How time flies. I went to the mission field in the Philippines and now I am back home again. “How does it feel to be on a mission for God for the very first time?” is the question that I receive from fellow friends and also the question that I reflect upon almost every single hour after I got back. Firstly, I do feel liberated and the whole mission experience was a humbling one. Though initially I wanted to call it quits even before I boarded the plane, but something made me changed my mind. If I had decided on not going for this trip, I somewhat knew that I will definitely regret making that decision. The trip was overall fulfilling, though we were all tired (some even falling sick – including myself) from the extensive traveling from the east to the west and then down south of Central Manila, and finally to the beautiful island of Palawan south of the Philippines. Why do I say fulfilling is because, God has certainly shown his power and mercy on me and the team throughout the whole trip. Remember my post about my second-guessing my purpose of going on this mission trip? About how I doubted my love for people. No words can every describe how amazed I was how God literally transformed me from someone who doubted about love, to someone who just wants to reach out to the destitute and love them immensely. That was what happened and I am truly grateful and thankful for His power that worked in me. Again, I try not to harp on my own success because none of these came from me but from the above. I was there not for my purpose/interest but for God’s and “May I not boast except in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14). This is my struggle – that I always put myself first before God which has stumbled me throughout my walk with Him. But through this mission experience, I’ve learned to submit my all to Him, to allow Him to work in me and I was grateful … deeply grateful for that. We worked with the Kapatid Ministry in the Philippines to support their work in helping the needy and spreading the love of Christ to them. What I saw in the Philippines were many people living in destitute, all short of God’s love and , and that is the very reason why we were sent there in the first place. This reason was becoming visible to me every single day I was there. We were asked to jot our personal journal of our dailywalk with God in this mission trip. My handwriting is starting to wither so blogging is definitely a better option for me. Besides, I was too tired to jot down anything when I was there because we had our daily devotions every night after dinner which ended at around midnight or an hour pass midnight – something I cannot withstand because I am not a late night sleeper. Nevertheless, my memories of my trip are still fresh in my mind and I am more than glad to blog them here. Pray that this blog of mine will draw more people to mission trips to spread the love of God to those who are seeking Him.
Day 1 (24 Nov 2012) – Feeding Centre (Pullilan)
We arrived at Clark, Pampanga at almost 9:00am. It was a struggle for our conscious minds because we had to gather at the airport at 4:00am to board the 6:35am plane to the Philipplines. The journey took 3 hours 45 minutes. I literally had to pin my eye lids up just to stay awake most of the time, but thank God for the time on the plane where I managed to catch a short nap before we landed at Clark. From Clark, Pastor Titus and his lovely wife Beth and daughter Tin Tin greeted us with huge smiles on their faces. We were given name tags with the salutations of “Ate” (means Sister) and “Kuya” (means Brother) in the local Tagalog language. Attached with our tags is a list of local words which we can use when we interact with the locals during our mission work. As soon as we arrived at the airport, we made our way to the first feeding centre which was the feeding centre at Pullilan (about an hour drive from Clark). On our way to the centre, I was still doubting myself – whether or not I could do a good job for God. But this is not what God wants – that we doubt ourselves. He just wants us to rely on Him to give us His strength and wisdom. I prayed along the way there. I just needed that peace of mind so that I can submit fully to God. When we reached the gate of the centre, it was locked and I saw a few kids walking towards the centre to receive their free lunches, their eyes hopeful and their smiles welcoming. After we entered the compound of the centre and unloaded our goodies from the van, more children came along with their mothers to the centre to greet us. As the children enter the compound of the centre, they began arranging the chairs that were stacked at one corner of the compound. I was totally amazed at how disciplined they were in arranging the chairs without being instructed to. We started interacting with them and their mothers. They were really warm and despite the conditions they live in, they could still offer us beautiful smiles on their faces to welcome us. Some of us began pumping and sculpting balloons into shapes of dogs, crowns, swords, guns etc. and the children got all excited looking at the different shapes of balloons they could hold in their possessions. There were about 100+ children who gathered at the feeding centre that day. After handing out the balloons, we sang children gospel songs with them, starting with the song of “Zaccheus”, followed up by “I Want to Be a Friend” and finally “I Love You Jesus”. The songs were accompanied with some actions and the children simply enjoyed them. We enjoyed singing with them as well. There were story-telling and coloring activities for little children and some activities for the youths. As for how God worked in me, my reliance on His strength has proven to be fruitful. I simply poured out my love for the children and I felt very happy when I received the same response from the children as well. I’ve always wondered if there is anyone in this wretched world who can appreciate others or anything they have been blessed with, because whatever I good things I’ve done unto others in the past were recipocrated with bad (and hurtful) responses. But God has shown me otherwise that there are people out there who do appreciate what I do for them … and He has shown me through these lovely people that I’ve met on my very first day in the Philippines. The children also put up performances for us as a form of their appreciation to us for visiting and accompanying them. After their performances, the ministry workers gave out food and drinks and to the children, and we gave them candies and snacks which were luxurious treats for the children. The sun seems to set in the west very early in the Philippines for it was already getting dark by 5pm. We wrapped up for the day .. hugging and kissing the children goodbye. Some children still remained at the centre, not willing to part with us. I ended up hugging and kissing some children goodbye multiple times. Some even gave me Thank You cards – how very sweet and thoughtful of them. This shows that the children are really in need of God’s love which was poured out through us. I am glad to be His messenger of love. We left the centre at close to 6pm before it got really dark and headed for AMG in Bulacan – a vocational school run by Christians to help high school leavers obtain proper training and education to equip and prepare them for the working world.
