Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Mission: Introduction (Part 1)

Abby, Orange, Myself and Jessica at our bed & breakfast
in Cebu

still remember the phone call I received from Jessica almost two years ago after she read the book, Terrify No More, by Gary Haugen, President of International Justice Mission (IJM). Her breath came in short, staccato bursts punctuated with excitement she could barely contain. Jess introduced me to IJM’s tireless efforts in the rescue of victims caught in the insidious web of the sex trade, child labor, slavery, and abuse. Gary Haugen expressed the need for well-equipped aftercare facilities that the girls could be placed in. Jess shared her burgeoning vision of building an aftercare facility for the rescued girls, a place and a refuge for healing and restoration. I provided words of encouragement and decided to be a sideline cheerleader not wanting to get involved as I felt my plate was full. For a while I was content with being Jessica’s cheerleader and prayer warrior until that fateful night I attended My Refuge House’s first annual banquet.

It was on the night of April 24, 2008 that the purpose and calling on my life crystallized into something more concrete. The tugging on my heartstrings turned into an undeniable wrenching and I surrendered my time, money, and existence to a cause that shattered my heart in a million pieces. I was reminded of a devotional I read in Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest, “If through a broken heart, God can bring His purposes to pass in the world, then thank Him for breaking your heart.” (November 1). I have not stopped thanking Him.

It was never in my plans, let alone dreams, to travel to the Philippines to help abused and exploited girls. Without a doubt I envisioned myself in Uganda, helping orphaned children in the Otino-Waa Children’s Village. I was so sure that it was God’s plan for me but I soon realized HE wanted to use me in other ways. Surrendering my plans and dreams to His will was difficult for a controlling person such as myself. My need for control always provided a safe harbor unlike the enigmatic terrain ahead of me. Yet, on April 21, 2009, almost one year after My Refuge House’s first annual banquet, I found myself flying on a huge plane with Jessica, Abby, and Orange, heading toward the motherland.

Returning to the motherland was akin to meeting a biological parent I never knew existed. It was the land that birthed me but I felt no kinship toward it. The Philippines contained my purpose, to be the voice to the voiceless, but it also provided healing on the damaged fragments of my soul. The reason for our mission trip was to give the six girls residing in My Refuge House daily activities with creative bible study, while Jessica and I managed the administrative portion of the facility. We hit the ground running as soon as our feet touched Philippine soil, visiting the facility, working with the girls, conducting staff development meetings, drafting policies/procedures and job descriptions, meeting with social workers, pastors, and board members. I was blasted with sensory and information overload trying my best to absorb everything and committing it to memory. I wanted to document and capture the culture and people while learning about the sorrowful plight of sexually exploited and abused girls.

My inquisitive nature was on overdrive and sleep was an incredible nuisance. I was chomping at the bit and rabidly desired to walk the streets and talk to the people who I considered to be the heartbeat of the city. We met the most intriguing people who have dedicated and devoted their lives to fight for a worthy cause. A cause that sometimes seems hopeless in the face of suffering and affliction, darkness and tragedy. But the passion and zeal that drive these amazing people to rescue the victims from their sorry state fuel my own fervor and banish my despair.

During one of our many harrowing taxi rides, Jessica, Abby, Orange, and I marveled at how quickly our lives intertwined once we surrendered OUR plans to God instead of holding tightly to our own. It lent an unusual excitement to our adventure and helped us expect the unexpected on a road that was littered with desecrated souls.

One of the many street kids pounding on our taxi windows begging
for money.