UMCOR knows whats up

With all the natural disasters that continue to happen in what almost seems like weekly these past few months. Every week has a national fundraiser for the American Red Cross or some other large organization. But the stories I’ve heard in the Philippines and what my missionary batch mates shared from their placement sites, makes me wonder where all these donations go. Yes Red Cross, UNCIEF and others provide immediate relief, can fly in quickly since they are so rich but how aware are they that things aren’t going to crash the local economy. Actually be needs or serve the most effective in hard-hit areas outside of the “main town”.

I can’t help but be thankful for the United Methodist Committee on Relief or UMCOR. Who comes in quietly to assess with Methodist and community partners on the ground where the immediate needs are and begins to send in supplies to meet their needs whether thats flood buckets to start cleaning up, health kits for basic hygiene or school kits so children can get back to school to restore something they can look forward to. Then when the community is at a stable point begins to send in volunteer teams to help with the recovery and rebuilding. They stick around to see commitments all the way through.

Their staff salaries and all overhead comes from from UMCOR Sunday in United Methodist Churches. Meaning what you donate for relief and support of disasters, means just that it goes to domestic and international relief and disaster support.

Who remembers Typhoon Haiyan (or Yolanda) in the Philippines? The strongest Typhoon at the time to ever make landfall in November 2013.  While  in summer of 2014 a mission from the US brought the first ever relief supplies that the communities they visited ever received. UMCOR stuck around and helped rebuild a whole village (with the supervison of the local government officials and not just US based people). UMCOR was not just through relief but true rebuilding and restoring the community to what the community requested.

So as both natural and man-made disasters continue to happen across the world. If you don’t have direct links with people’s organizations in the effected communities to donate directly to. Know UMCOR will ensure your money goes directly to the people effected to meet the needs that are directly identified by the people in the effected communities.

Check them out at http://www.umcor.org

 

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Missing my Mima and Papa

Theres been something about this past week that has me missing my “Mima” and “Papa” like something I haven’t felt in a long time. It may have something to do with the glasses of sweet tea friends shared last Sunday. Or that we’re wrapping up the month of September which is my Hong Kong anniversary month.  It may have something to do with all this “hype” over the flag and freedom of expression as my Papa was a WWII vet.

But one thing i know for sure is my “Mima” and “Papa” are my heroes. Teaching me what living a life for justice really meant. My “Papa” taught me growing up through actions (and then when I turned 16 and moved in through words), that he fought for the freedom of our country and our rights to challenge the status quo and system when it oppressed someone else. That our freedom of expression was a special part of being American, but must not ever be used to terrorize or hurt others. He fought for my right to fight for the rights immigrants and others oppressed in this country, he would share later in life, not for the rights of people to take advantage of and oppress others. Never forget this, he would remind me often when I was home later in his life during the “good” moments.

My “Mima” spent her life teaching in schools where other teachers didn’t want to teach. And somehow always appearing to remember every student who approached her throughout the years. And most often remembering their names, school, and year she taught them. She taught me that I was from a long-line of “hell-raising” women who broke the status quo throughout their lives. And that it was up to me to continue that line if I chose to. To not be afraid, to take chances, and to not give up. To remember United Methodist Women were trouble makers in their churches because they went to the edges of society and stayed there until the church met up to them and then found a way to go further.

So this Wednesday afternoon as I sit in the back corner of the local coffee shop, letting these tears fall. I cant help but think how my “Mima” and “Papa” would be encouraging me to continue speaking out, calling out “White Privledge” and fighting of rights of migrants. That sacrifice is part of the challenge but that I can trust my community and to wipe away the tears and get back in it.

So whatever it is that has me missing my “Mima” and “Papa”, what I know is that they are with me in spirit and that I’ll continue in my ministry for peace and justice for all.

The youth are our future

Yesterday afternoon we had our report back from our 2017 International Solidarity Mission. But first in the morning, i was invited to share more with the youth of University United Methodist Church, in Irvine about our visit to the Political Prisoners and Lumad schools. The invitation came from a resolution that Cal-Pac Annual Conference to support the Free the Political Prisoners Campaign and the call to resume the Peace Talks in the Philippines.

