CNN Hero Efren Continues to Inspire!

I’ve just finished watching a local Philippine TV show featuring a segment on CNN Hero Efren Peñaflorida and the Dynamic Teen Company.

It was truly inspiring! I was specially touched by the story of Cris Valdez, at only 10 years old the youngest volunteer for K4. This ten-year-old regularly saves money from his daily allowance so that he can give away slippers to children who are more needy than him on his birthday!

As a volunteer, he also helps in giving baths to the smaller children from the depressed areas and administering medical aid such as cleaning wounds and applying band-aids. When the episode was taped for TV, the DTC team was serving children of homeless families living in a cemetery, and Cris was very actively helping out.

Here’s a video of Cris showing how he was when he first came under the care of DTC:


(Note: I think the DTC people initially named the child “Kesz” when he first came under their care because that was how he pronounced his name at that time. But by the time he was interviewed for the TV program, he could talk very well indeed :).)

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What a HUGE difference Efren and his team have made in the life of this child! Thanks be to God!

Efren and DTC are very effectively instilling godly values in their volunteers and child beneficiaries. They are spreading not just education but solid character formation!

Kudos, blessings, and power to them. They make me so proud to be Filipino!

Go, Efren! Go, DTC! May God continue to richly bless and empower you. And as more and more people see your good works, may they also give glory to your Father in heaven Who is using you mightily to bless others.

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Related post:
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Filipino Slum Kid is One of the CNN Heroes for 2009
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Filipino Slum Kid is One of the CNN Heroes for 2009

Efren Peñaflorida rose from the slums of Cavite, Philippines to help other slum kids. Now his work is being recognized and supported by people all over the world, and he has been recognized as one of the CNN Heroes for 2009. His story is a very inspiring example of how one man can make a change, even with very limited resources.

The CNN print article on him is here, and the CNN video feature is here.

His story is also featured here: CNN honors Peñaflorida as modern day hero,

and at a TV Patrol episode:

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You can visit their group’s website at Dynamic Teen Company—Making a Difference.

He’s also part of the Facebook group “We Are The Change”—of which I am also a member :-).

We can do it, people. We CAN make the world a better place—even if just one starfish at a time :-). Efren is doing it. Let us all support him and others like him—and also do our part in making the world a better place wherever God has placed us.

May God’s rich blessings be upon all of you!

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(Acknowledgment:
I first became aware of Efren Peñaflorida, his work, and the CNN Heroes program through a post at Rico Hizon’s Facebook “wall”. Mr. Hizon is a Business News Anchor with BBC World News. He’s the first-ever Filipino broadcast journalist to work for two of the world’s most prestigious television news networks, CNBC and BBC World News. His Facebook page is full of good news and inspiring stories about the Philippines, aiming to unite and inspire nationalism among his Filipino FB friends. Kudos to you, Mr. Hizon!)
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Related post:
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CNN Hero Efren Continues to Inspire!
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Reaching Out To Children

Bad blogger. BAD, bad blogger. Haven’t visited his own blog for two weeks. Shame!

So very sorry. Been busy. Aside from the evangelism and discipleship program for microentrepreneurs which my wife and I are mainly involved in right now, I’ve also been preparing for a possible short-term teaching stint in Davao City, in the southern Philippines. I’ve been asked to teach a summer module on the Old Testament prophets (listed as Isaiah-Malachi in modern Protestant and Catholic Bibles). Lord willing, if everything goes well, that will happen this coming Apr 21-30.

And, this weekend, I accompanied my wife as she checked out some communities where the ministry she’s involved in will give gifts to children from economically disadvantaged families. These gifts are solicited by Samaritan’s Purse from children of more economically advantaged families as part of their Operation Christmas Child program. Through this program, Christian families, particularly the children, are given opportunities for hands-on giving to financially disadvantaged families from other countries, especially to other children from all over the world. This teaches them that Christianity is about loving God AND loving other people (cf. Mark 12:28-34), including those from other countries.

