by Jonathan and Jingle Bradford

The Philippines is a unique and colourful place. Filipino people are famous for their huge smiles, abundance of energy and love of food. They celebrate all aspects of life and it seems there is always someone to celebrate with. To the casual visitor, the Philippines appears a wonderfully happy place to live, despite the rampant poverty, corruption at every level of society, natural disasters and other challenges that the people face daily.

In general, young women in the Philippines have a romantic view of life. Most grew up listening to the love ballads of the 1980s, eyes glued to Hollywood, and are looking for a handsome and successful man to come along and solve all their problems.

In a country where education and healthcare are a privilege, most Filipinos grow up with burdens that children in the West almost never have to deal with. Parents often place the family’s financial wellbeing squarely on the shoulders of their children. Many of the young women we work with face the stress of being the primary provider for the family right out of school. They may be verbally and physically abused if they are unable to meet the family’s needs. It is not unusual for the oldest child to be given the responsibility to put their siblings through school or for a lazy, abusive relative to demand money for alcohol or drugs from a younger sister. Fresh out of school they may only be earning £200 a month. Borrowing is a way of life and many are desperate enough to make terrible mistakes in order to help their families.

A darker aspect that many face is physical and sexual abuse. Girls that come to Christ often testify to abuse at the hands of family members, boyfriends and colleagues. Over the last year or so, a young woman was murdered for a laptop, another was gang raped by her co-workers and another was badly beaten by her brother because she refused to give him money for alcohol. These are just a few examples of the many dangers that young Filipino women face.

Escapism

In search of genuine love and meaning, young women may get involved in immorality. Others embrace same-sex relationships or have had abortions. Suicide attempts are such an issue among single people in the Philippines that the schools have given churches permission to start a rescue ministry. Rescue Kabataan (the young) aims to reach these vulnerable people with the gospel before they get so low that they consider taking their own lives. The Philippines has also made the news in recent years due to substance abuse. From hard drugs and alcohol to young children begging for coins on the streets so that they can sniff glue, many are desperate to escape the harsh realities of daily life.

Other forms of escapism for young women have been made possible by modern technology, the internet and smart phones. Entertainment, gaming, social media and pornography addictions have made people more difficult to reach as they live an alternate life online. Virtual reality offers complete immersion that shuts out the physical world.

Many young women turn to religion for help, but in a metropolis like Manila there are numerous doors leading to destruction, and it is not easy to find the narrow way that leads to everlasting life (Mt. 7:13-14). Most grow up in a syncretism of their animistic tribal beliefs and Roman Catholicism. Many are part-Chinese, so elements of Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism are mixed in and homes are filled with idols. Yet amid this deep darkness the light shines brightly, and we have the privilege of bringing the wonderful light of the gospel to these women.

Ren is one of our most faithful students. It is always a joy to see her smiling face as she takes meticulous notes during Bible studies and then seeks to apply them to her life.

…we have the privilege of bringing the wonderful light of the gospel to these women.

Ren dela Cruz

‘I was born to hard-working parents and raised in Tondo, Manila. Due to the nature of their work and our financial need, my parents were rarely home and I was raised by my grandparents. I grew up shy, finding things to do within the home and was around seven when I was first exposed to pornographic material.

‘Family life was difficult. Though my parents did the best they possibly could to financially provide, the few times we spent together were times of non-stop fighting with abusive language thrown around. Shouting and fits of rage became the norm. For years I locked myself in my room or threw myself into my grandparents’ embrace, crying in anguish each time a rare family dinner would turn into a war-zone, sometimes with furniture being thrown. As I grew up, my loneliness and hurt turned into hidden rebellion and I began what would become more than a decade of immorality and sexual promiscuity. Desperate, I even contemplated taking my life.

‘In the darkest time of my life, I begged the God of all creation to prove Himself to me. I wanted to know if He was real and to show me that life was still worth living. Sure enough, the Lord answered. Shortly after I challenged God, an acquaintance invited me to a retreat. Hesitant but running out of options, I went along. It was then that I heard the Lord speaking directly to me. I felt the void in my heart being filled and my biggest questions being answered.

‘Understanding Jesus’ sacrificial death on the Cross for someone like me both broke my heart and changed the way I saw my life. God’s sinless Son allowed Himself to be beaten, spat on and nailed to the Cross to die in the place of sinners, so that I could be saved. I felt both unworthy and deeply loved. It was then I made the decision to repent of the sin I had committed against my body, against others and ultimately against the Lord, and accept God’s gift of salvation. I committed to leave the old life that I had tried desperately to control and welcomed the start of a new, full life in Christ. Since then, my life has never been the same.

‘Today, only and unimaginably by God’s grace, I am smoke, alcohol and drug free, pursuing a life of purity. I am blessed to be plugged into a community of believers, who pray for and guide me in my walk. Amazingly, the Lord has also entrusted to me ladies whom I disciple, and who have also started doing the same for other women. I now rest my life on 1 Timothy 1:15-16 and praise my Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.’

Walking Alongside Young Women

Ren is one of many single young women we work with. They are often saved at retreats, but that is only the beginning. They are quickly encouraged to join a discipleship group where they can be spiritually fed and receive the support that they need to deal with the challenges life brings. They love the Word and are incredibly evangelistic, introducing friends and family alike to the Lord Jesus. Since Ren came to know the Lord, her mother has been saved, her father is now attending worship on Sunday mornings and she continues to reach out to other young women whom the Lord has entrusted into her care.

What an incredible privilege it is to bring the good news of the Lord Jesus Christ to these women and see the power of the gospel at work, transforming their lives into vessels He can use.

Pray:

  • that these young women will continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ and be a faithful witness for Him
  • for the salvation of their families and friends
  • that they will choose godly husbands who will love them as Christ loves the Church
  • for their daily needs, as they often carry the financial burdens of their families
  • for Jingle a she leads the women’s ministry and discipleship groups, and in her various other responsibilities.