Lord for what He has done and IS doing here in Manila!

Thank you for reading! Hope it encouraged you!  Hopefully more to come another time. 🙂

(To receive free emails whenever I post, click ‘Follow’ and type in your email address. I’d love to keep encouraging you!)

(To find out more about Christian Compassion Ministries and Cubao Reformed Baptist Church, use the links below).

http://www.ccmmanila.org/

http://www.crbc-ph.org/

Memories from the Philippines…

If it’s ok with you, I want to experiment a bit on the blog. I’ve been toying with an idea, and I think the Lord has been encouraging me to go with it.

Almost ten years ago now, I went to Manila in the Philippines on a mission trip for around five weeks. While I was there, I wrote journal entries and letters home about the things that happened, and I have recently felt prompted to share some of my writing and memories here. I’ll see how it goes, but I want to have a go and see what happens!

I’ve done a bit of editing- I wrote with a lot of exclamation marks back then! But they’re basically the same- stories of my experiences there.

To give you a bit of background, I went to Manila for five weeks just after I graduated from Uni, to help with Christian Compassion Ministries. While I was there, I stayed in a girls’ home and also helped with various things, including helping to edit reports, visiting the slums and seeing different aspects of the work, trying to help out where I could. You can find out about Christian Compassion Ministries here: http://www.ccmmanila.org/

Manila is a needy place, with lots of poverty. The blessing there is that there are some Christians there reaching out with the love of Jesus, but many people don’t truly understand their need of Him, and there is much poverty and oppression. Things have moved on in ten years, I think, but much is essentially very similar. I hope these words give you a feel for what it’s like.

Here goes:

July 2007, Manila

Well, here I am in Manila, and I am, as ever, a living testimony to the Lord’s faithfulness. He has been so good and, as ever, all my fears (about long-haul flights, changing flights in Hong Kong in only two hours, not coping with the heat, not coping with the food, insects and plenty of other things!) have been answered by His faithfulness. What does He tell us? 

‘6 Be anxious for nothing’ (Philippians 4:6a)

 The sooner I learn to implement that, the better!
 
The flight over here was so exciting. I couldn’t believe I was on my way to Asia! I guess I was pretty much dreading the long-haul flight, but it was absolutely fine. It was overnight, but I didn’t actually sleep that much- I kept watching the map on the screen! I couldn’t believe that I was actually flying over all of those places! We flew over so many places: Europe and then the Middle East, and then Russia… China… so many Asian countries…. And then landed in Hong Kong, which was just so amazing… whenever my friend Nora has talked about Hong Kong, it has always seemed like another world… and I was actually there for two hours! Watching the map on the screen was also deeply challenging… I’ve been learning recently just HOW MANY PLACES IN THE WORLD are unreached… It took us literally hours to fly over country after country with names I’ve never heard of, all full of thousands and thousands of people starving for the message of eternal salvation that we hold in our hands, falling like lemmings off a cliff, and not even knowing the danger they are in.

’14 How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?’ Romans 10:14

The statistics say that 80,000 people die per day without ever having heard the Name of Jesus. And I was flying over those precious, precious people… The need is unbelievable… and the potential of the Gospel is amazing, because Jesus does save!
 
When my friend Sarah (travelling with me on route to a slightly different destination) and I arrived in Manila Airport, I was pretty overwhelmed, but took it to the Lord and He, as ever, strengthened me. Outside the airport, I was met by Ate (the word of respect used for all older women, so I’m Ate Caroline to the girls) Mailyn, Ate Nida and Ate Annie, two of the house mothers at the children’s home. They led me to the CCM (Christian Compassion Ministries) van, where Ate Mailyn introduced me to “her girls”: teenagers who have all been rescued from horrible situations. Four or five of the older girls were in the van, and I talked to them as we drove back. I was amazed by how perfect all of this is: I love ministering to girls, and so God sent me to a home for… girls! This whole trip was such a miracle… I literally booked it at the last minute, and I seriously didn’t have much time to plan or even consider the fact that I should work in a home for girls. Yet… He had arranged it all, just like He has planned every other step of the way. Just see His Hand in every little detail of our lives!

It was pretty late (Filipino time), so Ate Mailyn and Ate Nida showed me my room. As we walked to my room, I had my first glimpse of the little ones: we peeked into one of the girls’ room (4 girls per room) and there was one of the little ones, curled up on the rug in the middle of the floor. She hadn’t even made it to bed!
 
