Saturday, January 19, 2013

One Love, One Blood, One Life

Dear friends and family,

Recently a song has been stuck in my head. It's lyrics echo my desire for unity and perseverance in the struggle to repair broken relationships and dignity in depressed communities. Bono from U2 wrote the song "One" during a time of conflict between his band over the direction of their music. Tensions almost prompted the band to break up until they achieved a creative breakthrough with "One". This song is not just about unity within a band. The lyrics are a cry to all of humanity, prompting us to realize the responsibility we have for one another despite our differences or distances.

Inspired, I compiled some of my photos from the last couple months and made a video using a cover of the song "One". Many of the children and families in this video are recipients of our outreach programs at IT Tender. While this video shows some disturbing images, I'm not showing them to depress you. Actually, I want to inspire you. Besides the very real and disheartening images, I'm also going to show you images that give evidence of the love and unity that CAN and DOES exist in these depressed communities. And it's exciting when we can personally be a part it.

There is plenty to be excited for in 2013. I'm currently developing our newest outreach program to be launched in June. As I've mentioned in previous blog entries, "SMART Kids" will be a program for children ages 1-3. It will be a partnership with parents to provide opportunities for early learning, stimulating play, good health care, a nutritious diet, and a hygienic environment. "SMART Kids" is an acronym in Tagalog for "Sila'y Maging Aktibo, Responsable, at Tibay ng loob". In English this means "They're becoming active, responsible, and resilient".

Besides SMART Kids, I will also be investing time under the leadership training of Pastor John Basiwa. I will be learning more about the tasks and responsibilities of a team leader, accompanying him to meetings and observing his role as the overseer of all our programs (daycare, sponsorship, ALS, nightlife, and feeding programs). Pastor John sees potential in me to one day fulfill his current role as team leader if his role ever changed. None of this is set in stone, but we're just preparing for the future. In truth I'm quite hesitant to take a leadership role as a Westerner on a Filipino team serving a Filipino community. Nevertheless, Pastor John assures me that I have the right qualities and the right heart (particularly a heart FOR Filipinos) that make me fit for the role. I would still always have a Filipino director above me and Filipino mentors to guide me in any major decisions. As I said, this is all just for future consideration and I will keep you informed of any potential changes in my role here on the team.

In other news, sometime in March or April we will be getting the results back from our students who recently took their high school equivalency exam. As a part of our program "Pagbabago" (meaning "Transformation") we have been tutoring out-of-school youth and adults for this exam. Fifteen of them took the exam at the end of 2012. This tutoring program is sponsored by the Philippine Department of Education and is known across the Philippines as ALS (Alternative Learning Systems). Even world-renowned boxer Manny Paqcuaio attained his high school level education through this very program we're using.

Here I'm teaching a lesson on English - one of the subjects on their exam
Our students tackle a practise exam just days before the real thing
Thanks again for following along with me and my adventures! Take care and God bless!


1 comment:

  1. John, I remember meeting you at Waterloo Mennonite Brethren Church during the first part of my grade twelve year, shortly before you were commissioned on this adventure. It has now about 39 months and after speaking with your father Wes, (which is also my name) I checked out this blog he suggested I look at for some more information. I enourage you in the new program SMART beginning this year and also in your continued journey to keep serving the Lord strong with a heart of love that I saw in you before you left. Thank you for being a great example of service.