For the first 2 weeks of June we had the privilege of doing a missions trip in the Philippines. Our guitarist Dave has an auntie over there who's running children's homes, schools and doing prison ministry, so it was great to see what she does and to serve where we could. As well as getting the chance to play some really fun gigs and lead worship at a few churches.
After a long flight from Manchester > London > Hong Kong > Manilla, we touched down and headed through Manilla in the rain before eventually reaching our destination in Subic. Dave's auntie Chrissie runs a great children's home called POC (Philippines Outreach Centre), so we spent most of our time based there. The children are super cute, and great worshippers!
We led worship in a few prisons during our stay in Subic and they had a big impact on us! We were blown away to find out that many of the prisons had their own worship teams, all inmates at the prison, who would worship like crazy and write their own songs that had such creativity and passion, it was truly inspiring. Many of the christian prisoners would use their time in their cells to write worship songs which they would then sing at their weekly service, and because many of them would have had no previous experience of what "worship music" sounds like, the songs were so honest and creative in their sound. It was a real breath of fresh air.
They may have been in prison, but their worship was more free than many who aren't! We were reminded of the freedom that came from Paul and Silas singing hymns in prison in Acts 16. It also felt like a powerful moment to be able to stand up in front of many of these believers in prison and sing White As Snow over them. "All my sins like scarlet will be white as snow, though they're red like crimson, they will be as wool."
We saw around 25 of the inmates respond to the gospel through these trips!
We also led some worship in an inner-city church called Church of the Risen Christ in Olongapo, where we were asked to play a few songs in their evening meeting. And some worship for the POC church's youth night, and got to hear their band play too, who were great! We had a lot of spontaneous moments that night and God brought healing as we prayed for one another in the worship.
In the first week we also had a couple of rest days, where we visited the zoo, the mall and various swimming pools around the area. To say the whole trip was just non-stop mission wouldn't be entirely truthful! We had a lot of fun feeding tigers and crocodiles as well as just exploring what is truly a beautiful country.
After our first week in Subic we took a divide-and-conquer approach. For the next 5 days we split up to visit different areas of the Philippines. Jonathan and Nathan went up north to Baguio and a little town called Bacnotan, whereas David and the rest of the team went south to the island of Mindanao.
Originally we had all planned to visit Mindanao but God started to speak to us clearly through dreams, scriptures and in prayer that some of us shouldn't go. This was a difficult process at first, and we didn't understand why we were being told different things, or why we should be splitting up. But God taught us to trust him, and we realised that God had much more for us over there than we originally planned. We were able to connect with our friends Andrew and Ruth Newlove who it turns out had been praying for Rivers & Robots to come to their area since January, and as soon as Jonathan and Nathan arrived there, they realised it was no accident! With two of us up north, this also freed up some of the Filipino worship team to travel with David to Mindanao, which it turns out had been something they've had on their heart to do for 8 years. So God knew what he was doing all along!
Bacnotan / Baguio
Jonathan and Nathan headed up north with Andrew to the stunning area in and around Baguio. Described as the summer capitol of the Philippines, Baguio is a city built right up in the mountains at one of the countries highest points, and it made a great spot for praying over the nation. But more amazing than any of the views were the people we met.
Andrew, Ruth and their family are seriously inspiring people. They're an English couple who moved to the Philippines after God called them there as missionaries. Living right in the centre of a little town called Bacnotan they serve their community through discipling young people, putting on evangelistic events and just being there for the people. They chose to not to arrive with a big fanfare and act like outsiders, but instead to root themselves in the area they're investing in, to move in and live their faith-filled lives on display in this little town.
Their church is full of amazing young people who have all recently come to faith, and all come from families of non-believers. But these young people are on fire. Being discipled by Andrew and Ruth, they worship with passion, they're regularly getting out into their community to share Jesus' love, to organise big events and to be there for individuals. There's such a sense of unity about the whole group, it's real friendship and real transformation and we made some great friends here. We were also blessed to have these young people gather around us to pray and prophesy over us before we left!
