Shortly before her graduation from the Child Sponsorship Program, a significant event happened that almost prohibited Lea from completing our program — she discovered she had thyroid cancer.
“A diagnosis like that is not easy to accept. I couldn’t believe it, so we went to see another doctor.”
The second doctor confirmed the diagnosis.
Just two days after the terrible news, Lea visited our field office to ask for prayer while speaking at chapel and telling her story. She couldn’t hold back her tears, and neither could the Philippine staff.
“I wonder why it has to be me. I just graduated from college, and now I am going to die.”
Growing up was not easy for Leah. When she was three years old, her mother beat her for simply touching her older sister’s things.
“When I was little, I never did understand why my mother treated me like that. My two older sisters are half sisters from my father, they are not my mother’s flesh and blood, but still she always took their side.”
Her father was not there to defend her, because he left the Philippines to work in Saudi Arabia. Lea did not feel even an ounce of love from her mother and sisters.
Her older sisters made fun of her, isolated and hurt her. Lea’s only sense of family was when she wrote to her father. She never told him what she was going though because she did not want him to worry.
During her early teens Leah looked for more and more reasons to stay away from home. She joined several school activities, then ended up joining a gang. She did what they did — smoking and drinking — just to have a sense of family.
Eventually, she became actively involved at the Calvary Foursquare Church Student Center. Linda, the center director, asked her to teach the younger children at the center. Lea took the challenge to heart and decided to take control of her family problems.
“I knew I had to face my fears and pain so that I could be an effective teacher.”
So she confronted her mother by saying,
“I am your child. Why do you treat me as less than my stepsisters? They are not your flesh and blood.”
Her mother realized her mistake and easily broke into tears. Lea finally got her mother back after 13 years of estrangement.
A year later, with her mother by her side, Lea mustered enough strength to confront her sisters as well, and almost as quickly they broke into tears and asked her forgiveness.
“That was the first time they talked to me in normal tone of voice. And then what happened next surprised me. We embraced and kissed. Finally I knew how it felt to have a family.”
Several years later, Lea’s father finally returned home from Saudi Arabia. Although he had worked overseas for a long time, the family remained poor. Her father looked for work in the Philippines and ended up becoming a taxi driver, earning P150 (US$3.50) a day.
When Lea discovered she had cancer, the family needed financial help for medical expenses. With medical help from Compassion’s ministry, the surgery took place.
Lea’s mother never left her side while her sister sent gifts and flowers to show their love and support. Her father came the next day after working all night. Her two younger brothers, Leonard and Paul, were also there. And all of the teachers and staff from the student center even came to visit!
“I have never felt more loved in my entire life. I never knew that many people cared for me.”
Lea earned a degree in banking and finance at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines. It didn’t take long for her to find work at Security Bank.
“It was also at Security Bank where I first met Victor.”
She was a teller and Victor was a customer. They began dating, got married, and now Lea is about to become a mother!*
Lea is thankful for what the Lord allowed her to experience, and especially for being a sponsored child. If she were not sponsored through our ministry, she said that she would,
“Just be an ordinary girl, just like everybody else, with no Christian values. I wouldn’t be thinking about other people or the Lord. I would just be going with the flow and maybe I would not have minded not finishing college. Maybe I would have had children early without getting legally married.
But I thank God that He did not allow these to happen in my life. He gave me the Calvary Foursquare Church Student Center.”
*Lea and Victor are proud parents of a daughter, Amaris meaning “God has promised.”