Sixteen Year 11 and 12 students from Hebron Christian College, Mt.Albert, gave up their two-week April Holidays to visit and serve the poor in the Philippines. The team, accompanied by 4 teachers, the School Principal and a parent spent 9 days in Manila City and surrounding provinces visiting orphanages, slum housing areas and street children shelters in order to outwork their Christian faith in acts of service and love.
This Christian school has sent three previous teams to the Philippines since 1994 and sees great benefit in having the students fulfill the words of Jesus and "...go into all the world and preach the Gospel..." Students at Hebron are taught to live out their faith in an honest and real way," says Ruth Scott, the programme director, "We certainly don't believe in raising hothouse Christians at this school!"
Each student had to raise $2,400 for fares and accommodation but the school community rallied to their support raising $12,000 in a 5km Fun Run and a $5 Family Talent Scheme where each school family was asked to multiple their $5 in line with the Parable of the Talents. Some families raised over $100 from their $5.
During the mission, the team made a special point of visiting two orphanages, one in Bulucan for which the school had previously raised $11,000 after a devastating fire and the other in Cavite. "Visiting the fatherless is the guts of true Christianity," says School Principal, Mr Geoff Matthews, who accompanied the team on their visit to the Cavite orphanage. The 77-year old American lady running the orphanage was the Philippine's version of Mother Theresa and a real inspiration to me," said Mr Matthews.
Besides singing Maori action songs and performing a haka, the team prepared two dances, sang the New Zealand National Anthem with sign language and performed a 25-minute drama, "The Tale of Two Kingdoms", a mime presenting the story of Creation right through to the Resurrection. "The children loved the boys doing the haka. They particularly laughed when they pulled faces at the end," said Mr Craig Scott, the organising teacher.
Another highlight of the trip was meeting an 18-year old girl, sponsored by the school, who used to live on the Smokey Mountain Rubbish Dump. Although recovering from pneumonia, the team presented the girl with gifts from New Zealand and performed a drama and songs to her neighbours in the resettled housing area. The team was also able to distribute 12 sacks of blankets, clothing, toys and books to aid groups in the Philippines that they had gathered in New Zealand. "They were especially appreciated by the groups working with the very poor in outlying areas," said Miss Stephanie Grimmer, a primary teacher accompanying the group.
A little schoolwork was built into the trip one day when the team travelled out to Corregidor Is, the island fortress where General McArthur and American troops were bombarded by the Japanese invading armies during World War II. "The equivalent of 1 bomb for every 5m² fell on this island during the Japanese and American bombings," said history teacher, Mrs Bev Dorman. "Actually walking on the island and seeing the guns and the bombed buildings was history coming to life!"
The team arrived back in Auckland soon after the new term had begun and after a 2-day rest, were back at their desks with a slightly altered view of the world and a new appreciation of their own living conditions in New Zealand.