When we first met Rachel she was seven years old and slept at night in the back of a jeepney – a form of public transport in the Philippines – with her grandmother, who was sick with TB. Her mother had died in childbirth and her father had disappeared.
We had been praying as a church in Manila about how we could help the poor around us and were led by God to begin a small home for street children. We had a very small flat at the back of our church, and Rachel became the first resident. Her old grandmother died not long after.
Rachel is still with us in our homes. She will be fifteen years old this Christmas.
Care for the fatherless
Since 1995 many children have passed through the homes run by the church. We are currently caring for 54 girls in five homes.
Why did we start such a work? – Because the Bible says, ‘Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this; to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep [ourselves] unspotted from the world’ (James 1:27).
You cannot turn your back on the needy around you and yet claim to follow the Lord Jesus Christ.
Christmas is a special time in our Children’s Homes. But we have to be careful not to ‘spoil’ the children too much. People send gifts and the youngsters get so many invitations to parties that we have to turn most down.
At Christmas people seem to remember such children but, sadly, they often forget them during the rest of the year.
Not all the children in our homes are orphans. Ann was seven when she came to us. A teacher at school wondered why she would not sit down, and found that the child’s bottom had been burnt by her mother with a cigarette lighter.
Ann was taken to the government welfare office and then transferred to our homes. She had a terrible burn on her arm, where her mother had burnt her with a hot iron. She had used the same thing on her private parts when Ann had wet herself.
A lump on her head was the result of having her head banged against the wall. No, not all are orphans, but as in every country some children have wicked parents.
We do thank God that she is now a bright smiling girl of nine.
Mary came to us when four years old, having been raped by her mother’s partner. They were street people, and the only thing little Mary would eat was fried chicken that came from the dustbins of the Kentucky Fried Chicken chain. She was terrified of men for quite some while.
Recently, my wife and I were looking for somewhere to eat out when a voice behind me called out, ‘Pastor!’
It was Bobby. He was one of the first children in our home – one of our members had found him and his older sister sleeping in a shop doorway.
He stayed in our home for two years but was eventually transferred to a Boy’s Home not far away. He had left there some years ago and has been on his own, yet he keeps in touch.
He is now sixteen and works in an internet café, where he gets a small allowance. He asked me when the Christmas party would be held – he comes each year!
At Christmas all the children get gifts and new clothes. They attend our church family get-together at the homes, and have a party.
When you see the children playing you would not realise the sad lives most of them have led. Some have had to rebuild trust in adults after those whom they loved failed them and treated them badly.
All our children spend about ten days over Christmas with a member from our church or sister churches. They get to see what a Christian family is like firsthand. Some have been back year after year to the same family.
The Philippines, being an Asian country, has a strong emphasis on the family. There is a great loyalty to one’s immediate family and even beyond – to uncles, aunts, cousins, nieces and nephews.
Through the church family, we have sought to provide for those who lack such natural ties. All our children are part of the wider church family – which is now their extended family, for they ‘belong’ among us as we meet together as Christians and seek to love one another.
It will soon be Christmas, and many of our children will miss their real families, while some, like Rachel, have no family to miss. Others like Ann and Mary cannot go home.
But we are now their family and they know they are loved and wanted. They also know the good news that God sent the Lord Jesus into this wicked world to deal with sin.
As the angel said, ‘Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord’ (Luke 2:10-11).