Day 2 (25 Nov 2012) – AMG Skilled Hands Technological College (Bulacan) & Feeding Center (Camarin, Caloocan City)
The journey to Bulacan was rather tiring because we were stucked in a bad traffic jam for almost 2 hours long! Couldn’t really sleep in the van for it was a bumpy ride and my head was swinging to and fro. There were times where I could almost feel my head swinging off my neck due to nasty jerks. We reached AMG at around 8:00+ pm. We spent the night at the School. The girls were fortunate enough to be given the staff dormitory while the guys had to spend the night at the students’ dormitory. Of course, the girls had the luxury of hot water (which I didn’t realise there was until a dear sister discovered it the very next day) and air-conditioning for some of us, including myself (which I least expect to have as well) for there are only units in 2 individual rooms. I considered myself really blessed with all these luxuries which I totally did not expect to have! In fact, I was expecting to be sleeping in student dormitories with shared toilets (and no hot bath) with a few ceiling fans. That’s it! But wow, God is good … I think he knows that there are some of us city folks who can’t really endure hardship. Thank you God! After settling down in our rooms, we proceeded to the dinner venue. The dinner that was prepared for us by the students themselves, were also beyond our expectations. It was yummy Filipino dinner with pork dipped in some special sauce, fried spring rolls, vegetables and desserts which are are considered luxurious food to the locals who can’t afford them. We felt really terrible for we were expecting to serve them, but instead we were served by them. The students were very helpful and grateful for our visit. They made really good pineapple shake drinks which sadly, I couldn’t partake on as it was icy cold. But I took a sip just to have a taste of it and it was really yummy. After dinner, two of our team members proceeded to prepare for their workshop on “Interview Skills” while the rest of us headed back to our rooms for quick showers. We went back to the hall to join the students in their workshop. The workshop conducted by the two were good and informative and I could see that the students enjoyed themselves tremendously. The workshop ended at around 10pm. After the students vacated the hall to head back to their dormitories for the night’s rest, the team had a devotional session and a short meeting to prepare for the next day’s activity – facilitation of another workshop on “Work Ethics” with the materials efficiently prepared by another team member. The very next day, the sun started to shine its face at us as early as 5:30am in the morning! I thought it was already 8am and I jumped out of the bed straightaway at the first sight of light through the window. After I found out that it was only a quarter to 6am, I slumped back to bed only to be awakened by my room mate who woke up at around 6am to take her shower. We headed back to the hall for breakfast at 7:30am and again, we were graciously served by the students with nice sumptuous Filipino breakfast which consisted of rice, fried vegetable, sausage and “Pandelsa” (a local Filipino bread made of wheat and cinnamon and it’s often eaten by the locals for breakfast). I don’t really fancy pastries but the “Pandelsa” is really soft and yummy. After breakfast, we attended the Sunday worship service with the students and their teachers. The students led the worship singing and they were good musicians – no doubt about it! Another team member gave the sermon for the day and after that, we were led to the front of the hall to introduce ourselves and to present a song “How Great is Our God”. The workshop took place after our introduction and song presentation. The students were split into groups for discussions which were facilitated by our team in pairs. The topic of discussion was about what we should do as Christians if we were asked to work 7 days a week by our employers and this includes Sundays – a day where Christians devote their time for God. During this time, I was grateful that God gave me the opportunity to share with the students on the challenges I faced with the University I worked in as a lecturer. If you have followed my blog, you will know what I am talking about here. As I shared, I almost cried … not because of the situation I was placed in, but because of the purpose I was placed in such a situation. It’s so that I share God’s love to the people – that His love and mercy is real and they are free for those who want to receive them. God was good to me at that point of time – He provided for my every need, financiall, mentally and spiritually and through this experience, I was able to grow in faith in Him more – which is His plan for us – to obediently seek, listen and follow Him. I have learned to feel for students who are worried about their financial needs when they graduate from the school – whether or not are they able to secure jobs out there and what would life be for them out there. I told them, citing from Mattew 6:25 – 34 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life ? …” and the message that was repeatedly sent to me by God from Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” which I’ve dwelled on to carry me through those days. God does provide for us. All we need to do is to look up to Him, pray, seek, cry, shout, … and ultimately follow. I am glad we had that session. It was also liberating for me too. It felt good to be sharing God’s message of love. One of the students presented me and my fellow partner a little sticker footprint with a little note of Thank You in her appreciation for our sharing. I was really touched and moved by her gesture and gratitude. Thank you Lord for this opportunity to share Your love with Your people. We left the centre after a sumptuous lunch – also prepared by the students. I felt sad parting with them – they have etched a very beautiful memory in my mind and heart.
