I moved back to the Philippines to help pioneer work in Metro Manila where we established the national office for YWAM in the political and commercial nerve center of the nation. Seventeen of us rented a small house in the Nagtahan area. Nagtahan was situated on the edge of the Pasig River, a wretched, sludge-like swath of water, where a village of squatters lived in huts made out of anything they could find.
There was so much need amidst the poverty—both in the physical sense as well as in the spiritual sense of the word. We decided to walk through the slum, going from hut to hut to meet our neighbors. One of the first things we noticed, to our shock, was that all throughout the barrio the children were badly malnourished and sick, their lives hung by a thread. In many cases, there were no adults to watch over them during the day.
"It's unbearable!" one of the girls on our team said in tears. "To think all these kids are just slowly dying of hunger and neglect." We all agreed that something must be done so we began to do the little that we could. We took sick children to the hospital and since it was the hospital's policy, we stayed with them, only leaving to get their medication and inform the parents of the diagnosis and progress. God cared about those precious children and enabled us to keep on top of all of the bills; not once did a child remain in the hospital longer than necessary due to lack of funds.
We brought them back to their mothers who joyously received their children as though they were raised from the dead. However, the cycle would soon repeat itself. With little food to give their children, they would regress, returning to a state of health as bad or worse than the state they were in before. We needed to do something for the community to help the mothers and children get out of their degrading and unhealthy state. We sought the Lord and He was quick to answer with an idea that would transform the Nagtahan squatter zone along with much of the future ministry that YWAM would do in Manila; we were going to start a day care center and kindergarten.
We rented a small house across the street and rolled up our sleeves. We cleaned, painted, and prepared it for our exciting new projects: a day care center for the children who lived in the slum and a soup kitchen to provide proper nutrition for the children attending as well as for their mothers. We babysat the children during the day while their mothers went to make their meager living in the city. Once we started feeding the children in our care three meals a day, with snacks and treats in between, and bathed and clothed them regularly, we noticed massive changes in them right away. We gave them heaps of love and cuddles, and it was like watering small withering plants that had been abandoned in a garden—they seemed to spring to life!
Most of the children, who by that time in their development, should have been walking, could not yet walk or stand up on their own. We had nurses on our team who worked with the children to do physical therapy by moving their muscles and pumping their little arms and legs. Physiologically, every one of them had major developmental setbacks. So our nurses and staff gave them excellent care. Most important of all, they gave them unconditional love.
This day care center prepared the way for a kindergarten and a church. The love of God came freely to us and it reaches into the hollowness of our broken hearts. Jesus came to earth and put this love on display. He tenderly touched the sick and healed them. He went to crowds who were hungry for food and fed them. Then He turned to those who followed Him and said, "Go into all the world and do the same." This compelling love: to minister to the hurting, the broken, and the sick, is at the very heart of missions. It is why I have traveled around the world. It is why I have preached and taught, gone into hill tribes and slums, befriended world class athletes and government officials. This heavenly love is the reason I've laughed, cried, and prayed.
We were constantly challenged and stretched with time, finances, and knowledge, but this was God's work and these were His people. God was well able to grow what He had planted and He gave us the grace and tenacity to press on.
-Two edited and partially summarized chapters from the book, Adventures In Saying Yes To God, written by Kel Steiner with Andrew Kooman.