Here in Sitio Ruby, a community in Metro Manila, I’ve had the opportunity to take part in fellowship with many locals. Most of the new friends I’ve made are small children who cling to the side of myself or Abby, my team member. Sieog, Debrie, Zoey, and Trike are a few of our closest friends because they spend a lot of time in our home. One evening as a gift, these children, though just 3 and 4 years old, were given a small chick whose fur was dyed green. It was the coolest chick I’ve seen by far. It’s normal for people to have chickens as pets because of the culture involving cock fighting. What I found most striking about this gift, however, was how the children decided to handle it. They would squeeze it tightly to the point where I wouldn’t hear it chirp, they picked it up from the wing and would laugh at how funny it looked, they carelessly shook it and would drop it to the ground as if it didn’t hurt, and they left it neglected without food or water, the least they could’ve done. I must admit that at first it was okay, the way they were handling this gift, because after all, they weren’t well oriented with how to care for it. However, after the persistent cries of the baby chick and the relentless torture, I felt uncomfortable that nothing was being done to address the harm being witnessed. I questioned why it seemed okay for the children to handle this gift in such a way, imposing my belief that it has to be wrong and someone must do something about it, but still I watched.
As I think about this gift Ate Ghen gave to her beloved children, I remember the precious gift that God the Father gave to you and me. He gave us the gift of the world and the authority to govern it well (Gen. 1:28-30). While I was sitting in the tension witnessing the maltreatment of the chick, God spoke to me; He referred to me as one of the small children, one of the children I was criticizing for being unaware of how to treat a living creature, never mind the fact that it was a gift. Being immersed in a community of destitute poverty while studying scripture which demonstrates God’s love for the poor has challenged my morality. God showed me how I was bearing witness to the struggling chick and even its oppressors, yet I did nothing to stop the harassment. When God sent His son Jesus to the earth, He strategically placed Him among the marginalized: the poor, captives, blind, and oppressed (Luke 4:18). How could I read the Gospel without keeping record of how the poor are so important to Jesus? In the moment, I understood the chick as a resemblance of those whom I’m living amongst in poverty, I felt convicted. These people who I am comping to love have been generationally and systematically oppressed and I have contributed to this crack in the Kingdom of God by doing nothing to mend this brokenness.
The next day I was curious where the chick had gone, surprised I hadn’t heard it cry for help all morning long. Though I had thought it died, the chick was still alive and it had even grown, although it had been covered up in the darkness beneath a bucket. Taking the cover from above this bucket and bringing light on the grime and dirt found on this chick caused more grief upon my heart. Though I had forgotten about the treatment and isolation this chick was enduring, its experience was still very real and I had yet to do anything. Though the city of the poor seems weak and sometimes even absent, they are still alive and enduring, just like the chick. Realizing the similarity of the circumstances challenged my integrity in such a way I haven’t experienced. I felt God ask me “what are you going to do?” Would I sit and watch the poor struggle or will I intervene and take part in the struggle, praying that God will lift us all up. The poor are loved by God, the poor are made in the image of God, and the poor are children of God, just as I am.
This Trek has exposed the prosperity Gospel, with whom I was on a honeymoon prior to flying abroad. The expectations I had for my life are being challenged and I’m suddenly having to be conscious of the invitations God is generously giving me, such as sacrificing my whole life, again. I have had moments where I grieve the possible call to live among the poor and I have struggled greatly because it means my life’s dreams may come to a halt. What if Jesus decides to send me without excess the way He sent the Twelve? When will I be able to see my family if I live so far away? When will I have the opportunity for marriage and a family of my own? These are some questions I’ve been marinating in which has led me to this larger question: is it worth it to sacrifice my ambitions, if through God’s grace and mercy, I’m able to unleash His captivating love, and bear witness the Kingdom of God wherever I live? I believe that invitations are blessings from God. As of now, I’m unsure if my invitation during this Trek is to live among and serve alongside the urban poor for at least two years, but one thing has become clear: I can no longer ignore God’s heart for the poor.