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Young and Craving for Freedom»I, Jayson T. Belleza, was a captive to drugs for more than 10 years. I had my first taste of marijuana when I was 11 years old. I gave in because of peer pressure. At first, I did not like it because it made me dizzy, but I eventually liked it because it made me numb and gave me temporary satisfaction. In high school, I smoked regularly, sniffed glue, was introduced to shabu, and then got addicted. I finished high school and enrolled at a college, but my addiction grew worse. I dropped out of college. This made me happy because I wanted to enjoy FREEDOM. I wanted to be free to do everything I wanted!
Enslaved and LostI grew up in in a family of five in Lilo-an, Cebu, as the eldest of two brothers. My mother was a school teacher and my father did not have a regular job. My father was a drug addict. I saw in him the bad effects of drugs like being irritable, violent, irresponsible, selfish; plus, he was stealing and manipulating the people around him.
I ended up just like him. »Naging totoo nga ang kasabihan« »Like father like son.«
I sold drugs with my father and my brother. Both of them were in and out of prison except me. At home, there were always fights and shouting, causing shame to our family. Despite having all the reasons to leave us, my mother never left. She was such a blessing!
My life revolved around drug addiction and its lifestyle. Every day, I was looking forward to my next hit, forgetting the dreams I once had in my life. When I was a child, I dreamt to become a Catholic priest. I also wanted to become a teacher, but this evolved to wanting to become a seaman so I could earn money, buy more drugs, and have women. »Ang dami kong pangarap!« »I had a lot of dreams!«
Addiction had a full grip on me, so much so that I ended up lying and hurting my friends and my family. I stole and cheated from many people. I engaged in immoral sexual relationships with homosexuals, prostitutes, and even a married woman. I was depressed. I had low self-esteem, and no one trusted me anymore. I was also hooked on gambling (Kara Krus), and it made my life worse.
I still believed in God. I sometimes prayed when I was drunk and high on drugs. I was asking God to give me a chance. I was praying to have my life back, but I felt like it was all in vain. Thoughts of committing suicide were normal. One incident happened when I was alone in my room. I was high, drunk, hopeless, and lonely. I had a gun under my pillow and was thinking of killing myself to end the emptiness I felt. It just so happened that I had some reservations. Was dying painful? I thought to myself. Would my death create a scandal for my family? My physical and mental states were deteriorating. I was so skinny. I started hearing voices. But praise God, I did not snap!
Waking UpThe turning point in my life came when my father was shot and murdered on October 20, 2012, at nine in the evening. As my father was buying cigarettes and smoking beside a basketball court, an unknown gunman fired at him using a .45 caliber pistol. When I heard the gunshot, I went out of our house and saw our neighbor carrying my father.
My father was shot in the stomach. I thought he would live because in the movies, people shot in the stomach often survived. As we were carrying him, my father asked us to stop. He looked at the sky and said, »Lord, forgive me for my sins.«
Looking back at that moment, I believe my father made his peace with God.
The reason behind the murder was drug-related as we were involved in selling drugs. I was extremely scared and afraid, confused, and angry at the same time. I was with my father in the hospital during his last moments. I turned to God and prayed, asking Him to give my father another chance to live. But I also said to God that if my father wasn’t going to make it, I’d rather He take him away peacefully.
While my father lay dying, I promised him that I would change and be a good example to my siblings. I didn’t know why I said that. It was God’s grace that I had the chance to say sorry to my father for all my failures. It was my father’s dream that I would NOT end up like him. It was also the first and only time that I said, “I love you” to him. I wish I had told him that more often.
The Road to RecoveryAfter my father’s death, my family agreed to send me to a rehabilitation center. I said yes. I thought I was going to Cebu for this, but I ended up in Antipolo. My family booked round trip tickets for themselves, not for me. I felt they really wanted to get rid of me! But I understood since I had caused them so much trouble and pain.
I was admitted to the Set Free Center of Help International Philippines, a Christ-centered institution that helped people with addiction problems. It was November 9, 2012, when I arrived. The house leader met me and took my luggage. He welcomed me and gave me a tight embrace, uttering the words I would never forget: »Welcome Home.« It was like the voice of God the Father Himself telling me, »Welcome Home.« At that moment, I felt peace that I had never felt before. It was a homecoming. I had been running away from God for a long time, but it was now time to give CHANGE a CHANCE.
Giving CHANGE a CHANCEAt the Set Free Center, I met Christians who told me that Jesus loved me and that it wasn’t an accident that I was there. I had an idea about rehab centers because of my father’s stories, but this place was different. Something was out of the ordinary! Later on, I discovered that these people at the center loved Jesus so much that they laid down the agenda of their lives for His purposes. I learned to trust them because I felt their authenticity in helping me. They always told me that Jesus loved me, and that God had plans for my life. They listened and treated me as part of their family, not as a sick person.
After 3 days of setting foot in the center, I surrendered my life to Jesus.
The Set Free family also celebrated my personhood. In my junkie life, I did not celebrate my birthday, although my parents and siblings would prepare something special because I shared the same birthday as my Lola (grandmother). At the Set Free Center, I was given sweets, birthday cards, and a simple celebration. This touched my heart so deeply.