And so… sleep, and my first experience of Manila: The cockroach!! It was a little scary… But very funny now that I look back on it! I got to my room by 12.00 Filipino time, but that’s only 4pm UK time. Even though I was pretty tired, I couldn’t really sleep, and so I decided to unpack a little. I turned on the light, all ready to unpack, and saw… a very big insect on the floor! In shock, I watched it scuttle very quickly across the floor and into the bathroom. I guessed that it was a cockroach but I couldn’t remember if they were dangerous or not, and I was already pretty traumatised by fear of mosquitos! Frozen in fear, I thought for a long time about what the best plan of action would be… and eventually decided to trap it into the en suite bathroom! So I shut the door, stuffed my towel under the door, wedged the door as tight as I could with my suitcase and finally stuffed every single crack I could find with carrier bags! Then I prayed that it wouldn’t get me, checked my bed a LOT for insects and tried to sleep! In the morning, I went sheepishly out of my room and said to Ate Mailyn, “I have a question: There’s an insect in my room.” She laughed when she saw how I had trapped it in the bedroom… and soon killed it with some spray!! I’m not scared of those insects anymore, which is good because apparently the children will put them under visitors’ doors in the middle of the night!

My first day was Sunday, which is always the best way to begin things… with the Lord and His people. The day at Cubao Reformed Baptist Church was lovely: everyone was so warm and welcoming and friendly (of course- they have same Lord!). Before the service, they had a session about “Fear of Man”, which was pretty appropriate for me at the moment- it’s something God’s showing me that I really need to conquer. The main service was in Tagalog, which will take a bit of getting used to (not understanding what’s going on is a little bewildering at first!), but they have a translation system for English speakers- you wear a radio headset tuned into a channel with translation. And the teaching was great. It was also so, so special to look around and see a congregation of almost wholly Filipino people… SEE what the Lord is doing in saving people from every corner of the Globe! They sang in Tagalog and Ate Mary (a Scottish lady who is staying at Emmaus House with me at the moment) and I joined in in English. How wonderful to praise Him in different tongues!!! One of the songs was “How firm a foundation”: a good reminder.
 
Fear not, I am with thee.
Oh, be not dismayed.
I, I am thy God, and I’ll still give thee aid.
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand
Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent Hand.

(From ‘How Firm a Foundation’, author unknown, public domain).
 
I’m staying in a home for twelve girls, in one of the four houses in Masinag. Each has around 12 girls, as well as their housemothers and social workers (all of whom are so lovely and real examples of non-complaining love for the lost and service to Christ). The girls are just so lovely! On Monday night, I came home (Ate Mailyn and Ate Fay took Ate Mary and I out for the day) and the children were all there. They were chasing round in the garden, running round everywhere with plenty of energy as ever… One of them, called Roselle, wanted me to sit with her, and she read me a poster of “Philippine National Symbols”. She showed me all the symbols and the Tagalog words. It was so precious to chat to her. We then played “Hide and Seek”: children everywhere, of all ages! Such a precious treat…

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Monica is around ten years old. She rescued as a baby from the streets. After dinner on Monday, Monica was reading to me from her Bible, in Tagalog and then in English. It was just amazing to see her flick to Genesis and then Psalm 23 and then the Ten Commandments, reading and quoting and translating and engaging… darling little Monica who would have been in some horrible situation on the streets had God not sent CCM to give her EVERY hope in the Gospel of Christ… along with a home, mothers, sisters, food, schooling… Yes, yes, yes, there is need. Oh, there is NEED! But THIS is what faith acting in love can do!

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I watched the Emmaus family devotions. They were in Tagalog, so I couldn’t understand what they were saying, but, oh, it was so beautiful to see them sitting round with their two mothers, engaging animatedly with Proverbs 6, the words flying from girl to girl, teenagers and little ones alike. They were a family, and you could see the love on Ate Nida and Ate Mailyn’s faces as they taught them. They then had a family fun night, as Ate Mailyn explained afterwards (I was a bit confused about what was going on- it’s bizarre when you don’t understand the words!). The banter was literally flying from girl to girl, as the whole family joined in… Little April sang a song, which was apparently about eating vegetables, and they were all very, very amused by it… But for the grace of God, where would these girls be? On the streets somewhere? Probably hopeless and broken. And here they are now: a family… hearing the Word of God.

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I’ve been spending quite a bit of time getting used to my surroundings… and the crying need there is here. You walk through the streets, and poverty greets you in many ways. Yet there is, at the same time, great wealth: The new “Gateway” mall is huge, spotless and extravagant. The prices are ridiculous in comparison to the UK. I bought a children’s book for 70p. Eating out is less than a pound. Riding a Jeepney (the public transport, which is pretty hair-raising!) costs 20p. What we have in the West is unbelievable.

I can’t call this a wake-up call, because God had already shown me this stuff through books before I came. Yet it is HERE: this IS what the world is like, outside our comfortable, extravagant, easy waste and luxury in the Western world.

