i have 30 days until i celebrate my 30th year of life. i thought i would share with you 30 people, events and situations that have shaped my life and who i want to be. it has been very challenging to come up with 30…i hope it inspires you as it has me. this part of the list is in no particular order.
day 29: living in manila, philippines with the navigators
the decision to move to manila with the navigators collegiate ministry for what i thought would be two years was an easy decision. i knew what i was holding onto and i knew what God was calling me to be willing to let go of. whether i made it to the philippines was his call; from me, he simply required obedience.
when we left for manila, my passport had only one stamp, from a “mission” trip i’d gone on in college to athens. manila is a city of 14 million people, which compared to new york city’s eight million is enormous. i’d never been to a third world country and had no idea what awaited me.
you can’t travel to a city like manila and not be struck by the poverty. we lived in a city of metro-manila called quezon city, across from a prestigious university where wealthy countrymen send their children. in the half-mile walk to campus, we passed squatters villages and street children and more poverty than i had seen in my entire life.
for the first time in my life, i understood the term street kid. the children around us played in the street because they had no where else to play. they greeted us daily with shouts of ate! ate! (or, auntie, a term of endearment for any woman older than the speaker). as best as we could, we built friendships with the children around us.
i also had a chance to build a friendship with a poor squatter named carmen and her husband rodolpo. the corner by our house was a depot for tricycles and rodolpo and carmen sold snacks (including friend quail eggs and bottled soft drinks) to passengers and drivers. as i’d wait for a trike, i’d make conversation with carmen, and through my broken tagalog and her minimal english, a friendship was born.
easily in her fifties, though poverty ages a person and guessing her age was difficult, carmen had two daughters and several young grandchildren. the entire family lived a short walk from rodolpo’s merienda stand. one afternoon, my new friend invited me to walk to her home. she led me down a familiar street and quickly ducked into an alley i’d never noticed. we wound through the tiny slum and eventually stopped outside her home.
a home which could easily fit inside my current bedroom and housed at least six adults and even more children.
but carmen was proud of what she had. she bought me a coke and showed me her tv. i sat on the one chair while she sat on a mattress. i was stunned at her generosity and hospitality to share the little she had with her rich american friend.
manila changed me. as i daily saw children who lived without parents, God grew within me a heart for adoption. as i walked carefully beside trash heaps, i determined to take better care of the earth God has entrusted to me. as i saw people without, i strived to live a life of simplicity. as i experienced life in another culture, i learned that God is bigger than my american box.
eight years later, i haven’t forgotten those lessons. and i still invite God to blow the top off my box.