Memories from the Philippines, Part 4

August 2007, Manila, Philippines

On Thursday evening, CRBC hosted their Drop-In again. It wasn’t as packed as last week (they had a lot of people last week, praise the Lord), but still busy. I went with Ate Virgie to help with the kids’ club. She was teaching the kids about Abraham, and how God can do the impossible. It was so, so good to see those precious, neglected children being fed the most precious thing: the Word of life. It is far better to be a street child who hears the truth than a rich one who never does. I wasn’t there for the main talk to the adults, but apparently the adults listened very attentively. Please pray for their salvation. Two have made a profession of faith, praise God!! He WILL build His church!! The Word is powerful, and, blessed by the Spirit, it does its own work!! 🙂

Friday morning was a good reminder of the urgency and the need to share the Good News of Jesus. We went to the hospital to visit a dear CCM client who has just ben re-diagnosed with cancer. This hospital was very, very different to the hospital I visited before. It is one of the best hospitals in the world. It was set up by a church, and provides some free care for poor people. It’s a pretty impressive place- marble floors and lovely lifts and clean, pleasantly curtained cubicles, even for the poorest people. Praise the Lord for it. Seeing this dear lady, though, was a good (and needed) reminder of the uncertainty of life. As we sat talking to her, she said that the lady in the next-door bed had just been told that her cancer was terminal. She only had days left. I closed my eyes as the realisation hit me. Every day, thousands more fall into the abyss, starving for the Gospel of life. I left the lady with a tract- please pray that she would not die without His forgiveness. So, so many people think that they are Christians when Jesus makes no difference to their lives and they do not really have a living relationship with Him at all. The visit was a good reminder- oh, that God would impress these things onto our hearts, so that we see how urgent this message is and how much people need to hear it before it is too late!

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Friday afternoon was touching, and inspiring. We went to visit Danika, a girl who is being sponsored by Becky’s church. She is fifteen, and in High School. Through the Educational Assistance Program, CCM helps to pay for her education, which, if she completes her studies, will provide her with a chance to get a good job. The whole visit was so lovely. Danika and her mother were so, so welcoming. They showed us to their tiny shack and Danika’s mother had even invested in some cake and lemonade for us. Money must be so tight for them. It so humbling, and precious, to eat cake and drink lemonade they had provided when they must have so little. For a start, Danika was very shy, and embarrassed about the size of their miniscule shack. Gradually, though, she opened up, and both she and her mother were so obviously grateful to Becky and the church. They had kept the photos and letters that the church had sent them, and clearly treasured them. Danika kept saying how happy she was to see Becky. They both escorted us out, and were reluctant to say goodbye. The Lord was so, so right when He said, ‘”It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20:35c). To see Danika so happy, in her school uniform, is priceless. Most of all, I long for her to know Him.

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On Friday evening, I attended the GMA (Grace Ministerial Academy- training men from all over the Philippines to be pastors) Bible class- the Friday evening class is open to everyone. It was so, so good to be at Bible School for an evening! We went through the doctrine of justification by faith, which was very helpful. It is just incredible that this is reality: that our God cared so much that He gave His Son so that wicked sinners like me could be forgiven. To think of where we would be without justification is unthinkable. If this message is true (and it is), then it puts everything else in perspective.

