2017: Year in Review

In an ideal world,  we would send you a photo collage of all the people, places and things from this past year.  It would arrive on time, maybe in your mailboxes (yes, snail mail) complete with handwritten or even laser printed labels, and you could even post it on your fridges, mantles, or anywhere else for you to see.  Back to the real world, we are now 8 days away from Christmas, and with a few more days until the year’s end.

Our family (aka, Team Chang Lopez) wishes to invite you on a small photo collage “journey” of this past year.  Instead of one Christmas photo, we thought that you might enjoy more than one photo.  While some of these photos were previously posted on Facebook or with our quarterly newsletters, we tried to find new ones to share from our virtual family albums.  Taking cues from many news outlets that will release a similar “Year in Review” in a few weeks, we like the idea– and hope that you do too!  Who knows, maybe we have started a new tradition for this blog!

With deep gratitude, we’re thankful for your being a part of our team, through your prayers, cards, care packages, emails, Facebook posts and messages, and financial support, all to partner with us in ministry here in Southeast Asia.

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March: March 8 marked “International Women’s Day” as well as my and our daughter’s first protest march.  Too bad the heat and humidity were too strong for her.  “Solidarity against exploitation of women” is emblazoned our T-shirts and never too young to teach anyone
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March: March 17 marks the death of Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) Flor Contemplacion, twenty-two years ago.  Each year many remember her death and call attention to those OFWs stlil on death row, as well as the many abuses and exploitations that many still endure.
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April:  Visit with the key leaders of TADI, one of the only anti-human trafficking ministries based in an UCCP local church.  TADI is housed in the UCCP Dumaguete city church, in Negros Oriental.  During this visit, the pastor also invited me to preach for their November Annual Thanksgiving worship service and share more about my work

 

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June:  Parents of Jennifer Dalquez share a message to advocates and supporters during a celebration-gathering, because of being freed from death row in the United Arab Emirates.  Sadly Jennifer still must serve 2 1/2 additional years for theft
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June:  Flying solo during brief visit to Lake Huron Presbytery (Michigan) and Grace Presbytery (Texas).  Grateful for the extra efforts to keep our family and our partners, in the minds and hearts of supportive churches
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September: First days of the Presbyterian Women Global Exchange in Jakarta, with U.S. and Indonesian sisters eager to learn about one another.  At the GPIB national office and guest house
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More questions and answers with a prominent Muslim feminist scholar
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Learning how to play marimba-style instrument called “gambang.”  Young performers were extra patient with us, after their top-notch performance that included audience participation with us singing “This is the Day”

 

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Enjoying the view and victory of traveling up hundreds of steps at Borobudur, the world’s largest Buddhist temple
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While in Jakarta, one of our speakers was an anti-human trafficking advocate.  While we only spent few hours together, maybe there will be more opportunities to serve together in the future
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October:  Participants from Vietnam, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, and Thailand share brief reports about the situation from their respective countries
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October:  During our family’s first return to the U.S. after moving to the Philippines, we began our jet-lagged days with breakfasts at the Princeton Theological Seminary cafeteria, during the Women in Ministry conference.  Serving as panel discussion participant and workshop leader requires a strong, healthy breakfast
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November:  According to the UCCP church calendar, November 19 is designated as Migrant Worker Sunday.  While I crafted a liturgy for all UCCP churches, UCCP Bacoor invited me to preach and share more about Migrant Ministry.  **Some of you might recall the same sermon title from before, but I assure you that I re-wrote many parts of this sermon for my Filipino brothers and sisters!
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December:  Our daughter began taekwondo in July and participated in her first poomsae tournament.  Thankfully her grand master is Korean, so she can learn more Korean beyond the simple meal prayer that I learned from my grandparents and we sing almost every day

Take Two/Indonesia Too/Second Time Around

Nearly six months have passed since I’ve last contributed to the blogosphere – so it feels like this is my second chance at trying to regain your trust, your friendship, your readership.  Nearly two weeks away from the end of the year, I am now reflecting on these past few months.  I’ve never felt more stretched to speak, write, and visit new places to meet new people and revisiting places to meet old friends, and trying to keep up with everything else in life.

