Jungle Love (6 of 8)
The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor... freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to set the oppressed free. Luke 4:18
We drove two hours this morning to a remote village in the jungle to the north of Puerto Princesa and set up a medical mission in partnership with life Church iReach. This area is known for military insurgency and we were assured they were cleared out for our visit. A few marines were on the grounds with semiautomatic guns to protect us.
For the second day, doctors, pharmacists, nurses and a dentist saw hundreds of patients (500?), removed teeth (200?) and taught children to brush their teeth.
Amy and I helped repackage vitamins and medications. We realize we have limited skills, but the medical professionals realize they are limited as well. The most long term impact is the tangible love of God demonstrated in the jungle as an extension of the local church. Although this is not a Compassion project, it's the beginning of LIfe Church's sustained ministry. This outreach could result in a church plant, which might lead to education, better public health practices like clean water, sanitation and nutrition.
Yesterday we saw the three stages of knowing, protecting, and loving children to release them from poverty. The Child Survival Program includes moms' prenatal care, learning to care for their infants and toddlers, and learning skills like weaving to raise money. What we saw was women treated with respect who are learning to love their children differently. In the process they make lifelong friends with other moms.
We talked with young teenagers who are in the Child Development Sponsorship Program. We saw their records, and many on our trip whose children are from this program were able to read through their health and education records, sponsor letters, and spiritual development.
On home visits we entered into the real lives of poverty: two dollars a day income, squatting in a home built on stilts with thatched roof patched with cardboard, and children playing in dirt with chickens, dogs, and turkeys.
But in the homes there was also hope that their children are dreaming dreams, learning about God, incorporated into the life of a church.
Mayra was home alone, her children at school, her husband working six hours away and only visits a few days a month. Her shack was spotless. After she greeted us she turned on her oscillating fan so that we were comfortable. She beamed with pride showing us her children's school awards, pictures, and sponsor letters. (It so happens her son Edgardo's sponsor is a member of First Pres Honolulu!)
Not all the children of the neighborhood were as fortunate. Without money they have no education, no health check ups, no dreams to dream. But they let us take their picture--eight and nine years old, barefoot, likely to perpetuate the poverty of their parents and grandparents.
Finally, last night we celebrated the capstone of the long term ministry: college students leadership development program. We heard the stories of students who have been sponsored since four years old. They shared with tears what their sponsor letters meant to them--inspiration, encouragement and of course financial support.
There are times when we don't quite understand God's love. Who is cared for, who dies, who has a drug addict abusive father, and who has the opportunity to dream dreams. It's like jungle love, driving me mad, making me crazy.
And then it's a surprise and privilege to see firsthand the impact of God's life changing love in individual lives.
For information on making a difference through sponsorship: http://www.compassion.com/