In most ways, I’m getting fairly accustomed to the differences of lifestyle here in the Philippines, as opposed to my life in Boise. For the most part, I’m starting to be okay with almost always being sweaty to some degree. I am also now taking advantage of the moments when I’m caught in endless streams of Manila traffic as times to think, process, and pray. I’m used to refrigerating every opened package of food, even nuts and uncooked pasta because ants are the real deal here. And I actually have a rice cooker that I use willingly and regularly, sometimes even for breakfast.
But there are some experiences, some things I see and stories I hear, that I’ll probably never, ever get used to. I’ll probably always find humor in the garbage men taking naps atop the mountain of trash loaded on the truck as it hauls down the road at 40 mph. On a more serious note, I probably won’t ever get used to seeing filthy little kids on overpasses, asleep with a Jollibee cup in hand and 20 pesos inside.
During this last outreach trip to Angeles City, I had a conversation in a bar with one of the parents who attended the Parent Vision Trip through Adventure in Missions. As my Filipina sister and I led our team through the slimy bars on Walking Street, there were multiple times throughout the night where I noticed the momma’s heart of one sweet lady on my team breaking over and over again. Every time a girl rubbed her scantily clad skin to relieve herself from an overly air-conditioned stage, or teeter in her skyscraper stilettos, I swore this lady nearly jumped out of her seat to clothe her with the shawl on her back. Every time a customer did something violating to the dancers, I thought I’d see a purse come slamming down on someone’s head.
But I didn’t. And as we sat on the torn, pleather seats of the last bar we attended that evening, I fell into a conversation with this momma. She asked me some pretty tough, thought-provoking questions.
How do you see this stuff so often and keep coming back?
How do you handle these experiences and sleep at night?
Truthfully, dwelling on the fact that a highly-paid dancer at one of these bars gets paid $5 for dancing on a stage all night in a bikini and stilettos while men harass and violate her really does make it hard for me to sleep comfortably in my safe bed. And knowing that she can get forcibly plastered by men buying her drinks, where she receives the commission of a subway sandwich is even harder. And the truth that someone can buy her for the night for the price of a jacket at the mall simply takes the cake.
How does one handle all the evil that happens on Walking Street?
Well I’ll be the first Jesus-loving, God-fearing, spirit-filled, Christian to say that at first, it makes my image of God look a little dark. And I am not about to go into a theological debate over why bad things happen to good people because I don’t have that answer yet, and maybe never will. I still know in the depths of my heart that if the God I love and know is true, then His heart is completely wrecked over His daughters’ oppression. I don’t have to question His character.
And as we sit on those bar seats that have seen too much evil throughout the decades of Walking Street’s existence, I wonder if what I’m witnessing isn’t an accident.
We are Jesus’ hands and feet, right? We as Christians, according to 1 Corinthians 12, are actually called the body of Christ. If the purpose of our lives was to get saved and go to Heaven, then we might as well just die at the altar (sorry that’s a little dark), but I think you hear what I’m trying to convey. Jesus loves us so much that He not only came to earth to die and save us, but to use His life as a model so that when He returned to the Father’s side, we could partner with Him, and embody the love of Christ as we do Kingdom Work. In other words, perhaps we are the eyes that see evil, connected to the hands that reach out, connected to the legs that carry out Kingdom endeavors, connected to the head that gives practical gospel and direction (like helping bar girls go to school), which is connected to the heart. And I mean, The Heart—The Father’s Heart.
And that heart is so sweet on the broken. Jesus’ heart is absolutely, 100% for every one of those girls’ chance at living and experiencing true freedom. But for Jesus’ body to truly be aware of the task at hand, and for us to adopt the Father’s Heart for the broken, sometimes we have to see messed up things. Sometimes we have to endure sleepless nights for people who hardly ever sleep soundly. But how wonderful it is, that God chose me, a young, reserved, quirky, brunette, green-eyed, freckled, 20-year-old girl from Idaho to be His partner in doing Kingdom business. And He is calling you, and you, and you, dear readers, to be His partners as well.
That thought reawakened something in me as I sat next to that mom on that bar seat that night. I had a new resolve to be more aware of what I see, and decide what I can contribute to the need I perceive around me. No, I can’t feed every starving kid in Manila, as much as I wish I could. But I can continue to fight for the 64 girls who call Wipe Every Tear home, and whenever the Lord allows me to see something that pricks my heart, I will fight for them too, even if it’s only 5 pesos in a Jollibee cup.
I am not responsible for what people do with my love, kindness, and generosity.
I am highly responsible for the heart that sits inside my chest, the cultivation of it, and the love, generosity, and kindness that can, should, and will pour out of it.
So I ask: what do you see today that’s broken? Is it a starving child or an abused neighbor? Is it the homeless in Manila or the homeless under the bridge near your grocery store? Is it the trafficked girl or the burned-out, single mother? Allow yourself to be more broken for the broken. Adopt the Heart of the Father for your community. Be very brave, and very kind.
“What good is it, my brothers, if someone claims to have faith, but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you tells him, “Go in peace; stay warm and well fed,” but does not provide for his physical needs, what good is that? So too, faith by itself, if it is not complemented by action, is dead.”
– James 2:14-17