Original post date: May 10, 2015
It’s Sunday morning in Manila and the weather is beautiful. Our cabbie drives up to the front of the hotel and we jump into it, wasting no time.
“You’re about to start feeling very grateful for everything you have”, tells me quietly my companion and friend Chris Heinz as we approach Tondo, a district of Manila Metro, known for its slums and one of the most densely and poor areas on the planet.
Chris should know.
Few years ago he and his wife Colette adopted Rex, an amazing 4 year old boy from the Philippines. Couple years later they adopted another Philippine boy – Asher.
Together with their natural born daughter Asia, they make quite a family. It’s like “INTERNATIONAL MISSIONS” is written all over them, regardless of which one of the their family pictures Chris is produly showing me as he browses through them on his phone. An amazing testimony for what God’s love can do in and through people who are fully after His heart.
The whole Heinz family visited the slums in Tondo few years ago after adopting Rex. “It was very hard for Rex and also for Asia to see all this poverty”, tells me Chris.
Even though I’ve seen similar types of poverty, particularly amongst the Gypsies in Bulgaria, as well as in Addis Ababa and other places I have traveled to in the last 15 years, it’s hard for me, too. It’s hard to accept the idea there’s so much advancement in some countries and yet so much poverty in others.
The taxi enters the slum area, bumping along deep into the district. We finally make it to the very end of the road, and we stop.
The church meets in a building painted in green, which looks distinctly better in comparison to everything else around. Once we enter, the difference is seen even better. Tiled floors and a sense of cleanness mark this facility, setting it apart as a sort of a phenomenon, given the shape, looks and smell of just about everything else around us.
The people inside also look…well, normal.
A group of older men are in the front two rows.
“These men are all professional scavengers”, tells me pastor Roy in English. “They pick up plastic bottles and push them out of here in their carts, to be sold to the recycling brokers. This is how they feed their families.”
The way he speaks of these men is very respectful. But his goal is to earn the trust of the parents by feeding their kids and providing them with other basic thigns for their needs. Ultimately, he believes the best course of action is to get the kids out of the slums and give them a chance at life by bringing them to a boarding school, and providing them with education.
“This is a miserable place”, says Roy. Yet he and his wife have adopted two kids from the slums and take care of them, in addition to their own two biological kids.
To understand better this pastor and his mission, you need to know a bit more about his own story.
“I used to be like these kids, living on the streets,” says Roy and points to some butt-naked kids wandering aimlessly by the roadside.
I listen to him fascinated, realizing if miracles are still happening in our world today, I’m talking to one right now.
“I used to live on the street, too. I used to commit robberies, living without purpose”.
Roy’s parents abandoned him at an early age and became glue-sniffing street junkies. They separated, each going their own way, each marrying another person and abandoning Roy.
Roy got adopted by a Christian woman and heard about Jesus at the church she used to go to.
“Everything changed when I heard about Jesus. I got a brand new start, a new way of thinking and living”, says Roy.
He became active in the church and the pastor let him work with the youth as a teenager. The youth group grew. Eventually Roy graduated high school, went to a 4 year seminary, earning a bachelor’s degree in theology.
But after he married his wife Evelyn, he was told by the church is no longer eligible to receive aid and he started to earn living in all kinds of ways, including catching and selling fish and crab meat, as well as making charcoal and selling it.
Twenty years passed. Roy and Evelyn kept preaching while earning living in other ways.
And then six years ago he connected with George Bakalov Ministries through our web site. When I got the inquiry, I wasn’t sure how real Roy was. In fact, I was quite skeptical since at that time I was getting all sorts of requests from churches and ministries in poor nations from all over the world.
I forwarded the email to my friend Chris and asked him to get in touch with Roy and investigate further. Which he did. Not only that, but soon thereafter the Heinz family met with pastor Roy as they connected deeper with the Philippines and went through 2 adoptions of boys from the the struggling nation.
This is only my first time to be here but I know it won’t be the last. There’s hope amidst the garbage in the slums of Manila, in the Philippines, with people like pastor Roy and his crew involved.