In the afternoon, we headed for another feeding centre in Camarin, Caloocan City. The journey took longer than expected due to the horrible jam along the way, and we arrived at our destination 2 hours late! The children were so courteous enough to wait for us to arrive before they were given their food. For the last few hours they have been singing worship songs with their teachers – in hunger. We felt so awful for being late … and worst, we didn’t know that we had been keeping them waiting for their food for so long. We departed for this feeding center in 2 vehicles. A few team members and I sat in the MPV and we arrived at the center first. Without waiting any further (since we were late), we proceeded with out planned activity beginning with worship songs. In an impromptu decision, I was made to lead the worship with the children (much to my surprise!). But it wasn’t really to my surprise either. Remember the post I’ve blogged about how God wanted me to move a step higher in faith and how He have always wanted me to take the lead in doing His work? Well, this was the chance that He shoved right into my path. I hesitated for a moment, but without thinking further, I took the lead and led the children into singing the songs we had prepared for them. After singing 2-3 songs with some actions (which they enjoyed), the Pastor on duty requested that we sing the children’s favourite song – “Praise Ye the Lord”. Thank God for my experience with the Sunday School that I could remember the lyrics and the tune of the song. In fact, this song was first introduced to me when I attended Sunday School as a kid … and I was glad that I could still remember it. It’s a really beautiful and cheerful song. The lyrics go something like “Praise Ye the Lord, Hallelujah”. It’s simple and easy to remember for life! The children love shouting the word “Hallelujah” at the end of every sentence and I enjoyed their enthusiasm and desires to just praise the Lord. This is what God wants from us. To have a child-like obedience and praise for Him. The second van arrived just 10 minutes later and I had to pass the baton to another team member to take over the worship lead for I was running out of breath and gasping for air. This goes to show how unhealthy I have been – no exercise to build up the stamina I’ve lost over the years. After the worship, a fellow team mate told a story about Zaccheus to the children and immediately after that, we started distributing food to them. The ministry workers had prepared fried bee hoon and packed them in Styrofoam boxes. We on the other hand, gave out candies, pictures to colour, colour pencils and pencils. The children were asked to sit in a circle to partake on their food and to colour the pictures. Some children ate just a few spoons of their food and saved the rest to share with their family members back home. It pained our hearts to see that the children were so thoughtful of their family members despite being so hungry at the same time. It taught us one thing that we ought not to take our blessings for granted. As it was getting dark, we packed our belongings and bade the children and teachers goodbye. One of the teachers presented us with hand-made soap bars as a token of appreciation. We felt awful because they still appreciate us despite us being so late and not really helping the children much at the centre. Nevertheless, we received the gift with thankful hearts. The soaps smell lovely with natural aromatic scent like lavender, green apple, etc. We left the centre at around 5:00pm – 5:30pm for Pastor Tan’s mission home (also in Caloocan City) where we spent the next few days in. The mission home is well – far beyond our expectation of what is known as a “mission home”. Again, I was expecting to be bunking in dormitory-like rooms with double-decker beds and ceiling fans (or maybe not) and shared bathroom with no hot water. But NO – we all had the luxury of air-conditioned room with mattresses (well for some of us), minus the hot bath but that’s ok for all of us. Poor hubs and the guys had to sleep on thin mats at the 2nd living hall upstairs without air-conditioning.
We were invited to watch a musical presentation by the streets children at the Llano Christian Baptist Church which is about 10 minutes away from Pastor Tan’s mission home. We settled into our rooms at Pastor Tan’s home, and headed for the church just half an hour later.The performance started at around 6:00pm and ended at around 9:00pm. I enjoyed the performances put up by the youths and children very very very much. They were so talented and gifted with good voices, graceful dancing and creative hand movements using illuminated gloves. Some of the dancers were also the teachers we met at the first feeding centre we visited at Pullilan. We went back home to Pastor Tan’s mission home and were surprised to see that dinner had already been prepared for us – roast chicken, roast pork with rice. I did not eat much for I was beginning to constipate – did not drink much water throughout the trip for fear of the inconvenience of stopping for toilet breaks. After dinner, we had our devotion and called it a night at almost 12:00am.
Day 3 (26 Nov 2012) – Brgy. Holy Spirit Child Care Centre (Quezon City)
On the 3rd day of our mission trip, the team was divided into 3 groups to be spread out to work at 3 different child care centres. We had our breakfast specially prepared by Pastor Tan’s wife. She was so nice and gracious to wake up so early in the morning to prepare for us a sumptuous Filipino breakfast. My group was assigned to the Brgy. Holy Spirit child care centre which is about 30 minutes drive from the Llano Christian Baptist Church. The child care centre houses children whose education is sponsored by Christians, some of whom are from our church in Malaysia. The sponsorship is given to the street children on a condition that the children and their parents attend bible study classes every week. This may sound like the church is forcing the people into believing in Christ, but in actual fact, it serves God’s purpose and not the Christians who are servants of God. The stories I hear from the ministry workers touched my heart. For one, the children learned to rejoice in the Lord, having hope in Him to bring them through the difficult times in their lives, and what they learned were also shared with their family members at home. The parents who attend bible study classes also learned to place their hope and trust in the Lord to provide for them in their times of need and trials. It is indeed very encouraging to hear that more and more people are turning their faith to Jesus for hope and salvation. When we arrived at the centre, the children were dressed in pretty white dresses waiting in line to greet us with a kiss on our hands. Some did not hesitate to give me a hug and their cheery smiles on their faces truly lighted my heart. I felt like a celebrity, but I am definitely no celebrity – what the children saw was God’s love in us. We led to a mini church within the centre’s compound and were seated at the front row of the church. Two volunteer teachers welcomed us with performances from the children of all ages. Those little girls who were clad in pretty white dresses gave the first dance performance. They looked so lovely. Kinda reminded me of the time when I was dressed in a pretty pink dress dancing to the tune “Chariots of Fire” when I was a little girl. The children performances lasted about an hour … much to our surprises because we did not expect to be serenaded with so many beautiful performances that lasted that long. Also, the parents of those children gave their testimonies of their heart-felt appreciation to the sponsors of their children. Their gratitude touched my heart. God truly work wonders in those who seek Him. We too had some activities in stored for the kids. Though the time was running out, I thank God that we still had time to run all the activites that were planned out for them – worships, story-telling and art & craft. For art & craft, the kids were given masks which were pre-prepared by the team before the trip and all they had to do was to dap the cotton wool in glue and stick them onto the masks. The whole idea was to create sheep masks for the children to put on their cute faces for the story-telling session on “The Lost