Living the Life

•August 26, 2009 • Leave a Comment

The picture above shows the guys that my team member, Aaron, and I stayed with during the summer. Marvin (second from the bottom left) is the center leader and is second in command to the Jo-An (third from the top right). Jo-An is the Tatay, meaning father in tagalog, and is the main one in charge of the center. I’ll write about some of the guys in a future post.

As I’ve stated in a previous post, our team was split up throughout the big metropolitan city of Manila. Aaron and I stayed in a little town called Payatas in north Quezon City of Manila. Payatas is a village that was initially founded as a garbage village as villagers would rummage through trash trying to find anything to recycle for money. Since it’s an established town now (albeit adjacent to a garbage dump), a lot of people also make a living owning stores in the market area, or they commute elsewhere for a means of income.

Payatas is garbage village on the outskirts of metro Manila.

Payatas is garbage village on the outskirts of metro Manila.

Living in a garbage town seemed extremely daunting at first. I remember the first two days we were there, it hit me that I was gonna be there for a whole month. The first four days in the slums felt like two months. But there was so much grace in that God helped us to look past the living conditions. It’s funny–when it was hot, we would enjoy a summer breeze, but that breeze was followed by a stench from the garbage. And then when it was hot, we’d hope for it to rain, but when it does rain, all the flies come out, and there were literally about 50 flies around our kitchen table every time we ate. We even called them kaibigans (friends).

Here’s some pics of our house in Payatas:

The view from our room. Pretty nice eh?

The view from our room. Pretty nice eh?


Our room for the summer. Those were our beds, and our pillows were our hoodies. Our clothes were hung inside our room cuz if we hung them outside to dry, our clothes would absorb the smells as it dried. We had a lot of friends in our room, from geckos and cockroaches to little rats and rat poop. One time when we lifted the beds up we saw two cockroaches doing it lol. I remember when I woke up one day, I saw rat poop on my bed. Good times. =)


One of the rooms that the guys at our site slept in. It would get really hot here, cuz this was the only room where there wasn't an electric fan!


Our kitchen sink, and the only sink in the house.


The kitchen stove; mind you, most people don't have gas stoves like this one. One of our neighbors still cooked food with wood. The guys that we stayed with can cook some bomb filipino food, and they were mostly teenagers!


Our kitchen. We had a lot of friends like ants and flies that liked to go on our food. We had to make sure we had mosquito repellant every time we ate, cuz if we didn't we were dunzo. For some reason they don't bite locals, but usually foreigners. We had some great dinner conversations here.


This is where we showered. The piece of wood on the bottom right is used for privacy, but as you can see, it doesn't really cover much. Aaron and I showered with our boxers on everyday. There's no hot water in most of the Philippines!


The CR(comfort room), aka the bathroom. You can't see it but there's two toilets there. You had to fill up that blue bin on the bottom right with water, then pour the water on to the toilet to flush. You had to make sure you had mosquito repellant here as well, cuz if you didn't you were dunzo. I remember one time I was doing my business, and then I got bit on my bum. Those things are vicious.


Our laundry/shower area. This is where we hand washed our clothes. You also had to make you had repellant on when you did laundry. Pretty much the whole trip you had to make sure had repellant. I remember our first time washing laundry, I was singing "It's A Hard Knock Life" by Jay-Z haha. Hand-washing clothes was hard at first, but it became really relaxing towards the end.

Looking back, I’m still so amazed that God enabled us to look past the living conditions, and to see everything and everyone for what and who they really are. Though we got bit by mosquitos everyday; though it was difficult using the bathroom; though it was hard not having any comfort from the U.S., I’m so thankful that through that one month, the hardships didn’t plague me. Even though I loved living there, yes, there was some relief in going back to the “comforts” of home. At the same time though, people still have to live there. Even thought I get to leave, it’s crazy to think some people will live in that town the rest of their lives. It’s even crazier to think that our house was pretty luxurious compared to other people’s houses in that town.

