For the 580 Café

 

They say some people you meet leave footprints in your heart for a life time. Well, there’s a group of students who continue to leave more than footprints instead with each day I spend teaching me about their struggles, how I can support, and what does true solidarity mean. This poem/reflection is for them. For the students and those from the 580 café at the Wesley Foundation serving UCLA

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580
Three numbers, that mean so much, a place to breath
A place to be who you are, no ifs/ands/or but

To learn what it means to live in true solidarity
Where the margins come to the middle

And the middle learns to listen, love, and act
Where “communion” means finding

common-union in the struggle for justice
Over cookies, coffee, or other homemade good

A cafe where “cooked by chef guy” is a staple
And on Mondays and Tuesdays hot meals are coming

Church happens over mac & cheese, pizza, and soup
With conversations on things society rather not talk about

Organizing our communities, analyzing political situations
How it’ll effect our communities, not just students but families

Not just now but ongoing for Seven years
Seven years of feeding students with life-giving food to be able to survive

Seven years of feeding souls with life-giving food in the ongoing struggle for peace and justice
Seven years of living on the margins,

Seven years of being church in reality
Seven years of  familia, pamilya, family

Seven years of first time graduates, of breaking barriers
Seven years of going beyond surviving to living out your fullest potential

Others may say we need something “new and innovative”
But they’ve never done church at the 580 Cafe

Where societal norms of oppression aren’t allowed even near the door
Spanish, English, Tagalog, conversations run in many languages

Learning of each others lives, community struggles
across oceans and continents, students and workers

Its being there to listen, to pray, and live faith in action
Learning how to actively support each other and doing so

Overseen by everyone’s favorite abuela, lola, grandmother
Creating space that bridges communities, churches, and faiths

Setting the example, letting the students lead the way, create the community
She’ll be by your side in trouble, celebrate your smallest victory

And always knows when you need pie or a listening ear
To talk out whats going on in life and make the best decision for you

The community that welcomed me in
Teaching me
Building Trust
Sharing stories
Creating Solidarity
Powerful testimonies to how life happens
Creating laughter
Sharing experiences
Building movements
Teaching life

Blessed to know, to be part of, to do church with the students

For we don’t need to talk about what we “dream of” in a world of peace and justice
Just visit the 580 cafe for there, it is being lived out each and every day

 

A full 4 years in SoCal

Four years. Four years in SoCal. Time flies would be an understatement but also may be the truest statement of this anniversary. One of those things I knew was coming but like many of these past few years, when it came I almost didn’t notice it. If it wasn’t for a few spare moments on Facebook this afternoon.

Through the evening, I’ve tried to find a few minutes to reflect on these past few years, realizing not quite “how much has changed” but more of how things and people have grown. But before I get ahead of myself, let me say a quick thank you…

To the kasamas in the first kasama house who welcomed me in, reminded me to sleep, and seriously had to journey with me through some real cultural shock moments. Who had to teach me to how to grocery shop again, how to bake in F and cook with gas, and who taught me how to navigate the freeways. To the ones who took the time to wonder and plan intentional Easter meals because the “missionary” was here now and we don’t want her to feel alone, to the ones who made a point to celebrate my first birthday even if it was the same day of a major community event, and the ones who made the intention to have conversations as I processed and tried to build the connections from HK to the organizing work here.

Ok now where was i…The saying “if you wanna hear God laugh, tell God your plans.” still holds alot of truth in my life. My time in SoCal has taught me to trust God to live my life in Jesus footsteps with the people in the most oppressed communities and my community has taught me So much about life, organizing, myself, and true meaning of Solidarity, organizing, and trusting in the collective decision making.

Four years of settling roots not in a geographical physical location but in the movement where my heart calls home. So as I shared on Facebook, here are four facts that continue to hold true:

1. Home is where the heart is, and my heart is in my organizing work for National Democracy in the Philippines and peace with justice for all oppressed peoples.
2. My kasamas all around the world continue not only to be supportive but to hold me accountable as I continue to work on my weaknesses and become both a better person and more of whom God calls me to be.
3. Collective care is what keeps my soul alive and in the tough moments keeps me in the struggle. Its not easy and yes I’ve been close to burn out but the collective support and community especially the workers continue to give me strength to keep at it.
4. Reverse cultural shock is real, and after a while you just realize you’ve changed and that the “reverse” is actually the normal and you learn to love who you are and that you have family in all the places you lived and then some.

My time in SoCal has seen me not just find my calling but to trust the in my calling and to learn to trust my community, my kasamas to be in the hands and feet of Christ when I needed them the most. Humbling to say the least, yet always full of blessings when we least expect it. Grounded by experiences, pushed to be better, to be sharper in my analysis as a white person against the oppressive systems, to not be afraid to be open, to be an organizer. Throughout this evening, I kept thinking of a comment I made during end-terms of our missionary program “Being a missionary taught me I am a community organizer.” and yet tonight I realized no the workers we serve and my community taught me I must be a community organizer and gave me the skills to do it. You see God used my missionary program to put me in the community where I was called and it has been the community that has taught me how to live out that calling in real and meaningful ways.

On both sides of the Pacific, I still have relationships I hold dear. Not just of those who knew me before but even more so those who were part of my journey to let go of who the world was telling me to be (aka remold) to be become someone rooted in her organizing, practicing simple living, and relearning how to truly live collectively (just like the early Christians.). Now let that sink in. The roots, Showing me that where I’m called Long Term to serve, means I need to stop dragging my feet and dive feet first off the 10m tower of life into the pool and start swimming now. There isn’t any time to waste, communities here and around the world (especially the Philippines) need support, true solidarity support and that takes education, organizing, and mobilizing.

