It’s been 12 hours since I got off the plane from our trip to the Philippines. I had no idea the past two weeks would impact me as they did, but I can’t deny that a piece of my heart is in the Philippines. Here are a few initial reflections:
1. The Harners are Crazy – I think this was my most regular revelation. Almost everything they’ve done in their Nangka community is counter-cultural. Moving back to the Philippines and then moving into a poor community, starting a tutoring center to love kids who the world easily forgets, creating jobs for people in the community as tutors/mentors and much more, educating the next generation and giving incentives for impoverished kids to go to school, introducing emotionally healthy spirituality to pastors, leaders, ex-prostitutes, ex-users, missionaries, etc., investing in a church community of young professionals, re-uniting long lost families, and the list goes on and on and on.
It’s really hard to describe what they do and how they’ve gone about doing it. Most of the world would see what they’re doing as “crazy”.
I think to some degree, there’s a glamorization of working in cross-cultural settings in the west. Although most of us recognize that it’s tough, we still view it as noble.
However, in the Philippines, the Harners are regularly seen as fools (and called such) for moving back. They receive regular criticism for doing what they do, as if they’re wasting their lives and not doing anything worthwhile.
It’s abundantly clear why they’re labeled fools. The accommodations are less than ideal, they have considerably less resources, the kids they work with have minimal chance of getting out of poverty, they are bombarded with financial favors from people in the neighborhood, and they deal with stigmas of having an inter-racial family.
Why would anyone want this kind of life?
Because they’re crazy.
Crazy for what? I’ll let you decide after you read their blog.
2. Mud, Heat, and Bugs became my Nemesis (or whatever the plural of Nemesis is) – I know this sounds really weak sauce, but there were regular reminders of how comfortable I am. I can deal with any kind of food or with non-western toilets, but throw a little mud on my feet and something inside me dies.
Meanwhile mosquitoes gorged on my legs, and the heat continually downed me (and it was the cool season!).
I was certainly confronted with my nemesis while studying Philippians with our team and wondering, would I do anything for Christ?
My answer: I won’t know until I’m actually called to do it.
Then my thoughts would go to the crazy Harners. You see why I thought of them so much?
Special thanks to Joe Philip, spider hunter and lizard chaser. Meanwhile, Anna and Joe provided us with mosquito coils that saved us from getting eaten at night.
3. Our Team was Really, Really Special – Joe dubbed us the unoriginal “Dream Team” and I couldn’t agree more. We had a great balance of toughness, an easy-going manner, compassion, and a servant’s heart. And we laughed. A lot.
There’s so much I could say about each person, but I’ll save that for another post. These guys will forever have my affections, and there’s no doubt that this team made this trip extra extra special.
Combined with the personality of Rick, Gigi, and the girls, we had outstanding chemistry.
The biggest challenge was getting Alicia to like me, but that was minimal compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing I could buy Josie’s friendship with chocolate – lots of chocolate.
4. Last but not least, I LOVE the Filipino people – Fun, friendly, and hospitable. These were the words I most often heard from natives about their people, and I found it to be true.
We felt so much love that we did not deserve. Some of the people we met could be so joyful when they have so little.
Everyone we met – from G1:27, pastors and leaders, Olive Grove, Padala Ministries, IJM, and Grace Christian Church (for Tina and I in Manila) were so welcoming and encouraging. We went there to bless and got blessed. Strange how that works, huh?
I want to especially thank the kids from G1:27, whom we spent the most time with during our stay. You are an inspiration to me, and you warmed my heart to no end.
Never underestimate that you are made in God’s image. A fitting message for me, for you, and for the world.
More to come…