Mission trip to Philippines lights up future possibilities


Nathan Hansen

The various facilities of the Global Surge evangelical youth camp, where cerulean skies and spring grass lawn sprawl across the property and entice the city-dweller teens to roll about and relish in the abundant nature. Ivy Hansen, freshman, and her family spent a week in the Phillipines on a mission trip.

Ivy Hansen, Staff Reporter

Sweat broke across my forehead in anticipation despite shivering inside the overly air-conditioned room. Giddiness, jitters, and pure terror battled for dominance, shooting electricity down my spine, causing my hands to tremble as I glanced out the gargantuan airport window behind the waiting lounge.

‘The pleasures of life appear plentiful in days of youth, but quickly wither away in the face of questions still yet unanswered.’

This truth I contemplated days after my second mission trip to the Philippines, where my family and I spent a week traveling around Metro Manila. Several years in the making, my dad partnered with Global Surge for these short-term mission trips to expose church members to new and innovative ways of sharing the Gospel, in hopes of bringing them home and sharing our experiences with others.

Jasmine Hansen
After an extensively strenuous day collecting our new passports, attempting to fly my kite(and failing horribly), and generally racing against time to pack and prepare for our mission trip to Manila, Philippines, Jeffrey (left) and I (right) sat somewhat dazed in our airplane seats simply waiting for takeoff before submitting to the sweet release of sleep.

But even before that first day, we already overcame several obstacles that threatened to prevent us from even boarding: both family cars breaking down, flying my grandpa in to make repairs, renewing three passports, shifting our flight back to make time for processing said passports (both costly affairs if there ever were), and my own personal frustration with putting together a kite for geometry.

But, by the grace of God, we made it; and there we were. Exhausted, yet elated; weary, yet weightless; my older sister, Jasmine, and younger brother, Jeffrey, especially elated for the trip. But there remained one last hurdle: jet lag.

The moment we landed, hot and arid heat waves baked the air like an oven. Sluggish and sweaty from the intense humidity, as typical of the season, we (my siblings and I) muddled through that first day with all the enthusiasm of a slug. Stopping by a small group first, I struggled to stay alert for my dad’s sermon distinguishing what qualifies a person as a Catholic and a born-again Christian.

Even through the drowsy haze, I still retained enough clarity to pick up on the gradual increased interest of the students assembled there. Unlike many of my fellow students in youth ministry, the young girls and young men seemed particularly engaged, no, fascinated with his gestures and explanation, even if they couldn’t quite keep up with his English.

Jasmine Hansen
Along our six-hour journey to one of the youth camps organized by our mission partner, Global Surge, Jasmine allocated me use of her phone to record the charming scenery. Funnily enough, the stark contrast between the metal plated roof shack next door to a gated pristine white dwelling aptly depicts the disparity between the rich and poverty-stricken classes in the Philippines, as well as the small proximity between them.

Afterwards, we (as a family this time) were introduced to a couple of young men interning at Global Surge, Cody and Matthew. Matthew had only just become a Christian; whereupon he soon discovered Cody, his childhood friend, went to the same church. After visiting the Philippines on a mission trip of their own, they felt God had called them to intern for two months. Tears almost spilled from my mom’s eyes; it was simply beautiful.

As we lay in our cushy hotel beds that night, the gears started turning in my head, pondering “What if?”

The next day, my fellow travelers and I, accompanied now by Jake and Brian (trip members that departed for Manila on the original flight), set off for Quiapo Church, a prominent basilica in the Quiapo district, as well as home to the revered 17th-century statue of Jesus, the Black Nazarene.

Our guide for the week, Luke Lyons, informed us of the startling corruption of Catholicism in the Philippines. The aftereffects were already quite apparent in the marketplace surrounding us; diversely colored prayer candles smoldering in the dusty air; church-sanctioned tarot card readers hawking their services; and numerous other spiritual items such as heady incense and oils, decorated figurines and statuettes, and innumerable talismans and rosaries hanging off of every conceivable surface.

Jasmine Hansen
Under the theme “Braveheart”, my family and I watched a dry run of the program destined for opening night at the youth camp. The dancers, musicians, drama actors, and production team all transferred seamlessly from one performance to the next, having trained diligently in each of their skills for the purpose of hyping up the teens arriving that night.

Luke described the horrific sight of people hanging themselves on crosses during Holy Week, one of the most popular annual festivals hosted in Manila. Luke also explained the black candle, intended for giving someone a guilty conscience, for it did indeed guarantee results, and as such was often the explanation for so-called ‘accidental’ deaths.

Jasmine gasped in dismay, but quickly composed herself as we entered the timeworn church, its concrete walls towering over the stark wooden pews lined up before the stage and statues of saints encased in glass. Devotees crowded the pews and swabbed the glass panes with handkerchiefs, reminding me of my dad’s sermon, pitying their futile efforts to eradicate their sins.

