Families in Poverty Journey in Faith
to Strengthen Community

Story and photos by Rhea Juson, Philippines Partnership Advisor

A Hope Center in the Philippines is investing deeply in the families of the kids in poverty they serve and witnessing a ripple effect of positive transformation throughout their community.

Pastora Lorna and Pastor Joey read the reflections of parents after their Bible study.

When transformation takes place in a community, it means that someone took their calling seriously.

For Pastor Joey Nayre Eguia and Pastora Lorna Alcantara Eguia from Sapangdaku Hope Center in Cebu City, Philippines, serving their community is a calling they take seriously — because community matters.

And a community that matters understands that family matters.

Because of their faith, Pastor Joey and Pastora Lorna understand that family is the basic building block of society. A family should build a strong foundation to be passed on from one generation to the next.

And even just one good family can inspire and influence other families to be strong and positive members of their community.

Like Pastor Joey and Pastora Lorna, OneChild values the importance of the family’s role in the holistic growth of their children.

As the most influential people in their children’s lives, parents are uniquely positioned to build godly character in their children as part of that growth.

The Heart of the Problem

In Deuteronomy 6:1-7, God emphasizes the role of parents in teaching their children the decrees and laws of the Lord. Obedience to God’s Word enables those who believe in Him to pursue a righteous life.

Kuya Louie, the father of sponsored children, helps distribute construction materials to families whose homes were damaged or destroyed during Typhoon Odette in the Philippines.

But how can parents who have never been discipled (taught how to follow God’s Word in daily life) teach their children in the ways of the Lord?

Should a Child Champion alone take on the discipleship of the children? The answer is a resounding “No.”

In some cases, Child Champions may be the only positive role models in a child’s life.

But they spend only a few hours a week with the kids at the Hope Center, while kids spend most of their time with their families.

So whenever possible, parents should be their child’s most important teachers and role models.

That’s why OneChild emphasizes the importance of a generational church — one that prioritizes intentional programming focused on the whole family.

Rock of Ages Charismatic Ekklesia (RACE) Ministries Church, the home of Sapangdaku Hope Center, is that kind of church.

In one of the Family Engagement Biblical studies in the Sapangdaku community, mothers are able to share their experiences relating to family and parenting.

“The family unit is a very important part of the whole process of the growth and development of each child,” says Pastor Joey.

“This family engagement strategy is a vital element in the holistic training and development process for each child in the program.”

As they believe that the biblical mandate of raising a godly generation belongs to the parents, this generational church places great importance on discipleship of parents to enable them to fulfill their role as the main teachers of their children.

That’s why they created the Family Matters program for parents. But it wasn’t an easy journey.

The community faces a lot of challenges, such as gambling, drugs, fights, unemployment, dysfunctional families, and religious biases.

Walking With the Family

Despite these challenges, the selfless Child Champions from RACE Ministries Church take seriously their calling to impact the culture by transforming the families in their community through discipleship.

These Child Champions are motivated by the certainty that it takes one generation to impact a culture, and it will only happen when families experience life change through faith in Jesus.

Through the leadership of Pastor Joey and Pastora Lorna, together with their children and other Child Champions, RACE Ministries’ Sapangdaku Hope Center journeys with both the children and parents.

They intentionally teach, model, equip, and mobilize parents as the primary stakeholders in the children’s holistic development.

“It was not an easy journey with the parents,” Pastora Lorna says. “They were hesitant and not trusting.”

She says it took two to three years to gain their trust and confidence, and not all parents were engaged at first.

But through fervent prayers, the discipleship program, and consistent relationship building with parents and other members of the family, they were able to engage the Sapangdaku community.

An Opportunity During the Pandemic

At the peak of the pandemic in 2020, OneChild Philippines staff conducted an online National Family Engagement Training with all the frontline partners. When the modules from this training were shared with them, Sapangdaku Hope Center decided to use them for their discipleship program among the parents.

Pastora Lorna talks with some of the parents.

Because of the pandemic restrictions, the Hope Center started the Biblical Family Engagement lessons through Zoom meetings with the parents. When the restrictions were lifted, they moved to in-person meetings.

When they finished all the modules, Pastor Joey and Pastora Lorna contextualized and expounded the lessons for families. These family engagement lessons help the parents to understand their roles, and they appreciated the desire of the church to disciple them.

