Speak It Out

Work is my commitment. Learning is my passion. Faith is my strength. Love is my life.

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Location: Manila, Philippines

The name Ardythe:good war (Anglo-saxon); flowering field (Hebrew); spiritual prosperity (Swedish); Norwegian goddess.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The Calling

Last Saturday, the Singles for Christ had a Global One, a joint celebration in the different parts of the world. This is a call to support the international missions of the Couples for Christ ministry. As of today, there are 101 countries who have been receiving the renewal of Christ. We are not nuns nor priests. We are not all Catholics. But we are all Christians and that is what matters. We abide by the teachings of the Church and try to live like Christ. We hope that by June of next year, we will be able to spread towards 153 countries. Why 153? John 21:1-11 says:

Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Tiberias. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. "I'm going out to fish," Simon Peter told them, and they said, "We'll go with you." So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.

He called out to them, "Friends, haven't you any fish?"
"No," they answered.

He said, "Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some." When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.

Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, "It is the Lord," he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.

Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish you have just caught."

Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn.


Coincidentally, the gospel for last Sunday spoke about service. From Matthew 20:1-16:
Jesus said, "The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o'clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, `You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.' So they went. When he went out again about noon and about three o'clock, he did the same. And about five o'clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, `Why are you standing here idle all day?' They said to him, `Because no one has hired us.' He said to them, `You also go into the vineyard.' When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, `Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.' When those hired about five o'clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, `These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.' But he replied to one of them, `Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?' So the last will be first, and the first will be last."


The speaker was Patrick Frias. Eight years ago, his father died in a car accident as he was a volunteer in the CFC missions. He died with a missionary. Patrick's heart was so full of hatred and resentment to God. He believed that his dad was doing a good deed and He took him. He blamed CFC for his death. Yet he was inspired to be a missionary. He even found it amusing that in times that he opened the bible, he found the verses which could feed his hungry heart.

One of the sharers is Bambi Donato, the head for the missions. Her dad was the missionary who perished with Pat's dad. She never blamed God for what happened. Instead, she took this as a sign that she should be the one following her dad's footsteps.

Another sharer was Nestor Belen. He is personally known to me since college days since he was our president in UPLB CFC-Youth for Christ. As a student I was always inspired by his humility and dedication. When he decided to become a missionary instead of taking the board exams for agricultural engineering, it did not come as a surprise, since we have been working in the campus closely with the missionaries. This is his story which I got in an emal:

August 20, 2005


The missionary and the villagers

WHEN a Filipino missionary sent by the Couples For Christ (CFC) to Papua New Guinea first "discovered" in early 2003 the 70 clan families living in abject condition at Gerehu Stage 6, a depressed area on the fringes of north Port Moresby, his heart sank.

What he saw appalled him: a kind of poverty deeply rooted on a piece of land too barren to yield anything that could satisfy hunger and nourish life. The families' run-down stilt houses were ready to collapse from old age, with roofs that leaked every time it rained. There was nearly no food on the table.

A kerosene lamp lighting up their evenings was considered a luxury and if there was meal to cook, they did it on a dirt stove. Hardly had they worn fresh-smelling clothes and instead what they had was nothing but rag. The only source of water could be found a few hundred meters away at the foot a barren hill, and yet it was not safe. A small space behind the tall grass in the bush served as their toilet. Their school-age children were out of school and a number of the young ones were sickly because they had never seen a doctor or had had taken any medication at all for lack of money to buy medicine.

While they made a living hunting in the nearby forest and fishing in the nearby swamp, several of their clan members were involved in criminal activities that became known to city people as "raskols" (rascals or thugs). They became notorious for robbing city residents and made their village equally notorious for being haven for raskols that people avoided getting near to it.

What made their lives more miserable was that each family lived in isolation in the village. The nearest neighbor was several meters away and the divide between them was overwhelmed by tall grass that almost blocked one's view from seeing the other house.

No one bothered about the other family. If the man in the family had the opportunity to steal what the other had, he would do it. In short, sense of care for one's neighbor was something they were unaware of and self-esteem was something they had yet to discover in their hearts.

The 70 clan families are made up of two factions whose mother clan first settled in their ancestral village called Borehoho some 50 years ago.

Although the two clan leaders are half-brothers, their families had been at war against each other, arising from a brawl many years ago involving youths from both sides. One consolation to them is that they own the land that made up Gerehu Stage 6.

Seeing all this, Nestor Belen, the 28-years-old CFC missionary from Manila, immediately knew that he just found what he had been looking for: a group of people which he hoped to help rise from poverty by transforming them into persons who would later live harmoniously with others in a community. After scouring many villages and settlements in Port Moresby for the ideal place where CFC could launch the Gawad Kalinga movement, Nestor finally settled with Gerehu Stage 6.

Why he decided that this place would be his pet village had been inspired by an incident he witnessed at a shop in the city.