I’ll be honest, when I was invited too share with youth, I thought high school (and didn’t actually ask). Well, to my surprise the youth were middle schoolers, after a moment of internal panic and a few deep breaths and pictures. We started the lesson. Looking at the scripture Matthew 25:36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” We started the lesson.

To my surprise, the youth were engaged.  we went through pictures and talked about the situation of Lumad youth in the Philippines. How they live at school because the government doesn’t build schools for them and how they farm their own food to ensure they have food to eat. It was fun and then we turned to the Political Prisoners. Explaining what a Political prisoner was took a few minutes but once they got it, it was nothing short of amazing. They had questions wanting to know what they did before they were arrested, how they could support them, and really wanted to put the scriptures in action. I showed them the photos of the 8 prisoners we met and explained a bit about each one. To them they were humans their sisters in Christ who had stories to share and if the women couldn’t share then they would learn them and share them to their friends here.

Then they wrote letters to some of the women. We didn’t give them any instructions on what to write in the letters. Today I was reading the letters and found myself crying. Their letters are so pure, full of love, and a knowing that justice will come.

excerpts include

“I know that you were a teacher and you helped many, many people learn how to read and write and unfournently there aren’t enough people in the world like you. We should all come together and not fight. The biggest thing we need in the world is freedom and positivity”

“I know it is hard to be mother, especially if you can’t see your child for a long time. Your bravery and courage have really touched my heart. It is not fair they sent you to prison, you didn’t do anything.”

“All you did was help teach farmers how to farm and stand up for each other. I hope you stay strong and keep fighting for your rights”

“You did a great thing teaching poor people how to read and write so they could protect their land. I think that all political prisoners should be freed.”

These letters remind me that our youth understand what justice means and that despite none of them being Filipino, they to got the basics of peace and justice for the Filipino people. And that all political prisoners should be freed.

These youth for the next three months, will continue to write letters each Sunday to the women prisoners. These youth want to challenge you too, to invite us to your church or UMW unit or youth group or organization to learn about the women political prisoners we met so you too can support the women through letters and other ways.

Learning from the Youth and Students (#DefendDaca)

I just returned from spending the day in community with members of Wesley Foundation Serving UCLA. A community that has a number of DACA recipients, undocumented students and families. After the announcement this morning by Attorney General Sessions about the ending of DACA, i couldn’t think of anywhere else I wanted to be.

While emotions were high, hugs and food were aplenty and as we sat together, some clear request and things came out…

  1. At the request of the students, please drop the “Dreamer” narrative. The students and youth don’t want to be put against their families or starting the “good immigrant” and “bad immigrant” and division of the community.
  2. Undocumented youth & students were the force that got us DACA and today more than ever we need to both be present and listen to their wisdom. Its not a time to “claim” their actions but instead to listen whollly and follow their wisdom and lead as we move forward to protect everyone regardless of age
  3. Its a time for prayers but also concrete actions. Those who had DACA or who were in the process for applying are going to need lots of support.
  4. Those whose DACA are supposed to expire before March 5 need financial support to renew before October 5.
  5. There are needs for Sanctuary, and scholarships for students both to continue to their education but in the coming months, scholarship for living expenses and food.
  6. For 3 o& 4, contact organizations who are working directly with the communities already. Or if you want to know trusted organization to give right here in SoCal, contact me directly.
  7. Fear is real, people of faith need to have real conversations with each other on how we can live into our faith: what does real Sanctuary look like when folks start getting evicted, loo sing their jobs?
  8. If you can vote, lobby and advocate your elected officials to pass the DREAM act (without additional funding for deportation or further militarization of our border).

More reflections to come but for now wanted to get these out today.

