Sunday, April 19, 2009

Experience with 120 Inner City Kids

(There are 2 videos to the right)

This was a day of 120 Cinderellas, and we didn't truly realize this fact until later. We have never posted this many pictures on one blog and I think you will understand why when you see them.

This story takes a heart wrenching twist at the end, so be sure to read all the way through.

It is said that Manila has almost 1,000,000 kids that roam the streets on any given day. Many of them malnourished and far to many orphaned. So we found out that a church in the inner city had a vision to reach out to these children and we asked if we could participate.

The church is in the densely populated area of Manila called Tondo. Pastor Nomer Trinidad and his wife Sonia have a special burden for these children. When we walked into their neat, and air conditioned church, we could hear the children singing upstairs in the sanctuary.

Their voices were strong and beautiful. In fact, we were amazed that these were "street kids" and not the normal Sunday School crowd, by the way they sang.

Sister Sonia Trinidad, the pastor's wife, has a real gift for leading children and we were amazed at how orderly and behaved the children were.

After all, these were "street kids" weren't they?

They all had name badges so that when the church bus goes into the neighborhood not just any kids can get on and score a free meal.

I spoke for just a few moments and used the story of David and Goliath.
To illustrate the story, our son Jordan, who seems like a giant to these kids, played the part of Goliath. A small, little guy named Anson, played the part of David. (Remember Anson, he comes back into the story later.)

These children are faithful, they come every single Saturday.

They are taught things like, honesty, self esteem, personal hygiene.

In fact, one of the lessons they teach them is how to brush their teeth. This is a new concept to these kids who live on the street.

They are taught practical, as well as biblical principles.

(We are hoping to be able to come back and give each one of these kids a tooth brush and some toothpaste.)

After I spoke, Sister Sonia invited the children to pray, and did they ever pray! It just flowed from them like water from a spring.

No one was disorderly, the Children's Staff didn't have to spend their time coercing, or corralling, they just went into a place of brokenness.
Little hands raised, and eyes welling with tears... they prayed.
They prayed for a good while, and we tried to touch every one of them.
We asked if there were any sick among them and several came to the front and we anointed them with oil.
We prayed for God's protection over everyone of them too.

Then it was announced that "Brother Jeff, Sister Brenda, Jordan and Kori, have sponsored a meal for ALL of you." The kids were overjoyed.
They were getting a hot meal, a full meal today! (Morgan you are in on this too).

So, while the very efficient and organized staff was getting the meals served, the kids sat orderly, awaiting their turn with patience. I guess being familiar with hunger teaches them that, because they didn't even begin to resemble some kids I have seen in America when they wanted something.

The staff brought out plates to the smallest children, and the bigger kids formed a line and picked theirs up from the ladies at the front.The Tondo church is divided into four ladies groups and they take turns each Sunday staffing the children's ministry. No one gets weary with well doing this way. Even the smallest children ate the entire meal. I mean, they cleaned their plates!

Jordan made friends with so many and was used by God today. Exposure to things like this a few times is the cure for the common teenager!

Anson, (above) the little guy who played David in our illustration.
Pastor Nomer said that most of these children wore clothes that came from the dump. Their parent's made their meager living from rummaging through trash.

Tim Rutledge was able to join us for this deal. Tim and his wife Kim have felt that they need to adopt a child from somewhere in Asia.
He had traveled 26 hours from Alexandria to Manila, arriving last night, but when he heard what we were going today he said, "Shoot yeah I'm going!"

A Staff member with a child.
This little girl (below) stole our hearts... ok, they all did, but she was just so cute, like a china doll.
After they had eaten each child received a few pieces of candy and immedialtyl began to trade
Picture time!!!!!
When Sister Sonia announced that it was picture time, these kids came out of their chairs. They had been so calm, and organized until now, and then happy bedlam ensued.
Kori was joyfully mobbed and was loving every minute of it.This little girl grabbed her and would not let go.

