LOVE. GROW. SERVE. with Pastor Rachel
Hi Church Family! As I am writing this I'm very aware that a huge snowstorm continues to bear down on our New England friends and family. This seems strange to me because I'm currently sitting by the pool in 90° weather on the other side of the globe in Manila, Philippines. See unfortunately/fortunately our flights home were all cancelled due to the storm and so we are unable to get back to New England until late Thursday night. On one hand, this is great because the weather is beautiful and sunny here. On the other, however, it is also very hard because we miss and are concerned for all of you and for our other kids left at home who now must weather this storm without us.
But this trip to the Philippines has been so much more than a vacation. As many of you may already know, it was also a visit with our daughter, Lily, who has been on the mission field for the last six months with World Race, a program run by an organization called Adventures in Missions. Our trip to the Philippines is what World Race calls the Parent Vision Trip (PVT). In addition to reconnecting with our kids, the purpose for the PVT is to allow parents to be on mission alongside their kids and to experience a little bit of what racers experience during their time in the field. For this PVT we were partnered with an exceptional organization called Wipe Every Tear (www.WipeEveryTear.org). Founder, Kenny Sacht, and the wonderful staff of Wipe Every Tear shared their hearts while they patiently taught and trained us, answering every question we had, so that racers and their parents could then spend two nights talking with bar girls and ladyboys in Angeles City, a large sex tourism destination in the Philippines. Now I know what you may be thinking, "I tuned in for a nice blog entry Pastor Rachel. Sex tourism and ladyboys are not really what I had in mind." Believe me, I understand.
Here's the thing - if we truly believe our first core conviction, that Everyone Needs Jesus, we must be willing to be painfully uncomfortable in our mission. This may mean being compelled to go into the darkest places. Places that seem to be devoid of all good, where evil appears to have overtaken anything pure and holy. As I walked the streets of the city during the day, passing older white men coupled together with very young Filipina girls, that is truly what I thought. But those nights when we entered the bars something miraculous happened. God showed us clearly that was already there. As husbands, together with their wives and children, entered places the enemy never counted on us being bold enough to go, God's presence was evident and hope was restored to these precious girls stuck in the sex trade. I'll be happy to share more in person for those who are interested, but the victory is that altogether 18 girls and 4 ladyboys made a courageous first step to freedom by coming to visit the Wipe Every Tear safe houses. There are no final decisions yet, but there is a very good chance that many of them will make the choice to leave that life behind and come to live at the safe houses, allowing each of them to pursue a college education. See the full update from Wipe Every Tear founder, Kenny Sacht, here (and look for us waving on the right side of the crowd!). We may never know in fact how many lives are changed through the seeds that were planted during our time on the streets of Angeles City, but God will be there to rejoice over each and every one of them.
It is true that the Philippines is not our home, but this is where we've been placed right now and so until we can get home we must make the best of it. In the same way, the Bible tells us that this world is not our home. “For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.” Hebrews 13:14 NLT. The fact that this earth is a broken place and not our ultimate home has never been more evident than this week; however, we also saw God’s kingdom come alive here on earth. In the same way, it is also evident to me that, perhaps now more than ever, especially in these darkest places, EVERYONE NEEDS JESUS. So I'd like to ask you this week to take a moment every day and pray for each of these girls, that they may take this opportunity and make the decision that will change their lives and their eternity. I'd also like to encourage you this week to make the intentional decision to do something to make a difference in someone else's life. Whether you change their eternity or their tire, you may never know the impact of even a small, single act of kindness. But God will be there and He will rejoice.
By now you've probably heard that this Sunday, March 19th, after service Jon and I will be doing our first Lunch With the Pastors at the Market Street Bakehouse in downtown Amesbury. We invite anyone who would like to come to pick up their own lunch or coffee and join us to share some time together. Jon and I look forward to discussing more about our mission here in the Philippines, as well as to answer any questions or talk about anything you may have on your mind.
Until Sunday, stay safe my friends and we appreciate your prayers for our safe return Thursday evening.