This week my team and I had the privilege of seeing the ministry of Samaritana enter into a new cycle. This 6-month cycle is a period where new and old women will come to the center to be poured into, to learn livelihood skills (cooking, card making, domestic/institutionalized housekeeping, etc.) and build community.
During orientation I got to hear testimonies on how lives have been transformed through this program. One Ate (older sister) explained that through this program she realized that despite her past she still has dreams to dream and goals she can aspire to accomplish. She also expressed that she is now able to comfortably interact with others, especially the community of Samaritana.
God you are amazing for helping the women who come to Samaritana turn their lives around! Many women have come to know you and have made you the center of their lives. I praise you because you have been faithful in a process that is lengthy, painful, and sometimes not all that easy. I thank you for staff members who have committed their lives to this ministry and are happy to be apart of it for the long haul. Like how you did with the woman at the well, you have given new life and a hope for a better future. All praise and honor goes to you. Forever.
One thing that God has been challenging my viewpoint on is the role of money as a resource, my skewed view of it and how it should be stewarded well. Many people in this world are living with a lack of this resource and that includes some of the people that I have interacted with on this trip. Story time! Yay! One Friday, my host sister told our host mom that she was inviting us to go to Eco Park the next morning. Eco Park is a watershed and reservoir that has also been turned into a public recreational area and urban forest. You can do cool things such as swim in a lagoon, zipline, see nature, have a picnic, etc. Our host mom told us that from 6 to 8 am the park has free admission so it was perfect opportunity to go and spend quality time with our sister. My teammate and I had also been praying to God to open doors for more opportunities to get to know the members of our host family (especially the children) so this was just overall amazing.
We ended up oversleeping and missed our chance to go in the morning, but decided to go in the afternoon with the rest of the Samaritana team so that everyone could enjoy. We told our host sister about this new plan and she asked us if we had enough money for admission, she told us that she didn’t have admission for herself. We told her not to worry about that – we would treat her with the money we receive for our weekly snack money. Her face lit up and she looked so joyful! I was happy too, that we could do something for her. She brought her 2 year-old son and nephew along and we were on our way!
When we finally reached Eco Park we asked how much the admission was and they told us 50 pesos each. After counting all the money that we as a team had we realized we did not have enough money to enjoy the excursion and have money for transportation during the week. It was actually devastating. We had gotten our sister, her son and nephew so excited for nothing. It felt like we also had wasted so much time and effort for nothing and I just wanted to express to my sister how sorry I was for not having enough money.
Another thing that is really striking is that the exchange rate is 50 pesos to 1 dollar. ONE DOLLAR! Not 10 dollars, not 20 dollars, not 100 dollars, ONE DOLLAR. We could not afford to pay a maximum of 6 dollars for our entire group and that made me upset. It was so shocking that this is a reality for so many people. This is a reality for so many people who live in the community I live in, here in the Philippines. This is a reality for my host family. This is a reality for my sister. I tend to think of having a dollar as basically having no money at all, but having a dollar is a luxury. This is a start of God challenging me on how I value the resources he has given me. How am I going to choose to value it? How am I going to choose to spend it? How does God want me to rely on this resource and in actuality how does he want me to shift my focus to relying on Him instead. There is still so much for me to process from this experience and I know that I am still learning from it. I am just thankful to you, God, for the start of helping me understand how you want me to see money in the context of my own life. Please continue to speak Lord, I am listening.