I have struggled so many times trying to write down what God has done these last 4 months. It overwhelms me. How do I even do it justice and communicate the scope of His working? God did something amazing and describing it makes me feel inadequate. So I move back from the keyboard...
Over two million meals were served. 70 new partnerships with Churches. Three new ministries launched, over 70 students followed Christ, many more were baptized. Youth were changed before our eyes into passionate followers of Jesus and reaching their peers for Christ. These 4 months have literally transformed KIDS into something totally new. We will never be the same... I will never be the same. The bottom line is that God is using COVID to transform the ministry into something new.
So I am going to try to write it down, one more time... hopefully I finish this time. Since words seem inadequate I will try to use less words and more pictures and videos.
Youth Lab - The beginning
Three weeks before the lock-down of Manila, we decided to start a new ministry. Youth Lab was intended to be a dynamic youth outreach in our community with a goal of reaching youth for Christ, disciplining them and plugging them into the local Church. We were only able to have 3 meetings and then the government declared a lock-down of all areas of Manila. We were so disappointed but had no idea what God had in store for us, something so much better than we had ever planned to begin with.
Hunger in our community - feeding at the market
In wealthy countries, when people don't work they still have money for food. This is not true in the Philippines. Within a week of lock-down we knew we had to do something. Parents of CCS students were hungry and asking for food. The community around us was in need. Going out feedings like we did in the past were impractical due to government restrictions. Looking at the market in front of the YMC an idea was born. What if we setup a station to serve hot food at the market? There are already crowds and we are not adding to them. Our parents can come to the market to get free food.
And so it began...
Meals and Values - the expansion
We started with 2 pots of food and it was gone in 5 minutes. The next day we cooked 6 and it was gone in 15 minutes and people were still asking for food. We increased to 12 pots of food every day. Enough to feed 1800 people. Then the word started to get out.
Before COVID, we ran a program called Meals and Values that we cooked and distributed food weekly to around 100+ pastors. We would cook around 40 pots of food a week. We shut down the program due to COVID but soon some of those pastors started contacting us. They had heard of the feedings in the market and asked if they could get some food for their communities. We agreed, but we had no idea what was in store for us...
Fear not, trust God
Many of our previous pastors in the Meals and Values program would not go out to feed due to fear of COVID. One pastor texted us and asked for food and we asked if she was afraid. Here was her response:
"Pastor, we are not afraid of Covid-19... We are more afraid of people dying because of hunger...It breaks our hearts that there are families with kids who are not eating for 3 days. We are giving out food from our church but it is not enough. "
As the program expanded we experienced issues with getting vehicles through checkpoints. We decided to go into the barangay (government) office and ask for permission to distribute food. Not only did we get permission but they requested us to give them 20 pots of food each day because they had many communities that were hungry and asking for food. Because of this partnership we got the ability to travel around Manila now with official 'Frontliner' badges and no longer had issues delivering food to areas in need..
How can we cook more food???
Trying to scale from 40 pots of food a week to eventually almost 300+ pots a day is not an easy thing. We cooked all night long, we added more burners, we tried to optimize everything to make it faster... but the more we cooked the more was needed... We desperately needed help. Our kitchen staff was overwhelmed. Fear of COVID prevented us from getting a lot of volunteers in the kitchen. Then we came up with a crazy idea.
The 'crazy' idea
Our students from Youth Lab were quarantined at home so why not ask their parents to let them be quarantined at the ministry center and live and eat there and would be able to help us. The parents agreed. We called it Youth Lab Leadership Camp. We were able to invest 6 weeks into these students and they would eventually be our leaders for Youth Lab Camp (described later).
... and crazy it was!
Try to cook food to feed 60,000 EVERY day! What were we thinking? Below are pictures of the ingredients we had the students prepare every week. They also helped in the kitchen starting at 2 am. We had 3 shifts in the kitchen and eventually cooked from 8 pm to the next day at 4 pm. It was CRAZY!
200 kg (440 lbs) of ginger each week! Yes, that is ginger on the table.
...then God started to move
Since we had students staying at the YMC we decided to do nightly sessions with them. They ended up being at the YMC for 6 weeks. Imagine living with youth in a camp like environment and being able to invest in them all day long. It was also a pretty stressful environment - we even called it 'stress camp'. Everyone knew we were doing something that we had no ability to make work by ourselves. I believe that when we put ourselves into an environment where we have no option but to trust God that God shows up in big ways. And he showed up. Lives were about to be transformed.