Later that day, my solemnity dissipated as we approached the Pasig Global Surge student center, where amid all the honking cars and screeching motorcycles, all ages of students popped in sporadically to participate in the sundry workshops taking place.

Dancers snapped and rolled their limbs in synch to the thumping pop music while girls and boys garbed in traditional doboks roared “Kam sa ham ni dah, Sa bum nim.” Off to the side, other kids goofed around and played various tabletop games like Uno and checkers to the chirps, swipes, and thwomps of novice disc jockeys at the front of the center to attract curious eyes.

Nathan Hansen
Thursday night, Brian, one of our mission team members, led an hour-long session for the Tough Guys workshop at the Pasig youth center. With roughly 20 kids and teens coming and going throughout the night, Brian taught a few of the basics in jiu jitsu with some assistance from the master and teachers such as sweeps, chokes, and escapes.

Despite dancing and sparring rather clumsily with the Filipino teens, the night passed in a flash, and the next few days sped by just as rapidly:
Serving breakfast for numerous impoverished, yet hyperactive, children at the feeding center in Floodway; meeting for lunch with several families from Mongolia studying at IGSL(International Graduate School of Leadership) to better lead and grow the churches in Mongolia; early the next morning, the team attending BBCA’s (Baptist Bible College Asia supported and offered to new believers by Global Surge) graduation while Mom and I led a yoga class in an unreached middle-class development.

Of the many stories we had the opportunity to hear, for sure a couple of them hit close to home.

At IGSL, Jasmine and I chatted with another pair of sisters from one of the families who, despite uprooting their entire lives, maintained a steady faith for God to guide them, acclimating to the foreign country and engrossing themselves in their English studies at IGSL.

We glanced at each other: could we ever do something like that?

Nathan Hansen
Most of the team attended BBCA’s (Baptist Bible College Asia, a group supported and offered to recently born-again Christians by Global Surge) 2019 graduation Saturday morning, while Mom and I led a yoga class to reach the middle-class families populating a recently constructed development.

After the yoga class the next day, we chatted with the family who organized the class whilst surrounded by the resort-like and awfully expensive amenities of the location: beautifully lush vegetation, clean and tidy apartment complexes, and even a glittering pool close by.

As a mother of two girls, one already in college, Mrs. Lao expressed the strain the family underwent for several months trying to figure out how to pay for their daughter’s tuition, on top of finding a more convenient living space.
Never in their wildest dreams did they expect that through a combination of economic climate change, merit scholarships and paid internship opportunities, God would answer their prayers with an apartment in the luxurious development and paying for their eldest daughter’s college tuition.

God provides, she said. Nearby, towering palm trees swayed in the brisk wind; thick trunks bending, but never breaking.

Sunday morning, the team went to church at the Pasig location. The worship captivated us first, the musicians powerfully and passionately exercised their musical craft, compelling the audience to clap enthusiastically along with the beat of the drums. At the final guitar strum, a man in gold and white robes accompanied by young lady stepped onto the stage as the lights dimmed.

Nathan Hansen
After attending the BBCA (Baptist Bible College Asia) 2019 graduation and leading a yoga class that morning, the team finally had a chance to catch our breath and share our experiences from the past few days over coffee and late-night snacks.

A preview of the drama intended for use at Global Surge’s evangelistic youth camps, tears (and snot) streamed in the house as the actors hastily exited; their heart-jerking performance portraying the effects of sin—like drugs, smoking, and toxic relationships—and Christ’s salvation deeply resonated with commonalities in the Filipino culture, and likely many others around the world.

Although much of the Filipino youth were raised in an environment that celebrated wasting time and energy on self-sabotaging activities, it only was a matter of time before the smoke screen dissipated and they had to search for the truth themselves.

Finally, introduced as a recently returned missionary, a towering black man strode onto the stage. “Courage to Step Down into the Unknown”. As the title suggests, he deliberated for the next half hour warning the church from getting comfortable in their faith; instead proposing they have faith in God’s faithfulness and thus be courageous in carrying out his work, no matter the obstacles.

While the audience hollered a resounding “Amen!” Luke handed us off to Dylan, one of his right-hand women for anything in Global surge. While she chatted enthusiastically with my parents, Jasmine and I both mulled over the service during the lengthy drive to a youth camp north of Manila, green and brown streaking past beneath a brilliantly blue sky dotted with cotton candy clouds.

Late that night, we arrived at the campsite and quickly made ourselves comfortable in the barren rooms provided for our stay. Not more than 120 square feet max, my siblings did our best to accommodate both us and our luggage despite the cramped space.

