If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Philippians 2:1-2
In the passion of answering the call to build bridges across communities, the youth of Mont Clare United Church of Christ of Chicago, Illinois, went on a mission trip to the Philippines in the summer of 2013. This is in line with our continuous response to our Savior’s call, that the Good News must be proclaimed to all nations (Mark 13:10).
In the Holy Spirit’s leading with the Gospel our mission is for the creation and to maintain partnership among churches. It calls not for certain nations to send out and others receive, but for all to send and all to receive (UCC Mission Theology).
The Youth Vision & Mission Team 2k13 is composed of seven youth--Andy Contreras, Noah Apao, Tricia Palasigue, Tammy Palasigue, Biename Noble, William Ward and Lance Contreras--together with five adults--Gloria Camcam, Aida Calo, Lyann May Ursos, Rev. Maxwell Codillo and Ptr. Epenito Ursos, Jr. / Kuya Rambu (mission director).
By June 2012 the youth together with the whole community began to raise funds through coffee houses, can drive, car wash and auctioning of various items.
The mission team composed of seven youth and five adults were commissioned during a worship service on May 26, 2013.
On June 24, Monday, the mission team began their journey to the Philippines.
Feed My Lambs is an outreach
program that Bradford UCCP has. They have street children come to their church
to go to Sunday school and get a hot meal afterwards. We had the opportunity to
teach them. Even though we were the ones teaching them we they taught me
something more. They taught me that no one is ugly, everything is a blessing,
and God is always there.
The kids there were the happiest people I've ever met. Despite living in a life where their needs aren't met, the smiles on their faces were genuine. I was glad they had a place every week to be happy and enjoy God’s presence in all of them. When we gave them the cup of rice and piece of sausage, their faces lit up even more. One child felt so blessed that he kissed the plastic bag full of food and another one tearing the bag open with their teeth because they were too hungry to wait. You don't see that every day, seeing children go through hunger and poverty like that. It was truly an eye opener.
Every time I saw a street child, I asked myself how can I or how can I get people to help them? I am just one person. We are just one community but if we spread awareness we will not be the only ones knowing. Spreading the word is not enough. I challenge you to take a step further and go do something about it.
Barak Obama once said, "Change will not come if we wait for some other person or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek."
“[God’s] amplifier is Kalauman Development Center in Dumaguete, which serves children belonging to under- or unemployed families. The Lord uses these programs to speak not only to the poorest of the poor but also to those of us who have the opportunity to be their witness. How could I stay silent when God is speaking with a deafening message? But what would my contribution be?
‘Even the poor can dream.
I have come out of my despair to tell you this. Remember I did not come from another place or another time. Others like me are all around you. Look at us with an angry heart, anger that will help you help me. Anger that will let you tell of me. The poor are always silent. Can you be silent too?’
I know I cannot be silent about it anymore.”
Lyann, citing Jo Goodwin Parker “What is Poverty?” 1971
During this trip I learned to be thankful for everything I got. I want to go back to the families in Apo Island. Although the kids are going to school the environment their staying is not clean—there’s trash everywhere. Also the parents rely on customers to buy the clothes that they are selling for them to cook food for their families.
One thing that I learned was that all the extra grains of rice that Filipinos throw away can feed three million starving kids. We all need to help fix this poverty. As a church we already started by sponsoring Maquito and his family. We can spread the news to other churches and so on. We may not be able to go there but can start over here. So let us as a church help stop poverty.
Lance, on Dumaguete City & Apo Island
As the youth of Maasin UCCP had come one by one, we did not know what to expect. We are quite an awkward bunch as we knew there was a language barrier between us. But I praise and thank the Lord that [God] has helped us connect. By the end of the Bible study we had connected through the language of music and our love for God. It amazed me how close we have gotten. A realization when you can say language is such a small obstacle. God has made his ways to help you get around over, under, such a small obstacle. I thank God for the tasks he has given us that we could share them the church and the youth.
As a mission team were also very [blessed] to be able to meet the mayor and spend a morning with the governor. I remember clearly of someone bringing up that there were no beggars or street dwellers. The mayor explained that if a street dweller appears they send them back where they belong and help them. It amazes me that government officials actually care and help out those who are in need. It makes you wonder why they don’t do those in the bigger cities.”
Noah, on Maasin City
I believe our Maasin and
Southern Leyte trip allowed us to reconnect with long-known friends who are
like families to us. It taught us that distance does not matter when it comes
to being a church. Since the church are the people, no matter where some of our
members are—here in the US or the Philippines or other countries—if we keep the
love and fellowship alive, we remain church to each other.
We also praise God for such love and grace that we share with fellow believers that even if, for many, it was our first time to meet, but the bond that we share with Jesus Christ allows us to not just only relate with each other but even for that short time, share our lives with each other.
I remember hearing from our youth asking their Kuya Rambu why we can’t stay longer. That question alone is a testimony. A testimony that many times we meet people for the first time thinking they are strangers to us, but when we discover our common love for God, we then realize we were never strangers in the first place. From the humble folks who prepared food for us, drove us and hosted us, to the school, the UCCP ministers and government officials who, amidst their busy schedule, made sure they would be there with us, we were able to see and experience Jesus Christ with each other.
I know I share with my fellow missionaries that I miss folks in Maasin, but I also know in God’s time and purpose, we will see each other again.
Aida, on Maasin City
After a God-filled surprises and fun journey in Maasin City, the mission team traveled to Tacloban City via Palo. We traveled for four hours by van passing through wonderful coastal scenery. We had our lunch at the McArthur Landing Memorial Park at Palo.
