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Jay* grew up in a troubled family. At thirteen, he was caught breaking into a building to steal and avoided prison only because of his young age. Fast forward a few years, and Jay’s life completely turned around. “It’s so encouraging to see the change in his life from just stealing to really having a purpose and earning his own living,” says Josephine “Jo” Li, who has been the leader of OM in the Philippines for the past two years.
Jo grew up in a non-religious home, surrounded by a catholic Filipino culture. In high school, she began following Catholicism nominally, but she did not understand her need for a personal relationship with Christ until she went to a youth camp with a friend who had invited her. There, she accepted Christ as her Saviour.
After she began teaching Sunday School, Jo felt a passion to serving full-time. This desire led her to join OM’s Ship Ministry. “While on board, the reality of the verse in Matthew 9 hit me. True, indeed, the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few, especially among the least reached,” Jo says. She told the Lord she was willing to go wherever He led her.
Now, after 30 years of service with OM, Jo has witnessed many lives change amid desperate circumstances. One of the ways God has touched young people in her country with His grace is through education ministries.
Despite Jay’s vexing childhood, he became a man who loves God. He grasped the truth of God’s love for him through the influence of Alternative Learning System (ALS), a learning programme that OM partners with in Cebu that helps out-of-school youth catch up on their education.
In his youth, Jay participated in some of OM’s feeding programmes, but when he joined ALS, he felt a strong desire to attend Bible studies and learn about God. Soon, Jay’s life was changed when he gave it to follow Jesus. While he used to hate his father, he now “knows that God loves him,” Jo says, “and he even has learnt how to forgive his father.”
After completing his primary and secondary education, Jay went to college and received a degree in marine transportation. He then started his own business selling household goods online.
A few hundred kilometres south of Cebu, in the Muslim community of Mindanao, God worked to change the life of another student—a young lady who just wanted a better education.
Nora*, the eldest of eight children, was born into a divided family. Her father was a devout Muslim, while her mother was not. These differences led to Nora’s parents separating. Because of the split, she had to leave school to work menial jobs where her mother lived to help support the family. Soon, her father took her back, fearing she would lose her Muslim faith. Nora was also afraid––but not of losing her faith. She feared her father would marry her off before she could complete her education and that her siblings would be forced to marry shortly thereafter.
One day, Nora met a woman from a partnering organisation. The woman started developing a relationship with Nora and her aunt and sharing about the hope she found in Christ. Nora and her aunt both eventually accepted the Lord, and Nora professed her faith through baptism. From this connection, Nora received a scholarship to continue her education.
“She still wanted to study, and God somehow opened this opportunity for her because somebody donated funds to help those who want to study and finish their college degree,” Jo says.
Nora went through her university studies fully funded and finished her degree in 2021. Because of her experience, Nora's father now sees the value of education and hopes to send his other children to university.
Jo sees God working through education programmes, like the one Nora found, to open doors and share the gospel. Stories of changed lives like Jay’s and Nora’s cannot fully represent the amount of transformation she has witnessed in the Philippines.
By giving young people a chance to continue their education, Jo explains: “we become God’s instruments in transforming their lives, opening the doors into the lives of both the students and even their families, giving us the privilege of discipling them to become vibrant Jesus followers.”