Barely passing the halfway point of the year, twenty-seventeen has been a heck of a ride for me. It was during the transition between my Pre-U and Undergraduate Studies when I decided to take a gap year, more like 8 months, to do things I enjoy and pick up both old and new skills. However, when I received my underwhelming results from my A Levels in January, disqualifying me from my intended course of study, I was dejected.
It was a season of navigating my own wilderness. I worked for a bit, travelled, lost people dear to me and before I knew it, 4 months had passed me by. Time was ticking, and I was just as lost as I was 4 months ago. There and then, I was offered an opportunity to go on a mission trip to the Philippines. Everything fell perfectly into my schedule and I had no reason to decline.
This was my first mission trip with church and to say the least, I was nervous. Nevertheless, I jumped in on the opportunity when offered. Our team went to assist Bukang Liwayway (BL) with their youth sports camp, and I was there to serve as a photographer-cum-videographer.
I saw kids who came from less yet did not feel they were in lack. They laughed at the silliest things and they were beyond contented with the simplest things. The people there were so welcoming and friendly towards one another that cliques were a rarity. They shared everything with each other and served one another as if these things were second nature. Goofing around with the kids and making jokes despite the language barriers quickly became the best part of camp. While reflecting on the day with very little sleep, I realised that little else was as important as being present with the few skills I had; and time was the best gift I could give to them.
To the world outside, these people were just numbers in the poverty index.
Almost a quarter of the campers weren’t believers at that time but throughout the camp, watching them get saved in sessions and devotions created a certain feeling where emotions were bursting out from my chest—a happiness unlike anything as I witnessed God’s extremely evident love for these children. I’ve always been scared of praying for people but this time around, God really pushed me out of my comfort zone to pray for the children again and again. Perhaps, this is what it means to be a missionary.
I realised that little else was as important as being present with the few skills I had; and time was the best gift I could give to them.
Growing up, I’ve always enjoyed reading, which is why I hunger after great stories; and the stories of the people in Manila were the kind you simply don’t put down until you’re done reading. They have the ability to leave you breathless, make you pause and reflect before you keep going. The children who were at the camp came from various backgrounds such as living in poverty, coming from broken families, and having parents who struggled with substance abuse and alcohol abuse. Some children struggled with them too but the smiles on their faces almost never showed it.
Listening to stories about the fire that broke out—the one that affected more than 1300 families and their homes before BL started to visit and sponsor them—really broke my heart and gave me a newfound appreciation of the things I have at home, as well as the work that Pastor Fred and Mimi do there.
This trip taught me that life at its core is really simple.
To the world outside, these people were just numbers in the poverty index. But to actually see their small 15 sq ft home with a lightbulb accommodating 9-15 people in their family—that first experience and glance—was utterly beyond words. My heart ached for these people because they weren’t merely statistics and numbers, but they each had a name with potential and dreams. My heart also ached for me. Because while I had the opportunities at home, I had no ambition. Squeezing in those homes took something from me. It made more of a human and less of a machine. I learnt to feel a little deeper, live a little more and empathise a whole lot more. To be able to listen to their stories was a privilege. This was not the sort of education you received in class nor knowledge obtainable from reading reports.
This trip taught me that life at its core is really simple. As long as you have a roof over your head, food on the table, people you can do life with, and dreams; you can really do anything. I was reminded that God is bigger than my shortcomings and nothing is impossible to achieve; even broken dreams. I may have went to Manila lost and broken but I came home with a sense of direction and secure with my identity in Christ.
I am a child of God.
I am destined for greatness.
I am a missionary.
To find out more on our mission trips or to sign up for one, contact our Missions department at [email protected].