Sheep”. The story is about a sheep who wandered off far in the wilderness only to be captured by evil wolves/thieves and was rescued by its beloved Shepherd. The sheep symbolizes us as Christians who eventhough had received salvation still remain disobedient to the Lord and are prone to wander due to their deceitful desires to want the things of the world. And when they wander far from the Lord, their hearts grow weary and heavy laden. But the Shepherd which depicts our Lord Jesus Christ, who never failed to love us despite our shortcomings, does not stop looking for us to save us into his loving arms again. Hence, the Psalmist put together in Psalm 23:1 – “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want“. Also noted in Psalm 37:4 is “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart“. Everything and everyone around us will fail us, but the Lord God will never leave our side nor forsake us. After the story-telling session, some of the group members started pumping balloons to make balloon sculptures for the kids and while they were doing so, I was tasked to play some games with them to distract them from the balloon for a while. I played the “Simon Says” and “Musical Statue” with them and the children enjoyed themselves tremendously. At the beginning I thought it would be difficult to convey the instructions of the games to the children, but you know what .. they learned really really fast. These are really bright children who were deprived of good childhood environment and for some, education. But I am glad that their education’s sponsored for I am a firm believer that all children should not be deprived of education for education is one of the ways out of poverty. The children were given their balloons and candies after the games. We headed for lunch at the Pastor’s office. The ministry workers were kind enough to cook for us. There was fried spring rolls, steamed fish and Chicken Adobo (I think). There was also a cup of soup cooked with pig’s innards which I had to pass. After lunch, we started our journey on visiting the residential homes of the children at the centre which was just within the vicinity. What I am about to describe about their homes is very saddening and it makes me reflect on how truly blessed I am back home in Malaysia to have a comfortable house to be called my home, education, a job and a loving family. The homes were made out of bricks with no additional cement layers and paints. Just bricks (which in my understanding is considered a luxury for there are some in the outskirts of Manila, live in makeshift houses made out of plastic bags, scrap zinc roofs and cardboards) and one or two used plastic chairs. They all come in different sizes, but the worst one that we came across was just a small little tiny room with a bed that can fit 4 members of a family. The room, packed with belongings was dim with little electricity and air ventilation, and worst still, it is a rented room of about RM200-300 monthly rental fee (which is absurd!). The children that we saw clad in beautiful uniforms and dresses, looking all prim and proper back at the centre, were after that changed in worn-out clothings and were roaming the streets. One would never thought that they are street children living in such destitute condition. We visited another house of our of the girls who performed a dance for us. When we entered her house, we saw her elder sister whose body is deformed without legs sitting on the table reaching out her hands to greet us. She is a beautiful young teenage girl whose condition did not deter her to greet us with a warm smile. Sometimes I just wonder, why did God even allow this to happen to them. It is bad enough that they are living in extreme poverty, and now in need of funds to care for their paralyzed daughter/sister. But I guess, we can never understand God’s plans for us in our human understanding of the world. All I pray is that they have the support that they needed in this time of trial. We also visited a makeshift home right next to a pig sty. Though the stench of smell from the pig sty did not stink my nose at the time of our visit, but I could imagine how unhygienic it is for this family to be living just right beside it. We also passed some villagers squatting by the side of the alley gambling away their (or maybe their spouses’) hard-earned money which can be used to feed their children. I just pray that their children will not follow their footsteps and I am grateful for the ministry who set up the child care centre to lead the children back to God’s path. As we were walking from houses to houses, some kids followed us all the way holding my hands requesting me to sing with them the worship songs we sang at the church earlier. It felt so warm holding their hands and singing along with them. I love the smiles in their lips and the sparkles in their eyes. How I miss all these. The weather was rather hot and humid, but it did not dampen my spirit to visit the homes of these children and to offer my prayers for them. However, because we had children in our group tagging along with us and they were growing very tired from all the visitations, we had to stop at 8 houses instead of the original plan of 10. I felt really bad not visiting the remaining two houses for I reckoned that they were all eager to invite us to their homes. Nevertheless, I thank God for this blessed opportunity to show these people His love for them. After the visitations, all three groups gathered back together at the Llano Christian Baptist Church before heading back to the mission home for shower.We were also invited to Pastor Titus and Beth’s house for dinner that night itself. However, my tummy was feeling really uncomfortable due to 1) bad constipation and 2) the fried spring rolls I had earlier at the child care centre which were drenched in oil. I was contemplating not attending the dinner, but I knew I won’t be happy being left behind at home. So I tried taking medication, applying medicated oil on my tummy and getting some rest before the dinner. But it wasn’t getting any better. Thank God we still had some time to rest before the dinner. Shortly after the van arrived to pick us up to the dinner venue, I got slightly better and decided to join the rest for dinner. Dinner was great with the companies of the teachers we interacted at the child care centres. They sang songs together but sadly, I couldn’t join them because my tummy was starting to rumble again. I felt very agitated and angry at the condition I was in. To sum, I was getting really emotional over the next few days simply because of my irritating PMS problem! I started snapping at my sisters for no reasons and getting all regretful about it after that. But sigh, why am I engineered to be this way? I just cannot understand .. but God does. I believe I have not been standing on Christ’s cross all these while, allowing evil thoughts and principalities to turn my soul against God. I feel awful, but I am thankful that my sisters’ have forgiven me. At the same time I could feel the forgiveness of Christ in me again. I am such an undeserving soul but yet Christ still loves me just like how He has loved his lost sheep. As soon as I stepped into the mission home, the gas welled up so badly in my tummy that I had to dash for the toilet to throw them out. I was feeling so painful and uncomfortable and I hated that feeling. Thankfully, my sisters stayed by my side, rubbing more medicated oil on my tummy and accompanying me in our separate session of devotion while the rest of the members gathered at another room for devotion. My sisters did not leave me behind and I am so utterly grateful for that. Thank you God for bringing these sisters in my life. I don’t deserve them yet they still love me like You do. I just pray that I will be able to do the same for them – not leaving them behind when they need me most. I was also thankful to the team who prayed for my well-being during their devotion. They were all so caring, looking after me while I was sick. And their prayers turned out to be so powerful, that I was well again the very next day – except for some occassional pangs. I prayed fervently during that night for God to heal me so I could continue with His work in the mission field the very next day and all our prayers were answered – thank you God.
