During the first of several hour-long drives to Magingisda, an Agape Rural Program (ARP) staff brought to my awareness that ARP staff would take these bumpy daily one-hour drives on dirt road from the city to their assigned villages. With an absence of dissatisfaction, she continued to tell me about the work ARP does among the people living in the rural areas. I saw in her much compassion for her own countrymen and I grew to appreciate their ministry and the staff. ARP provides holistic welfare education to the villages and it is built upon a system of transference. Like many other non-profit NGOs, sustainable work is carried out through the empowerment of local volunteers hallmarked with an earnestness to improve the quality of lives in their immediate communities. What sets ARP apart then? As a volunteer so aptly put in ARP’s introductory video, it is the hand of God.
At every clinic session that ensued, God graciously showed me the work of His hands. My heart was greatly moved by the spirit of servanthood I witnessed among the locals. There was great camaraderie in their efforts to organise the sessions, acting in any way possible to ensure its smooth running. Their humble and kind nature drew me to interact with them more intentionally and it did not take long for me to realise that these were an amazing group of people. It was not only until the last clinic session that it struck me. We, as a medical team, would only be here for four days. Unlike us, the ARP staff and volunteers serve tirelessly every day. Our presence there merely punctuates their long-term commitment to serve God wholeheartedly amongst their own people. What compels them if not for the love of God? What moves them if not for their obedience to a call?
As a pharmacist and being unable to articulate Tagalog, I felt handicapped and relied greatly upon local volunteers not only for translation but also for medication supplies. With the inclusion of my Singaporean counterparts, every individual actively dedicated energy to learn in order to serve. This enthusiasm kept everyone’s spirits buoyant and I saw no signs of complaining except for the occasional distress from a mosquito bite. This, too, was characteristic of the hand of God. Unbeknownst to me at that time, God was silently using the obedience I witnessed in their attitudes to teach me an important lesson, that all service needs to be born and conducted out of love for God, and not out of duty to Him.
Even as we departed, I could not help but notice God’s hand as His love resonated deeply within the initiatives of ARP. God showed me that we are all but a small part in His big plan of salvation. Through the unity of faith, language barriers were crossed and God’s hand was able to move. It is with this same faith that my fellow team mates diagnose conditions; tell bible stories; give health lectures and share the good news of Jesus Christ. It is thus, with this faith, that I implore you to pray for God’s will to be done in the Republic of Philippines.
Before embarking on this trip, I predicted that I would leave with a heavy heart, concerned for the health of the people we were leaving behind. My attitude upon leaving was a great contrast to my prediction. I left with great faith that God would carry on His work. It was with this that I remembered the words of Oswald Chambers who wrote, “There are so few fellow workers with God and so many workers for Him. We would far rather work for God than believe in Him.” It was a timely reminder that my service is to be done in partnership with Him and that His love will carry on the work that was not initiated by our visit, but which was already present in the hearts of all the locals who love Him.