2014 Philippines – Jihye Eom

Oaks Of Righteousness

“And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the Lord has said, even among the survivors whom the Lord calls.” -Joel 2:32

The way that God works in me gets more interesting as I get to know Him more through different seasons. One prime example of this is how He moved in my mind and through my hands as I signed up for both the New Philly 2013 Churchwide Retreat and also this winter missions trip to the Philippines. I was not fully aware of what I was doing. However, these two moments completely turned my life around as God made His words known to me through His works.

Looking back on this missions trip, the most mysterious yet powerful memory in my heart was when our team met sister Bess. After landing at Cebu International Airport, we had to take a boat towards our missions base of Isabel City. During this boat ride Pastor Daniel, our local pastor, was asking the Lord if there might be any ministry opportunities in Tacloban, the city most devastated by Typhoon Haiyan. Then sister Bess walked up to Pastor Daniel, fascinated by his group of foreign visitors. She was from Tacloban and ended up inviting our team to visit her in this city! What a divine appointment.

God led us to Bess’ house in Tacloban on the 6th day of the missions trip. The streets of this city, in my eyes, only looked like gigantic stacks of garbage piled on top of each other. Bess briefly shared with us not only about what happened during the actual typhoon but also her concerns about the political issues worsening in the area, the aid donations being sold for profit, and what is to be done with the unclaimed bodies. Bess seemed to be a type of person who is logical and continuously seeking justice. Listening to her, I realized that I was seeing myself in her. Like me, she had a strong tendency to pursue what is best in actions and words. But more than that, she had been dealing with unforgiveness in her heart for a long time, which was basically making her inner wounds and hurts grow deeper and deeper. This reminded me of how I was before I really encountered the Lord. Hers is a personality type that simply does not want to hurt people. Like me, Bess believed the best solution to conflict was to take all the verbal violence done to her, and bury it deep inside of her. After all, this was the advice given to her by her husband, a sincere Catholic. But Bess herself confessed how hard it was to just forget about these past hurts. In observing her respect for her husband’s faith, I sensed her desire to trust a higher power. And hearing her testimony, I knew that God wanted to reveal Himself and heal. I had to fight the urge to run to her and share the Gospel that God is the only one who is able to embrace her fully and heal all wounds and hurts in her heart. I wanted to share that God’s power is so much better than her own wisdom. I myself know what it feels like to go around and around in circles because of inner turmoil. Putting the emphasis on the common good, trying to handle problems with earthly righteousness and justice, never turns out very well. I myself had been putting myself through this cycle.

As a result of the deep connection that I felt with Bess, it was that much more precious to witness the moment when she decided to let these burdens go, and receive Jesus into her heart. As our team member shared her own personal testimony and as our team preacher unpacked the message of the Gospel, Bess’ eyes were opened to God’s continued faithfulness in her life. And all the accumulated inner pains and wounds in the deepest places of heart were instantly healed. As Bess was accepting Jesus as her Lord and Savior, I felt like I saw Him coming into the black hole inside of her that had been a continuous cycle of sorrow. I was captivated by the beauty of God’s faithfulness towards His people on earth, and His great desire to adopt all as His sons and daughters. After all God is almighty, the King of kings, whose power is supreme, whose law reigns on the earth and Heaven. Thus how can this God be so good to us? His loving and warm arms are always wide open for us, and at His feet we jump and shout out for joy. And nothing can take that joy and freedom away from us or from sister Bess as long as God reigns inside of us. This ministry trip more than anything else reminded me that God’s plans for us are so intricate. Our team was able to serve not because of our own wisdom and planning, but because of God’s divine appointments waiting for us. There were so many detailed that matched up in order to lead to Bess’ salvation. The Lord truly determines every single step in our lives, even when we may get tempted to think we move with our own earthly plans.

Thank you to my New Philly family for all your generous prayers and support. I would like to invite you into the second part of this journey by praying for our beautiful sister Bess and her family in the Philippines. Pray that Bess will continuously seek God’s presence in her life with burning passion and a great hunger and thirst. Pray for supernatural healing over Bess’ father, who has stage 4 lung cancer. Bess we met is a smart woman, and I want to see her being used powerfully for God’s glory, ministering to her neighbors who are still suffering from the typhoon’s devastation.

When I first arrived in the Philippines all I saw was the devastation, and especially all the palm trees fallen on the ground. It was tempting to dwell on how miserable and desolate the situation looked in the natural and how little it seemed that our team could offer. But in that moment I felt like God was asking me, “It is not those fallen trees that I want to raise up again?” Indeed it is the people of God that He desires to raise up and establish as pillars on the earth. Higher than any other tree in the land, with the righteousness that comes from the blood of the Lamb, God’s oak trees will stand firm and unshakable. And as the Lord spoke, to me, I have full faith that in the midst of the devastation, the Lord is raising up and establishing His oaks of righteousness to redeem His beloved nation of the Philippines.

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