Any of you that know Tim knew exactly where he would be.
The little girls seemed to gravitate to him.
They were all competing for attention.

Tim and Kim are personally sponsoring the next three dinners for these kids. He gave Pastor Nomer the money on the spot.

The combination of a full stomach, a touch from God, and a whole lot of love from people caused these children to light up like the sun, moon and stars.

If you want to have a lift to your day... no your month... no your life... get in on something like this! These kids will change your life!

This one, like so many, was cute and had loads of personality.

Then, it was time to go home. They didn't want to go, and we didn't want them to leave. It felt like OUR kids were going, and we didn't know where.

They boarded the church bus with smiles, cheers, and "Thank you!" shouted out the bus windows.

They reached for Tim out the window and with misty eyes, Tim reached for them.
We watched them go and everyone of us said, "I want to see where they live."
We had been told they were "squatter" kids and that they lived in poverty, but we had no idea what we were about to find.
We waited until the bus was out of sight and then followed them.

As we drove our driver pointed to a hulking mountain in the middle of these concrete government housing units and said, "That is Smokey Mountain."
A chill went down my spine. The infamous Smokey Mountain! The place where the first saints of Manila were won from back in the early '70s. It was the Manila dump for many years. So many years that a "mountain" had risen from the years of trash.
Thousands had built shanties on this mountain until there were "cities" all across this smoking, pile of rotting debris. Fidel Ramos, when he was president of the Philippines, closed it down as it had become an iconic symbol of third world poverty in the Philippines.
He had built all these concrete apartment buildings and moved the population of the shanty towns into them.We watched as the children disappeared into the cavernous, dark opening of one of the monuments to poverty.
"Our" children, the children we had just held, prayed with, fed, become friends with, laughed with...
How was it even possible that "our" children could be running into one of these terrifying places?
After they disappeared I went into the building, hoping to catch a glimpse of one of them, but they were gone. In their place was a scene from my nightmares.
There were no lights visible anywhere. Clothes were hanging all throughout the spacious inner court. Children were everywhere, as were adults. Some were taking baths in buckets, some were cooking on fires, some were in groups talking.
They all stopped to watch me when I walked in. I didn't feel threatened, even though this area is known for its high crime.
I just felt so out of place. I had shoes on. It was obvious that I had eaten well, perhaps too well.
I put my camera up to take a picture, then I stopped. I was in their home, uninvited. This was not a zoo! I put the camera down and said a silent prayer for them instead.

We left that place and drove by a part of Smokey Mountain. It's ragged cliff face was visible from the road, and you could see the layers of the the filth of ages.
Strata's of waste, generations of people living on waste, a legacy of outcast.
No wonder the Trinidad's teach these children self esteem.
We didn't go far when our driver, a church man, said, this is where some more of those children live.
I took pictures here because I was out in the open. Children were everywhere you looked.

And here we found Anson.
He had played the part of David, and now my words echoed in my ears, "You can beat any giant. God wants to be your partner." Things to that effect.
But now we were staring at Anson's giant face to face, things seemed a little different now. It isn't just up to God, it is also MY responsibility too!

We fed him once. That is great. But what about shoes?
He doesn't have any.
What about a tooth brush?
He probably doesn't have one of those either.
What about clothes that DIDN'T COME FROM THE DUMP?
I remembered Anson when he came up to quote his memory verse. That was great, but I am compelled to go beyond the words of the bible and actually BE the bible.
We are going back to Anson's world and we are going to invite anyone else that wants to come also.
It is easy to be a missionary. You can be one for a week. Don't think you can?

Can you help feed a child? Can you give a pat on the head? Can you gather clothes from your church, box them up and send them over? Can you take your family vacation to a place like Anson's world just once, instead of Mickey Mouses'?This is not just a thing to feel good, this is bible... remember that thing about doing stuff for the least of these? If you think this is for you, please let us know. There is so much that can be done, with so little.

Our family spent about $100 of our personal money today and it was one of the greatest experiences of our entire lives. Can Mickey beat that?