Turning Away From Vices
and Turning Toward God

Story and photos by Babylene Bocayes, Philippines Field Communications Specialist

When Imelda decided to follow God, she turned her back on all her vices. It was not easy at first, but it paved the way for her to find her passion for helping her church and the kids at the Hope Center.

Imelda with her son Allen, who is registered in the OneChild program in the Philippines.

Imelda, 55, is a woman of faith who loves to serve in her church as a praise and worship leader and a Bible study group facilitator.

She also volunteers to cook healthy food for the children in the Hope Center that her son, Allen, attends.

Every Sunday afternoon, she, her churchmates, and Allen go to an outreach ministry where they share God’s Word with a tribal community living in poverty.

She says she finds peace, joy, and contentment in the Lord by spending time with people of faith.

But finding that peace and contentment wasn’t an easy journey.

A Hard Life in a Hard Place

Imelda lives in a town amid sprawling banana plantations in the southern region of the Philippines.

When she met her husband 30 years ago, they decided to settle on land owned by her husband’s tribal community. As they were allowed to use the land freely, they built their house using wood and a tin roof.

Imelda serves in the Hope Center by cooking healthful meals for the kids.

And here they started their family that would eventually grow to six children. Although they are not paying rent for their home, their life is hard in this community.

Living in poverty is difficult, especially for a big family like Imelda’s. As a mother, she ensures her family has food to eat, a quiet place to sleep, and that their children go to school. All this weighs on her shoulders.

Imelda’s husband drives a motorcycle with a sidecar locally called a “tricycle” and he earns the equivalent of about $5 to $7 a day.

They use this money to buy food and pay for other household expenses. Most of the time, however, it is not enough for all their needs.

Four of Imelda’s kids are grownups now and live separately from them; two are still young and live at home.

Raising six children was not easy, according to Imelda, because they couldn’t afford to send all of them to school.

“Many of my children did not finish elementary level and only two have graduated high school because they worked on their own,” she says. “It’s very difficult because there’s not much available work here and it’s hard for us to send our kids to school with everyday expenses like transportation and snacks.”

Imelda’s son, Allen, at home.

Not only do they struggle to make ends meet, but they also have a chaotic community where drinking, smoking, and gambling are rampant.

“There are people fighting and drunkards causing a scene,” Imelda says. “At night, when they pass by, they bump into our house and our things, the noise wakes us up, and we can no longer sleep. It is very chaotic.”

For a time, however, this was also Imelda’s life.

“My life was very chaotic and so my family was chaotic,” she says. “I was not with the Lord then.”

Imelda struggled with smoking, gambling, and drinking alcohol. Admittedly, sometimes she caused one of the fights in her community.

Finding Peace, Joy, and Contentment

Then four years ago, a missionary from Oikos Theou church introduced Imelda to God.

“My life was not good,” she says. “I am thankful to Oikos Church for encouraging me. God used Oikos Theou church to change my life. The Lord gradually removed all my vices until I was free from the bondage of the enemy.”

Small convenience stores are common in poor communities in the Philippines. They sell a variety of products in small retail portions ranging from hygiene products like soap and shampoo to easy-to-cook foods like canned goods and instant noodles.

But changing her lifestyle was not an easy process. There were times when Imelda slipped back to her vices even when she was serving in the church.

“I used to serve in the church pretentiously and inconsistently and I saw that serving the Lord this way is not good,” she says.

This is why Imelda is so thankful to the people in her church who did not give up on her, guided her, and showed her what life with the Lord looks like.

“I found peace, joy, and contentment in the presence of the Lord. I did not expect that the Lord will use me for His glory.”

A Life Dedicated to God’s Work

When Imelda had overcome her vices, she allowed herself to spend more time in church. In addition to being active in their worship services, she joined their outreach ministry in one of the poorest communities in the area, where many children are registered in the OneChild program.

A Child Champion walks around puddle on their way to Imelda and Allen’s house.

Every Sunday afternoon, Imelda and other Child Champions of Oikos Theou go up to the mountains to teach, feed the children, and conduct Bible study among the mothers.

Imelda was inspired to serve even more because of the heart of the Child Champions in the ministry.

“Many times, the red car can’t go up because the road is very muddy. So, the Child Champions just walk happily while carrying the supplies and food we will use in the area,” she says. “I do not see them complaining. All I can see is the joy and enthusiasm in their faces as we walk amid fatigue.”

These enthusiastic Child Champions fuel her love for what she does. She is eager to share her life experiences and encourage the mothers.

“I don’t want the people in Tanwalang to experience what I experienced before — the chaos of life because I lived far from God.”

God’s Blessings Through OneChild

Oikos Theou has been a partner of OneChild for four years and has three Hope Centers with a total of 357 registered children in the program.

These kids are playing chef, using coconut shells and leaves they gathered from their surroundings.

They provide holistic care to these children through Bible lessons, music and academic tutorials, medical and dental checkups, supplying school supplies and uniforms, and Hope Center activities and events where children enjoy games and food.

During Christmas, each child receives gifts.

One of these registered children is Allen, Imelda’s son.

“I am grateful to God because Allen is one of the beneficiaries of OneChild,” she says. “It’s a big help because OneChild helps children finish their schooling. This will give hope to my son to finish his school and achieve his dreams.”

What Imelda is more grateful for is that Allen will have the opportunity to have a strong foundation of faith because it is being taught by the Child Champions at the Hope Center.

Allen hopes to become a pastor someday.

“Allen wishes to become a pastor someday,” she says, “I am hoping that he will be successful so when the time comes, he will be the one to help the next needy generations.”

Inspired to Give Back

Not only does Imelda help in the church, but she also serves in the Hope Center.

Now, Imelda is a proud Child Champion. She is inspired to help not only her son Allen, but also other children by cooking healthful meals at the Hope Center during weekly gatherings. She cooks chicken, arroz caldo (porridge), and other vegetable dishes that the kids enjoy.

“I am happy when I cook for the kids because it’s good for their bodies. I am happy helping and feeding them,” Imelda says.

With a deep sense of gratitude, Imelda says that all the good things happening in her are because of God’s goodness and she doesn’t want it any other way.

“It is only appropriate to honor and praise the Lord all my life. That no matter what happens, I will continue to serve the Lord with my family,” Imelda says.

Child Champions like Imelda are fueled to help kids in hard places by their strong desire to serve God. Such commitment is essential in journeying with a child to reach his or her full potential. Join the work of these Child Champions by sponsoring a child through OneChild.



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