The Philippines is composed of three sections: Luzon in the north, the many islands of the Visayas in the middle and a large land mass called Mindinao in the south – 1,700 islands in all. Like our states in Australia, the Philippines is divided into provinces. Of the 97 provinces each is segregated into many towns and each town into a number of barangays or barrios. Cities are scattered about the country with no set number, in each province. However, though there are more employment opportunities in the cities, and in particular Manila (the capital), they are very unpleasant places in which to live. The air is thick, polluted and smelly and the drainage systems are often filled with litter or overflowing with water. The taxis, buses, jeepnies and tricycles all belch out clouds of fumes which would never be tolerated in Australia. The core of the problems, however, is the extreme overpopulation. The streets are crowded with seething masses of people and vehicles. In a similar area to the city of Adelaide, Manila has 20 times the population and more people arrive daily in anticipation of finding work. Poverty is everywhere and it will remain that way until Christ’s righteous rule changes the political scene of corruption which drains the country of the money it so desperately needs.

To arrive in a city like Manila is an incredibly impressive experience, but to find the Truth there and to meet, throughout the scattered barangays, our brethren and sisters living in poverty such as we will never know is overwhelming. They live in timber huts, often with no floor but the dirt, with bamboo beds (for those who are not on the floor) without mattresses or blankets; they have very few changes of clothes and wear mostly thongs for shoes; they eat plain, white rice for breakfast, lunch and tea. This means that where the Truth is not known, the lives of Filipinos are enveloped only in the pursuit of daily food. Many live hand to mouth, saving little or nothing, and therefore stay at subsistence level.

However, where the Truth has entered into the lives of these people, it has added so much to their existence. They no longer strive alone, but have God to pray to and have faith in, as the Provider of all their needs. They live for things other than food, knowing that in the future a time of prosperity is promised to those who seek first the Kingdom of God. So the brethren and sisters are vibrant, happy, warm and friendly, though they are rather shy initially. The influence of the Word opens them up. So often we came to a little barangay and talked amongst ourselves until the readings, but straight afterwards we found that they came alive as they discussed with us the Word of God and we left each group with new and meaningful friendships. Quite often the young people take the Sunday Schools which are composed 80% of outsiders—local children off the streets attracted by the singing and lessons. One ecclesia runs five Sunday Schools in a weekend—one Friday night, three Saturday and one Sunday afternoon. Another boy of 17 takes a whole Sunday School in Pasig in three stages on Saturdays, at 9.00 am, 11.00 am and 1.00 pm.

There is much more to tell of our fellow heirs and of their example and certainly many ways in which we can help to alleviate their difficulties, though there is a great Provider who is aware of their circumstances, as He was of the ecclesia at Smyrna: “I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) … Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life”.