My Set Free family
My initial plan had been to stay for 3 months in the rehab, gain weight, go back to Cebu, and then sell drugs again. I had wanted to take revenge on those who killed my father. But the 3 month plan was ruined as Jesus encountered me in a deep way that it changed my perspective. I had a change of heart and mind. I experienced repentance.
My cravings for drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes were gone in my first month at the rehab center. The environment played a big role in that. At Set Free, we talked about Jesus every day and we had worship. The atmosphere was so different!
It’s really true: when Jesus is in the room, everything changes! When I arrived at the center, the folks there gave me a pen, a notebook, and a Bible.
In the beginning, I was just reading the Bible out of boredom (and also to make me sleepy!). But eventually, it created a hunger inside me to know Jesus. The Word became alive and active, leading me to confess my sins and repent.
Experiencing the Father’s LoveI experienced repentance because of God’s goodness manifesting through the people around me. His goodness led me to repentance. In many of our morning devotions, the Holy Spirit would convict me of my sins, and it always brought me to tears.
But there was one moment I would never forget: In my sixth month at the rehab center, our morning devotion was about the »Father Heart of God.« This was a sensitive topic for me, and it always made me cry because I lost my father in a tragic way.
During the worship and ministry time, I was sobbing. I sensed that God wanted to move inside me and do »heart surgery.« He wanted to give me a new heart— a heart of flesh. Abba Father wanted to release me from my unforgiveness and hatred. He wanted to give me my true identity in Him as His child. As I felt His love pour over me, I started screaming and crying intensely as the staff held me. They prayed over me, and after that, I felt so much peace and lightness in my body. It was the time I made a firm decision that I would go »ALL IN« for Jesus! As I was delivered from the demons inside me, I was filled with Jesus’ Presence.
I was a new creation. I was born again!
Little did I know that God was only beginning to change my life for the better. He was about to surprise me with His plans for my life.
My life for the better. Again, with my Set Free Family
Dreaming for my FamilyI started to dream of a life free from strife, violence, and hopelessness. I was able to release forgiveness to those who killed my father, and I started to dream good things for my family back in Cebu. I wanted them to know and receive Jesus, too.
During my rehabilitation, I prayed for my family, especially for my brother who was in prison. I declared Acts 16:31 over my family, which says, »Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.«
My brother eventually came to the Set Free Center for rehabilitation, and he was set free from his drug addiction. And at this moment of writing, my whole family has accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Hallelujah!
Dreaming to Serve GodAs I surrendered my life to God, many new things happened to me, just as He promised in Revelations 21:5: »I am making everything new!« When I received Jesus, my appetite for drugs disappeared, while my appetite for His Presence increased! I discovered that I was a worshipper!
There’s so much freedom in worshiping God. I realized that I could spend hours in worship without getting bored. As I cultivated this lifestyle of worship, I started to dream of serving God. When I was a child, I had wanted to be a priest. Not that I was older, and with a better understanding of God, perhaps I could do something actively for Him?
I could feel God calling me to be a light for people with addiction problems. Hence, after my rehabilitation, I decided to volunteer at the Set Free Center.
Going to Germany with GodAfter a year of volunteering, I became a regular staff-member at the Set Free Center. An amazing opportunity came. The leadership asked me, if I wanted to go to HELP International’s Revival School in Germany.
I wanted to go! I wanted to learn and be equipped, but I had to raise my own funds for school fees and for my flight. I was able to get a passport and a VISA. Afterwards, I prayed hard and asked Daddy God for His provision. He touched the hearts of random people, friends, and family to give generously to me. I wrote a newsletter about my desire to go to Germany, and many people responded. God provided for me through them! Before I flew to Germany, the money needed for Revival school was complete!
My Daddy God is indeed rich. I’m a rich kid! Me, a former drunken, drug addict and a glue sniffer, granted a VISA, about to enter school in a foreign country, and about to travel to a different nation? Yes!
Back in my old life, I never could imagine that I would own a passport and travel. The only thing that I expected before was a warrant of arrest.
This could only be God. He made the impossible possible! Our God is full of surprises!
Serving to Save the LostAfter three years of being a staff-member, I am now co-leading the Set Free Center. God has brought me to my destiny and my calling, as written in Isaiah 61. God has led me to preach the Good News in streets and in prison. I have also been given the opportunity to minister to a jail facility in Cainta.
I witness hope rise in the midst of hopelessness. I’ve seen God’s light shining in the darkness!
God has opened doors for me in the Body of Christ. I now have a lot of friends, brothers and sisters in Christ, around the world. One of the best things that happened to me was that I became a part of the UPRISING family where I got to know wonderful people. God has also blessed me with someone who can be a future wife, and she is beyond what I prayed for. To have a wife and eventually a family, is also a dream of mine.
I used to say that I don’t deserve all these things, but now I can say that I can claim God’s goodness because God has made me His child! We have a good, good Father. He wants to give us only the best.
If change and goodness happened to me, they can happen to you, too!
All glory to the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit!«
Jayson T. Belleza
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Here at the Father's House, we couldn't go out for the last four months, because of the lockdown. However, we did other acitvities inside our home. Besides three weeks of homeschooling our kids, we did workshops to develop their talents. The kids could bake cookies and bread to bless the community and the frontliners of our village. Painting and sketching skills were enhanced. Building their desks and shelves from scratch was a good experience. Movie making and filming were fun.
