Still More To Do

Yesterday I was looking through pictures taken by our CSM team from their travels as they were ministering in different locations around General Santos City this week. I kept looking for the perfect story to write about – a unique picture to capture and move hearts. Something new, something fresh.

The more I searched, the more the sameness struck me – more people desperate for hope, more hungry and dirty children who do not go to school, more people with medical needs that never get treated because they have no resources. I saw more of the same over and over in each set of pictures. There was nothing new – nothing fresh.

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That is when I began to worry about myself. Am I becoming numb? Do I now see one more hungry child as normal and look for something more devastating to write about? What is happening to me?

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Day after day our team goes out and ministers because day after day there are children who need a cup of lugaw and people who need a wound cleaned. Day after day there are people who need to know the love of our Savior. Day after day the stories are the same – but that should be sending off flares in my head! No, the stories are not new – but for each person, their story is the only one that matters.   There is so much more to do! No, I cannot change every life, but I can do a little bit more each day, each week, to change the lives that God puts before me. I need to be open to new things He is calling me to do. The way that starts is by seeing every story as fresh and new. It can never be acceptable to see any hungry child as “normal.”

Max Lucado writes of how we each have a clamshell that we can safely rest inside when the world around us begins to tug too hard at our hearts. It is our escape from the hurting and suffering of others, whether down the street or on the other side of the world. Just go inside and pull down the lid and play favorite music until the feeling passes. After all, if we didn’t have our safety shell we might…what? Volunteer a little more? Take up a new cause? Write another check? Reach out with God’s hands and heart to someone who smells bad or who is filthy?  Lucado, Max (2010-09-14). Outlive Your Life: You Were Made to Make A Difference (Chapter 3). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

One more hungry child can never be allowed to be normal. It should be a sight that reminds us that there is still much to do – and that although we cannot fix everything, we all can do more.

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God, blast away my clamshell! Let me look at every person around me as a fresh story that needs to be told – a new life that needs to be helped. Let every face burn into my memory and move me to action until I finally stand before You, Lord, and you tell me I am done.

(Photos by Danny E. Ward)

 

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Caring for the Displaced in Polomolok

On Friday, February 13, 2015, our Community Service Ministry team headed for South Catabato, to an area in Polomolok where the Mayor has settled “displaced persons.” These are people that you and I would call homeless. The government set aside 2 hectares of land and settled 133 families there. When you figure that each family probably has an average of 3-4 children and that older married children are returning to live with parents because they have nowhere else to go, the total number of people settled in this one area is quite large. I learned a lot about these families while we were there, thanks to my escort, Randolf, translating for me. For a 5 month period, these families all lived under a basketball shelter by the government offices in a different part of Polomolok. Think of it as a big picnic shelter with a basketball court underneath the roof. No walls. They slept on mats or blankets on the cement floor. Sometimes food was available. Sometimes the families went with little or none. There was no privacy and minimal comfort facilities. housing4 copy When the families were moved to this 2 hectare parcel of land, makeshift shelters were set up. Each family was given a 100 square meter lot. This is permanently theirs. The government is now in the process of building a hollow block home on each lot. new houses copy There is a school for the children to go to. It is located by the highway. This 2 hectare   parcel of land is not. It is a long drive from the highway back to a remote area. Randolf tells me that the distance to the school for these children is 5 times farther than any of our mission children have to walk to get to our mission from their homes – and some of them walk a long way. The government has taken some real steps to help these families. It has been a hard road for them but they have hope as they watch the builders come each day and continue to construct homes. They each have a piece of land to call their own. However, there are still many needs unmet. Our CSM team arriving was a welcome visit for these families. Bible studies were done for both the adults and the children. The children were given a booklet that has activities and stories and tells about Jesus and his love. Medical screenings were done and vitamins and some other over-the-counter medications were distributed. The children and any adults who wanted it were given lugaw – the hot rice porridge we take along on every CSM trip. We made some new friends. They shared their stories. We shared the gospel. It was a good afternoon.  feeding 1 copy Trips like this always leave me aching. There is always one more child, one more family to reach with basic needs, education and with the word of God. I know – we can only do what God gives us each day to do. The world is filled with places like this. But what if each of us could give just a little more? Could we make a greater difference in this hurting world? A couple dollars a month goes a long way here. Greater things are still to be done in this city… in this world….

