Friday, January 31, 2014

From One Home to Another

by John Coffey

In the Filipino language, "balikbayan" translates as "return to nation" and refers to a person who is returning to his or her homeland. In many ways I felt like a balikbayan upon returning to the Philippines, just as I was a balikbayan when visiting Canada. Truly I'm blessed to have two homes.

What makes a place home? Well, for me, this is what defines a home...

     1. Your loved ones are there.
We're not related by blood but I love the street children as if we are.
     2.  You feel a sense of belonging and connectedness.
My faith, my family, and my friends all come together at IT Tender.
     3.  You can be yourself. Silly, inspired, irritable, elated, and everything in between.
Who says you need a house with four walls to be comfortable with who you are? The street children have showed me that a home can have little to do with your physical surroundings.
So whether I'm with my friends and family in Canada or with my team and the children in Manila I feel very at home. My homecoming this January in the Philippines was wonderful. The greatest joys were seeing my fiance Jam and also seeing the smiles of the children in our programs. In reality, it's not easy serving the poor in Manila. I'm far from my Canadian family, far from the comforts and lifestyle I grew up in, and each day facing the task of turning seemingly hopeless situations into opportunities for transformation and empowerment. But when I arrived at our drop-in center for our Friday night program, the excitement of the children refilled my soul with hope, faith, and determined purpose in serving in Manila.

Enjoying dinner with the kids from our Night Life program
Proudly displaying their art activity
Each street child and their own unique story is another reason to care and to serve. A beautiful young girl named Lenly has been attending both our Night Life program and our Food for Life program for malnourished children. She struggles with a speech problem, but she is never shy with her friends and loves to give them big hugs. If you met Lenly she would likely greet you with a warm smile and show you her newest doll that she found from scavenging in a garbage pile. My British teammate Karin told me that children like Lenly give her a reason to serve in the Philippines - to have the chance to improve her situation and see her eventually complete her schooling. In fact, we have been praying for more missionaries like Karin who are willing to come to Manila to serve these children at IT Tender.

Lenly and the doll she found in a garbage pile
In 2014 our prayer for many more short- and long-term missionaries is already starting to be answered. At the beginning of January David Shields arrived from Northern Ireland. He has been an incredible example of humility, compassion, and faith for our community. Today was the last day of his short-term mission, and already he is excited to return to visit our children and the team at IT Tender.

David and some of his young new friends
Last week we also welcomed a young Danish couple to our team - Martin & Janne. After just a week they have found a place in our IT Tender family and we're excited for their 6 month adventure serving alongside us in Manila. Besides these volunteers, we also have some missionaries serving part-time from our partner organization Extreme Response. Amanda Moxley and Louise Carver serve at our drop-in center every Friday.

Martin tries out some popular Filipino games on his first community visit
Janne's mission is an internship as part of her degree in Social Work from Denmark
Amanda and preschool student John Rey share a "selfie"
Louise is a natural with the kids and has already served in Ecuador with Extreme Response
Please contact me at if you are interested in missions or in helping with our programs in Manila. I will leave you with some photos from David's last night at our drop-in center. We had an epic "thumb wrestling" tournament with the children from Night Life. Enjoy...

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