Reflections on ‘Lakbayan’

This past September 12-21, 2017 I relocated from Davao City, Mindanao, Philippines to the University of the Philippines  (UP) Diliman in Quezon City, Philippines.  I moved from the relative comfort of my apartment to the intense discomfort of living in a camp, the central ‘Kampuhan’ of this year’s Lakbayan

‘Lakbayan’ by Sandugo, an Alliance of National Minorities of the Philippines, is a three week long event taking place in Manila and hosted by UP Diliman wherein national minorities from all parts of the Philippines journey to Manila to air their grievances, lobby the government and affect change to administrative policies that impact their daily lives.

Artist works on Trump effigy to be used at the US Embassy protest
Artist works on Trump effigy to be used at the US Embassy protest.

‘Lakbayan’ is an opportunity for national minorities to create news in the political heart of the Philippines, to give birth to waves of change that in turn can breathe life into their traditional ways of life: traditions on the verge of being extinguished due to long practiced national policies of discrimination, oppression and impunity.

I flew into Manila airport the evening after the tropical depression ‘Maring’ inundated the National Capital Region and surrounding areas.  I was advised by InPeace (Initiatives for Peace – my placement organization) staff onsite to seek other lodging as the Kampuhan was completely flooded with 1.5-2 feet of water.  Therefore I arrived to the camp on the following day, Sept. 13.   

Immediately I noticed how large and well organized it seemed, despite not being able to find the proper entrance right away (I attribute that to my tagalog illiteracy, and my skills in getting lost when I don’t know where I am.)  I was struck by the welcoming atmosphere and the overall busyness of the Kampuhan.

Museo LumadWith the Museo Lumad flanked by the main tent & stage across from the registrar and media center,  the entrance was hopping place bustling with students, visitors and volunteers from many walks of life.

Who knows? There were probably some undercover policeman or NBI agents there as well.

I joined the Save Our School steering committee and took part of activities that the Save Our Schools network joined.  Lumad schools, and protecting them from President Duterte’s promises of violence upon them, was one of the focal points of this years Lakbayan.  There were Lumad scholars present at the Kampuhan for the duration, attending temporary classes at the participating colleges UP-Diliman and the University of Santo Tomas with volunteer teachers from the faculty of those as well as Lumad schools teachers who accompanied their students.  

Despite the many difficulties the Lumad scholars and teachers faced in both getting to Manila (some were refused entry to the airport by National Police despite having all necessary paperwork) or staying there (with the Office of the President leaning heavily on the Department of Social Welfare and Development to find reasons/made up paperwork? the children needed to return home or were ‘kidnapped’ by the people entrusted by their guardians) the Lumad scholars made a profound impact on visitors to the Kampuhan and on students and faculty of the schools they in turn visited.  

Once such school, De La Salle University (DLSU), I joined for the forum, presentation and culture night there.  DLSU is known as a prestigious school in Manila.  If not for their academics & intramurals, than it must be for their wealthy alumni and ‘elite’ student body.  I am grateful to the local DLSU students who made it possible for us to visit, and to the professors, mostly from the Literature department, for requiring their students to go. I only hope that it was meaningful, perhaps even unexpectedly so, to those who were able to attend.

United Methodists visit the Kampuhan:

United Methodists visit with different regions

On September 17th United Methodists from Manila area churches organized a visit to the Kampuhan.  It was touching for me to see that so many people in the United Methodist church are cognisant of and willing to learn more of the reality of the struggle of national minorities in the Philippines.  As a United Methodist missionary serving in Mindanao, I am saturated in the struggle of the Lumads, especially as I am serving at the Save Our Schools Network, a project of the Advance (#3022305) so it was a rare moment to enjoy the company of my fellow United Methodists while being immersed among the people I am in ministry with.  It was a blessing to reconnect with a former Global Mission Fellow, current Global Ministries missionaries, United Methodist Women, men, young people and clergy.  I especially appreciated the community (and eating!) after their visit as we joined together in fellowship, reactions, reflection and prayer.

