Sunday, April 19, 2009

Five year old Chariel's weak little heart could take no more

"Pastor Sean, can you please call me, Chariel is dead". That was probably the worst text I ever received, but I was not shocked. We knew that Chariel's heart was fragile. In fact, we first learned about his heart defect after he turned blueish and passed out. Now he was just a few weeks away from his heart check up to see if it had gotten large enough yet to have the corrective surgery that we had hoped would save his life. He was only five years old and had a pretty rough life. It started with being born into poverty. He literally came into this world in a shanty under a bridge which had no running water, bathroom, or electricity. His parents, Ariel and Charita, barely made enough to eat each day.
I can't help but feel a little frustrated because we had worked so hard and were so close to getting his operation. We had jumped through all the hoops that the doctors required, including having all his teeth pulled
(which had to be done in the operating room while his heart was monitored), and were just waiting for his heart valves to grow large enough to handle the correction. Still, I do believe that God is in control and that He has ordained each day of our lives.
His little body in its small coffin was placed in a small town center so that
he can be viewed, mourned and remembered for the next five days. Then a
procession of his family and friends will take him to the cemetery for burial.
Next to the place where his body lay was a basketball court full of children
from the community playing. Pastor Richard Ibon lead a service where he
shared the gospel, lead worship songs, and offered comfort to all.

Chariel is not the first little one that I have seen laid to rest. I find the death of a little one much harder to bear than the death of an adult, however, it is even harder for m
e to handle the pain of those left behind. Seeing the body of a person causes me to think about eternity and where they are. If I know that they are under God's grace, then I don't worry about them, but I pity those of us who are left behind here waiting for our
real home. Because of that, it is much harder for me to see the pain of grieving friends and family than to see someone who has passed away.

I called Charlyn back after she texted me about Chariel's death and I could here his mother loudly sobbing in the back ground. When Jessica and I got to the morgue where they were waiting for a casket, I saw Chariel laying on a small tile counter top. His father Ariel was covering his face with a towel to hide his tears as he mourned over the loss of his only child.

We were told that Charita had taken Chariel somewhere to get some food. As they walked home he was struggling to breathe. When they got home, she began to rub oil on his body, thinking that would somehow help. He eventually stopped breathing and stiffened up. It was then that she took him to the hospital, but he was already dead. To this day I still don't know if she ever fully comprehended the danger he was in. The first time I took them to the hospital, the doctor explained to her that Chariel had a hole in his heart and would need surgery to repair it in order for him to live past his teen years and to develop properly. To this she responded, "Can't we just give him some medicine?"

Her whole life was centered around that little boy. Because of the lack of oxygen to his body he was not growing right and was very small and feeble. He could hardly walk and she had to carry him most of the time. She worked hard serving him everyday. Before and after Chariel, she had had miscarriages, and though this little guy survived, his life was still short.

Five year old Chariel's weak little heart could take no more. I'm sure that their little home is going to seem very is quiet and very empty. Now Ariel and Charita are faced with funeral costs that amount to somewhere around two years of their combined income. The more affordable burial is only temporary because after five years they take the remains out of the tomb and cremate them. Of course the church is helping with some of the cost and so are we, but as of now, that is way short of the $2,000 necessary to buy a permanent burial plot. Pray for this hurting family's comfort and that God would provide so that they can lay their son to rest. I don't think that Ariel and Charita are believers, but they have seen God's kindness to them over the last few years. I hope that the body of Christ will show them one more act of kindness during this hour of need and that God would open their hearts and speak to them in a powerful way. Email me at if the Lord puts it on your heart to help.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Pastor's Home in Ahses

I received this email from the missionary community in the Philippines.  I posted it so that you can read about this families pain and pray for their comfort and strength to pick up the pieces of their life after their tragic loss.  

Mike Gingerich wrote:

To all who mourn in Israel, he will give beauty for ashes, joy instead of mourning, praise instead of despair. For the LORD has planted them like strong and graceful oaks for his own glory (Isaiah 61:3)

On a recent Wednesday morning I was supposed to meet with six pastors who have been working with Village Handcrafters to reach the community around our factory. But one was not there.

Pastor Ogie had been out leading a Bible study the evening before. His wife, Gina, stepped out of the house to visit a friend, leaving their four children at home for just a few minutes. Since they have no electricity in their two-room home they had left a small candle burning. Somehow the candle ignited a blaze that engulfed the whole house very quickly. The fire only lasted 15 minutes but because the door was locked, neighbors had a hard time getting inside to rescue the children. Two younger children died in the fire and a third died the next day from his burns. Only their oldest son, Inok, 8, survived. 

That afternoon I visited the charred stick frame that was once the family's home. Witnesses pointed out the back corner of the bedroom on the floor as the location where the blackened body of three-year-old Nadine had been found. As I imagined the fear and pain of the little girl a few hours before, I stared at the cursed corner. But something there caught my eye. On the floor in the very place where the little girl had died there was a burned and tattered Tagalog Bible.

