I remember stepping off a plane at nineteen years old as a young, probably naive college student, who just wanted to serve Jesus and love babies for a summer. That desire led me to Manila, to Gentle Hands, a place forever etched in my heart. Little did I know then how that summer would change my life. Little did I know then how many hands I would hold, the people I would meet, and the challenges I would face.
Little did I know that three years later, I would step off a plane again, this time making Gentle Hands and the Philippines my home. I made the journey with an idea of how I thought I would serve and God would use me, but it's funny how He takes those ideas and expands them into so much more.
When I think about the last six years I have spent here, I do not remember events. Instead, I remember people. I remember sitting in a circle on hot Saturday mornings in Malabon and meeting these precious children who became my friends, and I have watched them grow up. I remember holding a newly admitted little boy as he screamed and screamed, this same little boy who now runs to hug me every chance he can. I remember the pain in her eyes as she met mine briefly and then looked away. Those eyes now shine every time she laughs, which is often. I remember the hugs given to new moms and dads who finally receive their children. I remember tears and desperate hands folded in prayer with coworkers during the hardest of days. I remember the little body breathing her last as I held her hand. I remember the babies I had the opportunity to love, the ones who called me "Mom", the ones I was able to give to their new mommies and daddies.
I remember those eyes, those faces, because, at the end of the day, they are what mattered. I wish I could recount all of the things I accomplished and ways I raised money or changed Gentle Hands or the Philippines for the better. Instead, I simply recount the people who changed me.
Gentle Hands has given me so much... a deeper appreciation for rice or Korean music, a different outlook on traffic, a few gray hairs, and a heart that is more grateful, joyful, and blessed because these people and these children have become my family.
I am forever indebted to Gentle Hands for the life it has given me, and I am so grateful God led me here. I wish I could tell you all of the times I have whispered to Him, "I am so grateful this is my life", but there are simply too many.
I am not the same girl I was at nineteen. I am stronger, braver, kinder, and more full of hope because I have seen God bring life and miracles. I have seen victories won in the darkest of battles. I have seen light brought in the darkness. And I have seen the hope in love.
And I am forever changed.
- Jordan Belser