On Saturday, a group of us went on a trip to Tagaytay, which is just outside of Manila, to see the Taal volcano. We took two of the girls (little Jena, who is nine, and Maricar, who is in her late teens) with us. The day was a blessing from Him. To get to the volcano, we went on a boat to a little island very near the mainland. I was sitting on the boat looking around and it was just so exciting to think that this is Asia- on the other side of the world! I found a blow-up globe in the CCM library the other day. Home looked very, very far away! I can’t believe I’m actually here, in the Philippines!! The boat ride was lots of fun- we got very wet because the ride was bumpy! We climbed up to the crater, which is full of water- a mini-lake. Apparently, it smokes sometimes, although the volcano is now inactive. After the volcano, we went up to a viewing point and looked over Tagaytay- blue mountains etched in the distance; rolling green fields; the curving twist of a road… His creation is stunning. The water, the trees, the fields, the mountains… it was breathtaking. And every atom was fashioned by the One Who now lives inside of every true believer, closer than our skin and more intimate than breathing… all because Jesus went through separation from the Father so that wicked rebels could live! What a message! If that isn’t worth shouting from the rooftops, I don’t know what is! It was also good to spend some time with Jena, although she speaks very little English. She climbed up to the top with me, with both of us talking to each other in our own language, bemused that we didn’t understand each other, and yet content. The best way of communicating with the little ones is to point at things and get them to teach me the names, which works both ways because they’re also trying to learn English. It’s a challenge, but a lot of fun, and the little ones make me laugh- they’re all so individual; so perfectly made by a God of variety and creativity and beauty… He is truly amazing. 🙂

Sunday was spent back at CRBC, which was so good. Church families are precious beyond measure. It’s so good to go to CRBC now and begin to feel like I belong. More and more faces are familiar, and I’m learning more and more names. The girls are also becoming more and more comfortable with me. One of them, little Noelyn, is so keen to make friends. Her story is heartbreaking. After her mother had died of tuberculosis, Noelyn lived as a scavenger for two years, desperately trying to find food for herself and her brothers. She is now fourteen, but she looks like a small child because she was so malnourished. Yet she is one of the most sweet, affectionate children I have ever met. She holds my hand and walks round with me, and my heart just melts! Oh, that she would come to know Him Who can heal our wounds as no-one else can! In the evening, we had After-Church Fellowship and some of the church members shared their testimonies. As we were sitting there, God really reminded me of the need for action. So many of the people gathered round were CCM teenagers- young, beautiful Filipino girls, with the rest of their lives ahead of them, hearing the precious Word of Life. Please do pray that He will work in their hearts and save them to lives of devotion and usefulness to Him, and also that my time with them would not be wasted, despite the English/Tagalog barrier.

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Today (Monday), I went with Ate Nida to lead a Bible Study for three local women, all mothers of young children. They live in very basic little shacks, and it was such a privilege to be welcomed to spend time with them. How I long for them to know His love!

Ok, I think that’s enough for now!!!!!!! I think I’ve written a mini book!!! Sending greetings across the ocean. 

Hopefully more to come another time…

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

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Memories from the Philippines, Part 3

Emmaus Home, Masinag, Quezon City, Philippines                                                                                                         

13th August ‘07

Kumusta? (How are you?)

Mabuti! (I am fine!)

I think it’s helpful having coming here for a while. I feel more and more settled every day, which directly affects the ministry- once situations start to make sense, it’s a lot easier to use them for the Lord, because you know how they work, what to do and how. Pieces are gradually fitting into place and I’m beginning to see how the world works out here. God has also been providing much more alone time with Him, which is everything. Praise the Lord, I’m even beginning to get a grasp of some very, very basic Tagalog, which is very gradually opening up a whole new world of understanding! Once you realise that the incomprehensible communication is actually the same as what it would be in English, the world suddenly feels a whole lot more familiar! Praise the Lord for all that He is teaching me. 🙂

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On Sunday, Ate Nida took Becky and I to visit her family, who live in Velenzuela, which is on the other side of Manila. We went to the Velenzuela Reformed Baptist Church, which is where Aries and Jodith Libero (GBM missionaries) are working. I hadn’t expected to have a chance to meet them, and it was so good to see the work that they are doing. Their church has around 20-something members. They meet in a building right in the middle of the squatter areas, which is a problem because the building often floods during the rainy season (which we are right in the middle of at the moment). The service was encouraging, though. Matt Gamston preached in Tagalog. The service was followed by Adult Sunday School- a seriously good idea! It’s basically an adult Bible class, tackling things like doctrinal teachings or Bible history or Bible-handling or topics… I seriously recommend it! After the service, we had lunch with Aries and Jodith, as well as their little son. It was lovely to spend a little time with them.

