To Seek and Save the Lost

June 6, 2014 • Philippines

Tangible examples of God’s matchless love provide hope for children living in unimaginable circumstances

Amy Lowrey is the Team Distributions Manager for Operation Christmas Child. She recently took a group to the Philippines to distribute shoebox gifts and help teach discipleship lessons to a special group of people.

My heart was broken today. I’m asking you to take a moment to read about the experience. This is not meant to be shaming. This is not meant to make you feel bad. This is not to condemn you. This is simply a call to action. A call to let our hearts be broken for the things that break God’s heart.

Amy with Juliette. The little girl felt special when she got her new dress.

Amy with Juliette. The little girl felt special when she got her new dress.

This is Juliette. She lives in a squatters’ village, under a bridge that connects islands. Her mom is a prostitute. Her entire family lives in a “home” that is smaller than my bed.

Her neighbors are prostitutes. There is no other way. There is no different future. This land is only inhabited by prostitutes and their pimps. If a woman does not “perform” on any given night, she will have to pay 1,500 pesos for missing work. You work, or you owe money. There are no opportunities. There is no way out.

There is no electricity or running water. The tide comes up every day and floods their homes. They go to higher ground, and wait for the tide to move back out.

Today, we went to this area and participated in the teaching of The Greatest Journey class, a 12-lesson discipleship program used as a follow-up to Operation Christmas Child. A pastor named Jun has committed his time and money to bring hope to this hurting community. These children previously received shoeboxes, and are now on lesson five of TGJ.

The children attend a The Greatest Journey lesson under the bridge.

The children attend a The Greatest Journey lesson under the bridge.

Many of these children were half naked. Dirty. One had a third-degree burn on her upper thigh that was the size of my hand. Many of them have already been cycled into sex slavery. And here they sat, half clothed, and reciting John 3:16.

And you know, sitting there, listening, watching, praying, I believe that God began a new work in their lives.

After the class, we simply loved on these precious children. My new friend Juliette was only wearing a shirt when we arrived, no bottoms. The team brought 50 homemade dresses with them. And my sweet Juliette is now proudly wearing a special new dress. Her whole face changed. I saw joy filling up this sweet little body. She had something that belongs to her.

She is special, that Juliette.

As many of these children have been touched in ways that a child should never be touched, I was hesitant to make physical contact with them. But, I was mobbed. Sweet little hands were in mine … three to four children at once. Wanting to be loved. Wanting to feel special. Wanting to trust an adult in the safety of the daylight.

So, we spun in circles. We held hands. We high-fived. We hugged.

I took the time to go to the houses and shake the hands of every prostitute in that village. To let them know that they are loved. They are worthy. To tell them their children were delightful, and beautiful, and wonderful. And that we were proud to know them.

And then I walked away and sobbed. Feeling helpless. Wondering what I can do.

Women and children from the community meet at the building that serves as their church.

Women and children from the community meet at the building that serves as their church.

And in that moment, that’s when I heard God say that He began a new work in that village today. Not because of me, but because of Him. These are His children, and He has not forgotten them.

I believe that today, God used our team and Operation Christmas Child to help break strongholds. Simply through kindness, attention, and God’s love, I believe that these women and children saw a glimpse of something in life that is good.

I’ll end with this. Again, not to shame anyone. But if you struggle with anything that has to do with sex trafficking (prostitution, pornography, etc.) please, please, please don’t turn a blind eye to the trauma and hurt that is connected to this. This helps create a vicious cycle of poverty and emotional trauma that is likely to never be overcome. Please don’t simply accept this as “your struggle” and buy into the lie that you can’t rid it from your life. You can.

It will take work. It will be painful. It will be easier to give up and continue on living as you have. But please consider the greater ramifications that these acts create globally.

This world is in pain. We can help change that.

A few days after visiting this village, Amy received this update:

I got word this morning that land/space was donated for Pastor Jun to have a place for their children to meet instead of meeting outside, under the bridge. My friends, God is faithful. God has heard our prayers, and is doing a good work in that place. My heart could burst.

And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” Luke 5:30-32

Learn more about how children are learning about Christ and making Him known through The Greatest Journey.