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  • Writer's pictureJoel Thomas Stewart

God is in Our Midst // the Philippines

Recently, I was in the Philippines on a mission trip. My cousin Hilary brought me to the Philippines to speak and lead worship at a retreat she led for the staff of the ministry she founded, Glory Reborn. Everyday I saw God moving in our midst. After a week of Glory Reborn ministry in Cebu, my cousin and I took a flight to Davao to visit two of the four Charlie’s Lunch feeding programs there.

Upon arriving, I noticed that Davao seemed more in order. The streets were cleaner than in Cebu where we had been but there was still poverty all around us. We pulled up to the first feeding center and I jumped out with the camera in hand, hoping to capture some great video and pictures of the kids. I was delighted when Maggie, the Pastor who runs the feeding center there with her husband, began playing her guitar. She led the kids in singing sweet words like, “I love You Jesus.” It was a precious moment! Personally, it stirred my heart and love for the Lord.

After the singing I shared with the kids about my brother Charlie and how Charlie’s Lunch began. They listened intently (especially for kids!) and then it was time to serve them Charlie’s Lunch. We handed out gifts to the kids and their faces lit up! It was fun-filled and a physically and spiritually nourishing time. I left grateful to have been able to see what God was doing there through Charlie’s Lunch.

We went on to the next feeding center in our little SUV with Pastor Charlyn Gambe (pictured bottom left) who oversees Charlie’s Lunch there. Entering this next area of town felt a bit more dangerous. There was a tension in the air. As we pulled up to the church, I was told that this area is predominantly muslim and so we had to be careful what we did there. The serious look on Charlyn’s face told the story of the intensity in the area. We parked and quickly made our way through a gate behind a tall wall without much fanfare unlike what is typical at a feeding center in Central America for instance. I kept my camera in my pocket to not draw too much attention to myself.

As we snuck into the church that looked more like a two-story house from the outside we were greeted by 35 smiling children with little voices saying “WELCOME!” There was such a joy in the atmosphere. The kids seemed happy to be there, talking and laughing with each other. We sang, danced, I spoke about Charlie and then it was time to pass out the gifts we had brought for the kids that your donations paid for! We proceeded to have such a grand time in this little room tucked away in this rough neighborhood.

Outside it was violent, dangerous and poverty was everywhere, but here in the feeding center you might think you were at a joyous birthday party. It was quite the contrast between these two places, separated only by 25 feet and a high wall. The kids were happy receiving the gifts and even greater smiles were seen on their faces as we served them Charlie’s lunch. It was rice with chicken and vegetables, like something you might get at a fancy Thai restaurant. The kids loved it! We told them they were special, loved by God,

and I did my best to make sure each child and volunteer I interacted with felt seen, heard and loved. Then it was time to head home and the kids went off to school with Jesus in their hearts and food in their tummies.

What impacted me most about all this was how God was at work, right in the middle of that rough neighborhood, loving kids and helping them in so many tangible ways. Thank God that this is also our story... you and I. God is in the midst of our “rough neighborhoods”. He is at work, always for the good. Take that promise into your own life today; the truth that God is at work for the good in the midst of it all. Bless you all and thank you for being a partner with us at Charlie’s Lunch. We love and appreciate you!


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