Delores TopliffPeople don’t take mission trips to gain new material for stories or fill emotional diaries to overflowing, but that happens. Our team of five had unforgettable times in Macau and the Philippines connecting with and ministering to people deeply needing and appreciating encouragement. After flying 18 hours to Manila, we were up most of that night and, days later, all of a second, which was hard since I don’t sleep traveling. My original flight was delayed by mechanical trouble, so I was rescheduled but my suitcase didn’t and by its arrival 24 hours later, we’d had gone to Macau, China. I didn’t get luggage for 5 days. Delta authorized me to buy new clothes in Macau but they had nothing for my height and size.
Another trip member had one skirt I poured into each day that didn’t reach my knees. Because of leg issues, I wore support hose that didn’t reach my knees. It’s hard to speak confidently when you look dorky. Speaking on stage to leaders from 13 churches, I went bare-legged—overjoyed to find my belongings and ruined suitcase when arriving in the northern Philippines.
But the people made us forget hardships. Perhaps because of being conquered many times, they have precious gentle spirits and serve with extreme graciousness. In Macau the small church is primarily women (and some grown sons), working as domestics no matter their levels of qualification, earning around $6/hr. six or seven days a week. They fill two year contracts while employers hold their passports. They may go home to visit after a year, but travel would cut into the goals of their labor. Most work for their children’s better futures, or to build homes, or immigrate families to North America
They have a 50% chance of good work situations. One young pastor’s wife’s employers were really human traffickers. When she resisted, they held her hands over gas burners, but she still didn’t cooperate. When ordered to take out the trash, she removed herself with it, leaving her passport and belongings behind but taking her cell phone with the number inside of the small Hong Kong branch of the Philippine church network we partner with. They provided safety and contacted a government office who extricated her passport and ended her work contract. She and others from Hong Kong joined us in Macau, drinking in every word, song and prayer.
We also were part of three wonderful school grads including a Bible college where I spoke in full gown. The graduating pastors and teachers fill assignments throughout the Philippines and beyond, including many Muslim countries. They know they’ll face hardships, perhaps even death, but go with strong committed hearts. I’ve supported a 9-year-old orphan girl there for three years. In the loving children’s home and school, she and her twin sister now speak enough English for us to talk some. Instead of adopting children out, this organization raises them to be wonderfully contributing adults with answers for the Philippines. Since my first trip in 2008, I’ve seen young people who were teenagers then being effective loving leaders now. But when I reflect on this trip, it is the faces of women of all ages in Macau and Hong Kong I see most—my heart and prayers go to them often.
Mission trips are rigorous and strenuous. I reached one exhausted melt down point when I thought, “I’m too old for this, I can’t do this again, this is my last trip.” But by the end, after so many positive results, I thought, “It’s so worth it. Maybe, if God helps me, I can come again.” In the meantime, my heart and life are invested there. Every effort and support dollar I’ve spent brings far-better returns than Dow-Jones investments.
What’s next? Live an enriched life. Care, pray, give sacrificially, and write all that God puts in me.