2014 Philippines – Luna Oh

Without Your Presence

“My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” -Exodus 33:14

I am a pretty ambitious person. I want to be successful, so I dream big. And I know that God will help me achieve my dreams. With all my fame and honor, I plan to declare God’s glory and lift His name high. Then people who admire me will also believe in Jesus and accept Him as their Savior. With the influence I have, I will impact many people, change the world, and leave an amazing biography. This was my wonderful life plan. And of course this plan involved money and provision. In order to see this beautiful world that God has created, to taste the most delicious foods, to enjoy all of life’s luxuries, I must be rich. Thus growing up I was so thankful to have been born in Korea in the 20th century, where becoming rich is a real possibility, and the standard of living is high.

So when thinking about a city like Tacloban, in a poor nation like the Philippines, hit severely by Typhoon Haiyan, I had no idea what to offer. What could I say to people who had just lost their home and family and friends? The wonderful plan I created for my own life meant nothing to them. And I know what it feels like to go through a sudden life disaster. It’s crippling. Even after getting up on your feet, you struggle with the thought, “What if I collapse again after restoration?” Fear of failure is real. This fear can consume people and root them in hopelessness. So I honestly asked myself, if I were Filipino, could I have hope living in this destroyed city? My answer unfortunately was no.

During one of our first team meetings, our team leader Pastor Jamie told us that we share the same hope as those in Tacloban. This hope is not in this world but in Heaven forevermore. I agreed with her words in my head, but I still was not very sure in my heart. I had no conviction. Even after arriving at Cebu International Airport, I was not sure. After travelling by plane, we took a boat and then drove a few more hours by van. As I was watching the land pass by me, I couldn’t find hope- only poverty. But fortunately God intervened.

Once our team arrived in Isabel City (our missions base, close to Tacloban), I saw joy in the believers as they shared their testimonies. Their faith in God was unshakeable. They were not depressed or hopeless or terrified. Instead, they embraced the suffering and difficulties together as a family. It was unbelievable. Before I realized it, I heard myself asking these victims if living through this tragedy made them feel like God had abandoned them. To my surprise, they never felt that way but rather continued to worship God and praise Him for saving their lives! The people of Isabel City did not see themselves as victims, but as survivors. I still couldn’t believe it. There must have been at least one moment when they had cracked in their faith. “Even as you and your family were hiding under a bed trying to survive, you didn’t feel miserable?” But all I heard was how these people were restored back to their faith again and again. I was so surprised by this faith. It was stronger what anything I had witnessed before.

But God knew that I was not convinced enough from these testimonies, so He brought me to another local church. Again I saw one of many destroyed church sites, and in this one there were a few women having their weekly prayer meeting. Our team was introduced to Ray, a pastor of the church. He was shirtless because he was working on rebuilding the church as we came in. Without realizing it, I looked down on this man because of his appearance. At first I thought he was just a construction worker, not a pastor. But after introductions, we all gathered and started to worship together. As Pastor Ray raised his voice and hands in extravagant worship, I strongly and undeniably felt the presence of God. I even started to cry. I could powerfully feel God’s amazing love and His people’s faithfulness. It was undeniable. I had never experienced anything like this. And I knew right then and there that His love is beyond my understanding. Suddenly it was so clear why the believers of Isabel City were able to keep their faith no matter what. It is His love and His presence that overcomes any terrifying disaster. Even when the storm winds are so strong that a roof is torn off a home in front of their eyes, they are able to praise God in that very moment because God’s thick presence is with them. And there is no better, no safer place to be than in His presence. That’s why the people of Isabel City were able to praise God and are growing even stronger in their faith. God was with His people throughout the time of the typhoon, and He continues to be with them today.

God loves His children. To show His crazy love for His daughter Bess, a typhoon survivor from Tacloban, He selected 11 people from Korea and sent them all the way to the Philippines to show her His overflowing love, share the good news of the Gospel, and to lead her to salvation. His love is so detailed. When I think of God’s amazing love for each of His children and the way He displays this love to us, I can’t help but to be in awe and be overwhelmed by His grace. Through this trip to the Philippines I finally understand what it is that we hope for. We are made for loving him and He has promised us that His presence will be with us. As long as His presence with me, I can go through any hardship, because my hope is in God. I am longing for Heaven now. Because in Heaven I can constantly feel His presence. Through this trip, God revealed His presence to me and instilled in me a faith that can’t ever be shaken. Even in the worst disasters, our hope will only increase because that’s the perfect place to feel His presence more strongly.

Wherever I went in the Philippines, there were many kids following me and calling out my name, “Ate Luna! Ate Luna! (ate means older sister in Tagalog). I really loved that they remembered my name and recognized me as a sister. And in that moment, God spoke to me: “I love it whenever you call my name. Recognize me! I am the Almighty God.” And now I call out God’s name because He loves it when I remember His name and recognize who He is. I now see God working in His children constantly. This short trip to the Philippines has completely changed my relationship with Him. God is not just someone faraway. God is also so close to us and wants to reveal His presence to us. He loves it when we recognize who He is and call His name.

Comments

  1. I am so impressed with you, Luna!

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