Only 18 months earlier, I was in a bar getting drunk, and now I was on my way to be a missionary! As I sat on a plane flying to the Philippines, I couldn’t believe how drastically my life had been changed by God’s grace.

I was going to a town called Pagudpud, where I would help renovate an Adventist wellness clinic and visit the homes of the sick and the poor with the local chaplain.

It was the first time I’d flown over the Asian continent, and the names of the countries I passed over were places I’d only heard about in the news or on the internet. Knowing that I was heading to one of those countries alone was both exciting and a little scary.

But I knew God would be with me. In fact, He’d had His hand in the adventure long before I knew anything about it. Months before, I’d felt impressed to renew my passport and save a thousand dollars. I had no idea why, but I knew God had a plan. When I eventually learned about the opportunity to serve in the Philippines, I had almost enough money to buy my ticket!

Bringing fruits and vegetables to a woman who suffered a stroke and has difficulty walking.
These three boys are members of a family who are fish net menders by trade and are very poor. I had an extra bag of food with me, so I gave it to them.
The man on the right was one of the first people in the community to become an Adventist.  His son, middle, suffered a head injury and is now mentally handicapped. The other man is his nephew who was dropped when he was a baby, which caused him to experience stunted growth. We brought them food, prayed with them, and offered words of encouragement.
This little girl’s name is Ghea. She is the daughter of a man I made close friends with who worked on the clinic’s construction crew.

The long flight finally ended, and after grabbing my luggage and meeting my host, I stepped out into the heaviest air I’d ever breathed. I’d been warned about the humidity, but no one said I’d feel like I was being wrapped in a hot, wet blanket!

As we drove to the clinic about two hours away, I tried to soak in all the new sights, sounds, and smells. I’d never seen so many people in one place. It seemed like they were in every nook and cranny of the city. Cars, motorcycles, and buses wove in and out of traffic, their horns constantly honking. Merchants were on every street corner, selling dragon fruit, huge avocados, chicken feet, bananas, and many kinds of soup.

But as we continued to the clinic, my excitement began to fade. I’d been warned about the poverty, but nothing could have prepared me for the degree of poverty I saw. When I looked down one street, I saw a mother changing her baby’s diaper on a dirty piece of cardboard on the sidewalk. It looked like they lived in an old car parked nearby.

When I arrived in Pagudpud, I learned that there were no nice hospitals there to treat the people’s sickness or welfare programs to care for their needs. Many of them lived in homes without windows or doors, and they had no air conditioning, stoves, or refrigerators. They slept in makeshift beds, sick and dying.

But to my surprise, I found the people to be very hospitable when we came to pray with them, treat their ailments, and share encouraging promises from God’s Word. They had so little, yet they wanted to share with me.

I saw many sad sights while visiting the sick, the orphans, and the widows in Pagudpud. Yet I felt such joy and happiness there. I’m very grateful that God called me to share my time, hope, and resources with those in need.

For those of you who may want to travel abroad and share your faith but feel something holding you back, I encourage you to trust in Christ, and He will remove your fear or doubt. Take it from me, a former atheist and a former addict, who was depressed, anxiety-stricken, selfish, lonely, and suicidal since the age of 15. But then God spoke to me in a dream when I was 27 years old and sleeping in a cave in the Arizona desert. My old self was crucified that night, and I was born again by the power and grace of Jesus. Now I can’t help but share my faith. What God did for me, He can do for anyone, including you!

Brandan Monnett lives in Arizona, United States, with his wife, Naomi, and their two children.