I’m back and giving thanks and praise to the Lord for a very productive trip to the Philippines over the weekend!
Our team left for Manila on Thursday 20 March from Changi International Airport Terminal 2. I am so amazed at how God led these dear brothers to join me on this trip. I had intended to go alone, but as soon as I shared with TF – a brother I met when I spoke at AMKMC Church Camp last year – he indicated an interest to join me. And just about a month ago, another mutual friend, Swee Lim, decided to come along; and with him came his friend, Chua. These became my travelling companions and I benefited so much from them; including priority check-ins and entry into the SIA Lounge 🙂 But more seriously, it was great to fellowship with them and also to minister with them as I tagged along to Pampanga where we visited a very poor community that lives next to a recycling dumpsite on Friday 21 March.
We left Pampanga early on Saturday morning for Ninoy Aguino Airport Terminal 3. After a slight delay owing to bad weather, we boarded and soon departed for our 1hr 10min flight to Tacloban. As we approached to land, the devastation of Super Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda was clearly evident. The terminal building was not spared either. Baggage claim was done manually as the conveyor system was not working. Once we claimed our bags, we headed out and met Ps Joel Lerios, my local contact. Ps Zaldie was there with him too as I had invited him to join us – this was the pastor from Davao who connected me with Ps Joel. We made our way to our hotel in the light drizzle. Along the way, we passed by what would be a very common sight: broken trees blown and bent over, some uprooted, houses and building with no roofs, piles of debris and different tents from various relief agencies. That evening, we visited Ps Joel’s church, Jesus Our Refuge for a while before heading out to view some of the houses. It soon became dark so we returned to our hotel for an early night to rest.
The next morning it was pouring cats and dogs. I was picked up at 8am and made my way to Jesus Our Refuge Church in Tanauan, Leyte. The other three brothers had their own ministry engagements so I was alone for the day. When I reached the church, it was already full. I was told that before the storm, the attendance averaged 70. But after, it swelled to about 200. This morning, in view of guests from USA, Manila and Singapore (me), even more came. There was an expectation in the air as I stepped into the church. I got to meet Ps Jaren, a filipino American and his wife and team from Heights Worship Center in Los Angeles, California. This American church also contributed to build houses for the people. The other team of ten was from Manila, led by Ps Lumen. Theirs was a medical missions team. Next to these two big teams, I alone flew the Singapore flag that morning – haha!
When service started at 9am, it was awesome. There was no amplification system and no band, just one worship leader on a guitar, so we could hear all the voices sing! It was really something and I knew God was in the house! After the introductions by the two team leaders, Ps Joel invited me on stage to share the first message (yes, there would be two messages that morning!). After seeing all the tents and temporary shelters, I knew I had to speak about the enlarging of the tent from Isaiah 54:2-3. I summoned all the voice I had since there was no microphone. Thankfully, the rain stopped for a while when I was preaching. Immediately after my message, Ps Joel made a salvation call and 40 responded to receive Jesus Christ as their Saviour! Praise the Lord! Ps Jaren delivered the next message and encouraged the people to rally behind Ps Joel as they sought to rebuild their home and lives! Using the armour of God imagery, Ps Jaren suited Ps Joel in construction outfit, complete with a chainsaw depicting the sword of the Spirit. It was such a powerful visual. Finally, he presented Ps Jaren with a box of nails – each nail was individually held by a church member and prayed over as they stood in unity with Ps Joel’s church. Wow!
After lunch, I was brought to view the six houses that we had sponsored. It was very meaningful for me to personally meet the families and to shake their hands. They shared how they lost their homes and some even had to battle for their lives as the winds blew and the waters rose so rapidly. As one sister moved to thank me, she broke down and cried uncontrollably. She was just so thankful that through this initiative and partnership, the Lord has blessed her family with a new home. I took the opportunity to pray for them and to bless their new homes. Although I received all the thanks, appreciation and gratitude, I made it very clear to the people that I was only a facilitator. These funds came from willing hearts who responded generously and obediently to the Lord’s prompting. To all who have contributed, a big thank you to you. Without doubt, you deserve to hear the words of thanks which I received on your behalf 🙂
It was a very short but packed journey. I have seen and learned so much. We may not understand how things are allowed to happen the way they do, at times bringing much pain and confusion. But it is clear that God has not left the people of Tanauan, Leyte to struggle on their own. The churches in that locale have all risen up and are revealing the love of Jesus to the community. The pastors have also come together to pray and to partner one another as they acknowledge the need to stand as one in these difficult times. Not only that, churches from different countries are chipping in and lending a hand, demonstrating that the Body of Christ is much larger than what we often accustomed to in our local churches. For sure, God is doing a new thing in Tacloban and out of these ashes, the people of God will rise again to make a difference.
Our team left very early on Monday morning, back to Manila and then to Singapore. It was nice to touch down at Changi International Airport Terminal 3 and to return to my family; and my own bed. Even so, the images of Tacloban, of Tanauan, remain deeply etched in my mind. I have never quite understood it but the people of Philippines has always held a special place in my heart. God willing, I pray that this partnership will continue to grow and blossom in the days ahead. In the meantime, I am praying for more to respond to this BUILD HOPE project. My personal vision is 20 houses by the end of this year. To date, we have contributed 6 houses; so that’s another 14 to go. If the Lord is touching your heart and moving you to respond, let me know please! Every dollar counts. Although some have given enough for one house, some have also contributed according to what they are comfortable with. I simply pool the funds and when the amount is sufficient for one house, I inform Ptr Joel and he nominates the family. It’s that simple 🙂
Finally, I want to acknowledge all who have prayed for me and also supported me on this trip. Thank you for your partnership in the ministry. I am also very thankful for Serene’s support in this venture. In releasing me to travel, she has had to manage our household for five days on her own. I thank God for keeping her and the children safe.
To God be all glory!
If you’d like to partner me to contribute to this re-building initiative to bless the people of Tanauan Leyte, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you know of others who might like to participate, please feel free to share this post with them via email, Facebook or Twitter. My request is that they let me know how and through whom they came to know of this so I have an idea of the source of referral.
Thanks for your support and co-labour in the work of the ministry so that together we can do more to bring hope to the people of Tanauan Leyte in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ!
NOTE: This project is strictly undertaken on a personal basis and not affiliated to any church, ministry or organisation hence funds will be directed to my personal account. As such, if you are not comfortable with that, it is perfectly ok. I will do my best to provide information and details, and to remain accountable to those who are led to contribute to this cause. Thank you.
House for the People of Tanauan Leyte
Houses for the People of Tanauan Leyte: Building Starts Tomorrow
Houses for the People of Tanauan Leyte: Building in Progress
Houses for the People of Tanauan Leyte: Pray for My Trip 20-24 March 2014