 

One of the things that struck me from their visit is hearing directly from people how impressed they were that I lived and slept at the Kampuhan.  The conditions at the camp were hard.  I suppose they were impressed that a non Filipino, non minority, person of a degree of affluence (because I could afford a hostel if I really wanted too), would remain steadfast in those conditions.  

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It is not an exaggeration to call it squalor.  It wasn’t 100% squalor perhaps but the conditions were very hard at the camp.   I would have welcomed going home after the first day, or sleeping in a hostel and commuting every day.

 

Yet, as a Methodist missionary and a person faith I am called to be in solidarity and marching alongside oppressed people…and in the Philippines, national minorities are oppressed.  That solidarity is made stronger by sharing meals and sleeping next to my oppressed brothers and sisters.  So steadfastly, barely, I survived the relatively short time I was there through the unbearable head & humidity, the putrid latrines, the incomprehensible overnight construction, speeding and jackhammering, and the gag inducing smell of waste, rotting food and urine.  

 

While my Lakbayan experience was…difficult because of the conditions, it was necessary and good to be in solidarity with the people of Sandugo.  I was blessed to hear from fellow United Methodist who may have found inspiration in my commitment to be in solidarity with the people (although honestly a lot of it was just stubbornness to not give up right away.)  Whatever thoughts Kampuhan inhabitants and visitors experienced from my presence is not diminished by my own feelings of inadequacy or weakness for wanting to give up.  The bottom line is, I made it until the end. Sure, I switched to sleeping outside in my hammock to on a piece of cardboard for the last two days…but in a way that itself is part of the message of solidarity, the call for justice and peace, and working for God’s Kingdom on Earth.

 

It is not always easy, and I might want to give up often.  Yet others will be inspired by the times I choose difficulties, solidarity and steadfastness. Together we support each other and through God all is possible.  Even peace and justice for national minorities in the Philippines.

 

Stop Lumad Killings! Protect Lumad Schools!  No to Martial Law!

 

 

Visit the United Methodist Advance Project Save Our Schools, Protect Indigenous Life here:  http://www.umcmission.org/Give-to-Mission/Search-for-Projects/Projects/3022305

Visit my missionary profile here:

http://www.umcmission.org/Explore-Our-Work/Missionaries-in-Service/Missionary-Profiles/Shaw-Adam

 

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Sir High School Science Teacher

Hello to the readers of my sporadic blog.  I have a lot of news to share.  Well mainly many thoughts on my only news:  the start of my high school teaching career.

I began my teaching career at the Community Technical College of Southeastern Mindanao two weeks ago.  Previously I had formally taught zero classes and received no training in how to be a secondary or primary educator.

My first week of school consisted of:

  • Going to a faculty
  • Finding out my teaching schedule and classes (6th, 7th, 9th,10th and 11th)
  • Losing my appetite, stressing out and feeling anxious about how unprepared I am to teach
  • Asking God to take me home 🙂
  • Enjoying the company of the students
  • Sweating profusely
  • Getting rained on
  • Sweating more
  • Basically being soaked either from sweat or from rain.

I still feel rattled from my first week of teaching. I am only teaching Thursday and Friday but still getting a nice 10 hrs a week in.  I felt very unprepared, out of my element, worried my students wouldn’t learn anything, trying to learn the school system in the Philippines, trying to learn how to teach in English or Bisaya, learning how to do science labs in a zero resource classroom and adapting foreign  subject books to relevancy in my student’s lives and future.

I just finished my second week and am getting ready to go back on Wednesday, meanwhile while working the rest of the week applying for grants and aiding the InPeace Davao office.  I find I am having moments, like last night when I wondered if this is what my teachers were thinking/worried about when I was in high school?  Did they stay up at night worried I wasn’t going to learn anything.

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One of my 6th graders interviews me on Climate Change for her composition assignment.

I gave my 6th graders a straightforward  quiz on Friday, made even easier by a review we had on Thursday..which I know about 70% cheated on or failed outright…how do I proceed from here?  I have decided to give them a talk about how imperialists and corporations will be happy they have decided not to study at all and skip class, that education one of the best ways to upgrade their struggle for self determination.  Is it too much of a reality check? Perhaps.

