Read Our Story
While driving through the crowded streets of Manila, Philippines, I heard God speak to me, “If you build it, I will use it not only for the salvation of children, but I will use those children to make a difference in their city and country.” These words reverberated through my heart as I looked into the eyes of a young Filipino girl who was standing on a street corner just a few feet away from me, hands held out, silently begging for a few pesos. She was only one of many children who were anxiously awaiting any help from the passengers in the cars that were stopped by the traffic light. Through this experience, the need of this young girl penetrated my heart and opened a window of compassion that God took advantage of to plant a vision.
Traveling throughout Manila is always a unique adventure. Even though I have visited this country several times over the past fifteen years, the millions of people who live in such a compact area are still overwhelming to me. The roads are teeming with cars, buses, motorcycles, and bicycles. Because of this crowded condition, it is quite challenging to navigate the city, and at times, can take hours to travel only a short distance. It was during one of these trips, while inconveniently confined for hours inside taxis, traveling this congested city, that I was forced to take notice of the hopeless plight in the eyes of these children. At every major intersection, they were in the road, walking among the cars, selling rags, chick-lets, pork-rinds, strings of fresh flowers, and cigarettes. The youngest of these children however were not selling anything; they were beggars. Over the course of a day, I realized I had witnessed hundreds of children in the streets. Where were their parents? Why were these children allowed to be so close to traffic?
Immediately I began to feel a curiosity and concern well up inside me. All of a sudden, I was no longer ‘a guest minister from another country participating in a leadership conference’. Instead, I was confronted with a need so great that it was impossible for me to separate myself from it. I was no longer comfortable. There were so many questions, and I needed answers: “Who are these children and where did they come from? Where are their parents and families? Why are they allowed to beg and sell items in the streets unsupervised?”
I still remember the shock I felt when I was told they were abandoned “street-children”…orphans. As the reality of their dilemma settled upon me, I became so burdened. After all, some of these children were only four and five years of age. With each stop, at every intersection, painful questions bombarded my mind. “Where will that little boy sleep tonight? Does that small girl have any dry clothes, or will she have to sleep in those cold, wet clothes that she is wearing? Who will comfort these children when they feel afraid and alone? How and why did this happen?... What can I do?”
During the rest of my visit, I was constantly asking questions about these street children. I could sense that it was embarrassing and uncomfortable for Filipinos to actually talk about this problem in their city. After a while, I began to hear story after story concerning these children. For some families, poverty is so severe that they feel it is easier to just leave their children on the streets rather than watch them starve to death in their homes. Then there are families who have so many children that the oldest sibling (seven or eight years of age) is forced to the streets to beg for the rest of the family. Some are the illegitimate children of young mothers who were either abandoned by their families or are street-children themselves. Then there is the cruel and endless cycle of those young children who are violated, victimized, and exploited while growing up in the streets, only to give birth and perpetuate the next generation of street children. It is a seemingly endless cycle of hopelessness. I also learned that there are approximately 400,000 street children in the city of Manila alone and hundreds more throughout the rest of the country.
After seeing this incredible need and hearing the answers to my initial questions, I was still not satisfied. It only led me to deeper questions: “What can I do to help? Should Nancy and I adopt? How do I begin to rescue these children from this life of despair and bondage?” The only thing I could do at the moment was go to the front desk of my hotel, change my larger bills into the smallest bills possible. I began to hand every child I could a few pesos. But this did nothing to solve the problem. After a short time there were no more pesos, and yet, there were still so many children. At that moment, the thoughts of establishing, building, and operating an orphanage in another country seemed to be an overwhelming task. I was not qualified because I did not know anything about orphans or orphanages. Where would I begin? What government offices should I consult? Where would I purchase land, hire staff, and the hundred other things that must be done? But God had spoken. He had given me a promise and I knew He would help me if I committed to and trusted in Him. That rainy day, in the backseat of a taxi in the middle of traffic and smog, I began to pray about it. God reassured me that He would help me and direct me. There was no doubt in my heart that I had heard from God, and when I arrived back home, I was determined to do whatever necessary to see this orphanage become a reality in the Philippines.
Jim & Nancy Kilgore
Jim Kilgore was elected senior pastor of Life Church in Houston, Texas, the summer of 2000. He attended Jackson College of Ministries and then assisted in the state of Maryland before assuming the pastorate of Life Southwest in Houston for six years. He returned to his home church to co-pastor with his father in 1996. Pastor Jim is a personable and powerful communicator who shares his love for the people of the Houston area with his wife, Nancy. He has been married to Nancy for 25 years and their family includes James (Bo) & daughter, Scarlett, Benjamen and Lace.