The Philippine partner of Samaritan’s Purse, Sowers of the Word Ministries, has scheduled gift-giving operations in Zambales and the Mountain Province from April 7-9. As part of preparations for those activities, scouts have been sent to “prepare the way”. My wife was the scout for the Zambales area. I accompanied her as her regular “go-fer” and bodyguard 🙂 .

We went to the municipality of Botolan, about 200 kms NW of Manila. Because of traffic conditions, the 200-km trip was a five-hour bus ride. Our bus left the station at 8am Saturday, and we arrived at Agora, Botolan, at 1pm.

Most of the beneficiaries of the Apr 7 gift-giving will be Aeta children. The Aetas are an indigenous tribe, many of whom were forced to evacuate their lands and were resettled by the government in the wake of the cataclysmic eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in 1991 (said to be 8-10 times greater than the eruption of Mt. St. Helens). The volcano is located at the borders of the provinces of Zambales, Pampanga, and Tarlac. The eruption totally destroyed the United States’ Clark Air Base in Pampanga, and severely damaged the U.S. Naval Base in Subic, Zambales, at that time said to be the largest U.S. Navy installation in the Pacific.

Below are some pictures from our “scouting trip” 🙂 :

Perry and Mel on a carabao taxi

Me and Perry on a carabao “taxi”

(The locals jokingly refer to this carabao-drawn bamboo platform mounted on two wheels  as their version of the taxi. The driver and the passengers have to sit on the sides and balance each other, or else the whole thing will collapse 😦 ).

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Perry on her way to the venue for the gift-giving

Perry (with backpack) on her way to the venue for the gift-giving

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Perry with some of the children

Perry with some of the children

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Going on up…

Going on up…

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Aeta children

Aeta children

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Aeta Child

Aeta child

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Aeta child with older sister

Aeta child with older sister

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Some more children

Some more children

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Will Dead Babies Go To Hell?

Somebody posted a question at the “Comments” section of an earlier post on the reliability of the New Testament documents. I thought the subject matter he was dealing with was very important, and so I have decided to answer him via this separate post.

His question, essentially, was: If it is true that all human beings are born as sinners, what about babies who die? As he puts it, “the baby would not have had the opportunity to accept Jesus as his personal savior and ask forgiveness for his ‘sins’.”

First, I would like to clarify that, even among Christians, there is no uniformity about what is technically termed the doctrine of “original sin”. And even among those of us who do believe in it, there are many who do not believe that the infant who dies is automatically condemned.

The question posed is similar in essence to questions asking about the fates of people who have never had a chance to hear the Gospel, whether in our days or in former times (e.g., what about the people who lived and died before Jesus Christ became man?), or who have no mental ability to understand the Gospel (i.e., mentally incapacitated).

To the questioner, doubtingthomas, I would say that, actually, the Bible is silent about this. But it is my firm belief that where the Bible is silent about God’s plans or programs, we can always rely on His character, which is sufficiently revealed in the Bible

In His self-revelation in the Bible, God has revealed that He is love (e.g., 1 John 4:8).

On the other hand, He has also revealed that He is holy and that He hates sin. In fact, a word often used in the Bible to describe how God looks at sin is “wrath” (e.g., Romans 1:18). Sin is not permitted to abide in His presence, and therefore no sinner can enjoy eternity with Him.

The problem is, all human beings do sin. Everyone breaks God’s standards and therefore are not worthy of spending eternity with Him. But God, who is love, wants human beings to be with Him and be blessed by His presence and glory—for all eternity. That is the eternal life which God offers to human beings. Death, on the other hand, is, essentially, separation from God. And God does not want anyone to die or “perish”. He wants everyone to come to know the truth, turn away from their sins, be saved from death, and have eternal life (2 Peter 3:9; 1 Timothy 2:4).

The solution to the problem of man’s sin and God’s love? THE CROSS! As John Stott, respected Christian scholar, author, and preacher says, “The cross is where God’s love and justice meet“.

