Recap: Team Philippines Returns to the States

Removed from Panabo, Philippines after the government declared limited martial law, Global Outreach Team Philippines waited in self-defined “purgatory,” not knowing what their next step would be.

But when they returned to The Master’s University five weeks later and held a landing party on Tuesday, June 27, Team Philippines described how God worked in the midst of a difficult scenario.

This medical missions team of 10, primarily comprised of TMU pre-med/biology students, set out on May 15 to work at Rivera Medical Center. The students divided into pairs, each working four days in one rotation: the emergency room, lab, operating room, critical care unit, adult and pediatric ward, and surgery.

In their first 10 days, each pair worked a rotation and a half, some in surgery keeping a person’s intestines intact or disposing of a freshly amputated leg, while others merely checked on patients.

“I just graduated with a degree in biology pre-med,” said Sabrina Hebron, one of two team leaders. “I got to see what doctors actually do daily, not what I think they do.”

Each had the opportunity to assist with patient vitals, insert and remove IV’s, clean wounds, draw blood and other basic medical procedures.

But after 10 days in Panabo, with increasing threats from terror groups targeting hospitals and schools, team leaders Leo Sakai and Hebron got a call from Global Outreach Director Lisa LaGeorge telling them not to worry but to return to Manila as an extra safety precaution.

They boarded a plane the next day with no idea what they would be doing for the remainder of the trip, as the plan had been to work at Rivera for five more weeks.

“Leaving the staff at Rivera was disappointing and hard,” said team member Noah Varnell. “We had all become close in those first several days, but we focused on trusting the fact that God had planned it to turn out this way.”

That week in Manila was spent absorbing the culture and seeking other missionaries or Christian ministries in the Philippines that the team could serve. Days later, they connected with Pastor Wilson Ladringan and his son and began working at To God Be The Glory Christian Academy in the Northern Region.

The academy goes into the indigenous villages in northern Philippines and takes in the children who do not have the necessities to live. The school feeds, houses and educates them, not only in academics but also in the Bible. The maximum capacity for TGBG is 80, but they currently house 130 — they never turn a child away.

“Being here (in America) and living a lifestyle of comfort and convenience is easy, but these kids who have nothing have so much joy and worship God like there’s no tomorrow,” said team member Ethan Currie. “You could see it and feel it.”

Here the team was able to help teach English classes, repaint classrooms, lead worship and Bible studies, and do just what they had been doing at Rivera Medical Center: medical outreach.

When visiting the local villages, Ladringan’s son, a doctor, conducts exams and hands out medicine.

“Many are the plans in the mind of man, but the Lord directs his steps.” Varnell quoted Proverbs 19:21 in summation of his feelings.

The team expressed the grace of God in using their time at Rivera, where they each learned basic medical procedures, to prepare them to serve at To God Be the Glory.

They were able to visit seven villages.

“As enriching and incredible as it was to have experienced these things, and to love and be loved, it was hard,” Hebron revealed. “Halfway through the trip many of us really wanted to go home and were tempted to leave. God taught us a lot about perseverance and to cling tightly to Him. He got us through the uncomfortable and unexpected situations.”

For Sakai, the trip was a litmus test of trust. “It showed me where my faith was: in preparation and teamwork, but even with the best of that our plans were all shaken up.”

When going down the line and recounting what most impacted each team member, all unanimously said they learned about the sovereignty of God and how great He truly is.

Team member Candace Whitt ended the time by simply stating, “God’s design is best.”