In some ways, those first days in SoCal, still feel like yesterday as reverse cultural shock remains a norm and memories are intertwined from Hong Kong and here. Collective community fueling the flames within. The mandatory HK “intern/expo” kasama picture every time we cross paths and I mean every time. Knowing, you are right where your supposed to be at this moment, that you’ll never totally get over the reverse cultural shock because you are much different than who you were and understanding where the future is taking you and knowing you have alot of work to get there but motivated to get that work done and letting the “reverse cultural shock” become the normal experience. Going beyond being ok with it but learning to love who you are now more than you ever loved your former self because of those in my community who have taught me that I am who i am and that is all i have to be and held me accountable to work on my weaknesses.

My heart is full of love as i type this, love for the community that welcomed me in SoCal all those not so many years ago, love for my kasamas whom I’ve continued to organize with who are there for the late night check-ins, random text, and lunch accountability not just to three meals but at least one meal away from computers and task and those I’ve met along the way, love for the workers we’ve met who never fail to bring a smile to my face despite some of the worse circumstances, and dedication to not giving up and seeing their cases always the way through.

As I turn 30 next month, likely more reflections to come. But wanted to mark this anniversary before it got away from me. And as I miss my kasamas and family back in Hong Kong and the kasamas I met in the Philippines oh so much! We should continue to find the ways to stay in touch—i also want to take a moment to say a special thank you to 2 kasamas. First to the kasama from the US who broke it down why I needed to come back to the US for a bit! Thanks Kas and thanks for holding true to your commitment that we’d see each other while I was still “new” and always taking the time to check in when our paths cross. Secondly to the kasama who picked me up the first day and drove me all around barely knowing who she was. Your welcoming, understanding spirit eased alot of my nerves and fear about coming back to my passport country, for trusting me to learn, to fly us half way back around the world, and taking all the time to process whats going on in deep ways. So Kasama you know who you are and thank you! You truly are an example of living out the life and community we say we are working for on the day to day. I appreciate you and our friendship more than words can say. (I’ll stop there since you do read my blog).

Looking forward to where 2017 continues to take us, to teach me, and how Gospel Living continues to shape the need for work for true peace and justice in todays’ world. As my third year officially comes to a close and I mark my fourth year beginning, I’m thankful for the moments of shared meals no matter how late, for shy conversations and the ability to have a couple goes at them, for ponies, dolls, and powerpuff girls, for green tea, immunity tea, and all the cups of coffee, the “celebrations” of surviving what ever recent event, and Facebook message to continue to build no matter what distance separates. For friendships that have begun, for relationships that are deepening, for the laughter when nothing else makes since, and the tear when you really just need to cry. For the moments when kasamas just understand and can help you process and the beginnings of building families united in serving the people.

 

“My open letter to the world”

And life is getting real, real fast. Before January 20th gets here, there’s something I want to say. Now I’ve gone back and forth about specifically addressing the election but after what has been my start to 2017 there are a few things I want to say. As a women of European descent who was born in the “Southern” United States, now living and organizing in active solidarity immigrant communities out in the Western portion of the United States, this is essentially to the world.

Dear World especially those in the USA,

Since November, I’ve seen drastic sides to the conversation post-US election playing out in my Facebook news feed. One side, happy with the outcome because they wanted to change. They don’t agree with everything Trump says but couldn’t deal with the status quo any longer. The other side, in disbelief and many living in real fear of what Trump and the new government is going to do that will directly affect their lives, their families, and their safety. As I’ve gone back and forth in reading the post, doing my best to understand where people who voted for him are coming from.

This message is for those who voted for change. Now I know your not part of the KKK, you still care about children, the protection of women’s rights, and welcoming the stranger. I get it, you just needed something different. But even beyond that since November 8th have you taken a look at the world around you. You were done with the status quo, I hear you. Folks in the US are suffering, I’m right there with you. Living wages don’t exist, parents can’t provide for the basic, basic needs of their families. Child care is through the roof and lets not even talk about the prices for basic social services.

You’ve lost your jobs, they moved overseas. The media continues to talk about the im/migrants swarming across the border so building a wall at the border makes sounds great. Now have you actually visited communities on the border, where border control and militarization are their norm? Nope, didn’t think so, before you tell me why we need a wall-GO to the border, talk with the communities who you are saying we need to build a wall through. Your not racist, xenophobic, anti-immigrant, etc.

But now I wonder, what are you going to do. Electing a “non-traditional” politain won’t actually address these issues instead with your vote. You’ve given people who do completely agree with everything he has said to act on their beliefs and feelings. Fear is real in many communities. It may not be spoken in a way, a lanuguage, a method you an hear or may totally agree with. But its real. Its scary. And its many people realities.

Now, we need you to come out to listen, to understand, and to further stand in solidarity with the oppressed communities. We need to come together as the people, to build organized communities that truly addresses the roots of the suffering of the people for that real change you want. For it is together, that we are both stronger and cause real and lasting change.

Because if you don’t over these next four years then its not just going to be those “other” people’s who rights are oppressed but yours too.

Yes, I’m looking at my fellow folks of “European” descent. We have to get out of our homes, leave our comfort zones to understand the stories of the im/migrants we meet in our day-to-day life. For we can’t forget, that our ancestors to were im/migrants years ago, we need to acknowledge our history and how with the years we have stolen power and further oppressed others to justify that power. This is the time to put those Facebook post, shares, and words into action. You say your not…then I don’t care who you voted for. Show your not, show up in solidarity. Sit, learn, and listen to the request for support and action. Don’t overpower with your experiences but show-up to support as asked for.

