Life inside the pigpen

We arrived in the Philippines just one year before. After twelve months of traveling from island to island, I had seen poverty in the worse form. I must say that I never got used to it. My eyes were still comparing my homeland of America with a third-world country, so the culture shock was precisely what I had read about in books and travel guides. Going to the Philippines as a Missionary opened my eyes to see the spiritual needs and the physical needs of the people. Our first and foremost goal was to get the Gospel to every person, whether they were the poor of the squatter areas, fishers in the villages, or the businessman on Main Street.

Saturdays, we met with our Bible Students who learned how to share the Gospel with others. Rain or shine, they were faithful to gather and prayed that God would use us to change someone’s life. This day was no exception. Our main goal was to see souls saved, lives changed, and set apart for God’s glory. It was a special Saturday because the following day was Father’s Day. I met with all college students and encouraged them to invite every daddy of the village to attend church on Sunday. We often had children and women to attend faithfully, but our pews were without dads, and Jesus died for them too. We had a big day planned for the “Father’s Day Celebration.” After prayer, we all set out for separate areas throughout the city. Our jeepney, a modified Filipino station wagon, was overloaded with soul winners prepared to share the Gospel of our Saviour. They were chosen into groups of two and four as we set out to win the world. I saw the excitement in every student’s eyes as we dropped each group at their destinations.

The last group was delivered at their village, and now it was off to another place of visitation. Many of our regular church members lived there and would be waiting for our arrival. It was a poor village with most houses made of native materials: coconut leaf roofing, bamboo floors, and woven bamboo walls. The people of that area were always friendly, showing their utmost hospitality. I enjoyed our visits to that area because they welcomed our Gospel as we went from place to place. Filipino culture offers something to drink and eat when visitors come, and today many have shared their bread and orange Tang drinks with us. Shortly before our arrival, it had rained with heavy thundershowers in that area. The mud was thick and sticking to our shoes as we walked the muddy paths from house to house. I thought to myself what a waste it was to shine my shoes that afternoon before going out on visitation because muddy shoes were expected, especially this rainy season. The air was still with no breezes, which of course, meant heat and lots of sweat.

House to house, we visited some we knew and some we did not know but still gave invitations to attend church on Sunday. My partner was one of our Bible students named Luther. He had been in this area many times, and the people knew his face as being “The Baptist.” Luther shared the Gospel with several people that afternoon, and our hearts were rejoicing with those that had received Jesus as their Saviour. Many fathers promised to attend church the following day to add to our joy. It seemed the Lord was working in our midst and was touching hearts as we went forth. The afternoon had produced many results for the Lord, and now it was time to go home as the sun was beginning to set behind the mountains. Being in the villages after dark is not a place of comfort when you consider there is no electricity, no street lights, and mud holes do not disappear at night.

As we walked out of the village road, I saw a path leading into a fenced-in area. Children were going in and out of what looked to be a muddy pig lot. I asked Luther if he had been there before, and he said no, so we went to the area. Approaching the gate, we looked over the fence and what we saw was something I will never get over. At the front of the lot was an enormous sow hogtied with a rope to the wall. Half-grown piglets ran around loose in the lot, digging in the mud, searching for food, and then going back and forth to the sow to feed. In the back of the lot was a bamboo shack where it appeared that a family was living. Luther called out “Tao Po” to the people, which means, “Hello, someone is here.” Little children, one by one, began to exit the house along with the baby pigs that occupied the same dwelling place. More pigs were living in the house than people. The older children were filthy and wearing torn clothes, while the smaller children wore no clothes. They came out to the gate to see what we wanted, and it finally came to me that these people were living inside the pigpen.

Next came out a man, the daddy, followed by his wife. Both of them looked tired and weary. The man’s eyes were red as if he had been drinking earlier in the morning, and his face was dark brown from the many days of living in the sun. They were kind enough to let us come inside the gate and offered us a cup of water. We accepted their hospitality. The wife stood behind her husband as we made a fallen tree our seats of furniture. Luther began explaining who we were and the reason for our visit. The man listened to every word as the children scattered to play outside the opened gate. The pigs were still running in and out of the house until the wife got up and closed the door.

The man explained that he was the keeper of the pigs and lived there to guard the pigs. He had eight children fed with the money that he earned from the owner of the pig lot. Things were hard, and he barely had enough to feed his children. We listened to the man telling us how he came to the island looking for work. While the man spoke to us, the baby pigs were chewing on my polished muddy shoes, so I took it that they liked the taste of fresh shoe polish. I ended up using my umbrella to hold them off from eating my shoes (feet included) while Luther began to share the Gospel with the man.

Luther explained the love of God and how He sent His Son Jesus to give us eternal life. He told him how we are all sinners, and Jesus came to save sinners. He said that we could not work our way to heaven and that the only way unto the Father was through Jesus Christ. The man held his baby daughter in his arms while Luther told the “wonderful story” of a caring Saviour. The man listened to every word holding onto his little girl falling asleep in his lap. Luther began to end his message when he looked at me and asked if I had anything to say. I remembered a verse that describes a day just like that day. I said, “Mister, one day Jesus came to a place where many sick people lived. It was a place called the Pool of Bethesda. A man had an infirmity thirty-eight years and had suffered many days of living in pain. Mister, could you imagine being sick thirty-eight years?” Jesus asked a question to the man. He said, “Wilt thou be made whole?” Jesus was asking a very simple question. Do you want to change? Are you happy in this place? Wilt thou be made whole? This is an honest question. Do you want God’s mercy that can change your life? You see, God did not intend us to live in pig pens. God has something better for all of us.”

The father looked down at his baby girl, who was dirty, wearing rags, and now sleeping in his lap. He looked out through the pig pen at his house, which was crumbling to the ground. He saw his wife, who had stayed by his side while Satan slowly destroyed their lives together. He dropped his head and said, “Yes, I will trust in Jesus as my Saviour. I want to be made whole!” Several weeks passed by, and I never saw him at church. I was curious about what had happened to him. A few weeks later, I was in the same village on visitation, so I went to the pigpen to visit with the man and his family. I got to the gate and looked over to see the pigs still in the same place. Everything was the same except for the house that the family lived in. It was now empty.

I went to the neighbor’s house and asked about the family that lived in the pigpen. The neighbors told me that someone had said the family “had gotten religion” and moved to be with a church located in the south of the island. The family had a new daddy; he had been ‘made whole’. Thank God Jesus takes us out of pig pens! He asks all of us the same question. Wilt thou be made whole? Do you want to change? Praise God for his forgiveness through his son Jesus. It is by His grace through faith that He saves us, redeems us from sins, and sets us free to enjoy life. Wilt thou be made whole?

That means rich men, ordinary men, all colors of men, all nations of men, and even those that live in pig pens.

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