Caring employers planted and nurtured the seed
By Jane Bibal
Our family lived on the island of Mindoro in the Philippines. I am the fifth of 11 children. My parents ran a small business selling provisions and growing up, it was just enough to support our daily needs.Throughout my childhood, the Catholic faith was a big part of my family’s life. When I was in grade school, I often joined my aunt who regularly led processions of the Virgin Mary – walking long distances, regardless of the weather- rain or shine. This influenced me so much that I had even dreamt of being a nun as a young child.
My first brush with Christianity only came when I entered college. It was a Christian school and it was compulsory for us to attend regular Bible study and fellowship sessions. But this did not interest me at all. In fact, I made every excuse to skip bible study sessions, even locking myself in my room.
Little did I know that a song performed at my graduation ceremony would turn me towards God. I recall the lyrics that stood out to me were about how if one prays and it comes from the heart, God will accept you even if you’re a sinner. For some reason, tears filled my eyes and it brought to mind how my parents had made sacrifices for me and my siblings to complete our studies. That was also the first time that I embraced my parents.
In 1997, my mother suffered a stroke. While I had often prayed following a Catholic booklet, I decided for some reason to, for a change, pray directly to God for my mother – asking that He will not take her away. While I may have still had my doubts about God then, not fully understanding, I distinctly remember an unexplainable peace coming over me.
My impression of Christians then was that they were good and loving people and so when I was looking for a job, I prayed for a Christian employer. God answered my prayer and through a friend I managed to find a job as a caregiver for a Christian boss.
Years later, I asked God whether it was His will for me to work overseas and if it was, for someone to lead me on this journey – despite having many fears. For one, I could not speak English and I did not have the funds to pay for the application.
But two and a half months later, God answered. I was introduced to Mr Timothy Teo and his wife Daphne in Singapore, by Pastor Celeste from Bartley Christian Church and arrangements were made for me to go and work for them.
But things weren’t all smooth sailing.
From the time that I arrived in Singapore in 2005, the agency had forgotten about my flight and I was stranded at immigration until my employers picked me up. I was grateful because they looked like kind people, yet I was also upset because I was unable to express myself in English. Cooking was a challenge too and I was homesick. It reached a point when I even asked my employers to just let me return to the Philippines.
Instead of giving in to my request my employers encouraged me to follow them to church. For this, I am grateful that they asked me to stay. I recall the first time I went to Bartley Christian Church, the senior pastor spoke about salvation and mission in his sermon. I was touched by the message and felt God’s love for me, saving me even though I am not worthy because of my sins. It was also then that I accepted Christ and said the sinner’s prayer.
Sunday after Sunday, I was excited to go to church and began attending the Filipino service as well. Slowly but surely, I also started forgetting my sadness and being homesick. There had been a series on “missions” and hearing God’s word. I remember hearing Isaiah 6:8 – “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”. It was then that I also decided to answer the call and began praying to become a full-time missionary. But little did I know it was still to be many years of preparation.
As I grew in my faith, I also decided to serve God in whatever way I could – whether it was ushering, helping in the children’s ministry, evangelism or attending a bible correspondence course.
In 2011, the Filipino ministry pastor invited me to become a cell group leader. My first thought was that I didn’t know anything about leadership. But through some encouragement and training, I accepted the position and with God’s grace was able to overcome the challenges.
Looking back, little did I know that eight years of working with the Teo family in Singapore, how they helped me to grow strong in my faith. I decided to go back to the Philippines to serve God as a missionary. But I had no idea where to start. In April 2014, with the help of the pastors and elders at Bartley, I joined Care Channel Incorporated. After going through an eight month period of training, I started a full time outreach ministry in Muzon, Bulacan.
The ministry aims to reach out to those being relocated from squatter areas in Manila, as well as those who are homeless because their houses have been lost to fires or affected by floods. We now also hold a Sunday service in the area and have 22 bible study groups, as well as men and women’s fellowship groups, Sunday school and prayer meetings. The ministry also helps to meet their practical needs. We have a feeding programme for hungry children who have no food to eat. To help those who need to make a living, we also do art and crafts to sell. In March, 35 brothers and sisters decided to take the step to be baptised.
While serving in the area is not easy and we face many challenges as many of the people do not have jobs, I thank God that they have learnt how to look to Him for help and put their trust in Him.
I’m thankful that I am able to be a part of this ministry and experience how God really moves in my life, even though I’ve not been to bible school or seminary. I’m also thankful that since God called me to serve, my family has also been moved by God. My parents and brothers are now also attending a Christian church and three of my sisters have been baptised as Christians.