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.

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