When I was in Haiti on a Mission Trip at the beginning of the year, my best friend Dina was talking about putting together a group to go on a mission trip to the Philippines. I’ve heard her mention the Philippines over the years and I knew that she really wanted to go there.
The more she talked about it, the more excited I got for her, her dream was some going to be a reality. I had no intentions of going because I already made plans for myself. I was planning on going to Ukraine for a mission trip for a longer period of time, 3/4 months. However I soon came to realize that my plans aren’t always God’s plans.
Dina had a group of 10 people who were all planning on going but them the group fell apart. Slowly the people starting to back out because life got in the way. The thing is, every time she talked about the Philippines, I had this strange feeling in my heart. I didn’t know what it was so for the first few weeks, I would keep pushing it away. But after her first group fell apart, I knew I had to go, I don’t know why but I just did. So I told her that I was going on the trip with her.
After the first group kind of fell apart, she started to put together another group. This time, all the people who wanted to go were all girls. We had a group of 10 people, all girls no guys. You guys can imagine how that conversation went with our parents. As soon as some of the parents learned that there were no guys going, some of the other girls backed out. And this kept going until we were left with only 3 girls who still planned on going. By the grace of God, we had 3 other guys join us right before we went on the trip. God had a plan and when things happen according to God’s will, you just know that they are going to work out.
I’m not going to write about my whole experience there on this particular post (I might do some other posts where I talk about certain ministries we did there) If I did, this post would never end!
When I think about the Philippines, there is one particular situation that I remember before everything else. It’s not because it was my favorite, far from it actually but because in that situation, I was forced to rely fully on God.
On the second day of being here in the Philippines, the Pastor started telling us about what to expect on the trip. He didn’t want there to be any surprises for us so he told us what we would be doing each day, he especially warned us about the following Monday. We were scheduled to go visit the Baja Tribe and in order to get there, he said that we would have to cross this bridge. That didn’t seem to scary but then he went on to describe the bridge, it was made up of bamboo, it was over 300 meters long and it ran across a nasty river that was very dirty and had a horrible smell. (You thought I was done didn’t you?)
The bridge was very narrow and shaky and the best part? It didn’t have any rails!! Oh and did I mention the fact that this was a two-way bridge? The villagers used it as a high-way or like a main road.
When the pastor first told us, I thought he was kidding but I quickly realized that he wasn’t. That’s when I first started to panic and by panic, I mean hardcore start to freak out and have a panic attack. I didn’t realize how terrified I was for Monday. Before this trip, my worst fear was public speaking. I hated doing it and the thought of all eyes of me, honestly terrified me. But after the pastor told me this, I had a new fear. I was the one who had to lead all the VBS sessions but that paled in comparison to Monday.
Tuesday night, I couldn’t get myself to fall asleep, all I kept thinking about how I was going to cross the bridge. I’ve come up with hundreds of different ways that I could probably attempt to get myself over the bridge (majority of which now that I think about, were completely and utterly absurd to begin with) That night, I took sleeping pills and it didn’t help that as I was almost asleep, Maria (the other girl who came with us), started laugh really loud. I asked her what was so funny and she said that she was just “picturing me crossing the bridge on Monday, crawling my way over.”
Honestly, I’ve never considered myself to be scared of heights and I still don’t, but the thought of crossing a bridge with no rails’ shaky bridge might I add, over nasty smelling water that was filled with all kinds of different bugs and maybe even snakes too, just did not sit well with me at all. It was putting too much pressure once not to fall, it doesn’t help that I can’t balance to save my life (which would really be the case here and look at it, the odds were stacked against me).
When I say that I’ve come up with hundreds of different ways to cross the bridge, I literally mean it! My first thought was to crawl across, however that was quickly shut down because it was a two-way bridge and it would cause traffic. I asked if we would be able to just coming earlier when there would be less people, however that idea fell through as well since majority of the people were morning people. I’ve already mentioned that I asked to take a boat but apparently that also wasn’t an option and neither was a MoPed. My next genius idea was complete surreal but I mean I seen it on Tom & Jerry, so that meant I can do it too? Yea that was a no-go, just because you see something on tv, doesn’t meant it can be done in real life. My last more realistic idea was to climb up a palm tree and swing myself over, kind of like a slingshot. In the end, all these ideas were just that, ideas. I had to face reality, the only way I was getting over was on that bridge.
The next day, Wednesday, we had nightly prayer. We were sitting in the church before prayer and all just talking and Dina was wearing a shirt that said “Fear is a Liar.” The guys pointed it out and said it again “fear is a liar.” One of the guys then proceeded to say “well Inna in your case leave it blank, Fear is a Blank.” After that, we moved on to another topic but that phrase kept nagging at me.
I believed that fear was a liar or in this case for this particular situation, I claimed that it was a liar but I honestly didn’t believe it. At that moment I decided that I whole heartedly believed that it was a liar so that meant that I had to either changed my mindset about the situation or my belief about fear.
