First: in prose and poetry

Remember the last time that you moved to a new place?  For our family, that last time has been this first month in the Philippines, filled with many questions and many more answers.  Where exactly do we live?  What is the closest (fill in the blank)?  What church should we attend?  When are we expecting that appliance delivery?  What is the best way to get there?  To what school should we send our child?

No longer owning and driving and insuring two cars, we now entrust our transportation needs to others like our new Philippine colleagues in ministry, but also the taxi, jeepney or tricycle driver and our feet.  No longer buckled up in a car seat, our child sits fixed between us parents.  When walking on sidewalks or more likely, roadsides, our proximity to the street and handgrips are the best safety feature.  No more baguette but now the pandesal is our daily bread.  No more Michigan cherries but now more tropical fruits such as papaya, guava, and pineapple.  No more crunch and shovel of snow but now heat and humidity with cooling relief from warm evening and morning breezes and A/C units.         

As we are settling into our new home as well as a new life in a new country, God has provided us with many blessings during these weeks of transition.  Through informal chats, our landlord has given us insights into Philippine culture, politics, and people.  Our neighborhood includes a local library with many English-language children’s books.  In a different neighborhood, our family has discovered that we can continue to enjoy classical and new board games.

Conversations and encounters with our new friends and colleagues from the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) remind us of the essence of mission partnership.  While we have not experienced a formal “orientation program,” everything that we have experienced but also the following specific instances demonstrate that we already are being enriched and equipped for the days ahead:

General Secretary Bishop Reuel Norman O. Marigza, during his Palm Sunday Bible study for staff worship service, reminded all of us about what happened in 1986 with the People Power Revolution— set against the ways that Jesus still speaks and embodies truth to power through his sacrificial love.  That perceived “power grab” of him riding into Jerusalem on a donkey makes a mockery of power.  The conference room in which we met for this worship service, overlooks the same street called EDSA in which hundreds of thousands of people gathered and protested in relative peace against corruption and ousted then President Ferdinand Marcos.

 

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 Protesters gathered on EDSA in late February 1986 (photo credit: Joey De Vera)

In the middle of March, former PCUSA mission co-worker Rebecca Lawson invited me to attend the pretrial hearing for Mary Jane Veloso’s alleged traffickers.  This is the same Mary Jane whom we introduced to many U.S. churches during our interpretation assignment.     Please pray for Mary Jane, her family, and her alleged traffickers, and all who are involved in this legal process to grant her clemency and pardon.     

On Easter Sunday, our home church, the National City United Church (NCUC) worshipped with a sunrise service that included 4 adult baptisms at the outdoor baptism pool.  Singing our way through part of the baptismal liturgy, it was a joy to celebrate and to remember our own baptisms.

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On Easter Sunday, NCUC pastors and members prepare for four baptisms

After attending a recent Bible study at NCUC, I met one of the classmates and shared about our ministry.  She promptly shared about how she edited a recent volume about human trafficking in Quezon City—and invited me to visit her publishing house called New Day Publishers.  That following week, this same member brought the book to church.  This book looks to be a great resource for the local, national and international efforts to confront human trafficking.

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In the meantime, our ministry continues during these earliest weeks and months of many firsts’ in the Philippines.  Thank you again for your support by reading this blog, and especially praying for us and our church partners, and providing financial contributions for God’s mission in the Philippines and southeast Asia.

Over the life of this blog, Juan will also contribute through his gifts of the written word.  Here is a poem that he has written about these first days:

The dust glows in the dark
The blue dragons hit hoops like pistons on play offs
Skin burned
Face cooked
Celsius makes sense
Escape from the abstract cold of the mitten
Meters are meters
Kilos are kilos
And a peso is worth more than a dollar
On the ever present concrete, wheels master the noise
Not so fast but Furiosa for sure
Decibels are invited in every room at every hour of the night
Their dust glows in the dark
Not much sleep
The sun is beating us like a CRS at a Nuit Debout party
Not much left to hide
Outsourcing resourcing
Pas Panama off sure, just good old taste of the empire
Lechon y flan, Patas y mangosteen,
Refreshment for the fools, so good
Everything is packed even the thoughts
Between a Duterte colonial fratboy joke
And mexican walls
My head is shaking
But who am I to complain
When both ecuadors are about to collapse
The dust glows in the dark
Waiting for the class to be over
Sonic youth leaks in my ears
“All the angels are dreaming of you”
But I never was a girl in a band
Mindanao is rebuilding itself
The grass is almost green at veteran’s
We are falling asleep
In the bright lava of a jeepney
There is silence for a momentary miracle in the heat
It’s the thought to be at the right place in the right life
And if at night dreams are shorts
I check on our daughter’s ones
Her soul glows in the dark

LOOKING AHEAD:  Over the next three weeks will be the run-up to the May 9 Presidential elections.  Watch for but also please pray for the candidates, the citizens and the election process.

IMPORTANT NOTE:  Human trafficking is organized criminal activity in the Philippines and southeast Asia.  We are creating a zone of safety and security which includes not sharing too many family photos and sharing personal information.  Feel free to contact me directly at cathy.chang@pcusa.org, if you have any questions.