Carpooling in the Philippines

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Each Friday morning, four of our CSM (Community Service Ministry) team members head out to do Bible studies in an area called Ugan, Buan, Sinawal in General Santos City.  Each team member meets in a home with one or two couples to study God’s word.  They travel by “tricycle” – a motorcycle with a side car that has a seat in the front and back.  Samuel drives and then each team member is dropped off at their designated spot.  After Samuel finishes his Bible study, he returns and picks up each leader.

It is simple carpooling – unless the road conditions become a problem.  On this particular day, Emily shares:

“It was my first day meeting with these couples and I wanted to be on time.  But oh, the road was so dry!”

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The tricycle could not make it up the hill because of the dry and sandy conditions of the road.  The 3 ladies got out and had to push, while the driver, Samuel, continued to try to coach the vehicle through the sand and up the hill.  Eventually they succeeded in getting to a better part of the road, everyone reloaded, and on they went to their appointments.

Emily especially did not want to miss her time with these couples.  One of the men she is working with was at one time on the Davao Death Squad – a “for hire” assassin group.  He is now an active member of his church and plays guitar and drums for their praise and worship team.  God is working.  Hearts are being changed.  The mission is being given opportunities to reach out farther and farther to help educate and minister to the people of God.

No section of dry, sandy road is going to stop our CSM workers when God says to go!

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A Ministry Adventure after Christmas!

On December 26-27, 2014, approximately 30 of the Naomi’s Heart Mission family and friends traveled 5 hours to Davao Occidental – Jose Abad Santos on a Christmas outreach.  It should have been only a three hour trip, but our vehicles had difficulties along the way, making progress go a little slower than had been hoped.

Traveling

This trip took our workers to a village near the ocean, in an area surrounded by mountains.  A river runs from the mountain and empties into the ocean here, completing a beautiful picture of God’s creation.  It is a remote area, which rarely sees visitors due to the distance from cities and the difficult road conditions.  10868070_790504434336209_7864128689475631832_n

As soon as the team arrived, they set up for a Community Service outreach.

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There was a time of singing, followed by a Bible lesson for both adults and children.  Medical screenings were done and vitamins and medicines were handed out to all who attended.  At the end, clothing was handed out as an added blessing.

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In the evening, the team held a crusade, which started with a mini-concert.  As the music played and the sound was carried up into the mountains, people started to come down from their homes, even though it was night, fascinated by the sound of Christian music on live instruments – something that rarely happens in these parts.  The worship service continued with the reading of scripture, a message, additional music, and then a dry food handout of rice and noodles for all.

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The people in this area were blessed by the fact that our team would travel to an area so remote to bring the word of God and assistance in the form of medical care, food and clothing.  This was the first time anyone there remembered people coming and showing this kind of love.  It made them feel valuable and cared for.  They truly felt the love of God through all that was shared with them.

Our team also felt blessed and cared for. The villagers have a “neighborhood watch” program with security volunteers called Tanods.  The local officer in charge set men to watch over our team members on the beach, during all the activities, and even to watch over the vehicles.  This return of love touched the hearts of many of our team members.

