In 2013, G.O.D. International sent 9 families to the Philippines for various stints of time. The team had several objectives to accomplish, such as building relationships, networking, culture and language learning, and personal capacity development. This article reviews our time abroad, highlighting the capacity development of our team members as they served abroad.
What we do as individuals, contributes to our collective team goals. Our collective goals are rooted in the Biblical values we share, and in that way, though diverse in our function, we are unified in the mind we share in Christ (1 Cor. 1:10, Rom. 12:4-6, Phil 2). From the beginning, God has desired a group of people who demonstrate faith, are obedient to his word, and concerned with being a blessing to the nations (Gen. 12, see also Ex. 19:4-6, Deut. 4:6-8). We are striving to be that people for God in the world. Theologically we would say we share a vocational calling to be a ‘light to the nations.” (Isa. 42:6, Mat. 5:14-16, Mat. 28, see also Acts 1:8).
As an organization, G.O.D. International is focused on serving the poor and marginalized through advocacy, education, and empowerment. The South East Asia (SEA) team has identified ‘communities of needs’ including slum dwellers, sex slaves, widows and orphans, rural villagers, prisoners, and neglected youth. We want to have the knowledge and capacity to help meet their needs through the development of our individual skill sets. Marginalized groups such as these have God’s attention. It has been his pursuit to rescue people in desperate situations from their suffering (Ex. 3). In order to respond with a holistic approach, we must allow God to utilize each of us, in our individual gifts and abilities, to help respond to vulnerable people in the way we are best suited. The following is a summation of highlights of each team member’s personal capacity development.
Meg Mathews, Julie Carpenter, Cannon Cameron, and Kristin Bennecker are part of the SEA maternal health team and are involved in childbirth education. During their stay, they volunteered with both government and non-government organizations, including hospitals, clinics, health centers, and birth homes. They visited and worked with pregnant women in impoverished communities like dumpsite slums, city jails, and villages. On one occasion the team hiked to a village in the mountains to bring donations of clothes, school and medical supplies. During that visit Meg Mathews educated a hilot (a traditional birth attendant in the Philippines), on how to identify signs of labor complication, and the proper way to cut an umbilical cord to prevent infection. Previously the hilot was using bamboo sticks to cut the cord, which can lead to infections in newborns because of a lack of sterilization.
According the UN Population Fund, 230 women die for every 100,000 live births in the Philippines.(1) Many of these women fall victim to mortality simply because there are not enough educated midwives and support persons to help them during birth. Only 60% of the births in the Philippines are even supervised by a skilled birth attendant (according to UNICEF) which has vastly contributed to mothers dying daily from preventable issues and childbirth complications.(2)
In addition to labor support and education, the team was able to give education in breastfeeding. The World Health Organization estimates that around 16,000 Filipino children die as a result of "inappropriate feeding practices" (i.e. dilution of formula, mixing formula with contaminated water). They often become the victims due to false advertising regarding the superior benefit of formula and violation of milk codes. (3) Meg Mathews counseled and helped over 20 Filipino women who were having breastfeeding complications, with issues ranging from low milk production to babies being tongue tied. Additionally, all the mothers on the team served as examples and resources as to the benefits of breastfeeding.
Jason Carpenter and Austin Bennecker both gained experience in the area of sustainable development by doing various projects at different organizations to help improve their facilities. Jason led a project to build a wall on the property where the team stayed, which made the environment safer for the numerous children that frequented the property. Jason elicited information about the different building issues in the Philippines, and conducted surveys with day laborers, learning about tensions often faced between creating safe structures and making enough income.
Austin, also a professional photographer, was able to capture such moments on film. There is a old man named Ben who lives in Pag-Asa, a slum in Olongapo City (Ironically, ‘Pag-Asa’ means 'hope' in Tagalog, the national language the Philippines). When the team met Ben in 2010 he was living with his 30 year old son, Kenneth. During this last trip we learned his son recently died from a head injury after slipping on a wet floor in the market. As you can imagine, this tragic event devastated Ben. In an instant he lost his son. Austin remembered he took a picture of Ben and his son in 2010, so he printed and framed the photo. When he gave this to Ben, he discovered that this was the only photo of Kenneth that exists. Receiving the photos meant so much to Ben, and brought a glimmer of joy to his life.
Chris Cameron and Ty Mathews spent time working with the youth that are often neglected in Filipino society. Both of them volunteered at churches where they taught Bible to youth groups, and Chris led worship. Ty volunteered at two Christian high schools and taught a biblical values class at both. He also worked with the youth at the Lapu-Lapu City dumpsite, a massive landfill where tons of trash is brought each day. Many individuals and families try to make an income by scavenging through the trash looking for materials to recycle, making them susceptible to toxic substances, disease and illness, and even death. Many of them live in direct proximity to the site, which has led to the emergence of slum settlements around the perimeter of the landfills. The homes are constructed of materials taken from the trash, and the electricity, when they have it, is poorly wired, which leads to frequent fires. Children are the most vulnerable in this environment. Instead of being in school, many of them help their parents scavenge. There are tragic stories of children being run over by bulldozers, or crushed by an avalanche of refuse, due to the instability of the trash mounds.(4) Many of the people that come to work at the dumpsite are from the provincial areas. They are drawn to the city because of the false promise for a better job and life.
