Dear friends and family,
Thanks for checking in on me and reading my first blog entry as a full-time missionary in Manila, Philippines! I arrived here in the pouring rain late last Thursday night. Brett Ostrander, my friend and fellow Elmira-native, picked me up from the airport and I spent my first night at his place. I was quickly reminded that I wasn't at home anymore when I awoke to the sounds of roosters crowing and bustling traffic, and I had to bathe Filipino-style - with a scoop and a bucket of cold water.
As I ventured out into the city, reminders of it's poverty pressed in on me. Of course, I hadn't forgotten the harsh realities of Manila - the street children begging in the streets, squatter families cramped in makeshift wooden shanties, and the not-so-hidden signs of prostitution, addiction, and crime. Pangs of loneliness and of missing home hit me. Hard. I felt embarrassed by my desire to escape to my very comfortable world in Canada. I missed my friends and family the most, and I knew that I always would.
However, over the course of the next few days, God provided so much comfort and love and the important reminder that I am here for a purpose much greater than myself. First things first, I went straight to the slums to say hi to the street kids who attend our children's programs. Mackie (my Filipino friend and teammate) and I rode his motorbike down Zanzibar Street where most of the students in our daycare/school reside. Kids came running up to greet me with welcoming laugher and smiles. That was the first of many reminders that I really am at home - or at least a home-away-from-home. After many hugs and high fives, the children and I walked down the street arm-in-arm to greet their families whom I hadn't seen for a year. The kids chanted "Laro tayo!" ("Let's play!"), and we played countless rounds of tag, duck-duck-goose, and various Filipino favourites.
The weekend was packed with more reunions. Somewhere in the haze of jet-lag and exhaustion, I remember several hugs with my beloved teammates, churchmates, and other close friends. Our little Filipino church - Jesus King of Kings Community Church - is the heart and soul of our community outreach programs (including the daycare). At the Sunday service, Pastor Joshua (my team leader) gave me the opportunity to get up and share with everyone my story and my plans as I settled into Manila for the long-term. The joyful reception and warm welcome from the church was overwhelming.
My plan now is to move to Quezon City (1.5 hour commute North of here) on Thursday where I will be studying at a Tagalog language school full-time for up to 6 months. In other news, I should let you know that there have been a few big changes here. Our church and team office have moved to a new location in the last few months. There were some issues with the reliability and financial stability of the management of the old building, so my team decided to move a few blocks away. They are now picking up the daycare students each day with our team van to take them to the new church location. Also, Toph and Nico (two of our daycare teachers) don't really have a place to live and have sometimes been crashing at the church or at Pastor Joshua's home (...another reminder that even my teammates are affected daily by poverty and hardship). We are hoping to eventually find a location near the squatter community where we can house the daycare and provide a place for Toph and Nico to stay.
Thank you so much for reading. Hopefully I can cut down on the length and include some pictures in future blog entries!