Our team spent the night, sleeping in vehicles and wherever else they could find places to lay down.  They enjoyed some time at the beach the next morning and then headed back the long journey to our mission compound.  What an adventure!  God’s love was shared.  People were blessed.  Hearts were moved for Jesus.   Team members

A Thanksgiving Celebration December 8, 2014

Our CSM and HSVEC workers have been holding Bible studies in the homes of parents of sponsored children. These parents attend Bible study here at the mission on Saturdays and some come for the Naomi’s Sisters activities at other times during the week. What is special about what is happening in these home bible studies is that the parents are inviting our workers to come to their neighborhoods or villages and use their homes as leaping off points to reach their neighbors and friends. As these parents have grown in their faith through the mission activities, they are opening their doors and helping us share God’s word out farther to others who do not come to the mission.

On Monday, December 8, many of those who have been attending these home Bible studies came to the mission for a Thanksgiving celebration. Over 100 people packed into our Junior Church room. We had a time of worship led by parents with the support of some of our Praise and Worship team members. Following worship, a Pastor spoke. He gave his testimony and challenged everyone to move closer to God and to trust God with all aspects of their lives. He shared how his life had changed after he came to know the Lord. Many listening were moved to tears. They heard the story of a man who has been transformed – whose life has been drastically changed by God. His testimony was an encouragement to all who heard it –to those who have not yet given their lives to the Lord, to those who are new believers, and to those who are further along in their faith journeys.

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Meaningful testimonies were given by parents who shared their stories of life before meeting Jesus and the changes that have taken place in their lives. A lunch was provided– what we would call a “potluck” in the U.S. The parents brought in food to share with those who had been invited.

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On this day, people came to the mission who had never been here before, including some Muslim friends. They heard the word of God. They experienced worship. They shared a meal. Everyone had a wonderful time. Seeds were planted and hearts were opened to Jesus. What better definition could there be of a Thanksgiving Celebration?100_1101

More pictures of this event can be seen at the Naomi’s Heart Mission Website at http://www.naomisheartmission.org.

 

Redeemed and Serving

When I first heard about this young man named Nell, it had not been a good night. Two of the boys who live at the mission had been out catching spiders in the late evening – long after they should have been in bed. Spiders often become pets around here. Anyway, they were hunting, when one of them realized that someone was up in a tree above them. Suddenly a flip flop fell out of the tree and the boys knew they were right – a trespasser was on the grounds. They began yelling and other boys – older ones – came running from every direction. The boy in the tree was caught and held by four young men as more cries for help went up. Quickly those cries roused our mission administrator, Salvador, who is also a police office and is Kristie’s body guard / escort. He wasted no time in getting hold of this young man rather roughly and questioning him. There was much yelling and talking back and forth. The Americans living on that side of the compound stayed put on the patio above as all of this unfolded. But then the puzzling happened. One moment this boy is in the death grip of Salvador and the next second, he is at the kitchen table being fed and listened to as he tells his story.

By morning, the boy’s family had been contacted, his story was confirmed, and he had moved onto the compound to live. His story is similar to so many around here – a family in need, a difficult child, not enough food, problems at home, a young man who needs a chance. Enter Naomi’s Heart Mission and the heart of Salvador Sevillano.

Nell has been living here at the compound now for a couple months. He has been attending Bible study and doing his chores and has been doing well. Then I was caught by surprise again. I went out with the Community Outreach Team on their daily trip to somewhere in General Santos City to do Bible Study, medical outreach, and a lugaw feeding and who should be in the truck, but Nell. He is loading and unloading equipment and furniture. He is helping with setup. Then he sits himself down on one of those box percussion instruments and begins accompanying the guitar player as the team leads the people in a time of praise and worship. And he is good. Nice, steady rhythms, singing along, being a part of all that is going on.

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Where else would you get to see a young man caught as a trespasser turned into a ministry worker and being a part of sharing God’s word even as he is still learning it himself? But this is what mission work is all about. It is about seeing God work in people that have no hope and need a second, third, fourth, fifth chance. What a testimony Nell will some day share of redemption, forgiveness, and salvation.

