During orientation week, I distinctly remember the sudden I felt run through my body when some of our Pilipino trainers declared to us, “You are all missionaries now.” I wasn’t really sure what that shudder meant. It could’ve been fear, excitement, maybe even disbelief. Before then, I guess I never really stopped to ask myself the question, “What is it exactly that missionaries actually do?” My instinctive answer was something along the lines of bringing the saving knowledge of Jesus to hard-to-reach places. But that seemed to beg more questions. What does that even look like? What about missional work in our local contexts? I’m now realizing that my answer to the question of what missionaries actually do was wildly insufficient.
I didn’t know what to expect upon arriving here onsite or the sort of missionary work I was going to be doing, but this certainly wasn’t what I had in mind. I had been told of others who went on international mission trips with clearly defined prerogatives and procedures. Some people went to build affordable housing for the poor, others taught English in schools. I was fully prepared to do any number of things, eager to occupy myself during every waking moment with Kingdom work, whatever it may be. What met me here at Living Springs is unlike anything people have shared with me regarding their global missions experiences.
Living Springs Christian Church is a God-centered community here in the slums of Quezon City. They take a holistic approach to the gospel and strive to make themselves (and God) as accessible as possible to those in the general vicinity. Living Springs is also an advocate for the environment, encouraging and educating on Earth-preserving practices. What we InterVarsity folk have been placed here to do this summer in a nutshell is simply be present. Again, this was not what I expected coming into this.
This past week has just been us joining in as new members of LSCC. We go to worship practice, sit in during children’s ministry, attend prayer meetings, and participate in youth group. Initially, I was disappointed by the lack of so-called “work” that was to be done on our part. It all felt so…passive. I came here, for better or for worse with a world-changer mentality. I wanted to make something, leave a mark somehow, and for the first couple days, I felt like this was not the way to do it.
However, what kept rising up in my mind was yet another saying that our team kept hearing during orientation: “the emphasis on being over doing.” I have been consumed by my preconceived notion of missions that I didn’t leave room for what God actually wanted to show me this summer. Being among the people of Pajo, adopting the lifestyle and witnessing the ministries that are thriving in this place has been humbling, fulfilling, life-giving, and eye-opening.
I know it’s only the first week and there is much more to explore and learn. I have already felt the invitation from God to shift my definition of missional work and relinquish my vision for the summer so God can replace it with His. I will probably still frequently ask myself if I’m doing enough, but I trust that God’s vision will be realized no matter what, and it is a privilege and honor to be a part of it at all.
Isaiah is one of our 2019 Manila Global Urban Trek bloggers. He currently studies at the University of Washington.