Thursday, March 10, 2011

Day 5-6..."The Change"

So most of you told me that I would "change" when going on this trip. Well yesterday was THE CHANGE.

I finally got to meet Sister Anne Becher who I had been in touch with for about 6 months in the states. It was quite the trip getting was in Pasay City but Ernie and I got very lost and had to drive through many tiny alleys to finally realize we had directions to the wrong church. I finally found the Little Sisters of the Assumption, their modest home nestled into the "ghetto" as I would call it of the Malibay community of Pasay City in Manila. Sister Margaret greeted me at the gate and I had no idea what I was getting into.

She was so excited to meet me and wanted to show me all of kingdom come, but we started at the nursery. The LSA (Little Sisters of the Assumption, which is the order of nuns) mission is to literally live with the poor and sick and care for them. These amazing Sisters (4 of them) have started several programs for the Barangay 180 (neighborhood of about a block that is the home to probably hundreds of "squatter" Filipinos). When Sister Anne first arrived 10 years ago, she went around asking the families what services they could help with. They responded with education, livelihood, catechism and medical care.

That is just what these Sisters do. They have created a pre-public school education for these precious kids, who otherwise would be very behind in their learning skills. LSA has a Mommy and Me type class for babies, a nursery for 2-3 year olds, a preschool class and a kinder class. These are managed by the Sisters themselves, but taught by other Moms of the Barangay. The Sisters have taught the Moms methods of Montessory to teach simple math, English and other necessary skills for school. When the kids reach public schools, they are expected to already know English and so without the Sisters, they would be floundering. Also, because the Moms are teaching, they are paid mild wages (because that's all the programs can afford) but the Moms are more than thankful to be paid at all, and also get a chance to spend time and teach their own children. By the time the kids "graduate" kindergarten, the goal is that they can speak and read and start to be able to write English.

Sister Margaret has also started a program for special needs kids. There is a heavy stigma within most Filipino's for these children. This may be a little TMI for a blog, but I feel like this is so important that you all MUST know. If a mother bears a child with special needs, she is thought to either have a demon or have a failed abortion. Families who have these kids mostly keep them cooped up in the tiny house for fear of judgement and don't have money to pay for medical needs. Sister Margaret created a support group that meets once a week and now has 25 families participating! They also have a local doctor who volunteers to come once a week to tend to the kids. I had the blessing of meeting a few of these are my experiences...

First I met glowing Ruvegen, I'll call her Gen :) She is around 4-5ish and has cerebral palsy, and also and an imperforate anus. She just had surgery on her legs so she recently started walking!! She has cute little converse boots and one brace and was running all over the small library when I met her. She ran up and said hi to sister and I, and hugged my leg. She had the biggest smile I have ever seen on a child. She will be hopefully treated soon for her anal problem.

Then Sister M walked me around the neighborhood where the homes were as small as minivans and very dirty. Sister knocked on one door so I could meet one boy (I forgot his name, so I'll call him Jack ha). Jack has CP as well and is has a pretty deformed little body for a 2-3 year old. His shins are about the size of a sausage. I know I am being so blunt, but I just want you all to know the EXTREME condition of these souls. The mother was a bit apprehensive with me being there, but I was with her dear Sister so she let me come in. I'm not sure what was going on medically with Jack, but I didn't have to know- I could just SEE.

Then there was Jobe. Jobe we saw on the street near the feeding area, which is sponsored by the LSA. He was sitting on the dirty street and I actually kind of tripped over him. I didn't realize how he was until he started dragging his body, scooting backwards and I noticed his shoe-less feel and larger head. He wobbily stood up and side stepped to the other side of the street. He is older, maybe late teens or early twenties. Sister explained that she found out his mother recently commit suicide and his father passed away so he is completely abandoned and homeless and HELPLESS in the streets. He must find food somehow and some neighbors have showered him every now and then but the LSA are currently looking for a home for him. After hearing this, I looked to Jobe crying, and he too had a huge missing-toothed smile.

And that is the Filipino way. Every single "squatter" that I have seen is a smiling, God-fearing person, regardless of their poverty. It is so inspiring. I can't even believe it.

After seeing all this, I was waiting for Ernie to come pick me up. Sister let me sit in the chapel next door and I cried for an hour. What could I possible do to make this lifestyle any better for all these THOUSANDS even millions of people?? If I could, I would bulldoze every squatter house and build them mansions and fill their fridges and clothe them all. I saw FAMILIES living on a bridge, toddlers running around naked carelessly, and nearly getting hit by Jeepneys and pedi-cabs. It broke my heart into a million pieces. My heart is beat up from the things I've seen and is swollen into my chest. I knew I was called here to help, but HOW? What can I do for my poor brothers and sisters? Sure, I can buy them a meal and clothes, but it will not bring them out of poverty- that is up to the LORD. So what is my place in all this? What is OUR place in all this?

