September 7, 2017
One Sunday after worship and lunch with the family, we headed towards the mall across the hotel. As we were standing on the curb crossing the street, three big army trucks packed with soldiers in uniform with guns held tightly passed in front of us. One of the soldiers waved at my grandson; when we waved back, the other soldiers smiled back. Before we reached the opposite curb, I was teary eyed.
These soldiers are someone’s son, brother, uncle, or dad who would wish to have a lazy Sunday with their own children and grandchildren. But some may not even see their loved ones again.
I believe that most of us has given cash donations to the Marawi ongoing crisis. But can we do more for them to feel that we care?
The following day during our Monday Access meeting, our facilitator, in the course of the lesson asked the question “Did anything happen to you that you wished to do something about?”
From this Access small group, the Marawi Care Boxes was proposed: 100 boxes for Children, 100 for the Soldiers and the different Access groups will be requested to write corresponding Encouragement letters for each box.
The Lord may be smiling with the number we had in mind because as soon as the project Marawi Care Boxes was launched, during the first Sunday alone, church members and friends who heard of this effort immediately adopted the project and donated in cash and kind, we surpassed the 200 boxes mark. The second Sunday was even better, donations totalled 500 boxes. With only a handful of letters at that point, we had a good problem. The JCA students were engaged to write letters for the children and soldiers in Marawi, this allowed teachers to share and discuss the ongoing crisis. By the third Sunday, we had enough donations to pack 200 Children and 680 Soldier Care Boxes totalling 880 boxes and with 1100 letters from the JCA students and Access members. We were all set.
Concerned with the supply of boxes, the Lord supplied us a donor for 880 corrugated boxes. On Friday, August 25, we planned to pack in two batches: 6:30-8:00 PM AGAPE Youth and 8:00-10:00PM for the other church members and ACCESS Groups (forgoing their usual meeting). Jollibee dinner was pre-ordered and should come exactly at 8:00 PM for the second batch of volunteers (AGAPE had their usual dinner provided).
Packing process included folding and taping the box, putting in all the 11 & 15 items, sealing and numbering each box, finally stacking them, for pick up the following day.
One of our Monday Access brother came early and single-handedly unfolded and taped all 880 boxes. The stacked boxes looked like the Great Wall of China in the lower chapel.
At 5:00 PM beginning inventory was made. Repacking was done by the students, church members and Access groups who came early. Everyone took their position according to plan, and working with smiles on their faces. Quality control table checked the contents and some were assigned to check the letters and placed them in the box prior to final sealing. The last box was sealed exactly at 8:00 PM and Jollibee was at the doorway delivering our hot dinner. Perfect timing! Everyone had dinner and fellowship and went home filled both in heart and stomach by 8:30PM. (One and a half hour earlier than planned!)
The following day the Civil Military Operations Regiment came with two big army trucks to pick up the 880 boxes and several boxes of adult diapers.
It was a sunny afternoon, the first truck was loaded up, while the second truck was being loaded, it started to rain. Initially it was a few drops then suddenly it poured. The soldiers and our volunteers continued to load despite the rain, only to see the canvas roof of the army truck getting soaked. With pin holes, rain was dripping on the boxes. We had to stop loading when one of our members thought of our old tarpaulins and these were inserted between their roof canvas saving the boxes from getting wet.
The soldiers were soaked from loading. The downpour continued without let up, we had to take a break to protect the boxes. In the meantime, do we have some shirts in the church? Yes, seven unused shirts and there were seven soldiers (one had to stay and guard the trucks).
We invited the soldiers for a cup of coffee and stories were shared. “Soldiers who are in the midst of battle cannot even stop to go to the bathroom (if there are any) and if they stop to do it, a sniper can shoot them down, that’s why adult diapers are needed. Even women’s sanitary napkins are useful to them, these are used to cover and tie their open wounds.” Indeed, there are so many things we take for granted.
As soon as the rain stopped pouring, the second truck was completely loaded up and we prayed together before they left. We gained new friends who sacrifice for us to live normal lives.
To all our church members, friends and students, praise God for He allowed, organized this project and the Holy Spirit touched so many hearts to share their resources and time that led to the completion of this Marawi Care Box effort. We experienced so many miracles in this project and are blessed to have taken action in a time of crisis.
TEAM JUBILEE, thank you!