While shopping for the week's supply, he saw a young man pocketed a can of sardines from the store shelf and casually walked out of the store. Nestor followed him outside and when the young man paused, apparently to wait for his companions, he approached the culprit and introduced himself as a missionary from the Philippines. Sensing that he had gained his confidence after a brief chat with him, Nestor went in for the kill, by telling him: "I saw what you did inside. How come you did that?" He went on, telling him that it was wrong to steal from others. Cornered, the young man said he had no job and no money to buy the item he just stole. And then he asked the missionary: Why are you asking . what's the big deal?"

"I would like to see the place where you live . and meet your family . And maybe your neighbors," Nestor replied.

But then, he young man, saying they had no neighbors, agreed on his persistence, warning him however that he won't like his place, and giving him no explanation. But anyway, Nestor was given the direction where he could find the place and the bus that he should take to get there.

The next day, with a backpack strung on his shoulder Nestor took PMV bus No. 9 which plied the Gerehu route. Reaching the roundabout (rotunda) which the young man had described, he asked the bus driver to drop him off.

"Brother. where do you want to go?"
"Gerehu Stage 6, brother ."
"Stage 6 . why? Do you want to die?"
"No . I want to help the people there ."

Nestor had to walk the three-kilometer stretched of pot-holed road that led to Stage 6, unaware of the dangers that the place had become notorious for. It was like a journey into uncertainty. But from then on, he had never stopped coming back to the village - rain or shine - undaunted by the great difficulty of trying to communicate with the villagers about why he was there. Overtime, however, he became a welcome guest to the villagers and was later treated like a family, eating with them and spending the night on occasions in their ramshackle homes. But most of all he worked hard to convince them that people cared for them and that there was hope for everybody in the village to free themselves from the yoke of their impoverished life.

"Our work at GK is all about building relationship with the clan members and keeping in mind that they are children of God and they deserve a dignified life." Nestor told this writer.

It was Holy Week in 2003 when things started to take a positive turn. The seemingly impossible transformation of Gerehu Stage 6 from a very deplorable and raskol-infested area to a clean and peaceful and God-centered community began to unravel.

Upon the co-operation and generosity of the clan elders, a portion of their traditional land was set aside for Gawad Kalinga for community development projects. Here, the villagers themselves and their poorest-of-the-poor neighbors who are homeless are the home beneficiaries. Initially, a new colorful house was built with the money coming from the pockets of the CFC members, who are the people behind the movement. Then, a few months later, ten new houses were proudly standing next to each other. Very soon 40 more new houses will rise. As in the first house, the money that built the houses came from the CFC members and from their fund-raising activities.Before the new houses came, the neighborhood association was started, values formation and community orientation courses were introduced to the families and a sustainable livelihood program was launched.

The most difficult part in the transformation process was, and still is, the "self-cleansing" process. GK calls this "revolution from within". The person has to be transformed right from the inside - the way he thinks about himself and the things around him; the way he regards the members of his family, his neighbors and the whole community. What are his responsibilities towards his own family, his neighbors and the community? So, before a family could be accepted into "kapit-bahayan" and later to qualify as a home recipient, the husband and his wife had to attend a once-a-week "self-cleansing" process that lasted for 15 weeks. And the way to find out who among those wanting to join the "kapit-bahayan" were taking the "cleansing process" by heart was through their attendance during the entire program. The self-cleansing process was tough for the participants. It was something new to them. They have to transform themselves over this 15-week period into persons "who are loving and caring . persons who will now live among the community of people who respect the next person and his property". In short, they should be able to rid themselves of their old values and bad habits if they were to live in the emerging community, says Nestor.

Gradually, a ray of hope lit the faces of the villagers. Their self- transformation has begun as they saw themselves under a new light. And so the physical changes around the village. After the 10 houses were built, electricity was brought in by PNG Power Corp through a company executive who's an active member of GK.

Meanwhile, the village water system will soon be installed. And food gardens replaced the once-barren land. Pre-school kids are learning songs, and learning how to write the alphabet and numbers as well. They are now eating the right food and are getting health care. Illegal activities stopped and rascals could no longer hide in the place as the village was rid off of tall grasses and carcasses of stolen vehicles that had littered the area.

Through values formation programs, people learn to share and to care for their neighbors. Clan leaders begin to lead and teach their people on discipline and hard work. And everyone now sees the vision of making their place a peaceful, clean and self-sustaining community.

People living near the village were no longer afraid to go to G-S6 and to walk even in the middle of the night for they know that no one will hurt them anymore.

Today, life has never been the same for the people Gerehu-Gawad Kalinga Village. But for them, the revolution they have started almost two years ago will have to go on. That's the only way to break away completely from the poverty that had enslaved them all their lives.

And Nestor the missionary --- how could they ever thank him? Deep in their hearts, they believe he was God-sent. (end)

That Saturday for the Global One, Papa Nes (as I fondly call him) said that he did not know why he even said that he wanted to go to G6.

Service for the people of God comes with a sound mind, sound body, sound soul, and sound heart. You can be truly happy if you are not expecting any return. One can attain the eternal kingdom after all. Bring other people closer to Christ is more than enough, as what God is.

The CFC global missions needs men and women of God. Do you have the calling?


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