A Real-Life Bank Robber

01 Dec

A happy rice and spaghetti eater

A Real-Life Bank Robber

David’s First Photo Blog from the Philippines

Dear Friends,

I don’t know too many people who have robbed a bank at gunpoint, stolen $40,000 in the process, and who have never been caught. In fact, I can only think of one person, and I’ve spent the last couple of days with him in Cebu, Philippines. Thankfully he’s undergone some transformation since his bank robbing days of 38 years ago. And although he was never caught for his bank robbery, he was eventually sentenced to 15 years of prison for other crimes.

His name is David Wilkerson, and he came to the Philippines in 2009 to reel in a Filipina woman, as many older, unmarried Americans, Brits and Aussies do. Cebu is crawling with older men coupled with attractive Filipina women who are 1/2 or 1/3rd their age.

Such cross-cultural, age-gap marriages can turn out good or bad. An American husband of any age can be a target for a potential ticket to the U.S., a good life, money for the extended family, and fair-skinned babies. (Asians in general, think lighter skin is the most beautiful.) True love may not be the motivation.

David found the Lord after he had already tied the knot with his beautiful and culturally-Catholic Filipina wife, Ailene, and his first convert was her. He never returned to live in the U.S., but now resides in the same Cebu slum where Ailene grew up, along with their own two young children. If I didn’t believe in Jesus, I would think that David is paying for all his former sins by where he lives. His neighborhood is practically indescribable to those of us who live in developed nations, because there is nothing to which to compare it.

David, his wife, and their converts serve the poorest of the poor in many ways here in Cebu, including sponsoring about 100 slum children and teens to attend school, rescuing girls from sex trafficking, doing outreach to the homeless, teaching at their slum church, and providing disaster relief (namely, after Typhoon Yolanda and slum fires). Heaven’s Family, through several of our Focused Ministries, has invested a little more than $66,000 in David’s ministry since 2012.

No one can find fault with David’s big heart, and he is slowly learning the lesson that most all missionaries who work among the poor ultimately learn, namely that being a human ATM machine doesn’t ultimately help the poor. Rather, it creates expectations for more handouts, makes beneficiaries dependent, and motivates them to pretend that they believe in Jesus when they really don’t, becoming proverbial “rice Christians.”

So David has been focusing more on creating opportunities for the poor to help them lift themselves. Heaven’s Family has helped David open a for-profit cafe’ that employs some of his young converts, launch a rent-to-own tricycle taxi business for hard-working peddle pumpers, and David and I also talked about some future micro-credit projects.

Below are a few photos from my time here in Cebu with captions. Thanks for joining me on this journey.

David Servant
Founder and President, Heaven’s Family

I spent part of an afternoon walking through a slum neighborhood with David, where everyone knows and loves him. David briefly told me short stories of so many whom he has been able to help in some way, including this mother and baby who live in a one-room shack. Her husband was away at work.

One of hundreds of beautiful slum kids

Standing at the front door of their one-room shack, this mother and daughter live in conditions unimaginable to those of us who live in more developed nations.

David Wilkerson (at back) with the staff of Hope House Cafe, a profit-making venture to provide meals and jobs for young believers

A few times a week, David invites poor slum kids for a free meal at the Hope House Cafe. Today is was spaghetti and rice.

All the kids ate with their hands, and they were all given plastic bags to put over their eating hand in order to prevent the spread of germs from their hands to their food and mouths. But I noticed that many kids were saving part of their spaghetti in those bags, and David told me it was because they wanted to take some home to their parents or siblings.

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