Monday, February 20, 2012

Jesus Worldwide: Philippines

From Katie: Summer 2010 my then-roommate Jennifer got to spend eight days in the Philippines visiting Jamsell, the child she sponsors through Compassion International. These are her photos and stories as she told them to me. Her biggest regret is not journaling more, but she can't wait to go back in a few years when Jam is older. <>< Katie

No matter how many photos or videos you see, you don't realize how real poverty is until you get there. I returned to the States asking, "Why do I have this? I don't need it." The first day we learned about how Compassion is combating poverty in Jesus' name.

On the second day we visited a church partner of Compassion's. Our team split into groups of five to visit homes and pray with families. Five people lived in the walk-in-closet-size home we visited. They had one flat futon-sized bed where all four children slept and the parents slept on the floor with no cushions and minimal blankets. Their front door was made of a cloth, a bowl served as the sink, and they had an outdoor bathroom. However, there was a plastic drawer set and in those drawers were the cherished letters from the child's sponsor.

The third day was the hardest. We visited a larger (though still small) church and child development center. We were welcomed by children chanting and singing.

Every sponsored child has a folder with all of his/her information, letters exchanged, photos, report cards, etc.
We then visited an above ground cemetery that was filled with trash and homes. People were living in a place that should be reserved for the dead. The cemetery was surrounded by a wall that also had tombs in it, then there was a walkway barely wide enough for one person before another wall. People live in the small space between the second wall and a nearby creek that regularly floods the cemetery (and homes).

Between the second wall and the creek is the home of Princess. She wants to grow up to be a nurse and be able to move her family out of the flood plain. Right now their home serves as the cemetery market. At 5'5", I had to duck in order to enter it. They have bunkbeds with a board, tarp-plastic for sheets, and a pillow. They are lucky enough to have a tv that plays movies, but they only have one movie. Their house also contains trinkets and things they've found.

We sprayed Princess's family's home for cockroaches, left, returned, and prayed for them. While we were praying a dead cockroach fell on my head. When we left the area, children followed us out, surrounded us, held up "I love you" on their hands, and chased the bus as we drove away.

On day four we visisted another church and split into groups (each containing one guy) and lived with a family for the day. My family lived in a neighborhood with houses almost on top of each other it was so hard to move.

Our family had both a fridge and a tv. They are Christians and spoke openly about God's blessings. The mom painted fingernails for a living. Each manicure costs one dollar, and she typically did four a day. She made four dollars a day. The trip leader got a mani-pedi and paid extra for it; it was soooooo appreciated!

We rode a jeepney, a WWII bus-like transportation, that costs only seven cents but most people cannot afford it. It took us to a school on the mountain just to visit. It was small and packed with people. They loved to have their pictures taken and asked for autographs.

They color live chicks and sell them in order to make money.
The Philippines is ranked fourth in the world for the number of child prosititutes. This problem comes from pimps trying to have sex with children and parents selling their children due to poverty.

Day five we spent sitting in on classes at a school. We went over Bible verses, sang, and danced. For snack we had a choice between cheese or cookies and cream ice cream. I had the cheese ice cream. The students also made a craft book about themselves, and all of the girls gave their books to me.

Cheese ice cream tastes like graham crackers.
A lot of people are jealous of the Compassion children. Compassion supports as many children as possible but parents must put them into the program.
Day six was the best day ever! *squeal* It was the day we were all waiting for because we got to meet our sponsored children! Our sponsored children and their parents were standing on the steps with their project leader (translator) when we arrived and everyone recognized each other. We went to an aquarium in Manila and a huge mall/play area. At age 6, Jamsell understands English but does not really speak it. She was very quiet, but we began bonding over a silly game, laughing, and simple math problems. When we watched a movie, Jam fell asleep in my lap.

Their teeth were rotted out which shows poverty. Jam's mom Rowena told me (in English) about their family's hardships: they live with Jam's grandparents who don't want them but they can't move out due to financial challenges. I got to pray over the family.
We ate lunch at a McDonalds-like restaurant. I gave Jamsell a backpack full of school supplies, bracelets, and gifts including a picture frame that now has our picture in it and an umbrella that had been a gift from a friend at home. When they left, Rowena and Jamsell were still using their old umbrella because they did not want to get the new one dirty. I wish I would have included a Bible in the bag.

Our last day (day seven) we visited a church where it was so hot my camera lens fogged up. The children danced and sang in English. After the farewell dinner, children shared their testimonies.

They talked about how bad childhood had been but how it was a blessing because it meant they could be sponsored. If it had not been for Compassion, many of them said they would not be Christians. They said they could not wait to grow up and sponsor children of their own.

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