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Monday, 1 December 2014

Drop-In Dilemma

At my church here in Cubao (Cubao Reformed Baptist Church) we have a weekly drop-in centre for the street homeless people on Thursday evenings. I have mentioned this a few times before as it is one of the main activities that I am involved in.

Over 100 people attend including many children. They are given soap and can take a free shower and wash their clothes. They can also see a Doctor. Later on in the evening they are given a meal and after this they hear a Christian message. The children and adults are separated for the message for obvious reasons. There are 15-20 regular volunteer church members who desperately attempt to keep order throughout the evening.

One thing that surprises me is that everyone wants to stay for the message, although some do fall asleep. I'm always half expecting people to head for the exit or make an excuse to leave after they have eaten but the only ones to occasionally try this are the "rugby/solvent" boys.

Last week I was encouraged that Paul wanted to be involved as a volunteer. He was really very helpful in the kitchen and later with translation when I was talking to some current rugby boys. I asked them if they wanted to enrol in Paul's school for a few hours a week. It's called the "Alternative Learning Syatem" (ALS) for teenagers that have missed a lot of school. The two brothers who are regular drop-in attendees wanted to enrol so I arranged to meet them at the church with Paul the next day. I was in a meeting that overran at the appointed time so was over 30 minutes late. I hurried to the ALS centre only to find that Paul had collected the other two boys from the church, taken them to the school and helped them enrol already! They really didn't need me, so I left feeling encouraged.

Paul has a big heart to help others and even when he was solvent addicted and on the street he always shared everything he was given. That is one of the problems we have faced more recently as he is desperate to help his family but they were too much of a burden at his young age. When walking with him around Cubao he always encourages me to help the teens and other street homeless. I believe he could be a strong witness for God in the future. He needs your prayers.

This saturday we will be heading to Olongapo for his first visit since he left. I hope that it won't be too disruptive for him as he is settling now in Cubao but I did promise him we could visit after 3 weeks. He had to stop working at his painting job as it was stirring up lung problems that he struggled with in the past and as it was with solvents it wasn't really ideal. We are hoping to find him other part time work. The church have said he might be able to help with the construction of the boys home for CCM which is due to begin in January.

"Olongapo Christian Help and Hope", our charity


have big plans for the Rehab in Taguig this year. We hope to transport 2/3 family members of each Olongapo boy to visit them during Christmas week. We also hope to give all of the children at the centre a meal and small Christmas gift as well as providing Christian books and Bibles for a library project at the centre. Please see our Fundraising webpage, we are halfway there already!

You are probably wondering what the title is about as there doesn't seem to be much of a dilemma yet!

Many of the attendees have been attending the drop-in since its commencement 11 years ago. They announce this proudly to all and sundry. But my first thought on hearing this was; "What has changed in your life since you began attending?" They are hearing the Word of God faithfully preached every week but many of these people are in exactly the same position they were in 11 years ago. Many of them are happy and comfortable with their street lives and lack of employment and don't see the need or haven't the motivation for change. Some will always be like this as the Bible makes it clear that many will reject God's salvation, but there is hope for others.

A few months ago Romey began attending the drop-in after I met him on the street near the church and invited him. He was 22 years old and found himself on the street due to family problems. He started enthusiastically attending every meeting. He was given a Bible and was avidly reading it. I approached the church about helping him to get a job assuming that is what he would want. He was asked about this and agreed to the work offered. He was given 200 pesos(£3) to buy products to begin selling. He disappeared....

After a few weeks I asked a friend of his where he was thinking something had happened to him. I was informed that he was sleeping in another part of town and that he said that he couldn't work as he needed to sleep! He has since moved back to the church area looking as dirty and miserable as before so maybe I will be able to talk to him again soon. Surprisingly I didn't feel impatient when I saw him just sad as he looked so hopeless and alone curled up in a ball sleeping outside a shop.

The church have tried various livelihood programmes over the past decade but all ended in failure due to a lack of market for the products and other issues of discipline. We have started to discuss the possibility of networking with Christians in business locally to build up contacts that might be willing to offer jobs to these people. But statistics show that these types of projects are rarely successful and so the poverty cycle continues. It is virtually impossible for anyone over the age of 35 to get a job here and that isn't even taking into consideration the issues of substance/alcohol abuse, lack of paperwork, lack of home to live in, lack of skills, lack of discipline..the list goes on and on.

The dilemma really is how much we as Christians should do for these people and how much we should expect them to do for themselves. The other issue is how to identify those who really want to change and are prepared to go the extra mile from those who just say what we want to hear...ultimately real and lasting change can only come from God if He opens their eyes to the truth...and how desperate we are to see this happen in the lives of the Drop-in attendees.

Needless to say it can be quite frustrating at times but as I learnt before with the "rugby boys", the real lesson is that sometimes what we think people need is very different from what they actually need or from what they want! We need God's wisdom as we consider future plans and options.