Beyond the Classroom

institute STudent, Carl Cook, Reflects on immersion trip to the philippines

There are the kind of tests you take in school and there are tests that play out in the classroom of our experiences. When I started at the Institute for G.O.D. I knew I would be taking tests at school, but as my friends and I arrived in the Philippines late this April for a month long trip, my heart was racing in the same way that it does when I start a big test. The Lord has placed it heavily on my heart that my education in the Word extends far beyond the classroom.

Throughout the trip, my mind continued to come back to Moses’ story. Specifically, I reflected on the end of Deuteronomy 9. This was where Moses fell before the Lord for forty days and nights and pleaded for mercy on behalf of the people. I studied this passage in my class on Exodus and Deuteronomy. I remember my instructor, Brandon Galford, emphasizing that this moment highlighted Moses’ development. Moses’ response to difficult circumstances had not always been to fall down and pray. In fact, in Exodus 32, Moses responded quite differently to the same situation; he authorized violence to stop a rebellion. In Deuteronomy 9, however, Moses responded in humility as he prayed on the mountain for forty days and nights. Through his walk with God, Moses learned a new way. He learned that it was his connection to the Lord that truly solved problems and brought life.

Carl Cook works in Tahanan's community garden. 

Carl Cook works in Tahanan's community garden. 

I testify to a similar experience. While in the Philippines, I worked in a garden, tutored two elementary kids with English lessons, and started incredible friendships with people I love so dearly. I visited a resettlement village where people live in cardboard and plastic houses that were quickly assembled by NGOs after typhoon Yolanda in 2013. I fellowshipped with prisoners who have not experienced the joy of a visitor in years. I walked through a dump site filled with people rummaging through trash. They spend hours in the heat searching for plastic that they can sell as income. The harsh realities of poverty and suffering ached my heart. There was only so much I could do in those moments to change the circumstances of those I met. I felt this conflict in my heart constantly. I felt tested.

I asked the Lord for answers, and he responded. I made this story in Deuteronomy 9 my ceaseless prayer. After I visited prisoners, I pleaded with God for their lives, their hearts, their minds, their freedom, their families. He met me. He directed me to what I had learned in my classes. The next time I visited, I was able to encourage them with Moses’ story and it deeply resonated with them.

Filipino Interns and Immersion participants together perform a special musical act at the Tacloban Women's Jail. 

Filipino Interns and Immersion participants together perform a special musical act at the Tacloban Women's Jail. 

I prayed for the kids that I was tutoring —that they would feel safe and be empowered by my lessons. They learned many English phrases in the short time we had together, and we had a lot of fun in the process. By our fourth week, they were learning sentence structure and parts of speech. Praise God!

We brought homemade juice and bread to the people at the dump site. This small gesture was met with smiles and laughter. We all enjoyed some relief from the heat together. We visited a woman in the resettlement village who works three jobs and is still trying to organize some health programs for the children in the village. We had the opportunity to pray for her and her family and encourage her in the work she is doing. I’m confident that this summer I didn’t just give my own strength and abilities to the people I met in the Philippines, but that the Lord was present there with my friends and I. Neither the resources at our disposal or the work of our hands alone made a difference, but rather our connection to the Lord and his nearness to us.

I’m still seeking the Lord on behalf of all the people I met. Whether on a trip or not, learning from the Lord does not stop. I’m pushing forward in service, in discipline,  and in my education with faith— knowing that he will continue to use me to bring life to so many of the people I met. I think the chorus of a song I wrote after my first visit in the jail sums up well what I have learned in the Institute, in the Philippines, and from the Lord.

“I will fall on my knees
And Lord I will plead
If it takes forty days and nights
I will pray for you to save their lives
My two hands can’t do a thing
Without you Lord there’s
Nothing I can bring”