Last Saturday I went for the first time to Bacoor. This is another FH community I’m working with here but this one is unique because they are in the process of fading out. FH works in communities only as long as they are being productive; as soon as the community is self-sufficient or FH feels the people are becoming negatively dependent on FH aid, they slowly move out and allow the local partner church to be the help.
Actually, through this internship so far I have learned more about the role of the local church than NGO’s (like I expected). The Church (capital C) as a whole is called to care for its poor and serve its neighborhood. The local church is actually/should/can be the answer to sustainable development. There is only so much a non-profit can do, yet the church can do it all. Through FH partnering with churches in the communities they work in, they can come in and help for a time, but their ministry can only do so much. NGO’s come and go, their success rates rise and fall, but the Church, the bride of Jesus, is a more reliable foundation. Without FH’s partnerships with local churches, sustainability is shallow. It is the Church’s duty to keep its people fed both spiritually and physically until the end of the time, and the churches I’ve seen in Bacoor and San Pedro are doing this.
Yes, the Church is just a body of believers and so is FH, but the difference is the Church’s organization has been laid out by God in the Bible, and it has been alive for 2,000 years. Of course churches are still run by us sinners and still are corrupt in many ways, but when you see a church that looks similar to the first church as described in Acts, it is convicting and awesome. “No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had… There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales at the apostles’ feet and it was distributed to anyone who had need” (Acts 4:32-35).
Don’t get me wrong, NGO’s are still effective and desperately needed. I truly believe God has and is using these organizations, both Christian and secular, to do great things. But as I/we become dry and dead without consistent and close interaction with God and fellow believers, so communities tire and lose hope without the safety, fellowship and encouragement a church can provide. An example is Malabon, where FH is struggling. The partner church is very far away yet the closest one to the community, and FH feels they are not seeing much spiritual or emotional growth there. It has already been 3 years (they re-evaluate for potential faze out from 5-7 years, so potentially it’s ½ way done already). I think the problem is the lack of a church presence, because it cannot be there for the people too far away who are too poor to commute to it. If faith is keeping these people alive in heart, and the only hope being brought to them is from a source that will soon be gone, the development will not fulfill it’s entire purpose or reach full potential.
ANYWAYS, back to Bacoor…
This is the first province where I’ve seen the most physically disadvantaged children. Lots of rashes, a few mentally challenged, one who lost all the hair on his body, and plenty of missing/corroded teeth (not just baby teeth). Of course you could not tell if these ailments were setting them back because they laughed and played like perfectly healthy kids. Although I did not visit the area this time, many families live in conditions similar to Malabon—in houses on the water upheld by bamboo stilts. Others live in houses seemingly meant for 2 with 6 other families. Just very poor and absolutely no AC or plumbing to be found! They get their water from various wells throughout the village, laundry is done hand (actually very few people own washing machines and almost none own dryers), and cooking is done usually on a coal and fire makeshift stove.
I spent the morning with the kids in a local church (although not the official partner church but mostly just a convenient venue). They were celebrating that church’s anniversary and having their weekly Saturday activity that FH facilitates. We played games, sung songs and danced. Lunch was provided (and was actually pretty darn good!), and then I toured the community. These children were so eager to have their photo taken! Always flashing hand gestures (peace signs or ones they have no idea what they mean) and posing, the kids were definitely hams. It made shooting really fun yet a tad difficult to catch them in action. I will be returning to Bacoor the next 2 Saturdays and am really happy I can form some relationships there that last more than a morning.
Friday night before Bacoor was my night of luxury (*nod, Jill Lyon), because I got to spend the evening with some friends from Highlands in a nice hotel. It was my first night in a hotel room all to myself and boy did I live it up! It was so weird returning to AC, flushing toilet, toilet seats and toilet paper and running water. It was a super nice escape, and we ate delicious European food and for dessert, the best chocolate in the world (no literally! It’s so pure you have to keep it cold in a fridge bag for 5 hours before actually refrigerating it, and then it’s only good for 30 days!). What was more amazing was the conversations on adjusting to Filipino life (they also spend a lot of time in the Philippines), and poverty. It was such a blessing to be able to process my journey with some friends who understand and can challenge. I also got to see downtown at night, which was so beautiful. The clouds here are so big and fluffy and the sunsets so stunning (even to an Arizonian), and I felt practically immersed in them in the high rise. Glorious. If I were to cite the dear bridal paradigm (you who love Captivating know who you are), it was God’s way of romancing me and filling my cup again.
• I have been getting sick since the 3rd day I arrived in San Pedro from who knows what (I have Co syndrome!). I don’t think my stomach is used to all the carbs, fried food, and sugar I give it (yesterday I couldn’t even go into the office because I didn’t think I could handle the 2-3 hour commute away from the bathroom). Pray that this annoying thing stops!
• Pray that God would continue growing my relationships with Katie, my supervisor, and Jenn, the other intern here (the only other 2 Americans I interact with).
• Pray for my safety as I am now traveling alone to and from the city frequently (don’t worry it’s safe, but it’s always good to have prayer about these things).
• Pray that God would keep using the Filipinos to teach me about Him and that I would be open to seeing my weaknesses (they do say after all that when you get out of your cultural, geographic and relational comfort zone, your worst form of you is revealed).
Also, as soon as I get a better internet connection, I will upload more photos from Malabon and Bacoor. Right now I'm in an internet cafe where every other person in here is a young boy playing an online game, and every other second all I hear is "Fire in the hole! Fire! Fire!"