We got to play a few sets over there too. One in a church called Jesus Is Alive Community, where they gathered many of the youth together. We led worship and Andrew preached a great message. We also had some great testimonies come back from people who were there. Messages like this are a great reminder of why we do what we do!
We also led worship for their local church in Bacnotan on Sunday morning, and played a set in the town centre for a "Fun Day Sunday" outreach event where we had a lot of great conversations with the locals, and saw loads of children respond to the gospel and receive Bibles for the first time! The young people ran a lot of games and competitions, and gave out a chicken as the grand prize at the end.
After a few days in Bacnotan we travelled up to Baguio to a bible school that 3 of the young people (Arvin, Russeller and Ruby) were going to be staying at for the next 10 months. Despite a language barrier, we felt like we made good friends with these guys. We led worship for the bible school students on their first night and prayed for them. It was great to be reminded again by the pastor of the bible school that "this is not an accident that you're here."
This was another great time of seeing faith in action, as Andrew and Ruth sent these 3 students to the bible college without the funds to actually pay for their year, with a plan to send out a newsletter later that week to ask for sponsorship, but that night as we worshipped and prayed together, they received an email from a church in England who had felt they should give a specific amount of money which was exactly the cost of the whole year of bible school for all 3 students. God's provision is amazing!
Meanwhile in Mindanao...
David and the rest of the team from his church spent those 5 days in the island of Mindanao and were blown away by the hospitality of the people there. From the moment they arrived they were greeted by friendly faces and people who were very excited about their coming!
Our friend Ric was the guy that organised this whole trip. He's an assistant pastor at David and Nathan's church, and years ago was given the vision that David was going to travel to his province with a band, and so this trip was the fulfilment of that, years later!
Dave, plus some of the guys from POC led worship around the area, including one huge event in Malungon where they had even printed up an All Things New banner for us!
The team also got to meet Manny Pacquiao, a famous boxer from the Philippines, and pray for his shoulder after he'd had surgery on it.
The team also prayed for a pastor in the area who was paralysed after a stroke 2 years ago and he began to smile for the first time, then raise his arms, and eventually he was talking again!
They also headed up the mountains in the back of a pickup truck to pray over the area, and were amazed to see one of the worship teams of the tribe singing "Fall Down" from our latest album. They may have been living in a remote village, but they still had internet access and had learnt the song from watching it on YouTube!
After a few more crazy days of visiting churches, meeting the mayor of the province, and running worship workshops, Dave and the team headed back up north where we met again in Olongapo.
BACK TO OLONGAPO
Our last few days were spent back at Olongapo helping out with POC again. We visited the Wea resettlement, a poorer area where we gathered many from the village to play some of our songs and share our testimonies. There was a great view of the surrounding mountains which made singing "Lord of the mountains and sea, You are treading a path set for me" feel a little more special.
We visited one more jail to lead worship and share our testimonies and saw many more responding to the gospel. Seeing people giving their lives to Jesus in prison is always really inspiring.
We had the massive privilege of leading worship on the Logos Hope, the massive ship run by OM who travel all around the world bringing the gospel to the nations of the world. There were volunteers in their team from more than 60 different nations and to get involved in their prayer meeting was a real honour. We led some worship and played some of our songs and met loads of great new friends.
We spent the last day leading worship for the children in the children's homes in Subic. We taught them some of our songs, including a new one which it turns out goes down well with kids! Jon Thurlow's Strong Love was also a big hit with the actions.
We ended our trip with one last big concert in the POC church where they gathered lots of people from the area for an hour and half set where we had a joyful time of worship and shared some stories behind the songs. Our friend Louie also created this pretty cool chalk version of our logo!
As a whole we had an amazing time, learnt a lot and met some great people with stories that will stick with us for a long time. Keep an eye out for more updates of adventures as we head to Switzerland and some UK festivals next.
Please take some time to look at all the great the ministries we visited do, and support them and pray for them if you can!