Saturday, August 15, 2009

Final Debrief

Before I returned to the US and after I did, FH helped my process the experiences of summer through various debriefing exercises. I think copying some of the questions and tools here is the best way I can sum up my time, and hopefully these will answer many of the questions you might have for me at the end (or end of part) of my journey.

As I return to the United States, I feel…
• Surprised at how much God has opened my heart to the Philippines and its people, and how much He has taught me here

Going back will enable me to…
• Minister more relationally (instead of just doing, being; engaging with the people is as important as the act of service)
• Appreciate my luxuries and not chose their comfort solely for comfort’s sake

I think the hardest part of going back for me is…
• Trying to accurately and truthfully relay my experiences to my family and friends without overwhelming them
• Having the feeling that no one understands
• Feeling prideful for serving overseas
• Feeling guilty for my privileged life

The ways I have changed are…
• Realized how prideful I am and am working on ridding myself of it
• Matured through traveling and living in a foreign country alone, so I have more worldly knowledge and experience
• I have a new view on God’s relation to the poor and thus my relationship to the poor and what it should look like
• I’m more open to full-time ministry abroad wherever God wants (not just Latin America/Mexico)

The 2 memories that best sums up my time in the Philippines is…
1. My birthday—
• Jenn, Katie and I ate at Pizza Hut which is super nice there and had deep conversations
• I had a crazy experience at the Pure Gold Supermarket which involved the store’s dancers performing in the produce isles, a miscommunication with my credit card (classic Filipino cultural difference), and spending way to much time discovering the “seasoning” isle only carried soy sauce, fish sauce, banana ketchup and vinegar
• My “surprise” birthday party in all its singing, playing, eating, dancing and laughing splendor
2. Being baptized in the church I learned to love so much by the Pastor whom I learned so much from, to signify my commitment to God to make real all the things He taught me in the Philippines.

The ways I plan on putting what I learned into practice are…
• Living simply , being a good steward of my resources
• Continue asking God to help me in learning humility

What I liked most about my new culture…
• The openness of the people
• The respect for elders
• Importance of family
• Appreciation for and universality of singing and dancing (everyone does!)
• Tagalog

What I missed most about my home culture…
• The food! (the selection/diversity, healthy options)
• The straightforwardness of Americans

What was challenging for me in the new culture…
• Ambiguity of language, invitations, plans (ex: saying “yes I’ll be there” when they mean “no”)

The ways I see God differently now are…
• His crazy love for the poor and how much He relates to them
• I’m much more in awe of his greatness, grace and holiness, and my utter sinfulness and poverty of the spirit

What was an “ah-ha!” moment?
Reading 1 Corinthians 13 where is says, “If I give all I posses to the poor, I gain nothing without love.” I realized I would not be doing the people I served any service without love, and not just human love, but Christ’s love. I was tired and slightly unexcited about taking pictures the next day, but when I read this the night before, I understood that I needed God desperately to help me love others deeply, because me just taking pictures and video and even singing and playing with the kids would mean nothing without also showing them Christ’s love.

What was a breaking point?
Traveling from Tibag, a community north of Manila, not knowing where we were going (or how much it would cost) in various jeepneys, buses, tricycles, and trains during traffic in the rain.

One sentence statement…
I made meaningful relationships that taught me humility and revealed my role in serving the poor.

Thank you very much for being a part of my trip to the Philippines, for your prayers, your encouragement, even your comments on this blog. I am so grateful to God for having supporters like yourselves.

Pagpalain po kayo ng Dyos at miraming salamat po! God bless and many thank you's!


Some funny things happened in the Philippines. Here are my absolute favorite hilarities...

• To get the Pizza Hut delivery line, you call 911

• (Not everyone will understand this one, sorry!) One time Jenn and I were bouncing down a street in the most pimped-out, neon-painted, fuzzy dice decorated Jeepney I ever rode in, and the hip-hop song “Yeah” by Usher came on the radio. That was my most ghetto moment in my life’s history.

• The big promo at Starbucks was Coffee Jelly drinks. These were basically regular lattes or Frapuccinos with chunks of coffee-flavored jelly in the bottom that you would suck up in your straw every now and then for a nice textural surprise. At first I was skeptical, but after receiving so many free samples from my Starbucks friends, they grew on me.

• While I was there, I ate chicken feet, soup with beef bone marrow, fried pig skin, various kids of animal fat, banana ketchup, raw squid, plenty of mystery meat and a whole fish (eyes, scales and all). Many of these things were for breakfast.

• The supermarket had its own dancers to promote sales (by dancers I mean regular employees who also dance and are by no means professional). I was at one called Pure Gold, and when I heard, “All Pure Gold dancers report to produce” over the loudspeaker, I was totally confused. Then, a few minutes later, a bunch of seemingly normal employees busted into a choreographed number the middle of the store. The best part? It was to a Backstreet Boys medley. It was like a real-life musical.

• The Enchanted Kingdom theme park I went to is best described in this formula:
Disneyland – expensive décor x paint detail + carnival + cruise entertainment x fire = Enchanted Kingdom

• Filipinos love Korean soap operas with poorly translated English subtitles. On the one my family loved the most, a bride decides at the alter she does not want to get married to her groom and calls off the wedding dramatically right before the vows. The groom looks into her eyes and asks her why they cannot get married, and according to the subtitles, she replies, “I am a cool girl.” Dramatic music and tears ensue. Ouch?

• Jenn and I went to a small zoo on one of our days off with her host family. The zoo was difficult to find and get to as we had to squeeze between a barbed wire fence and a brick wall. When we first walked in, we saw a sign reading, “Animal Encounter,” where a tiger was in a 5 foot by 5 3 foot cage closed in by a lock that was 2 inches by 1 inch. Kids were kicking its cage, I touched its paw, and I felt it’s breath on my face. From there, a lion was in a cage shaped like a huge Godzilla, the pony pen gate was open, 2 pythons were chillin’ freely in the fish room on the fireplace, and for $0.25, I put a boa around my neck. It was an animal activist’s nightmare.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Starbucks Video

This video depicts my weekly journey to the Starbucks Coffee in San Pedro where I lived. You may gasp, "She went to Starbucks while serving in a third world country every week?!" Well, yes. It was a great place/the ONLY place to edit my photos and videos where I could plug in my computer, get internet, spread out and have AC (plus nourishment!). It was a luxury, that's for sure-- and slightly ironic-- but the voyage there was neither. Here, a documentary on the dangers I faced to reach Starbucks...

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Back in the States

I'm back! I am excited to tell you more and to answer some questions, but I need to sort of chill out and reflect before I do. So, I am home safely, in a state of great culture shock, but happy to be home and so thankful for my experience in the Philippines. Thank you so much for all your thoughts and prayers, every single one was impactful and appreciated (even if it was never articulated). Thank you so very much. And more to come...

Under His love,