Wow. I'm sitting down at the end of this week, feeling both grateful and amazed for the variety and quality of experiences we've had. The only way I can sum it up is in one word: humbling.
The Philippines is absolutely beautiful and with only being based in Bacolod City on the island of Negros Occidental, we haven't even managed to stratch the surface of what it has to offer. However, this week wasn't defined by turquoise seas and eating fresh mango (though that did happen a few times) but by being exposed to several ministries and people of faith here in Bacolod. To give you a flavour, I'll run through it day by day.
Sunday - A church service followed by coffee, a tour of Bacolod and a lunch in the mountains. This was a gentle introduction.
Monday - Stephen and I went with Dave, who we're staying with and also the dad of our old housemate, to meet a lady who is running the local YWAM base. For those who don't know, YWAM is a global organisation which seeks to connect young people with missions all over the world. The woman shared with us the incredible things she has seen through God's faithfulness and miracles in her current building project, which she hopes will become a school for underprivileged children. Such an inspiring person to meet and we can't wait to hear more about what happens with their missions.
We then had dinner with two local pastors who were amazing, funny and encouraging. It was a night of laughter alongside some awesome food.
Tuesday - This was a big day for me. Stephen had to work so I went it alone with a mission group to visit a local slum village in Bacolod and encourage and pray for people there. I have never done anything like this, and I'll be honest, beforehand I was full of trepidation and I didn't really want to go. Yet I knew in my heart that I had to.
I came out feeling both sad and joyful. In processing it later, I've realised how much I was inspired by that place and its people. It is devastating to see the conditions they are living in and yet so humbling and amazing to see the community that thrives there. Call me ignorant, but I was not expecting to see shops, a school and basketball courts within the slum neighbourhood. People grow up there, together, and it's their home. The juxtaposition between its beauty and its dirty conditions is mirrored by their beach; sand covered over by garbage but shrouded in the natural, fantastic light of the sunset. This was an experience I'll never forget and is still one I'm processing.
Wednesday - We met more people! We had a coffee date with another local pastor and his wife. It was brilliant to hear their stories and actually realise how they've gone through similar things to us as a couple. We recieved their encouragements gladfully.
We then had an event in the evening - another humbling experience!
I have never really worked with kids who have disabilities, I know a few personally, but that's it. This event was eye-opening and so touching. A local Christian foundation who supports disabled children joined forces with the Tim Tebow Foundation to put on their annual 'Night to Shine' event. This is where children with special needs from several schools come together to have their own prom! It was so amazing, seeing them all dressed up, and walking the red carpet to be crowned by Tim Tebow or some of his team. He's a really famous American sportsperson. I had no clue, until Stephen told me straight after Tim Tebow shook my hand...Anyway, what an incredible initiative and the looks on the kids' faces will stay with me for a long time.
Thursday/Friday - And breathe...after the intense nature of the week, Dave and Tata took us to an island sanctuary for a few days. I'm talking sleeping in a cabin on a small island with good food, beer, sunset, fireflies, kayaking, snorkeling, the works! It was a relaxing end to a life-changing week, one I feel I may have to return to in this blog. Once I've had more time to reflect.
We're starting to have more chats about what all this might mean for us in the future and I guess only time will tell but I know God is always good.
Right, best go and pack again, for tomorrow, we go to the land down under!
Take care, stay in touch and have happy days,