I am way behind on my monthly update and I blame it on the busyness of getting my life packed into 3 luggage bags before heading home to Canada, and just being overall exhausted from everything that’s gone on in the month of April and readjusting to things in the beginning month of May!
At last I am settled in at my host family’s place and ready to debrief with you on the amazing things God has done and will continue to do in the Philippines through others who are willing to take on what has started.
In early April, I attended my church’s Youth Camp. Who knew that I could still pass as a youth? haha.. The age range was from 12-28 so I really could milk it and still attend. Filipinos mature slower than a child who is raised in the western culture. I desired to be refreshed and away from the ministry a bit so I could prepare myself to head home. I made some good friends despite the age gap since I was one of the eldest. I even got to share my testimony with them during morning devotions with my group. The Lord spoke to me in a very personal way in regards to aiming to please God and not man. Since I arrived in the Philippines, I have felt pressured as an overseas missionary to always serve others but then I had no reciprocation. I was spiritually and emotionally burning out from the 2 year stretch. As a foreigner living among the poverty level there are so many misconceptions that yes, we are from a rich country but there’s that misunderstanding like: We are from a rich country so we have more resources, we have more to offer because of good education, we can be depended on for our resources and our churches are supporting and supplying our every need.. Therefore, it is our responsibility to share that with them.
It really depends on whom you’re talking to but to make a generalization that every Western missionary is that way is just stereotyping. I am proud to say that God is the reason of my provision and me being a Canadian is a privilege, but everything requires trust in a greater power than myself. Nothing will happen if you don’t have faith in the unseen as a drive to see God’s will accomplished. It’s sad to think that people would settle it in their minds that they don’t have much to offer in life because of the background they came from. That lie produces shame that is so embedded in the Filipino culture that they subconsciously look up at foreigners for support morally, spiritually and financially. When in reality, God wants to raise up the weak to humble the strong.
“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.” 1 Corinthians 1:27
I can’t tell you how many devotions I shared with the staff on this topic of doing things beyond yourself that only God can do. But God knows each person’s journey is different from the next. Of course, I am not talking about all Filipinos.. there are those who have broken off from that poverty mindset and have succeeded first in the attitude of their mind and then in the way they lived. Being the corrupt leadership and hierarchy its no wonder why people are afraid to speak their mind and rise above the status quo.
Because of that constant lack of relational understanding I felt loneliness and misunderstanding from where I served. I know God is pruning the things in my life that need to be cut out especially in the area of rejection. I am just skimming the surface of what I had to go through and only a foreign missionary who has been living with me long enough would understand. It took my roommate who is a volunteer for one year, a few months before she could catch on to the same things I faced. I feel the grace to stay in the Philippines has lifted off of me. I have never experienced more feelings of rejection, loneliness, and depression until this last portion of time. If I look back I am amazed by the hardships God helped me overcome.. I know that the enemy is pissed off and would do anything to throw me off course to leave me bitter, rejected and hardened to the idea of missions. There is more pressure nearing the end of the race at the finish line. In this case, it was nearing the end of my commitment.. God had started it, but it was up to me on how I would finish it.
I attended the YWAM National Conference that was being held in the same resort as last year’s YWAM Regional Gathering. So speaking about last year.. I was struggling as a fresh missionary with basically no other foreign missionary to guide me on how to cope with all the needs and not be burdened by them all, the community environment of chaos at times and the cultural bondage and strongholds in general. It takes patience and endurance to see things happen in the Philippines. The country is 93% “Christian” but mostly of the religious mindset that needs to have an awakening and revival in a nation that is used to being apathetic because of the foundations of a corrupt government. BasicallyI would hear complaints whether it be about politics or day to day decision making, but the unwillingness to change cause of the mentality of “things are the way they are.. why bother?”. It drove me insane.. you want to just shake these people into the calling God has for them to be proactive, stand up for justice and voice themselves! So you can imagine the need of leadership that has integrity to rise up in the Philippines. My obedience would be tested for the full 2 years of commitment.
During the Regional Conference I was on skype with my step dad about how I felt crazy at times for coming to this country without the emotional and spiritual support of a team. I couldn’t leave knowing the desperate need of evangelism in the bars here and that I had already built relationships with the bar girls. The Olongapo base was mostly focused on discipleship after the girls have committed to the program, but evangelism is equally needed for the girls that needed to be connected to church and Christians. At the time, I was burnt out from pouring out and not getting enough spiritual feeding and moral support for myself. In all honesty, although I know that God is with me and I have many people praying for me.. I felt all alone without the support of my fellow co-laborers who were also burnt out and easily weighed down.. not to mention, the spirit of apathy. It’s no wonder we have such spiritual opposition cause we are at the enemy’s camp quite literally and Satan wants to drive us out.
