Onto our final two weeks of ministry for our Outreach mission trip before debrief next week and then back to Los Angeles!
After having settled into Cagayan de Oro, our final outreach location, we had already met two of the communities and performed open air crusades over the last two weeks here, now was the time for us to continue the work we had set out here to do.
But before that, we had to sort out our Visas! Apart from the problems we originally had getting into the country, we were aware that we would, and had now only been granted one month’s stay in the Philippines. Because of this, on Tuesday morning, we all went to the Bureau of Immigration and were all granted an extra month’s stay here before departing, which is what we needed – praise the Lord!
Once we had the sorted the formalities, it was time to continue with our ministry, onto the third community!
I don’t think any of us were ready for what was next, we had been told this community lived in some bad conditions, but this was a whole other level. The area was called Smokey Mountain and it was a landfill site, the whole community had grown up and made a living there in the site sorting through the waste for anything of value. As hard as it was to see, this was their home. Many of the families who could not afford rice meals would find food from the landfill, that others had thrown away and reheat that instead.
The worst part about this community though, as we went around from shack to shack, was what had happened to them recently. Because of the smell of the site so near to the city and complaints from city residents, the government had decided to move the landfill site far away from Smokey Mountain. Now, not only did these people have incredibly poor conditions already to live in, now the whole village was without work, the one thing that they had all centred their livelihood on, their one source of income was taken from them. So, now, every family we went to, broke down and shared how sad they were to lose their only source of income, and how fearful they were to try and provide for their family, now with even less than nothing.
Each time we came back, it felt like the situation had hit them harder, and it was a lot for our team to process. In my quiet time, I was reminded of a passage that my mum had felt prompted to send me, not knowing the situation I was in.
The passage was Lamentations 3:21-32
“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young. Let him sit alone in silence, for the LORD has laid it on him. Let him bury his face in the dust— there may yet be hope. Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him, and let him be filled with disgrace. For no one is cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love.”
- Lamentations 3:21-32 (NIV) – Also try Message
After reading this and praying into it, God revealed to me that, in the midst of so much pain and suffering for these people and for each of us, there is hope, hope for a better live, hope for the future, a future secured with Jesus.
In the following days, we ran open air crusades for them, performing the everything skit for them, showing them that in the midst of these hard times, God is pursuing a relationship with them. We ran programs for the children, playing games with them and feeding them actual meals! To feed a group of 40 children it costed us 600 pesos, equivalent to $12, £8!!
In Kenya, to pay for the full treatment of prevention and curing of Malaria for 2 people it costed 3,000 ks, that’s $30, £20 to save to lives!
I can’t go on about this forever, but it shocked me how easy and cheap practical aid is for these people, no donation is too small, no life is too broken to be changed, to be fixed by Jesus.
Following this, one of the mornings we went to a boys prison in Tahanan. At all these locations we would perform more or less a similar prpgram with a skit, some songs, testimonies and then one of us would share a short message and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to them. Here though, the boys seemed so eager to take in what we had to share with them, even though they were shy to have prayer at the end, I genuinely believe God was changing their hearts that day and putting something afresh in there.
We had been to the Cugman community near us, spent time in the Dao community, been strongly impacted by the Landfill community at Smokey Mountain and now over the next few days we would be spending time with the final community in our area called the Baloy.
As we went around door to door, even though they also had been affected by a large flood that destroyed the village in recent years, they had a Joy before that I had not seen that transcended their lack of money or nice house.
I was preaching for the last time this Sunday at a church in Canitoan, I think I got a little carried away though as I never got past my introduction before I called for the response and everyone came forward for prayer!
The pastor and congregation were very friendly giving us lunch after and then I finally got to drink and eat a coconut for the first time. Weirdly enough, my sermon had just been sharing about the story of the prodigal son and my testimony being like the older brother. As the pastor opened up my coconut, he noticed that I had picked a coconut that was too old to be eaten to which he called the older brother. I had to accept the younger coconut to eat, and it was delicious!
After this encounter with the pastor in this community, we spent the next few days helping out at a youth camp they were running with some neighbouring churches in the West. Similar to the other camps we were part of, we shared and God showed up so powerfully. On the first night, one of the girls shared about how we are not alone in the hard times in life and in response to this, many of the youth came forward weeping as they acknowledged how Jesus had been there with them through the hardest painful times of their lives. The 80odd youth were on fire for God and it was encouraging again to see how these people also were so open to what God was doing in their lives.
On the days off, we got the chance to go white water rafting one time, and another time we were given a 1h30m full body massage by a Christian spa as a treat from the owner followed by a 40” pizza as a thank you for all the work we had been doing.
Though this was nice, we were quickly back to the ministry ready for our last week of what God had in store for us.
One of the days we went to a large high school in the area and did some manual labour for them to bless the staff. Whilst moving some rocks from a large pile to make a path, it reminded many of us of our time working on grounds back in LA moving rocks from place to place! We also cleaned the walls of many of the buildings ready for the start of the next school year in a couple of weeks.
Another day we spent in a Mother Theresa home for Street children playing games with them and showing them the love of Jesus.
Finally it was time for us to have our last day of ministry with the children and youth from the local area. It was hard as we played with them one last time, gave our last message to them and said goodbye to them as we knew this meant the end of our time here with them, it meant moving on again after having got to know them.
Some weird but notable experiences of the last few weeks would have included eating Balut – search it on google if you dare! – and playing bass in the worship band without having ever learnt, where the drum sticks were made from bamboo we found on the side of the road, and the guitar strap was some old wires!
After our last time performing our ‘Everything’ skit to Radical Church in one of the Cinema theatres in the Mall, we knew God had now brought our time of ministry in this place, for this season, to an end. After finishing strong, it was time for us to prepare to go back to LA, but not before debrief!
After church, on Sunday afternoon, we were finally revealed to the surprise that Max and Christine, our outreach leaders had been holding back this whole time, that we would be spending the last few nights here for debrief in Camiguin island!
We are now on our way to Camiguin island, a beautiful white beach island with 6 volcanos about 10 miles off the coast of Mindanao where we had been staying.
As we spend some time reflecting on all we have seen and been a part of, we will also be taking this time to recover and prepare for where God will be directing us to next after DTS.
Please be praying for each of us that we are able to recover well and that we receive clarity for what the future holds.
Please also pray for the weather as we are expecting a strong Typhoon to hit these Philippine Islands over the next few days.