In the past 3 months, I have come to love the Philippines and what God is doing there. This country has a beautiful heart of receptiveness to spiritual things and a desire to care for and serve people well. These two qualities that I saw in the Philippines led to so many open doors for God to work through myself and my awesome team of 8. During our final 6 weeks of work in the Philippines, we saw so many doors open for ministry. Some of these areas were:
- Going classroom-to-classroom each week in elementary schools, preaching the gospel and teaching the kids about their value and identity in God and praying with them over sickness and brokenness in their families. We also got the opportunity to pray strength and wisdom and strategy over some of the teachers as well.
- Teaching a discipleship seminar for youth and church members, encouraging them to go deeper in their relationship with God and seek His unique call on their life.
- Teaching a counseling skills seminar to church leadership to equip them to better respond to brokenness in the body of Christ and allow people to feel heard and cared for.
- Basketball Ministry: Teaching a short message of truth weekly to a group of men who play basketball each Saturday night and then engaging in a game with them. We never won, but we came close towards the end! 😉
- Attending various young adult and youth ministries and encouraging the youth by sharing testimonies of what God has done in our own lives and inviting them to hear God speak His unique plan into their own lives and choose God’s will for their life over what everyone else is doing.
Teaching a counseling skills seminar to a group of church leadership. I was able to teach this group about “active listening” skills. It was such a fun opportunity to develop my teaching and communication skills!
Most of my team doing a skit for a group of children at a feeding ministry in a “relocation area” called Prenza, where there is a lot of poverty.
The biggest highlight of my time in the Philippines was the work that we were able to do in the prisons. Last year, the president of the Philippines called for anyone who was discovered handling drugs to be killed on sight, unless they turned themselves in immediately. As a result, over 700,000 men and women voluntarily turned themselves into the police to avoid being killed. This was not something that the prison system in the Philippines was prepared for, and has led to most of the prisons being dramatically over capacity without a budget to care for or feed their prisoners. I remember during my training time in Australia seeing a video about this problem – the footage showed a prison in Manila that was packed so full of people that it was standing room only, causing people to have to sleep in shifts from hammocks on the ceiling. As I watched the startling footage, my heart was compelled with compassion to pray for the situation. At that time, I knew that if the opportunity presented itself, I strongly wanted to do ministry within the prisoners in the Philippines.
Fast Forward a couple months and my team was introduced to Vic, a man who was pioneering ministry to prisons in our area. He was working alone, but quickly invited us to come alongside him in the work. We jumped at the opportunity and went with him to the prison the following week. Within a week or so, we were invited to do ministries in 3 different prisons with over 450 inmates, expanding the ministry that Vic had already started in one prison! The conditions we found in the prisons were hreatbreaking – there were often hundreds of prisoners in a space meant for 50 or less and there was no air conditioning in a country that is hot and humid, leading to sickness and skin conditions breaking out amongst the prisoners. In addition to this, the prison wasn’t able to feed everyone and there were prisoners who were losing their minds or even dying from hunger. One young woman I talked to admitted to trading sexual favors with another prisoner to get food.
Amidst the dark circumstances, I was admittedly intimidated. I felt like I had very little to offer, standing on the other side of the prison bars from these men and women who were at the lowest points in their lives. The first week we met with them, we prayed and were led to share the story of the prodigal son, and I was able to share a message about God’s loving invitation to them of forgiveness and unconditional love. I spoke the message with no small amount of nervousness, and then asked anyone who wanted to surrender to God to pray along with us and accept God’s invitation to become a part of God’s family as his sons and daughters. I’ll never forget the goosebumps I had as hundreds of determined voices repeated after that prayer, giving their lives to God. That first week of ministry, as we shared, we saw over 300 men and women commit or re-commit their lives to Jesus. It’s amazing what God can do with our nervous, but willing offerings!
Since this time, we’ve been able to pour into these men and women through discipleship, encouragement, prayer and counseling each week. It’s been so impactful and faith-growing to see God use my team and I each week, providing us with specific words of encouragement for the men and women that we talk to that have been able to bring breakthrough in their lives and bring hope to these dark places. This is exactly what God spoke to me when I left home 6 months ago and He has faithfully provided fruit as we’ve brought everything we’ve had to the table. Even on the days where it seemed like we offered too little in our weariness and weakness, He seemed to multiply our efforts.
