Giving Trip / 1812 Valenzuela City, Philippines
Posted on Thursday, December 27 2018 02:14:00 PM in News by Adele T.
“Back to where it began”/
Allow me to digress before sharing about our latest giving trip; It has taken me 2 weeks to finally translate this experience into words. The last day of our mission marked the beginning of my suffering; a parched throat aggravated by Jollibee (oh yes) and dehydration erupted into the inflammation of my tonsils and I was struck with a nasty cold. My lowered immunity also triggered a red angry rash which made me look worse than I was already feeling. Delirious and drugged up, my quarantine at home turned me into a Grinch and everything good I experienced in the Philippines felt like a distant dream.
A timely word jolted me out of the black hole of negatively;
“Thanksgiving is available to me at all times - whether things are good or bad, whether my heart is aching or singing.”
(Claire Gibson, She Reads Truth)
I was rudely awakened to how malleable my body, mind, and heart is. “Oh, you of little faith”- I felt chided. It’s crazy how easy bad situations can cloud the bigger visions our hearts were meant to hold. My memory is a sieve these days, but I’ve trawled through to pull up whatever is worthy of my praise and thanksgiving./
In 2014, Jared and I visited the Philippines, embarking on our virgin volunteer stint with Ambassadors for Jesus Christ (AFJC), a non-profit Organization. It was a life-changing trip that sowed a collective dream in our hearts. 2 years later, we returned and debuted xHF’s first ever #buildabag giving trip. This year, we returned with the company of 3 friends. Krystel and Paul flew in from Australia, and together with Yanling, our buddy from Singapore, we brimmed with excitement and expectancy for more “first encounters”.
AFJC is devoted to her weekly mercy ministries to the least and lost. Their outreach include hospital visitations to the infirmed, feeding programmes for those with lack in the slums, journeying with youth delinquents, and organising special events for the less-privileged.
Our agenda for this trip was straightforward:
1) To shadow and assist AFJC with their weekly schedule, and 2) To make sure that 300 #buildabag sets of school stationery were ready to be gifted to 300 children as part of their “Jesus Loves Me” Christmas Project - a big Christmas celebration for 500 strong.
I remember when we arrived in a slum area in Valenzuela City, armed with Christmas hats, 3 phrases of Tagalog, and full smiles. It was shrouded in complete darkness, but our hearts glowed with a light of hope.
“Be careful, there’s a canal on the left! Don’t fall in!”
We heard instructions being shouted from the front of the line as we trudged through narrow alleys in single-file, phone torchlight in one hand, a gift bucket full of daily necessities in the other. Moving through the tight make-shift maze, I felt as though we were entering a whole new world. Garbage and murky puddles lined the ground beneath our feet, its creepy-crawly inhabitants barely missing our plods. We were told to head to different houses to carol, but in the darkness, it was difficult to assess which qualified as such. Admittedly, it took a while for us to adjust to our new surroundings, to look through the shadows and sporadic light beams, and make out homes which consisted of tiny rooms with simple furnishing pocketed between brick walls and make-shift materials.
Finally, we came to a stop. Our AFJC guides introduced us to the families that had gathered around us and explained the purpose of our visit. We then broke the ice by caroling. Amidst the music and singing, giggles and excited chatter from the children bounced off the closely packed walls, accompanied by an endless metronome of water trickling. I looked up and noticed that more curious eyes had gathered, peeking out of unframed windows to witness the mini spectacle playing out at their doorstep. My lips may have been mouthing lyrics, but my brain was reeling. Everything felt unfamiliar, but there was no fear, only also a sense of warmth and acceptance. Despite the little they had, our friends warmly welcomed us into their homes with kind eyes and exemplary hospitality.
“Ano pangalan mo?” (What is your name?)
We spoke different languages but were bound by the common language of music. We discovered that most of the kids knew all the dance moves to the latest K-Pop hits, and were keen to impress with their moves. It gave me insight into Urban Poverty; the lack of proper housing and impoverished living standards does not hinder one’s need to stay connected with the modern technological world. Many of them own mobile phones (low-priced, ‘fake phones’ were readily available in the market for purchase), and were avid users of social media platforms, very much similar to millennials in first-world nations.
Before long, our night came to an end, sealed with new found friendships and kindred souls. I was so overwhelmingly blessed and wondered when we would see each other again.
Two days later, the day of the “Jesus Loves Me” Project, the team met with one hurdle after another. The venue pre-booked for the event became unavailable at the last minute, together with all the audio-visual equipment. A few desperate calls later, the team managed to secure alternative logistics but still had to rush to transport 500 boxes of home-cooked food (lovingly prepared by the AFJC nanays), 300 #buildabag sets, and multiple raffle draw prizes to the new event venue.
With God’s great sense of humour, our new venue was located near the slum we visited a few nights ago! We greeted familiar faces and handed out invitations to our Christmas party. Before long, the hall started to buzz with people, who added with their smiles, laughter to the sound of Joy. It was a magical evening of games, music, fun and food.
As we distributed the gift bags, realisation sunk in slow and deep, that just 2 years ago, we were right here, doing the exact same thing. Then, we only had half the number of bags to distribute. In the span of 2 years, we were able to multiply our giving by double. Truly, we have been blessed to be a blessing. Suddenly, all those doubts and insecurities that kept me up at night did not seem so daunting after all.
As 2018 draws to an end, we would like to give thanks for a wondrous year.
Thank you for giving us the opportunity to grow our dream to fruition, for enabling us with a divine capacity to pay-it-forward and for helping us find joy in what we do. We take pride in our endeavours, even though it’s a path less taken. It affirms
for us that Love transcends understanding and reciprocation, and readies the soil for our faith to take deeper root in.
We hope you have a memorable festive season with your loved ones. Continue to dream dreams to the birth of beautiful things in the year ahead!
Adele (& Jared), xHF