We arrived in Tacloban City late in the afternoon. By evening we headed to Tacloban City UCCP where we had a wonderful dinner fellowship with the community. We are blessed to engage with such welcoming and loving folks. The event was jointly hosted by the local church with the Rev. Lemuel Ibalarrosa, the Northern-Eastern Leyte Biliran Conference with Conference Minister the Rev. Mylen Kadusale, East Visayas Jurisdictional Area through Bishop Dulce Pia-Rose (whom we met in Maasin) and Bethany Hospital with the Chief Executive Officer the Rev. Dr. Zuriel Tiempo.
Although we only had a short time with them, we felt we have known each other for a long time. The youth missionaries got involved immediately with the church’s young people as they played games and shared each other’s lives and testimonies.
Our trip in Tacloban City proved that God’s love is everywhere and that the fellowship of the Holy Spirit will always unite us with fellow believers in the grace and friendship of Jesus Christ.
The next day we had an early flight back to Mactan, Cebu where we reunited with our Pastor Maxwell on our way to Bohol.
Ptr. E. Ursos (Mission Director), on Tacloban City
On the first day Kuya Rambu told us that usually missionaries would stay for a day or a few hours in a tourist spot, but there were many deeper reasons why we stayed longer. He notified us of one of the secrets there: the employees serving us at the restaurants and hotels cannot even afford the food and other services they have at the resort. That hit me really hard. I really never looked into their shoes and realized that. One of our rules of mission was to be mindful and be aware of your surroundings. This made me more observant and even more grateful. It makes me want to help the underprivileged more.
Even though I, as a student, might not be able to give money, there are many small things you can do. One of them is to spread the news and tell others. People will say, “Oh yeah… I know about poverty,” but do they really know? Do they know that, “According to UNICEF, 22,000 children die each day due to poverty?” Do they know that there are 2.2 billion children in the world, and 1 billion in poverty? That’s about every other child.
I learned that just a simple “Thank You” can make someone smile. The first step to helping out is to inform, and then we can start something bigger.
But one thing to remember, we all are instruments of God. He works through us every day. The first step is to helping out is to apprise people about what is really going on. All these little things from everyone can make a huge change.
Andy, on the Bohol experience
But before we interacted with people from Davao, Kuya Rambu said we were only able to give people handshakes. So that meant no hugs or even an arm around on someone’s shoulder. Our faces lit up in surprise. This was weird.
The reason for this was to show us the feeling of being deprived. The kids and families that we met and saw were deprived. They were lacking basic needs such as food, clothing, and a home. It was hard to know that there are many people sleeping on the street with an empty stomach just a few blocks down. Our greetings and goodbyes with the youth was only a simple handshake nothing less, nothing more. We longed for those hugs. A hug is so simple. A simple gesture that we couldn’t express. I mean food seems simple enough to have, right? Clothes? A roof over your head? Having friends and family around you? Yeah these were the “simple” things that people didn’t have. These were the kind of things that they longed for. The things we could easily get.
All of the Matina youth we met were under 25 except for one person, Ate Kate. When we found out she was 26, we all jumped for joy and extended our arms to her right away. We were so happy. It reminded me of what the kids must have felt when we placed a warm cup of rice and a small piece of sausage in their tiny hands. Their faces said it all.
Tricia, Matina UCCP Davao City
The mission team worked with UCCP Davao City and her daughter program Pag-ugmad sa Kabataan Foundation, Inc. (PKFI). The team had the opportunity to immerse and work with the Badjao community in Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur. We engaged with the community with the facilitation of Jessy Bandalan, social worker, and Jestoni Lim the community developer.
I praise and thank God for the team’s courage and willingness to spend the night with the community. We had a wonderful time in conversation with mothers, the community’s leaders and cultural exchange with the youth and children. We got to know their immediate needs—school supplies for their kids and the school in the community center. As simple as their lives may be, they were among the happiest people we met.
We also had community work and immersion at New Carmen and Matina-Biao areas where we engaged with community members at the city’s dumpsite. We saw how people lived having garbage as one of their main means for survival. The youth also worked with children at the PKFI child development center. We were accompanied by Jimbea Lucino, a social worker, and met other PKFI staff at the community center in Matina-Biao including the organization’s director, Leah Genson.
We praise and thank God for such ministries and giving us the gift to be part of it.
Ptr. E. Ursos (Mission Director), Davao City UCCP
UCCP Kapalong was another revelation of God’s abundant blessings where the members are deeply engaged in the education of pre-school children and in the spread of the Gospel even in the use of their old church building which they use for public celebrations of the community.
Spearheading their outreach ministries is the Moderator of the Church council whom I finally decided would refer to as a “Miracle Man”. He owns a 24-bed hospital run by his nurse daughter and attended by him and two sons who are physicians and a son-in-law who is also a doctor. While we enjoy 24 hours a day, it would seem like he has 30 hours in a day with everything he gets done including tending a four-acre prayer garden where he meditates every morning plus his involvement with the [larger community].
I have invited him to come to Mont Clare and be an honorary chair of our Mission Ministry. We may yet be able to welcome not only him but a mission team besides. His favorite response to compliments is; “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all these things shall be added unto you.”
My exposure to the Manobo-Ata tribe led me to be concerned with their ancient way of life being lorded by a polygamous Datu who in this case has three and maybe five wives. I keep them in my prayers as well.
Gloria, Kapalong Mission Journey
The Youth Vision and Mission 2k13 Video Testimony
We praise and thank God for the communities of healing as our church friends in the Philippines united in prayer, even gave resources, time and made sure both youth were well taken care of and recovered.
For all that has been and for all that will be,
TO GOD BE THE GLORY!