Day 4 (27 Nov 2012) – Aetas Community (Orang Asli) (Floridablanca, Pampanga) & the Community at the Lara Dump Site (Pampanga)
On Day 4, I was feeling healthier and was all geared for the day’s event. Again, Pastor Tan’s wife prepared for us a lovely American breakfast with local corn beef (which is famous in the Philippines). Sadly, I couldn’t eat much of it as to save myself from more gas attacks. *sigh*. We visited the Aetas Community or in our local Malaysian dialect the Orang Asli (the Aborigines) of the Philippines in the morning and the community living at the Dumpsite at Lara, San Fernado in the evening. All these places are within the Pampanga area, where the Clark airport is located as well. The journey to Pampanga took almost 2 hours. When we arrived at Pampanga, we stopped for a short visit to the mushroom farm using organic fertilisation. As the van could not carry us up the hill that leads to the Community’s settlement, we had to do some walking while enjoying and appreciating God’s creation of beautiful mountains and river streams. We saw buffaloes taking their baths with the Aetas children. When we reached the settlement, we saw little huts built from hays and children running around on barefeet, tossing on a pile of sand that is used for building construction, oblivious to personal hygiene. We were welcomed by a local pastor who volunteered her service to the community at a local church. In fact, God is good for He has sent His workers from Korea beforehand to help build the church, clinic, library and school for the community and their children. We visited the children who were attending classes at that time, giving out colouring pictures, colour pencils, pencils, the masks and some candies. We also prayed with the children and it was lovely to watch the little ones bow their heads in prayer and thanksgiving. But sadly also, I did not really enjoy the ministry work at the Aetas community for my mood swing was pretty bad. I started snapping at my sisters for leaving me behind and feeling all agitated for nothing! I felt very awful and guilty and this guilt kinda killed all forms of joy that I’ve built from the 2nd day’s activity with the street children. How could I ever allow this to happen to me? How could I allow my worldly desires to stand in my way of connecting to God? I am trying very hard not to feel guilty so that I could carry on my works with the team. I managed to surpress my anger a bit and like I said before, thankfully my sisters understood me. After the visit, we headed to Lara, San Fernado to visit the community at the dumpsite. But before that, we stopped for lunch at a restaurant by the side of the highway. It was already 3:00pm (way behind our schedule due to the bad traffic along the way). The traffic in the Philippines is really bad compared to the ones we experience daily in Malaysia. There were practically zero ethics practiced on the road. Well, I can’t deny that Malaysian drivers as equally as bad (if not worse) sometimes. We had a quick lunch and made our way to the dumpsite. A few members who were also falling sick decided to not to visit the dumpsite and instead, was brought to the shopping mall to rest and relax. The van was packed with our singing and laughter and although the journey to the dumpsite was long, we enjoyed each other’s companionship. When we were about the reach the dumpsite, I saw makeshift huts being built along the piles of rubbish where the community makes their living out of scraps collected for recycling from the rubbish dump. Apparently the place that we were about to visit is a much developed area with houses built from bricks and roofs from zincs – thanks to God’s servants from a Methodist church. Whenthe children saw us approaching the community, they started to gather at a makeshift tent with eager eyes to see what we had in store for them. The sky was getting dark when we reached the dumpsite at almost 5:00pm. Nevertheless, we went ahead with some of our plans – worship, story-telling and distribution of colour pencils and candies. It was unfortunate that we did not have time to make “origamis” with them nor did we have time to colour the pictures with them. But they looked happy to see us and likewise for us too. Mosquitoes started swirling around us and thanks to the repellant applied on my hands and feet, I escaped multiple mosquito bites which I am very proned to. We left the dumpsite at around 6:00pm when the sky was almost pitch dark. The stopped at the shopping mall to meet up with the rest of the other members for dinner. We had the local fast food chain of restaurant – Jollibee. The fried chicken is good – crispy to its bones but too bad, I can’t savour it. We took a walk around the shopping mall, looking at things that we might not get to see back in Malaysia. We bought some pastries for the pastries in the Philippines are undeniably good. We reached home at around almost 10:00pm, took our shower and headed for the night’s devotion at almost 11:30pm. My eyes could hardly open. The traveling was intensive and tiring. I could hardly stay awake throughout the devotion and nothing was entering my head. The devotion ended at almost 1:00am and right after prayer, I ran up stairs and fell flat on the bed and dozed off to sleep right away.
