Found by Travis Sharpe

This past Sunday was the first service in our new church location. It is a beautiful new building with many upgrades from the old building. In the old building, there were no real walls and it was more of a “brush arbor” style. That’s fun for revival, but day in and day out, it’s difficult.

With no soundproof walls, the children’s ministry just outside, would almost always be louder than the church service. And then there was the traffic noise. I think every car without a muffler would drive by the old location during Sunday morning service!

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The new location is wonderful. It is a brand new building with modern amenities. There is air condition, good lighting, real restrooms and best of all, very quiet and well insulated from all the outside noises.

Now for the good part.

As I sat in that first church service, something other than all the nice, new amenities caught my attention. Something other than the LED display for the songs. Something other than the good, new sound system.

What caught my attention the most was three particular people who were in attendance. People who have been found.

Nannay Milagros

First, there is Nannay Milagros. She is a very thin, wrinkled, dark-tanned woman in her early sixties. When you look at her, you know she has had a difficult life. Her face is shrunken, her eyes dark, her body frail. But she was found.

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Nannay Milagros is the lady in the middle

A few months ago, while doing the nightly street ministry, Sister Liza found her late one evening. She was out on the streets collecting scrap to sell at the junk shop. In need of money, and trying to help take care of her four grandchildren, she would roam the streets all night waiting for stores to close so that she could collect left behind plastics and maybe glass.

With a heart the size of Texas, Liza began to talk with her and find out her situation. She was immediately burdened for this hard-working grandmother who was in such obvious need. Over time, Liza has earned her trust and she is helping her. With a gift from one of our donors, Liza will help her re-start a small in home store to earn a steady income.

As I gazed upon her, sitting between two other ladies, her grandchildren in the next room enjoying children’s church, I praised God that she has been found.

John 

Around 9 pm, on a dark evening last October, we found him. Myself and Todd Crusenberry had the privilege of being personally involved in this special encounter. We were on the streets along with pastor Antonio and Liza and the other team members when we stopped to speak to a group of children.

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John is the one by the curtain on the front row.

Hidden in that group, was a handsome, 10 year old boy who had been living there on the streets for a couple of months, alone. When we learned that he was alone, we all became burdened. His family is dismantled and he had been living with relatives before leaving them for the streets.

That night Antonio and Liza took him home. He stayed with them for a while and they made contact with his family. His family situation is difficult and they basically said “you can keep him.” He has been around ever since. Every church service, he is there. Every prayer meeting, he is there. He loves the church. John is learning the Bible and learning (probably for the first time), that people love him.

As I looked over at the front row on the other side of the church, where the musicians sit, there he was. He is not perfect and his future is uncertain, but he has been found.

Enzo

Last year, while making visits on the same city streets, our team found a single father sleeping on a dark, dirty sidewalk with a beautiful little boy who was less than a year old. It was a heartbreaking situation that melted everyone’s heart.

I have several pictures of the night he was found as well as pictures from this week. But because his situation is still very sensitive, I am going to withhold the pictures. I hope you understand.

After talking with the father several times, it became clear that the father wanted to give this boy away. Out of fear that the boy might be abandoned, one of the church members stepped forward and agreed to take him. Now, for the last nine months, Enzo has been in a loving and caring home.

At church, he is like any other young boy. He has nice clothes. He is well fed and cared for. The love is easy to see. Each time I see this beautiful little boy, I can’t help to wonder just where he would be if he hadn’t been found by our team.

Please pray for this situation especially because adoption is difficult and he doesn’t even have a birth certificate or other proper papers that are needed for adoption. It will be difficult in the days to come for the family that has taken him in so they will need many prayers.

In conclusion

Nannay Milagros, John and Enzo remind me that the building is not the most important thing when it comes to church. How fancy it is and the amenities are secondary at best. What really matters is who is there, who has been redeemed, who has been found?

Note: It should be clear that the church I have referenced in this story is pastored by Antonio Ner. The move to the new location and all the blessings is a result of his, and the members’ hard work and prayer. This is the church that my family and I are a part of when we are here in the Philippines. The “team” that I refer to is the Unsheltered International Philippines staff and volunteers.