To the Political Prisoners of Taguig City Jail-Female Dorm

The rain of the approaching Typhoon fell
Grey sky and the world seemed to be so far away

We sat under the cement over, waiting
Waiting for the guards to give the ok
Waiting for the women to come down

What was it like, waiting for years
Waiting for the president to make good on his promise
Waiting for justice, for the day you can see your family

Waiting in the grounds below the “new” Taguig City Jail-Female Dormitory
Patience, never one of my stronger virtues
Waiting

In loud sheets the rain fell
Our circle scooting closer, out of the rain
Outside, at least a cement cover to block the rain

Smiling faces, scooting down the stairs
But refusing to even leave one behind
Finding community, support from each other

Faces aged beyond their years
Bearing years of torture, injustice, and detention
The wheels of justice turned all so slow, if they turn at all

Organizers, mothers, teachers, students
Sisters, daughters, grandmothers
Just like everyone of us

Love for their families, and the people
Shining through the grey skies
In it for the long run, because they have no choice

But trying to make the best of it
To support families, let children know they love them
And when you can’t cry anymore, finding strength through each other

Their prayer request, were first for the evacuees of Marawi
For the people of Mindanao and those displaced from the bombing
True models of selflessness

Just finished telling us how jails for around 50 people house over 350
Their own cases continue to drag on, and food is not enough
And yet, here we sat huddled there love  overflowing

Can’t help but wonder what would the world be like
Where these women are free
Free to be mothers, sisters, daughters

Free to organize, to teach, to be with the people
Where the wheels of justice spin quickly for the masses
And access to basic social services is widespread

Foriegn companies no longer rob the land
and take out all the harvest
Filipinos now far their own land for their people

Children have access to education
Peasants have land to farm to feed their families
And IP’s live on their ancestral domain’s for generations to come

Where children are raised by their mothers
Who care for the people like their family
Where a just and lasting peace isn’t just a dream but a reality


As I went on through my time in Manila and on to Mindanao the eight women stuck with me. After hearing their stories for years, getting to meet them in person was both agitating, and angering, while full of emotions of meeting ones that had been detained less than 3 months. Getting to put people to the stories, was humbling and inspiring.

Their love for the people undeniable, their laughter piercing through silence in my memories when life seemed to be too much, and since coming back to the USA, their strength inspiring me to continue. For even with jet lag, and the feeling of am I enough, we push onward. Educating and stepping up our organizing. Excited for what is to come this year in the Cal-Pac Philippines Taskforce and the growing of ICHRP.

To learn more come out to our report back on September 17, 2017 at 4pm down at University UMC in Irvine.

To my White Friends

Given the current situation in the country over growing racism, attacks on immigrants, and people of color. I’m fixin to share some of my reflections as a White Women born and raised in the South. This is to all y’all while people.


Who am I? 

I reckon, I’ll start off with that I’m a born and raised Southern Gal. Born and raised in NC, I know my ACC basketball and don’t even get me started on Tobacco Road. Where true sweet tea with more sugar than tea ran through my veins from the moment I could drink from my own cup. My “Mima” teaching me how to play at the local bridge club from a young age and yes in High School people drove their tractors to school. The local traffic got real bad during harvest season and there were more fields than sky scrapers. I graduated from the same high school as my father (one of 2 in the county) and never went to a middle school because our schools were K-8. You never missed church on a Sunday.

We learned hunters safety in 9th grade physical education and yes this included learning how to and actually shooting guns during school hours. About half the trucks had the confederate flag, and civil war reenactments were serious matters. During day light, I can take you the field where the KKK was founded and most folks in the community owned guns and would shoot first and ask questions later. While my friends went to the beach or amusement park for vacation, my family was taking us to the national parks and historical sights. To this day I’ve never been to Myrtle Beach but I can tell you where almost every “historical sign is throughout North Carolina.

I’m a Southern Gal born and raised in the same town my father was born in. My great-aunt, the first ever licensed female lawyer in the South grew up about 20 miles from my families home and my great-aunt lived just across yonder from my Mima and Papa growing up.