 

I find myself constantly thinking to what depth do I go for subject matter, especially for 6th and 7th my general science classes.  For my 9th grade Chemistry, my 10th grade Physics and my 11th grade Earth science,

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My 9th grade chemistry class does an experiment using our only chemistry equipment…the vaunted graduated cylinder.

I wrack my brain and scour the internet looking for experiments & labs we can do in a zero resource classroom.

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Lying in my hammock and mosquito net under the wooden  ‘kubo’ shack outside.

I feel like I won’t ever get used to being called “Sir.”  I bivouac on the campus for 2 nights, in my hammock and mosquito net. God knows I prefer sleeping outside because in the dorms it is so HOT! No fans, breeze or A/C.  Dawn finds me waking up early to scrawl out thoughts and trying not to stress out too much about teaching, whilst still feeling responsible for giving them the best education I can while doing the best I can.

I admit…I  wish I wasn’t teaching, I still don’ feel cut out for it. However, God equips all of us.  I undeniably care about these students and the struggle of their people…so I am going to stick it out a week at a time, frantically planning lessons, splitting my time between working behind the scenes in Davao and being hands on in Maco, caring about the present and futures of my students and feeling blessed to have an opportunity to learn and teach these children of God.

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Students and teachers playing a pick up game of volleyball after the day’s classes finish.

National Interfaith Humanitarian Mission Findings – public statement

My previous post detailed my personal experience joining the Colonsabac, Matanao team of the National Interfaith Humanitarian Mission (NIHM.)  Yesterday I went to Ateneo de Davao University to attend the public presentation of overall findings of the NIHM to the four areas:  Marawi City, President Roxas North Cotabato, Maguindanao and Matanao.

I wish to share some of the data.

  1.  The NIHM notes a total of 325,294 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Mindanao.  For scale: that is a more of the entire population of NHL champion city Pittsburgh (pop 305,412 -2014 census)  The steady increase of IDPs is a result of the drawn out Marawi siege, the AFP’s love affair with airstrikes that cause massive property destruction and friendly casualties, as well as other aerial bombardments in other parts of mindanao to suppress terrorism.
  2.  The NIHM was only able to provide for 1,222 families.  The IDP situation is made complex by the number of unaccounted home based evacuees who remain un-or underserved.
  3. NIHM medical found the top 10 diseases in the evacuation center served to be Upper Respiratory Tract Infection, Skin Diseases, Pulmonary Tuberculosis suspected (Class III) and active (Class V), Acute Gastroenteritis, Peptic Ulcer Disease/Dyspepsia, Muscoskeletal pain, Hypertension, Headache, Pneumonia, Gyne cases and Pregnancy. Pregnancy isn’t a disease but it does require attention and a more stable environment then say, an evacuation center.  Health services are scarce in the centers and the ones that do exists are stretched thin and overloaded, thereby bringing the quality of healthcare down.
  4. Aside from medical, mental health is a very real concern especially among children:

“as they witnessed heavily armed men, who they referred as ‘ISIS’, occupying their community and engaging in firefight with military elements. They express the same feeling and fear towards government soldiers. They witnessed helicopters hovering above Marawi City and dropping bombs on their communities. Their current temporary shelter in evacuation centers particularly those near Marawi City does not insulate them from the source of their fears as they continue to hear the sound of bombs especially at night time.”

In short, the NIHM finds that

  • Martial Law and the AFP’s indiscriminate aerial bombardment approach has spawned massive human rights violations
  • Martial Law’s adverse and grave impact on the human rights and welfare of civilians demonstrates its lack of effectivity and casts doubt on its appropriateness as a response to a small, armed, and foreign-affiliated terrorist group.
  • Intensified indiscriminate aerial bombardment is the primary character of Martial Law.
  • Martial Law demonstrates an anti-people and anti-insurgency motive, with the Moro and Lumad civilians and communities as its target.
  • Victims call to lift Martial Law, end aerial to aerial bombardment, and stop to militarization.
  • Alarming and condemnable criminal and terrorist acts of local terrorist groups which are reportedly funded, directed, and controlled by ISIS and foreign terrorist organizations
  • Glaring involvement and violation of Philippine sovereignty by US involvement and participation in the Marawi siege and possibly in other “counter-terror” campaigns in Mindanao

 

I’ve taken the liberty of uploading the original document.  I hope you can find it useful. Special thanks to Kalinaw Mindanao for the report and organizing the NIHM, as well as all the volunteers, supporters and donors who made it happen.