Day 5 (28 Nov 2012) – Visitation to the Living Waters Baptist Church child care centres, the flood evacuation centre (Laguna) & Tagaytay (volcano sight-seeing)
On Day 5, we were asked to wake up as early as 3:00am for the journey for the day was to Laguna which is a 3-hour ride from Caloocan City. The thought of riding in the van for 3 hours in a tiring condition sounds pretty dreadful for most of us, but we had to keep reminding ourselves that we were there for God’s cause and not ours. This seemed to be a motivating thought especially for me who had pretty bad mood swings for 2-3 days consecutively. Nevertheless, I lifted my head up high thinking that God will be proud of me if I do this for Him and I was determined to work for Him despite my tiredness. Laguna is located south of Central Manila. Though the journey was long and tiring, we did not stop a moment to bond with each other in the van through jokes and laughter. It was definitely a trip to remember. In Laguna, the team was again divided into groups but this time only in 2 groups to work in 2 different child care centres. The child care centres are run by the Living Waters Baptist Church catered for the community in the rural areas of Laguna. When we reached the village, we thought that the people in Laguna live better lives than those in the city. Their houses are bigger with lots of compound space and the air is definitely a lot fresher than the air in the city. When I asked why do the people choose to live in such destitute in the city when they can enjoy far better lives in the outskirts of city, the answer I got was that people often dream of the city as the land of opportunities, and that they do not want to live a hard life tending to flocks and farms in the village. Although this does not make sense, but I guess, it’s the same in most countries including Malaysia. The children were attending their classes when we interrupted their session with our visitation. There weren’t many children at the child care centre we visited but they were all very adorable looking children. Again, we were serenaded by a song performance that the children put up for us. We did the usual routine of doing worship songs with them and story-telling. This time we told the story of Noah’s Ark and sang the song “Noah’s Ark” as well. I love the song – the rhythm, the melody, the tune .. oh so lovely and lively. After the song, a team member shared the story of Noah’s Ark and also about the gospel using the “Good News Glove”. The rest of the team started pumping balloons, unpacking drinks and food and stacking up colour pencils for the children’s colouring activity later. While stacking the colour pencils, I saw two young women sitting outside the classroom looking at the activity that was conducted in the classroom. One was holding a child in her hand. It seems to me that they were deep in thoughts with no one to talk to. I took the opportunity to share the gospel with them using the “Bridge to Life” leaflet that a team member bought from Canaan Land back home in Malaysia. To be honest, it was the Holy Spirit who led me to share the gospel with them, not on my own accord. I was surprised by my own decision and action to share the gospel seeing that I am not a firm believer of evangelism, though as Christians, we were told to share the gospel and the good news of God’s hope to all who are yet to be saved. Frankly, I am very afraid of rejection especially when I am needy of human praises and acceptance. I guess these are no longer important to me. I just saw two young women in need of God which is more important to my needs, and that motivated me to lead them back to God’s loving arms. As I shared, there was a tinge of fear lingering in me, but I brushed it off and focused on my evangelism. Throughout the session, I just allowed God to lead me. I’ve totally abandoned myself, my fears, my worries and my principalities and let God take over. And at the end of my sharing, I felt nothing but total relief and joy for I’ve done the work of God. I could sense the girls were feeling uncomfortable with my sharing. Halfway through my sharing, I was requested by my team member to help out with the food and drinks again. As I was helping out, something sprung to my head – the need to pray for them. However, one of the girls had left the scene leaving the one with the baby behind. I did not hesitate much and proceeded to offer my prayer for the remaining girl there. As I prayed, she sobbed, and I was happy that she could feel the touch of the Holy Spirit in her. I just pray that my sharing will lead her back to the gospel and that my prayer will bring her peace in her heart from whatever challenges that she might be facing in her life. And I believe that God loves her and He will always be there for her. Thank you God once again, for this wonderful opportunity of sharing your gospel and love with others. It is truly indeed the desires of my heart which you have graciously given in my life. I would think that I am equally as destitute as these people in the Philippines – that is, I am in need of God in my life and because I’ve often wandered off into the “wilderness of deceit”, I’ve allowed myself to be living in destitute. The joy of giving is certainly something that is worth having in one’s life. As I give, I give thanks and as I give thanks, I bring about the joy of God in me again. Thank you Lord, thank you! After ministering to the children at the “kindie”, we went for a little tour around the village, stopping by a craft centre where women were trained to make little wedding door gifts out of scraps disposed by an electrical manufacturing company for a living. I thought that to be very creative of them. Someone’s thrash is somebody else’s treasure … hrmm .. interesting. After that, we proceeded to an Eco-farm for some light refreshment, feasting on coconuts and wild bananas. We re-grouped with the other team members and off we went to the flood evacuation centre to visit the victims affected by the floods August last year. When we reached the flood evacuation centre, we saw several makeshift tents set up along the road of the entire centre. All the tents were donated by organisations all over the world. I just wonder, have these people been living in the tents for over a year with just the tents and shabby looking public toilets? Some even dug holes in the ground next to their tents as toilet bowls and then bury their excrement after use. Don’t the government allocate funds to help its people rebuild homes after they were left damaged by floods and typhoons? All I could do was to offer my prayer to these people whose homes have been washed away by the floods and they were made to camp by the roadside for over a year now. We settled at a little community hut and as we alighted from our vehicles, we could see shores of children and their parents walking (some running) towards the hut to have a look at what was in store for them. Looks like we weren’t the only ones coming to visit them and offer them goodies/donations, and I am glad to know that. Without further a due, some started pumping up balloons and while that was happening, some of us gathered the children to sing worship songs and for a story-telling session. We all took turns to lead the worship and during my turn to lead, we sang “Praise Ye the Lord” again. This time I was truly astounded by the children’s enthusiasm to praise the Lord as they shout “Praise Ye the Lord” and “Hallelujah”. Their enthusiasm somewhat sparked mine and I felt very rejoiced as I led them through the worship song. We left the flood evacuation centre to a nearby SM Shopping Mall (one of Philippine’s largest shopping mall) for dinner. There we tried the local fast food chain “Jollibee”. I was dying to try the famous fried chicken but due to my tummy ache, I had to pass on that :(. I had the beef burger instead which to me, wasn’t as good as it claimed to be. Kinda ruined my dinner appetite, but thankfully, the pastries that we bought from the bakery shops were goo, though ultra-sweet for my tooth. We started out journey home to the Caloocan City at half past 8 and reachedthe mission home at almost half past 10.Everyone was sooooo tired from the trip but despite all that, we still had our devotion session. We retired to bed at almost 12:00am, and thankfully, there weren’t any activities planned for the next day. There was supposed to be another visit to a feeding centre but due to time constraint, we headed straigh to the airport in Manila for our trip to the Palawan Island.
