Crying for a Catholic Church by Amanda Chang, Living Hope Bible Church
June 30, 2014
Today we got to see and experience so many different ministries here in Manila, and it was a blessing to witness the examples of many men and women who sacrificed careers and livelihoods to serve God here.
First of all, we visited Shalom Christian Birthing Home in Antipolo, an area slightly outside metro Manila. Before the clinic was built, Mavis Orton, a retired nurse from England, allowed hundreds of babies to be born inside her living room. These mothers gave birth on dirt floors with the help of witch doctors or their neighbors and didn’t know how to properly care for themselves or their newborns. Many of these new mothers had no access to running water or sanitation and lived on a poor diet with little access to medical facilities. Few finished high school, and some were even as young as 12 years old. Only 25% of deliveries among the poor were assisted by skilled birth attendants. Because of Mavis’ generousity and willingness to serve, a beautiful new facility was built a few years ago.
The nurses there deliver about 130 babies each month, and 400 mothers receive critical prenatal care each week. Other than delivering the baby and post-delivery care, they are also involved with evangelism and discipleship for the mothers and fathers, and training the parents in basic hygiene. It really is a fantastic ministry, and it was neat to get a tour of the two-storied building and learn about its fascinating history. God is doing so many things here, and it’s neat to see the different ways in which Christians are serving Him here.
We also visited a kids’ home for boys who lived on the streets and now want to learn and study the Word of God seriously. There were seven boys living there when we visited, and you really could not tell that they used to sniff glue, steal food, and live in gangs. These were some clean, polite young men that welcomed us and listened patiently as some of us shared our testimonies and the Gospel. In order for them to be accepted into the home, they have to have a desire to know God and study the Bible. During their stay, they attend school and spend hours each day studying the Word, having devotions, attending chapel, and maturing as Christians.
Rafael Sisson was the head of the kids’ home, and he had an amazing story. He grew up in the States and was in the military for a while. Then he wanted to minister to the street kids in Manila, but no matter what he did, the kids made fun of him and refused to open up or listen to what he had to say. One boy (I’ll call him Jose) taunted him saying “Who is Christ? He’s dead, isn’t He? Where is your Jesus Christ now?” One day, a gang of rough young men whom Rafael had been trying to minister to invited him to an alleyway, where they opened up a bag of garbage filled with leftover chicken bones. They were about to dive in, when the gang leader Jose stopped everyone and allowed Rafael first pick of the trash as guest. Rafael hesitated. The garbage was slimy and gross. Was he really about to eat this trash for God? But when he gnawed on the leftover bones, when he overcame his revulsion and loved the teens enough to pick up that chicken bone, the boys began to open up and tell him their stories. Later, Jose said, “We saw Jesus that night.” After that, the boys began to open up and want to know about Christ. Because Rafael chose to love the boys by eating that garbage, because he was willing to live like the teens he ministered to, he was able to reach out to and share the Gospel with many of them.
While both of these ministries were neat to see, what touched me most was actually a Catholic cathedral in Antipolo. How can I describe the dozens of people, praying to a statue of Mary, bowing before it, kissing her wooden hand, crying as if she could see and hear and answer their prayers when all she was a statue of wood?
Seeing these people, these men and women and children put their faith in an idol, in a carving was just utterly heartbreaking. The tears came as I watched them kneel, their faces so sincere, pleading to God internally. These people were so close, yet so far from the truth. Trapped in this system of good works, constantly being told they have to do more, give more, pray more to get into heaven. When in reality, they can have free access to God Himself because of what Christ has done for us. Not because of what we have done or who we are, not because we can do any good in ourselves because we can’t, but because of Jesus and His perfect life, we can be seen as perfect in God’s eyes. Salvation is a free gift. It’s all free.
That was what hit me the most. That all these people we’ve ministered to, who’ve proclaimed to be Catholic, end up in a place like that, in a cycle like that. And that was more difficult to me than all the poverty I’ve seen on this trip. That people are so lost and blinded to the truth and are working so hard and trying to be good, when really they can’t. Only Christ can. And it breaks my heart to see men and women thinking they’re on their way to heaven, when they’re really headed to hell.
But I mean, that’s why we’re here. That’s why the pastors are here and the Shalom Birthing Clinic and Rafael’s kids’ home. It’s because of Christ and of His goodness that there is hope, that we don’t have to be stuck in such a vicious cycle, but that we have Jesus’ righteousness covering our sins. Isn’t that such a wonderful story? Such a beautiful gift that we have, and we have the opportunity to share what God has done with others!
Tomorrow, we’re heading back to the Smokey Mountain area to a hospital and a school there. It’ll be our last day of ministry. Man, time has passed by way too quickly here, and it’s been a whirlwind of learning, of growing, of seeing what God is doing here. And He’s doing an awful lot.