Thursday, July 26, 2012

Outreach Phase: The Philippines

In continuation of sharing about the outreach phase of the 2012 YWAM Tokyo DTS, the next stop would be a two week trip to the Philippines!

Last year when attending my own DTS, we traveled to Olongapo City where we partnered with a YWAM base there that works specifically with women in the sex trade, trying to pull them out, teach them practical life values and steps, help them earn an education, and hopefully ending with the girls never returning to prostitution again. It was such a blessing to get to meet and stay with them last year, so I was excited when I was chosen to lead our team there again this year!

The trip itself was jammed packed with ministry opportunities, from going to the bars to talk with the girls to holding open air worship services, from partnering with a local church and house of prayer to hiking into the mountains to be a part of a tribal church! Of course, one of the greatest parts of this trip is also getting to meet and pour into the lives of the girls at the base and their children. There are at least seven teenagers and nine or so children ten and under, including a one year old (his mother was pregnant last year when we were there)!

As I mentioned, a large part of our ministry was going to the bars in Olongapo. We specifically focused on an area called Barretto where there is a strip of road lined with bars. I would like to share some about my experience from the night I went. During that night we traveled to two different bars, one of which is called Escape. Since we had traveled there last year, one of the staff at the YWAM base has managed to organize a Bible study for the bar girls every Friday, meeting in Escape. When we entered, there were no clientele there, so we had full freedom to move about the bar without worry (most of the bars have become used to the presence of missionaries and allow us to enter and converse with the girls as long as we are not interrupting a "transaction". During this time, some of the girls in our group sat on the stage with the dancers and talked with them while myself and another spoke with the girls/lady boys working the floor. In fact, we even taught them a dance and did the Cupid Shuffle!

However, the tranquility of the evening was stopped when all of the sudden there was a buzzer sounding. It was crazy to see the bar go from relaxed to full motion: the dancers hopped up and started to move again, life devoid from their faces, while the floor girls ran to positions to look "natural". Within moments, the client walked in and took his place on the bench along the wall. Before he entered, flurried words traversed through the air about whose client had arrived to be followed by comments of disgust from the lady boy who was to serve him. I was amazing and appalled to see the environment to shift so much so quickly. And saddened by the sight before my eyes.

It was at this time I also saw something beautiful. Along the bar was another girl who no longer worked there but was visiting. She said she had moved in with her boyfriend, but she did not have a job and was bored. So she would come back to the bar because that is where her friends were. I took the chance to affirm the loyalty within her.

Before we left, I was pleased to see "the client" leaving again. Alone.

When I think about all I saw during this trip and the last, there is much to share. Like how that same night, we visited a bar from our rounds last year right before we left when we ran into a girl we met last year who just happened to be passing by on her way to a friends. She was wearing a modest dress, and she informed me that she was no longer working in the bar. "Do you miss it? I asked. "No, not really." Another girl from last year had been promoted from the floor to working as a waitress. A third girl ran out of the bar upon being informed that we were there, running to come speak to us! "-------, get back in there and get to work!" "Shut up, I am talking with my friends!" When the second person came out and yelled at her, she returned to work; apparently she had a client inside that she ran out on to speak to us. All of these people we met in two weeks time last year, too.

Before leaving, we held a party for the bar girls to attend where we had lunch, snacks, and drinks, and we had games, worship, a testimony from a former bar girl, and a teaching by one of our students. A great part of the time was just spent talking, treating these girls and boys like what they were: people instead of sex toys. I remember noticing how one of the girls came back to the base with us, speaking with one of the staff. Well, about a half hour later, we were informed that she wanted to leave the trade, move into the base, and accept Jesus as her Savior!!! Praise God! This was our last day, along with one of our student's birthdays. That morning, another student had prayed that as a birthday present someone would get saved! What a great present! And we got to celebrate it all that night at our going away party!

What an amazing trip! I thank God that I got to go! Also, here is a link to the website of our dear friend Destiny who has been working in the Philippines for the past year. It is because of her that we got to do most of the amazing things we did! She is a true hero of the faith, loving these girls, selling everything to go suffer for the Gospel! Check out the video on her website to hear testimonies from some of the girls we met and see some of the things we saw. It is worth it!

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