Do you ever wonder what I'm up to over here when I'm not teaching in our school/daycare or helping with our other ministries? Lately in my down time, I like to find quiet places to read and absorb some inspiration and ideas from books. I love to learn about others who've had similar passions and desires to serve the poor and to work with children. I need the humility to ask for help whenever I can, because I surely don't have all the answers about what the children really need and how they can best be empowered and encouraged. And I have to recognize and understand a large disparity between what I think they need and what they really need.
Mother Theresa used to say that we cannot understand the poor until we stand under the poor and live among them. I love her style of radical living and genuine empathy. Maybe it's not for everyone, but surely it's worth a try. I met a couple from New Zealand who live right in the center of a squatter community here, in some of the worst conditions imaginable. When the community goes without things like clean water, so do they. I was moved by their commitment and desire to live that closely in community with the poor.
These acts of compassion and lifestyle choices, if done out of genuine empathy, are not at all about getting recognition, about feeling better about ourselves, or about absolving guilt. I hope and pray to become less interested in seeking recognition, in building myself up, or in helping others with the underlying incentive of sleeping better at night. I want to be more like a brother to the community than a missionary or an aid worker or even a friend (although we can be all those things at the same time).
Here are some recent photos from our program in the Sucat community. I wish you could experience the joy (and even the sufferings) of getting to know the lives of these kids in person! As I spend more time with them, their photos carry more and more meaning to me, and I'm glad you can share a part of that - at least vicariously!
In that last photo, you'll see one of my closest friends in Sucat. Princess is her name - not to be mistaken for Princess who attends our school/daycare, as Princess is a fairly common name here (...speaking of incredible Filipino names, Princess from Sucat also has a best friend named Twinkle). Through an exciting new scholarship program (that we're already receiving support for!), we're going to be able to send kids like her to a real, formal school next year. Please pray for that, and also thank God for everything He's provided already with that! Speaking of school, I also want to share some recent pictures of our own school/daycare. Things continue to go so great as we work our way through the alphabet, the days of the week, and new songs and games that encourage friendship and social development.
Class is in session here...enjoy!!
Going back to my "down time" readings on compassion and serving, I can't neglect to mention one of the most influential examples of a servant. We admire and emulate a lot of people who themselves admired and tried to follow in the footsteps of Jesus himself (...Mother Theresa included). "Like Jesus, we belong to the world living not for ourselves but for others. The joy of the Lord is our strength", said Mother Theresa.
Jesus is a perfect example of compassion lived out. Not only did he empathize with the poor, because to him "they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd" (Matthew 9:36), but he went further than that. "Though he was rich, yet for [their] sakes he became poor, so that through his poverty [they] might become rich." (2 Corinthians 8:9) By sharing in their experiences, he suffered much to save them - or more appropriately, to save "us" - because he saw the entirety of humanity in need of help. Very awesome.
In other news, last week our team visited what's called a "home for the aged" out in the country. Retirement homes are very rare here, and the very idea that they exist at all seems very odd to Filipinos in general. Because the Philippines has such a community-oriented culture, most grandparents live with their children/grandchildren/great-grandchildren for the rest of their lives. So a "home for the aged" is really not like a retirement home in Canada, but it's actually more of an "orphanage" for the abandoned or less-fortunate elderly. When we visited, we brought lunch for the residents and just enjoyed conversations, stories, and dancing. Yes...dancing. We were treated to some personal lessons in ballroom dancing from some of the residents (sorry I don't have the photos to prove it!). I was really impressed by the quality of the facilities and the care from the workers. Actually, they have a really great system in which nursing students from a nearby University do a 9-day practicum there for school. At the completion of their practicum, a different group of nursing students is sent to replace the previous group, and this year-round rotation fulfills the need for educated, passionate, and eager volunteers. All of the facilities at the home for the aged were donated by a church.
Thanks again for following along with my blog! I will be taking some time off in the next few weeks to visit some good friends working and teaching in Korea and Japan, but I will be back in the Philippines for the bittersweet "home stretch" of my internship here before I need to say my goodbyes and return home to Canada in November.