This is my favorite day of trip – worshipping with our TMP churches. I wish every Christ-follower could experience this. It would solve a lot of church problems back home.
8am – Jesus Christ’s Church in the Valley
This is the church that sits right next door to where we are staying (YMC). There are two services – a 8.00 AM English service and a 9.30 AM Tagalog service.
We go to the 8 AM service so we can spend the rest of the day at the trash dump sites. Technically, this isn’t an “international” service as many of the visiting mission groups lead the service – guest speakers, guest testimonies, guest skits, guest worship leaders. So it’s often a mixed bag when we go.
The pastor of JCCV is Rick Aranas’s dad and everybody calls him Pastor A. He and his wife are incredible servants of God and are two of my most favorite people on the planet.
The service opens with Pastora Dickey (wife of Pastor A and Head Teacher of their school) with their version of Prepare the Room. We’re told to use the next few minutes to prepare our hearts for worship.
An old Filipino woman sits at an out-of-tune upright piano on the right side of the room. She’s hunched over the keys, trying to get the notes on a single sheet of music to focus. She adjusts her glasses. Her eyes are betraying her. Her head bobs back and forth. Her hands are wrinkled and curved, lightly sitting on the keys, ready to play once the notes become clear.
There are flecks of wood missing from the piano. It sounds exactly like you’d expect it to sound, instead of bar tunes, it’s a soft, simple song. I don’t recognize the tune. My guess is it’s an old Filipino hymn. The music is as choppy as her focus. It’s clear that her eyes and the music are having an ongoing debate with each other but she keeps playing…haltingly.
But it’s worship and it shows through her face.
We get a treat this morning as we are led in song by Filipino teens. You need to know – the Filipino people leap into worship. There is no ‘let’s warm up a bit.’ Throw words on the screen, turn up guitars, make sure it’s loud enough for those on the street to hear and let’s go.
There’s a group here this morning from a Christian university from the states. They are going to perform a skit and give us a couple of testimonies.
One thing that ministering in trash dumps has done to me – it’s exposed how shallow and self-focused my faith was as a young believer…and still is at times. I can remember a time in my faith when I honestly believed that God’s will for my life was to be happy and well-taken care of and popular. As I listen to these college kids speak of their “struggles”, I am all too familiar with their words.
I wish there was a way I could tell them that God’s story is bigger than their hurt of getting dumped by your girlfriend or being betrayed by a high school friend. I wish there was a painless way for them to understand that God redeems us so that we can join His story, not so He can join ours. That our story – it’s not that great. His story – it changes everything.
I wish they would come with us to the dump today. To smell the dump while singing praises in a hot, humid hut. To watch a church get up and give an offering. To watch them walk to church in the best clothes they have and worship with utter abandon.
It would change everything. I know it would. It changed me.
Tim Wilson speaks at JCCV. For all the goofiness and awkward moments that come at the expense of him, Tim’s deep love of people pours out of him. He loves people and he loves helping them understand God’s word. A little nugget from his message:
Righteousness is different from godliness. Righteousness is a gift. It’s instant. That’s our standing with God through Jesus. Godliness is developed. It’s how we live among each other and it’s for each other. Godliness is about our witness to the lost world.
11 AM, Vista Wesleyan Church, Tanza 1 Project
Pastor Stanley asked Rick to lead worship and Dave Henry to speak. It’s awesome. We are hugged and greeted by every single person in the church. They jump into the worship songs. It’s a loud place!!
Dave Henry walks us through the life of Nicodemus. He starts by seeing Jesus at night, he ends by asking for his body from the most public government official there is. Quite a journey for him – but it was a journey.
Dave’s a teacher. A very good one at that. He sucks you into the world, taking you on a journey and pointing out the important stuff along the way. It’s like you are getting a private tour of the Scriptures.
Special music is two brothers singing a praise song and I wish I had on video what happened. As the boy gets up on stage, he looks at Rick’s guitar then looks back at Rick. Rick gives him the nod.
The kid looks like he’s won the lottery. The whole audience goes “Ooooohhhh!!!!!” and starts clapping as he grabs Rick’s Taylor. He misses his first two chords he’s so excited to play this guitar but he quickly recovers. The Brothers do very well and the whole church loves the moment – seeing two young men growing into leaders.
Pastor Stanley calls for the offering and the congregation starts clapping. He says something to the congregation – I don’t understand any of it except I hear ‘Western Hills Church’, ‘Pastor Rick and Grant.’ The crowd erupts with applause again and a few shouts.
Pastor Stanley tells me – “I told them that you two are from the church where I learned to clap when to take the offering.”
Well done, WHC. Well done.
After the service, church isn’t near over. Every person in the church comes up to us. Dave and I have been here before and many of them recognize us and hug us. No handshakes will do. They are enamored with Rick’s height. When Rick pulls out the bag of toys, the place goes silent.
Instead of a feeding frenzy and every kid running forward to get something, they just stand there and wait. There is no presumption from them. We line them up and have them come pick a toy then they find out it’s from Rick’s son, Charlie. Choruses of “Thank you, Charlie” start up.
After the greetings and the visiting after service, I take Rick up to the dump. Pastor Stanley follows us.
“I praise God for this dump.”
Rick and I look a little confused.
He says it again.
“I really do praise God for this dump. If this dump wasn’t here, I would not be working here. And I’d never met Trash Mountain. I’d never had the resources to feed and educate these kids. I’d never met you. These kids would have starved or died from disease.”
We watch the dump site for a few minutes. More trucks unload.
Pastor Stanley breaks the silence.
“We get to bring light and hope here. How awesome is that?”
Part 2 will post tomorrow.