After some crazy flights and suffering through the humidity we’ve finally made it to our mission in the Philippines. We are living in the middle of the Red Light District in Olongapo and have been ministering to so many different people.
As some of you may have heard, after our long flights through Asia, we finally arrived in Manila airport only to find that the Ukrainian on our team was rejected entry due to her passport and visa validity. The rest of the team spent a day at the house we’d be staying at whilst she and our team leaders spent the next 18 hours speaking with the embassy and commissioners office to grant her entry, and finally she was let in!
For the first two weeks of our time here in the Philippines, we would be staying and working alongside Leslie and Sonny, founders of Project Life Subic, running education and sewing classes, leading youth groups and ministering to the girls in the industry we were living in.
Even though I’ve seen documentaries and known friends to go into red-light districts elsewhere, I was completely shocked for the first week and deeply moved as I walked along the main street in the evenings and every single building was a bar with female dancers ready to do whatever the foreign men wanted to do with them for whatever money they could get hold of. Most of these bars had girls standing outside calling us men in, ready to get paid next to nothing for the night with those who entered.
Many of us noticed such a heaviness in the atmosphere as we walked down the streets, seeing the brokenness in the girls, and the desperation in the foreign men who took advantage of them. Even the bar owners had so much that had happened in their past to get them to this point, as it is said “Hurt people, hurt people”.
We were all left again asking this question “How could this happen? This is not okay!”
Most of this first week was spent leading small bible studies and devotions with the sewing class and English school. But on one of the days, the girls in our team got the opportunity to go around the bars ministering to the girls there and inviting them to a beauty parlour we hosted where we talked with those who came, and served them with manicures, pedicures, feet washing, hair salon, and us guys enjoyed bonding with them over card games as well.
A couple of times we lead a Bible study group for the women of a more rural area called the Matain community. Many of those on our team, especially the Canadians struggled with the 35-40 degree heat and strong humidity in the days, but the Air Conditioning in our rooms was a nice treat in comparison to the previous accommodations we’d been staying in.
On Friday for our day off we got the chance to go to one of the nicer beaches down the road which had very clear watershed and was very beautiful!
On Saturday, we also lead a youth meeting for the local youth in a group called ‘Upper Room’ who in the following week, we’d be helping with a three day camp!
What astounded me was how open each of the youths were to sharing their faith and to giving their all in the worship times, especially in comparison to other youth groups we’d helped out with.
Following this, and church on the Sunday, from Monday to Wednesday of the second week, we helped run a youth camp for the Upper Room youth, ran by Anthony who had grown up in the Project Life Subic Programme for the past 10 years!
Luckily for us, the camp was located in a resort with a swimming pool just down the road! Mission has occasionally has some glamorous moments, and this week was one of them. The three days with the youth was incredible, everything from sermons, to games, to devotions, 5am Zumba and late night swimming!
By this point we were fairly used to the Philippine meals which, similarly to Kenya, always consisted of rice and chicken, however, on this camp, we finally had rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner!
It was such a great time at the camp getting to know the youth so well and hear where they were in their faith journeys and how eager they were to grow.
In the afternoon of the second day, one of the guys in our team shared his powerful testimony and then I shared a talk off the back of his story about our relationship with the Father God. The meeting seemed so powerful and as we went into a time of response, all the team prayed for each of the youth and the presence of the Holy Spirit was really visible!
It was nice to see how the youths warmed up so much to me and were very fascinated in my life, but it was hard to say goodbye to them as this Saturday would be the last time to see them before we move to the next location.
One of the final things we did in this area was some Jail Ministry! We spend Thursday Morning in Olongapo District Jail preaching the gospel, performing skits and songs, and praying for the inmates who were there. Even though we were only there for a short time, we made the most of it and it was so encouraging to see how thirsty they were for Jesus.
On Sunday we fly to Cagayan de Oro, on one of the other islands more south in the Philippines, ready for the next part of our mission.