Two weeks during the 2015 Christmas holiday season, 80 volunteers along with the local HOPE worldwide staff painted boats, built houses, played with children, sweated, laughed, cried and fought off relentless ants and mosquitoes.
We ate great food, had daily morning devotionals, and evening discipleship groups. We shared our faith, had numerous dance parties, swam with whale sharks, took a boat to an island, and many more fun activities.
An unforgettable Christmas
No tree, no turkey, and no presents. Still the best Christmas ever! We celebrated together with participants from all over the world: Australia, Singapore, France, Canada, the US, the UK, India, South Africa, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and more. There were teens, students, married couples, a single mom, and families with children. The youngest was six, and the oldest in her mid-50s.
Sharing our time, gifts and faith
Two years ago, the region around Daanbantayan, Philippines was devastated by Typhoon Haiyan (locally called Yolanda). Many lost their lives; most lost everything. Since that time, the local HOPE worldwide staff and volunteers have been helping the community to rebuild.
During our two weeks, we repainted boats then we formed five teams and built five houses – in four days. No power tools. Just hammers and saws. We held a Christmas party for the children at the Center of HOPE worldwide daycare. We helped paint, build, dig, and whatever else was needed at the Center of HOPE worldwide. We had a huge party for the children living in town, along with a puppet show and a time to distribute gifts.
We shared our faith in town. One Sunday the small local congregation of around 20 members saw almost 1,000 people at church! Our HYC participants led the entire service. Aaron Arcilla, from Australia, and leader of this HYC, preached a powerful sermon. He is all of 21 years old. It is so inspiring to see the youth take on such important leadership roles.
What some of the participants had to say:
“My team had the privilege of building a home for Nanai Ana who is an 82-year-old widow. We spent about four days building the home, cooking and eating with her, and on the final day, we went to say our goodbyes. It was such a sad moment when she asked: 'When are you coming back to visit?' It was so difficult to say 'Most likely not.' Even as I write this, there is such heaviness in my heart. I can see her face so clearly.” – Marcia Llorens, mother of two adult children (their entire family were participants), Northern Virginia, USA
“I also decided that I wanted to live a God-centered life. I don’t want to just be a disciple who loves God and obeys him, I want my life to completely revolve around God. Being on HYC, every day I’d have my quiet times early in the morning, I’d do God’s work in the day, and spend time with disciples at night. I want to continue such a lifestyle, even as I go home and have to manage school and other mundane tasks. “ – Hannah Prihanto, student, Singapore
“During HYC, I have done things I never thought I could do, like help build a house and give even when I felt like there was nothing to give. All of these were possible because I was rooted in God. Without him, I know that all the things that I did would not be possible.”– Hannah Casihan, Melbourne, Australia
“As I woke up earlier than I had this entire year, and had my time with God each and every day, sometimes independently, but most times with another disciple, my love for God grew every day and new insights were constantly flooding in. For those two weeks my life seemed to be the way God had intended for his people, the days were filled with sacrifice and service, but not begrudgingly or with an underlying attitude, but instead, a genuine joy filled the atmosphere around us, and serving was a privilege, not an obligation.” – Savannah Wens, student, Houston, Texas, USA
“Through helping build houses, serving communities, and seeing children’s eyes light up, I started to feel a longing to serve and wanted to focus on that and nothing else. The HYC took me back to the roots of God and our relationship and reawakened things in my character I thought we had conquered but hadn’t. And I’m better for it.”– Zach Parnell, student, Philadelphia, USA