A squad of fully armed guards and an armoured vehicle from the national military force accompanied a group of eleven Australians, two Swiss and several staff and student missionaries from Philippines Campus Crusade For Christ (PCCC). They were making their way in Tacloban and Eastern Samar, Philippines.  The local government had arranged the security force in case of extremist assault. The volunteer medical team trekked to eight villages to run free medical and dental clinics over two weeks in February.

Jiji Skariah who heads up Global Aid Network (GAiN) Australia was the organiser of this mission with volunteers from Australia. It had been a huge leap of faith and lifestyle choice that landed him where he was.

With two Masters in Engineering and Science, Jiji had previously enjoyed 24 years of successful high roller lifestyle in corporate management in Citibank and Pepsi Co. His active home fellowship and church involvement led him to resign his career to take on the role of Associate Pastor for the next four years.

But his heart was for the wider mission field and he felt restless where he was. One day, the former Director of Power to Change, Bill Hodgson invited him for a chat over coffee and revealed the need for a leader in GAiN Australia. Jiji was delighted to accept the challenge.

He said, ‘I’m really thankful to God that my experience in system and technical management, and in pastoral work had prepared me for my current responsibilities with GAiN.’

That was five years ago.

The rain and humid blanket of the jungle surrounding the villages and the lack of facilities did not discourage the medical team caring for the villagers. They came from surrounding villages in droves to queue for treatment. While the villagers were waiting and being assessed, the counsellors talked to them. Since villagers experienced the genuine care of the team, they were open to spiritual healing as well. In fact, 1084 prayed to receive Christ in the two weeks. The team treated 1881 people. The local CCC staff would continue the follow-up of 247 people who are interested in joining a church or Bible Study.

Jiji emphasised, ‘this is the best way of talking to people of God’s love. They come to us for free medical treatment and they value our service. They are curious and naturally ask why we come from Australia to help them. We say we follow Jesus and He asks us to love our neighbour and so we are here.’

He continued, ‘If we give them 2 kg of rice, the care finishes when they eat all the rice. Providing health care will last longer and they’ll be able to work; but sharing the Gospel is for eternity.’

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