Paintings of Hope
The three big paintings were made by kids of the Father's House, and they all carry a message of hope. HEAVEN IS REAL - our perspective should always be eternal life. OVERCOMER - we can overcome everthing through Jesus. GOD LOVES ALL THE NATIONS - the gosple remains the same and must be preached, for God so loves the world that he sent Jesus.
In the beginning of this year, we planned to go camping out in the woods. The kids were looking forward to it exictedly, but how could we do it when driving in and out of town was discouraged and restricted due to the lockdown! Any idea? How about our empty backyard! Besides learning survival skills like building a tent, making fire, butchering a chicken, filtering water, we also had good times in worship and learned about the kingdom of God. It was a great camp with God in our midst!
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Should I or not?
1. I wanted a Yes from our team in Tondo, as I wasn't sure whether there was any space to hang such a big canvas … and …
2. ... I wanted to see the opening of the water pipe in our house in Tondo.
Until then, our house in Tondo didn’t have any access to water, as the water pipe was deliberately turned off by the authorities for reasons that had been dealt with weeks earlier. I was curious to see what was going to happen.
This is so GodFirst, our Tondo team send word. Yes, there is space for such a painting. The leader of the team was so encouraged and wrote in his message that he read John 7 the very day when I sent my question. This scripture talks about Jesus, the living water. LIVING WATER – that’s the title of my painting, however, I hadn’t told anyone before!
Wasn’t that confirmation enough to start the project? Yes, but it only covered 50%. What about the water pipe?
In the evening of the same day, we received news that the water company had come to open the water pipe. Hallelujah! The water has been running since!
I got so excited and thanked God for this wonderful confirmation. The very next day, I took my brush and tried to zestfully implement what I had prayed and seen in my spirit.
Done!Now, the painting hangs at the living room wall in our house in Tondo and reminds us that HE is the LIVING WATER.
I continue to pray for water – not only due to practical reasons even though it’s badly needed in Tondo. I proclaim water, for I want to see that all of Tondo, which is known to be one of the poorest areas of Manila, to be filled and transformed by JESUS, who is the LIVING WATER.
Jeannine Sprecht (HELP Philippines, Manila)
About the artistJeannine is Swiss. Together with her husband David and their two daughters, she graduated from the REVIVAL SCHOOL in Lüdenscheid with the aim to go to missions long-term … that way the whole family went to Manila in 2009 where they live together with many young people. They love to demonstrate the love of God in action and to help them to embrace their destiny. Jeannine is the first contact for volunteers and outreaches. Her prophetic and artistic gifts enrich and inspire us – our community and our mission.
About the paintingTitle: LIVING WATER
size: 120 cm x 80 cm
The painting is hanging in our house in Tondo (the biggest slum of Manila).
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How to share Jesus’ love during the lockdown?From one day to the next, the city was placed under lockdown, and we were forced to stay at home. Although we initially expected it to last for only a few weeks, it continued to stretch longer and longer. We searched for the Lord, and a number of different ideas came to our hearts. We began by greeting the neighbours with cinnamon rolls and praying for them. Someone painted a Bible verse on our garage door so that everyone could read the truth. The Father's House kids baked some delicious bread and brought it to the Barangay officials to bless them. Others wrote text messages to check on people individually, to see how they were doing.
We are thankful!Overall we can be so thankful for our homes, that we have enough food and the privilege of living in community. Our internet connections became even more important as the need for homeschooling arose. We deeply appreciate the ability to communicate around the globe, to read news and to listen to inspiring messages and songs. We are thankful that we have more time to pray and seek the Lord every day. There’s even time left to do some of the work that is always left behind.
The poor are most affectedAs usual, it is the poor that are most affected by catastrophe. Many in this country eat with money earned on a day-to-day basis, rather than long-term employment. With the current quarantine situation, their source of income is gone, and so many families promptly have no more money, no food, and an additional challenge. Our team in Tondo went to buy food right away and began to distribute food in places they know well, especially among the less fortunate families. They have greatly contributed to relief efforts and partnered with the Barangay and other churches, working in unison.
A fire, in the midst of the disasterAs if one challenge had not been enough for the families in Tondo, a fire burned near the oceanside and left over a thousand families without homes. This has brought many new challenges.
How are they to maintain social distancing when crowded on basketball courts together? How will their children stay calm, or how can the elderly maintain their routines? Our team immediately asked for permission to help provide for some of the families’ most basic needs. They’ve helped by distributing buckets, basins, first-aid supplies, vitamins, and diapers. The first families have already begun rebuilding their homes, even if just with a tarp. Already, some have been able to buy building material, and we are thankful for all the donations that came in, and have allowed them to flow directly to the affected people. Please pray for wisdom and protection for our team, that they may be guided to serve the right families.
It´s so simple to reach out!Just before the lockdown was implemented, we had the opportunity to move into evangelism with our Revival School students. We prayed together, split into two teams, and asked the Holy Spirit to lead us. Sharen, one of the students, went straight to some mothers that were sitting in a circle. She greeted them, shared how she got to know Jesus, and was able to pray for them. We passed on prophetic words, and listened to people’s concerns, hopes, and blessings. As we moved on, walking through the narrow streets, we prayed for the area.