I spent Tuesday afternoon and evening at the new CCM Boys’ Home, which began only a few months ago. Kuya Scott and Ate Emilyn have just moved over here from America to act as the houseparents, along with Ate Virginia, and they now have about 10 boys in the home. I realised when I visited that the boys are a whole lot crazier than the girls! If you left the girls alone in a room, they would probably do naughty (masama in Filipino) things, but they would be calm naughty things! If you left the boys alone, they’d run around and play-fight and go crazy! They were so funny- using their orange peel to make ears and false teeth, and doing this funny dance they’ve made up to an exercise video! It was lovely to spend time with them, although particularly difficult because most of the boys are very young, which means that they hardly know any English at all. It’s so strange to spend time with kids when you can’t talk to them or give them instructions or even tell them off! I had a go at teaching them to read in English. It was good, but slow progress. Quite a few of the boys are seriously behind in their studies. I think as many as four of them are in Grade 1 (Reception or Year 1 in our system, I think), even though they are as old as nine or ten. The boys have such sad, sad stories. When I was in the office last week, I made profiles for them. Their stories are heartbreaking. Some were abandoned, passed from person to person without a place to call home, some are orphans and all, I think, have seen horrible things that will (apart from the Lord’s healing) leave scars for life. One was sold by his mother. It’s so, so sad, and yet, in a way, they have been given the best thing they could ever have, which is a Christian upbringing. So few kids are brought up on the Word of Life, and the knowledge of the way of salvation is priceless. Yet, still, these kids have huge scars. Please pray that they would be led to the One Who comforts as no-one else can comfort.

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On Thursday morning, I went with Ate Reah to visit some of the street people. It was shocking, and yet also amazing. God has given people an incredible ability to survive in the most challenging conditions. It is normal for these people to live on the streets and they get on with it, day by day. Scaffolding becomes a washing line; carrier bags are stashed in doorways; children take naps on the pavement. The street people always have access to a very basic income because the Jeepney drivers (the Jeepneys are the public transport here- loud, brightly-coloured jeeps with thumping music and rainbow-coloured slogans, many of which are superficially Christian, like “God bless our trip”) pay them to call out for passengers. But life is so tough. Families have lots of children and there are many teenage pregnancies. Life is so hard on the streets, and there are so many challenges. The constant need is very real. And what about their eternal needs? What will all of this be when dawn breaks and eternity comes? It was so good to meet the street people. As ever, I can’t say much to them because of the language barrier, but I had been given a stash of Tagalog tracts, so I could share Christ with them (assuming they can read)- please pray for God’s blessing on the people (including two precious, precious prostitutes- oh, the need of this generation!) who received tracts.

Thursday afternoon was a good reminder about why this is all worth it- why every single sacrifice made for the Gospel is worth everything. We went to visit another couple of “communities” (slum areas). One of them was particularly horrible. It had been raining (there was a typhoon further north, although the rain has gone now). This slum is built right on a river- if you can call it a river. The water is absolutely filthy, and it smells. The shacks are located either side of the water, with some of them hanging precariously over it. Whenever it rains too hard, the lower shacks flood.