Sister M told me this story, after knowing that I wished I could snap my fingers and end world poverty ha...
"So a man was walking down the beach where thousands and thousand of starfish has washed up on the shore. For miles they were washed up. He walked along, scooping up the starfish and throwing them into the ocean. Then a man came up to him and said, 'What are you doing? Don't you know that there are SO many starfish and you will not make any difference?' He reached down and threw one starfish into the ocean and replied, 'I have made a difference.'"

I am slowly dicerning and learning about what I can do...It is all in God's hands who "comes out of poverty". Maybe giving that hot meal, or bag of clothes to them, will make them beg the question "Why?" which will then lead them to Christ even more, and HE will be the one who changes lives.

...I don't know, to tell you what exactly is on my heart- I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I AM DOING lol. I just know that somehow, I can help these poverty stricken people.

This is how I know...
Today Richard and I went to the Riverbank, a small mall near Merch's house. I got a funny Filipino shirt for my Johnny boy and were about to leave when a little boy came up with his hand out. I'm not a fan of just giving money, so I gave him my crackers and a piece of gum. Richard translated and told me that he said he wants food. I grabbed his arm and pulled him inside a McDonald's-like restaurant we were outside of. I told the little boy to pick whatever he wanted. He got a plate of spaghetti with chicken and a Coke. I told him to sit down and Richard and I sat with him while he ate his meal. Richard translated as I asked the boy a million questions.

His name is Michael Angelo (funny ha, he had no idea who Michaelangelo was) and is ten years old. He has eight children in his family, and his parents sent him out to beg because they could not provide him with any. He was barefoot and covered in dirt. I asked him when was the last time he had a real meal like this, and he said "NEVER". He walked over an hour BAREFOOT and alone to get to the mall where he asks for money. I asked him if he had a girlfriend and he smirked and said there is a girl who likes him, but she is rich. I asked if I could get him anything else and he said his family needs rice to eat. Richard and I took him into the mall, which BY THE WAY, they wouldn't let Michael into because he was a street kid, but they let him in because he was with us.

I suddenly felt so protective of Michael, and walked confidently with my hand grazing and guiding his back as people stared. We went to the grocery store and got a 5 kilo bag of rice and some flip-flops and a few canned goods. We looked for a Jeepney but there was none, so we bought him a cab ride to go back home. And there was Michael :)

I have no idea what will happen to that little boy, or if he has any idea how much he touched my swollen heart, or if he will ever understand WHY Richard and I did what we did. I do not tell you all this to show you what "good things" I am doing or so that you are "proud". I just want you all to know what it is like. Michael was my first starfish- a starfish with a full belly for once.

I am planning to stay with the LSA for a week next week and have several appointments with other nuns and orphanages this weekend. I am very excited to see what God has in store. I am constantly praying and asking what it is that I can do to serve him to the best of my ability. What is my God-given talent? What can I do to improve the lives of these precious brothers and sisters?

I ask you all to continue your prayers, they are moving mountains over here :)

My Lord and Saviour,
You are the God of the rich and the poor. Surely I have seen, the poor, precious Filipinos I am with. You have shown me your love and power through their lives, and I am so grateful. I pray that I can learn tot depend on you so heavily and these people do. I pray that we who are so blessed can depend on you as they do. I pray that you answer my bleeding heart Lord, because I will do all that I can to serve you through serving my brothers and sisters here. I am listening Lord, although it is impossible to quiet my rapid mind. If you could send me a neon flashing sign of what to do, that would be great. If not, well, I am here, listening and searching for Your will.

Thank you for Gen, Jack, Jobe and Michael. They are your children, just as I am your child, and I pray that you will send them guardian angels to guide and guard them in their struggles.

You are all powerful and only you, my God can save lives, not I. But I am your tool, for whatever purpose I can serve you. I love you so much Lord and am so thankful for all these beautiful souls I have encountered. I am forever changed.

Give me patience because I am missing Cameron SO much.
I love you.


The Lambos said...

I can't think of anything better than to be completely dependent on God. Praying that He continues to break your heart for the things that break His and that He aligns your will with His.

kngilster said...

I love hearing about all your adventures over there, praying for you!!

Heather said...

I woke up late this morning, after having crazy weird work-related dreams last night, to find out a huge earth quake hit Japan. Was worried bout you. Miss you woman. Praying for you every day! Stay strong you've been blessed to help move those mountains beautiful. xoxo- H