Thursday, April 18, 2013

Compassion Philippines Trip 2013 Part 4 (Day 3,4,5)

Day 3 (Tuesday April 9): PH959, Lift Up a Child Student Centre, Bugang UCCP Church.
Today was a very similar day to yesterday. We visited a Project, and witnessed so much joy, gratitude and generosity. We sang, played, engaged and loved. We met another batch of very young registered-but-unsponsored children. Who knows what they must have been thinking, confronted by these big white strangers, bringing smiles, bubbles, balls, chalk and big colourful parachutes.

The footy was a big hit, once again with the 3-5 year olds. My favourite moment of all involved a 4-year-old girl who wouldn’t have anything to do with the bubbles that were being blown, but as soon as I put the football in her hands, her eyes lit up like it was  Christmas and she was at peace with the world. It was a good feeling having one of the mothers I had never met coming and asking me to be in a photo, rather than me having to cajole a smile out of these bewildered kids.

Our home visit today was special, profound and as an added bonus we got fed! The mama’s rice cakes were delish (and washed down with Coke). I certainly wasn’t going to refuse that hospitality. The house was very well put together, which we learned was the result of several family gifts from the young fella’s very generous sponsor. We were so impressed with this kid. He was “bright as a button” and has dreams of being an engineer. You could taste the family’s pride and expectation of a brighter future thanks to the help of Compassion.

The prayer time with the staff of this Project was very impacting and emotional, for everyone involved. We got a tangible sense of God’s hand on that place and felt excited at what He would do with this place in the future. We left confident in the knowledge that these kids and their families are being amazingly well looked after by the heroes that work for Compassion.

On the way back, we stopped at a tourist attraction, a group of mountains called the Chocolate Hills. Apparently it’s a “must-see” in Bohol. So we saw the hills. On the bus afterward we learned about four of the myths or legends about how they came to be. Much to our amusement, two of the stories involved Giants pooping, and the resulting excrement turned out to be the Chocolate Hills. Lovely.

On Wednesday, we had a “day off.” Bohol is a tourist island, and this was our opportunity to just relax, which I’ve mentioned previously I don’t do that well. In all honesty, if I had the option I probably would have visited another Compassion Project. There was a bit of debate and discussion about what we would do. We ended up going to the Bohol Bee Farm. Problem was, when we got there we discovered that the bees had died. All of them. They had conveniently neglected to mention this on the phone the previous night. So we wandered around for a couple of hours before lunch. There was also a dartboard with no darts, and for lunch I had a chicken sandwich with lots of salad but very minimal chicken.

In the afternoon we went to another beach resort where we had the opportunity to go snorkelling, or just relax on the beach. This land-lubber chose the second option. I spent the whole time thinking about the child-sponsor visit day, which was edging ever-closer.

On Thursday we said goodbye to Bohol and flew back to Manila. Our first stop was the Compassion Office, where we were able to talk to staff, see the different departments and get a really good behind-the-scenes look at the “engine room”, where the action happens. What I loved was the number of Compassion staff who used to be sponsored kids. The more stories I hear like that, the more I am affirmed and encouraged that this thing WORKS! One guy in particular went from sponsored child, to LDP graduate (college aged kids), to Pastor, to Project Director, to working in the Compassion Office. The lady who registered him all those years ago also works in the Office.

In the evening we had dinner with six students of the Leadership Development Program, which is Compassion’s other main program. After sponsored kids graduate from high school, they have the opportunity to be sponsored through college. There is a very stringent selection process. Since the ultimate aim is to raise up Christian leaders, the applicants have to be professing Christians, have outstanding grades and show definite leadership potential. The kids we met on this night were nothing short of magnificent and inspiring as they shared some of their stories with us.

I connected with a beautiful little 17-year-old called Angie. She is the youngest of four kids, and was the only one sponsored in her family. She is currently studying accounting, and leading a Bible study group for ten girls aged 13-15 years old. She is truly a shining light and an example for these girls to look up to. Her Dad died when she was 3, and her mum is actually a Compassion Project worker. Her sister has a baby and hopes to be registered in the Child Survival Program. God is so clearly moving in Angie’s life, and it was such a privilege to able to pray with and for her at the end of the night.

We said goodbye and the thoughts of every team member turned to the next few hours when we would meet our sponsored children…

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