Backyard Missionary

Backyard Missionary

By: Edwin Estioko, Philippines Communications Specialist   |   Posted: February 03, 2006

Joy, age 12, in her home holding her Bible.

One year after waking up from a five-day coma, Joy makes good on a promise to her grandfather to be a missionary. As Joy is only 12 years old and can neither enter seminary nor attend a foreign mission trip yet, she gathers children in her dirt backyard every Sunday to tell them Bible stories and teach them about Jesus' love. 

Immediately after lunch, Joy picks up her blue umbrella and makes her rounds under the hot sun to fetch the children. After an hour, she returns home with more than 20 children in tow, and is happy to see some already waiting under the shade beside her wooden house. The children - ranging from three to 12 years old - smile at her, run to take their seats on the dirt, and prepare to sing and listen to Joy's stories. She checks attendance, and teaches memory verses and Bible lessons. She recalls how she would listen to Bible lessons from her Sunday school teacher and how she was led to receive Christ when she was only eight years old. Although this day Joy is suffering from a cold, she is so excited to teach the children she almost forgets to take her medicine.

Joy is not the healthiest child in the Philippines. Although she was miraculously cured from viral encephalitis and dengue fever, she still frequently battles fever and cough. Dengue is a common illness for children in the Philippines. Many young lives were lost to dengue and Joy's was almost included on the list. In December 2002, Joy was admitted to a hospital and was comatose for five days. While many people - including the doctors - thought she could never survive, God had other plans. Joy woke up and got to her feet just before Christmas. She continues to recover and show encouraging improvements today. She has joined dance numbers and field demos at school and recently graduated from elementary school as the fourth top student in her class. Joy has stopped taking medicines for the encephalitis and is happy that her headaches have finally dissipated. She now regularly receives vitamins from the Compassion project she attends to help her body continue to ward off diseases.

While in a coma, Joy recalls seeing her grandfather, who previously was a pastor and who died before she met him, teaching little children. She remembers approaching him and promising that someday she would be a missionary just like him. She promised she would spend her life teaching people "how God is her great Savior."

"I want to be a doctor someday so I can provide a better life for my family," says Joy. It pains her that her parents are often in debt and can barely make ends meet. "I would easily choose to be a missionary over being a doctor," Joy explains, "because as a missionary I could visit places to tell others about what God has done in my life."

At 5:00 p.m. Joy concludes her lesson by distributing free books donated by her church. The children crowd her to get a copy. Her mother, Vangie, assists her daughter-missionary whenever she is not too busy with chores. Joy reminds everyone to return next Sunday for another Bible story and to receive more books. At the end of the day, she looks back and realizes she has forgotten to spend some time for herself again. Joy's usual weekend is not like that of most girls her age. She spends it for her heavenly Father and, according to her, "that's okay."

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