Kalinaw Mindanao Mission Statement FINAL

Inside, Outside, Dry and Wet (or a national interfaith humanitarian mission)

That about sums up my travels to and from the National Interfaith Humanitarian Mission (NIHM) to Matanao, Davao del Sur.

Matanao was the third site for the NIHM mission, with the first two serving internally displaced Moro people affected by the conflict in Marawi city in Iligan City and in Maguindanao.

They left at 4am on June 13. Our site was much closer so we didn’t leave until the following afternoon.  About 8 people from Davao City joined the mission to Matanao, including journalists.  The leader of our group coordinated with those already at the bus terminal to reserve spots for us, as we waited by the highway to climb aboard, all kitted out and ready for the mission.

It was about an hour bus trip from Davao City to Digos City, where we got off the bus and waited for our rides.  After about 40 min of waiting, two big trucks pulled up to the station, an army surplus and an open flat bed “Saddam” truck.

We piled on joining the 85 other folks from General Santos City and Sarangani province then continued on our way for about 1.5 hrs.  It was a beautiful drive once we got out of the city.  We drove until we arrived at Matanao proper where we stopped outside the Catholic church to greet the parish priest who would be our host for the next two days.  I joined the greet team and listened to the curfew rules that were in effect due to martial law.

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NIHM leaders and guests meeting the hospitable parish priest who was putting us up for the duration of the mission.

From there we piled back onto the trucks and continued to the actual parish where we would be spending the night.  Along the way seeing a spectacular sunset reflecting off the rice fields.  I tried to capture it one handed with my phone, as we were bouncing over some rather rough roads at speed and I did not wish to lose my grip on the safety bars of the saddam truck.  Still, the view stood still long enough for me to enough photos that one of them turned out ok! 😉

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I got lucky – the sky and earth stood still long enough.

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After arriving at the church, we broke off into our various teams.  I joined the relief distribution team.  Some of the rice needed to be sorted into the 5kg family packs still. I joined the team outside, first preparing the bags, then I served as a mobile lamp post with my headlight providing decent light to allow the packers to see while they worked.

The next morning we got up very early, loading up the vehicles.  It was a 35 min drive up into the mountains before we arrived at Colonsabac, Matanao, Davao del Sur, where we would be having the mission actual in the school gym.  As we unloaded and set up banners, displaced persons started to arrive. There were representatives of all the 183 families to participate in the mission and receive relief goods.

Programmed activities began in earnest:

-First, the human rights violations documentation teams broke off with the different ‘puroks’ (think street neighborhoods – approximately 10-15 families)

-After that was concluded there was a time of sharing from the victims, as well as from representatives of the local clergy and national indigenous leaders from Manila.

-Lastly it was time for the relief to be handed out.

Between the second and third activities a veritable  thunderstorm barreled down on us and the hot sun turned to cool wind with rain hammering down on the covered gym. I, personally, love the rain and the cool wind it brings…I did not take into account climbing back up into the now slippery and muddy saddam truck, nor having nowhere to hold on to nor room to stand. This was due to the makeshift plastic tarpaulin that covered the bed.  With nowhere to hold on, I steeled myself and sat on a banner, my poor back absorbing the shock of the bouncy road, feeling the water seep into my pants as we made our way back to the parish.

Still, this trip made an impression on me. Yes, due to the nature of my kidnap potential it was too dangerous for me to join the other relief mission locations, still, I was glad to be able to join the team to visit the Bl’aan displaced by war.  Even though I was on the relief team, I spend most of my time on a new team called the social team, which consisted of me talking to children and their parents, as well as elders from the community to share a moment of solidarity and listen to them.  It was a blessing to be part of the overall mission, joining grassroots leaders, students, farmers and other B’laan communities who had made the trip to be in solidarity with their brothers and sisters.  For me, even though I ended the trip exhausted, wet, bruised and quite probably sick (so people say after seeing my face today)  I am blessed to have been part of this experience.

