When God first called me to the Philippines, I didn’t really have any clue why he had called me in the first place. I had no idea what was in store for me. I thought to myself, “Sure, I’ll go to the Philippines, play with some kids, put some food in people’s cups, tell them about Jesus, and move along with my life.” Well, as it turns out, God had a plan bigger than anything I had ever imagined…and when I say big, I mean HUGE. This is the story of Lourdes Tanghal, a woman who has forever changed my life.
It was in the fall of 2013, while I was in the Philippines with an Adventures in Missions Passport Team, that God placed me directly into the midst of a miracle. About 2 weeks into our 3 month trip, my teammate Aaron and I got asked to help bring groceries to a family living in an extremely impoverished community called Lower Manggahan. When we arrived at the home of the Tanghal family, I was already overwhelmed before I had even stepped foot inside. Remember…this was only my second week, and I had never before seen poverty of this scale before. Houses made of scrap wood, metal, and tarps, children walking barefoot through muddy paths covered with garbage and broken glass…I couldn't believe what I was seeing. As I peeked in the tiny house, I saw a woman named Lourdes lying on the dirty floor of her home, surrounded by 5 of her 6 children (2 year old Rica, 4 year old Erlo, 8 year old Jerome, 12 year old Krystel, and 16 year old J.R., who is also special needs). Lourdes Tanghal was paralyzed from the waist down, unable to move any of her lower limbs. Her family barely had any food to eat or money to buy it with, only one child was in school, and Lourdes had accepted the fact that she would either be paralyzed for the rest of her life or she would die. One thing that stood out the most to me was Lourdes’ smile…despite how bad her situation was, she was still able to show happiness on her face. So we dropped off the groceries, prayed for her, and headed back…all the while my heart was completely broken for this woman and her family.
A couple weeks went by and they were constantly on my mind, I couldn’t seem to shake the feeling that I was supposed to do more than just bring some groceries and leave, so I prayed and asked God to tell me if this was something he wanted me to get further involved in. That same week my teammate Charissa started doing a bible study group with some girls from the local community, and I happened to see a list of names and birthdates in her group. I noticed one of these community girls had the same birthday as me, October 18th. This girl was 13 year old Kristine Tanghal…another child of paralyzed Lourdes Tanghal. What are the chances of me asking God for a sign, and of all the other 364 days of the year, Kristine’s birthday was the same day as mine? God was telling me to go deep, and I had no doubt about it.
After a few visits to Lourdes’ home, Charissa and I decided to inform the social workers here at Kids International Ministries about the situation and see what options we had for getting Lourdes into the hospital for treatment. In no time at all there was an ambulance on the way to pick her up. In that one hospital visit, we were able to get her catheter changed, (which she had for nearly a month), have x-rays done, and get a diagnosis of the problem…Pulmonary Tuberculosis of the spine. This is a degenerative disease that destroys the vertebrae resulting in collapse of the spine, fracturing of the bones, and eventually paralysis. Lourdes was already in the worst stage of the disease, and according to research, after paralysis sets in, the chances of recovery are slim to none, even with surgery. Lourdes needed a miracle. The doctors prescribed a strong antibiotic to help fight off some of the infection, and since the family couldn’t pay 1,000 PHP or about $20 for the medication, I paid for it myself. Later that day I received a random donation for the exact amount. God was providing! So the weeks went by and after a few more hospital visits and catheter changes, the doctors decided that Lourdes needed an MRI, costing 15,000 PHP or $350.
By now we only had one week left in the Philippines… we were out of time. I couldn’t understand why God would get us this far, and not finish the work he had started. I had hoped and prayed that I would be able to see this woman walk again, but now it was time to go back to the States, and I went back with sadness in my heart.
The first 3 weeks back in the U.S., all I could think about was Lourdes, I had told friends about her, asked for prayers, and found a friend from church that covered the $350 cost of the MRI, but there still wasn’t a happy ending to the story, and that wore my patience thin. Eventually I broke down and emailed the KIM staff, in a desperate attempt to make sure that someone was taking care of Lourdes and her family. They replied and said there was another Passport Team in the Philippines working with the Tanghal family, fixing the house, making hospital visits, and they even got Lourdes in a wheelchair. Once again God had proved his faithfulness! Shortly after, I began speaking with Chris Easter, one of the guys from the new Passport team, and he kept me updated as the months went by about everything that his team was doing with the Tanghal family. Then a day came that I will always remember. I got word from Chris that on his last day in the Philippines, Lourdes Tanghal, the woman who had been paralyzed for nearly 8 months, stood up out of her wheelchair….I hit my knees immediately and thanked God. It was a miracle. Here was the happy ending to the story that I had been praying for!
Now here I am in the Philippines, 5 months later, and I get to see Lourdes completely healed and walking, I get to see all of her children going to school, and I get to see living proof of our God’s everlasting faithfulness. When I see Lourdes, I think about Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” God had planned this from the very beginning, not just for Lourdes, but for ME. I came to the Philippines to teach others about Jesus, but in the end, it was me that was being taught. Despite her illness, Lourdes had hope, and even in her times of pain and sadness, she always wore the most beautiful smile on her face. I’ve learned a valuable lesson from Lourdes… Never cease to have hope and joy, because our God never ceases to love us.