April 7, 2012: For the last 2 mornings I’ve been at the garbage dump where Robert Cuenca works. He is one of the pastors who works with us onsite in the Philippines to care for our sponsored children.
I have never in my life seen so many dirty, sweaty little kids in one place in my entire life. They were not only dirty and sweaty, they were unruly and loud. It overwhelmed me. I asked myself, “Are we doing any good at all? There are more kids here than ever before!” Yesterday I walked among their homes. Again, I was overwhelmed by the need in those homes. In one family where 3 of the 8 children are sponsored, the father died last month, leaving this mother with 8 children living in one dark room made of old scraps of plywood – no furniture, no kitchen, no bathroom, no shower. The oldest little girl came up and hugged me and said, “Ate (pronounced ah’ tay) Ate Kathy, it’s been a long time since you came to see us.” That really touched me (and still does as I think about it).
As I was sitting in the heat this morning, hot and sweaty with dirty children crawling all over me, wondering if we were doing any good, I remembered a couple nights ago. We took the graduates from this garbage dumpsite out to eat to celebrate their achievement. Three of the kids graduated from high school and are making plans to enroll in what they call “high skills training.” The other 3 graduated from high skills training (1-year course). One boy trained as an auto mechanic and already has a good job. One of the girls trained as a dressmaker and is doing that as well as helping Robert with the ministry. The other girl finished a course in computer applications. She is only 17 and by law cannot apply for a job until she is 18, but she is helping Robert in the ministry. All six of those graduates were clean, well-mannered and polite. They are also a lot of fun to be around and they are in love with Jesus. We took them to a place in the mall to eat. I was so impressed with them. After finishing, I heard them talking about a place in the mall where there were video games. I asked if they would like to go there and their faces and eyes brightened. I gave them each 100 pesos (a little more than $2) to go play. They were so excited. They invited me to go with them, but I knew they would have more fun on their own. Robert gave them money for transportation home and we left them – a bunch of very happy excited bouncey laughing teenagers, riding the escalator up to the next level.
A few years ago those six were among the dirty, sweaty, undisciplined little kids at the garbage dump. We took them to McDonalds, something they had never experienced. I remember how they got so cold because of the air conditioning to which they were unaccustomed. They had never even been in a mall and certainly had never played the video games. A few years ago, they were sponsored and got to go to school. They have been taught basic life skills, been discipled, attend church every Sunday and have been taught to minister to the needs of others.
So my conclusion is, yes we are doing some good. Just ask those 6 graduates. I understand very well the words of Jesus that we will always have the poor among us. If we minister to them and help them break the cycle of poverty, the poor among us will be a different group, not the same ones. These 6 kids are well on the way of breaking out of that cycle, as are hundreds of others. We continue to work to help those who are before us who have taken their place.
Beyond those 6 are new graduates all over the Philippines who would never have had a chance were it not for people who care about them and believe they are worthy of our help. One girl from our sponsored children in another city is valedictorian! God is so good to let us do this!
Sunday morning I spoke at the 2 services at Robert Cuenca’s church. The second service was almost entirely made up of our sponsored high school students from the garbage dumpsite. I’ve never spoken to a more attentive group of teens. They were glued to every word I said. I was so blessed and so impressed with them. With God’s help we, in partnership with the local pastors, have had a tremendous impact on them. That was so good to see.
I spoke to them about how to be a success using Genesis 39:2, telling the story of Joseph and how God made him a success no matter his circumstances. What a great way to spend Resurrection Sunday.