 

 

 

National Interfaith Humanitarian Mission

Screen Shot 2017-06-06 at 12.29.06 PMNational Interfaith Humanitarian Mission | June 13-16, 2017

Marawi City, Lanao del Sur| President Roxas, North Cotabato | Matan-ao, Davao del Sur

Kalinaw! Peace!

There are currently 235,000 internally displaced persons mostly in house-based settings and others scattered in at least 16 evacuation centers in Lanao del Sur (Bureau of Public Information-ARMM/June 4, 2017). An unaccounted number of people, mostly Maranaos, are feared stranded in conflict zones within the city.

On the other hand, the declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao has unleashed military airstrikes in other parts of the island which has caused the displacement of 1,536 Maguindanaons in President Roxas town, North Cotabato and another 1,200 Blaans in Matan-ao, Davao del Sur. Aerial bombardments have also displaced an undetermined number of Moro civilians in Shariff Saydona, Mustapha, and Mamasapano towns in Maguindanao province.

There is an urgent need to step up our interfaith and humanitarian responses to the crisis in Marawi and the rest of Mindanao.

 May we invite you therefore to the NATIONAL INTERFAITH HUMANITARIAN MISSION led by Kalinaw Mindanao on June 13-16, 2017.

The Mission aims to:

  1. Serve at least 16,000 IDPs in Lanao del Sur and another 2,700 in North Cotabato and Davao del Sur;
  2. Help empower and organize survivors and victims of internal displacements and all-out war;
  3. Document and collate the human rights situation in Marawi and other parts of Mindanao to demand accountability and indemnification;
  4. Express interfaith solidarity and unity with IDPs and other victims of human rights violations;
  5. Call for the release of Fr. Chito Suganob and other civilian hostages in Marawi;
  6. Formulate recommendations on how to address communities impacted by terrorism and Martial Law in Mindanao.

Kalinaw Mindanao has been carrying out interfaith responses to Mindanao crises, including massive displacements caused by the all-out war campaign of the Estrada administration in Central Mindanao in 2000, in Sulu and Basilan by the Arroyo government in 2005, and in Central Mindanao in 2008 following the rejection of the MOA-AD.

This invitation enjoins you to:

ۥ Help generate/contribute relief support to the Mission areas

ۥ Volunteer for psychosocial, medical, and relief services

ۥ Enlist as human rights documentors

ۥ Participate in Duyog Ramadan and interfaith activities

Please inquire or register on or before June 10, 2017. For confirmations and inquiries please contact inpeace.info@yahoo.com or call/fax +63 082 2994964. We look forward to your affirmative response to this invitation.

For interfaith solidarity,

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Looking back

Today I am sitting in a cafe once again, reading Global Mission Fellows applications and taking in the stories of the young people who are applying this year.  Then it hit me- and I had to write it down quick.   I am content.

It has been almost 6 months since I finished my assignment as Mission Advocate at Global Ministries.  In reading these applications I was reminded of what I wrote on my cover letter when I applied to be Mission Advocate.

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To speak Good news to the greater church…

My exit interview as Mission Advocate went pretty poorly. Perhaps it was that I had lost sight of my reasons for wanting to serve in that capacity, perhaps it was the knowledge that I had fallen short of  my superiors’ expectations – goals that exponentially changed as those of a thriving product tend to do.  Perhaps it is that I take failure hard, and am predisposed to gloss over small victories and judge my work as failed.  Whatever the reason it took me until now, in catching sight of my own personal goal as Mission Advocate, to remember who I am, and why I am so convinced in the vitalness of serving as a Mission Advocate, and serving as a missionary.

There are two new Mission Advocate positions that will be filled this year. I can only hope that the two people who fill them will not lose sight, as I did, of the real reason they want to serve in that capacity.

Spreading the Good News,

A.