Because come January 20, if we’re not beginning to show up and listen and learn from our brothers and sisters who don’t look like us. To act together in Solidarity for the protection of everyones basic human rights. Then its just a matter of time before yours start to disappear to.

Sincerely,

I’m deeply concerned

Surviving 2016 and here we go 2017

It’s that time again. On what has apparently begun a blog tradition. The final blog post of the year. From what I can tell, I’ve only missed one new years eve post since this blog started. I’m considering it a tradition now and seeing its already 2017 in my “Asian Home”. Here we go…

Oh 2016! In many ways, the first word that comes to mind is surviving. Surviving the whirl wind start that actually became the whirl wind of a year. But that doesn’t quite capture it. It’s also been a year of growth, deeper realizations, and new experiences. A year of challenges, assessments and growing from the lessons learned. In the midst, also developing a clearer picture of my calling and what kind of organizer and person I’m called to be.

Before we get any further, I want to take a moment and remember one of my HK mentors and kasamas who passed this year, Ka Sol. Or as everyone called her in Hong Kong Ate Sol, was a fierce women whose patient yet persistent personality pushed me to expand my horizons, discover my real self and to find my place in the movement for national democracy in the Philippines. The news of her passing though not shocking still hit hard, as I reconnected and reflected. Though she’s not forgotten, as I’m often thinking back on those foundational lessons she taught me and had continued to teach me. Rest in Power Kasama Sol! You’re missed but your spirit lives on in those you met and organized.

Now back to 2016, the year of the Lumad coming to the USA. Getting to then rejoin them in Portland for UMC General Conference was quite an experience. It was also one of my first times really getting to build with Portland based kasamas and the 10 days or so I was there were much needed time to build, to grow our movement, and to begin to really see the possiblities in our church work. It felt like a long over due expo in the relationships built and conversations had. It was something I needed as it had been nearly four years since my last expo and the weight of being the Belly of the beast was getting really really heavy. It even jumped start my poetry again. We won’t talk about the actual UMC General Conference. Theirs a blog for that one here.

Then a couple months later, I got to go to the Lumad and back to Hong Kong in a month long exposure trip which saw more flights than I care to mention but an experience that pulled me far out of my comfort zone, thankfully with the support of SoCal kasamas to be there along the way. To really begin to reflect on the past four years, where I was at and where I truly see my self growing and organizing long term. It was great to reconnect with some folks I had met along the way and get to build with more kasamas in the Philippines and Hong Kong. Being back in “old” stomping grounds but much more advanced in my organizing and understanding of the root causes of migration was more than just a “highlight” but instead a week of deeper internalization of my calling. The experience of also at the end leading a broad mission team was full of challenges but still certainly up there on the experiences of 2016 as we spent time in Lumad schools getting to deeper understand their struggles through multiple languages. And a personal highlight, was speaking at rallys and conferences over the time without prewritten speeches. Instead having found the words directly from my experience and knowledge to both speak at churches as the United Methodist of the year Davao Episcoal area Bishop Francisco called us to as well as in the streets of the Philippines

There’s been growth in our organizing here throughout SoCal, we’ve had multiple family reunifications and the joy of being there seeing children and spouses back together after years of separation is something incredible special. We’ve had more church people following the passing of the UMC Resolution on Peace, Democracy, and Human Rights in the Philippines become interested and wanting to learn more about the situation.

2016 as also been a year of building relationships with new folks and getting to know better people and kasamas here I had met along the way but hadn’t ever had time to really know. There’s been more kasama children which is always good. As the importance of collective care and prioritizing that time to get to know each other on all levels has become even clearer as “surviving” 2016 has seemed to become more and more of a challenge the longer this year has gone on. Discovering more about myself, about my organizing, and where I’m called to serve the people, hasn’t been without me dragging my feet to get there. But with the support of kasamas and the people we serve I realize even more now than ever why we must continue to organize the broadest amount of people for peace and justice.

So as we close out 2016, I’m thankful for the moments of shared meals no matter how late, for shy conversations and the ability to have a couple goes at them, for ponies, dolls, and powerpuff girls, for green tea, immunity tea, and all the cups of coffee, the “celebrations” of surviving what ever recent event, and for the still be had long-overdue massages 😉 (since you read most of my blogs.) For friendships that have begun, for relationships that are deepening, for the laughter when nothing else makes since, and the tear when you really just need to cry. For the moments when kasamas just understand and can help you process and the beginnings of building families united in serving the people.

All I want for Christmas is you to donate to FMC

Or well all I want for Christmas is a just and lasting peace in the Philippines and all the people around the world. But the struggle for that will continue into the new year and beyond as the people are fighting exploitation and oppression around the world.

So while the struggle for just and lasting peace continues. All while that struggles continues, All i want for Christmas instead is for you to ready my newsletter and donate to the Filipino Migrant Center so we can continue our ministry serving the low-income im/migrant communities, youth, and survivors of Human Trafficking. I’ll send a special home made gift to the first 20 of my blog readers who donate $10 or more.

Visit: www.filipinomigrantcenter.org/donate   to donate and support our ongoing work. And check-out my news letter below. (If you want the addition with pictures, message me).