As weeks passes by...We are busy in our homes and look forward to a reduction in the quarantine requirements of the lockdown, and returning to service. Instead, though, everything continues to be further extended. In prayer we were reminded of this same area (that we visited with the Revival School), and wanted to reach out again. We communicated within our community and collected information about how many families were situated in this area. After a number of challenges, we were allowed to buy food in bulk, to order Bibles and evangelistic booklets. Even the kids got involved in packing and writing individual cards for the families.
A day of blessing and hopeFinally, we gathered for prayer and preparation. In small groups we moved out to meet the families from a number of small communities. Many received the gifts with immense gratitude. We had the chance to go to them and ask them: “How are you? Can we pray for you?” We received so many prayer requests, and we believe that there will be many answers to prayers too.
Sharen recognized one of the mothers and was able to pray for her and her children. A shy young teenage girl opened her door when we came by, as she was home alone. Her mother is a front-line worker, and is out of the house most of the day. I sensed God’s calling upon her life. She is going to be a blessing to many. I wrote her name in a Bible and gave it to her as a gift. I pray that, since everyone has lots of time on their hands, she will take the time to read in the book and allow herself to be stirred up by the words, hungry for more of Jesus. My friend was introduced to a grandmother who had recently suffered a stroke, and we declared healing over her. God’s presence filled the room, and his peace came upon the place. Her son surrendered his life to Jesus. Richard met some kids with whom he had played Basketball before. We had amazing local guides who led us to each house individually.
All this happened only shortly after the beginning of hot season, and after only a few hours of carrying, sweating, and praying, we were finished, leaving our surplus goods at the Barangay office. We still think of the people we talked to that day, and continue to pray for them. We pray that they read the booklets. Seeds have been sown, may the ground they fall on be good, and may the seeds spring up and grow.
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TondoTondo is a district located in Manila. It is located directly around the Manila harbour. The population, is estimated at over 600,000 people, making it one of the most densely populated areas in the world. Smokey Mountain is a former garbage dump, which has become green from the growth of uncultivated sweet potatoes. To this day, many people earn their living through from recycling garbage.
The Vision»How did it all start?« A question often asked when we share of what we are about to do. Sometime during the September of 2016, we were invited to join a corporate outreach to Tondo. I was not one of the people going, but that was our start. Something touched our hearts in such a way that we knew we had to come back. In December we went again, with the first experience still heavy in our hearts. We had organised a small evangelistic crusade on the Field of Dreams, next to Smokey Mountain. Several of our staff team felt a burden for the people there, which we could not ignore. We particularly felt the spiritual need. We started going there monthly, with two priorities: To share the gospel, and to worship Jesus in all kinds of different places. From our first base there we walked many kilometers, looked into many places, and explored everything which we saw or sensed. We stopped for the one who was alone, the old man sitting on the sidewalk, the mother carrying her baby, and the group of bored children. It quickly became clear that God’s heart is in Tondo and that God wanted to have us there.
We understand that God wants to transform all of Tondo. Isaiah, chapters 60-61 have become key passages of scripture to us when searching for God’s intentions:
Stench to fragrance
Violence to peace
Curse to blessing
Poverty to wealth
Oppression to freedom
The word of our testimonyRuel Dela Cruz has walked the most in Tondo. He has shared his testimony countless times and hundreds got saved by the power of God. He doesn’t get tired of worshipping in dark street corners and dirty seaside locations. His love for the people and place keeps growing.
He tells us about his experience in Tondo: »The very first time I was there, God showed me that Tondo is full of precious treasures: people! After two years, it is still the same. The people’s souls are still ready to be harvested. When I was young, I learned to be a fishermen and so learned different methods of fishing. All the methods have one thing in common, though: You always go where the fishes are.« God is calling together a team, and he is not looking for the perfect, capable, or well educated. God is calling people who are willing. Trust God and don't think that other are better suited because they have the qualifications. I have always been touched when people share their testimony and live their story. Through God's love and compassion they start sharing and reaching out to others. God’s heart wants nothing but to reach out to all those who are lost. 2 Corinthians 4:7 says: But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all surpassing power is from God and not from us. Ruel and Jackie Lou will move to Tondo with their three children and a full-sized team.
Please pray with us, as this is a new big step. Pioneer situations are often attacked and challenged. We need an army of prayer warriors backing up this ministry. So it will unfold the way God has planned for it.
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Where should I go?But no one is ever too lost to be saved by God’s amazing grace. In 2016, I made the de-cision to undergo rehab at the Set Free Center because I had no more place that I could go to. After only a few days there, I encountered Jesus genuinely, his infinite love and transforming power. I surrendered my broken heart and life, repented and asked Him for forgiveness for all the bad decisions that I had made. Deep within me, I knew I had found my place. I opened my heart to Him, and ever since that day, He is making everything in my life new.
Not only did Jesus restore my own life, but He restored the broken relation-ships with my family and friends. Jesus gave His life for me, so I can have a new life with Him. It was such a deep revelation for me that I took it and claimed it over my life. Ever since then, and until now, I have not gone back to my addictions and my old life.