 

Genesis

It hard to start afresh, when the old is still around.  People say it’s easy sometimes, just throw away the old and begin again…but the history is still hanging around.  The history of my blog is wrought with emotions, the story of a old boy experiencing things I never knew still existed – stories of trying to grow, to process to learn and to respond.

Respond.  The United Methodist Women’s magazine is entitled Response.  I wish I could write a book or better yet a graphic novel on what my response to the world that live in should be..

An old friend visited the office last week, someone I wasn’t really expecting to see.  He poked his head over the wall of my cubicle and said:  “You are turning into quite the diplomat.  I am dissapointed in you. I had high hopes.”

That is something I have been thinking about since then, on the long plane ride from New York City to Amsterdam and on to Tallinn and back.

Have I become complacent?

In the news these days, in my facebook feed whenever I sign on are more an more of my friends posting pictures of people with hashtags #StopLumadKillings reminding me of a quote I read from a book on the plane.  “We humans are predators and our favorite prey is each other.”

Have I become complacent? Is my work not important? Am I not inspiring change and transformation or am I just recruiting, reqpeatin the same stories until people join the program. Where has my convicion gone?  Am I just fooling myself into thinking my fire burns brightly…

Response. Respond.  I am called. You are called. We are all called by God, called by the Grandmother who created and formed us from nothing, no matter if we are clergy or lay, ordained with ‘holy hands’ or blessed with simple ones.  We are called into prophetic witness…so how are we holding each other accountable to that witness?

If you are sharing truth, what truth is it if it lacks conviction? Speak truth emphatically live hope.

The stories we have. The stories I tell aren’t stories of complacency. They are stories of God at work in the world through us, daring us to live into a truth that God created, one that exists outside our greed.

So I implore you to greet the goodness of God in everyone you meet, in every place you go this day.

And remember. We are not called into lukewarm Christianity.

Respond.

A repost

O God, send us friends

those who commit themselves totally,

those who forget themselves,

those who love in more than words,

those who truly give their lives until the end.

Give us Love, humble and fiery,

persons capable of making the leap to insecurity,

to the surprises and uncertainties of poverty

Give us Hope,

that accepts to be diluted among the masses,

without pretensions of erecting their own pedestals,

without using their superiority for their own advantage.

Give us Faith, Faith of today

in love with a simple life,

efficient liberators of the poor,

lovers of peace,

pure in heart,

resolved never to betray,

ready to accept any task

to help anywhere, free and obedient,

spontaneous and tenacious,

sweet and strong.

Send us friends LORD, send us friends!

(prayer of a Christian community)

Song of my Soul

It has been awhile.

Every blog I post lately begins with that line. Too long, too many months. Everlong as the Foo Fighters would say.

Why now and why today?tuesday morning

This month of May has been joyful, full of life and soul and song.  It has been tiring with little rest.  Yet none of that is enough to get me to blog. Rather, it was this morning.

It was this morning as I awakened, starting the morning with prayer (unusual) and feeling a sense of solidity and presence that I hadn’t felt in awhile.

It was continuing on from prayer to coffee, and then from coffee to sitting by my window practicing some chords and making music on my ‘ukulele. It was listening. Listening to Your Voice.

When I logged into Facebook at work today, under ‘work’ conditions I saw a post from a friend, sharing the tale of Palestinian suffering as contextualized and grounded through the work, life, letters and death of Rachel Corrie, human rights peace advocate Palestine, 2003.

This happened before I knew, before my baptism in the world today, It happened this year again, two days after Pentecost.

The Holy Spirit coming down, raining on our heads the heavenly light while bulldozers come destroying lives at night.

I don’t have the answer. Sometimes I don’t have a clue.  I do have a vision of a new world order. I have a dream of the Lord’s kingdom on Earth as it is in Heaven.

This Vision pulls me onward…even when I am tired – crushed by the weight of hate and fear, despair, oppression and injustice.

A dream of a genuine world sustained by conversations with my sisters and brothers here, who dare to dream to live to love to serve to act to stand to speak to fight to shout to witness to create to space to yearn to move to live to dance to jump to give to receive to save to patience to kind to faith to compassion to disciple to do to be to transform….

