The WhatMag-One Voice Magazine trip to Samar was a blessing on so many levels. First, it was the first outreach since One Voice stopped operations two years ago. Second, the outreach was held in a province rich with historical significance for the Philippines. Third, it was done with a group that touches the protector-heart of God: our soldiers.

Samar is a key province of identity in the Philippines. Samar was the very first Philippine island spotted by Magellan, and arguably the first island he set foot on (arguably because Cebu is claiming it, too). Samar was also the place where Villalobos decided to name us Las Islas Filipinas, and where we were declared as a province of Spain. The two provinces, Samar and Leyte, were once a combined province, and as we know from history books, General Douglas McArthur landed in these Eastern Visayan shores to bring freedom to the Filipinos.

Samar is a province of firsts. It is a province given the name of identity; a province of freedom; a province of “Easts” where the sun rises, proclaiming a new day.

I find this significant because this Samar outreach is also a first in One Voice Magazine’s re-entry back into operations since stopping two years ago. In many ways, it was a trip of promise and a way for us to go back and resume plans for Tacloban (in nearby Leyte) where WhatMag once sowed seeds—both physical vegetable seeds for the farmers, and spiritual seeds in the form of youth whom we gave workshops to, following the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan.

In this Samar outreach, key things took place:

1) We stayed at military headquarters, the bastion of defense, where we had a firsthand glimpse of soldiers who lived together and trained together. We also took part in a little of it: waking up with the trumpet call at 5 AM, firing shots at their practice range, and joining the soldiers during meal times. There were moments when we were also able to sit down with them, gather their stories, and pray with them. One message stood out: King David was once a soldier just like them, and he was described in the Bible as a man after God’s own heart.

2) We gave vegetable seeds and set up a training session with an agronomist of Region 7 and 8 for the CAFGUs. CAFGUs are farmers who are also being trained as soldiers. However, they haven’t gone through everything required for enlisted soldiers. They do not get as much pay, too, as the soldiers. They are assigned with soldiers to different detachments in the province.

3) We had a film showing activity with the CAFGUs. We were granted a night with the CAFGUS and showed them the movie, Courageous, where the role of the father was given extreme importance. One Voice had discussion groups after the movie, and we debriefed with them. It was wonderful seeing the CAFGUs give their lives to Jesus and to resolve that they would be “men calling forth men” in their sons, and that they would rise as protectors of their daughters’ hearts.

4) One Voice donated money for the fixing of a detachment. I was actually surprised to find a house smaller than my bedroom upon visiting a detachment where forty soldiers stayed. The ceiling was leaking, too. Our soldiers don’t have the luxury of dwelling places that we in suburban Manila are so used to.

5) One Voice gave donations from a few partner churches and friends. There were school supplies, soaps, toothpastes, noodles, clothes, and toys. These went to the soldiers, CAFGUs, and their kids.

6) One Voice sponsored a boodle fight for the soldiers, CAFGUS, and their children. This was one of the best moments, really, since we celebrated with our heroes. The tables were filled with rice, meat, shrimp, pancit, and other wonderful yum-yums. We made sure that the soldiers knew how blessed we felt with them doing their duties for the Philippines.

7) One Voice helped with Vacation Bible School and gave painting lessons and games to the kids. We brought with us brushes and foam boards from Manila, and improvised using branches as palette knives and giant leaves as palettes. We spent an afternoon imagining Genesis 1 and using acrylic paint to create beautiful pictures of the world God created. The kids also had fun singing songs the team taught and heard wonderful messages from the One Voice team members.

8) One Voice prayed and worshipped and declared God’s presence in Samar at 52 Infantry Battalion where we stayed. We had one beautiful night where we simply dropped activities and did just that.

9) After Samar, One Voice travelled to Leyte where we said hello and prayed with one of our ministry friends, a Korean feeding ministry that has partnered with the Leyte government. We are excited for more visits with them.

10) After Palo, Leyte, we travelled to Tacloban and met with key people from the ministerial fellowship and from the mayor’s office. We discussed One Voice plans to resume in Tacloban—mainly workshops and the putting up of a prayer house/art expressing prayer.

11) After this, we met with some youth from Tacloban to discuss One Voice Tacloban. WE gave them a challenge: who among them could carry the baton of One Voice in Tacloban and fight for God’s presence and righteousness in their city? It was well-attended, and we look forward to fanning the flame and training these young ones to be warriors of God’s kingdom. The pen is still mightier than the sword.

This is a short report of what has happened the past few days. I, together with my team, are extremely thankful to God and to the people whom God has raised up to run with righteousness and justice. We declare Psalm 24 to the ancient gates of Samar and Tacloban: “Lift up your heads! For the King of Glory is coming in! Who is this King of Glory? The Lord strong and mighty! The Lord mighty in battle. He is the King of Glory!”

Janina Marie Rivera is the author of the book, A Night Bird Sings of Blindness and Fear and has co-authored the devotional, Dawns, published by OMF Literature. She is a contributing poet in the books Joyful Light and Whitmanthology: on Loss and Grief by Various Authors. She is the Editor-in-Chief of One Voice Magazine.