The Philippine Community Fund (PCF) endeavours to permanently improve the quality of life for the poorest Filipino communities through education, nutrition, health, medical and family enhancement programmes regardless of religion, race or political boundaries.
Jane Chapman founder of PCF shared her testimony with us all at King's Church Medway and a lasting partnership was born.
We were invited by Jane to witness first-hand the work that her and the PCF team were doing, and the living conditions that many Filipinos are currently facing. We didn't need much of an incentive as working alongside the PCF in whatever form would be a privilege not afforded to many.
Mission 2012 was truly under way.
Our Light the Way team consisted of nine members: Paul Akinbadewa, Gary Canning, Tolu Adewuya, Ricky Grosvenor, Toyin Onabanjo, Kim Arnold, Eva Rayfield, Ann Hubbard and Ryan Chuter.
As was the norm for all of our mission trips, we had the unwavering support of the rest of the Light the Way team and the whole of the King's Church Ministries congregation back home.
We flew out early on Thursday 8 March on an Etihad Airways flight heading for Abu Dhabi. We had a long eight hour wait to meet our connecting flight and a further seven hours to the Philippine capital of Manila.
We finally arrived at our destination, a humid and chaotic embrace which was an immediate culture shock to the relative normalcy of the London we'd left only twenty hours earlier.
We headed straight towards our accommodation, the Shalom Guest House in the heart of Manila, which would be our home for the next ten nights.
Upon our arrival, we had a very special welcome. Tolu's mother was waiting to greet us and had arranged large baskets of fruit in the two rooms where we would be sleeping!
The following morning, Saturday, we were up early despite the tiredness of our flight and after a breakfast at 'Mr Poons', we were met by Jane, who took us on a whistle-stop tour of Manila and the PCF Church at Helpin.
The Church provides spiritual support for the children and families living on the massive rubbish dumps that litter the capital city. There is also a feeding program and a youth ministry aimed to provide outreach services.
The team were quite taken aback by the extreme levels of poverty we saw throughout the tour. It was quite a shock despite knowing beforehand of some of the issues we were likely to face.
Jane pointed out to us some of the children on the roadside, who were sorting out chicken bones and waste left over from KFC buckets they had found, which they did regularly to make a soup. Quite ironic when you consider KFC is a multi-national, multi-million pound franchise that epitomises western commercialisation.
We also went to the PCF Technical School at Tondo. This was an impressive, environmentally friendly four-storey building that had been made from large containers with fully equipped computer rooms, a library, science laboratories, kitchen, medical clinic, classrooms and offices.
We were reminded of the work back home that Caring Hands in the Community do and could relate to the hard work and commitment that the people running the operation put in.
We also saw the offices that house the livelihood programme which generates income for PCF and is put towards helping the families that need it.
On the Sunday, we all went to worship at the PCF Church in Helpin. Eva had brought with her some puppets, which were a great success with the children and it was a sincere joy for all of us to be part of such a wonderful service.
Monday brought the beginning of a very busy week. Jane had arranged a full and comprehensive itinerary for us that was both incredibly exciting, but also a hard amount of work.
Some of the team went to the PCF Church to begin painting and doing some vital repair work on the building.
The rest of the team went to the PCF School with Jane where they helped at the medical clinic and the Livelihood Project offices.
Ricky and Kim were tasked with doing a complete inventory and stock take of the PCF Children's Church and kitchen, which may seem menial in the scheme of things, but was of vital importance to the organisation.
Ann, meanwhile, had been given a slightly different task; starting up a project for the elderly in the community, which came with some unexpected but delightfully satisfying results. On one of the outreach activities she witnessed, a family of eleven come forward and give their lives to Jesus!
Finally, Toyin and Kim were asked to help in the medical clinic and also did a full inventory whilst they were there.
Looking back on a trip that contained so many highlights, it is always difficult to choose just one. But Wednesday 15 March is a day that we'll all look back on with huge fondness.
Ricky and Ryan had planned a youth service involving some of the PCF youth leaders. As a team, we felt that we should fast in preparation. That evening, God's presence was evident as Ryan led us in worship and shared his testimony to around 150 young people. Ricky also stood and shared his testimony and preached whilst Tolu translated. At the end of the evening, we saw forty young people respond to the call to follow Jesus!
After the highs of the night before, we came back down to earth the following morning with a bit of a bump. All nine of us were taken out to visit the PCF Cemetery Church and Clinic at Navotas.
We found children and their families living around the tombs and amongst the rubbish dumps close to the sea.
Each of us found this really distressing because of the levels of poverty that confronted us. Seeing really is believing and visually, the scenes were incredibly upsetting. The sheer scale of the problem, particularly with sanitation and the smell is something that is so hard to comprehend, even after witnessing it.
After some quiet reflection time, we were taken to Greenhills, which is one of the shopping centres outside of Manila, which helped bring a little relief for the team and help energise us for the work that we still had ahead of us.
In contrast to the emotional day previously, the following day, Friday, was probably our most productive. The whole Light the Way team went to the PCF technical school where Jane wanted to clear out a room full of raw materials and completed products for the Livelihood project.
We also assisted practically, by building shelves and re-arranged all the materials and products for ease of access for the PCF staff.
Finally, we did a site survey for the planned solar PV power installation at the school. Jane's vision is for the school to be completely self-reliant and this includes a solar power system that will provide electricity to the whole school. This is a obviously a massive undertaking and an exciting project that all of us at Light the Way are willing to be a part of.
We had spent the majority of our stay working, so on our final Saturday, Jane decided to reward us for our endeavours by taking us to see one of the dormant volcanoes and nearby lakes.
It was a long and bumpy drive in a ramshackle bus, but well worth every minute! We travelled to one of the islands by catamaran, which was great fun and incredibly exhilarating. Despite all the distress and unsavoury sights we had seen, it's important to remember that the Philippines is an incredibly beautiful island.
On our return to Manila, we stopped off once again and enjoyed another wonderful meal at the famous Mr Poons!
At the end of the meal, it was time to say a fond farewell to Jane and her assistant Jenny. There were a few tears shed between us, but they were in celebration of a job well done and in celebration of a truly wonderful trip.
Our final full day in Manila, on Sunday 18 March brought a few final challenges of a different kind! It was discovered that some of our items and money had been stolen, but Tolu, fluent in the local language, was able to sort things out with the local police in time for our trip back to the airport. On behalf of all of us, we'd like to thank Tolu for being such an invaluable asset, not for her diplomacy but her overall assistance during the entire trip. Thank you Tolu!
But we all learnt many things, not only about ourselves, but what it means to live life as a Christian and doing God's work. It was a real privilege to be part of what God is doing in the Philippines and working alongside the Philippine Community Fund. And for that, we'd like to thank both for giving us such a wonderful opportunity
We want to provide help and to be a resource where possible in making a difference to the lives of people who are living in some of the poorest and most deprived areas of the world and to those that God might send us to.