So my dad interrupts me and says he sees a prophetic picture of a boulder that’s being hit by a hammer over and over but you cannot see the results until you keep hitting it and then it would break apart to pieces. That’s how perseverance pays off in the end. I must not get disappointed when I cannot see the microscopic cracks but by faith continue laboring knowing that God will come up with the results in the right timing.
Then I was in shock when the next day, the National Leader of YWAM Philippines at the Regional Conference spoke prophetically on having perseverance when it came to seeing results by hitting a hammer with a large boulder.. and even if you don’t see results that sure enough, all the little cracks resulting from your endurance will eventually pay off and the rock would smash to pieces. I was in shock to hear of the same picture given to my dad was spoken the very next morning! That gave me faith that I would see the fruit of my labor one way or the other because of my obedience. I mentioned how God spoke to me at last years conference cause I wanted to follow-up to a similar way He spoke to me in this year’s conference.
This year’s YWAM National Conference they announced a Canadian (who is from Ontario) named Doug, as the new YWAM National Director of the Philippines. I was so excited to see what new things would be in store and what he envisions for the future and changes that could be made. I got to talk to him during the break and shared what difficulties I faced with the people I worked with and sure enough he listed all the things he had to overcome as well. It was good to hear that from someone else who could relate. He prayed for me and told me a verse that kept me meditating on it after he quoted Ephesians 4:16-21 to me.
This was when the Apostle Paul was in chains writing to the Ephesians. “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”
He then explained that this love cannot be understood that there is nothing that separates us from His love. The love that surpasses knowledge. God wants to reveal more of His love to me and to grasp how wide, long, high and deep is His love for me.
After he prayed for me and I had a good cry we rushed off to the next session and then the next morning.. I knew God had more surprises ahead.
The next morning we had a pastor who spoke on the exact same verse and even made emphasis on the “..this love that surpasses knowledge” and explained just the same to me as last night!
During lunch break, I shared with Doug and he thought of me at that moment too and knew it was a divine appointment from God! I was so blessed that again, God never fails to speak to me when I need it the most.
My commitment officially ended in April 4th, 2013. Looking back, I was making that decision to sign the 2 year contract and thought to myself, “I’m going to be turning 25… I’m signing my life away!” But regardless of the hardships and challenges I faced.. I wouldn’t take it back to have experienced it somewhere else because I know that God used me to impact the lives of those girls in the bars. Some from years ago from my DTS have still kept in contact with me and some have gone back to their families or have found decent jobs on their own.
There was a team from Kona whom I have met the two DTS leaders from last year. One of them does magic show evangelism which is basically getting people’s attention and drawing a crowd to share the gospel while doing the magic tricks.
For a long time now I had been talking to you guys ever since last year that a church had moved to the bars where we ministered to. I was praying to God on how we could connect the girls up to a church and thankfully a good friend had introduced me to a lady who was once a prostitute and has a heart for helping out these girls. While the team went out to do tribal ministry, I stayed back to invite a couple of girls to the church and wanted to talk to the pastor to see if we could use their facilities to host a bible study for the bar girls.
Fortunately they recognized me from before and the pastor came up to me and asked if we wanted their help. I was so touched that he offered without me asking and I met a couple of the ladies who have worked as a bar girl but have now left and
serve the church. They told me we could use their building and they were going to announce it next gathering for anyone who wanted to be part of it. I was so encouraged to see their willingness and enthusiasm to lend a hand.
One of the bar girls named Crisolyn, whom I’ve mentioned before had gotten pregnant from a Korean customer and she is now 8 months. I have known Crisolyn since meeting her during my DTS outreach in 2009. Since then, her and her sister have grown close and invited me and whoever was the short-term team at the time, to their small house for meals. I even brought my parents to their house for lunch and bible study, where they shared their testimonies. Recently her sister, Emily had stopped working in the bars and got connected to the sewing livelihood that is under the church I just mentioned. Then through that she got referred to a job opportunity at a new massage therapy clinic run by one of the congregants of my church. The funny thing is, Emily didn’t know it was a job she had told me it was a training. So I went with her and sure enough the boss wasn’t impressed to receive a rolled-up-like-a-taco resume and Emily wearing shorts and a tank top for the interview. The training is temporary until they are good enough to start earning a salary. I decided that I should go and leave them to it. But afterwards I talked with the boss and she told me how Emily had lacked confidence and didn’t make a good impression on how she presented herself. She said, “Emily, as a massage therapist I reject you. But God doesn’t reject you. God told me to help and train you.” So praise God! haha.. her confidence has increased and I was one of her clients to get a free massage so she could practice her training to perfection. I was so proud of her for the faith she had on finding work outside the bars.