But I’m also the grand-child of a WWII veteran (who is one of my heroes), who taught me growing up through actions (and then when I turned 16 and moved in through words), that he fought for the freedom of our country and our rights to challenge the status quo and system when it oppressed someone else. That our freedom of expression was a special part of being American, but must not ever be used to terrorize or hurt others. He fought for my right to fight for the rights immigrants and others oppressed in this country, he would share later in life, not for the rights of people to take advantage of and oppress others. Never forget this, he would remind me often when I was home.

I’m the grand-daughter and daughter, of history teachers who ensured we read our history, knew our history, and loved studying history to ensure that we never repeated the mistakes. Museusms badges became a bragging right, and I was a junior ranger at every national park or state park we could fine. And as I learned, history is meant to be remembered on all sides. We can’t ignore part of history I was reminded over and over. Even living history, my father would share what is was like growing up during desegregation in the local schools as he would lecture me on why I had to treat everyone fairly in elementary school.

In High School, the stories became more detailed because I would be reminded if we don’t keep working for justice. My best friend was an immigrant a fact my family never batted an eye at, but was quick to point out when I would get uncomfortable at being followed in stores, stared at during trips, and frustrated that I didn’t know how to communicate with her parents, that I was blessed and the question was what would I do with those blessings would I take advantage of people like my friend or would I give my life to working for equity and justice for all like Jesus did.


Now fast forward to 2017,

I’m living out in Southern California organizing for just and lasting peace in the Philippines, working with victims of human trafficking, and trying educate churches on the struggles of immigrant workers by lifting the voices of the workers we serve to places where they will listen. Blessed to be surrounded by a community that trust me and that I trust with my life, and isn’t afraid to call me out when I overstep my priviledge and has helped me see more ways than I could have dreamed of on how the little things are overstatements of my priviledge and what I can do about them.

Holding fast to those lessons I grew up with but learning more about other peoples struggles and their first hand experiences. Living my life in Jesus footsteps, in my calling, held accountable by my community.

And the recent events that played out in Charottlesville, while saddening and frustrating were not at all a bit shocking as someone who grew up in the South. What did surprise me was the fact, that we in 2017 are still trying to protect Confederate Statues like the Confederates won the war and that the Civil Rights never happened? The more time I spent on Facebook, the more at a loss for words I became. People trying to defend themselves for they “aren’t Racist” (aka they aren’t part of the KKK or Neo-Nazi’s) but why was the other side there. If the black and brown people would have stayed quiet then nothing bad would have happened. We are color blind in the US.

NEWS FLASH: They’ve been quiet for too long. We (yes I’m looking at everyone who is of European Descent aka WHITE) have ignored them, walked over them, and taken advantage and set the system up to never allow them to be even with us. Yes simple kneeling is ok. Its still respectful, as my WWII Veteran Papa taught me, he fought for our right to challenge the system for justice for everyone in the USA. And for freedom of speech (that wasn’t terror filled) and action. We have to bring attention to the issues so we can begin to know they are issues.

NOW is the time, that we start having hard conversations amongst our selves about how we can start to dismantle this system that brings us benefits for a life that values everyone…meaning if Black Lives don’t matter, if Immigrant lives don’t matter, if Muslim lives don’t. Then we haven’t achieved justice.

THEN after we begin conversations amongst ourselves, we need to get out and listen to Black and Brown people. Hear their struggles, listen to their experiences. Y’all they aint making this stuff of, it happens daily.

And finally, we need to ask what they would like us to do while we hold our own people accountable. And take action based on their request and only that. Don’t be a savior, highlight yourself, or try to speak on behalf of them. Use your voice to get them access to spaces where there voices are so easily ignored. Get out there with them in the street, raise your voice, your actions, understanding your most likely safer than they are. Don’t become to big for your britches, get out their and work hard together.

No its not easy. And no, it doesn’t happen at a drop of a hat. We have to put it work, prove we’re authentic, and keeping putting in work ’till the cows come home’.

Because as my Mima taught me Can’t never could until we got to puttin in the action. For the creek ain’t gonna rise any time soon. So even if your worn slap out, keep on trucking. Its about time, we got on the wagon together.  Go get out their y’all.


I invite folks for further conversation, sharing, and how to begin to have these hard conversations.