At the first rays of dawn, we all hustled over to the dining hall where we met several key camp leaders including Pepsi, Jay-R, Prime, Karen, Melissa, along with a few others. From there, we, as well as another group hailing from Arizona, separated into several groups that would assist with the diverse facets of the camp.

Nathan Hansen
The official 2019 Philippines mission trip team takes an official snapshot, dressed in our (literal) Sunday best and about to head out to the airport to drop off Jake and Brian (men in mustard and ketchup polos) before embarking to one of Global Surge’s evangelical youth camps.

My siblings and the Arizonan teens enlisted to lead the Hoop Heaven workshop, Global Surge’s basketball ministry, that afternoon under the direction of Hoop Heaven leaders, Melissa and Jay-R. As a general novice at anything physical, I had to learn some of the basics or risk killing someone from my ignorance.

Soon enough, clumps of teenage boys made their way up to the court bewildered and nervous, directly reflecting the anxiety-induced sweat drenching my shirt.

Melissa and Jay-R introduced us and warmed up the boys before sectioning them off in batches to form a circuit of assorted basketball drills. After an hour of coaching the boys under the sweltering sun, the head coaches called everyone over, with Jay-R giving his testimony, before sending everyone back to the dorms to rest momentarily.

Honestly, the rest of the night passed in a blur; serving the students dinner; watching the program(talk show-like icebreaker, dance choreography introducing the camp theme accompanied with videos by the production team, mesmerizing worship and music, drama team performance); a talk by Pastor Vincent, head of Tough Guys ministry, before at last getting to the entire point of the camp—the challenge.

Here, I paired up with another girl, Isa, who’d only recently accepted Christ along with her parents, despite her Muslim ethnicity. After sharing her story, campers seeking further explanation about this ‘salvation’ filed into the dining hall and sat down across from us.

Nathan Hansen
With the sink facing the door, shower head opposite the toilet, and creaky metal bunk bed fighting for space with our suitcases, the room was made with a few hamsters in mind. No more than 120 square feet, we (parents in one room, the three amigo children in another) were still grateful to stay in the room (normally intended for long-term volunteers) during our stay at one of Global Surge’s evangelical youth camps.

Although most everyone else shared the gospel unaccompanied, I had the blessing of hearing Isa talk it through with the five girls before us, gesturing to each part and clarifying what it means to be a ‘sinner’, to ‘sin’, to ‘fall short’ of God’s glory, and how to rectify our relationship with him through Jesus’ sacrifice.

And by God’s power, all the girls vocally accepted Jesus into their lives, we prayed with them, and they asked to be baptized to announce their new status as Christ-followers. I grinned giddily at Isa; I can hardly describe the delight, the pure joy, the gratification I felt to share the gospel, and have it received with such conviction.

It was like nothing else I’ve ever achieved, because it was a life-changing decision those girls made, and I simply got to be a part of that miracle.

The rest of the trip passed by before I knew it was even over; we left the next day and returned to Manila, ate lunch and prayed with the family in charge of a Global Surge church plant Dad helped start up, stayed in the hotel for the night, and left promptly the next day for Houston again. However, I, or I suppose my family and I, had one significant interaction with Luke prior to our departure.

Nathan Hansen
Tuesday morning, a beautiful sunrise greeted the campers at one of Global Surge’s evangelical youth camps. Our second and last day at camp unfortunately, however the dawn seemed to promise new beginnings for the many campers who had accepted Jesus into their lives the night before.

Stopping by at Yabu for lunch on our way to camp, he mentioned the two interns that we met our first day, Cody and Matthew. We all nodded. He leaned over his katsu and asked Jasmine and I, “What do you think about being interns at Global Surge?”

Mom started to inquire about the requirements, so on and so forth, and he assured her that while we would have to raise our own support and be living alone, one could still apply as young as 17. Glancing over, I could already see the fire lit in Jasmine’s eyes; after all, they reflected my own. Dad picked up on this and gave his own support for us making such a verdict in our own time, but at this point we had largely dropped out of the conversation, simply pondering.

Jasmine was almost old enough, I still had a few years to go, but after hearing so many stories, after serving in and witnessing the myriad of facets making up the Global Surge ministry and its associates, after experiencing what we did, this was no ordinary internship.

Jasmine and I remained pretty quiet in the airport; well, she, and everyone else, were already stressing over making up schoolwork (it’s tough as a junior) and the countless other worries we had momentarily left behind in Houston; but the spark never wavered.

Even through the inky darkness that smothered the grounds outside, one could still distinguish the massive aircraft speeding down the runway before blasting off and roaring into the murky sky, their tail lights twinkling in the night.

Nathan Hansen
Before heading out back to Metro Manila, Luke requested my family and I to star in a promo video for Global Surge mission trips, basically relaying to our audience the highlights, expectations, our experiences traveling in a foreign country as a family, and how we saw God moving in the Philippines.