Laurel and Hope dropped their suitcases and bags in the stateroom and ran fast along the narrow hallway, up the steps, and out onto the deck of the S.S. President Cleveland. So many passengers stood by the rail. Laurel looked down over the rail. The ship towered above the people on the pier! What was happening? Suddenly those people down there who looked so small began throwing reels of colored streamers up to the passengers along the rail. Everyone rushed to grab one. Mom and Dad Anderson also grabbed theirs. "Who’s on the other end of mine?" Laurel shouted, but she realized quickly that there were so many tangled curls and colors connecting the pier people to the ship’s passengers. What fun, like a party!
"Bo-oo-op! Bo-oo-op!" The enormous stacks sounded and the S.S. President Cleveland began to push away slowly from the pier, away from the United States. Slowly, but surely, the pretty streamers in Laurel’s hands stretched tight–then broke. The breaking of the streamers gave Laurel a funny feeling. "We are leaving our country, the United States."
The Anderson Family’s tickets read: Manila, Philippines. The Philippine Islands were somewhere on the other side of the world. They had read and asked questions of friends, at the library, at church: "How do people live there?" One very old book explained how Filipinos used coconut shells for dishes, and at night the people pulled a ladder up inside their huts, built on stilts, to keep strangers out! Laurel thought it was useless to keep asking Mom or Dad. How would they know? They’d never been to the Philippines before and little sister Hope certainly couldn’t tell–she was only five years old! "We’ll just have to wait and see," said Dad...but sailing away from the shore seemed a bit scarey to nine-year-old Laurel.
Every day the S.S. President Cleveland moved the Andersons farther across the Pacific Ocean. They spent one day ashore in Honolulu, another day ashore in Yokahama, Japan. When 21 days passed, they finally sighted the big city of Manila. It was New Year’s Day, 1958. Laurel thought, "Daddy calls us ‘missionaries’ now. That means our family plans to find ways to meet strangers and tell them the good news about Jesus, how Jesus died to save anybody who trusts Him." Laurel remembered how she asked Jesus to forgive her sins and be her very own Savior when she was three and a half years old–she felt sure she could share the good news!
By the time Laurel and Hope reached Ozamiz City, where the Andersons rented a tall house on a corner, both girls were ready to leave boats behind to live in a neighborhood with other children. Right away Filipino kids flocked around to stare at the two sisters. "Merikano! Merikano!" they chanted. Laurel felt troubled, "Why do the kids always want to touch my white arms or my blonde hair? Hope and I just only want to play and make friends." But when the children repeated some phrases over and over, Hope and Laurel began to repeat them back. Then one day the shy Filipinos grabbed the girls’ hands and pulled them along to visit their own houses. Everyone welcomed them now. Usually the houses were small with lots of open windows because Ozamiz was hot. The neighbor kids played fun games and cooked over little wood fires inside the dark kitchens. Even little children worked for their moms, carried water, swept the ground under the houses, watered the colorful flowers hanging along the porches. Soon Laurel and Hope learned the names of the kids and some of the new words. Never mind that those Filipino kids laughed and giggled when they heard American girls saying Filipino words. Making friends was the most important!
One day Daddy came home with a great surprise, "You want a real, live monkey? Here he is!" The little monkey jumped to Laurel’s shoulder. She called him Moi, the Filipino word for monkey. She cuddled Moi a lot and Moi jumped to her shoulder whenever she came near his perch. Moi even wrestled with Ming the Cat when she dared to walk under the monkey perch. Moi always won those matches. Sometimes neighbor kids threw stones at Moi, but another day, when Moi got loose: "Watch out!" The kids fled down the street with little Moi chasing them!
On Saturdays Mom called to Laurel and Hope and Vicki, the student helper in their house, "How can we reach more children for Jesus? Let’s go out and do some child evangelism." On went wide-brimmed, rice field hats to keep the hot sun off, the big flannelboard was hung over Mom’s shoulder. Of course, the Bible was the most important because the people did not have Bibles and so they knew nothing about the Gospel. The four climbed into an open public ‘jeepney’ or a bus bound for some village. As they walked along the village road, any time somebody called out to them, "What are you doing?" they stopped to show and tell a Bible story about the Life of Christ. Verses from the Bible were memorized. When Laurel and Hope sang Filipino choruses, it really attracted a crowd. But sometimes the local priest forbid the children to attend and then they only peeked out from the windows. Everywhere people loved Bible stories with pictures. If Hope and Laurel joined Daddy’s meetings, they climbed up onto the tailgate of the jeep to sing Gospel songs before Daddy and the evangelist preached.
The next year the Young People at the evangelical church called Laurel to join in their meetings and she loved those times because she could make more friends. Laurel also sang with the Youth Choir. She loved to sing the missionary song, "No Man Careth for My Soul", which was Laurel’s favorite song when the family was still in America telling people about how they wanted to be missionaries. Pedro, one of the youth group listened very hard when Laurel sang about people who had never heard the Gospel. At the open air Gospel meeting in April, 1959, Laurel requested the choir to sing a special song: "Lord, I’m Coming Home." During that next week Laurel fell very, very sick. By the next Sunday morning, Laurel was already in Heaven with Jesus. She loved Jesus so much in her life and now Jesus took her to His happy home in Heaven. Pedro remembered Laurel’s favorite song and decided he must enter the Bible School then because his heart was full of love for Jesus and he wanted to serve Him forever.
How did Daddy, Mom and Hope feel? The Filipinos all cried, "You will leave us just when we begin to follow Jesus!"
"O-o-o-h, we are so sad that Laurel died...she was our best friend."
"We feel ashamed because she died in our country...oh oh oh."
When everyone gathered to mourn and cry, Dad and Mom Anderson hugged all their new friends and comforted them, "Laurel is in Heaven with Jesus her Savior today. We will not leave you. We know we will meet Laurel again in Heaven, but millions of Filipinos still don’t know Jesus–we want to stay and work with you."