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Journey to the Philippines 

January 10, 2016

It all started with a funeral. Several months ago I attended the service of a friend. We were colleagues in ministry together, but also had corralled campers together at Glisson and majored in religion together at LaGrange. It was one of those moments when you realize people your age are dying and life becomes surreal.

After the service several other LaGrange religion majors from our ’03-’04 classes were gathering to make small talk, when Dr. David Ahearn, one of our professors, said, “We should get together and catch up.” We all nodded in agreement and talked about how that would be great. Then David said again, “No I mean it, we actually should,” as he pulled out his calendar and started talking dates.

About two months later eight of us ate at Twains and caught up on life. Of the seven religion majors there, five of us are pastors, one is a social worker, and one a religion teacher. Four of us became foster parents through the United Methodist Children’s Home. And twelve years after graduating all of us were still pretty well connected. If that doesn’t speak for the quality of education and overall experience we had at LaGrange, I don’t know what does. I cannot praise the religion department highly enough for what it stirred up in me so long ago.

David began sharing tales of how student life had changed, and how his life had changed as he conquered a brain tumor and the medication caused him to reverse age (giving him the mind of a 20-year-old), and how he trekked through Nepal to climb Annapurna. He was quickly giving that Dos Equis guy competition for The Most Interesting Man in the World. Then he started talking about the Philippines.

When you fall in love with a place or a group of people or a project that just gives you life, it shows in your every action. David spoke of the Philippines and the relationships he had built there and the work the United Methodist Church was doing with such conviction and passion, it was contagious. He takes an annual J-term class to the Philippines to explore culture and engage in the community. It falls under a Service and Sustainability curriculum but it was obvious from his enthusiasm it was actually so much more. He spoke of the people as the most hospitable and friendly people he had ever met. He shared some of the projects that were transforming lives in the slums of Manila and beyond. The Philippines also happen to be one of the mission bridges for the North Georgia Annual Conference and the UMC has a huge impact in the community. There are also several churches there looking for sister church partnerships to be able to do more in their communities than they are financially able.

That was enough for me when David said, “You just have to experience it for yourself but I know you’d fall in love with them.” I told him, “I’m in.” He continued trying to sell it with, “You really should think about it. It would be great to have some of you come along.” I said again, “No I mean it. I’m in.”

 

David listens carefully as Rex shares his story.

 
Fast forward to January, and here I am in Manila. We’re only a few days into the experience, but already I have seen the incredible transformative work that the UMC is doing through KKFI and the Gilead Center. I met Rex, who benefitted from scholarship programs as a child that gave him food, an education and allowed him to climb out of poverty. This weekend he led a camp for 25 kids who are now part of the same scholarship program, and he is giving them hope with his endless energy, enthusiasm, and constant love. I thought I had seen poverty in India, Honduras, and Nicaragua, but nothing compares to what we saw yesterday as we took those kids back to their homes. It’s still taking time to process and I have a lot more questions than answers, but I am grateful for the series of events that led me down this path and brought me to this moment in time. The possibilities of where this journey will lead are endless.

LaGrange College, KKFI Staff, and all the kids from the community.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Linda Sallee permalink
    January 11, 2016 3:29 am

    I’m so excited for you Julie. I’ve know for a long time that God has His had on you. Prayers for you and the youth you’ll be working with. Let us know how it goes.

  2. floyd alcantara permalink
    January 18, 2016 5:39 am

    thanks rev. Julie. awesome story. 🙂

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