Blessings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ! I pray this message finds you staying warm, wherever in the world you may be. The “cold” has found its way to Southern California, or as what may of you would call fall, our winter has arrived. As the world continues to unfold and the need for peace and justice work becomes ever more pressing, let me thank you for your continued prayers and support of myself and my ministry since 2011. Its hard to imagine that it was less than 2 years ago, that I finished my young adult missionary time and took the leap of faith and trust in God to stay out here in Southern California with the Filipino Migrant Center. The months that has followed have been full of ups and downs, but every time I’m not sure if I could continue God provides through friendships, conversations, and needs being met from out of no where. For these small blessings I am incredibly thankful. Since sending out my last news letter in Fall of 2014, I wanted to take a minute and share a bit about our ongoing work and ways you can prayfully continue to support the on going work.

As you may know, at the Filipino Migrant Center, alot of what I do is working with survivors of Human Trafficking, specifically Labor Trafficking. A labor trafficking victim is someone who was trafficked for the purpose of work and is 9 times more common iin the world than sex trafficking. At the Filipino Migrant Center, we express our deepest gratitude for your continued support of our ministry at the Filipino Migrant Center, especially in support of victims of human trafficking. With your help we have been able to assist over 30 victims come out of the shadows of fear and receive critical forms of support and resources required to heal from their trauma and rebuild their lives.

This year alone, we have welcomed the children and spouses of eight survivors from the Philippines, many of whom have been separated for over seven years.

Your prayers and financial support of our work at the Filipino Migrant Center has allowed us to be able to support the empowerment of labor trafficking survivors who are developing their leadership skills to become a strong voice in the fight to stop all forms of human trafficking in our communities.

Bigger and more-resourced organizations working with trafficking victims, members of law enforcement, lawyers and service providers have recognized the value we bring to the table–our unique, holistically and culturally based perspective and approach—and have sought for our help in many cases. But in order to grow our advocacy work and capacity to address the needs of the growing number of Filipino human trafficking victims in Southern California, we need your continued partnership.

Working with my coworkers at the Filipino Migrant Center since “leaving” my job as a Young Adult Missionary has been a great experience. Though my job title no longer is “Young Adult Missionary” instead I am our Direct Services Coordinator.  We continue to learn from each other and the community we serve each and every day.

Working together we are learning how to support each other through the challenging days and to take the extra moment to celebrate the victories no matter how small. It is together that we continue in ministry and service each and every day. These folks have become my family out here in Southern California and I’m more and more thankful for them each day for them as we continue to serve the community with humble hearts and serving spirits.

As I continue to reflect on my ministry and where God is calling me, I am often of reminded of what God says in the book of Isaiah chapter 58 verses 6 and 7. My favourite translation of these verses is the Message Translation states: This is the kind of fast day I’m after: to break the chains of injustice, get rid of exploitation in the workplace, free the oppressed, cancel debts. What I’m interested in seeing you do is: sharing your food with the hungry, inviting the homeless poor into your homes, putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad, being available to your own families. (Isaiah 58: 6-7 Message Translation). These verses leave no questions as to how God expects us to live out our faith.

For the past 2 years, we’ve been lobbying the city of Long Beach to have local Wage Theft enforcment. Many of the workers we serve are victims of wage theft, not paid the legal minimum wage for all the hours they work. Parents who are working hard to be able to support their families, which isn’t possible when employers aren’t paying them correctly. Something I know i couldn’t do and I’m a single adult.

California recieves thousands of new cases of wage theft a day and while they try, its impossible for them to get through cases in a timely manner. Instead workers are forced sometimes to wait over a year for a hearing. Waiting over a year for back wages still while trying to support their families. The struggle continues for until their is strong wage theft enforcement it doesn’t matter what the minimum wage is if people aren’t getting paid their wages properly to begin with.

In the midst of the struggles and challenges, its the time I get to spend with the families that often regrounds me in why I do this work. Children full of hope and life are reminders that the future of true peace and justice for all is possible. They are why we organize each day for the future where all of Gods children are treated as the loved humans God sees us all as.

We have much work to do going into 2017, protecting working families, supporting trafficking surivors, educating im/migrants on their rights are needed now more than ever. To continue this work, we need your help. First, we need your prayers, for strength and courage as more vulnerable workers come forward, for protection of our community, and for us. We also need your donation to help us continue to sustain our work.

Your donation will continue support us as we grow and allow us to live out the vereses in Isaiah 58: 6-7 into 2017 and beyond:

Amount What you will be contributing to
$50+ Sustaining 24/7 emergency hotline and materials for case management and workshops for survivors
$100+ Supports family reunification and integration process, & healing circles to support mental & emotional needs of survivors
$300+ Supports leadership development of trafficking survivors and training of volunteers in case management support

You can give two ways: Online by going to our website www.filipinomigrantcenter.org/donate

Or by check through our California Pacific UMC Annual Conference Advance Project Status. To give through the Cal Pac Advance Project, please contact me and make your check payable to the Cal-Pac UMC Annual Conference and write “Filipino Migrant Center-ADVANCE” in the memo line. Mail your checks to the Cal-Pac conference office:

Cal Pac Conference Office| Attn: JCEMT Rev. David Farley|PO Box 6006 | Pasadena, CA 91102-6006

I pray you will take a few moments this holiday season to pray and donate to support our work at the Filipino Migrant Center. I thank you in advance for any donation you can give and for your continued prayers throughout my life as I continue to follow my calling and discover more and more about what God has in store for me. Feel free to contact me with questions, comments, or for more information.

