P H I L I P P I N E S: The other side of the story

Pictures of a tropical island nation vacation may have made my life seem cooler-than-thou through pictures, but they were by far not all-encompassing of the experience I had in the Philippines. I’d like to share some of what I saw and experienced on the heavier side of the trip, but first a thank-you is in order.

My grandparents are two of the most generous, selfless, loving people you will ever meet. They are fervently obedient to the Lord’s calling on their lives: to express the love of Jesus to children and youth in the Philippines through their ministry, Talking Hands. Alongside their team (who were unbelievably kind to me during my time there) they have built a preschool from the ground-up, provided educational and recreational programs for sexual abuse prevention, and worked alongside churches all over the Philippines to meet the needs of as many children and youth as possible—their primary beneficiary being those who are deaf. They use their restaurant in Virginia, Sunrise Breakfast Shoppe, as a resource for funding this ministry. They have blessed and forever changed my life by bringing me with them to the Philippines this year. I have seen and experienced things I never had before, vastly different ways of life than my own which have allowed me to be enlightened, impassioned, and humbled.

Separate from working with Talking Hands and Community Church Manila, we had the opportunity to serve alongside House of the Least of These church in Quezon City at a garbage dumpsite outside of the city.

155 children. Each with a story the world has not heard, a pain that will never be justified, yet also a joy that cannot be understood. Their tiny hands held stained Tupperware, plastic bags and mangled forks—eager to receive a serving of hot spaghetti. Their curious smiles met my own in a way which reminded me that love does not know the barrier of language; love can be expressed through bright squinted eyes, an outreached hand preceding a tight squeeze, or a warm (even dirt-clad & sweaty) embrace. These children know nothing different than walking around, often barefoot through mounds of things we might consider trash, but to them may be something of value worth holding on to. I will never forget the looks on their faces as we arrived, how their voices echoed back a prayer I was honored to lead them in, the way they slurped down their juice pouches like there was no tomorrow.

And it’s true, there may not be one for you, or for me, for the malnourished child sleeping on the ground or for your neighbor across the street. So love people well, and start where you are. We don’t have to cross oceans to serve others—it starts in our patient tone of voice, our simple random acts of kindness, and our willingness to say “yes” to modeling our lives after Jesus’. I feel incredibly fortunate to have been able to go on this trip; so many people who have been faithful followers much longer than I have showed me God’s love in a fresh way.

To our hospitable family members feeding me every hour, to the teens who took pictures with me and added me on Facebook, to the children playing outside of church who asked me 100 questions about my life in America, to the cooks, tour guides and fellow travelers: thank you. The Philippines is a magical place filled with beauty that reaches far beyond the seas and mountains and into the hearts of the Filipino people. I will proudly cherish this culture and heritage always.