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.
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.
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.
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 .