As we began our first day on the field in the Philippines on PBC’s Medical Mission Trip, the contrasting sights, sounds, and smells immediately staggered us. The lush countryside and the beautiful people stood out against the intense poverty and significant malnutrition we immediately encountered in a more rural area to the northeast of Manila referred to as “trash mountain.”
On the bus ride to the there, I visited with Rick, a local pastor’s son, from a church near the ministry place where we are staying. He shared his heart and compassion for people around him, but especially the poor of “trash mountain” who scavenged for anything they could eat or sell. “I’ve had many sleepless nights,” Rick said, “praying for God to help me know how I can help the children with their education or the adults with ways to provide for their families.” As we traveled up the mountainside, I asked him, “what keeps Filipinos from trusting Christ?” He explained what a struggle it is for many to trust God for eternity when they wrestle with trusting Him to provide food for today.
We experienced this struggle to trust God first hand when Steve Hoel, Teri Lehmann, and I visited a home near trash mountain that was, at best, a hodgepodge of tree branches, plastic tarps, and exposed rusty nails. Inside, the situation was even more disparaging. We found a destitute mom who was unable to care for her extremely malnourished son. In her own skin-and-bone condition, she was so weak that she couldn’t even walk. The boy’s father just a stone’s throw away on “trash mountain” foraging for anything that would be used for food. The boy appeared to be about nine months old, but we learned he closer to 3 years old. Adding to the heart wrenching condition of the circumstances, we discovered that his one-year old brother had died just a couple weeks earlier. We gave the son and his mother some food and water, but prayed that God would spare his life and his mother from even greater sorrow.
It’s interesting to me that at home in the States, it’s most often our self-sufficiency that keeps us from trusting God. But for many of those we met on Tuesday in the Philippines – giving them food, treating their illnesses, and matching them with glasses – it’s God’s (perceived) insufficiency that causes them to doubt His faithfulness.
The reality is that both our self-sufficiency and our perceived view of God’s insufficiency causes us to starve spiritually. Today, I’m considering God’s promise to “supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19) in a different light. Sometimes He uses others to meet my needs. At other times, He uses me to be the supply to meet the needs of others. At all times, He supplies my needs according to His unlimited resources — freely, richly in Christ Jesus. What a staggering contrast to consider. What a great promise to believe.
I pray I’ll have the mind and attitude of Christ expressed by the apostle Paul,
“I don’t say this out of need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:11-13