New perspectiveCurrently, I serve the Lord in the community as a staff member at the Set Free Center. It is my great joy and privilege to be used by God every day. I share what he has done in my life and His love for people with struggles similar to mine.
I am very thankful to God for His grace for this new journey with him. As I continue to walk with the Holy Spirit, He puts new perspective and purpose in my heart: to live my life for Jesus alone.
»I am not the man I hoped to be, I am not the man I wanted to be, but with the Grace of God, I am not the man I was used to be.« anonymous
»I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you, remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.« Ezekiel 36:26
Set Free Center, an addiction rehabilitation center from HELP INTERNATIONAL CMC in the Philippines. For 28 years, we have been taking in people (usually men) with drug ad-dictions or similar life problems. It is beautiful to see when a life that has lost perspective and given up finds new hope in Jesus.
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It's always different»My goal was to experience missions instead of always talking or dreaming about it. That's what happened during my three months' stay at the Father’s House - many ups and downs included. It was a very enriching time for me and definitely broadened my horizon. In the Philippines, I experienced that many things don’t work according to plans. Instead, things just seem to happen very spontaneously, which often challenges the German mentality. For example: »What are we going to do with the kids on the weekend?« Answer: »We can decide that on the day!« I learned to live more in the here and now instead of always being under stress, largely due to appointments that I have organised. Yes, life here is easier in many ways.«
Gibberish»Being surrounded by people who speak another language, drove me further into God's arms and taught me to stay in an attitude of prayer and seeking the presence of God. I learnt to be more dependent on him and his love instead of relying on love and attention that I may receive from other people. In the Philippines, many people speak English, however in the Father’s House most day-to-day conversations were held in Tagalog and to begin with, I often felt left out. However, looking back I am very grateful because it made me spend more time in prayer.«
God - the good Father»I also experienced God's goodness and provision for the first time. I wanted to spend four days at the beach but didn't know if I had enough money for that. I prayed about whether I should go or not and felt that I should book anyway, believing in faith that the money would come. The day before I left, I found an envelope with 2,000 Pesos in front of my door. When we finally paid for the hotel, we got a 20% discount. God is such a good Father!«
»Though one situation I learnt how important every individual is to God. After a long trip away, one of the children ran away from the Father’s House. We were all very sad and concerned. In my evening prayer time, I asked God to protect the child and bring it back home safely. I felt so desperate and couldn't find sleep. God spoke to me: »Yes, that's how I feel when one of my children runs away from me!« It was so special to experience a little bit of how God feels when one of his children turns away from him.«
Tondo»During my time at the Father’s House, I also had the opportunity to participate in two outreaches to Tondo. During these trips you see a lot of misery and brokenness. I learned that Jesus is the only hope and answer for this world and that it needs obedient people to take the Gospel to such places. We are the light of the world and we must go to the dark places to fulfill His destiny. It was also my first time to see many people, especially children, giving their lives to Jesus and I could see how hope suddenly was radiant in their eyes.«
You will be changed»If missions is on your heart and are willing to accept the challenges that go along with it, then you are in the right place here. However, bear in mind, three months will go past very quickly. I recommend to all volunteers to stay six months or longer. It will change your life forever and you will go home a different person than you came!«
This is how you become a volunteer at HELP International!
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CarpenterThis young man was interested to be trained in woodworking but he was not sure if he wanted to do it in this training school, knowing that he is the youngest and knows no body from the group. In prayers and with encouragement he took it with courage albeit with hesitation. One week went of sanding wood went by, then one month then two months and now he is walking his eight month. The days of his training were not merely »work-training«, but also days of »gaining friends and testimony sharing-training«. He could invite one of his co-trainee »home« and he could start sharing his life in Jesus to his co-trainees too. Hear out what he shared:
Outstanding»One time a co-trainee was asking questions why I am where I am living and what we are doing (The Father’s House). I was shy to share but I got reminded of what one of the staff told me which is if someone ask you questions about yourself, what you are doing, why and etc. always tell and share the truth…about yourself, about us, about Jesus. You can also share Jesus through your actions and how you deal with them. Therefore, I started sharing to him, then another one joined us, then some others came too until the one person became eight people. But then came one of our trainers and questioned why we are not working, and I told him that I am just sharing my life. The trainer told the others, »is he a television that you listen and watch him?« but with a smile, I asked our trainer »Sir, do you want to listen also?«, he said nothing but just asked us to go back to our work stations.
Challenged»I faced and encountered challenges in the training center, but I am aware that there will always be challenges, thus most of the time I speak in tongues while biking to and from home and center and while doing my assigned task. I pray specifically for my co-trainees and the people in the training center. Most of my co-trainees and workers in the training center smoke cigarettes during our daybreak and some would drink alcohol after the day’s work training. They would offer and ask me to join them but with respect, I say no and told them that smoking and drinking alcohol is not good and in return, they respect me and would not insist«. Once the training school teacher gathered all of us informing that they found a sachet of weed in the comfort room. No body admitted! The training center again reminded us about the policies that we need to follow while in the center but also, it’s in general be lived outside the center.