Nell still has a ways to go. He is a kleptomaniac, which makes it even more interesting that Salvador sees such potential in him. Nell has admitted this and is working with one of our pastors to break this addiction. He wants to change. He wants to be healed and we are all cheering him on – and praying for God to do what is so hard for any of us to do on our own – break the chains and free us of our past sins. But God is able. The blood of Christ will pour over Nell as he seeks to follow him and turns his life around. He did it for me. He did it for you. He will do it for Nell.

Nell with guitar

As a side story, when we go out on CSM, everyone gets involved doing whatever needs doing.  This is Nestor (wearing a cloth on his head – common here to keep the sun off).

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Nestor drives for the CSM team.  This little girl came up to get some lugaw with a metal bowl.  Our lugaw is served VERY hot.  Nestor took the bowl, took the hand of the little girl, walked her across the field all the way back to where the people were gathered, sat her up on a bench, and set her bowl down before her.  It was the cutest thing.  I looked up a few minutes later, and here he came across the field with a second little child and her metal bowl!  There is no task too small to be appreciated in the service of our King.  (I don’t think this one was too happy about me taking her picture while she was trying to eat.)

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They came up from the pit…

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These children literally rose up and appeared out of a pit of trash. They were covered with filth and stood staring at our multicab. We called to them and offered them the boxed meals we had prepared earlier – spaghetti, a piece of bread, a pack of cookies.  They accepted and allowed me to take their picture….

Our mission family had taken two vehicles through General Santos City and up a small mountain to the city trash dump. The day was a celebration of Meredith Wood’s birthday. She had decided to give a gift instead of receiving one. Through her generosity we were all blessed.

Meredith’s desire was to pack 200 boxed meals and take 2 pots of lugaw – enough for 600 servings- and reach out to two needy populations. First we would find street children and the homeless and feed them. Next we would head up to the city trash dump where people lived and earned pesos by sorting through the trash to find anything that could be recycled, sold, or used.

We spent two days getting everything ready. We decorated cups and white boxes with pictures of hearts, rainbows, and phrases saying “God loves you.” A HUGE pot of spaghetti was prepared by the mission cook, Len. Parents made two pots of lugaw. We loaded two vehicles and started out. Twenty-four of us joined in the journey, children as well as adults. We drove through the streets of Gen San scouring the store fronts for the beggars, the homeless, the street dwellers. And they were there – children, elderly – no shoes, no food, no hope. As we handed out the boxed meals we took a moment to tell them that God loves them. One little boy responded, “Sweet!”  Some were bold and almost arrogant, hardened by a life of uncertainty and trouble, looking tough to hide the fears of their lives. Some were sad, like the young boy pictured here. His eyes said it all. “Why me? Why am I alone here?”

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We headed out of town to the trash dump. I had no clue what we would find there – no experience with how this would look. What I saw I will never forget. In every direction there were mounds of trash. Trucks would pull in and dump out bags. People were moving through the trash, going through it piece by piece – elderly, parents, children. Smoke was rising up from areas where the trash was on fire. Along the way, built right on the mounds of trash were lean-to’s and shacks – homes to these people. home in dump

Finally we went far enough that we found a small village of trash dump dwellers.village

All along the way we shared the food we had brought. All along the way we shook hands and greeted new friends. All along the way we wondered what doors God was opening before us.

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Our mission staff is constantly seeking what God would have us do next and how else we can serve. Please pray with us as we seek direction in how God would have us proceed. These people need supplies. We need to make sure the children are in school. We want to bring God’s hope and love to this area.  We continue to pray that God will break our hearts for what breaks His.

 

The Girl At “The River”

I first met this girl 3 or 4 years ago. She lives in an area fairly close to our mission –an area we call “the River.” When teams from the U.S. visit us, it is a place we take them. We cross the river, then hike up into this community, carrying bags of rice, noodles, and cans of sardines. We hand out the dry goods and talk with the people. This area is quite poor. The people are squatters. There is no running water at their homes. The river is their source for the water they use for cooking, cleaning and drinking. You can often see people bathing or doing their laundry in the river.

