Near death experience
Today, travelled three hours south of Manila to Laguna, right out in the provinces, through rice fields and bustling rural communities, up into the hills where soon the road turned to mud and giant pools. I was travelling with new pals Dr Dan and Amy, Pastors Steve and Rai and our friend Philippa from Mosman (who in a bizarre coincidence, and unbeknownst to us until last week, flew to Manila on the same flight as us to visit a range of street dweller programs, so I crashed her party).
Right out in the dense tropical sticks, came to a metal gate, which opened to reveal an expansive paradise – buildings, footy field, gardens and crops.
This is Magdelana, a boarding school run by CCT for the children of street dwellers.
We were met by a marching band and lines of immaculately presented children chanting their welcomes, and whisked into a room to be presented with buku pie and coconuts with straws protruding. (This pomp and ceremony for guests is pretty standard in the Philippines).
A few of the smallest children – aged four to seven – marched in and earnestly sang a song for us thanking God for all their blessings and for loving them. These kids are former street-dwellers, the same as the ones we visited on the traffic island on our first day (see 21 August). Their parents are still on the street, or in prison, or they have died or are missing. But CCT “rescues” the kids, gives them a place to live, three meals a day, character development, bible teaching, education, love, and monthly parental visits.
And that was that, we all teared up. Thought I’d last longer than four days. But to hear these kids sing about gratitude and blessing put us all right in our place.
The teenagers then came in and performed a dance. Amazing to think that these kids who once sat in the gutter and foraged for rubbish are now receiving care and training in auto mechanics, food processing, electronics, and spiritual and moral nourishment.
Then came my near-death experience. Someone suggested we teach the kids rugby.
This was all well and good but it was 30+degrees and 95% humidity. Ten minutes later us I was sweating and hyperventilating in the shade trying to lower my thunderous heart rates. A kid asked me if I was dying. She was serious.
The thing that struck me was that these street-dweller kids aren’t a “type”. The teens are into fashion and music. They want to know what singers and movies we like, and our favourite Bible stories. They want to “high-five” and learn our names. They plan to get paying jobs or maybe do further study. The boys wanted to wrestle. They laugh a lot and rib each other. The little ones ask when their parents are going to visit. They loved having their photo taken and were all experts in “striking the pose”. They’re just normal kids.
It was an inspiring, humbling, tearful (and painful) day seeing the hope in these kids’ lives, where the love of God is a daily palpable thing.
Tomorrow Meredith and I head out for a week to visit microfinance groups in Cabanatuan and Iloilo (on the island of Panay), where I will definitely not be playing rugby.