[This blog has since moved to bybethanyjae.com. Head on over to check it out, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised… x]
Well friends, we made it! All 12 of us (Ps Georgie arrives here from Hawaii on Wednesday)!
The flight went miraculously fast. And I’m pretty sure our bunch was that “annoyingly loud group” that people either love or hate to be with on a flight (ha!) But it was great! We arrived at Manila Airport, waited a couple of hours and then took another flight into Tacloban. There’s nothing too special about our stories of deliriousness and over tiredness, so let’s get stuck into the day!
First three thoughts about Tacloban:
- When you’re driving through Tacloban for the very first time, what you witness is nothing short of ‘eye-opening’. In fact, calling it ‘eye-opening’ is a phenomenal understatement
- The Filipino people welcome you as though you are one of their own
- Random – loads of advertisements for local beer, Pepsi, fast-food restaurants, etc around the slum areas. And then next to it there’ll be a big property with a gate protecting a beautiful house inside.
I’ve always been told that the people here are the most beautiful people you’ll ever meet, and now that I’ve met them I can testify to that! They’re amazing!!
When we arrived at the Alejandro Hotel (which I must say, it’s beautiful! Spacious, the staff is delightful and the whole feel is seriously lovely. And you know that they LOVE to party when you can hear dance music pumping from the hotel at 6pm), the welcome we received as tremendous! The embrace that we received from the New Life Christian Center (NLCC) team was the definition of welcoming and it’s obvious to see why people fall in love with them.
But there was no resting… yet! We went straight into the deep end by going into the slums. And wow, I’ve seen lots of Ps Enzo’s photographs from the times that he’s been there, but you can’t really grasp what it means for those people living there until you have seen it with your own two eyes.
Being there was surreal. It felt weird taking pictures of the kids and their environment. It felt weird seeing them living in the circumstances that they do and yet so overcome with joy. And honestly, I felt a bit out of place. It didn’t have anything to do with being culture shocked, but everything to do with being made aware of such an extreme living condition that some are forced to live in compared to my own…and yet they carried more joy than those of us living in the ‘blessed life’.
Instead of giving out rice to the families, the mothers of families that we have connected with in previous years met us in another building. In this small room there was the Enjoy team, the NLCC team and 20 mothers with some of their children. Ps Lou shared a ten-minute word that was interpreted by the ever so lovely Ps Venus from NLCC. It was truly amazing. The response from the women as they heard the Word was lot’s ‘Amens’ and nodding of the head that came from the convictions of their heart being manifested when the Word was spoken. The ENJOY team then went around and prayed for blessing, provision, strength and just life for these women and their households. We then distributed a bag of rice to each woman to take back to her family, and they were truly thankful! Why? Because we met a practical need that they had.
From there we walked straight to the Sidewalk Sunday School (SSS). There were hundreds of kids everywhere! They were loud and loved to participate in the games and preaching! Roxy, Rochelle, Angie and Jac also led them in “If you’re happy and you know it…” and they were beside themselves with excitement!
And then, we came back to the hotel, had a quick freshen up and went to our official welcoming dinner at the rooftop of the hotel…and boy, do they know how to throw a welcoming party! There was dancing, laughter, music, new friends and connections being made, food, photos, and loads of smiles. Definitely a night to remember!
As you can tell, it’s been full on! All that has happened between arriving in Tacloban around 10.30am and now, 11pm. So I’m off to hit the sack for some much needed sleep!
Tomorrow we’re off to the Women’s Prison, so stay tuned for that blog post. There’ll also be some interviews and photos (which will be coming asap!).
Random things learned:
– Generally the Filipino people only eat with a fork and spoon; no knife
– They don’t call older people (related or not) by simply their first name, they say ‘ate’ for older aunt and ‘kuya’ for older uncle
– All you have to do is smile at someone and they will generally smile back
– Season one of Australia’s Junior Masterchef is currently airing on one of their television channels