Thursday, June 21, 2012

"I live in the mall...literally"

Dear friends and family,

It's true - I just moved into an apartment in a mall. Yeah, I didn't see that coming either! Many Filipinos confess that in some ways they "live at the mall" - spending hours strolling through the air conditioning or enjoying the window-shopping. However, I'm actually settling into a small apartment at the top of a 5-floor mall in Alabang, Metro Manila. I've never been an avid mall-goer, but this is actually an ideal location for me here. Directly across the street is our drop-in center for street children/youth ("IT Tender") where I expect to spend most of my time. Then, in front of the mall are buses I can catch to get to our church and our preschool ("Educare") in Makati. And then of course there's the obvious convenience of having anything I might need to buy just downstairs (groceries, clothing, etc). "Starmall Alabang" is also known as "The biggest bargain center in the South" (...or at least according to their slogan), as there is a large market in the basement where you can barter for just about anything new, used, or imitated (ie, the knock-offs).

In the midst of the bustling traffic of jeepneys and bikes
in Metro Manila is my new home at "Starmall Alabang".
Because I'm now in the final stage of language school, I'm transitioning out of the classroom and back into the community. The latest big move was just one event in a busy month. Just a few weeks ago we held a 3-day, overnight camp for the youth from our small, community church. We were blessed to be able to bring guest speakers, professional counselors, and social workers to the camp. The purpose of inviting counselors and social workers was to provide support for those youth who've been traumatized by physical or sexual abuse. This was a very eye-opening experience. Just as we worried might be true, many of our youth privately admitted episodes of rape and sexual abuse they'd experienced growing up. Our camp was a very necessary time of safety, peace, and relaxation for these youth. It marked the beginning of a long road of recovery for them through the counseling and support of our church and our team. We're also thankful that many of the youth learned ways to release their burdens and forgive others through their discovery of a loving and forgiving God. With proper professional support, a supportive community, and faith, we believe that these youth can experience a radical recovery and a profound freedom from some very oppressing and degrading experiences.

After the camp, a handful of us church leaders partnered with a team of Filipino doctors and flew to another island in the Philippines for a medical and hygiene mission. Upon arriving in Ilo-Ilo, we spent half a week in the city of Roxas to run the program, then we commuted to the city of Carles to run our program again for a community there. A few members from our church had grown up on that island and thus knew the area well, including "Ate" (Sister) Princess from our team. For the hygiene part of the mission, we taught children the proper way to clean their bodies. We gave them a bath, combed their hair, removed lice, brushed their teeth, cut their fingernails, and also gave them a meal. For the medical program, we offered free services from volunteer physicians, dentists, and an optometrist. We were even able to give out free eyeglasses and medicine to anyone who needed it. We feel blessed that we were able to team up with Pastor Juni and his medical team from "Seed of Love Ministry", and we thank God for making all of this possible.

Tin Tin takes in the breathtaking view of the
Philippine islands during her first plane ride.
Before our medical and hygiene programs
we went out to visit the families in the community. 
Ilo-Ilo is home to some adorable little monkeys (...I mean, kids!).
Leading a devotion and prayer with the workers of the church
who also volunteered to help with the medical and hygiene programs.
Ah yes, the proper wiggle-and-jiggle toothbrushing technique.
Bathing the kids is a humbling experience.
Many of the children had lice, so we helped
pick out the bugs and used special shampoos.
Still hanging around even after the program.
The pastor in Carles gives a short talk before our medical program.



Em Em and I helped by cleaning and sorting dental instruments.
A young girl nervously waits her turn to see the dentist.
We set up a small pharmacy with free medicines for the
patients after they'd received their prescription from the doctor.
We prayed for each patient before they returned home.
Thanks so much for reading my blog. Please pray for the physical, mental, and spiritual well-being of of these communities in Ilo-Ilo that we have been reaching out to. And also pray for the youth in our community as well. In other news, Educare just resumed classes this week (June is the beginning of the school year in Manila), and we're thankful for another year to teach and grow with the preschoolers. Also, I will be commuting to language school twice-a-week now until I finish sometime in August. The final stretch of school involves a lot more "out-of-the-classroom" assignments and projects. I'm really looking forward to graduating in just a couple months! Continue to pray for my Tagalog as well.

Take care and continue being a blessing to others!

John

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the updates John! Keep up the good work!

    ReplyDelete