Work Continues on the Field

Since the team departed a little over a week ago, work here in the Philippines has changed in its scope, but not in pace.  We can no longer blanket the city every day with groups of people scouring for insight into how to fix Olongapo’s problems.  Instead we work in one area of need per day hoping to strengthen relationships, make connections, or learn a little more about the plight of the Filipino poor.

Our efforts in Pag-asa have provided opportunities to attend district council meetings, have one-on-one interviews with top officials, bring provisions to a sick family, teach a Bible-study and much more.  We visited an oppressed Filipino worker and were able to bring his daughters some much-needed clothing, and his wife some encouragement.   Our work with the women of Barretto has continued to foster trust and we have been able to share meals with several more women.   Through our visits with local midwives we have become much more aware of the hardships faced by pregnant women here in the Philippines.

Still we are faced with more needs everyday, far too many for two families to handle.  More than anything, the absence of a team has reminded me of the need for a body.  With twelve people Jesus changed the world forever, and he did so by asking only two things of them, he said, “Leave your nets, and follow me.”  Jesus understood the value one human being could give to another simply with their presence.  He demonstrated how the kingdom of heaven is ushered in by people willing to leave the security of their careers and go to the poor.   The answer to the world’s problems lies in our willingness to give ourselves not just our pocketbooks.   Thank you teams for your hard work and sacrifice, this world needs more people like you.

Protecting the Unborn

By Michelle Madron

Perhaps you’ve noticed someone who has had limited experience with babies pick one up.  They likely seem awkward as they hold a baby for the first time.  This is because they recognize the fragility of new life.  While this is so, I have often observed people being careless around pregnant women, forgetting about the same fragile life they carry inside them.  Only in the last few years of living in our Antioch community have I heard people teach the importance of protecting the delicate life growing inside pregnant women.  This has heightened my awareness and sensitivity towards expecting mothers, wherever I am.

In the Philippines this summer I have interacted with pregnant women every day. Being pregnant myself has given me a different perspective into their world.  These interactions have drawn my attention to the concern many Filipinos share for the fragility of unborn children.  Although widespread, these concerns are not shared across the board.  Women in poor areas often deny the free prenatal check-ups offered by local health centers.

Most recently we met a girl named Daryl in Barretto who carries her baby in shame.  This shame has caused Daryl to forego this needed care for her body.  Even with the support of her friends, she still feels the need to hide.  We informed her of a midwife that provides prenatal care for the poor, but even at a discount she says she cannot afford a midwife.  She said, “I want to find a dark corner and have my baby alone.”  As she told us about her previous births, she shaded her eyes with her hand and turned her head to the side.  She said she has birthed 4 children, but only 2 are still alive.  At the age of 24, she carries a fifth child knowing that, if it lives, it too will be raised by her mother in another city.  Daryl gives her body over to bear child after child in hopes that she will find a man to stay with her the next time.

Unfortunately, Daryl’s story is not unique among young women subjected to the sex tourism industry.  There are many women in the Philippines who do not receive proper education during pregnancy.  In a country where the gift of life is appreciated by so many, providing education for women like Daryl will do much to redeem the gift of birthing new life for those who face it in shame.

Education That Restores Dignity

By Brett Madron

The writer of the book of Hebrews understands faith as “the assurance of things hoped for; the conviction of things yet unseen.”  It is important these energizing words be considered in the context of an impoverished world that has lost the assurance and conviction for a world better than the one they suffer each day?

In the slums of Olongapo, in an area called Tambakan (literally ‘Dumpsite’), most men will tell you that their work is basura (garbage).  These men awake before dawn each morning to ride their rusted-over bicycles around the city digging through public trashcans, looking for plastics and metals that they can turn into the local dumping area for roughly $0.75 per kilo.  Most men come away each day with a few dollars worth to meet the most critical needs of their family.

When I ask these men about their dreams for their families, their only reply is to have the provision of basic needs. Yet their world fights against them every day. Most did not finish school due to lack of finances.  In a country where a college degree is needed to work at a hotel or fast food restaurant these men are left with very few options for a job, thus very little provision for their family.  Such harsh circumstances erode a person’s hope; they wear away his dignity.

What will restore the dignity of these men?  What will bring them a sense of hope? We must offer more than the provision of a meal or a few pesos.  We must offer them a picture of the world God desires for his people and then educate and empower them to do justice, practice kindness and walk humbly before God to ensure such a world is realized.

The people of the slums are rich in only one resource, each other.  They have the opportunity to unite, share and creatively utilize what they do have to improve their living conditions. But, this opportunity is enhanced when applied on the other side of an education where dignity has been restored to the people. It is then that they will begin to develop the assurance of something hoped for and the conviction of a just world that is yet unseen.

Behind Every Good Man

By Rachel Olson

Egay (Hanjin employee), Cdang (his wife), Paulyn and Chrislyn (their two children) live at a Hanjin labor camp in the former military barracks on the SBMA. The presence of Egay’s wife and children make their story different from most other workers at the camp. Egay was given special permission for his wife and kids to live with him for 3 months.

At first glance, upon entering their “home” last week, I observed a very difficult living situation. Egay, his wife and kids, sleep on one old, beat up bunk bed, and share the small barrack with 6 other male Hanjin workers. The hard concrete walls are lined with bunk beds, and leave few options for Cdang and her two kids as they remain there every day while Egay works 10-12 hour shifts at the shipyard. My daughter Moriah instantly made friends with their 5 yr. old Paulyn and her obvious sadness at our departure revealed to me the lack of interaction she has with children her own age. Instead of playing with neighborhood kids, or attending pre-school, Paulyn interacts only with the middle- aged men that live with her.  Regardless of these difficulties, we were greeted with welcoming smiles and it became very apparent to me that Cdang happily makes the sacrifices required to keep her family together. Sadly, her and her daughters must return home to Laguna (South of Manila) in one week, receiving only a rare visit from Egay.

We have become aware of the conditions the Hanjin workers endure day after day. We have witnessed the effects of their hard work and the large-scale injustice of this enterprise. Today we saw yet another reality of their world, the sacrifices of the wives and children behind the Hanjin employees. Though filled with sacrifice and difficulties, Cdang feels lucky to have been allotted even this short time to live with her husband. Most wives say goodbye, not knowing if it will be 2 weeks or 10 years before they see their husbands again.