Serving Christ while Serving the People,

❤ Joyous ❤

Entering Advent, finding “community and worship” outside of “Church”

Ok so, Advent’s here and as someone who grew up going to church, this was always a fun time of year. Something I counted down too. Time to prepare for Jesus birth, to reflect and continue to get excited for the year to come. In middle school and high school, we’d gather in a church member’s barn the Sunday evening before Christmas with hot cider and blankets to hear the story of Jesus birth “where” he was born.

Then as I’ve grown up, I’ve watched Advent, the season of waiting become more and more about the season of purchases, consumers, and how “big” and theater can we make our churches.

**The following is a personal reflection of where I’m at this advent season, and where I am finding space and time to worship and talk with God. It is no way meant to call out anyone specifically. My prayer is though that it will change you to think and if you connect with it to take action (and reach out and connect). For this world will only grow stronger when we let go of our differences to build true peace and justice for all community bringing heaven to earth.**

This year as Advent approached I wasn’t even totally aware that it was right around the corner. Instead, I’ve watched fear build up in my community, to be replaced with deeper commitments for actions. I’ve sat a numerous conference calls planning how we can respond as the violence and intimidation against our im/migrant communities increases. Read reports and stories from people who call themselves Christian but who then in their next sentence attack the im/migrant, muslim, LGBT, women communities that surround them.

Sat on late night Facebook chats with friends and kasamas back in the Philippines who are preparing for the arrival of indigenous people to the city to bring their struggles, who are struggling for the release of over 400 political prisoners who the government promised to release months ago, while remembering the martyrs who died trying to fight for true just and lasting peace under Dictator Marcos to the present and the Philippine supreme court recognized Dictator Marcos as someone who could be buried as a hero despite the numerous human rights violations committed under his dictatorship. Facebook Live attended seminars for migrant workers from Philippines and Indonesia to get caught up on the numerous changes of law that effect them and how they can continue to organize to support each other and changes these laws. I’ve watched beautiful and moving cultural presentations highlighting their cultural back home and the struggles they face as migrant domestic workers.

Heard first hand testimonies about the struggle for land and water from indigenous people from the Philippines, Palestine, and right here in America. How communities who finally were able to return back home after months of forced evacuations due to militarization of their communities are now suffering from basic illness and still have limited access to medication and health care.

Its hard to say the least, to find centering this advent season in worship services where its about raising our hands to praise God, how big is the Sunday morning “show”, or where its about time to move on and work together not be upset about the current situation.

I have no doubt that Jesus is crying right now, in the way Christians are responding and acting to the suffering of our brothers and sisters. In this advent season I’m finding the hope, love, joy, and peace in this season outside of formal Church spaces, away from folks who are really good actors and more about being real in community.

I’m finding HOPE in the faces of the workers we serve. HOPE in the survivors of human trafficking who are now educating each other and reaching out to their own communities and families. Having moved from fear to strength and welcomed their families to the US, the smiles in the airport of first arrivals, the laughter of remembering what its like to be a parent again, and introducing their families to the community they organize with. These moments give me HOPE.

LOVE is in the communities that welcome me in no questions asked. In my “west coast holiday” family that every year since I arrived as welcomed me into their family celebrations, catching up on life, while breaking bread together. LOVE is the moments when the world feels like its crashing down around you and your kasamas stop what they are doing to check-in about what’s really going on while finding ways to continue to support each other. LOVE is sharing the same life-giving commitment to a just peace for all and doing whatever it takes collectively to get one step closer to that each day.

There’s JOY in the air as we celebrate the holidays together. In the first shared moments from the young child who was just reunited with her father as I chased her through the park she giggled on an on. There’s JOY in the countdowns till she gets to go home and we’re remained of what grounds us in our work. And yes there’s JOY in the late night meetings and early morning coffee taking a few moments to truly check-in before continuing on with the growing list of task. We’re not in this alone. And yes there is also JOY in my name, lol.

So, I’m finding PEACE this advent in knowing there’s a growing community working for a just and lasting peace for everyone, not just the ending of violence but a peace with justice. PEACE in that the struggle of the Filipino people continues onward toward that just and lasting peace. PEACE in that struggle for justice for the Native Americans in Standing Rock and the protection of all water is continuing in growing numbers. PEACE this season, isn’t about the absence of violence but about the community that working toward Peace with justice and knowing that we’re continuing together onward into 2017.

This advent, I’m finding worship in the small moments, the laughter, the coffee, and stolen photos. The intentional moments to reconnect and build relationships is where I’m finding the Holy Spirit is moving in deep and challenging ways. Not in the four walls of a Church but out in the community exactly where Jesus lived and was born.

So I think this Advent I’m learning more about how Jesus calls us to follow in his footsteps out into the edges of the world and to stay and grow in those communities.

**I welcome any reflections or comments to this, in the comment section or feel free to reach out to me personally**

“Reality and Hope” My sermon 11.20.16

In light of the past few weeks I’m going to do something that is somewhat out of the ordinary for my blog following the slightly out of the ordinary process leading up to this morning. I’m going to share my sharing I preached this morning at the Church In Ocean Park here in California. The pastor reached out Friday night asking ” I really need to bring some reality but also some hope this Sunday. Do you know anyone who can bring both?” Our conversation continued and by the end of it, I had agreed to preach a few days later. Turns out God really had a message on my heart, as this is probably one of the shortest turn arounds I’ve agreed to, but one of the few sharings that has come so naturally and so personally as of late. Below is what I shared this morning:

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Good Morning! Magandang Umaga! Thank you very much for inviting me to share with you today. My name is Joy Prim and I’m orginaly from North Carolina but I found my way to Southern California via Hong Kong, where I served as a Young Adult United Methodsit Missionary with Migrant Domestic Workers from Philippines and Indonesia. Where from 2011-2013, I too was a migrant worker, I don’t identify as an ex-pat as many others from western countries do, instead I to identify as a migrant worker someone who left their country to find work. Having left my home country to move overseas to find work.

