As we approach Missions Sunday, we are reminded of those with whom we have partnered in the mission field, both at home and around the world. Northstar’s own Stephanie Tripodi has provided us with an update on her life, work, and faith walk.
I’m coming up on five months living here in Manila. I can’t believe how fast the time has already gone by. Gratefully, it’s been a smooth transition for me here–I have found a church to get involved in, a small group, a place to serve, a great group of friends, and I love my work environment. It already feels like my second home, thanks be to God. I do get out of the concrete jungle when I can to see some greenery, appreciate buildings less than twenty stories high, and cry a little looking at everyone’s fall pictures on Instagram; but overall I like where I live! And it’s warm all the time, so who can complain?
I’ve been serving with Park Valley Church which is actually a church plant from PVC in Northern VA. Saturday mornings we go to the same three neighborhoods that the church has relationships with. The church gives moms in the neighborhoods money to buy food to cook, and we help them hand out the food and do interactive Bible activities with the kids and play with them. It’s such a joy going and getting sweaty running around with the kids and jumping next to them while they yell songs of how much God loves them. These kids have almost nothing but they are some of the happiest I’ve ever seen. Every Saturday reminds me of the joy I should have in my life simply because I’m alive and have a loving Heavenly Father.
Concerning my work, God has done tremendous things here in rescuing victims of trafficking. Many children have been removed from abusive situations and brought to safety, as well as multiple perpetrators convicted. My team and I celebrate these victories and thank God for His goodness. The other side of that however, is that while we have had many victories, they don’t always feel like victories. This is due to the fact that we had to rescue a child from abuse in their own home in the first place. The casework we are involved with has really hit me emotionally and spiritually lately. I was involved in my first rescue operation last month and as you can imagine it was incredibly hard. Hopelessness began overshadowing hope and joy. God had brought rescue and freedom, and all I could seem to focus on was the hurt and the abuse. But praise God we have a God who is much bigger than the darkness, and who is our Light as we walk through the darkness. He is my hope in the hopelessness and my joy in the pain. These children are God’s and He keeps reminding me that He loves them so much more than I ever could and I can take comfort in that.
During my time at Northstar, I was part of a small group studying biblical justice and what we as Christians are called by God to do about injustices in the world. We read The Justice Church by Jim Martin, a staff member of IJM, and he talks about how our human tendency is to insulate ourselves from risk or suffering. To live lives that are safe and secure. But the problem with this way of living is that it doesn’t require much faith in God. I’ve learned from working here that even though it can be really painful to put myself in situations that are risky and where I open myself up to seeing the suffering of others, that my faith in God is grown because I really need so much more of it. Like a muscle, the more you work it the bigger and stronger it gets. But the process of building up muscle requires you to push past what feels comfortable. My faith is being challenged here, but as a result it is growing. Despite the darkness I see, my trust that God is a good God, increases. As I let Him lead me through the rest of my time here, I pray He continues to grow my faith and trust in Him.
Thank you for your prayers; they are much needed.