Sunday, December 17, 2017

Family Day in the Philippines Creates Special Memories

Parents, teenagers, and children gathered in Manila for a day of fun and encouragement.

Parents, teenagers, and children gather in Manila for a day of fun and encouragement.

Families enjoy time together and receive Biblically-based counseling and prayer.

Our team hosted a Family Day event in Tacloban City last year, so we were excited that the team in Manila would this year hold a Family Day event to reach out to impoverished families.

Staff enjoyed decorating for Family Day.

Staff enjoy decorating for Family Day.

These are the families with whom Samaritan’s Purse is conducting nutrition projects and water and sanitation projects. Family Day was a way to complement these programs, promote Biblical family values, and bring physical and spiritual healing to those who need it most.

By 7:30 a.m. Samaritan’s Purse staff and volunteers had hung up bunting above the school’s basketball court to create a festive atmosphere. The first families arrived at 9 a.m., smiling brightly at the warm welcome as they were led to their seats.

Each family received a card to take with them to different activity stations. The cards would be signed by facilitators, and each family would receive a prize once they completed all the stations.

I noticed that these folks were very social. In fact, a section of their community is called Happy Land. I am struck by how people living below the poverty line can still smile during hardships. Family Day helped ease their sadness—turning those smiles into true expressions of joy.

After dancing to lively Christian music to break the ice, the younger children, older siblings, and parents participated in different activities. I watched as the children continued singing and dancing, amazed at how easily they followed along.

Samaritan's Purse staff counseled and prayed with parents.

Samaritan’s Purse staff counsel and pray with parents.

I then slipped out and headed to the room where teenagers talked intently with volunteer counselors. They seemed comfortable talking about their struggles.

Our counselors did not criticize or scold them for their misbehaviors. Instead, they encouraged the teenagers that the Lord is always willing to pick them up when they fall.

Some participants said that they had been wanting to talk with someone about their struggles, and Family Day provided that opportunity.

In another room, adults talked with our volunteers about parenting and family life. It was heartwarming to witness the pastors leading fathers in prayer and female church leaders doing the same with mothers.

Family members then reunited for a group session when they acknowledged their responsibilities to each other and to God.

A fun photo booth gave some families their first opportunity for a family photo.

A photo booth gives some families their first opportunity for a family photo.

One fun activity was the photo booth, where participants could wear wacky headgear and pose for the camera. However, it turned out to be especially meaningful for several families that said it was the first time they’ve had a photo taken together. I knew that the magnetic photo they would take home would always remind them of this special day.

“I’m glad I made time for this,” a father said as he smiled at his kids.

Families that completed all the activities received a bag of groceries and a few other items from Samaritan’s Purse as a prize. Most households survive on a daily income of less than a dollar per person, so I knew these groceries meant a lot to them.

Yet, they received a far better prize as they spent time as a family and experienced God’s love through the encouragement and prayers of Samaritan’s Purse staff.

I couldn’t help but admire the teamwork and dedication that our staff and volunteers exhibited during this event. I saw how they made families feel special. They had fun with them and treated them as people who are loved by God. This is why we do what we do, and our work is not done.

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