Katelyn Jane Dixon went on a Vision Trip with Wipe Every Tear in 2018. Keep reading to hear how she was impacted by her time in the Philippines and how God spoke to her!
It feels strange to be writing this nearly three years since I had the privilege of traveling to the Philippines with Wipe Every Tear, yet the treasures and truths that God revealed to me during my trip are as fresh and present now as they were then. It is an April evening in my home near Seattle, and the scent of lilacs is wafting through my window. The leaves are turning golden in the fading light, and the sound of my washer and dryer whooshing and working together in tandem fills the room along with bird song and the chattering of busy squirrels.
But when I close my eyes, I remember the sights and sounds of Manila in July of 2018. I see color and cathedrals and tropical flowers spilling over fences and cracked walls. I hear dogs barking and chickens clucking and moped motors roaring outside my window. I feel the upbeat rhythm of music from dance videos and see women laughing together as they follow along. I hear the voices of women and men lifted together as one, singing and worshiping the God of the oppressed and brokenhearted. I remember what being surprised by God feels like, and all the times He showed up in ways I never could have anticipated in the least likely places possible. I thank Him for the gift of remembrance, and all the ways my memories of that trip three years ago have spilled over the fences of my carefully guarded heart, taking root and flowering where the ground once felt impossibly barren. Years later, I find myself treasuring the pearled strand of beautiful transformations I was given during my time in the Philippines—glimmering truths that reveal the glory of God at work through Wipe Every Tear in some of the darkest places on earth. It is an honor to share them with you now.
Exhaustion to Rest
I arrived in the Philippines on July 9th, 2018, exhausted by the job and season of life I was in. I was a counselor at a local shelter for women suffering from poverty, abuse, and addiction, and I was utterly burned out. Serving with Wipe Every Tear on a Vision Trip was something I had been dreaming of since 2014, yet it was difficult to believe the trip would provide the rest and refreshment my spirit so desperately needed. I had prepared myself for more exhaustion and heartache and yet was still eager to continue to give myself beyond my felt capacity because this is the kind of work my heart longs to do.
But I was wrong. Instead of further exhaustion, God showed me a way of rest and dependence on him that utterly restored the parched places of my heart and soul. From the moment my team and I arrived at the Wipe Every Tear safe houses in Manila, we were invited into a spaciousness of rest through worship and leaning on Jesus that I had not experienced before. My first night in the Philippines, I found myself dancing in the living room with a group of beautiful strangers after having just shared a shy meal together. “What is happening? How is it that God is already restoring my joy?” I wondered. In the book of Isaiah, God tells his people: “Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength. But you would have none of it” (Is. 30:15, NLT). Returning and rest is a choice we get to make, and this is the posture that was modeled so well for us during our ten days with Wipe Every Tear.
Darkness to Light
When we arrived in Angeles City for a several day period of outreach, we were given a tour of Walking Street and the surrounding area where we would be ministering later that night. We spent the hours before outreach in an upper room together, sharing a meal and covering our time with worship and prayer. The neon signs and flashing lights of the illuminated bars on Walking Street were nothing compared to the fire and light of God that burned brightly in our chests as we headed out into the night.
Into each bar, we carried the peace and presence of Jesus with us—a presence that Jesus’ friend John describes like this: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it” (John 1:5, NLT). Where I anticipated utter darkness and hopelessness, I encountered the hope and the power of the Holy Spirit to open doors and transform hearts wherever we went. The psalmist says of God, “Even the darkness is as light to you” (Ps. 139:12, NLT), and nowhere have I found this to be more true than in the dark and desolate places of Walking Street. There was darkness, yes—immense darkness. But the Light was always greater.
Hatred to Compassion
I am forever grateful to the Wipe Every Tear team for showing me a new way to see and love the men who frequent the bars where women are sold for sex. “Our enemy is not the men,” they explained, “but the work of the Enemy whose purpose is to steal, kill, and destroy.” In the sex trade, there is a huge power differential; there are those being sold and those who are buying. But it is crucial to remember that in the sex trade, nobody wins. The customers are also enslaved—in bondage to sin and brokenness.
I remember sitting down in a bar next to a man from New Zealand who was clearly a frequent customer. There were girls dancing in front of us, but my eyes were fixed on him—intent on showing him the love of Jesus, even though his actions made me angry. Let me be clear: the reality of the sex trade makes God angry, too; this is not the way the world is meant to be. But his heart breaks for all who are involved, as hard as that was for me to initially accept. I asked him to tell me his story, and I learned that he and his wife had eight children together back in New Zealand. She had died several years ago, and he was there alone with a buddy who was drunk and distracted. He looked sad—like he was trying too hard to have a good time. His intentions for being at the bar were wrong and harmful, but he was broken, too. Miraculously, God showed me his heart for this man. Where I once felt hatred and anger, God gave me compassion.
Ashes to Beauty
We spent several nights in the bars, making connections with women and inviting them to an all-expenses paid beach trip along with the opportunity to learn more about the ways Wipe Every Tear exists to walk with women towards freedom. On the day we all met up to make the trip over to Puerto Galera, we waited with great anticipation and longing to see which of the women we had invited would come. As we waited, I felt the deep desire God has for us to taste and see that he is trustworthy and good. In my desire to see the women I had connected with and invited over several nights turn the corner and walk towards us, I sensed how ardently God must long for the one lost sheep, and how greatly heaven rejoices when the one walks towards him, safe and found.
Once in Puerto Galera, I was amazed at how quickly the fathering heart of God transformed a group of strangers into a family of his own making. Filipinos and Americans, male and female—our differences mattered less than our collective experience of beauty, good food, worship, laughter, and free and innocent fun. During that time, God continued to show me his heart for restoration and freedom for his beloved, cherished daughters. On our last night in Puerto Galera, we gave each guest a pearl bracelet and prayed over them. We shared with each woman the truth of who she is: that she is far more precious than pearls, that she is seen and known and beloved by a good, good Father who delights in her. I saw the God who will one day wipe every tear from our eyes begin his good work of bringing beauty out of ashes, and I was in awe.
Captivity to Freedom
I thought I was going to the Philippines solely to help set women free, but what I didn’t anticipate was something God whispered to my heart on one of the last nights of worship in the Philippines: “In fighting for her freedom, you will find your own.” And I did. I found it in exchanging exhaustion for rest, finding light in darkness, having compassion in place of hatred, and witnessing beauty given for ashes. He showed me all the ways I was still in bondage to fear, perfectionism, and the belief that I needed to earn his love, and he began to set me free. These are things only God could have accomplished, and it is for his glory and our joy that he delights to do these things.
To the staff of Wipe Every Tear, thank you. I remember each of you and cherish the conversations and connections we had in our brief time together. I have not forgotten the love and welcome you showed me and each member of our team. To those who are interested in the work of Wipe Every Tear and want to experience what I’ve written about for yourselves someday, I can only echo the words of Jesus when I say, “Come and see.”
God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.
Glory to God in the church!
Glory to God in the Messiah, in Jesus!
Glory down all the generations!
Glory through all millennia! Oh, yes!
(Ephesians 3:20-21, MSG)