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