“It seemed impossible. We didn’t know where to start.”
CMS mission partners Kate and Tim Lee confessed to feeling helpless as the city of Manila went into severe lockdown and hunger and starvation became a threat in the poor areas where Jigsaw Kids Ministries is based.
“For those in poverty, those living in the harshest conditions on daily wages, or who sell flowers to passing drivers, or beg, or like many in Jigsaw who go through rubbish to find their provisions, the coronavirus unleashed an added tragedy. Severe lockdowns have kept millions of urban poor people from being able to access any income or provisions.”
As the crisis situation extended into a third week, Jigsaw programme manager Jenalyn spotted a sign taped to a wall in a slum: “We are all starving, our children and families are going to die.”
The Jigsaw team prayed and assessed the situation: they were in lockdown, unable to travel from their homes or communities and emergency funds were low. How could they help? Yet, they said “we knew we were called to respond in some unknown way.”
Thanks to sudden generous donations, the Jigsaw team provided 1,238 life-saving emergency boxes of food to people in three urban poor areas. Everything, from buying food to distributing it, required God’s intervention, said the Lees, who founded Jigsaw in 2003.
“God found a way for Jigsaw to buy enough supplies for 1,500 families at cost price, obtain three government lockdown travel passes so we could collect and deliver all the food, provided two local community leaders willing to help organise the distribution of the food and many community members to help Jigsaw with the logistics and packing. Through the power of prayer, sacrificial giving, God’s miracles and the skills and talents of many, Jigsaw was able to bring relief and joy to hundreds of families in desperate need.”
And the miracles haven’t stopped, they say. Jigsaw has also been using their vans to help police deliver vital oxygen supplies for those who are sick – vital, yet risky work. The team, many of whom are from the poor areas themselves, are leading an initiative to bring nutritious snacks and milk powder to infants and their mums: “Jigsaw became aware of the dangerous rise in life threatening malnutrition in babies and young children… Mums were beginning to struggle to breast feed due to their own poor health and malnutrition and with lack of money, babies’ health and lives were becoming at risk.”
Jigsaw’s work normally includes providing education and activities for hundreds of poor children via their centres. During this time of lockdown they started Jigsaw at Home: more than 1,000 children received a pack of pencils, pens, scissors, crayons and glue and each week they get a Jigsaw at Home pack with stories, maths and writing challenges, a craft and a packed meal. Jigsaw have also started home-based literary classes and disability therapy. Food deliveries continue in slum areas that have been particularly hard-hit by coronavirus. “[All this] has been truly the most remarkable story of God’s power, love and miracles that I have witnessed,” Tim said.
The Jigsaw team have sadly not avoided the ravages of illness. Recently, Michelle, a young mum associated with Jigsaw, died after being extremely ill with tuberculosis and pneumonia. Michelle grew up in the Jigsaw family; Kate and Tim knew her since she was five years old and started coming to their first centre. “She was wonderful, fun and loving. Praise God she was able to know the love and reality of Jesus in her life since she was a young girl. The whole of Jigsaw has been devastated by this tragic news. Michelle had just had a baby called Keith. Please pray for his future.
“The passing of Michelle has strengthened our resolve to empower and develop Jigsaw to become even more secure and sustainable so that baby Keith and many more babies will have a loving Christian community to grow up in and have the services and support needed to flourish in their lives ahead.”