Reflections from the Air (MNL to HKG)

I wrote the following reflection on my flight from Manila to Hong Kong last 5 August 2017. This was my third time on a such a flight. There are more reflections from my trip to come but this one keeps burning in my mind as the dialogue against migrants continue to increase.


There are few things in life I have experienced that are as humbling as being on a flight from MNL (Manila) to HKG (Hong Kong). The plane full of mostly Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), some passing through HK to other destination countries, others going abroad to Hong Kong for the first time, and still more returning after a vacation or leave for their countless time.

Chatter fills the plane, of swapping stories of their experiences, with their Employers and agencies, sharing stories of their short time with their family or giving first time deportees practical advice. Their saddness of leaving their families engraved deep into their eyes, all throughout the flight. And for first timers there is the unspoken or maybe spoken fear.

I can’t help but wonder how this flight would look like if everyone could find meaningful w0rk in their homes in the Philippines. Would it be overwhelming full of OFWs scrambling for one last minute text before switching there SIM cards to roaming? Would the flight be over 80% women finding support in each other, giving up choice seats for easier baths to the plane bathroom, holding hands during takeoff to calm each others nerves? A silent statement, of you are not in this alone.

The OFW community full of so much love and strength will never cease to amaze me. For their community to take care of each other.

Does that couple in front on a backpacking tour realize whats going on around them? Do they understand why there are so many women, or is it just the “phenomena” they keep talking about? Oh, how different would the world be, if people realized how much these women are sacrificing to board the plane? Sacrifice full of love for their families to have basic necessities food to eat, roof over their head, and access to basic education. Coming from a place of understanding to find unity.

Planes landing now, and i cant help but fight tears myself along side these ladies. My seat mate offers me her hand to, as we go to land. This landing we’re all linked together. I see you and as much as I can, I support you and will work in Solidarity until you aren’t forced overseas for work but can instead live at home with your beautiful children and have meaningful work there.


Below are some pictures from some of the community OFWs in Hong Kong whom continue to work for the rights and welfare of their fellow Foriegn Domestic Workers in Hong Kong and for their rights (and their families rights) back home in the Philippines.

 

Why am i going?

Questions that has seemed to be asked more this year than in past years. Why am I going to the Philippines? Why an International Solidarity Mission? Why does this matter to me?

As I’ve reflected, stumbled through some mix of English and Taglish answers and just tried to work on keeping things short and concise as my departure dates gets closer (aka like 2 days). Thought I would share a bit here of why am I going.

I’m going to the Philippines on my third International Solidarity Exposure because I know there is no better way to actually understand whats going on but by going and seeing first hand. Because i know that as a citizen of the USA, I must go live out my faith through witnessing first hand the experiences of others, learning of their struggles & their dreams, then bring back their request for support back here to my communities and raise awareness of their realities aren’t just what the news says

I’m going because as a United Methodist we are called to live out our lives caring for the least, the last, the oppressed. To live in Social Holiness meaning in community accountability for our actions. To live out 2016 UMC Resolution #6118, answering the Filipino people’s pleas for a just and lasting peace, in support of our Central Conference brothers and sisters who are living their faith boldly in the margins of society. Against Human Rights Violations for justice for all. Calling for the Peace Talks to continue and in the belief that Peace is still possible despite Civil War if both parties sit down and discuss root causes.

Not demanding the end to violence while committing Human Rights violations but getting to and demanding that steps be taken toward identify and addressing what will it take to support peasants, farmers, workers, Lumad, women, and youth, through national industrialization and genuine land reform. Standing arm in arm in Solidarity.

Catching up with youth who I met last year, working hard to go to school to become teachers/health workers/farmers so they can move back to their ancestral lands and communities and care for their community themselves without dependance on others. Because isn’t that what it means to bring Heaven to Earth where all who have little, have enough, and all who have excess have just enough. We aren’t there yet but the schools, students commitments to their communities, show that it is not just possible but already happening in powerful ways.

