Victim of Muslim Ambush Turns Tragedy to Triumph

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NORTH COTABATO, Philippines -- Shirlyn Macasarte barely escaped death some four years ago when more than 50 armed Muslim rebels ambushed and fired at her car.

Macasarte miraculously survived 29 gunshots, but her foot was crushed and nerves connecting to her legs were damaged, causing temporary paralysis.
 
Although Macasarte was a victim of mistaken identity, she said she didn't feel angry or bitter over the incident.

"It was a Muslim who brought me to the hospital," she told CBN News. "He saved my life. And that is why I believe that there is good in every person."
 
Her life spared, Macasarte often testified about God's faithfulness.  She was especially drawn to gatherings of persons with disabilities.

Macasarte's own experience caused her to understand their needs. She felt led to help them and launched the group SAKLAY, which means "crutch" in English. The organization empowers people with disabilities.
 
"Saklay is not limited to providing mobility devices; it also provides livelihood programs, health services and organizes people with disabilities in different communities," Macasarte explained.

Helping the Forgotten

Many of those SAKLAY helped, like Evelyn Penas, have been neglected for a long time. She became lame when her nerves were damaged during a childhood vaccination.

"I was ashamed and so I always hid from people and just stayed at home," Penas told CBN News. "I did not even go to first grade until I reached 15 years old.  My father would carry me around. Later I managed to walk with my hands and knees."

After 50 years, Penas finally got her first wheelchair courtesy of SAKLA.

"I am very happy that I now have a wheelchair," she said. "It's a big help for me to be able to go out and earn a living. I have money to buy rice. I thank God for helping me and for giving me hope."

Saklay has also provided prosthetic legs to those in need.

Naot, a Muslim woman, lost her leg in a bomb explosion. She used a crude, wooden leg until Macasarte's organization gave her a better one.

Jimmy Teope was also helped. He lost his leg in an ambush and was using an artificial leg made of aluminum and wood until SAKLAY provide him with a more sophisticated prosthetic.

Close to Home

Macasarte has assisted many handicapped people in her community, but she never expected that one of her relatives would also need help.

One day before Macasarte's interview with CBN News, her niece was gunned down by Muslims in broad daylight -- the fourth ambush in their family.

While Macasarte's niece escaped serious injury, her niece's husband was instantly killed. Their 9-year-old daughter survived, but her leg had to be amputated.

"I know the enemy does not want God to use me. But this incident cannot stop me from what I am doing," Macasarte declared. "I will help the daughter of my niece get an artificial leg."

"This has caused much pain for us, but we are thankful she is alive," she said. "It is the breath of life that inspires me. I believe in all of this, God has a purpose."

Family tragedies have inspired Macasarte to help others. She's now empowering the weak and providing education -- especially for Muslims.

She is a peace maker in Muslim Mindanao, an example of Christian faith in action, working to turn evil intentions into something good.

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Lucille Talusan

Lucille Talusan

CBN News Asia Correspondent

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