Thankful little MissionaryThe carpentry training, I am having right now is also a blessing. I receive a daily pocket money and with that I could earn/save some. Not much but a small amount when saved and put together can reach something too. I pray that every day I could show Jesus and that they will see Jesus in me. I am grateful for the people in our community who supports me and covers me with prayers.
»A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.« (Luke 6:45)
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We had the opportunity to minister to »drug surrenderees« in many parts of Cebu and Camotes Island. Sharing our testimonies on how Jesus set us free from addictions and spreading the message of hope that is found in Jesus.
Revival behind BarsThere is an ongoing revival in prison, specifically in Cebu City Jail, which houses six thousand inmates. Prisoners get saved and find hope in Jesus. Most people do not want to associate with these brothers, but I am telling you, man, their hunger for God will inspire and minister to you. We also went to a smaller prison and shared our testimonies there.
»I was surprised and amazed of what God is doing inside the prison. There is bible study in every prison cell, this is »cell group« in its purest form. During the worship time led by an all-inmates worship team, the presence of God was so strong. The place was packed with people full of hope in Jesus. We shared testimonies and encouraged the brothers, but in the end we were more encouraged than them. I saw people have to sit in prisons for years, and when they are released they can go as trained pastors, being a blessing for others and sharing hope!«
Impacting StudentsWe also went to schools, as there are open doors to share the gospel. Many of these kids heard the gospel for the first time and listened attentively to us. We want to express to all the teachers our gratitude for giving us the opportunity to do evangelism in their schools.
»To speak about drug awareness and their effects has been the door for us to share in the schools. While seeing the pupils and listening to the ongoing program, the Holy Spirit whispered to me, to speak up: »Don't limit yourself just because you grow up in a simple island, you're families’ resources are limited, and that fishing and farming is the only option. Nothing is impossible to our God. His ways are much higher than we can dream of or even imagine." I can only trust God, that some of the seeds that we have sown will make an impact on the students’ hearts and future.«
Church InsightsWe also had the chance to visit some churches in Cebu. What amazes us is how fired up they are in worshiping Jesus. In one of the churches that we went to, we were given freedom to do anything. Thus, we led worship, sang in tongues and worshiped in the Spirit ... we laid hands on the people and released prophetic words over them. We also attended a Sunday church service where one of us shared his testimony and eventually was invited to share it also in their youth gathering of about 200 young people.
CHOPAfter days of ministry, we went to CHOP (Cebu House of Prayer) to join in a »harp and bowl« intercession. We also went to places and worshiped Jesus prophetically. Cebu belongs to Jesus and He reigns in this island.
These are just a few of the things that transpired in the outreach. All in all we shared the gospel to more than 500 people and more than half of them gave their lives to Jesus. Doors opened, we made contacts and preached the gospel.
»For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes ...« (Romans 1:16)
We had the privilege to visit Darwin in Camotes Island, who successfully finished the Set free program last year. How thankful we were to see him reunited with his wife and family. We enjoyed a delicious dinner at their house and were able to ministered to many. Darwin is a co-pastor, is leading worship and sometimes he preaches. To listen to his mum, how she experienced Darwin before, his transformation was just a big highlight. Proud to know that he is a teacher in training and taking responsibility.
Nine people saved in the City center
We worshiped in Plaza Independencia where we declared the Lordship of Jesus in this beautiful island. When we ministered to two precious young ladies, they gave their lives to Jesus and one got delivered from depression. We took a break and right after we went to Magellan's Cross and worshiped Jesus once again. I was surprised of the warm welcome we received from the people there. Even tourists were drawn by our worship! I grabbed the chance and shared my testimony and the gospel through the violin story upon which about seven people gave their lives to Jesus.
Men were the big number in this team, and reaching out to prisoners and drug addicts the main task. As I prayed to join this outreach, I knew I should invest in some ladies, specifically into two I knew by name. So I prayed ahead of time, asking the Holy Spirit if I should bring them a gift or take some extra money along. One is pregnant so I felt to wrap some cute lilac baby socks in good hopes that it would be a girl. Good enough on our arrival date, the news spread, it’s going to be a girl. I was able to give her the little gift with a smile. Days passed and I had some brief talks, but was eager to have a good moment to ask some questions and to pray for two ladies. For one I was able to pray and prophecy after a church service. The other was very, very busy ... I already surrendered everything to God and said, I’d tried my best. »If not this time, you will have another way to reach out or bring other people into her life.« Finally, unexpected, on our departure day, I was able to minister to this Mama, hugged her and released God's love into her live. Not only to her, but to everyone who lives in that house. Once more, I want to trust the guidance of the Holy Spirit and do what he says.
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Becoming a singerWhen I was 14, I was given the opportunity to go abroad to sing in a Club, to earn a lot of money and was able to support my family here. At 15, I earned enough to live comfortably. At a young age, I was exposed to the world’s promise that money is everything – the more you have, the happier you are. I had already begun smoking, drinking, and doing drugs in order to be in. I told myself there was nothing wrong with what I was doing because I was able to help my parents support our family financially, so I just kept going. But I reached a point in my life when I said, “I don’t like this anymore! I want my life to go back to normal; I wanted to be just like other people my age.” But at this point, I was a hopeless case. It was painful to realize, but there was no going back for me. I could no longer change my situation. I resolved that I would only put up with it so that my siblings could finish their schooling. But all my hard work became meaningless when they both stopped going to school.