I spent my week days working at our walk-in centre and shelter, counseling workers on their rights. This included such things as how to file for unpaid contractual claims against their employers. I did this while encouraging the worker to stand up on her own. I spent Sundays, the most common day off for domestic workers, with Filipino migrant worker organizations along Chater Road. This is a road that runs through the central business district in Hong Kong and is closed to traffic on Sundays. There, outside the stores, along the shoulders of the street and overflowing into the street, thousands of Filipino domestic workers gather to enjoy their only day off each week

Over 95% of the migrant domestic workers in Hong Kong are Women. In early 2013, i moved here to Southern California where I continue to work with Filipino Migrant Workers, youth, and victims of Human Trafficking and their families as part of the staff of the FIlipino Migrant Center, a community based non-profit organization located just down the 405 in Long Beach, but serving the FIlipino community from the Valley to Border, and the beach cities to the Inland Empire.

As I’ve learned more and more about the situation in the Philippines and the Filipino people’s on going struggle for true peace and justice and National Democracy for everyone. I’ve not only developed a deep appreciation for their struggle that’s led by the workers, the peasants, the most oppressed classes of people and a struggle that works to ensure that those who have little have enough, and those who have excess have just enough.

But have learned so much about myself and became more of the women God wants me to be. Shedding the “perfect quiet, southern girl” imagine that I had grown up with now becoming politically concious, a community organizer, and learning more about myself each day. Now five years into discovering and living my calling. Ang aking puso ko ay Pilipino (my heart is Filipino). May inspiration ko ay mga masa. (My inspiration is the masses).

Growing up in the church loving the stranger in our communities, welcoming everyone, and caring for our neighbor was a regular sermon.  Something I thought knew well and practiced reguarly. But it wasn’t until I was the migrant worker overseas did I really learn what God meant. That is do all these things with no expectation for anything in return but because thats what our God did for us. The migrant workers in Hong Kong opened their arms to welcome me no strings attached.  And stayed there alongside me as I shed my shyness to become an active member of the community.

Language barriers weren’t going to stop them though they did result in some hilarious attempts of me trying to speak Tagalog, relgious differences didn’t matter instead these were powerful moments of education for each other, what mattered was a passion for justice and the end of the 2nd class of people that Hong Kong had legalized for the migrant domestic workers.

Yes, a legal 2nd class exisit that leaves the migrant community almost invisible to the locals and other ex-pats, full of oppressive laws that are used to pass further oppressive laws. But yet they had formed a deep community that truly welcomed anyone who ventured into it to learn, to be, to connect with the Spirit, to seek assistance, and to work for justice.

Coming back to this US, my passport country, i was blessed to stay within this migrant community. The 2nd class of people isn’t as outrightly ovious here as it was in Hong Kong. It still is very present though I don’t think I really need to tell you all that. Yes now I was the “local” who had full access. But by now my heart and soul had learned what it meant to welcome the stranger.

To stand in the gap created by society and to be in community with those who are different but are united for peace and justice for all people. Where yes we give up some things to allow the growth of the community but in doing so and shedding the excess the others has thrust upon us that we don’t actually need we find ourselves closer, in deeper community, and more where God wants us to be.

A clearer reminder of this came my first day here in SoCal, one of my coworkers picked me up from the airport, and took me to her house where I had been told I would temporaringly be staying until long-term housing could be arranged. For both FMC and me it was important for to come out and get involved in the work even if the logisitics weren’t quite all finished. So when we arrived at the apartment, I had assumed I would be sleeping on the couch, logically i was only there temporaringly.

But instead my coworker welcomed me into her bedroom, apogloized that we would have to still share a closet, and quietly moved the rest of her stuff out of the room. She was the one who who would be sleeping on the couch. That night I cried at the deep gesture of hospitality and went back and forth for weeks feeling bad that I had just pushed her out of her room but not knowing how to start that conversation.

As I waited for my housing to be finalized, that short term stay of no more than four weeks became six weeks, became nine weeks. And as we neared the end of that third month, I sat down with my coworker (and roommate) to check in about how my first few months here in SoCal were. And as we talked I shared my feelings about “taking” her room.

With a smile she pointed out the ovious fact that I wouldn’t fit on the couch and we continued to get to know each other. Hours later that conversation would finish with heart felt decisions no longer moving out, instead deciding that I had become part of the community and therefore there was no need for other housing. So we continued to share the closet and the space in the room as we built community. But I couldn’t help time and time again to wonder, if she was really an angel for what a clearer way to welcome the stranger.

Now fast forward 3.5 years, and that coworker is now one of my closest friends here in SoCal and we’ve shared many more deep conversations and quite alot of both happy and sad tears. We’ve traveled the world together a couple times and have developed a deep friendship rooted in our love for the people and welcoming the migrant. She is a clear example of how my community is there to hold me accountable when I commit to doing something, to offer helpful critisim and feedback on how I can improve, and someone who I can turn to when it feels like the world is being turned up side down. Living her life as a humble example she continues to keep me grounded in why I got into this work and on the hard days why we must continue to serve the people, the migrant workers here in the US and the direct connections back to the Philippines in the struggle for peace and justice.