The Hope Center also created supplemental lessons to reinforce the lessons of the children with the parents. Those lessons emphasize that parents are the first teachers of their children.

Living Examples for the Children

Pastor Joey says their vision for each child is that they will be the next generation of Child Champions. Every child is important. And if each child is to be raised in a Christian atmosphere, their parents and the entire family should be involved.

Kuya Louie, at right, helps out during the construction materials distribution for families affected by Typhoon Odette.

The children should be trained in an atmosphere where the father is the leader, working in partnership with the mother, and both parents are modeling and growing in their faith in God.

That’s how the next generation will learn what it is to serve God as part of a church — a spiritual family both here on earth and in heaven.

Pastor Joey’s heart is to journey with the family by modeling the life of a believer and follower of Jesus and as an ambassador of God. He says that he specifically focuses on the fathers, including the boys who will become fathers in the future, while Pastora Lorna works with the mothers.

They believe that as pastors, they are to model, mentor, and monitor the milestones of the parents in their faith journey.

The couple admits that they are not perfect people, but they are learning and growing with each other while parenting their children, Grant, Rain, and Shine, who also serve as Child Champions in the Hope Center.

Shy, a mother and a wife, recently lost her husband. Hope Center Director Pastora Lorna listens to her as she shares in one of their Bible study groups.

Pastor Joey believes that if they don’t faint or grow weary in the work entrusted to them by the Lord, they will one day reap a harvest of people who are Child Champions for their generation.

Learning for Impact

At Sapangdaku Hope Center, families feel that they are an integral part of the church. And the centrality of the family is evident in their programs, which are spread across each day of the week:

  • King’s Men is led by Pastor Joey on Zoom every Monday. The group aims to equip fathers in spiritual leadership as leaders of their families.
  • WOW, which means “Women of Worth,” meets on Zoom every Tuesday and focuses on transforming women to become godly wives and mothers.
  • Next Gen is an online session with the children on Zoom every Wednesday night led by Rain, the daughter of Pastor Joey and Pastora Lorna.
  • Family Matters is a Zoom meeting every Thursday to ensure that family members are fulfilling their roles in their families.
  • SIMBALAY, combing the word for church (simba) and house (balay), is a house church meeting every Friday. Pastora Lorna encourages parents to invite their neighbors to their homes to study God’s Word together. This meeting is to train parents to have confidence in the role that God had given them and for them to become ambassadors for God in their neighborhood.
  • Sunday school and church service every Sunday.

In addition to these programs, Pastora Lorna, a very good storyteller herself, trains parents to do journaling. The parents and children are learning to share their reflections through this practice.

She also invites parents to connect with each other through their Facebook group chat, where they can share prayer requests, photos, and videos. They are practicing this now as they are learning to become accountable to one another.

A Father Transformed

The fruits of their labor can be seen in inspiring stories like that of Kuya Louie Del Castillo. He had a dark past, but when he accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior he was changed into a loving father and husband and became a father figure to other children in the community.

When Kuya Louie passed away, his family received assistance from the Hope Center so they could start a small store as an income-generating project.

With Kuya Louie’s changed life, people in the community became curious about his transformation. He became an evangelist through his life testimony.

Kuya Louie was one of the mobilizers among the fathers during the rebuilding following Typhoon Odette in December 2021. He was also active in giving suggestions and offering his time to help implement children’s activities such as community cleanup as well as parent activities.

Sadly, in September 2022, while Kuya Louie was driving a motorcycle to earn money for his family, an unidentified person shot him, and he died. His burial was well attended. People grieved that he was gone too soon.

“I know he is now in heaven because he accepted Jesus as his personal Lord and Savior,” says Pastora Lorna.

Kuya Louie was gone, but his transformed life inspired others. One of the fathers in the community said that total change from darkness to light is possible. That father is now attending the discipleship program at the Hope Center.

Ripples of Transformation

It’s encouraging to witness the journey of Sapangdaku Hope Center with the families in their community. We now see parents engaging in the program, taking up their role as Child Champions with their own children and even with the children of others.

Some fathers are now leading their families in the Lord, in their role as the head of the family. And many families are now attending Sunday service.

They have indeed found a spiritual family in Sapangdaku Hope Center.

The church does not have their own building but continues to conduct Sunday services at a rented college building. To them, the church is never about the building but about the people — believers who journey together in faith as one spiritual family.

And when families experience life change through faith in Jesus, it creates ripples of transformation throughout the community.

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