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Recently our outreach team, our CSM (Community Service Ministry), went to this area to do Bible Study for the adults and for the children, medical screenings, and a lugaw feeding. They reconnected with this little girl. She continues to grow up, yet her development is hindered by her deformity. Her speech, her eating, her self-esteem are all affected by the lack of medical care available to the people living around our mission. As I looked at this picture, I remembered the first time I met this girl and her mother. I remember that way the mother looked down at the ground as she held her child, ashamed of us seeing her child this way. But that day, I also saw in this mother a deep love for her child – a love that was not in any way altered by her child’s appearance.

I know a mother’s heart. Don’t you? Mothers hurt for their children when they have no ability to make things better for them. It is a deep hurt that says, “I love you. I wish I could help make your life better. I can’t, but I will be here, standing beside you, holding you when you cry.” This mother would do anything possible to help her child. But there is no help. What would be corrected in the U.S. with a series of surgeries will most likely never happen for this girl. So we pray – for the family to know God’s love, for the child to know how special she is to her heavenly Father, and for her to know that He has a special plan for her life.

I hope our mission can continue to minister to this family, both physically and spiritually. It is what we are called to do. It is why God has put us here.

Becky

The Reason We Do Feedings

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We met this little guy when we were out with our Community Service Ministry team.  This team goes out daily to different parts of General Santos City to do medical screenings, adult and children Bible studies and a feeding of Lugaw for the children.  On this particular day, we were maybe 1/2 mile from the shipyards in one of the poorest areas of the city we have seen.  The shipyards employ many people, but they only employ individuals for 6 month contracts.  Then they let those workers go and hire others.  This is a common practice in the Philippines.

This child is 9 years old and is malnourished.  His arms and legs tell his story.  He may get some fruit when he can find it and there may be some rice at most of his meals, but little else to go with it.  His body is barely growing.

Each week we hand out over 5000 servings of Lugaw to children.  This is a nutritious supplement to their diets – and it makes a difference.  Each pot of 300 servings costs $25.00 – a small price to pay to give hope and a future to children who have so little to eat.  We struggle with how to continue to budget enough money each month to meet the need.  We need your help.  Contact us at mingus.mission@ymail.com or kleward@yahoo.com.  Join the team.  Make a difference in the life of a child.

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Worship at the Public High School

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PAW singers

There is nothing more amazing than being allowed to go into a public High School and do a praise and worship service with the students!!

Our Values Education team goes to the High School regularly to conduct classes. They have built strong relationships with the administrators, teachers and with the students. Thursday the mission was invited to Lanton High School to conduct a worship service and our High School students who attend that school led their peers in singing and worshipping God. We were in a double classroom, which was filled and students stood in the doorways and at all the windows looking in. Kristie Ward, mission founder, did a lesson on setting priorities and Pastor Ray did a message on seeking holiness. It was a spirit-filled time of gathering to celebrate God.

A song shared

Our mission continues to set as a priority the outreach we do to the public schools in this the crowd2area. It is a dream of our administrator here at NHM to continue to reach even more schools and to put more of our ministry workers into public school classrooms. When we step up to the calling to worship and teach these students the love of Jesus right in their school classrooms, God will bless our efforts. He will release His spirit and lives will be changed.

As an aside, while we were there we learned that the school’s water pump is no longer functioning. You would think that the Department of Education, which oversees the running of all the public schools, would step in and get it fixed. Instead, they brought in a large water tank. Water is piped into the school grounds for one hour each day and the tank is filled. After that, the students and staff go to the tank and fill containers (supplied by the teachers) that are carried back to the classrooms so that there is water at the bathrooms, for washing dishes, for cleaning and for drinking. It has to be frustrating for the teachers and administrators to try to keep their programs running with such challenges, but they are doing it.  Note the blue water container supplying the water for dishwashing!

Cleaning up