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Tim's Tale: A PUC Student Writes from the Mission Field

Tim De La Torre and Landon Bennett
It's finally the end of my first week teaching out at the villages, and I am back in Manila. At first, it was kind of nice: warm showers, flush toilets, e-mail and soft beds. But I've learned first hand that it's not those "necessities" that make life enjoyable; it's the warmth of friendships and love. I miss my kids. I never felt it so much before as after spending two days in Manila.

Tim De La Torre, a PUC student missionary in the Philippines, wrote these words in a letter to friends and family in the United States. A junior, digital video technology major, Tim previously traveled to Mindoro, an island in the Philippines, in December 2002. He, with two other students and one teacher, documented the mission work being done by Laymen Ministries. As a result of that experience, Tim returned as a student missionary this year, living and working in villages, doing friendship evangelism, teaching English, and making videos to promote mission work. His letter continues:

At first Manila was exciting--culture shock. Sure, I had been in the Philippines for a month and a half already, but I had never seen such a contrast between poverty and riches: bodies lying all over the sidewalks at night, people so persistent at begging that they knock on the windows of cars. Even bicycles and BMWs drive side by side, all fighting for position on the streets. And the honking - unrelenting honking. Along with all the people, come many malls - huge malls. I was going to buy a big 1,500-piece puzzle for my students to put together, but then I remembered it's typhoon season and it would all be blown away.

Tim continues to describe the small town called Agbalite where teaching takes up most of his time. He works with a group of people called Mungyans, a native, tribal people who have lived on the island for centuries. They live shrouded in spirit worship and are discriminated against by the majority of Filipinos. Many are poor and starving and are often taken advantage of because of their inherently peaceful nature. But, according to Tim, God is working wonders in their lives:

The children are the real key to the parents' hearts, and I know God is expanding my influence in the village through them. I got great help from a boy named Erwin. He is the most outgoing of all the Mungyans I've met so far, and he's brilliant. Although Erwin is only 13 years old and recovering from tuberculosis, he amazes me every day with his talents.

Tim has found teaching difficult, encountering students eager to learn but lacking in education because of their social position. The kids memorize things they want to tell Tim in English: "I want to be as tall as you when I grow up," and "I hope you like it here so much that you won't want to go back to America!"

I have a couple of students who are having a harder time than the rest of the students. One is named Bimboy and I decided to keep him after school one day and tutor him. He looked very tough but started crying after a while because he was so ashamed that I had kept him after class. I encouraged him and said that I wanted to help him learn. I felt bad and questioned whether I should have kept him behind. However, the next day I saw him sitting in the front row (not the back like he usually did). And every day since, he's sat in the front row, raised his hands to answer my questions, and he's learning! Praise God! What a difference it can make in the life of a child when we pay attention to them and let them know they're loved--even if it makes them cry at first.

Despite Tim's busy schedule, he still manages to send e-mail newsletters to friends and update his website with photos of his students. His newsletters are uplifting and inspiring. When he writes, he humbly asks for something that everyone can give--prayer.

Please keep me in your prayers. My big prayer needs are: 1. To adapt socially to the culture of the Philippines (I get shy when I can't communicate well with people). 2. To effectively teach my students something, and to motivate them to be inquisitive and excited to learn - I have no experience in this. 3. To learn the native language, Tagalog! 4. To grow closer to God by learning to trust in Him for EVERYTHING.

Tim's letter is representative of over 1,200 PUC student missionaries who have "gone into all the world" since the SM program began in 1963. Some went as teachers; others as preachers. Some worked in orphanages; others in jungles. Some built churches; others dug wells. But whatever they did, and wherever they went, they all shared God's love and the truth about God. And they all came back changed.
Note: This is an archived article and does not necessarily represent current issues at Pacific Union College.