Serving as the Filipino Migrant Center Direct Services Coordinator, I’ve worked with over 35 victims of human trafficking. 20 of whom escaped their traffickers over three years before they found us. Living in the undocumented shadows knowing what happened to them was wrong but not knowing what to call it or that they had any legal opitons. Instead hearing the threats of deportation, and the dislike of im/migrant communities and moving deeper into the shadows. Until they either saw us in the media or met another client and decided to try one more time.

As I sat down to write by sharing for this morning, a flood of emotions from the past months came flooding back. Living in my community, I’ve had a unique view of this election. Now with real fear rising in the community, my friends, survivors of trafficking and their families are in the forefront of my mind.

This week, I’ve been talking with many of our workers, survivors of trafficking and their families. Their fear is real. They are parents who havn’t been able to see their children in over 6 years, who now are scared that their children are not gonna be allowed into this country despite having survived human trafficking and been approved for their T-Visas (immigration relief given to victims of human trafficking and their immediate relatives).  Their voice scared but she stands strong. Readying themselves with the knowledge of the law. To calm their fears into knowledge that they can share with others.

The conversation continued, how do we educate the community about their rights, provide a safe place for their children to develop friendships and understand whats going on in the world around them, and prepare for the unknown of what was to come. As someone who actually had any say-so in the elections. I was struck as the workers shared that they had no time to be sad, disappointed or upset about the outcome.

Instead, they were moved through their fear to action: to check-in with each other, to begin to organize, to strengthen their community to not be stuck in fear or sadness but to be able to move ahead. Their mindset stuck with me. Migrants who are set to be impacted the most their response was turning to their community, collective action not sadness or paralyzing fear.

It is this same spirit of collective community that gathered at the airport early Monday morning. Together we were welcoming two families to the United States after over seven years of seperation. The fathers victims of human trafficking, specifically labor trafficking, are two of the survivors we’ve been working with at the Filipino Migrant Center.

Now some of our worker leaders they continue to share their story and inspire other workers to come out of the shadows not just to seek help but to also speak out about their realities. Through the morning they paced, chatting, sharing memories of their departure from Manila. Their families having not flown much they wondered, were they nervous, scared, was their any issues with immigration.

We waited watching group of people after group of people come by nothing. Then their families came around the corner into view. And their were screams and smiles, and the treasured “Daddy is that you” as the families made it to the exits. The next 10 minutes were full of hugs and tears. As couples reunited able to embrace each other for the first time. Children who were barely old enough to remember them now walking, talking, and full of stories couldn’t get over how their fathers looked in real life. Was it the same as they remembered, had skype conversations done anyone justice.

As we the organizers took photos and stayed back, we turned to each other with smiles and looks of understanding these reunions were always emotional. But there was extra emotions about these. After the previous week, to be able to stand here, welcoming families to this country full of smiles and laughs. Was not only needed but a real reminder that there is hope and together we will overcome and achieve our dream at FMC.

You see we dream of the day when families will not be torn apart by urgent need for survival. We dream and will actively work for a society where there is equal opportunity to live a decent and humane life. It’s a simple dream but one we know we have a ways to go both here in the US and in the Philippines.

We see our work here with Filipino migrants directly connected back to the situation in the Philippines. Where more than 6,000 people leave the country every day to find work due to the extreme poverty and lack of jobs in the country. So we also are engaged in Human Rights work back in the Philippines as well. And as I’ve processed this week and worked to reground myself in why I continue to do this work, thats not easy. I found my way back to a poem I wrote this past summer while I was on our annual Interfaith Medical and Soldarity Mission to the Philippines. As a thank you to the kasamas (comrades) who hosted us. These kasamas who have sacrificed so much to organize and live as one with the people.

A quiet step, shoulder tap, chance to meet in person
The prep behind the scenes
Not one for the spotlight, but for the love of the people
Ensuring all are fed, the people are taken care of
Always ready for an ED
Breaking down the struggles of the Filipino people for all who pass by
Learning from the workers, the peasants, the poor
Behind the scenes, not one in front
Humbly serving the people
Showing respect for all in the struggle
Conversations challenging mindsets
Redefining simple living
Admitting privledges that exisit that can sometimes can seem normal
Quietly ensuring that others feel supported, connected to the struggle
The simple choice of words late at night
Brings you back across the Pacific
Reminding you, we’re fighting the same struggle
The workshop, community visit, cultural caravan, church visit or peace forum
Working toward the same goal
The kasamas with a quiet reminder we’re in this together
So we should get to know each other
Not loosing sight of the masa
But to allow us to all better serve them
Whether in the cities
Or out into the countryside
Where the peasants struggle for land is primary
Indigenous People who understand land is life
Refuse to be quieted instead are doing whatever it takes to protect the land
Learning to work collectively to benefit the whole community
Living life by example
Teaching through words and actions
A new song, a laugh and telling the real history
Challenging me to continue
to remold
To learn
To let go of my fears
To live my life in Jesus footsteps
To find my place in the struggle

I share this today that our work is far from done and there is much more to go. But our struggles are connected and the only way we will win is by coming together in Solidarity with each other. 

We’re deeply concerned both for our kasamas on the ground and the steady increase of migrant workers and human trafficking survivors who continue to come forward. The families who just arrived have real needs to be taken care of including as simple as finding clothing as the weather is getting cooler and learning that they aren’t alone in this country. We remain steadfast in our commitment both to always welcome the migrant and serve them the best we can here in the US and as human rights defenders drawing attention to the situation back in the Philippines.

