Ronnie is all tatted up from his hard life. His tattoos and rough exterior remind me of an ex convict, but Ronnie is still living in his prison. His cell consists of a concrete floor, rusted metal walls and a pot in the corner for urinating. Despite these circumstances, he was happy to invite us in. We brought Ronnie a mat to sleep on. We thought, “At least this way he would have something more than cardboard to separate his emaciated body from the hard floor.” But even after giving him the mat, I realized it would do very little to protect him from the real threat. Only a small embankment separated Ronnie’s front door from the drainage channel in Pag-asa, which carries raw sewage out into Subic Bay. This wall wasn’t even enough to prevent the normal high tide from flooding his shack. If you add any amount of rain to that equation, Ronnie, along with hundreds of other people’s shacks, are underwater. This is no way to live.
Ronnie’s story is an excerpt taken from a multimedia presentation produced by my wife and I. This slideshow highlights some of our experiences from 2010 during our 7month stay in the Philippines. Although I have long felt a proclivity towards construction and architecture, it wasn’t until I saw the way people like Ronnie have to live that I felt compelled to use this gift to really help people. God, as Creator, took great care in constructing our world. He orders the ecosystem to be able to produce and sustain life, and for Ronnie to have to live in the way he does demonstrates the anti-creative ways we as human beings interact with our world.
There is little we can do in this moment to alleviate the horrid living conditions of those living in slums. However, I feel hopeful when I consider the impact our missiological program at the Institute for G.O.D. Int’l can have in the world. Within this curriculum I have the privilege to teach classes called “Practical Projects in the Arts I & II.” These classes instruct our students on a wide variety of topics ranging from passive solar design to compost. It is my hope that, as my students and fellow laborers of Christ enter the field with this knowledge, they will be able to offer creative solutions to the people suffering as a result of their inadequate living conditions. This semester we have applied some of these simple design concepts and built a working compost toilet, a greenhouse, and a solar cooker. It is our responsibility to partner with God in creatively remedying the complex issues faced by the majority of the world’s population. And I am happy to help accomplish this through the application of sustainable building practices, a life giving activity.