GOODNESS! Sleep was amazing. In fact, it was so great that some of us decided that we were not going to wake up when our beautiful leaders came and woke us up at 6:45am. However, it was obvious that the thought of seeing hundreds of smiling children motivated all of us to push through the jet-lag and get our legs moving. As we walked out of our comfy shipping containers, the beauty of Anika, our resort, was almost as good as our slumber. In all honesty, this place has been hand-crafted by God himself. The brisk, yet humid morning was characterized by the cold sand between our rooms and the dining area. The sun was shining just over us, and the Philippine Sea was gracefully swaying in the distance. It was breathtaking. Breakfast consisted of waffles, eggs, and sausage. It was delicious, but it also reminded a lot of us of you guys and home. After a quick hour of being awake, it was time to head over to the famous jeepneys. In groups of about 15 people we loaded up and started our forty-five minute route to Tarong Elementary School. The ride was impactful in so many ways. Some of us sang music at the top of our lungs…others conversed among themselves about life and their own experiences…the rest of us had our eyes glued to the scenery outside. Bantayan is beautiful, but it also has a significant amount of poverty. Many of us had not ever seen anything like it, and I am positive that plenty of perspectives on life have been altered by being exposed to the run-down houses, animals, barren landscape, and people. We had not even arrived at the school and lives were being changed. Eventually, we got to the school. There were kids everywhere smiling and waiting eagerly for us to hop out of our jeepneys and be with them. Immediately the whole team was welcomed with the sound of drums and the sight of dancers waving their batons. It moved us all in ways words can’t describe. Some us cried and others could not stop smiling. After the welcoming that we received so undeservingly, it was time to interact with all of the beautiful children. They were extremely giving, loving, happy, gracious, joyful, enthusiastic, and so much more. It was evident that they grabbed a hold of our hearts. They were the proof. The proof that God does not have borders, and that He is in the hearts of kids in the farthest places from our home. We can’t wait for you guys back home to see all of their faces in the pictures that were taken. We spent hours playing games with the kids before it was time to get to work. This year, God presented the team with the task of finishing a stage in the center of the school. The stage would serve as meeting place for not only students, but the community. We were all excited. The team divided the jobs of passing rocks and buckets, shoveling a mountain of rock and dirt, and wheelbarrowing the larger rocks that would all end up at the base of the stage. We worked for hours in the heat, but we were all living. It was difficult labor, but the whole team had the largest smiles on their faces as we started to finally grow closer and closer. Soon enough, the children came out of class, but instead of going home, they ran to help. Some of them grabbed a bucket with dirt and took it to the unfinished stage, and others seemed to be challenging each other to see how many rocks they could pick up. It was mesmerizing to watch. For lunch we had tons of rice, chicken, kabobs, and delicious eggrolls and mangos. Nothing ever tasted so good. The lunch break was a much needed for rest and hydration. We were grateful for this time, but as we looked out of the windows of the classroom where we were eating, we saw all of the kids still working hard and laughing. We traveled roughly 45 hours to make it to this place to serve them, yet they were selflessly serving us in ways we could not comprehend. After a few more hours of work under the beating sun, it was time to go back to the resort. We loaded the jeepneys once again and traveled back to our home for the next couple of days. When we got to the resort, we were all exhausted and overheated. It was a kind mix of tiredness and joy. Mostly joy. During free time, some us took a dip in pool and others grabbed some smoothies. It was another great time to bond, relax, and take in this beautiful island. At 7:00pm it was time for dinner. What was on today’s menu? Anika Fried Rice. It was amazing. We were living. Soon after dinner, we met for large group to talk about our day, we worshipped together, and Mary Madden shared a great message about how we need to understand that there is a purpose in waiting for God to show up. Then, we moved into small group where we shared testimonies and grew closer together. Goodness. This day was amazing. We are so grateful and humbled to be here. All glory to God for the Philippines.
We love you guys more than anything in the world.
With love,Martin and Gabby