Spotlight on the Philippines
The Story So Far
In 1999, a team of us went out from Hong Kong to Cebu in the Philippines. We settled in a notorious slum area of the city. We began loving people and worshipping with them in an old cemetery where they were so poor that they made their homes on the graves.
We cooked daily meals for malnourished children, took people to hospital, prayed for the sick, worshipped in the slum and paid for the children's schooling.
Over the years, amazing things have happened and many of these people have become disciples of Jesus. People who lay down everything they have for the love of Jesus, and for the love of their neighbours who don’t know him yet.
These people give, serve and love in slum areas around the city. They pray for the sick and see them healed; they walk for an hour to visit a family because they don’t have the 25 cents it costs for the public transport, and they do it happily.
They share their time and their homes and their food with those who have less than them, and sometimes with those who have more.
The extraordinary thing is that although these people are still very poor, they are free from a spirit of poverty. They no longer make decisions for their lives based on lack; they look like sons and daughters of God.
We meet together every day all over the city to worship, listen to and discuss the Bible, pray for each other, eat together and encourage one another. We spend time in each others' houses, we have meetings outside and we use any buildings we can find. All of it might be described as 'church'.
Altogether we think our family is now about 800 hundred people, but it's always growing.
We have two main congregations; one in Lorega and one in the South area. In Lorega we have a mixed community of people, young and old, who come and worship together every Sunday. Once every few months we all come together for a big, joyful celebration. We pray for each other, eat together and sing and dance of the wonderful things God is doing around us.
It has brought us great joy seeing some of our young adults, whose parents, grandparents and great grandparents grew up in the graveyard, now free from poverty, oppression and generational curses. Some are now studying at university, some have graduated and are working. Many have gone overseas to share of what God has done in their lives.
About six years ago, we started reaching out to a small group of youth who slept on the street in a place called Fuente Osmena. We started meeting with them and worshipping together ever week. As we spent more time there, we discovered that there were hundreds more children in that area, roaming the streets and begging. We met many young boys who had run away from home, and whole families who had wandered the streets for generations, sleeping anywhere they could.
Initially we started bringing children bread, until we learnt they didn’t even have one good meal a day. So instead we decided to bring rice, meat and vegetables with us. And that’s what we’ve done twice a week ever since.
We sit in groups on mats in the park and eat together. Hopefully it’s a bit like a family. We know that for some of these people it might just be a way to get a hot meal. Or maybe for others it’s the only time that somebody is kind to them or gives them a hug or a smile. But we are sure that one, or all of these things is enough; and that in it all, they will meet Jesus.
For a long time our heart has been broken for the many women in cities whom we have seen bought, sold and exploited.
So, we started a home. A family where these women who have been freed from prostitution and trafficking could be loved, healed and allowed to become the people they were created be. Some women are as young as 12-years old and, and some have babies. They might wait three to four years for a court case.
Our team of helpers is made up of young women who met Jesus through our work in the slums of the Philippines. All of them have made it through high school and college, and have found jobs as teachers, pharmacists, chefs. They have worked their way out of generations of poverty. But they have chosen to lay all of this down for now in order to build a safe home for trafficked girls and women. It’s been an amazing ride so far, and we’ve seen God do such sweet things in the women he’s given to us. We see a great need to multiply these houses.
We want to live out Matthew 28: 18-20 on earth. One of the ways of making disciples is to meet Jesus through the Word. Most of our team is made up of people from the slums who were never educated, so asking people to read is always intimidating, and sometimes a real hindrance. So these audiobible ‘Proclaimers’ have been an extraordinary gift to us. With the Proclaimers, all we need to do is press a button, ask some questions to get people talking, and let the Holy Spirit work.
Amazing things have happened as a result. Now, listening groups of springing up all over the place. People are being healed as they listen, and strangers are drawn in to find out what’s going on as they walk past. Even people who have heard the gospel stories many, many times receive new revelation, insight and truth as they listen.
These groups have also provided a great bridge to people who can’t make it to bigger congregation meetings. Among the poor, even going to a meeting to worship on Sunday can be a dilemma: ‘Should I go and worship this Sunday and use my money for bus fare, or should I eat?’. The Proclaimers mean we can go to them instead.
Music and worship have always been central to life here. The Philippines are musical islands, full of musical people who love to sing and dance. Many musicians, bands and worshippers have grown up out of our congregations.
Carlos Choi, a former addict and gangster, met Jesus through our Jackie in Hong Kong, and came to help start our work in the Philippines in the late '90s. He is a gifted songwriter, who pens beautiful lyrics that sing of a truly redeemed life and a heart for the poor. Many of his worship songs can be heard in our meetings, as well as at the Hong Kong congregations and around the world.
As well as being a great worship leader, Carlos has spent many years investing in young talented musicians in the Philippines, coaching and pastoring many bands who have gone on to record albums and play live. As a result, he has multiplied many times over!
Many of the photographs on this site were taken by one of our family in the Philippines, Abner Cavan. He is a brilliant photographer, with a great gift for capturing moments of Filipino life. He has published two ebooks which are now available on iTunes.