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He listened to her transformative journey from unimaginable adversity to providing hope to other disadvantaged children in her country. David asked Melba to come to Australia to share her story and her voice. Here is Melba’s story, in her own words.
My father was killed by a rebel group when I was five years old. A few months later my mother married the man who shot my father. At that time I did not know about my mother and the rebel’s affair.
The rebels live in the hill country where the police and military do not like to go because it is rebel-held and very dangerous. My mother fled into to the hills [to be with her husband] and I was left in our tiny bamboo house with a younger sister and my baby brother (less than 1 year old) who had polio. I used to go begging for food and sold all of our things to provide for my siblings. Very often there was only enough food for them—but I was happy that they were fed even if it meant I went hungry.
Every Friday night under the cover of darkness the rebels, including my mother, would come from the hills and stay in the house. Early Saturday morning they would go to the market to shop before fleeing back up to the hills.
Early one Saturday morning as we slept, the house was surrounded by the military who began firing bullets into the house, shooting at everybody inside. My sister, brother and I were not hit by the bullets, and the soldiers allowed us to escape. With my brother with polio under my arm and my little sister holding my hand, we ran to our neighbour’s houses. But no one would let us in. They were afraid the soldiers would think they were a part of the rebel group. We ran for a long time in the mud, which was up to my knees. We eventually ended up at our grandmother’s house. For 2 weeks I was unable to talk, I was so traumatised.
We stayed with our grandparents until my grandfather died then went to our uncle’s house.
My uncle was an alcoholic and he would continually beat me, bashing my head into the wall, burning me with cigarettes, and even cutting me. He was a very brutal man. During this time, my two siblings died.
The rebels would come to the village and demand liquor, cigarettes and money, which we gave. One day they visited my uncle, but he had nothing for them. They tied his hands behind his back and took him and me up to the mountains. I was made to watch as he was killed. I was 12 years old.
Most of my young life I had only known pain and suffering so I learned to hate everybody and everything.
I had only 3 years of school education so the only way I could earn money was to sing on the streets and hotels. I hated the hotels because of the drunk men with bad motives toward me.
I decided to get a job in a food processing plant working in the fish canning department. It was very smelly and the money I earned was a lot less than singing in hotels.
One day we had a new lady supervisor who was very kind to me. She was from another part of the Philippines.
She asked me where she could find a church because she was a Christian. I didn’t know what a Christian was. The next Sunday I took her to the local Church of Christ as I had passed by it many times.
Some people asked me if I was going to sing because they had seen me singing in the streets. I only knew a little children’s song that a Catholic priest had taught me before my father was killed. As I sang I felt like I was floating and was uncontrollably crying. People came up and hugged me, thanking me for singing. Their love for me was genuine. After the Pastor delivered his message he made an altar call and I surrendered my life completely to Jesus. Every day I would spend time with the Pastor because I had so many questions about my new life in Jesus. One day he said to me that he and the elders had decided because I had so many questions they were paying for me to go to Church of Christ Cebu Bible Seminary.
Because I had no real education, I attended night school and in the daytime studied at Bible Seminary.
I graduated from night school and seminary with all my marks in the high 90s.
After graduation I taught in the seminary kindy but while in my first year at the seminary God had called me to minister to children whose lifestyle was like the one I had known.
How could I do this because after I paid my rent and food I only had about 75 cents left?
I had met David Evans at our annual conference, and he invited me to Australia to share my testimony and sing. Someone in Australia asked me what my plans were for the future. I told them about God’s calling on my life while in first year of seminary but I had no money to proceed. Several people from Springwood Church of Christ and other Church of Christ churches agreed to sponsor me.
In 2006 I began the orphanage ministry with two abandoned little girls, with more children added in the days and years that followed. Little children are vulnerable to paedophiles and are also sold into prostitution. I go out to slums and feed the children, and I buy school books and distribute clothing as it becomes available. Most of the girls have come to faith in Christ. Our eldest girl recently graduated as a high-school teacher. She moved to Manila for work and is active in her local Church of Christ.
I remember asking one of our new arrivals: “Do you like being here?” She replied: “Yes because you want me”.
I too was a small child unwanted, abused, beaten and rejected, then I found someone who wanted and loved me. His name is Jesus. He took all my hatred, all my miserable past and showed me how to forgive and love others. To God be all the glory.
Melba is an active member of Surigao Church of Christ