We’re going to learn, to hear from all sides who want to share with us, and to bring back their stories, the stats, and the experiences to the community here. Working closely with our Philippine Central Conference UMC, National Council of Churches Philippines and community partners on the ground we are going as Jesus called us to Manila and Mindanao. To listen, witness, learn and serve.

Stayed tuned to my blog as I’ll try to post reflections as often as I can….

And 336 hours left to go

There’s been something about this year, thats both been exciting and a bit nerve wracking. For time has flown by and as I reflect on all we’ve done, celebrate the accomplishments and begin to address the errors and at the same time cant help but get excited for what lays ahead.

And then just like this insane heat wave, reality sets in as my schedule fills up.

I leave in just under 336 hours.
And no I’m not talking about my families area code back in North Carolina

Thats just under 336 hours, 14 days until we’re off on the Cal-Pac Philippine Taskforce International Solidarity Mission. Until its wheels up on the airplane and wheels down on the other side of the Pacific.

In my Asian home, the communities that give me life as we stand arm and arm with them in Solidarity. Learning first hand experiences that we can bring back to teach and educate more folks here.

We’re a small team this year, but a very excited team as we enter these final stages of preparation.  And I try to get everything in order before the plane takes off.

Our mission is 2 weeks, and then their is the personal vacation visit of getting to go back to my organizing roots for a few days (if you know where this is, I look forward to SEEING you)

So heres to meetings, emails, and text. Packing, planning, and those last minute purchases. Check-ins, Facebook messages, and logistical details.

So I leave in just under 324 hours…

Wait whats that you hear, I’m visiting Hong Kong again in August ❤ 

Learning to Trust

Learning to Trust,
To Let Go, of the never ending urge to always be in control

To depend on the community like your life depends on it
because it many ways well it does

Collectively figuring out how to solve problems
Depending on the knowledge of each other so that together you can get through

Finding hope, possibilities and support
Learning that its not in knowing every little detail

Instead trusting that collectively someone does
And its together you will over come

Trusting in the community to get you through
That they know the land, the peoples and who you can trust

Admitting what privilege you do have
AND learning to listen and learn from those who don’t

Taking your place where they ask you to be
And raising awareness in your own communities

For our freedoms are truly inter-twined
But we have to learn to “trust the other” to truly achieve

Learn and listen to their experiences, and how authentic they are
For knowing there is work to do together to stop oppression

For when one persons live doesn’t matter, we are far from who we say we are
Instead speak up, take the streets, and remember thats how we achieve a just and lasting peace

Letting go of the individualistic layer to better just oneself that we are taught to wear
Not saying, letting go of the needs for “self time”, but finding the collective support

Instead working together collectively, respecting and trusting your community
That together you can, you will, you must succeed


The past month has been a whirl wind as most June’s have been here in SoCal. We have our Cal-Pac UMC Annual Conference, our FMC Anniversary Dinner, which comes with my parents annual visit. And this year, there’s been the ever important prep for our annual Int’l Solidarity mission to the Philippines. Of course this comes with the normal activities and organizing that is ongoing.

And then this morning, i woke up extra early thinking I had overslept to get ready for the first Sunday of July as we welcome a new pastor. Realized i still had an hour before I had to leave after getting, so I would rest a bit. Well needless to say 2.5 hours later I woke up. Didn’t quite make it to church but did take the time to reflect, and spend some needed alone time with God to breathe and regroup before July takes off to quickly. As i reflected, I was brought back to Hong Kong and the first time I let go of the “me” to go out with some of the domestic workers have a busy Sunday in the office (an experience that is documented somewhere on this blog). And how that was the start of learning to trust my community and how when I truly started to trust big changes started happening.

And how, sometimes in the whirlwind, I began to forget this ever important lesson. Then checking in with a kasama today who I don’t normally get to check-in with, was reminded of this same lesson. That I can and must trust my community. I don’t have to carry this all alone and together we will get everything accomplished.

As I breathe and settle into starting the task to-do list for the day, its with a thankfulness for the reminders of the Holy Spirit to trust, to breathe, and together we will get through. And the ever reminder to (re)learn to trust the people, trust my community to get through.