We are rich! What more could I ask?

By Riezl Manatad

I grew up in a poor family in Lorega. My parents have to work hard day and night. But despite of this, I still believe that one day we will all, my 8 brothers and sisters, and my mom and dad, will be living in a BIG mansion!

Before we did not know who really God is. How he had died for us and especially for me. My father always comes home drunk and almost all the time he can’t give us money to buy food, so my mother decided to work for us as a street vendor, selling cigarettes and candies, and now water.

God is really working in our lives! Nine years ago my mother met a Canadian woman of God. And because of Ate Rhonda, my mother met Jesus. And it was Jesus who saved her and us.

Long before, my family lived in the province, the countryside of Leyte. My mother played Lotto. She gave some money to my father and told him to buy a ticket with some certain numbers. To make the long story short, my father did not buy the ticket but used the money for his vices.

The day the ticket was drawn came, but my father had not arrived home yet. Only to find out that all of my mother`s numbers appeared, but my mother did not win, since the ticket was never bought. It was worth more than 25 million pesos!

This is the will of God, because if not, we might be rich now but have not known the faithfulness of Jesus.

Today, we are rich because God has blessed us with the most important blessing anyone could ever have, SALVATION. We have recieved Jesus now as our personal Savior and dearest Father.

My Father in heaven is the richest man in the whole universe. And I am His daughter! So what more can I ask?

Romans 16:19 Be excellent of what is good, be innocent of evil.

 

Riezel (wearing the yellow shirt) is with Rhonda (wearing the red plaid blouse) on the picture above. She is 15 and will be in 4th year highschool this June.

not just another bag

At a young age of 21, Jeffrey has been in and out of jail for at least five times. He was your typical streetkid. If he is not aimlessly begging, he is either sniffing solvent with his friends to forget their hunger, or he is involved in a “rumble” with a rival gang.

 

Ronda and her biscuits

Little did Jeffrey know that his begging for food from a Canadian would later open opportunities for him to start his life anew. In 1998, Rhonda Wilson moved to Cebu, and was getting to know her neighbours. Sometimes on her way home, she would pass by Jollibee, a local fastfood chain where Jeffrey and his friends loiter around. She sees to it that she has a few packs of biscuits with her that will be given to the streetchildren.

But deep it in her heart, Ronda knows that the needs of these kids would be better addressed with a long term solution than just her sporadic visits and her spare crackers. When she returned to Canada, she realized that the likes of Jeffrey no longer need to beg in the streets if there was only a sustainable livelihood for them. She didn’t know how but she knew that she had to come back to the Philippines.

 

Where it all began

It was a simple gift that Nang Gliceria gave to Ronda that started it all. This gift was a handcrafted bag made from recycled juice packs. This immediately gave Ronda an idea on how to turn things around for Nang Gliceria and most importantly for Jeffrey and the other streetchildren in Lorega.

Soon enough, a slow yet steady enterprise was borne out of that simple token. Jeffrey was then given hope and another chance at life. He and his friends have collected juice packs and prepared them for production. Jeffrey, the third of ten kids (all their names start with the letter J) now works at several odd jobs to help support his family.

 

Like No Other

Jeffrey’s story is just one example that provides the defining mark of the Lorega bags. These bags are certainly like no other. The bags are made of empty juice packs which abound in the cemeteries near the depressed community. The doy packs are collected, and are carefully cleaned by Jeffrey and many other streetchildren. A few women in Lorega organize and arrange these colorful packs, stitching them into sturdy and attractive bags.

It is wonderful to imagine that for every Lorega bag that is sold, a lot of beautiful things happen: one less hungry streetkid, one less jobless mother who can now better look after the welfare of her children, and Lorega slowly transforming into a safe and peaceful, and vibrant community teeming with good life.

Just like the used and discarded juice packs are found, cleaned up and placed together with others, and become a useful and durable product, so too are the many precious lives in the cemetery community of Lorega – found and cleaned up with the love and hope of Jesus, placed together with others in small groups, and become useful and faithful members of God’s family, sharing that same love and hope to others.

 

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     A portion of the profit was already used in making a day-care center for the children in Lorega. If you would like to purchase a Lorega bag or would like to help or know more, do not hesitate to contact Ronda here.

not your ordinary church


by Brennan Mercado

The sight of Pastor Matt making his way through the intricate maze of shanties in Lorega, brought unusual life to the place. Nang Mila* could immediately see the young pastor from afar. She then called the attention of her neighbors to gather at the small space in the cemetery. Manong Jun then helped in arranging the chairs in the Cemetery Community Alliance Church. He disappeared for awhile to borrow his neighbor’s guitar. Nang Inday was carrying her 6 month old son with her. Her son has cleft palate and was visibly suffering from skin rashes. But the condition of her son did not stop her from joining that afternoon’s fellowship.

Nang Mila, Nang Inday and Manong Jun are just among the handful of faithful individuals that afternoon. Years before they committed their lives to Christ, Nang Mila led a Mafia-like business. With just a single word, she can decide whether a marked person deserves a second chance or not. Manong Jun participated in the lucrative yet illegal arms deal in Mindanao. And Nang Inday was famous in the flesh industry.

These and other stories were not at all unusual in Lorega. It is after all a depressed community in Cebu – home to notorious criminals, prostitutes and drug dealers. Poverty is greatly magnified in every square foot in this small barangay, which is a rather different description of what Cebu is known for – white beaches and emerging IT industries. But this did not stop Cebu City Alliance Church from planting a church in the area.

That afternoon, the usual household chores stopped for the next hour or so. Everyone sat comfortably despite the swarming flies and the stench from a nearby piggery. The crowd was then very eager to hear what Pastor Matt had to preach to them. “Naa ta bisita mag obserbar sa atong pagsimba karong hapona, (We have a visitor who will observe this afternoon’s service)” the pastor told the congregation. Looking in my direction, he jokingly added: “Diri ra ka kita na ang buhi ug ang patay magdungan ug simba. (It is only here where you can see both the living and the dead worship together.)”

At that gathering, there were many Nang Milas, Nang Indays and Manong Juns – men and women who have fallen once in their lives but decided to surrender to the lordship of Christ. Despite the enduring poverty, you could really see the unspeakable joy in their eyes; a joy that can never be bought by any currency in this world. They look at and cling in Him alone – precisely because they have nothing in this life. They have no one else to turn to.

Christ also died for every prostitute, drug pusher and cell phone snatcher not only in Lorega but also for every person in every depressed community we know of. And after more than a thousand years, He still brings good news to the poor and the oppressed. And He still transforms communities, one person at a time.

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*names in this post were changed. This is taken from Brennan’s blog entry. He is working in an IT company in Cebu and a member in one of the cellgroups in Cebu City Alliance Church.



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