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Children open doors

CMS missionaries Howard and Michelle Newby are serving in the Philippines, and  find having children brings special opportunities for mission in their local community.

Being a family of five creates some terrific opportunities for the gospel in the Philippines.

On leaving Australia we had a pretty clear direction for living in the Philippines. Home schooling through Sydney Distance Education seemed like a great option, and all Michelle had to do was supervise. Simple right? Little did we know the stress doing this would bring.

After two years of trying very hard, we learnt that we are not cut out for home schooling! When we recently moved to another province, it provided a good opportunity to start our two boys in the local public school, while Katelyn, now 13, is at boarding school.

The joy of school

What a change! Joshua, who previously couldn’t get out of bed in the mornings, was wanting to get up at 5:30am in order to get to school an hour early. He happily declared, “You never told me school was so much fun in the Philippines”. Sending our kids to the local school has made such a difference to our ability to integrate into the local community, not to mention to our sanity.

In many ways living as a family seeking gospel opportunities in the Phillippines works in the same way that was modelled to us at our sending church in Sydney, St George North Anglican Church. Involving our children in the local community through school, sports, and play provides a great opportunity for exposure, relationships, and conversations – which we hope will lead to sharing our faith.

“People are naturally curious as to why we have our kids in a local government school, why we don’t drive a big 4WD like other foreigners, and why Howard starts a conversation in Tagalog.”

We still need to make an effort to be intentional. Both of us try to be there when dropping Joshua (10) and Caleb (6) at school at 7am every morning and then also when picking them up at 4:30pm. Howard is a big, tall foreigner driving around in our bright orange tricycle, so we certainly stand out! People are naturally curious as to why we have our kids in a local government school, why we don’t drive a big 4WD like other foreigners, and why Howard starts a conversation in Tagalog. Our kids give us opportunity to speak. Also, because Michelle is Filipina, she helps our whole family break through the natural reserve Filipinos have with foreigners.

Kids helping other kids

In a similar way to school, having our kids play sport helps us to become known in the community and build relationships. Attending a local church is equally helpful; with their Australian boldness our kids help others by contributing in Sunday school. Through their example, we hope that other kids see that they too can pray, answer questions and help with the games.

Building relationships

Filipino culture places a high value on children, and therefore child-related questions provide an easy start to conversation, particularly when meeting someone for the first time. Relationships are sacrosanct in Filipino culture and are something to be valued, nourished and fiercely protected. Nothing happens without relationships, whether conversations about Jesus or anything else. So building those relationships is something we are seeking to invest heavily into. In some ways we would have more time for those relationships if we didn’t have children. But in reality having children gives us a way into people’s lives that we wouldn’t otherwise have.