Photo by Seong Joon Cho

Houses of God

Houses of God

Issue: "The audacity of real change," Aug. 23, 2008

The headlines from Tondo, a slum district in northwest Manila, say it all:

  • "19-year-old man stabbed dead by his neighbor while sleeping in Tondo" (Philippines News Agency, July 17)
  • "Scavenger stabbed dead by a man believed to be drunk in Tondo" (GMA News, July 29)
  • "Two nursing students shot dead in Tondo after attending friend's birthday party" (Philippine Daily Inquirer, Aug. 4)

Tondo has one of the highest population densities in the world-nearly 200,000 people per square mile-and is known for being one of the most violent slums in the Philippines. Among the worst of the worst areas is Purok, the poorest of the many villages in Tondo and the site of a former garbage dump. The area is historically a Muslim stronghold in a country seething with religious tension. Pastors who have begun ministries there have been killed or driven off by the violence. But it's there that Pastor Expedito P. Macarine, 40, has established this church. Every Sunday about 20 locals come to worship. They usually do not have enough chairs, Bibles, or floor space. Macarine pays 1,500 Philippine pesos (about $37) out of his own pocket to rent the building. The church receives about 120 pesos a week in offerings. So during the week Macarine is a rickshaw driver. He says he earns about 6,000 pesos a month, which he uses to support his family of seven and the Purok ministry. Of the ministry and its hardships he says simply: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

-with reporting by Seong Joon Cho, in Manila

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