On Tuesday, I visited the public hospital with Ate Cathy and Ate Reah. It was pretty overwhelming. We visited a girl, from the slums, I think, called Rubie Joy, who has Dengue fever. She was in the children’s ward. It was heartbreaking. I walked in with Ate Reah and Ate Cathy, and there were simple metal beds everywhere, each with two or three children lying in them or sitting next to them (taking turns in the bed). Parents sat next to their children, fanning them. Rubie Joy was with her mother, and she looked up at me with these sad, pleading eyes. It was overwhelming. This is the reality outside our comfortable English lives… And the world is fast headed into eternity, far, far from ready to meet its Judge… Who died so that they could have a chance to live forever. Yet they perish fast, and so few know the way of salvation… Standing there looking around, I began to feel faint and totally out of my depth, but I cried to the Lord and He strengthened me. As Ate Cathy talked to Rubie Joy’s mum, Ate Reah told me that, because there isn’t enough money, the children share beds. The hospital was a public hospital.  You have to pay to go there, although you can apply for financial help, which is generally given. People are turned away because there aren’t enough beds. There aren’t enough nurses. They are all leaving to go abroad, where you get paid more. Doctors will visit patients a maximum of once a day… They’re overworked. And THIS is our world.

I’ve also been helping out in the CCM office, editing reports and checking the English. It’s great fun, because I love working with words! It’s also heartbreaking to read the reports. CCM runs programmes to help street people, and the reports are updates sent to the children’s sponsors. Some of the families are in such a mess… They survive day to day by the skin of their teeth. And they’re NOT just irrelevant statistics… They’re NOT! The many, many little ones running around in the streets in bare feet are just like the little ones in the CCM home- precious like Monica and April who were once in very similar situations, and are now the little darlings who run up to greet me when I come in, and fill this home with their laughter and energy and fun… These little ones are lost and abused on the streets of Manila… and what happens at CCM (rescue, love and HOPE) is what the love of Christ can do. 

This weekend, the other English visitors (there are four of us) and I are going away on a mini-trip to Bagio. It will be a mini-break, and hopefully a chance to breathe a little and get my head round all this stuff! But I don’t want this trip to be luxury… Just look at the crying need! It was only grace that let me be born in England and not the streets of Manila. It was only GRACE that gave me a childhood in Sunday School and faith in Christ, rather than being brought up somewhere where I would NEVER have heard, and would have fallen off the vast, vast cliff into eternity. I am praying that He will show me what He wants me to do in response.

(Continued after the trip)

I’ll be in the office this afternoon, editing more reports for Ate Analyn. Ate Mary has a birthday party this evening- all the children will join in, and I can’t wait to see them all again- I realised yesterday that I miss them when I haven’t seem them for a while. Scott (an American who has just moved out here with his wife Emily to run the new Boys’ Home) said he came to Manila and “fell in love”… with the kids. I think that’s happening to me, too!

Ok, I think I’d better end the mammoth letter there! We just had Ate Mary’s birthday party, which was so special. The children were crazily running round putting chocolate cake on each other’s faces! What was far more precious was to see them listen as Ate Mary taught them from the Bible. This is what the Lord is doing: He has taken the hopelessness of children suffering in the streets, and has turned them into a family… with hope… and the wonderful, wonderful message of eternal life! And this is what He is like. 🙂

Thanks for reading! Hopefully more to come another time… 🙂

(To get free emails from me, click ‘Follow’ and type in your email address. I’d love to keep encouraging you!).

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Do you Ever Struggle to Trust God?

Do you ever struggle to trust God? Do you ever wonder whether He is really kind? Do you struggle with doubts that maybe He hyasn’t seen… Or He doesn’t care… Or He isn’t as good as you’re supposed to believe He is? I sure do!

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Over the past few days, the Lord has been helping me to see something: it actually grieves Him when I don’t trust Him; when I live in fear because I think He won’t be kind… or I think He does not care enough. It hurts His heart when I live in fear that He will be cruel, or indifferent, or remiss.

I belong to God through Jesus. My sins have been forgiven because I have turned from my sin and believed in Christ. Yes, before I was forgiven, there was reason to fear the wrath of a holy God- not because He is cruel but because He is wonderfully, gloriously pure and good. But He is so kind; so gracious… that He gave His own Son to buy the forgiveness I don’t deserve. I am forgiven now. He is for me, and He wants to do me good!

‘What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?’ Romans 8:31

The other night, He tenderly showed me that it hurts Him when I don’t trust Him. It was so gentle: not so much like a rebuke as like a hug! It grieves Him when I don’t trust Him… because I really can trust Him, and He wants me to know that, and to rest in His awesome, tender, incredible, life-changing love!

