The Philippines may not be a winter wonderland at Christmas, but the last week has been nothing short of wonderful for my team. In just four days, we threw six huge Christmas parties, sharing such an abundance of joy and gifts that we almost put Santa Claus out of business here... ;).
Four of the parties were for children (two parties in Metro Manila and two in a more rural province called Laguna). Another party was for our church (which my friend Brett is pastoring), and the last one for youth. The largest party took place on the street in front of our apartment building - 300 kids came, plus many parents! We asked permission from the local government to barricade off the street. This was a carnival-style party with sack races, mini-golf, ring toss, bowling, cotton candy, ice cream, chocolate fondue, and much more. The kids from our church even prepared a dance number for the event. I've never witnessed so many smiling faces at one time, and the party lasted for hours. We're thanking God for making this event possible, because with our limited resources and manpower, we knew we couldn't pull it off on our own.
Balloons float down from the rooftop as kids applaud a dance number at the party.
Smiling with a purple ice-cream mustache.
Putting through a round of mini-golf.
The two greatest things in the world: friendship and cotton candy.
Packing the streets with as many children as possible.
At one of the locations of our Christmas parties, many homes and a church were destroyed by the latest typhoon. However, the locals now worship under a large tarp and praise God for the blessings they still have. We even happened to witness over 20 people being baptized in a river as a public declaration of their faith. Besides sharing Christmas gifts and food with the children, we also gave groceries to the parents.
Offering a bag of groceries to a mother affected by the Typhoon.
In other news, I recently met two kids who live in a squatter community near our apartment. Their names are Paolo and Jabe (brothers of age 6 and 8). They are homeless, and they beg in the streets daily for money. This is common here. Recently their father was put in jail with a life sentence for committing multiple murders. We were able to give them a shower in our church. We also gave them a box of new clothes, and I picked up some sandals for them when I noticed they didn't have any footwear. I was happy to see them show up at our big carnival Christmas party.
Finally, I want to wish you a very, very, merry Christmas! I pray that God impresses great joy and thankfulness upon you as we meditate on the greatest gift I know, and the real reason behind this holiday - the life and the sacrifice of Christ. Merry Christmas and much love!