Worship At the market
Each day we would feed at the market and when Sunday came we couldn't go to Church. After a few weeks we thought If we can't go to Church, why not be the Church -- on Sunday why don't we sing worship music while we serve food and call it "Worship at the Market". The first time we did, it brought tears to my eyes as people would stand and listen to worship music as they purchased their food. I believe they were thinking 'The world has gone crazy and I am living in fear, but these youth seem different".
Each week it became more and more powerful. The students even started to reach out to and talk to the people in the market. They would hand out tracks and hold a simply saying "Trust Jesus"
Eventually the youth would get done with serving food and come back inside the gates and we would have a worship time together... and the Youth Lab heart for worship was born. (For those who know Tita (from the kitchen) watch for her getting with it at the worship time!
Feeding Millions - How did we deliver all that food?
We never intended to expand as far as we did but I think God did intend to do just that. Just going out and delivering the food was amazing. We delivered much of it directly to the areas serving it but some pastors came and picked up the food at the ministry center.
Eternal impact of physical food
Although we wanted to feed the hungry and would literally give the food to anyone who asked, we had other motivations as well. We constantly told pastors that today they are feeding and building relationships so that tomorrow we could come back and share Christ. I believe that God will bless those pastors ministries because they took the risk when others were afraid and did what the Bible commanded - to feed the hungry. It doesn't say "feed the hungry if there is no risk". Here are some faces of those who were served a hot meal every day for months.
Youth Lab 'Explodes'
After 6 weeks with Youth Lab Leadership Camp we decided to switch out students and have 'Batch 2'. Four weeks later we had 15 of these students be our counselors for 'Youth Lab Camp" We ended up having 5 camps with 30 to 50 students in each camp. We would continually make the comment that God would keep doing more and more each camp. The first camp we had one of the youth accept Christ and in the second camp there were many more. There were 20 more decisions to follow Christ in the 3rd camp and many wanted to be baptised.. By the forth camp we fully expected God to move in big ways.... and he didn't disappoint us! We were blown away when 33 youth accepted Christ and many wanted to be baptized. I expected a few would come forward. Nope. We ended up with around 36 baptisms. In the picture below all students in the water were baptized and then later that night more came to us and asked to also be baptized. God was working in big ways.
Each session we did an exercise where students would 'nail to the cross' their sins, pains and hurts. We had students who made a decision for Christ during the camp to use a piece of red paper. Take a look at the pictures.
But it is even more amazing than this
I have been through countless youth meetings where the question is asked 'who wants to accept Christ', hands are raised and prayers are said. I have never, however, experienced something like what happened at Youth Lab. It felt more like a revival! On day one, we would have youth come from many areas. Some from around the ministry center and some from Tondo and other areas. Most were not Christians. The first night as we did worship you could see the look... the 'what in the world have I got myself into' look. Our student leaders were amazing how they would just love these kids.
Then the night would come.Prayers, tears, hugs. Students on their knees, others with their arms around these new Christians and praying for them and they are in tears and the person they are praying for is in tears. God was really moving.
If there is one of the videos you watch you have to see this one. The presence of God was so evident. Each person in the room was savoring the moment and didn't want it to end. We would go on for 30 or more minutes just praying for each other and singing. There were even nights that the meeting would end 3+ hours after it started.
And then there was the worship
Worship became a key piece of Youth Lab each session. It was amazing to watch these kids who have never even heard of worship a few days before, singing, kneeling, raising their hands and even jumping for absolute joy. In a matter of days you could see a total change in these kids.
I believe that most of these students will remember the day in their lives that 'God showed up'. I will never forget it, that is for sure.
God is working in amazing ways!
And it continues... Youth Lab Reloaded
Youth lab had more than 70 students accept Christ. We are now having a camp for those students and are calling it 'Youth Lab Reloaded'.
Next up - Families
And God is not done. After lockdown , a new missionary couple, Bobot and Jean Migraso, joined Kids International Ministries with the desire to start a Family Ministry. What better way to impact kids' lives than invest in their parents? We are so excited to see this ministry start even though we are still in the 'COVID Season'. So far there have been 2 meetings with parents.
The second meeting was amazing because students from Youth Lab volunteered to help get the meeting ready and to cook for the parents! What an awesome opportunity to invest in the lives of kids and then have those kids help us reach their parents as well.
God is working in some amazing ways at KIDS during COVID. We have said over and over 'What the enemy meant for evil, God turned it for good'. It is so true. I believe these last 4 months have entirely transformed the ministry. New ministries have started and new opportunities have opened up. Please pray for God to continue to direct us and that we would listen. Please pray for his continued provision for the ministry.