He helped me to look back to the past; times of such tender protection and provision… Times of impeccable timing… That could only come from such tender, caring, unbelievably wonderful love.

Like…

  • When I was so sad, and only God knew, and suddenly a friend engulfed me in a surprise hug.
  • When some news was coming that I wasn’t expecting and I didn’t want… and everyone else knew but me… and, by chance, though I was around everyone, I didn’t find out until days later, when I was ready to take it.
  • When He led my friends and I to the perfect house to rent, complete with all sorts of little blessings and details that only He could engineer.

And a thousand other examples.

The other night, I picked up a book: ‘Communion with God’, by John Owen (Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh, 1991). I used to love it years ago, and it’s been sitting on my shelf. I began to read, and it was such a tender confirmation of the same lesson. I’ll share some quotes with you, because they’re just so wonderful!

“Many dark and disturbing thoughts arise to hinder our walk with God. Few can rise to the height of the Father’s love by faith, so as to rest their souls in his love. They live far below it in the troublesome region of hopes and fears, storms and clouds. Abiding in the Father’s love, all is peace and quiet. But how to rise up to the height of the Father’s love they do not know. It is God’s will that he should always be seen as gentle, kind, tender, loving and unchangeable. It his will that we see him as the Father, and the great fountain and reservoir of all grace and love.”

Owen, J. (1991).Communion with God. ed: Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, p.16-17

“Why, then, this foolishness? Why are we afraid to have good thoughts of God? Is it too hard to think of God as good, gracious, tender, loving and kind?” p32, ibid

Actually, it’s our enemy who wants us to think hard thoughts of God.

God longs to bless His people… abundantly.

(Actually, He longs to bless everyone, but only those who come to Him through Jesus place themselves under that ultimate blessing).

“It is a love which fills God with desires to do good and great things to and for us.” p 21, ibid

“He that loves desires only to do good to the object of his love.” p22, ibid

As Scripture says,

’17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.’ James 1:17

Those who know Him; who live close to Him; can live in peace and joy, surrounded by His love.

“The saints… are sweetly wrapped up in the love of their Father.” p36, ibid

‘8 The Lord is merciful and gracious,
Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy
9 He will not always strive with us,
Nor will He keep His anger forever.
10 He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
Nor punished us according to our iniquities.

11 For as the heavens are high above the earth,
So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;
12 As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
13 As a father pities his children,
So the Lord pities those who fear Him.
14 For He knows our frame;
He remembers that we are dust.’ Psalm 103:8-14

And He is so very, very kind. He loves to provide for His children… abundantly.

I was talking to Him the other day about what difference it would make if I trusted Him more. And suddenly I realised something: I would relax! I would stop fretting so much! I would enjoy the blessings of today more without worrying about the potential problems of tomorrow!

I would relax.

I would still work hard. I would still throw myself into the duties of today; into loving others; into seeking His Kingdom first. But I would do it with a lot less angst- because it is so unnecessary!

One day, I was fretting about something. I was talking to God about it, but I was still pretty knotted up. And then I found a packet of Love Hearts in my bag, which I had been given. I opened the package and took out the first one. It said, ‘Relax’. And I knew it was from God, encouraging me not to worry so much!

I remember when I began reading one of my favourite children’s books, Pollyanna, by Eleanor H. Porter.

I opened to the part where a pastor is deeply troubled by  a perplexing problem. He is going over it, over and over again, trying to solve it… but he can’t.

In walks little Pollyanna, and she knows something is wrong. She doesn’t know the answer, but she shares something with him: something her pastor father taught her to do: Rejoice!! There are so many exhortations in the Bible to do so!

So he does. He doesn’t know the answer yet, but he is beginning to have a joyful change of perspective.

Soon afterwards, he works out what to do.

Porter, E. (1994). Pollyanna. ed. Ware: Wordsworth Editions Ltd. (p181-190)

What a lesson: even before the problem is solved, remember Who your Father is! He’s got it covered! You can relax… and you can even rejoice! Yes, there may be tears this side of Heaven. But He is good. We can trust His heart, and His ultimate desire to do His children good.

And why?

What is behind all this?

His heart of love. His heart of kindness and mercy. His heart of love, that I can actually, truly trust… Because He really is trustworthy. Because He really is kind. Because He does over and above all that I could ask or imagine, over and over and over again.

Because that’s just what He is like.

Because He really, truly is love. 🙂

(He longs to pour His love upon you, too, in forgiveness and mercy through Jesus. If you never have before, come to Him and tell Him you’re sorry for things that hurt Him. Receive the forgiveness that is freely available through Jesus. Give your life back to Him as your loving Lord and King. He longs to receive you in His wonderful, tender, eternal love).

(To receive free emails, click ‘Follow’ and type in your email address- I’d love to keep encouraging you!).

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.