Ty focused his efforts on a group of young men that work at the dumpsite. He got connected to them through Jovic Roldan, whom the team first met at the site in 2008. Because of their circumstances and the way society looks down on them, the youth defer their hopes and believe the lie they are of no benefit to society. To combat this mindset Ty taught them passages from Genesis 1 to help them understand their inestimable value as human beings, created in the image of God. The young men were encouraged by Ty’s teaching. Jovic specifically has been inspired to keep learning the Bible, and wants to serve the Lord by educating children. Ty’s connection to the youth led to other opportunities for the team to minister to women and children that live at the landfill.
Literacy, Education, and Social Integration
Megan Cameron’s focus is literacy, and she volunteered at a primary school where she taught first grade children reading, writing, and English grammar. Hannah Duffy spent time working with and teaching marginalized women in a variety of venues. She taught the Bible to women in both the Lapu Lapu and Olongapo City jails, volunteered at a social development center for young girls, and facilitated smalls groups for women at churches. Candace Galford is an event coordinator, and used those skills to organize events so that people could have an environment for healthy social interactions, like weekly Bible Studies, movie nights, celebrations for the girls at the social development center and the women detainees at the city jail, and a carnival for children of an impoverished fishing village. Clark and Rina Miller are still living in the Philippines and both are involved in social work and routinely serve the most marginalized people.
Nathan Cameron, Craig Duffy, and Shaun Galford had the primary objective of offering biblical education. Nathan taught Bible studies in the jails, during team gatherings, church small groups, and preached regularly at churches each week. Shaun and Craig volunteered at several schools, from elementary to college. In addition, Shaun taught a biblical values class at an elementary school. Craig spent time teaching at a Bible College in Mindanao. They also organized and taught a formal Bible class to a group of nine inmates for seven weeks in the Lapu-Lapu City jail. Their purpose was to educate and help rehabilitate these men by teaching them the word of God. At the end of seven weeks several of them broke into tears as they testified about the love and mercy of God. Most of them were not friends before, but developed a friendship and unity through this, and now they look out and care for one another.
Tim Sherrod, traveling to the Philippines for the first time, visited several areas of extreme need, as well as taught the Bible in jails, assisted with work projects, and developed relationships. Alison Sherrod organized and coordinated bible lessons and dramas for children and taught the Alternative Learning Program (ALS) to women detainees in the Olongapo City jail. (ALS is a program funded by the Philippines’ Department of Education that provides education for people unable to access formal learning. It is part of the jail’s rehabilitation process; however, there is a shortage of teachers available to instruct the class. (5))
In conclusion, our method of transplanting communities necessitates we, as a team, are continually developing our individual capacity in order to be a blessing/benefit to the poor and marginalized. How each team member functions is integral to accomplishing our collective goals, and therefore necessitates we develop our individual gifts, skills, knowledge, and ability (Rom. 12:4, 1 Cor. 12. Eph. 4.) Though we have a diverse array of gifts and skills, our education in the word allows us to share a mind and be unified. As we experience the needs of such desperate people groups, we can’t help but call upon God to continue making us into the kind of people that can help. Even though the needs feel overwhelming, we believe that God’s people must be on the forefront of assistance and development.
Written by Shaun Galford
 Independent Progress Review of the UN Joint Program on Maternal and Neonatal Mortality Reduction, Philippines by Adrienne Chattoe-Brown and Jenny Kerrison. IPR of UNJPMNH. Philippines, 2012. http://aid.dfat.gov.au/countries/eastasia/philippines/Documents/un-maternal-neonatal-mortality-reduction-ipr.pdf
 Developing an Investment Case for Financing E eatable Progress towards MDGs 4 and 5 in the Asia Pacific Region by Aleli D Kraft, Bernardino M. Aldaba, Sophie La Vincente, 2009. http://www.uq.edu.au/investmentcase/Mapping%20report/ICMappingReport-Philippines.pdf
 WHO and UNICEF call for renewed commitment to breastfeeding by WHO, 2007. http://www.who.int/nutrition/topics/Breastfeeding_pressrelease.pdf
 “Below the Poverty Line: Living on a Garbage Dump.” Unicef Philippines. http://www.unicef.org/philippines/reallives_12171.html#.Ur0t7uagkZg.gmail
 Bureau of Alternative Learning. Department of Education Republic of the Philippines. http://www.deped.gov.ph/index.php/bureau-alternative-learning-system