As the Bible says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:16-17).

God, in the Second Person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ, became man in order to die on the cross as payment for the penalty of the sins of human beings. “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 2:2).

This is how the apostle Paul summarizes the Gospel, or Good News of how human beings are restored to a right relationship with God through Jesus Christ, and are made worthy to spend eternity in His presence: “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve…” (1 Corinthians 15:3-5).

So God is love, but God is also holy. He hates sin, and no one who sins can spend eternity with Him—except those who believe that what Jesus Christ did on the cross was a sufficient and effective payment for the penalty of their own sins, which is death. Only those who believe in Jesus Christ in this way can be saved from death, or what has been pictured in the Bible as hell, the outer darkness, or the lake of fire.

So there are only two choices: either eternity with God, in His presence, or eternity separated from God, in hell. Either eternal life or death. The first can only be obtained by turning away from sin, accepting Jesus Christ as Savior, and surrendering our lives to Him as Lord.

Now the Bible says that “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Jesus Himself says that He is the only way to God the Father: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

But what about those who cannot make this choice? What about infants or the mentally incapacitated, or those who lived and died before Jesus Christ became man?

To answer this, we depend on the character of God. He is love, and He is just. To hold this in conjunction with the essential revelation that no one can be saved except through Jesus Christ, C.S. Lewis has said “We do know that no person can be saved except through Christ; we do not know that only those who know Him can be saved through Him” (from Mere Christianity).

At this point in the development of my Christian thought, I agree with Lewis: we do not know, but we have to admit it is possible, that Christ, in love—and in justice—can save even those who have not had an opportunity to call upon Him as Savior or to surrender to Him as Lord. How? I do not know. But I do know His character, and because of this I trust Him completely to do what is just and loving vis-a-vis those who have not had an opportunity to hear the gospel and decide for themselves.

Some would say it would have been better if God had been more explicit in His Word about the fate of infants, thus saving us all this wondering. Author Philip Yancey has an amusing but correct answer to this: “What if God had made a clear pronouncement: ‘Thus saith the Lord. Every child under the age of ten, I will welcome into heaven’? I can easily see crusaders of the tenth century mounting a campaign to slaughter every child under the age of ten in order to guarantee their eternal salvation—which, of course, would mean that none of us would be around a millennium later to contemplate such questions.

“In view of the mess we have made of crystal-clear commands—the unity of the church, love as a mark of Christians, reliance on God’s grace and not our works, the importance of personal purity, the dangers of wealth—I tremble to think how we might act if some of the ambiguous doctrines were less ambiguous. We dare not repeat the error of Eden by assuming prerogatives in realms we cannot fathom” (from Yancey: The Encyclopedia of Theological Ignorance).

In such situations where the Bible is silent or nearly silent, reliance on God’s character is called for, and a humble attitude of simply obeying what is clear. There are some who make what is unclear into an excuse for not obeying a clear command—in the case of non-believers, “I will not accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior until you explain to me what happens to the babies and the indigenous peoples unreached by Christians”; or in the case of believers, “Well, if it is probable that Christ will somehow save them anyway, then I don’t need to obey His (clear!) command to share the Good News”.

So, dear doubtingthomas: Trust God’s loving, holy, and just character, humbly accept that His ways are higher than our ways, His thoughts than our thoughts, “just as the heavens are higher than the earth”, and seek Him and call upon Him—“while He may be found“, or while you still can (Isaiah 55:6-9).

God bless you!

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PS: One possible clue regarding the fate of infants who die might be provided by the account of the death of King David’s eldest child with Bathsheba. The child was struck with a fatal illness, and David wept and fasted before God for the child’s life. When the child died, David ceased fasting and said: “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows? The LORD may be gracious to me and let the child live.’ But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me” (2 Samuel 12:22-23).

Shalom!

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PS to the PS 🙂 , added Feb. 6: The interpretation of David’s statement would depend on our view of how David probably conceived of death and Sheol at that time.

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