One of the coolest stories that I bring home from the Philippines is how God has used our team to inspire the church here into action in the prisons. When we arrived, there was very little interest in prison ministry. Vic was working alone and was dedicating massive amounts of not just time and energy, but emotional investment and faith into this ministry. Seeing his deep dedication, and how weary he was of carrying this burden without the church’s help, one of my most desperate prayers during our time in the Philippines was that God would bring others alongside Vic and this ministry and allow our team to leave a long-term blessing that continued to bear fruit even after our short-term visit.
That prayer was answered even more than I even hoped for! Before we left, one of the inmates that we had been discipling received his release date and made a commitment to attend Vic’s small group with him for continued discipleship… and also committed to returning to the prisons to work alongside Vic in his ministry! Additionally, before we left we received word of two churches that had stepped up to do feeding ministries at the prisons – and one that had offered to do a medical mission! And, since leaving we’ve continued to hear of additional churches that we’ve worked alongside that have made commitments to visit and minister within the prisons! God faithfully answered this prayer in many ways – and continues to!!
Teaching the love of God to a group of women in prison on Valentine’s day. Many of these women wept upon hearing about the unconditional love of God and the hope that He wants to give them.
A shot of the inside of one of the men’s prison cells that we ministered to each week. In this shot, they are bowing their heads while we prayed for them.
On March 13th, my team and I flew back into Perth, Australia after saying some difficult goodbyes to the people and work that God had connected us with in the Philippines. The week that followed was a flurry of activity – my training school of 28 students came back together and debriefed together from our outreach. It was such a blessing to share stories together with one another and rejoice over the amazing things that God has done! Here’s a quick snapshot of the numbers that our Megacities outreach groups saw in the Philippines:
All Megacities “First Wave” Teams (Approx. 25 Teams):
Received Salvation: 4,400
Heard the gospel: 21,389
Received Prayer: 16,309
Received Teaching: 17,877
Received Salvation: 330
Heard the Gospel: 1331
Received Prayer: 3547
Received Teaching: 2415
It’s been an incredible experience to be a part of the first wave of teams that Megacities is pouring in Manila! Before this outreach, I always wanted to understand better what it looks like to pioneer missions work and, having seen all that God has done in only three months, my faith is so greatly increased! God paved the way for us to do His work in a major way… and my expectations of Him doing this going forward will definitely be increased. It will be pretty encouraging to see the transformation that God has brought from our efforts when the final teams return from Manila at the end of 2017.
On March 17th, my Foundations of Counseling in Ministry school had a graduation ceremony and closed out our 6 month program together. I was able to spend a few days at the YWAM Perth base after this, mostly pouring into the precious friendships that God has provided over the past 6 months and praying through what God has for me next. It was a bittersweet week of goodbyes and hearing God’s exciting vision for the future.
One of the things I want to do during this update is communicate a clear THANK YOU for each of you who have invested in this season of learning and serving God. When I left home in September, God had spoken to me that this season would be one of “stepping stones” into long term missions work and that He would clarify that call on my life as I went. He has very much done that, and I cannot wait to share with you what is coming next (stay tuned for my next update). That said, I have been so empowered, equipped and blessed by prayers, financial support and friendship during this season. The fruit that I wrote about above truly belongs to everyone who has invested in this journey – and I want to invite you to rejoice in it along with me! I couldn’t have done it alone. I’m excited that you’ve walked with me through this season – and I can’t wait to bring you along for what God has next!
Much Blessings & Love,
The graduation ceremony in which I received my completion certificate for the Foundations of Counseling Ministry school.
The whole FCM school on graduation day – I can’t say enough good about these men and women. They are powerful world-changers for Jesus!
One final shot of my Philippines outreach team. I have LOVED being a part of this team – God has taught me so much about leadership, friendship and unity through these incredible men and women.
A shot from a day-trip that I was able to go on with these beautiful ladies before leaving Australia – these are some of my most precious friends from this season. I look forward to continuing to be a part of their lives for a very long time.
WANT TO GET INVOLVED?
God has written it on my heart to be a missionary to the nations for Him. But, I can’t do it alone. Just like Paul and the original disciples that Jesus commissioned, I need the support and partnership of the body of Christ in prayer, community and financial provision. If you’d like to support me in any of these ways, please reach out to me at contact@lizrobertson[dot]net or use the information below.
– Charles Spurgeon