Now back to her sister, Crisolyn’s story..
From the first bible study 4 years ago that we held with her I encouraged her to join YWAMbut she said that her sister, Emily disapproved her of going since the family needed support and she could not do it alone.
Eventually the sisters started working in separate bars and Crisolyn looked like she was farther from grace from the last time I met her at the Logos Hope event a few months back. Thankfully God has captured her once again and I had the opportunity to go to the place she was living with her friend after church which was literally walking distance around the corner from there! I encouraged her to think about the future of her unborn son. She was abandoned by the “so-called boyfriend”, whom she met in the bar, to take care of the baby alone. She was even willing to go back working in the bars after she gave birth.. I knew it was the perfect time to turn to God now.. and she was amazed and touched that I still pursued her friendship during these 4 years. Because of her hesitancy we prayed for God to grant her the wisdom for her and her son’s future and to let His will be done in her life. After the prayer she said she would pack her things and leave for Olongapo by Friday when we go to the church to do the bible study. I was so blessed to hear those words finally come from her mouth and continued to pray that it would come to pass.
After a few nights of evangelism to the bars, Friday finally came and we texted the girls to come join us. It was an opportunity to introduce them to a family of believers as well as the livelihood sewing program that was happening that day right below where they held church. It was a perfect setup. 7 girls showed up, well including a few ladyboys (what we call “transvestites” in the West). One of the leaders, whose a Filipino did magic tricks and shared his testimony of complete redemption who had struggled in the area of homosexuality because of the root of rejection received from his father. Plus his addiction to pornography almost led him to molest a child but before it occurred he stopped. Even though it was in Tagalog, I could tell it was very powerful. Everyone was on the edge of their seats listening, especially the ladyboys. Another team member shared her story, as well as, one of our disciples who is now a staff. We did worship and some of the congregation showed up to help do worship and even let us use the mics and instruments. I was so used to just having a bar to do bible study in that it felt great to have others contributing any way they can.
Crisolyn came to the bible study so afterwards I asked the team to help move her stuff from her place. We had 5 of us girls carrying a bunch of baby toys and clothes that Crisolyn had already bought and some of her personal belongings as well. Before Friday she already had an interview with our discipleship leader about the rules and what we expect of her. She was willing to obey and she thanked me again for the long term investment into her life.
I told her that it was God that never gave up on her. I almost lost heart when I saw her behavioral change from the last time I saw her with her friend. Now she was back to her sweet self again. It was her sister that came to the base to see me, in tears talking about the situation of her sister that I felt to call her up to come attend church with me before I left. I asked if she had been reading the bible and she laughs and says she has 3 of them that we have given her over the years plus an English bible from the Logos Hope event. And she does pray and read it. Now that she is in a Christian living environment I believe God would continue to draw her closer to Him on a more intimate level than what she’s experienced growing up in a Catholic family.
I knew God wanted to do something for the last few weeks I was in Olongapo. Although my commitment had ended and I was so desperately ready to go.. God was not finished with my time here yet and now I see why. I got to see the fruit of my labor and it was well worth every tear, every heartache and every sacrifice. My best friends who left the bar were Crisolyn, as well as her sister, Emily have finally left the bar industry and Princess, who now works in a company that sells ice cream and many others that I have mentioned in the past. It all started with a one month outreach to the Philippines in 2009 and then the scary but exciting decision to return a year later and ended up committing as a staff full-time.
My next goal is to apply for Foundations in Counseling Ministry in YWAM Perth, Australia. This is a secondary course after doing the prerequisite of DTS. The schooling starts in October 6th and I hope to work and fundraise the tuition and travel fees. It has also 3 months lecture phase and 3 months of outreach to apply the counseling skills we have learned. This year God has revealed to me that it is time for deeper healing to take place before going to serve long-term in a country elsewhere. I want to be further equipped to heal people’s brokenness.
I shared my testimony a couple of times on Tuesdays at my host family’s house. Next few weeks they want to hear of my adventures in the Philippines. God provided me a place to stay for 2 months through my mom’s reuniting with her old landlord who knew me when I was just a kid. During this time I will reunite with family and hope to make some lasting friendships while I am here. Thank you all for your amazing support and I hope to connect with each of you in person at some point.