Children in Poverty Get Taste of Abundant Life

September 21, 2017

Children learning outdoors in the Philippines.
One of several kids' fellowships that an indigenous ministry runs in the southern Philippines.

A 7-year-old girl in a primitive seaside village in the Philippines who lacked everything thought she had nothing to give.

Little Joy Torres didn't have daily nourishing and guidance from her parents; they were separated, and Joy lived with her grandmother. She usually stayed in the background while other kids played, and in any group she did her best to hide herself.

"She was very, very shy, and you could hardly hear her voice," said the director of an indigenous ministry that provides food for Joy and hundreds of other kids in the southern Philippines.

She said that at times Joy and her brother didn't have enough money to attend school. Almost completely isolated, the tiny one withdrew further into herself, a silent shadow amid the shanties, jungle and seashells.

Hard to say what sad fates might have befallen her had a volunteer with the indigenous ministry not invited her to join a children's fellowship where games and other activities took place alongside Bible lessons. The food the ministry prepared was often Joy's only meal of the day, and the fellowship fed her soul; she found an energy she hadn't had before.

As she grew older, she began selling fish and shellfish to help feed herself, her brother and grandmother. With other earnings from babysitting her younger cousins, Joy was able to save money to attend school.

In the children's fellowship, meantime, her true self continued to emerge. She loved listening to Bible stories and memorizing Bible verses, and after a few years she put her faith in Jesus as the Savior and Lord of her life. Within her burned a deep desire to bring other kids to get a taste of the Lord, and her continuous invitations to them led to a huge jump in the fellowship's size.

"As the years went by, Christ shined in her life," the ministry director said. "In spite of being busy earning money for food and for her allowance to go to school, she always made herself available for kids' fellowship. She had a teachable heart and a learner's attitude."

A Child Shall Lead Them

By the time she turned 13 earlier this year, Joy had learned that she had something to give to others – herself. When younger children would begin to cry, she took them away and looked after them to keep them from disturbing the group. She helped discipline the younger kids. She assisted in distributing the food.

Upon learning that other outreaches distributed clothing, Joy brought four items of her own clothes to share with them.

"She even acted sorry that she couldn't give more clothing, because she had only a few clothes," the director said. "Other kids also followed her example, and they also brought some of their clothing to share for other outreaches."

Naturally learning servanthood, Joy has become a bona fide, if unofficial, leader of the children's fellowship.

"One time when the ministry volunteer teacher got sick, she even took the initiative to start the kids' fellowship," the director said. "The volunteer teacher in this outreach is training four youth leaders who will be reaching other kids in their communities. Joy Torres is one of those kids. Glory to God!"

Completing the Circle

Smiling children in the Philippines.
Children animated by activities, games and Bible lessons often introduce their parents to Christ.

Though Joy has little contact with her own parents, many parents have come to Christ through the children she has brought to the fellowship.

Kids being fed both physically and spiritually tell their parents about the fellowship, and as a result they learn about community Bible studies for adults. Seeing the transformation in their children impacted by the love of Christ, they are eager to attend.

Parents showing interest in the Word of God then invite other parents whose children are not part of the kids' fellowship. Completing the circle, those parents encourage their children to attend the kids' group.

"During feeding time, parents were there to assist, and some also help in preparing foods," the director said. "Grown-up kids who grow spiritually also are now assisting the main volunteer teachers in teaching songs, memory verses and help during game time."

The mother of one of the group children told the ministry director that her family life is now marked by peace, rather than angry shouting. The director said they are enjoying harmonious relations in spite of the tensions that being poor and living in a squatter area can produce.

"Some mothers came to know the Lord as they saw the transformed lives of their children, and more fathers also were saved as they witnessed the transformed lives of their wives," she said. "A daughter and a son of a different family shared with me that they were very thankful to God that they came to know the Lord, because their family also was saved, and now they're happy because of the transformed lives of their parents."

Such transformation does not happen without support from Christian Aid Mission donors. Will you consider giving to help indigenous workers bring the transforming power of Christ to their communities?

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