Becoming a drop-outThen, for reasons I could not control, I had to go back to the Philippines. It was in this time that I met Bobot, who later became my husband. We fell in love and decided to live together. After a year, I gave birth to our firstborn, Michael. I was 16 and Bobot was 19. Bobot made me quit my job, and stopped going to school to work in his family’s business. After 2 months, I was pregnant again. For fear that I might not be able to handle another pregnancy in such a short time, we talked to a friend about my situation and we were advised that we abort the baby. So that’s what we did. This left me conscience-stricken. I had many sleepless nights. How could I kill my own child? A few months later, I was pregnant again. This time I resolved to keep my child. We also decided to get married, for the sake of our children. In the following years, three more pregnancies and three more children followed.
My parents-in-law helped us build a means for making our own livelihood. I soon fell back to drugs though, and even got my husband to try it for himself. Soon, we both became addicted to Shabu. Our business failed and we were in deep debt. But my husband and I carried on with our addiction to drugs, grossly neglected our children, for 14 years. Because of this, our family was often at the verge of falling apart. Our marriage was threatened many times because our trust and respect for each other was waning. We sold whatever item we could sell in the house and we told people, including our loved ones, many lies just so we could borrow money from them. We made attempts to change and stay away from our addiction, but to no avail. Every time we had money, the temptation to spend it on drugs was so strong that we could not resist it.
Encountering GodIt was during these troublesome years when my brother-in-law introduced us to CCF. He brought our entire family to St. Francis to attend a worship service there. Hearing God’s Word gave us so much relief and made us feel good, but only for a little while. Whenever we got home, we were back in our old ways. One night, my husband and I had such a serious fight that I wanted to end my life and put an end to all my problems, my addiction and my pain. I will never forget that night when I talked to God for the first time and told Him – “Lord, please forgive me for what I will do. I want to put an end to my life now so that I don’t have to keep sinning against You. Please take care of my children.” I felt then that God met with me for the first time. I cried so hard I could hardly breathe. Then I lay on the bed and a sudden peace came over me. I woke up the following day feeling light, with gladness and peace in my heart that I never felt before. And I thought the Lord made me sleep to frustrate my attempt at putting an end to my life.
In spite of this, we went on living in sin in the next few years. We reached a point when we even pushed and sold drugs, but this didn’t last long. One day, one of our daughters admitted to us that she was pregnant. She was 17 at that time. I did not feel any resentment for my daughter then; I only had myself to blame for what happened. I was a negligent mother, this was just a result of our many wrongdoings, so I accepted her situation even if it was painful. This was an eye-opener to my husband and me. For the second time, I earnestly prayed to God to take us out of our sinful ways and miserable situation for the sake of our children and my forthcoming grandchild. But it took a while before God could answer.
What shall we do?A few months after my daughter gave birth, our situation worsened. Our electricity and water supplies were cut because we’ve failed paying them. We did not know what to do. This cannot go on for so long because our tenants would be greatly affected. We had apartment units for rent, a livelihood that we inherited from my parents-in-law. We could not go out of the house so we could avoid the shame of our situation and the complaints of our tenants – why got their utilities supply cut even if they were regularly paying in full and on time. To solve the problem, I once again approached my brother-in-law to borrow us money. He obliged to help us with our problem, lent us money even if he was wondering why we were having money troubles in spite of our regular source of income from the rentals.
God's solutionAfter a week, God’s solution to our problems came. My in-laws invited my children for a Bible Study at their place. Our children saw it as an opportunity to seek help from my in-laws about our condition. Because my husband and I had been so absorbed by our own addiction, I even failed to notice that my children have grown old enough to know that something wrong was going on in our family and they were able to relate the problems in detail to my in-laws. But God is really so good that even if our children saw the wrong things we were doing, they still showed love and respect for us. Our eldest child had to work to support his studies. By God’s grace, he was able to get a college degree without much help from us. It is a great blessing from God to have children who love and understand us in spite of our shortcomings.
The following day, our siblings talked to us and told us that they will help and support us, even help us settle all our debts if we will undergo rehabilitation from our addiction. We agreed to it. They searched through the internet on different rehab centers. Unfortunately, they couldn’t find one that would accommodate couples, not to mention that the monthly fees were a bit pricey. At the back of my mind, I was wishing they wouldn’t find any affordable rehab center for couples. I did not want to go on rehab and be away from my children for two years. I even suggested to my husband for him to just go ahead and I would follow after him. Or better yet, I will just do self-rehab. Of course, he did not agree. He said either we both go or no one will go. Indeed, there is no escaping God’s wonderful plan. After two months of searching, we found HELP International Set Free Center in Antipolo, a Christian ministry focused on ministering to substance dependents. God seemed to have all areas covered, we couldn’t find any excuse not to proceed. Monthly fees were not required, though donations were encouraged. And at the time of our inquiry, a small room was vacant so they were willing to assign it for my husband and me. So, the inevitable came to me – we left our children under the care of our siblings and went to undergo rehab.
