How A Typhoon Led To A Partnership by Travis Sharpe

Our ministry in the Philippines works so well because of our partners. And God has given us some really great partners.

Long before my family and I ever went to Southeast Asia, there was another family with a similar compassion for the lost and the hurting. Antonio and Merliza Ner are church planters who came to Talisay City over 7 years ago.They have a beautiful family and, like our family, everyone is involved in their ministry. Their daughter Princess plays the piano and their son Daniel helps run the sound sound along with a few other things. Their youngest son Ithran is also a blessing.

Antonio and family
One thing that has always been close to Pastor Antonio and his wife’s heart is feeding hungry children. As a matter of fact, when they first started the church they are at now, that’s one of the primary ways they reached out to the new-to-them community. They went to neighborhoods where there were lots of children and simply began to love them by meeting the basic need of nutritious food.

Over the years the added to the list of neighborhoods where they would do this and the list continued to grow. By the time that our family arrived there in January of 2015, they were serving meals and having Bible studies in about 10 different extremely poor neighborhoods every Saturday.

The irony

Usually when we think about helping someone who is in need we think about what we have in excess, the extra’s we have. But for the Ner’s, the story was much different. They rarely had anything that could be called extra. The Philippines is a developing nation and the poverty there is very real. Pastor Ner and his family know that first hand.

When they first married many years ago, they had nothing. Antonio was already called into the ministry and like many others he gave up the hopes of a career where he could earn a good living. Instead, he chose to follow God’s will for his life and plant churches. I’m sure that must have been difficult as he knew there would be real struggles for daily provision.

Two prayers meet

Nevertheless, they followed God’s will, trusting him to be their sole provider. Each week they would use whatever money they could gather to buy the rice, chicken and other ingredients for their weekly meal ministry. Sometimes there was barely enough. They have even been known to sell personal possessions in order to provide for the children who depended on them for the meals.

Pastor Antonio prayed year after year that God would send him a partner, someone who would help them with this ministry of compassion.

After several years of those prayers, a tragic typhoon hit the Philippines. It was November of 2013 and the storm was named Yolanda. It was one of the worst storms in history. Meanwhile, on the other side of the world in the United States, my family had been praying for God to lead us to our first international ministry opportunity.

My friends and missionaries Gary Moore and Todd Crusenberry decided to respond to the great need caused by Typhoon Yolanda and take an emergency trip. The team would consist of medical personnel, preachers and disaster relief workers.

They called me and asked if we would accompany them. I immediately said yes. My wife April and my son Hunter joined me for this trip.

Little did I know that on that trip, caused by a horrific storm,  we would meet a couple who had been praying for a partner. And little did Antonio and Merliza realize that they would meet a couple who were looking to begin their first international ministry.

A divine appointment

It was our first trip to Asia so it was all new to us. But after getting over the jet lag, our family went to work and quickly felt right at home. We worked for those 10 days on Bantayan Island which is a long way away from Talisay City where Pastor Antonio lives. But this was a hard hit area that was receiving little assistance so we all met there and he was our leader.

As we worked hard to bring relief to the people who were still suffering from the storm, we also shared our stories and became friends. One evening I felt led to tell Pastor Antonio all about our ministry and how we started out. He listened intently, hanging on every word. By the time I was done, he was wiping tears from his eyes.

He shared with me about the meal centers and how they try to help the most vulnerable children every week. Then he told me about the children who sleep on the streets of the city where he lives. He told me about kids who run away from home because of abuse and neglect. He told me about the orphans who have no one to depend upon except for their friends who also live on the streets.

By the time he was done I was wiping tears from my eyes!

It didn’t take long for us all to realize that this meeting was no accident. We were sitting at a table and there were people all around but we didn’t even notice them. God had created a divine appointment.

We agreed to pray together and ask God if he would allow us to work together someday in the future. Honestly, I didn’t have to pray much because the Lord had spoken to me that evening as we talked. I knew that our first international ministry would involve Pastor Antonio.

One year later

Exactly one year later, my family and I arrived in Bacolod City for a five month stay. We rented a house and went to work helping the Ner family in the meal centers. Every Saturday we helped to serve the meals, sing the songs and teach the Bible lessons. We quickly grew to love and appreciate this simple compassionate ministry.

april serving at bridge
After working hands and gaining an understanding of how everything worked, we began to help pay for the food each week. It wasn’t long before we began three brand new meal centers. One of them was even at the city dump where there are about twenty or so kids who live there with their families.

Today

Today we are partnering with the Ner family and their church each week to operate 13 meal centers. They are working hard on their end to provide the nutritious meals and loving care. We are working hard on this end to provide the funding that is so desperately needed to help these little children. There are about 372 children within the 13 meal centers that benefit from our efforts each and every week.

God has created an amazing partnership and done it in a way that only he could do.

The plan

Like I said above, I am working hard to provide the funding that is so desperately needed to run the meal centers. And the best way I know how to do that is to honestly share the need with our supporters and pray that God touches hearts.

To best meet these needs we have created a meal center sponsorship program. We are simply trying to partner churches, Sunday School classes or even families with a specific meal center. As the sponsor you will give monthly to help support the meal center that you choose but you will also pray daily for the kids who attend.

I’m excited about this because it’s all so real. Real children with real needs getting real help. And I have personally worked in these meals centers and I know what goes on, that makes it super easy for me to ask my friends to help.

Would you be the next partner? You can sponsor all or part of a meal center and make a HUGE difference. I have listed more details on our website and you can see them along with lots of details about some of the different meal centers by clicking here.

Thank you

If you have read this far then I know you genuinely care. Thank you for that. Caring for the little ones who cannot fend for themselves is near to God’s heart for sure.