This week a child that I know in Olongapo died. He was hit by a Jeepney. He was 14 years old. His name was Ramiro.
I met Ramiro for the first time last week during the eviction of Paul, Joel and Simon from our rented house. Ramiro was with them and he and Simon were in a tangled heap asleep upstairs on a mattress when I arrived. The eviction was of course difficult as described in a previous blog post. If I hadn't seen Ramiro again after the eviction I think I would've been overcome by guilt that my last memory of him was evicting him from the house. I don't think it would have mattered that he shoudn't have been there in the first place and that the other boys knew that. I think it just would've been a terrible memory.
By God's grace I did see the evictees again, a few hours later that day. It was Ramiro that I saw first, he was standing watching me, Paul and Zee as we spoke to Paul's relatives in an area where many street people sleep. I recognised him and as I was no longer stressed from earlier events and we were about to go and eat I asked him if he was hungry. He of course said that he was and suddenly Joel, Simon and another boy appeared. I invited them all to eat with us and only Joel had an internal battle with his pride before accepting help from someone that had just made him homeless.
We went to Wimpy and Ramiro sat next to me. We thanked God for the food and I spent most of the meal talking to Zee as the boys talked amongst themselves. They ordered large steak meals. Ramiro was a small boy and couldn't eat all his food so I asked if he wanted to take it out for later and he said "yes." All of the boys thanked me as they left and I told them that the meal was from God and not from me.
Just a few days later Ramiro died. I was informed that he habitually played around on the Jeeps doing dangerous stunts and activities. This didn't help me to accept what had happened. I have to believe that God has a plan even in this and I hope and pray that Ramiro had heard about Jesus. I wrongly assumed that I would see him again and would have the chance to build a relationship with him as I have done with the other boys...
This is the second time someone that I have just met has died within days; A few months ago, Isaac's father died just a few days after I met him in the Rehab where he was visiting his son. It is a tough lesson but reminds me that I should always find ways to share the Gospel with every person that I meet because none of us are guaranteed tomorrow.
Paul is doing okay here in Cubao, we have had ups and downs, some of them big and others not so much. He had 7 fillings and another extraction at the dentist (to add to his 3 extractions last week.) He is scheduled for 1 more extraction and i rebuild before he is fitted for dentures.
Joel and Simon are devasted by the death of Ramiro who they had known since childhood. They keep contacting Paul about it which isn't helping him to settle. Joel also told Paul that his (Paul's) father is really very unwell which made Paul very upset. I advised Paul that I believed Joel was lying in order to get Paul to go back to Olongapo. The enemy is actively trying to get Paul to return to Olongapo but helpfully the homeless peoples Bible study this evening was on that very subject; how the enemy tries to disrupt our lives when we are trying to change and adapt to a new God given situation. I saw Paul smiling to himself and spoke to him about it afterwards. He acknowledged that God was speaking directly to him.
Paul usually comes to our house to eat with us after work in the evenings, I think he just wants company. We have had some good conversations but I can tell he is still battling the temptation to give up here and go back to Olongapo as he misses friends and family and he is finding his new job hard (which is to be expected as he has never worked before.)
On saturday he again got lost on the way to work and contacted me about it. He knew I was going to the Rehab to visit his friends and I knew he wanted to come with me but I had said "no" as he was scheduled to work. In the evening he appeared having been to work and I was very happy as I had thought that he wouldn't bother having got lost. Today he told me that he was really very lost and didn't know what to do so he started looking for a Jeep back to Cubao to accompany me to the Rehab or even one to go back to Olongapo as he was so fed up. He prayed about it and then suddenly the Jeep drove past his workplace! He was really very surprised and got straight off the Jeep and went to work. This was really great to hear and Paul knows that it was God's intervention in his life.
On saturday I went alone to the Rehab and saw 7 boys (it should have been 8 but Isaac was on restriction for some violations)It was really a great visit and I was able to have one to ones with most of the boys about Christian things. I used examples of some of their friends who had been off solvents for a while only to return to them and explained that true change was only possible if God changed their hearts. I pointed to Paul as an example of real heart change because of Jesus. They really listened and I was encouraged.
I was saddened to see one boy Steve* (17) who had only left Rehab 5 months earlier back in there again. He said it is his 4th time in there from the age of 8! His girlfriend on the outside is now 3 months pregnant.
Solomon has really impressed me the most with his attitude and is actively helping the other younger boys. I found it so hard when he asked if he could come and live with me after Rehab. I had to say "no" of course as he has family in Olongapo but I know he has 8 or 9 siblings and the family don't have enough food. I promised him that when he comes out I will assess the family situation and try and help financially where I can. He was happy with this.
Damien* (17) has one eye having lost the other by gun shot. I didn't know him that well outside Rehab but had had a few long talks with him on the street where he talked about his family problems. I didn't know what to do to help him before and he became upset when talking about his family. He had just been transferred to rehab as well so I visited him. When I told him that I would be visiting once every month his whole face lit up as he smiled as if he couldn't believe it, later when I bought a few canteen items for them he was the first to say thankyou and when I was leaving he grabbed my hands and sincerely thanked me repeatedly. I acknowledged this but felt overcome by emotion as I left. Some of the boys take the visits and things that are bought for granted as they are used to them by now...I wasn't prepared for such an enthusiastic response...
The 2nd most grateful person was a young boy that had somehow joined our group during the visit as he was friends with the other boys. He was not from Olongapo. When I was buying the food items I saw him watching enviously and asked him if he ever had any visitors. When he said "no," I told him he could spend half of what the other boys were spending. The boys get 200 pesos a month each (£2.80.) He was really very grateful and followed me out of the centre thanking me.
I wanted to share these stories with those of you that have bought my book "They're Rugby Boys, Don't You Know?" or supported our charity through donations www.olongapochristianhelpandhope.btck.co.uk as this is the difference the funds are making in the lives of a few hopeless souls on the other side of the world here in the Philippines. Thankyou :)