It was as if God was reminding me that He was there with Nadine as she huddled in the corner. Even there, even then, He was in control. And that he will give Pastor Ogie and his wife beauty and joy in exchange for these ashes and mourning. 

Please pray that God’s purposes would not be thwarted in the lives of this family and the church they shepherd. Please join us in praying for God’s glory to be planted like an oak in their lives.

The family lost its home and all the humble belongings it contained in the fire. If you would like to assist the Ogies during this time of need you can donate to Action International Ministries Philippine Disaster Relief Fund. Please note that it is for “Pastor Ogie fire relief.”

Dear Friends,


I just wanted to send out a bit of an update and relate a couple stories to those of you who have helped with the Pastor who lost three children in the fire. Today, Ed Landry and I met again with Pastor Ogie, his wife Gina, and their only living son (8). We visited what remains of their house. Kind of an emotional experience. I asked if they had been able to salvage anything. Gina, who seems to be doing a little better than Ogie with handling all this, told me that everything was destroyed. But that they did recover a partially burned folder of important papers. Miraculously, the parents' marriage certificate and birth certificates, as well as their oldest son's birth certificate, were not damaged. Interestingly, the fire destroyed the birth certificates of the three children who died. They were all kept in the same place. It was just kind of a reassurance to Gina that God was even in control of all that took place on the most terrible day of her life.


As we were getting ready to leave, a burned up book amongst the pile of rubble caught Ed's eye. It was a charred copy of Tuklasin. Ed wrote this spiritual workbook for new believers 20 years ago, early in his ministry here in the Philippines. He got pretty teary eyed as he realized that at that moment God was bringing him full circle with his work here. It was Gina's copy of Tuklasin which included a prayer she had written for her family. Ed and I both lost it as we saw on the last blackened page the lyrics to the song "Why so Downcast O My Soul? Put Your Hope in God." Again it was amazing what God had chosen to preserve from the flames that took everything. In a country and a place where needs and tragedies seem to be everywhere, it was God's special word to Ed and all of us at Village Handcrafters assuring us that this is a family He wants us to come along side and help through this difficult experience.


We also did a bit of investigation while we were there and came to the conclusion that the parents clearly did not lock the door to the home when they left the evening of the fire. In fact the oldest son ran out the door when a piece of his burning mosquito net fell on his leg. He sat on the grassy, unpaved "street" crying while the fire quickly grew. The only way to lock the door was to put a screw driver through a couple bent over nails from the inside. So there is no way this could not have been done by anyone who left the house. When neighbors arrived, they tried desperately to get inside but thought the door was locked because they could not get it open. What actually was happening was that the door, which was made of galvanized metal over a wood frame and did not even have a door knob or a latch, expanded in the door frame because of the intense heat inside. This was apparently so tight that it took several minutes for rescuers to break through. Learning this brought some clarity for Pastor Ogie and Gina, as to what had taken place on that terrible evening. It will help them, and their neighbors, not blame them for what happened.


The couple is very thankful for the help that has been given. We also looked at an available home in the area. It is a rent-to-own situation. We had thought about buying a lot (they were renting the home that burned) and building them something new but that would take time. They need a place to go as soon as possible. The rent of the home we looked at together today is $30 a month. Hopefully, eventually we will be able to raise the money to pay off the home for them. It is $3000. When we can help them get moved in (next week?) they will probably need some home furnishings and other household items. I think Gina may still need some clothes. She is quite thin. I think they could also still use some clothing items for their son who is eight. By the way, he seems to be doing well emotionally - smiling, running, playing, happy kid. (We compared our "Snake II" high scores on our cell phones). 


Some have asked about donating some English books for Pastor Ogie and Gina. He did do a couple years in a Bible school so I'm guessing he can read some English but I'm not sure how much really.  I'll try to remember to ask about that. So far we have collected $240 here to help the family. That and some assistance from Department of Social Welfare took care of their funeral expenses. I know of couple other cash donations that I still need to coordinate. ACTION has made relief funds available to be used right away if needed and then paid back as donations come in. Please let me know if you have specific questions about what may still be needed.


It has been really good to see the area Pastors come along side Pastor Ogie and Gina during this trying time. Without this I'm not sure where they would be. Pastor Ogie's church is in a small section of the community where there has been an ongoing land dispute. Church members have struggled with unity and showing love. This has been very difficult as church attendance continues to drop. And now this tragedy. Also I should mention that Pastor Ogie has TB but has been living in denial. Last week we got him to Scott Nelsen's clinic and started on TB meds. All of this has been pretty tough. Ogie has only been a Christian for three years. So, it looks like now Pastor Ogie may take a break from working in his small struggling congregation and help Pastor Rey in our Village Church plant. He really needs some healing and could benefit from a Paul -Timothy type of mentorship with Rey. Please pray for God's clear leading in this.

Thanks for helping us as we assist Pastor Ogie and his family,

Mike Gingerich

ACTION Philippines Missionary