A Different Kind of Summer

For many years the summer months of April and May were a busy season for Tiwala. We would take advantage of the school break to do summer camps, Vacation Bible School, outing for scholars, and retreats for moms and the staff team. We already had several groups of visitors scheduled for April and May to assist us in our summer programs this year. The kids and teens under our care were all excited to meet them and attend the fun activities we were planning for them.  
However, all those events were canceled because of COVID-19. We were all ordered to quarantine inside our homes. But instead of halting ministry activities until the lockdown was lifted, we were given a different assignment. What took place was a challenging and yet fulfilling task of providing basic food necessities to our beneficiaries. 
It all started mid-April when a close friend of Tiwala sent money to help tide over a few Tiwala families whose sources of income were affected by the lockdown. Since then we saw the Lord provide for more families week after week. People were sending money without us asking or making any financial appeal. We were amazed at how the Lord was providing food for His children!

However, while the finances were there, we still found it challenging to organize the relief efforts considering the limitations we faced. First, none of the staff of Tiwala possessed a quarantine pass, a permit that would give us the freedom to go out and purchase basic supplies. We also could not go to the office to do the repacking of goods. Aside from those, we don’t own a vehicle to transport food supplies. Then there were physical distancing and quarantine guidelines set by the local government that we had to strictly follow. 
One by one we saw how the Lord helped us address each challenge. Through the help of contacts and social media, we were able to find suppliers who were willing to repack and deliver the goods in the communities we serve. A church partner loaned us their vehicle so we could send the supplies to Tiwala families. Village officials also assisted us in the distribution. In total, the Lord provided 496 food packs for Tiwala families! We received so many messages of thanks from our beneficiaries. They were very grateful and said that the supplies were answers to their prayers for God’s help. Thanks to many of you who have become channels of His compassion and provision!

Aside from food items, we were also able to share hygiene and cleaning supplies to the mothers actively attending our Bible studies in five communities in Legazpi City. Although we could not get together with them to celebrate Mother’s Day, we sent out cards and paper flowers as tokens of appreciation and as reminders on the importance of leaning on the Lord’s love and strength. In response, several of them shared photos and testimonies of how their families would gather to spend time praying and reading the Bible. We were very encouraged to hear how they were learning to put their trust and hope in the Lord during these difficult times. 

The Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) was lifted in Legazpi on May 21. We are now under General Community Quarantine (GCQ) which means many businesses and workplaces are already allowed to operate, provided that minimum health standards are strictly followed. Mass gatherings of over ten people are still not allowed. Senior citizens as well as persons below 20 years old are also still not allowed to go out. The school opening has also been tentatively moved to August (it usually starts in June) That means that kids have to stay at home for a few more months. 
Right now, we are busy preparing academic modules that Tiwala children can use at home. The kids to whom we minister have limited access to educational tools that would aid them in learning. By providing them with modular resources, we are hoping that they will continue to have a productive time learning during this community quarantine time. It is a lot of work and involves a different kind of teaching on our part.  But we continue to trust God’s wisdom and provision as we seek to minister during these unprecedented times. 
Even in the midst of this pandemic we want to press on in the work that the Lord has asked us to do – to build strong foundations in the lives of people here in Bicol, Philippines. How we do that task may differ from time to time but our mission remains the same – to point people to God and portray His love for them. May He find us faithful to that call no matter what. 

Thank you very much for pressing on with us through your prayers, encouragement, and support. We appreciate each one of you! May the Lord also continue to help you persevere and cope with the challenges of these times with His enabling and sufficient grace.

Tiwala Team