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We went inside to visit some of the CCM clients. To get to the shacks, you walk down dark, dank tunnels, some of them wet with filthy water. You have to have directions or a guide, or you’ll get lost in the maze of shacks. The shacks are stacked one on top of the other in a big, corrugated structure. To get to the higher ones, you climb up shaky wooden ladders and negotiate your way from one level to the next. Some families live in than one level, joined by precarious stepladders. Yet these are homes, too. Families have made them livable with their bright pictures and taped flooring and electrical appliances, although you can still see glimpses of corrugated metal and graffiti and dirty wood. I wasn’t too fazed by it all until someone mentioned the rats, which freaked me out a bit- rats scare me!!! I was just beginning to get a bit scared, even starting to grumble mentally, when God reminded me of why this is all worth it. We went into the shack of one lady, and Ate Lorna (the social worker) informed us that this lady had become a Christian directly through the ministry of CCM. She is now a member of CRBC (Cubao Reformed Baptist Church). I felt the tears sting in my eyes. This is why Gospel work is worth it! Yes, this lady lives in a tiny shack, in poverty and hardship. But now she has an eternal hope. I will spend eternity together with her in Heaven. And what are her sufferings in comparison to the Glory that awaits her now, all because someone made a few sacrifices so that she could hear the Word of Life? When the CCM social workers get to Glory, they will see her face there: the face of someone they witnessed to here on earth… along with His, of course, Whom to know is life itself. And that makes everything worth it, no matter what.

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More to come…

 

 

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.

Did this little boy touch your heart, too?

Did you see little Alex on the news?

Did he touch your heart, too?

I want to tell you about him. But first, let me go back a bit…

Sometimes I need to write the ugly stuff… the stuff that isn’t nice or pleasant or encouraging, but it needs to be said, because so few people are saying it… because we can all get wrapped up in our own lives and forget. And I think that breaks God’s heart.

There’s horrible stuff going on in the world out there. And I don’t think it should be forgotten. And that includes by me.

Right now, people are starving and dying and being bombed. Most of them have never even heard the Good News that Jesus died so that they can have forgiveness and hope, in this life and the next.

There are so many heartbreaking examples. Here are a few:

I saw this on the news the other day: babies starving in Yemen, because there is nothing to feed them with. Precious people on the verge of starvation.

http://www.itv.com/news/2016-10-13/the-starving-children-of-toheita-yemen/

I’m sure you’ve seen the images of Aleppo in Syria. Bombs and starvation, grief and carnage and broken  hearts.

There are millions of children on the streets in many places, not even knowing who their parents are.

There are refuges much closer to home, too, in need of help and struggling because maybe we cling so closely to what we have.

I was talking to a friend the other day. He made friends with a refugee who came to his church after a harrowing ordeal getting to the UK. He was going to be kicked out of where he was staying in the UK and he had nowhere to go. My friend and his wife talked about it. What if one of their children was in a foreign country with nowhere to turn? So they took him in. Since then, he’s been staying in their spare room.

Doesn’t it refresh your heart to see people responding to an appeal for food or toys or clothes in an emergency? Doesn’t it warm your heart to see the things pile up and the sudden joy on the people’s faces as they share?

And then there’s Alex.

Maybe you saw the news story a few weeks ago: a little six- year old boy called Alex wrote to President Obama, offering a home to a little Syrian boy called Omran he had seen on the news covered with blood and ravaged by war.

http://www.itv.com/news/2016-09-22/boys-letter-to-president-obama-offering-home-to-syrian-refugee-read-out-at-united-nations/

Alex offered the little Omran his own family… a bedroom… toys… Of course, it will most likely never happen. But Alex’s fresh innocence and willingness to help touched hearts across the world. It made many cry. I think it made God smile.

Because we all know, deep down, that Alex is right.

Why shouldn’t he share what he has with another boy so desperately in need?

Maybe God raised up little Alex as an example.

…”that now at this time your abundance may supply their lack”- from 2 Cor 8:14

I know we can’t do everything. But surely each of us can do something to help someone. Little things, after all, do much more than we realise.

How could I learn from Alex’s example? I can’t write to the president and magic away all of the suffering, but is there something I could do?

Could I skip some meals and fast and pray for those who are starving?

Could I sacrifice something and give a little bit (or even a big bit) to help?

Could I look for a moment at all that I have been given and somehow find a way to share?

And, most of all, they need my Saviour.

Could I ask God if there’s anything He would like me to do? Maybe it’s just a little thing- an offered prayer. Maybe it’s not what I expect. But, whether it’s offering a little prayer or a few pence or my whole future, I bet He’d like to show me.