The struggle is far from over. In closing let me share a quote I believe is ever more relevant now here in the US than ever.  “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”


Marmaing Salamat!

NanNoWriMo third times the charm

Since winning NaNoWriMo in 2011, I’ve wanted to try again. And have tried, since moving to SoCal twice now. But both times, political work and schedules got the best of us. Things like super typhoons just took all our time in responding to the needs of the people. So now, we’re trying it again. This year with accountability and kasamas from around the country (or at least two states 😉 ), this year its not just about trying to write 50,000 words like I did back in 2011 but instead its about the accountability to write.

Back from my month long trip home to the Philippines and Hong Kong, I haven’t done much writing and that’s something I want to change. There are still unfinished poems and reflections I started that need to get done. And parts of other poems and reflections starting in my head, that need to get out. So this month is about being intentional to take the time to write, to reflect, and to share more of my experiences. And we’ll see if it turns out to be closer to 50,000 words or if its about the process of writing as the month progresses. But for now, before I go register on the website to officially join the craziness and see what’s going on in the local area. Here’s a reflection that I’m gonna be sharing tomorrow with First UMC of San Gabriel at their Dinner church in relationship to my previous blog post about my time in Manila.

Somewhere over the Pacific Ocean and the Philippines. Incredibly thankful for my time with NCCP, getting to build more with kasamas. Can’t seem to shake this feeling of pure (re)grounding and being jolted out of more of my petty b tentencies and into the people. Especially around my ample belongings and remembering those who have so little and yet ensuring and finding ways to share. Its time to start letting go and really reshaping into collective simple living more and more.  I can’t help but think back to the time in the bible when Jesus sent out the disciples two by two. Telling them to take nothing with them but their tunic they wear, their tsinelas for their feet, and a walking stick. In the book of Mark chapter 6 verses 7-10 it states:

” He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics.  He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place.”

The verses were on my mind as I thought back to the organizers we had met who were organizing the youth, the urban poor, the students. Those who had left lives of comfort and or peace to live with the people, the poor, the farmers, the workers, to come along side the people on the front lines of their struggle. Using college degrees, and education not to advance their own lives but to give back to the people. To advance their country toward true justice for everyone.

These modern day disciples, were going out collectively in a small groups all around the country from the cities to the country side. Sometimes not sure where their next meal would come from but with trust in the people and their collective to survive. They are organizers. To take care of them. A trust to build relationships, to struggle together, to advance the rights of the people toward a true just and lasting peace and the rights of all the people. Just like Jesus called the disciples to do.

Cast out demons = call out landlords, corrupt politicians and those who take advantage of the people & the land, heal people = ensure everyone has access to basic health care, care for creation = protect the land from multi national mining companies

Manila Reflections

The piece I started working on during the first leg of the August International Interfaith and Medical Mission. Its a reflection on my time spent in Manila and the internal challenge i was already feeling before we left for Mindanao and the kasamas who i met and who hosted the team. I recently finished it now being back for a few months, and have debated sharing it. But as I’m trying to share more of my writing, and October is almost over without a blog posting. Decided in the end to post.

To the organizers, kasamas, and friends i met in Manila, Maraming Salamat!

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A quiet step, head turn, chance to meet in person
The prep behind the scenes
Not one for the spotlight, but for the love of the people

Ensuring all are fed, the people are taken care of
Always ready for an ED
Breaking down the struggles of the Filipino people for all who pass by
Learning from the workers, the peasants, the poor

Behind the scenes, not one in front
Humbly serving the people
Showing respect for all in the struggle

Conversations challenging mindsets
Redefining simple living
Admitting privledges that exisit that can sometimes can seem normal
Quietly ensuring that others feel supported, connected to the struggle
The simple choice of words late at night
Brings you back across the Pacific
Reminding you, we’re fighting the same struggle

The workshop, community visit, cultural caravan, church visit or peace forum
Working toward the same goal
The kasamas with a quiet reminder we’re in this together
So we should get to know each other
Not loosing sight of the masa
But to allow us to all better serve them

Whether in the cities
Or out into the countryside
Where the peasants struggle for land is primary
National Minorities who understand land is life
Refuse to be quieted instead are doing whatever it takes to protect the land
Learning to work collectively to benefit the whole community
Living life by example
Teaching through words and actions
A new song, a laugh and telling the real history

Challenging me to continue
to remold
To learn
To let go of my shyness
To live my life in Jesus footsteps
To find my place in the struggle

Picture of our Manila leg August team during our last evening before heading to Mindanao

Where is 2016 gone?

Jetlag has stopped lingering and disappeared finally.
Now its just the heat that zapping my energy

The boxes have arrived
It only took them nearly 2 months

And the pauses in the processing
Have gone, now internalizing the lessons from all

Remembering the all to familiar feelings
Of reverse culture shock and embracing them

There are task to do, sharing to prepare, and meetings to attend to. There is traffic to deal with thats no where as bad as Manila, quiet reminders of simple living, and challenges to take us further. There are one-on-ones scheduled, check-ins as part of the day to day, and a moment to just be thankful for kasamas.

In the coming weeks, the Peace Talks resume and education needs to happen so more can know whats going on. Report backs are coming from all the missions sharing about our experiences. There are churches to share with, relationships to flourish, and solidarity in action.

Lifes not slowing down, instead with each blink 2016 is flying by.
Taking advantage of the time at hand before its gone.

So as September comes to an end, and October is just over the “hump” of this week. Thankful for relationships growing deeper, and check-ins that come naturally. Here’s to closing 2016 full steam ahead for a true and lasting peace in the Philippines.