by Ras Robinson
It was a typical hot, humid afternoon in Lapu Lapu City, Cebu, Philippines. We drove onto the property of the city dumpsite. The smell, the smoke from the ever burning fires, and the heat combined to make it very unpleasant. As I looked out the window, here they came. It looked like hundreds of little children running toward our van. They recognized it because local pastor Robert Cuenca came regularly with his family and church members to bring food and Bible stories for the children. We stopped as the children surrounded the van and I looked down into a pair of big beautiful brown eyes. A little girl looked up at me. Her face was smudged with dirt and soot. Her clothes were dirty and ragged. Those brown eyes and her big smile pierced my heart. I choked on my tears. That was my introduction to the children living at the dumpsite. The experience changed my life.
God spoke to my heart that day and I told him I would spend the rest of my life helping these little ones. God showed me that it is important to feed them and take care of their needs and tell them about Jesus their Savior. He also showed me that, through education, some of them could break the cycle of poverty inherited from their families. You see, these children were not in school. Some were 10, 11 or 12 years old and had never been to school. Some had attended, but with no regularity. They were destined to repeat a cycle of poverty into which they were born. In the Philippines, it costs to go to school. Even in public school, children wear uniforms, pay tuition, pay for books, various school fees and, of course, school supplies. We did not have much, but we used what we had and that first year, we sent 8 children to school. The next year we sent those same children plus four more to school, paying all of their school expenses. That year, an elderly lady in our church asked about helping one of the children and we had our first “sponsor.” She was delighted, we were delighted, and the little boy she sponsored wants to grow up and be a pilot instead of a trash scavenger.
In 2003, a pre-school was begun at the dumpsite of Lapu Lapu City because many of the children were not ready for school. I visited the school and was overwhelmed. There were 10 to 12 year old children in the pre-school who had never been to school. They were overjoyed. In the school at the dumpsite, they were learning personal hygiene and character qualities. They received breakfast every morning and learned how to read and write. The mothers came for lessons on parenting and life skills. The preschool graduated 10 children and we added them to our “school list” for public school the next year.
The Philippine school year goes from June through March. When school began in June 2005, we were sending 27 children to school. Thirty-one additional students were enrolled in pre-school. We had more individuals and groups wanting to sponsor the children. Some friends told us to consider the possibility that we would send 100 children to school in June 2006. Though it was a stretch to believe we would grow from 27 children to 100, somehow we knew it would happen. We began to get photos and information for the children from, not only Lapu Lapu, but also from other pastors across the Philippines who had similar situations. We put out the word to our mailing list that we needed sponsors for the children. The response was overwhelming.
In 2005, a church was begun, at the Lapu Lapu dumpsite, in order to minister more directly to spiritual and physical needs of the children and their families.
In June 2006, we sponsored 153 students from four different locations and began support for two additional pre-schools. One of the pre-schools was on the island of Samar, the poorest island in the nation. We also began support for job training for young men and women who had no family or education.
In 2007, we sponsored around 500 children, including a few in college. In 2008, the number grew to 650 in 29 locations on four islands. Then in 2009, we experienced the first decrease. Because of the financial crisis of 2008-2009, the number of students we were able to sponsor decreased to 545 at 25 locations. In addition, we helped with the cost of one pre-school instead of three. Last year in 2015, we sponsored just over 800 students with more than 100 of them in college. They are on four islands in 24 locations. We look forward to adding more sponsored children in 2016 when the new school year begins in June.
We are currently building our first orphanage called “The Father’s House” and will soon begin building a second one. We believe God will have us build 10 orphanages across the Philippines. God is good. We invite you to come be part of what God is doing.
If you desire to read more about how God has given Ras and Fullness in Christ Ministries a vision to transform the Philippines, please go to The New and Bigger Vision to Transform a Whole Nation.