(For those who’ve not read it yet. I wrote this 3 year ago – Aug 8, 2016)
My heart was heavy as I secretly cried upon hearing a very sad news. Kaitlyn, 5, asked. “Why are you crying?” I managed to smile and answered. “Someday, I will tell you but today, you will not yet understand.” She asked, “But Mummu, I will understand. Why are your eyes red?” I answered, “Little girl, you will not be here today if not for a very wonderful man.” But of course she did not understand what I said, but someday she will. Someday there will be many stories to tell the grandchildren, as I have told my sons the stories of many years ago.
I then started to have flashbacks of happenings some 49 years back while at Philippine Union College. The dorm monitor delivered a letter to me from Dr. Barney McLarty of Memphis, Tennessee. The letter said: “Reva, I am very disappointed that you do not want to come to America. I was hoping you would come to “surprise” my Mother on Mother’s Day. I sent $2,000 to your college president for your plane ticket and other things.”
I began to understand why a month prior to his letter, I was called by the president of the college to go to his office. The president asked, “If you are given a chance to go to America, will you go?” I was stunned by his question. I had no idea why he asked. I answered, “No Sir, I don’t want to go. I want to finish college so I could help my younger siblings after I graduate.”
That night, upon reading Dr. McLarty’s letter, I screamed in excitement; my voice was heard all throughout the hallway. “I am going to America! I am going to America!”
Here I am sharing again my very first Sharing Time column for the California Examiner / Philippine Media) that I wrote dated New Year 2001:
On April 20, 1968, a teenage girl, traveling alone in a foreign country, sat scared and shivering in the Los Angeles airport. She kept rubbing her arms to keep warm. It was not this cold back home in the Philippines. A man wearing a long coat sat close by and kept watching her. Then he approached her, took off his coat and gave it to her. How kind! What a wonderful place America must be! she thought.
Her travel to America started with an address label she had peeled off a church magazine. It was because of the name on the label that her life was changed. While waiting for her next flight, she remembered a few years back, sitting at the gate of the Odiongan Elementary School, quite devastated with tears streaming down her cheeks. It was the first day of school and her mother had just told her she wasn’t going to school that year! She had to help earn a living.
At 14 years of age, with 9 brothers and sisters and an endless money problem, her dream of going to college seemed impossible to realize. Before entering high school, she had already quit school for two years so, in desperation and after months of prayer, she followed the advice of her older sister. “Write to someone in the States,” her sister said. “I have classmates who were sponsored by generous Americans.” But how and where would she find such a person? She spent months checking church magazines and found American names but no addresses.
Then one afternoon, an uncle came to visit. In his arms was a package of old Review and Herald magazines wrapped in brown paper. As he laid it down, the sight of an almost-peeled off address label caught her eye. She was going to ask her uncle if she could have the address label, but was afraid he would say “No.” She tore off the label and hid it. That night she wrote to a Mrs. Beryl McLarty in Memphis, TN. To her surprise, the lady answered. She found out she was a 75-year-old who was willing to sponsor her. This lady became her American Grandma and in her 19th summer, through Dr. Barney McLarty, the lady’s son, she was on her way to Memphis to surprise her on Mother’s Day.
She was overwhelmed with Grandma’s kindness. Returning to Manila, she studied hard and graduated from Philippine Union College with a degree in Medical Technology. After graduation, she went back to Memphis to live with her Grandma, got a job and sent two of her younger sisters to Nursing School. Grandma Beryl died a year later. For revolutionizing her life for the better, this caring lady will forever be in her memory.
And how do I know this story is true? Because I was that teenager!” (Sharing Time article written – January 2001)
Years later, I found out that it was Dr. McLarty, Grandma Beryl’s son, who sent me to college. He became my American Dad. I was treated like his own and went on vacations with his family. He taught me how to drive. After his work at night, he came to visit Grandma McLarty and me. He found a Filipino family with whom I spent weekends so I wouldn’t be so homesick. I later found out he and his wife had helped many poor students like myself in the US and other countries. He built churches in the US and in Russia and Thailand and a clinic in South America. When I ran out of funds while building Batiano SDA Church, he sent me funds to finish it. He helped build the AMAR Church School in my hometown. All these years, he was always there for me. His love for Jesus and his generosity had positively impacted my life. I wouldn’t be what I am today, if not for him.
This wonderful, God-fearing man passed away two days ago (note: I’ve placed the date here – August 6, 2016). I will surely miss him. He was 98. He now awaits Resurrection Day when Jesus will raise him up to live with Him forever.
Sadly though, my life was not a bed of Roses. I got married, had two sons, but my first husband died of a malignant brain tumor at age 49. My whole world suddenly caved in. Through God’s care and mercy, I was able to send my sons to college.
Even from when I was just a young child, God knew that I wanted so much to help others. God put together 3 complete strangers to start Adopt a Minister International (in 2000) and Help the Needy, Inc. (in 2008). JR Moore, Mary Grace and I – we do our volunteer ministries together every day.
TO GOD BE THE GLORY!
John 6:40… “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.