The jet lag has finally worn off. I milked it for as long as I could as an excuse any time my brain didn’t function properly this week, ha! We’ve been home for 12 days… a day for all 12 hours of the time difference, as they say. But life is back to normal I suppose. Back to work, back to home church, back to family and friends, back to life as I know it for right now. I wanted to post some final thoughts on the trip. I could write pages of course, but here are a few things that are dear to me.
This trip was quite a whirlwind of events and God definitely taught us so much… including every fruit of the spirit, particularly patience. There were many amazing times, and also many difficult times. But those difficult times only help shape us into the men and women of God we are destined to be.
What was my favorite part of the trip? I don’t have one. I have several.
Our time with the girls was sweet, and of course never long enough. Just the ministry of presence means so much to them and to us. If there’s one thing that always stands out to me the most, however, during all my times in Manila, it is to never underestimate the power in the small things. Our team accomplished a lot during our time there. We came with a huge goal to reach and very little time to accomplish it. Olivia, Jeycob and Tony did a phenomenal job filming… every single day… morning until night. And the Safe Refuge girls and staff were incredible with their willingness to accommodate the film crew in order for the story to be told. It was extremely stressful and tiring at times, but everyone pushed through by the grace of God.
But what are those small things and moments that mean so much?
When you walk down the little ally leading to Safe Refuge, open the front door, and all the kids come running to you, yelling your name and jumping straight into your arms.
When one of the girls opens up a small piece of her heart to you… decides to be vulnerable for a moment, and shares part of her story with you.
When you’re standing in church, worshipping God, and look around at those worshipping alongside you, knowing their traumatizing pasts and what God has redeemed them from.
When you hear one of the little girl's voices singing “He loves us, oh how he loves us, oh how he loves us, oh how he loves...”
When one of the girls looks at you with the sweetest eyes and says “I love you Ate (sister) Michelle.”
When you hold a tiny baby in your arms and get to sing God’s love songs over them and whisper prayers in their ears.
When you see all the girls at Safe, gathered around in a circle with their Bibles, sharing and learning and seeking God together.
When you see the girls who have been rescued, redeemed and healed now speaking into other girls’ lives who still need healing and restoration.
When you see one of the girls who scarcely had a childhood, was sold for a sack of rice and once called “dog” on the streets, now caring for and loving her precious little girl.
When one of the girls excitedly tells you her passions and the goals she’s working towards in her life. To become a lawyer and defend those who are in similar situations as she was.
Watching the girls dance on the worship team on Sunday mornings. Some of whom have come from pasts of sexual exploitation and dance bars.
Watching the staff of Safe Refuge discipling and loving on the residents whom they pour their lives into.
When one of the little boy gives you a butterfly kiss on your cheek and then giggles.
These are just some of the precious moments I live for when I’m in Manila. Though I didn't use their specific names in describing them to you, to protect their identity, each of these moments with them are etched on my mind forever. And I ONLY get to experience them because of the work and sacrifice that Naomi, Marybeth and the staff have given of themselves. These moments happen because they both, along with the staff, have obeyed God’s calling on their lives and live by the grace of God every day. Salvation, trust and healing don’t happen overnight. It’s there because of the unconditional love and dedication of my sisters in Christ. I am so humbled every time God allows me to share in the beautiful outcome of their simple obedience. Naomi, Marybeth, the staff and the residents at Safe Refuge continue to change my life by demonstrating the power of God’s redemption, healing and love.
So, until we meet again... beautiful people of Safe Refuge... hopefully in this life, and if not, then when we are sitting at the feet of Jesus together, basking in the love of our daddy.