English is still the main language that I was speaking and writing in all those places.  I wish that I could speak heart-to-heart in Tagalog, Visayan, Cebuano, Ilonggo, Bahasa Indonesian, Cantonese/Mandarin, Thai, with the many people whom I have met.  What I cannot say in your own languages, I still write with deep affection and admiration.  In the coming years, it is my heart’s desire to learn to meet and accompany you in your own languages.  Until then, please accept these brief “love notes.”

To my Indonesian sisters whom I met in November 2016, and again this past September, with the Presbyterian Women Global Exchange, you are beautiful and brave and bold.  You shared the beautiful parts of your culture, music, arts and food.  You shared about the challenges of being a Christian minority and the opportunities to work with other faith traditions for the betterment of civil society.  You shared the brave desire to serve women suffering under domestic violence.  You asked about programs from the Presbyterian Women.  Who would know if you were asking for yourselves… for friends… or for other women in your families… in your communities.  In the way that you were asking, especially weeks before #metoo and #churchtoo, you were also saying so much – and trying to do much more.

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Enjoying a lighthearted moment with our main hosts from Indonesia, through the Presbyterian Women Global Exchange

 

To the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) church workers who I’ve met at Dumaguete, but come from all over the Philippines, and especially the most recent ones who I’ve met in Western Visayas, thank you for your Facebook and actual friendship.  In your pulpits, in your parsonages, in your communities, and in your families, you are striving to serve God and the people with the fullness of your hearts, minds and bodies. Such faithfulness demands me to step up my game and speak with as much theological and Biblical integrity, whenever you have invited me to preach in your pulpits and lecterns, walk and hear about the struggles and triumphs in your communities, meet your members.

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To the unnamed young woman in Chiang Mai (Thailand) and older man from Culasi (Philippines) whose names I’ve forgotten, but whose gestures are well preserved in my memories, thank you for accompanying me.  To the unnamed motorcycle drivers on Carlos P. Garcia Island (Bohol) and Madia-as (brief video below), thank you for holding onto me, even as I held onto you for my dear life.  From my brief lifespan, you were only my first and second motorcycle rides through the Presbyterian history of churches, as well as the enduring witness of living churches and faithful church people.  Desiring to explore and be fully immersed in the places where you live and where you come from, I was at your mercy.  Not knowing where to step in a rice field or in a river bed, I have lost my footing and a shoe, in the mud.  You have retrieved my shoes and tenderly washed both my shoe and foot.  You’ve also shown me that I must learn again how to be served, not just how to serve.

 

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To the creative people at Westminster Presbyterian Church, West Chester, who created the Wittenberg door, and to the UCCP church workers of Western Visayas Conference, you are now connected in a new way.  This was our family’s second time to visit Westminster.  That Sunday when our family visited in late October, we donned our Sunday best, in the Filipino way.  In a barong, my husband Juan also placed Martin Luther’s black cap on his head, to complete the outfit.   Although it seemed silly at the time, this picture has prompted serious theological reflection, “What does the Protestant Reformation mean for the Philippines 500 years later?”  Or as I like to put it, “Can Martin Luther wear a barong?”  Theologians like Dr. Everett Mendoza, Dr. Victor Aguilan, and many others have reflected on these questions, and I was privileged to facilitate this discussion with the current and retired church workers (even a recent widow!) of Western Visayas .

 

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Wittenberg Door “prop” used for children’s sermon at Westminster Presbyterian Church — husband later becomes the “prop” in discussion with Western Visayas church workers
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Views from morning bath in the river near the Mt. Maja-as, moments before our discussions about “Martin Luther in a barong”