‘Deliver those who are drawn toward death,
And hold back those stumbling to the slaughter.
If you say, “Surely we did not know this,”
Does not He who weighs the hearts consider it?
He who keeps your soul, does He not know it?
And will He not render to each man according to his deeds?’ Proverbs 24:11-12

I don’t mean to be condemning. I don’t have this sorted. Maybe these things are complicated and messy and maybe we can’t help everyone.

But let’s not lose Alex’s wisdom. Maybe it’s not as complicated as we make it out to be.

And surely we can’t do nothing. Especially not when we realise how much God loves us.

Maybe I can’t do much, but I do have words, and I know that there are people out there who don’t have a voice.

Just because they are far away (if they are) doesn’t mean they don’t matter. They matter so much to God.

And doesn’t it feel so good when you know you helped someone out?

Please, please, let’s not forget them.

Let’s talk a moment to talk to God and do something for them now.

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

How Can it be Okay?

Sometimes I catch myself and realise that I cannot waste my life.

Can you remember life without knowing Jesus? Without knowing forgiveness of sin and eternal hope in Him?
For over 2 billion people in our world, it’s reality… without any access at all to someone who could tell them about Jesus, and what He wants to do for them.

Over in Asia, there’s a festival where millions of people go to bathe in a river, because they believe it will wash away their sins. Honestly. They really do.
There was once a missionary who went there. Suddenly, he spotted a lady, weeping uncontrollably. Breaking the cultural rules, he went up to her, to ask her what was wrong. Through her tears, she told him that she was so desperate… Her problems were so great… And she knew it was because of her sin.
So she had given the last thing she had: she had thrown her own baby boy into the river to drown… in an attempt to wash away her guilt.

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Horrified, the missionary could only tell her the truth. God already gave His Son so she could be forgiven. Overwhelmed by what she heard, the lady listened. Forgiveness of sins was available! God had given His own Son for her! All she had to do was turn away from her sins and receive Jesus as her Lord and Saviour!
Then, through her tears, she asked, ‘Where were you half an hour ago?’

And I live my comfortable life knowing that my sins are forgiven, because Jesus died in my place… Knowing that Heaven awaits me… Knowing that I have strength for today promised and eternal life secured.

And over 2 billion people have never heard His Name even once.

How can it be okay that, while I have enough to eat and so much to spare, people in places like Yemen and Syria are literally starving to death, without ever once hearing the way to Heaven?
How can it be okay that literally millions of children live on the streets, facing stuff we’d never even think of in our nightmares?

How can be it okay that 80,000 people die every single day, never having heard the Name of Jesus even once?

How can that be okay?
How can I be the same, knowing that?
Okay, so I can’t change it all.
But I can’t do nothing.

I can ask Jesus what He wants me to do in response.

“For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required; and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.” Luke 12:48b

Lord, break our hearts and help us do what we can to make a difference.

It was Just a Dream- or was it?

Last night, I had a dream. In the dream, I was in Syria. A country at war.

It was a terrible, frightening world.

Nowhere was safe. I kept having to move on. It was a world of dreadful chaos and fear.

It was the stuff of nightmares.

In the dream, I had some children with me. They weren’t mine, but they needed looking after and I loved them.

I looked after them for a while and then, in the chaos, I lost them.

It was a deeply troubling dream.

But I woke up. There I was in my bed, with the soft sheets around me and the stillness of safety and peace, and the comfort of my God. I could snuggle down and go back to sleep.

After all, it was just a dream.

For me, that is.

But it’s not a dream for millions of people out there, although it sure might feel like a nightmare.

And many of them don’t know my Jesus, and how He gives forgiveness and eternal life to all who come to Him in repentance and faith.

Many of them are being attacked.

Many of them have lost children.

Many of them are starving to death.

And how can that be ok? And how can I do nothing?

It may only be prayer but, hey, prayer changes things. For real.

Lord, help us never forget the world in need.

And, Lord, help us do what we can to help.