Friday, September 2, 2011

The Girls of Manila

Update on an upcoming team project I'm working on!

Taxis and tricee cabs sped by us as we walked down a busy street in the heart of Manila late one night searching for a place to eat after a long day. It was my third month of living in the Philippines with Naomi Hamilton, a missionary nurse and midwife. I came straight out of college and it was my first experience of living overseas long-term.

This particular week held great challenges. One of Naomi’s dearest friends just lost her mother to cancer. She was known as “mama” to many people who knew her, and though I had only known her for a few months, I saw the incredible amount of wisdom and joy she imparted to those around her. Naomi stood by this precious family as they watched “mama” fight a long, hard battle against cancer and then go to be with her Heavenly Father.

I learned that Filipino customs are unlike the traditional funerals we know here in the United States. There is a week-long wake, the grieving family is expected to cater to and feed all the friends and relatives, someone is expected to stay with the body at all times, not to mention many other superstitious customs.

As we walked down the busy street this particular night, my western mind tried to process these experiences. In the weeks before that, I walked through one of the largest slums in Asia. I sat in the 10x10 shack that a family of eight lived in. I witnessed the chilling injustice of corruption and the often deadly effects it has on the vulnerable. It seemed that every day, Naomi dealt with situations that we can’t even fathom in the United States. And there I was, trying to process these foreign customs, superstitions and sometimes spiritual bondages. It was overwhelming.

Naomi among friends in Welfareville, one of the largest slums in Asia.

In the midst of our conversation that night, I finally asked in tired frustration, “Naomi, how do you do this everyday? This is almost impossible work!” She looked back at me and spoke two words with a peace that I saw rise up from her soul, “God’s grace.”

Those words were so simple, but they penetrated my entire being. I always knew about God’s grace, but it wasn’t until this moment that it became real to me. “God’s grace is sufficient.” Grace that I often took for granted. Sadly, it’s not until we face insurmountable circumstances that we realize how much we need God’s grace.  

This particular night that held this profound lesson happened five years ago. Those six months spent in Manila provided more opportunities to rely on God’s grace than I ever imagined. Learning from Naomi’s example set a foundation in my life for future missions opportunities that I’m living out today.  I realized that heroes are not those with incredible gifts, talents and courage. Heroes are those who rely on the grace and blood of Jesus and allow Him to use their offering of “rags” and turn it into his riches and glory.

Just before I left Manila, Naomi opened a shelter for women called “Safe Refuge.” Over the past five years, I’ve been able to return to Manila several times and witness the amazing lives changed through this ministry. The need is great, and we have an opportunity to work on an upcoming project that will help expand this ministry!

The second home birth I witnessed in Manila in 2008 of a Safe Refuge 
resident who gave her precious baby up for adoption.

The Girls of Manila
Stories move people to action. We hear unfathomable statistics everyday, but they often get stored in the archives of our minds, quickly to be forgotten; however, a story pierces our hearts. A story makes injustice very real to us and motivates us to do something about it. Stories communicate truths and realities in a way nothing else can. Jesus used stories as a very strategic method of speaking to his people.

What better way to show the atrocities of injustice, as well as the miraculous redemption of the young women and children in Manila than by storytelling? Myself, along with a few others are teaming up to do just this. We will be traveling to Manila for a month to film a documentary of the work and ministry of Naomi and Safe Refuge. We will document how a humble vision has turned into a work of God that is literally rescuing lives every day, physically and spiritually. 

Our hope is that this film will not only provoke people’s hearts to get involved in this work, but that it will expose, convict and change our American culture filled with apathy, sexual promiscuity and pride.

Needless to say, we need your help. If you would like to contribute financially to this endeavor, please contact me directly at Any contribution, no matter how small, is greatly needed and very much appreciated (all are tax deductable). Also, please pray and intercede for us. This is a huge project being taken on in a very short amount of time, in a culture that does not work as efficiently as what we are used to. We will face hurdles and setbacks. But pray for God’s protection, favor and divine grace through it all. We know that God will work in our lives as well, as we are documenting the lives He has redeemed in Manila.


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