If you’re just tuning in to what’s been going on, then you’re in luck! If you’re aware of my decision to head on my first missions trip this year, then get ready for some updates!
As a quick refresher, back in January of this year, God revealed to me that a global missions trip is something He needed for me to embark on. Since then, I’ve gone through a lot of different emotions surrounding the decision to go forth with it - which is partly why I haven’t written about it since my initial post announcing that I was planning to go. I’ve struggled with feeling discouraged, being nervous, and honestly, not feeling adequate enough to be the one to head out on this mission that God requested of me. Going on a missions trip is more than just heading out to assist a different country; it’s a life-changing event that not only tests your ability to be selfless, but tests your connection with God, your faith, your level of comfortability, your love for those around you, and your love for God. It’s much more than an environmental, change of weather and zip code type of of thing. Nevertheless, I went forth and pushed through even though I was still having feelings up until the day before I left the country. Which brings me to my next topic…the flight.
We boarded our first flight the morning of Friday, April 22 and headed out to New York. After an extremely brief layover at JFK, we boarded our next flight to Tokyo, Japan. A near 13-hour flight, we went through about four different time zones, and eventually landed in Manila on Saturday evening around 8pm. Each flight was draining, tiring, cramped, and a little uncomfortable. The amazing thing about it though was that we made it safely with no issues whatsoever.
The first thing we did off of our flight (after transferring currency) was head straight to the food court to grab something to eat. If you’re ever thinking about visiting the Philippines, one great thing to know is that all of the food is pretty cheap! The currency transfer will make you feel as if you’re rich (chang, chang, gettin’ paid over here)!! There are different prices that transfer over, but for the most part the lowest I’ve seen is 46.10 pesos to our US dollar with the highest being 46.52 pesos/US dollar. Converting in your head can be irritating at times, so be sure to have a calculator on hand or an app that converts for you.
Summer doesn’t end until May 1, so even at 8pm, it was extremely hot. Quite similar to a summer night in Florida, it was anywhere between 88-90 degrees the night that we got here. Our hosts, Pastor Isaias, his wife Bing, and their daughter May, met us at the airport and drove us to our “resort” to get settled. I use the word resort very loosely, please take note.
Prior to our arrival into the Philippines, we had team meetings where we were told of a few things that we would have to get ready for when it came to our living situation. However, I don’t know if I was truly prepared for it when I arrived.
We had been told that there would be no hot water in our “resort,” but it wasn’t stated (and also wasn’t asked) about if there were real showers in our rooms. Being that everything is a little smaller in size in Asian environments, the bathrooms over here in the Philippines are really small and there’s a small spigot that runs extremely low pressured water out of it. It sits right next to the toilet, so if you were to use the wash area, it would wet the entire bathroom floor and the toilet. Please note: where we are living is a deprived area in the city of Binangonan, so things are a little less fancy. One thing that is universal around the Philippines though, is the inability to flush tissue down the toilet. Even in the malls - which are just as established as the ones in the US - the flushing of toilet tissue is prohibited. So yes, that means EVERY piece of tissue you use has to be thrown in the garbage, not in the toilet. That’s only if there’s tissue available though. Most of the restrooms I entered, even in the mall, had no tissue and most had no garbage cans in the stalls. Very few restrooms had soap in them and close to none included paper towels to dry your hands. Trust and believe, I had my Huggies baby wipes ON DECK at all times, but it’s difficult, so out of routine, and - to American standards - unsanitary, to get used to literally carrying all of your trash out of the bathroom in hand and tossing it in a trashcan. A TRASHCAN. Do you know how difficult it is to remember that you can’t flush your toilet tissue?!
Needless to say, the bathroom and shower situations were experiences all in themselves, but our day at the waterfall on Sunday was a good way to take our mind off of our new living situation for the time being. Though it was packed, the view was beautiful and seeing all of those carefree people be around one another and look so happy was a reminder of how good God can make your life even when you’re sitting in the most unconventional of situations.
The Philippines is 12 hours ahead of the US, so our Monday morning was your Sunday afternoon and we started at the crack of dawn. Waking up at about 4:30 am because of course, me being me, I realized that the pool had showers and found a way to ensure that I had a real shower every morning. It wasn’t what I’m used to, but hey, when life gives you lemons…
After we all got ready, we ate breakfast and prayed together then got on our way to our first day of Vacation Bible School (VBS) with the children. Our location was outside under a terrace, so it was hot and draining, but the time with the children was well worth it. After being there from 6:30am-12pm, we went for lunch, took a small break, and then embarked on door to door evangelism throughout the town. Majority of the people live in small shacks that have one bed and sometimes house anywhere from three family members to about eight or nine at one time. They have no running water and barely have food to eat. It was an extremely humbling experience, but also overwhelming. Anyone who truly knows me knows that I have a heart for children, so seeing some of their living conditions was very heartbreaking. One thing I can say with confidence though is unlike many of our people in the US, not one person begged for one thing. The Philippines has a wide span of Catholic and Christian principles (or maybe that's what I gathered in the area I visited), so the things they were asking for the most were prayer for their family members. Not even for themselves or their living/financial situations, but for their loved ones. It honestly made me think back about the times I’ve asked people to pray for financial stability over my life and I realized that maybe I should’ve been a little more selfless or less materialistic when I went to God with my requests.
Tuesday, we had a similar routine, but since it was nearly 100 degrees by 10:30 am, door to door evangelism was canceled for the afternoon. After our break, we went back to the terrace for a night service with the community members and had the opportunity to pray over those that came up for prayer. What a wonderful experience that was to be able to touch their lives!
Though this post is a little choppy and nowhere near filled with everything that I would like to tell you, it’s beginning to get a little lengthy. Before I end this first entry though, please know that Pastor Isaias and his family have been extremely generous to us and have been amazing hosts for this trip. I’m truly grateful for their hospitality, their understanding, attempts to make us as comfortable and give us as much of the feeling of home as possible. For that, I’m so thankful for them being our go-to people for this week that we’re here.
Stay tuned for more updates as the time passes and stay connected with real-time posts/vides by following me on Snapchat and Instagram; username: kesi_p!
To all of my supporters - whether financial or spiritual: thank you for believing in me and I’m so happy that you can experience this journey with me!
“For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel.” - 1 Corinthians 9:16
Ps!!!! They have a 7-Eleven, guys!!!!!!!!!!!