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does no bear fruit, He takes away and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the Word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches, He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be my disciples.”
This passage was read during the service and it couldn’t have been more directed towards me. If I abided in Christ, then whatever it was that I desired and asked of Christ, it would be done for me. Yet in my mind, before hearing this, it didn’t seem possible. It was like I didn’t believe that God could give me peace out the future which was clearly wrong because I was limiting the Almighty God. Without God, we can’t do anything, and even if we do try, it won’t work out. We bear fruit when we abide in Christ, not outside of Him.
During Prayer, I laid it all out at God’s feet. I wanted Him to take away all this worry and doubt that had filled my heart and replace it with His supernatural peace. And that’s exactly what happened. After prayer, it was as if the thoughts of the bridge were completely erased from my mind. I went to sleep that night and every other night without taking sleeping pills.
The rest of the week flew by quickly, the next thing I knew, it was Sunday. If it wasn’t for the rest of the group, I wouldn’t have remembered about the bridge the next day. I would have probably worried about that all day but luckily I was put in charge of leading and planning all the youth activities for the youth conference. That went by really really quick. We were actually worried that we wouldn’t have enough games/activities planned but instead it turned out that we ran out of time to finish all the games. After youth, it finally hit me that tomorrow was Monday.
Tomorrow was the day that I would have to cross the bridge. I quickly went back to worrying and doubting myself. That night I took sleeping pills to fall asleep and I told everyone that there was a 98% chance that tomorrow, I would have a panic attack before the bridge, sit down and start crying, refusing to cross.
Pastor told me that I would be fine but I didn’t believe him. It was quickly morning already and we were on our way to the tribe. I kept asking Pastor and MaryBell (his wife) if I could just take a boat across, or ride a MoPed around to the other side of the island (I mean there had to be a road there right?) I still couldn’t comprehend the fact that there was only one way to this tribe and thats it. If it was an island, why couldn’t I just take a boat? I mean we did take a ferry from Cebu to Boho which is an island, so why couldn’t I do the same?
Soon we pulled up to our drop off location and we were making our way down to the bridge. I though that I was either going to have a heart attack right then and there or than my heart would jump out of my chest and run in the other direction. As we were making our way down, I could understand the smell they were talking about, it took everything inmate not to cover my nose from the smell because this would really offend them.
Right before we had to go on the bridge, we have to make our way down this rocky slope that was very muddy and wet. I almost lost my footing a few times but managed to catch myself each time. When I finally saw the bridge, it was not at all what I expected it to be. Yes, it was narrow, but it wasn’t made of bamboo but of wood and it had support beams throughout.
After seeing the bridge, I realized why it wasn’t possible to get to the village any other way besides on that bridge. The whole village was built on water. The bridge wasn’t a straight through bridge, it had roads and and curved all the way around the village. All the homes and shops were on water and it wasn’t a river, but on the ocean. I’m not saying that it wasn’t scary, because let me tell you it was! However the whole time I was crossing the bridge, there was one phrase the kept going over and over again in my mind; “God help me.”
We walked almost to the end of the village to get to their church where we would be hosting the feeding program and VBS for the kids. I was really surprised when I saw the church which had two floors. The church wasn’t a big but we managed to fit around 100 or so kids on the 2nd floor, to say we were crowded would be an understatement. I led the lesson like I usually do and then we went to the songs and food. When we were singing the songs, I went and sat amongst the kids and sang and danced from there.
Our trip was cut short because it started to rain and we needed to get on land quickly so there would be less risk of us falling down. On the way back (I was wearing converse and you all know how those shoes have absolutely zero grip) I lost my footing yet again but someone managed to catch myself just in time, all the while a lady was calling out “Be careful!” As I was about to walk past her, I said “I’m trying” but the whole time in my head, that same phrase was repeating over and over again, “God help me.” The next thing I knew, this lady ran out in from of me and grabbed my hand and said “Here, let me help you.” She then proceeded to lead me all the way to the end of the bridge until we reached land (which was far from her house!). While walking back to the car, I realized that that lady was an angel in disguise. I asked God for help and He didn’t fail me.
When we got back to the Pastors house, the Pastor was telling me how he didn’t recognize me at all. He remembered how scared I was when he first told me about the bridge and the person he saw on Monday, he didn’t recognize her. It was as if I was a new person and to be honest I was. He proceeded to say that he was shocked to see me sitting amongst the kids, singing and dancing with them while they themselves didn’t really mingle with them (there cultures were very different, as which is almost every other tribe). This particular tribe was very different from the pastors family and those at his church.
Looking over this whole experience, I understood why I had to go through it. I claimed to rely on God for everything yet when something difficult came up, I tried to solve it myself. In this particular situation it was out of my control.
One thing I tell people about going on mission trips is that the one thing you should expect is to leave your comfort zone. When you go on a mission trip, you can’t do what God calls you to do if you’re unwilling to move. You have to be willing and ready to do things that make you uncomfortable but that will ultimately bring glory to God.