Hello everyone this is a report on the missions’ trip made to the Philippines from 20th March to 7th April.
(The trip due to flight constrictions actually spilled over until the 8th April.)
HC3 as a church and individuals in it has long been a supporter of LifeNetKids and the House of Joshua both founded by Mary & Ramil Conroy-Rendon with the more than capable support of Andy & Jo Conroy.
With the move of Andy and Jo to Brightlingsea although we knew their involvement would strongly continue it was felt that HC3 still needed a representative of HOJ closer to home. Bernard & Christina felt they should rise to this challenge this leading was reinforced when Mary and Ramil and their children visited the UK. Bernard discussed with them the possibility of leading a team to HOJ in 2018 and the offer was gladly accepted. After discussion with the church leadership it was decided that the team would be a small one of Bernard and Christina linking up with Andy & Jo when they made their annual visit to the Philippines in spring 2018.
The Objectives we agreed were to –
1: Offer practical encouragement by our presence and continuing financial support to both Mary & Ramil and their family.
2: Assess the work in the HOJ meet with the children who are currently sponsored by HC3 and involve ourselves fully in the life of HOJ during our visit.
3: See first hand the work with the street kids in Cagayan de Oro City
4: Visit and minister in local churches and encourage local leaders and Pastors
5: Factor in leisure activities for ourselves and the HOJ kids
As plans for the trip became formed this was put before the good folks of HC3 with minimal mention of money the giving was generous enabling us to pay our flights and accommodation there was also a small surplus to give as we felt led to individuals during our visit.
Here is a brief overview of some of the highlights
- We spent considerable time with Mary and Ramil and family just praying and talking it was a real privilege to attend graduation ceremonies for all 4 of their school age children Joshua, Mike, Ellianah and Kaeylah and to watch Andy and Jo as LOLO & LOLA (Grandad and Granny) receive the awards with their grandchildren and to watch a number of HOJ children graduate truly from the streets to success in life.
- Great fun with the HOJ kids we spent 2 sessions of crafting with them, joining in their worship and prayer times, being interviewed in a Q & A session and a number of game sessions too numerous to mention but suffice to say the final one usually ends in a glorious free for all “Water-fight” great fun.
- We were able to talk personally with the HC3 sponsored children and did a short video blog with each young person as they expressed their thanks and hopes and aspirations. Please especially pray for JOBERT no one including Jobert knows his birth date or birth Mother, despite efforts this mean the government regards him as essentially non-existent as his birth Mother must sign papers to allow him to access further education or be formally adopted. With all-natural avenues exhausted he needs a miracle. Jobert is approximately 15 years of age.
- Bernard was also asked to bring input to the HOJ staff and we talked through the challenges of our own walk with God and bringing healing to the vulnerable children within HOJ.
- Many touching moments of talking to individual children as they “snuggled” up to you or around the meal table, the spoken English is excellent, a disciplined routine is in place running from 5am to 9:30 Pm on school days where all the children have involvement.
- HOJ funds an onsite social worker for part of the week this is a mandatory requirement and her salary is paid by HOJ not the government. If HOJ wishes to enlarge the number of children it will need to employ and fund an additional social worker.
- The visit to the Street kids and adults in the city was deeply moving, we met approximate 30 children and adults who live and sleep on cardboard in a central square, they wash in a nearby river and eke out a small income by directing cars into nearby parking spaces for which they get a few pesos. Their treatment from the local police has on occasions not been good.
- We were able to buy chicken and rice, drink and even ice creams, along with nappies and formula milk for some babies. There were 3 generations living on the square. These folks hold their heads high and have a real sense of dignity about them, there are of course real challenges with this kind of lifestyle and not all will want to be helped and alcohol can be a problem.
- Bernard found himself being a Pastor to Pastors and ministered privately one to one to a number of precious men who have great stories of founding churches and ministries through difficult times. The worship is lively NOISY and free, with songs that are very familiar to us in the UK, sermons are short max of 30 Minutes and the interpretation is always fun, Christina was also able to bring words of encouragement in a number of situations.
Please pray for Pastor Jesse and his church, Pastor Eduard and his church and also Mary and Ramil who are now pioneering a church from HOJ as they have now been ordained as a Pastor and Pastora.
- We were able to hire 2 “Jeepneys” and take the HOJ children and youth to San Pedro beach and yes you pay to access the beach depending on location, down or upmarket the fees vary and to hire a shelter (essential) . The kids had a great day as did we apart from avoiding the odd “Jellyfish”. The Filipinos love “LOUD Karaoke” it’s everywhere so do not expect a peaceful snooze on the beach.
- We also had leisure time, a visit to an eco-park, a swim in coconut bay swimming pool, a visit to a pineapple plantation, adventures on a Zip Line at a Forest Park and shopping in 3 incredible state of the art malls in the city, as in many places in the world poverty and plenty live cheek by jowl and we also squeezed in a relaxing massage on our final day.
- Space will not permit to tell of driving in the city, our interesting guest house! culinary adventures and the courteous Filipino culture which we fell in love with
- Our visit ended with an Adventure and an Angel, the connecting flight by the local carrier was 3 hours delayed meaning we lost our onward flight in Manila to Hong Kong.
- The local carrier would not help us and our next carrier had no available seats for three days! We went to the Philippines airline office to try and secure an earlier flight, there we met an Angel in black in the form of JOHN a middle aged senior Airport Policeman , we explained our plight and he helped us book a direct flight to Heathrow for the following day, arranged for a taxi to take us to a nearby basic but good hotel and for a taxi for the following day, he even came to see us in the hotel that evening to make sure everything was OK. We asked him why and he said “I have done this job for 35 years and I love it, it is a pleasure to help people”
Please pray for Andy & Jo it came powerfully home to us the incredible sacrifice they have made and continue to make with their Daughter, Son in Law and Grandchildren living overseas, and the ongoing support the developing vision of HOJ requires.
As a postscript perhaps the most encouraging confirmation that we were in right place right time was when Mary and Ramil said that as a team we had MORE than fulfilled their expectations and then some. They would like a return visit ASAP with Bernard being headline speaker at a 2/3-day Pastors conference, we have provisionally accepted the invitation with a possible date of spring 2020.
Finally, a Filipino fact, did you see the Philippine flag at the head of the article, when its flown with the BLUE section uppermost, then the country is at peace, when its flown with the RED segment uppermost, the country is at war so you need to make sure that like the Union Jack you hang it the right way up.
Bernard & Christina xx