Set Free CenterThere were rules I resisted in my heart – such as the no call, no visitation rule for the first two months. I rebelled against that rule, but for my children’s sake, I told myself I will do this. In our 6th week, however, I was convincing my husband that we might as well go home already. I told him that reading the Bible every day and doing devotions every morning won’t help us at all. That all of that was a big joke!!! My husband did not listen to me.
Every Friday night, we had big family night where all the Filipino and German workers and volunteers of HELP got together for a night of worship and Bible study. That night, many were singing, crying, and earnestly praying. They were all thanking Jesus for His Presence in their lives. As I was watching them, I was thinking that these people were all phony! I found it unbelievable that the Holy Spirit was touching them. I resolved then that I will really convince my husband that we should leave that place already. I was so bent on it, he can either go with me or stay. But even as that was going on in my heart, I also told God, »Lord, if You are really here and if You are really alive, then let me feel it, let me know it.« Then suddenly, a foreigner volunteer approached me and said, »Jesus wants you to know that He loves you very much.« I felt stunned, like everything stopped for a while. Then I started crying, I couldn’t help it. I just cried and cried. I can say that was the second time the Lord met me.
Before that night was over, I was endlessly thanking God for the second chance He gave me to experience Him. I repented of all my sins and received Jesus in my heart as my Lord and Savior. That evening, my husband and I decided to finish the one-year program. Five months later, we were baptized. Ephesians 2:4 + 5 says, “But God is so rich in mercy, and He loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, He gave us life when He raised Christ from the dead.” I knew then that it is only by God’s grace that I have been saved! That was the beginning of our adventure with Jesus, experiencing His power to change us and seeing Him work in our lives. And since we surrendered our lives to Jesus, the love and respect for each other was restored in my relationship with my husband. In fact, it is far better now than when we started and it’s all because God is now at the center of our relationship.
Home againIn summer of 2012, after only 10 months of undergoing rehab, the Center gave us permission to go home. They thought we needed the rest of the summer to re-establish our family and get our kids ready when the schools open in June. Being out in the world again was not easy, we got exposed once more to the challenges and temptations of the world. Because of my desire to earn fast and in the way I know how, I planned on working abroad again and use my gift in singing. But the Lord quickly reminded me that this was not His plan for me through His words in Proverbs 3:5-6 where it says, »Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.« I surrendered all this to God and trusted Him. He wanted me to use my gift in singing for His glory. That’s why He led me to CCF Makati A-venue and placed me in the Music Ministry. Only God is able to give us assurance that everything will be fine. All we have to do is trust and believe in Him alone.
By God's graceBy God’s grace and with the help of our siblings, we were able to settle and pay all our financial obligations over the years. The Lord also taught us to humble ourselves and ask forgiveness from those we have wronged, foremost of whom are our children, then our siblings, friends and loved ones whom we have hurt because of the wrong choices we’ve made. The Lord also enabled us to forgive those who hurt us. As time went on, God healed our broken relationships and restored the trust that our loved ones once had for us. We are very thankful to God for my in-laws who never gave up on us. They helped us and labored in prayer for our family, and they stood as parents to our children when we were on rehab.
By God’s grace, our four children have all finished college. If it were not for God, we wouldn’t have been able to endure the trials and challenges that came our way. And we will continue to fight our battles and persevere to the end, believing and trusting that our all-powerful and great God is always with us!
Jesus provided the way for us to break free from the bondage of sin. He opened our eyes and ears for us to see the light and hear the truth that He is the only true and living God Who is mighty above all and with Whom nothing is impossible! It is my joy to declare to one and all that we were formerly in bondage to sin, but have now been set free, cleansed and are now a new creation, saved and redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior! And the One true King!
I am STELLA MARIS MAGSOMBOL, who once was lost but now found by Jesus!
To God be all the glory!
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So specialWe did not only walk and climb the mountain world of the Philippines, but amongst others we also visited a mining company and learned how gold, silver and copper are refined. The mining crew was so very kind and welcomed us. They showed us around and explained everything. Their hospitality and being able to see and experience something like this was so very special for us all.
So much and moreWalking on a swaying swing bridge, climbing an 9-km-mountain-range and crossing three summits at 1,846 m above sea level, walking down an 80% scarp, touching fog, watching your own breath, smelling and touching pine trees, collecting and eating wild berries, sleeping in a spacious classroom with lots of space for rolling all across the room as well as camping in a small shack where you have to make sure not to step on anyone, enjoying the wonderful refreshing cold weather, hiking through the so-called salad bowl of the Philippines, diving into the refreshing fresh water pool, encountering new people, listening to unknown dialects and so much more … most of our kids have never seen or experienced anything like that before.
We were so excited to see how happy our Father’s House kids took in all they saw and heard without complaining a single time but rather with hearts full of gratitude and joy.
Standing in aweGod is simply fantastic and we are standing in awe! He made a way for us to experience this fantastic adventure trip. However, greater and more fantastic than the nature and wonderful surroundings was the fellowship and each and every one of our little company as well as all protection we experienced. Glory and thanks be unto HIM!
The mountains declare that HE is LORD.
The valleys declare that HE is LORD.
All nature reflects His glory
Which makes my heart cry out and rejoice
That the LORD, our Creator, HE is God!