“When There are No Umbrellas to Fix, We Don’t Eat.”

A teen girl talks about her family’s umbrella repair business with longterm missionary to the Philippines, Chelsea Ray

I climb into the jeepny and sit down quickly. I dig into my backpack, rummaging around looking for my wallet. I finally find it nestled in that one corner of the backpack that seems to hide everything and, as I sort through the coins looking for the right ones to pay the driver, I feel a light but intentional tap on my knee. I look up and see Jenny, one of the girls in our care.

“Jenny!” I squeal and she comes to sit on the seat next to me. I am so glad to see her and get the chance to spend some time with her as we make our way to the Hope House from the mall. Melissa and I had come for an inexpensive and somewhat healthy dinner, though my purchase of a large avocado cappuccino undid anything the “healthy” meal might have done. Jenny had come on her way home from school to get a yummy snack for the trek home. As we sit together on the jeepny, I ask Jenny about her day and she excitedly tells me about a film they watched in one of her classes.

“It’s about God!” she tells me with enthusiasm. She tells me more about her day and her plans for the weekend. Finally, the jeepny starts driving, having reached the capacity of passengers that is satisfactory to the driver. As the smell of exhaust fills my nostrils and the wind becomes loud in my ears, our conversation begins to get more serious. I ask Jenny how a family member of hers who has been ill is doing. She tells me they are doing well and trying to keep working.

“They fix umbrellas,” she says, and I smile as I remember seeing the umbrella repairmen on the sidewalks of Baguio. My smile quickly fades, however, with her next comment.

“When there are umbrellas to fix, they get to eat. But when there are no umbrellas to fix that day, they don’t eat.”

My heart breaks as I imagine the burden she must carry, knowing her family does not eat every day. I put my arm around her shoulders and squeeze her tight. I have no words to say, so I don’t try to fill the silence with meaningless words. I whisper a prayer for her family and thank Him that Jenny is with us now.

Jenny worships God with all of her heart. In the midst of the hardships she faces, she still chooses to lift her hands in surrender to God Most High. Each girl in our care has a story. They each have difficulties that they face, hardships I will probably never truly understand, and yet they choose to face those struggles with great courage. They go to school, not only for their future, but for the futures of their families. They worship God because He rescued them, because of His great love for them – and they choose to believe it.

*First photo by @shawnick_was_here

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