Day 6 (29 Nov 2012) – Getting ready to go to the Palawan Island (south Philippines)
We woke up later than usual (thank God we needn’t rush through time), had our hearty breakfast of fried noodles and dim sum, all awesomely prepared by Pastor Tan’s wife and his lovely maids. According to Aunty Beth, the journey from Caloocan City to the airport in Manila takes around 3 hours during peak hours and hence, we were asked to depart and bade our goodbyes to the Tan family and their lovely mission home as early as 8:30am. The traffic authority in the Philippines set up a rule to eliminate traffic congestion on the roads in which each household cars are given specific car plate numbers. The car plate number is identified by its first alphabet (for example Z). Hence, a car with the car plate number starting with Z is only allowed to travel on specific days of the week . Unfortunately for us all that day, we had to take the van with no air-conditioning because only this van was allowed to travel on the road. Our 2-3 hours ride to the airport was pretty unpleasant as we had no choice but to open the windows for ventilation and talk about ventilation, we inhaled so much carbon monoxide while getting caught in traffic jams with the sun penetrating through our skin into our bodies from windows. But fortunately, we arrived at the airport safe and sound – maybe smelling of carbon monoxide all over. It was hot that day. We had our lunch at Shakey’s (yummy food) with air-conditioning (thank God!). Then we headed to the departure hall to board our plane to Palawan on Airphil Express. And guess what? My stupid mood swing decide to kick the bucket again that day spoiling the entire time I had at the airport. But I am also very thankful to God because He had given me the opportunity to express my heart felt disappointment and anger with my sisters. We had a good fulfilling sharing moment on the plane as well, thrashing out our disappointment for each other so that all honest comments about one another are vented out. I treasure my friendship with my sisters very much that I do not want to harbour any hard feelings against them, especially when I myself had my fair share of problems that I needed to deal with God. God is forgiving and hence, we also ought to be forgiving each other for their misdeeds whether intentionally or not. Nobody is perfect in this world. If someone as God is willing to forgive us, why can’t we towards those who wronged us? It’s so easy for me to say this but I’ve been through bouts of unforgiveness towards those who wronged me, demanding my every right to myself thinking that I am such a perfect person that I’ve never wronged anyone in my life before. I was being selfish and immatured in this sense. God has brought about this situation at the airport so that I could come face to face with my sins and individuality so that I could rely on Him to correct what is wrong. God is good … all the time. Our chat session lasted throughout the duration of our flight and before we knew it, we’ve arrived at Puerto Princessa, Palawan Island (south Philippines). Yes, it was the same island that was hit by the mega typhoon just a week after we got back to Malaysia. However, the weather was really hot and burning while we were there. We were ferried to our hotel (Go Hotel) which is right next to another mega shopping centre (Robinsons). The hotel looks pretty new and the rooms were clean and comfy. My hubby was so happy that he finally got to sleep soundly after so many sleepless nights at the mission home (enduring loud snores and a hard piece of sleeping mat). We settled down at the hotel room before getting ready for dinner at Robinsons. After that, we got back to our hotel rooms and started the devotion session as early as we could. But even then, the devotion ended at around 12 midnight. I could hardly keep my eyes opened during the devotion – don’t know why I was exceptionally tired that day. So I sneaked out of the room and into my hotel room and dozed off to sleep straight away oblivious to the fact that I’ve left the door unlocked. Hubby gave me some thrashing on that the next day 😛 I felt bad for leaving the session but I just could not focus on the discussion any much longer.
Day 7 (30 Nov 2012) – Island Hopping at the Palawan Island (south Philippines)
The very next morning, we headed out for a fellowship time on an island hopping spree. We were supposed to go for an Underground River trip but it was fully booked that day as it was a public holiday at the Philippines. But island hopping was good for us too. The sea was lovely with the lovely blue sky on top of us. God was so good – he protected us throughout the trip. We stopped at th Cowrie Island for a relaxing time of massage, saving starfishes from dying off the shore 🙂 and sumptuous lunch. The wind was so breezy that I dozed off for a short nap by the beach. After lunch, we headed back to the jetty and then to the hotel to prepare ourselves for dinner. We had our dinner at a bistro and restaurant just 10 minutes drive from our hotel. Everyone thought that place was so dim and it shocked them to see scantily clad girls singing on stage. Well, it’s a bistro after all. But food was good. They ordered croc meat which I passed. Everyone thought it tasted like chicken. After dinner we had our devotion like the usual and thank God this time, it did not last that long. Most would have thought that we were on a vacation more than a missionary trip but at the end of the day, our outing at the islands God created made us appreciate the wonderful creations of God all the more. And the fellowship with one another was good – we got to know one another more and understand each other’s shortcomings more as well. It taught me one thing for sure that I ought not to judge others just like how I dislike others judging me. Overall, the trip was enjoyable yet beneficial for all of us.
Day 8 (1 December 2012) – Prison Ministry at the Iwahig Prison, Palawan Island
To be honest, the visit to the Iwahig Prison on the mission trip itinerary was one of the reason why I hesitated on going to this mission trip in the first place. It scared me to think that I was about to walk into a prison coming face to face with criminals of all kinds. Worse still, the visit to the Iwahig Prison hospital on the next item literally freaked me out. But as I come before God, pouring out my fear and submitting my will to Him, I found that the thought of visiting the prison was not as scary as it seemed. Having read a message recently which brought back memories of my rejection of the trip due to the prison ministry, I figured that all I needed to do was to settle whatever issues I have with God before I could move forward in the works that He has set for me to do, with certainty that He will bless the path that I walk in and that He will look after me throughout – “If you Israel will return, then return to me,” declares the Lord. “If you put your detestable idols out of my sight and no longer go astray” (Jeremiah 4:1). There are basically three types of prisons within the Iwahig Prison – one with the minimum security level, one with the medium security level and one with high security level – all based on the levels of severity of the crimes committed by the inmates. We visited the minimum and medium security level prisons. When we entered the medium level security prison first, we saw a few inmates with their heads shaved clean standing there waiting to greet us. They don’t look like a criminal at all. All of them were humbled by our visit and they were more than happy to have us there with them. There was a prison pastor who led us to our seats and the worships began, led by the inmates themselves. What amazed me most was the drum set that they have made of plastic bottles, tin cans (that sound like cymbals) and empty oil barrels, and they really sounded like drums. How creative is that! This goes to show that everything is possible through God. As they sang, they sang with their hearts filled with the joy of God in them. It’s amazing to see how God transforms a criminal to someone who is humbled and obedient to His calling to be transformed. I would reckoned that they needn’t say in prison for long seeing how God has changed them. Everything is indeed possible through God! Amen! After worship, our cell group leader gave a sermon and after the sermon, we distributed vitamins to all who were present. The inmates were generous enough to present us with hand-made souvenirs, although we also visited a souvenir shop (within the vicinity of the prison) and got ourselves a handful of souvenirs for our friends and families back home in Malaysia. But before that, we visited the prison hospital where we got to meet 9 patients sitting on mattress-less beds and some linens as a divider between the patients’ beds. Prior to our visit, we received news that there was an outbreak of tuberculosis among the patients and the 9 we visited were the ones saved from the outbreak. When I heard of the outbreak, my heart literally sank to the bottom of my stomach and fear started sipping its way to my mind. As I said earlier, the prison hospital was one of the reason why I hesitated going on this mission trip in the first place and I was about to face my worst fear. It was like walking into a landmine when you know it’s right there. But God was good! He knows our fears. As I prayed, I did not only pray for my well-being, I prayed for those who were stricken with illnesses at the hospital. The TB patients were transferred out and quarantined at another location. While we doubted if the hospital was thoroughly cleanse with disinfectant, but we did not doubt God. I cannot deny that I prayed profusedly about my safety at the hospital, it was like as though I did not trust God. But somewhere along the lines of my prayer, I just surrendered to God to allow HIm to take charge …. and He did! All of us were safe! Praise the Lord!