As I started the post with this picture, I’ll end with this picture:


I couldn’t have lived a whole month in the slum community without these guys–the people whom I lived with. What I learned from them was so much more than anything I can ever give them. These guys–whom were former street kids, gang members, drug addicts (perhaps simultaneously)–taught me so many lessons about life, and taught me so much about the transformation and sovereignty of God in a person. They embraced us with so much love, and though they might not have much, it seemed like they have everything.


Onesimo Foundation

•August 22, 2009 • 1 Comment
GK Kids

Children who sang to us at a slum community.

Ah, the kids in Manila are so precious. They are adorable, and their smiles have the power of turning any sadness into unending joy. No matter what living conditions these kids are in, whether houses atop water and garbage, or houses in a garbage dump (I’ve had the privilege of visiting these type of living conditions), you will always see smiles in their faces. They are so full of joy in any situation.

Unfortunately, there are hundreds of thousands children in Manila who either live on the street, or have very unstable homes (with physical and/or sexual abuse present in the household), so they spend most of their time on the street. These children are classified as street children. Some have ran away because of physically and sexually abusive families. Some just spend most of their time on the street to get away from home. Some have no home, as their parents have died due to drug abuse and murders.

Street Kids

The rest of us on the team who weren’t in the Samaritana prostitution ministry had the privilege of being a part of Onesimo Foundation this summer. This foundation outreaches to street children for a few months, then eventually asks them to leave wherever they call home. Onesimo asks them to make an initial 3 month commitment to live in a different area in Manila, one that’s far away from home. Boys and girls are separated into different centers, and there are about 15-20 other street kids, all ranging from 15-23 years old.

As they leave their old environment, the foundation teaches the kids: how to clean up after themselves; how to clean the house they’re staying in; integrity and honesty; how to live a Godly life amidst extreme hardship, and many more. I believe that one of the most important things that this foundation brings is family. Almost all of these children come from broken families, and so in each center, they are each other’s brothers or sisters. They sleep next to each other, eat with each other, clean with each other; here is where some experience family for the first time in their lives.

Tammie(glasses) breaking bread with the girls at her center.

Tammie(glasses) breaking bread with the girls at her center.

Being in that environment, it made me think about my family and relatives and friends, and how thankful I am for them. That no matter where I am in life, I will always be loved by friends and family. Being in that environment, it also made me think about the American culture, and how the term “family” is so broken here in the U.S. With the one in two marriages ending in divorce, and affairs rampant, it’s easy to see how family doesn’t mean much to people living here. It’s easy to see how in times of trouble, we don’t call onto family, but rather material wealth and trivial things that will only hide the pains we go through.

P&P: Prostitution and Poverty

•August 20, 2009 • Leave a Comment

if a bar has Christmas lights outside, it usually means that it participates in prostitution One of the main reasons why people of the slum communities engage in prostitution is because of poverty. They have no other means of making money so they result to prostitution. So they get caught in this vicious cycle of drugs, alcohol, and marketed sex.

Four of the girls on our team helped out this organization called Samaritana Ministries. It’s a foundation that builds relationships with prostitutes on the streets and in bars. The ministry eventually asks them to leave the life of prostitution, of course with the help of  Samaritana. The foundation focuses on a holistic approach, as it provides job training, counseling, leadership development, and a new job, meaning a legitimate source of income.

So four of the girls from our team helped out in this foundation. They went along with the workers of the organization as they built relationships with the women on the street; provided labor at the main office; provided day care when the women would have bible studies; and they also lived with the women that worked at the organization.

Here’s some pics of them in action:

Samaritana Ladies

Kat, Jenn, Ziwei, Jessica

Jenn and Kat's host family

Jenn and Kat's host family

Ziwei & Jenn's host family

Ziwei & Jenn's host family

On a side note, while we were in Thailand for orientation, we went on a prayer walk through the world-renowned red light district of Bangkok. The red light district is one of the most disturbing sights I’ve ever seen. As we walked through the bars, people were trying to sell sex to me, just like someone trying to sell fragrance to you, in the beauty department at Macy’s. Each bar had “services” that women provided, all displayed on a menu. Also, each bar had women in bikinis that had just a number, and they would walk on a platform. Men would come in and sit down, and choose which girl they want to spend the night with.