Mission Interns and US-2s gathering late May as they finish their 2 or 3 year mission service.
Mission Interns and US-2s gathering late May as they finish their 2 or 3 year mission service.

to make Disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Lord Mother, Lord Father, Lord God. God of the gendered, God of no gender, God of all races and God of no race.

Please…transform me more.

Transform us –here and now– on Earth as it is in Heaven.

Annual Conference Sharing

As promised about 5 minutes ago, below is the written script of my sharing. To listen while watching the video, click here.  Plenary 5 video, at the bottom of the page.  Scroll to 9:48 to listen.

Oh and Cal-Pac Taskƒorce Philippines’ resolutions got adopted! So cheers all around for those who made it happen.

If you are interested in further articles about my time check out this article from Global Ministries

Here are the words I spoke..sort of.  I don’t always follow exactly what I write.

Hello,

My name is Adam Shaw and I am a young adult missionary with Global Ministries. I served 18 months in the Philippines and am currently serving as Mr. Taskforce Philippines as a part of the Justice and Compassion Essential Ministry Team. I have been asked to share a reflection on what it means for me to be part of a church that offers young adults opportunities to serve:

My ministry in the Philippines began by building relationships with tenant rice farmers and urban poor communities by living with them for about 5 weeks.  With the farmers, I helped with the chores, pampered the carabao-the water buffalo and shared meaningful time with their families.  With the urban poor, I watched the children, played cards with the youth, attended organizer meetings, listened to their stories of struggle and laughed at their jokes.  I came a stranger, but I left as ANAK, as a son, as kuya, as brother, I left as family.

I also left tired.  I was so tired from being away from my room for a month, my clothes were so dirty from me trying and failing at washing them in the stream, much to the amusement of the locals.  And so when, 2 days after I got back to Davao Francis, my supervisor, said to me: “Adam, they are inviting you back for a solidarity march.” And I, my naivety on full display asked him, how long of a march?

He said,  93 miles in 5 days.

My feet hurt just thinking about it, I was still tired from my 5 week adventure, my clothes were sort of clean,  I was physically drained, mentally exhausted , my heart was homesick and all I wanted to say was No!

The B’laan Lumad tribes of Tampakan  were asking me to march with them as they publicly demonstrated their peaceful resistance to the land grabbing entry of a large-scale open pit mine in their ancestral land, a march that transverses  what is the affected watershed, the entire far south of Mindanao.

I was called to join the march.  Called, tired as I was, homesick as I was, dirty and smelly as I was.  The first day, it was hot& humid.  the second day was more of the same, plus we got rained on. by the third day I was carrying my shoes in one hand because I had blisters on my heels, and shuffling along in my flip flops because I had also blisters in between of and on the underside of my toes, and it was impossible for me to walk without pain.  By the end of the fourth day, I was utterly exhausted, sleep deprived, suffering from my recurring amoebiasis and unable to walk because of my infected blisters.  Now every night after the day’s march there was a cultural and solidarity night, as more people joined the march every day.  I usually sang.  That night however, I wrote a letter and had a friend translate it, as I read my letter aloud. It was a letter that asked for forgiveness for my state of being, and one that asked for their permission for me to stop and rest before catching up.  It was a letter of shame. I was ashamed. Ashamed because the nanay’s the grandmothers, the children, who I had marched alongside of for 60 miles, they were still going strong, going because they had to, because it was their ancestral land, their HOME that was at stake, because marching was their hope.

Marching into General Santos City, Day 3
Marching into General Santos City, Day 3

In the depths of my shame, the B’laan thanked me, and gave me grace. A Loving Grace for we had walked together, a Humbling Grace, because I could go no further.  An empowering Grace of why they couldn’t also rest.  Inspiring Grace.  Amazing Grace.

On behalf of all young adult missionaries, thank you.  Thank you so much for your love, for your prayers and for your gifts of financial support– that allows us to receive God’s Grace from people with whom we were in ministry with yesterday, and share that Grace, that same amazing grace, to those people with whom we are in ministry today.  Thank you very much.