“Look at the nations and watch—
and be utterly amazed.
For I am going to do something in your days
that you would not believe,
even if you were told” (Habakkuk 1:5)
This week, I had the privileged to attend ACTION’s 3rd annual Strategic Planning Retreat. Here, leaders and Pastors from all over the Philippines gathered together for training in organizing, planning and strategizing to improve their current ministries. It was an amazing opportunity to not only look at the process of empowerment, but see firsthand, the grueling, yet rewarding work of reaching out to street-living children in the Philippines. It was also a great opportunity to network and make connections for my research. I will be visiting many of these sites/churches in the coming weeks. This conference has made me even more excited to love these children and encourage those who are doing the “dirty work.” Many of the leaders shared how overwhelmed (in a good way) they were at the opportunity to organize their plans with specific outcomes and goals for their ministries. Some stayed up well past midnight in order to finish their goals before the conference was over. The next day, everyone was given an opportunity to share their experience with everyone. One particular story I wanted to highlight, was that of Pastor Noel.
Pastor Noel is serving underprivilged children in the province of Bicol. He is part of a network in Bicol that is currently being accredited by 180 Alliance (for more info on 180 check out: http://180degreesalliance.org/) as a network mobilizing other churches to partner in their ministry to street-living children. As he shared his commitment to serve children at risk, a sob caught in my throat. I didn’t mean for it to come out, but it did. My assistant and partner Dianne turned to me, and we both noticed the tears in both of our eyes. You see, Pastor Noel really understands what it means to be in solidarity with the poor. In order to reach out to street-living children, you should eat what they eat, and sleep where they sleep. It is so important to enter into their lives and connect with them where they are at. I was incredibly moved by his deep-felt passion to serve the Lord by ministering to street-living children. From what I have read about and heard, it is TOUGH. Yet, these Pastors and leaders continue on, even when the going gets tough. Why? Because there is hope; hope in the Lord, hope for transformation and hope for restoration.
As I sat in this conference and looked around at all these leaders and Pastors, I started to cry. You see, while I had a dream eight years ago to one day reach out to street-living children, these faithful practitioners were already doing this. They are fulfilling my dream. I am merely a participant of what is already going here in the Philippines. My passion and my desire to serve the children does not compare to those who have sacrificed so much to follow their passion and love for street-living children.
One of my favorite goo goo dolls songs is “Iris.” There is a line in that song that says, “Yeah, you bleed just to know you’re alive.” This came to my mind as the speaker told us to “bleed together, as Christ bled for us.” Now, I am not a fan of blood, and I know this may come across as morbid, but the concept of bleeding together represents the comradery of those working with the same vision and purpose to participate in God’s mission as it relates to children at risk. Bleeding is painful, and often times there is sacrifice involved. BUT, it’s part of life, and bleeding reminds us we are ALIVE, and that is an amazing thing. To bleed together for the same purpose reveals life within this network, life within these ministries, and life within the church. THAT is an amazing thing.
There is so much more to share, but I am out of energy! I am still processing all of this, but am so thankful to be a part of this. I am learning so much and applying what I have learned while in grad school to real life. Everything comes together in a way I can only describe as destiny. It is God’s divine providence orhestrating all of this and pulling everything together. That blows my mind away.
Lake Taal with the Pastors from Mindanao and Bicol.
Pastor Elmer in the tan shirt shared about how it had been a dream of his to one day ride an airplane. This conference was the first time he came to Manila, and the first time he rode an airplane! :) He said it was a dream come true. Look at that, dreams are coming true left and right. What an amazing God we serve.