In preparing for this trip, I was very excited about the idea of all of my possessions fitting in a single bag. At home, I’ve been incorporating minimalism into my life as a step back from materialism, and for the ease of simplicity. Ideally, everything I own is something I need or something I love. But after seeing me cycle through my collection of black t-shirts and two pairs of pants, my Ate (older sister) blessed me with a basketful of new clothes. God used this moment to remind me that there is so much more to this trip and these people than living with less.
My Ate’s old brother celebrated his 30th birthday this week. He came from Japan and relatives from all over the Philippines came for the big party. In the past, I’ve opted out of parties like this; the noise level and mass of people make me uncomfortable. But my Ate was very excited to invite me and one of the main goals of this trip is to build relationships with people, so I went and stayed awhile. At first, I was overwhelmed by discomfort. The men drinking outside shouted loudly at me as I approached and inside I drew a lot of attention because I looked different from everyone else. Since English is difficult for many people here, it was hard to have conversations with them. As the night went on, my resolve to dislike my situation broke down and I started to see things differently. The men outside were harmless – they mainly greeted passersby and sent off those going home. My different appearance and preference for English signaled that I was a guest, so people kept asking me questions about where I was from and if I was comfortable. Even the birthday celebrant took great pains to make me feel welcome; I’ve never experienced such hospitality before. Instead of focusing on how difficult it was to have conversations, I chose to appreciate the ones I could have. I learned a lot about their jobs, opinions, and dreams. There was a lot of good for me to experience at that party, but I had to let go of my expectations and choose to do something that made me uncomfortable. Moments like this make me wonder if I’m missing out at home. There is a limit, and I think that’s healthy, but I operate in the realm of my comfort often times. If God has something in store for me outside of my bubble, I want the courage to reach for it.
Sometimes “reaching for it” means letting go of something that works in exchange for something better. My favorite part of hosting events is the planning process. I love using a pad of paper and different types of handwriting to hash out details and prepare for every possible snag. When I’m planning with a group, the process might get watered down, ut I usually push for what I think is important. My team was tasked with planning children’s ministry and in the spirit of the go-with-the-flow culture of our village, I recognized that there wouldn’t be as much planning as I’m used to. We threw our ideas and I wrote down so that when we finalized everything, I would be ready; we never got to that step. Sometimes we had time and just forgot, but often we deliberately chose to do something else (like spend more time with our families, which was more important). When Saturday came around, we improvised a lot and things worked out just fine. This experience taught me that the lack of a plan does not indicate lack of effort or concern, and that planning isn’t always the best use of time. My team could have sat down to fully plan out children’s ministry, but we would have missed out on some meaningful moments with our community. Our time here is short, so every chance we get to connect with people is valuable.
It’s our last week here, but none of us are ready to leave. On paper, six weeks seemed like a long time, but time passed so quickly. So many stories didn’t get written down; some we’ll share and others will be just for us. I know it’s not realistic, but I want to remember everything. I want to uncover truth as I think about my time here and feel as loved as I do now.
Thank you again to everyone who supported my team financially and through prayer so that we could experience both God and brokenness on this side of the world. Please don’t be satisfied with reading these blog posts – ask the Trekker you supported for their stories. Each of us came into this trip with different baggage, expectations, and experiences and were all blessed in unique ways.
Maraming salamat, at ingat po!