From the middle security level prison, we moved on to visit the low security level prison set right in the middle of the wide plains surrounded by majestic mountains. It was a very beaufitul sight and it made me stared in awe of the many wonders of God’s creations here on earth. I don’t know what crimes are categorised as low security level but the inmates here were just the same as the inmates we met at the middle security level prison – humbled by our Lord. We visited the church tat is located within the prison and to get into the church, you need to go through a little mini door that is fit for a child, not an adult, which got me really curious of who on earth would want to build such a small door for adults. But there were women and children living in this prison who where families of the inmates. The low level security prison is like no ordinary prison with bars and locks. Everyone moves freely within the compound of the prison. Their families live with them on one corner of the prison. The prisoners were made to work in the fields. For some, they chose to remain there even after they have been released from prison for several reasons. One them being loneliness. Their families have apparently abandoned them ever since they were imprisoned and second, living in the prison manning the fields sounds a lot better than living in the streets in poverty. At the church, the inmates also presented us with songs and we too the same, and after that, we distributed the vitamins to everyone. The visit the the prison truly opened my eyes to see that magnificent power of God’s forgiveness unto sinners – regardless of the sins they committed. No sin is too big for God to forgive, so long as the sinners accept this forgiveness. I always wonder if God really does forgive me for my disobedience, ignorance and oblivion, but after what I saw, I shall never condemn myself again before God. No problem is too big for God to handle. I am truly blessed with the opportunity to visit the wonderful works of the Potter – who moulds us to His perfect will and plan. When we arrived on the mainland of the Philippines from the Palawan Island, we headed off to Pampanga where we stayed at the Tune Hotel at Angeles City for our final night at the Philippines.
Day 9 (2 December 2012) – Our final day at the Philippines
It was day 9 of our trip there. Feels like it was never going to end and some part of me did not want it to either. Somehow, I’ve grown quite fond of the Philippines and the people there. I found there really welcoming, friendly and always cheerful despite the living conditions they are in.They are always willing to give their all, although what they have is very little. We felt truly blessed by their hospitality and warm friendship. On Day 9, we did not anything but visit a nearby church for the usual Sunday worship and service. We arrived at the church in Balibago, Angeles City at close to 10:00am. The church is housed in a single storey bungalow which looks really under-maintained for years. Its members were few, but this did not deter them from pouring out their heart to worship the Lord. The sermon was profound – literally spoke to me about how the evil ones tend to upset and attack us at our weakest moments, especially the moments that I had in the Philippines. How close was I to moving myself from the plan that God has put up for me in the Philippines and how gracious God has been to me throughout those moments. The pastor and his family has been living in the bungalow for years and from what I heard, they have not been able to pay for the rental ever since a sponsor from the USA withdrew their sponsorships for a reason that I am not t0o convenient to disclose here in my blog. But thankfully, God has been providing for this church but now their greatest challenge is to look for a new sponsor who could pay for the rent and other daily expenses of the workers in this church, or otherwise, they will be forced to move out as the house owner is planning to sell the bungalow for millions of pesos. My heart just sank to know of their plight. This is God’s sanctuary for the weak and poor and His people are doing His works in this sanctuary itself. My memory is not serving me well lately for I forgot the name of the church, but do help me to pray for Pastor Felix Ada and his family that they can continue to spread the God’s gospel and love to the people in the vicinity through his service and through this church. Pray that God will be able to provide for their needs in this time of trial. Thank you. After the service, we were treated to a sumptuous lunch of pork, chicken, rice and vege – specially prepared by the pastor’s wife. It was something really luxurious and although with their present struggles to maintain the church, they did not fail to give it all that they have to welcome us with such a nice lunch. All these taught me one thing that, we are to give our all to God – no matter how small or big. It was like the story of the poor maiden who gave her very last piece of bread to Jesus and how Jesus blessed her in return with even more that she could ever imagine. I believe and trust that God will look after the pastor and his family and to maintain his Church in their continuous effort to serve Him. After lunch, we headed to the airport to board our flight back home. On our way home, I just reflected on the moments I had with God – those sweet, powerful revelations of who God really is – a loving, faithful and gracious God. No matter what our circumstances may be in life – God will never change who He is. I just thank you God for your faithfulness and your love. I praise your Holy name and may the people of the Philippines experience your love for them. Sanctify them O Lord and keep them safe I pray. Amen.