On a different area of the red light district, about 200-300 women lined up both sides of the street. They awaited for men to drive by in their cars, some with smiles, some with the look of despair. Two very memorable images were when I saw a girl that looked like she was 16, and when I saw woman that was there with her children. How can something so sinister be allowed to run so organized like this? How can men from different countries take advantage of these women, treating them as if they weren’t really human?

The Great Divide

•August 19, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Fence Shot

In Luke 16:19-31, we read about a rich man and Lazarus, a beggar. Lazarus, decorated with sores, longed even the smallest portions of food. The rich man–who goes unnamed–lived a luxurious lifestyle, with lavish clothes and scrumptious food. Though Lazarus begs at the rich man’s gate, he remains starved, and longs for any crumbs that fell from the rich man. At the end of the passage we learn that Lazarus goes to heaven, and the rich man goes to hell.

There is a great divide between the rich and the poor. A “great chasm” as it says in the NIV version. Did the rich man go to hell just because he was rich? Are we going to hell just because we are rich compared to the poorest of the poor? One might say that the rich man went to hell because of his ignorance of Lazarus at his gate. As Lazarus begged for food, the rich man basked in the grandeur of his material wealth.

In the slum communities of Manila, Philippines, you definitely experience the great divide. The people that we met, the people that we stayed with, the people that we saw everyday–there was a great chasm between us. The chasm in which the biggest struggles I’ve ever had in my life, do not even compare to their daily struggles. The chasm in which everyday is a struggle for food, while I gluttonize in every meal. The chasm in which my bathroom, is bigger than the houses of the people I met. Remembering about the rich man and Lazarus, I asked myself, “Is this what I’ve been doing all my life? Have I been ignoring the people need all around me?” Moreover, I ask myself, “Is the American church doing the same thing? …ignoring the urban poor of America? Are we really not being the people who we should be?”

Jesus and Poverty

•August 18, 2009 • 2 Comments

outside one of our team member's home

Not many people know about the places where Jesus really went in His ministry. When we read about the poor in the Bible, we kind of just overlook it. We think that it’s just a good deed to help the poor, the lame, the blind, the mute, the widowed, and the orphaned.  For example, looking at Matthew 15:29-39 “The Feeding of the Four Thousand,” we tend to just pay attention to primarily Jesus’ miracle of feeding four thousand people. We fail to see the people whom Jesus fed: the lame, the blind, the mute, the crippled — the marginalized.  Looking deep into the words of the Bible, we see that the ones whom society rejects, are the ones whom Jesus primarily ministered to and hung out with.

This was our mission — to live among the urban poor of Manila, Philippines.  Anyone can hand out food, anyone can give out money, anyone can build church buildings.  While those are important things, who will really answer the call to live in solidarity with the poor to share the love of God?  To live as they live, to sleep as they sleep, to eat as they eat… and to use the bathroom as they use the bathroom?  Relationships weigh so much more in bringing the love of Christ than any physical entity.  These are the places that God’s calling us to today.

Come Read About My Trip!

•August 16, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Hello! This is a blog/website that I started to update all of you with how God is moving in the urban slum communities of the Philippines. Everyday, I should be posting up a new post of all of the happenings of what went on. I happen to be a fairly decent, captivating writer, but perhaps I should let you be the judge of that.

I invite you to check back every day and read the new posts of what happened during our missions trip. Hopefully it will be a blessing to you as you read, as it is to me as I type.


Thank You

•August 14, 2009 • Leave a Comment

A big thanks to all of you who have supported in this journey. I could not have done this trip without the emotional, financial, and prayer support of all of my friends and family. There were definitely times in which I was so weak: physically, emotionally and spiritually. But remembering that there was a group of people back in the states praying for me, I knew I wasn’t alone in the hard and difficult times. A big thanks to all of you.