Mission project- The Philippines

Imagine! On 9th Dec 2012, 60 Singaporean missionary workers under the umbrella of Singapore ACTS, headed by the Family Life ministry of OLPS Church, celebrated the blessing of a multi-purpose hall and commissioned it with a plaque on which were written these words; “A contribution from friends from Singapore.” 

The events highlighted a mass wedding of Aetas couples who had been baptized just the year before. The couples paraded into the hall set up as a Church to receive their Sacrament of Matrimony. A celebration followed into the late evening.  When it was dark, the lights decorating the building painted in blue and red (the cultural colours of the Aetas) were lit up with a bright blue Cross standing at the peak of the roof. As we waved good-bye to the happy people, we could still the see the cross’ silhouette in blue from the foot of the hill.

The group of core members from the Family Life Ministry had earlier made a second recce trip to the Philippines; and they had spent two fruitful days of fact finding for lodging, logistics and transportation for 60 people. They also had a detailed discussion with the Don Bosco Sisters to make a dream come true. 

This project was initiated by the co-coordinator Audrey Leong from ACTS of Singapore and headed by Dolly Chua from Family Life Ministry of the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour. The project was selected after the first recce trip. After visiting a few places which required assistance, the Aeta community’s needs were then identified. The Don Bosco Sisters kindly provided information we needed.  

The Aetas are an indigenous people who live in scattered, isolated mountainous parts of the Philippines. They are considered to be the earliest inhabitants of the Philippines. They are nomadic and build only temporary shelters made of sticks driven to the ground and covered with banana leaves. The well-situated and more modernized Aetas have since moved to villages and areas of cleared mountains. They live in houses made of bamboo and cogon grass. Due to the Mount Pinatubo eruption, some of them moved to resettlement areas in Pampanga. Pampanga lies in the northern shore of Manila Bay. Its capital is the City of San Fernando. The community of Aetas that received the multipurpose hall consisted of about 150 families. Some were not yet to be Christianized. They live in the Calumpang, Mabalacat, Pampanga, on the outside perimeters of the abandoned American Clark Air base.

To reach the settlement in Calumpang, we had to drive through the air base and over the Sacobia river bridge and another short drive of unpaved road. The site where the multipurpose hall (MPH) was to be erected was on a hill top about 50 meters above the road level. The site was a piece of 14 meters by 14 meters empty land offered by a family. It was also situated high above their primary School and kindergarten.  The Don Bosco sisters had borrowed the school compound for their oratory which was open and unshaded. Therefore it was not suitable for them to hold their activities with the children. This was the reason why we agreed to build a community hall for them.

The core team spent one intensive day to revisit the Aetas village, finalized the activities with the nuns for the year end missionary events which was capped at 60 people, from 5th to 9th December 2012. The revisit to the Aetas village was a touch base. The children welcomed us again with dances and songs. They danced and sang to us ‘Go light your world’ by Chris Rice. The song was so inspiring that the team decided to have it as the mission song for December’s mission.

The next day, the team hammered out the construction costs with the engineer and the contractor for the project. Eventually, the proposal was for the contractor to engage the people from the community for the masonry works while the contractor’s skilled labourers would build the truss and the roof. To keep the cost low, we were advised to start the project before summer in order to beat the seasonal inflation cost of materials. Hence the funding was immediate and urgently needed before summer, beginning in the month of April.

The last part of the assignment was to seek accommodation for the participants.  The latter would come to experience outreach works as families. The anticipation was that the adults would do the painting of the MPH, running of electrical wiring and the making of the steps from the road to the hilltop only if feasible and time permitting. The young ones would socialize with the Aetas children and youths in singing, the exchange of dances and handicrafts making. Others would have to pack Christmas goodies. 

The energy level was high and excitement could hit the roof.  The recce team could not stop bringing up new ideas and proposals. One member was inspired to build a grotto while another proposed a 30 meter high cross standing on the hill top. Sister Sarah, the Mother Provincial without hesitation jumped on the ideas. But prudently, we decided to do one thing at a time. The grotto would be for another year. What we wanted was to prepare, organize, and raise the funds to realize the hope and the dream of the Aetas community and to make the imagination real. And with the grace of God, everything turned out well!

Laurence Koh

7th March 2012

Small gifts

In the course of my mission works in Cambodia and the Phillpines, I received a lot of small gifts. There were small handmade key chains and small handicrafts made by the locals. I don’t need them or find them useful. But to throw them away would make me feel bad and I am not one who would give them to others as they may throw them away. So I kept them and put them away just to throw them away later when they got spoilt.

If I treasure these small things, it is because I appreciate the values and efforts of the makers. An item may look cheap or of no monetary value to me.  But to the maker, it’s of great value. It can be used to raise funds, if not it’s a representative value of appreciation for my presence with them. It may cost only a few cents in our currency, but the small gifts are worth a hundred times more to the makers.

Such a thought humbles me. Most of the things I brought to give away are used items, excess or leftovers. They were mass produced without doubt. They were giveaway items. I collected them as goodies for the people whom I thought were in need of them. What I got in return were ‘small gifts’, all that are new, unique, creatively handmade.

Looking up, he saw rich people putting their offerings into the treasury, and he noticed a poverty-stricken widow putting in two coins, and he said, “I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than any of them; for these have all put in money they could spare, but she in her poverty has put in all she had to live in.” (Luke 21:1-4)

Laurence koh

 

 

 

 

Letter to Jesus- Baptism of Jesus

Letter to Jesus- Baptism of Jesus

 

Dearest Jesus, 

 

My reflection on your baptism in the River Jordan from the Gospel of St Mark (Mk 1: 9-12) 

I saw three parts of you. 

 

When you became man by taking flesh from Mary’s womb, you were like anyone of us, 

had a soul breathed into the body. 

 

A soul that was divine and a man that was of flesh. When you were baptized 

you had the Holy Spirit reside permanently in you. 

 

So your soul was called Christ and the body was Jesus. 

Like any human, because of the body, you do not know the future. 

 

Since your soul is divine, sinless, you could receive direct instructions 

and be always in communion with the Father. 

But, because of the body, though also sinless, you too were subjected to 

human conditions of being in one place at a time

 

Because of your state of grace, you had no fear of the future. 

 

Everyday you were on the move and carried out your works accordingly 

to the requests of the Holy Spirit. 

 

You spoke what the Holy Spirit spoke.

 

And you were always pleasing to God, acceptable to God and worthy to God.

 

( Immediately, upon ascending from the water, he saw the heavens opened 

and the Spirit like a dove, descending, and remaining with him. 

And there was a voice from Heaven: “You are my beloved Son; in you I am pleased.”)

 

Laurence koh

 

 

 

Gifts for Jesus’ birthday

A point of view – What are gifts for Jesus on his Birthday

Christmas has been related to feasting and giving. Food and gifts play a main part in celebration. It has been so commercialized into a culture of shopping and parties. It has been a family culture of a reunion for many Christians too. The Christmas trees, the icon of Santa Claus, the extensive lights on decorations, express the times of joy and entertainment. In the shadow of this mammoth event, the authentic meaning and its origin has been overshadowed.

Christmas marks the anniversary of Jesus’ birth. So it is indeed an occasion of celebration for his followers, celebrating a Friend, a Teacher, a High Priest, a Prophet, and the King, the Son of God’s birthday. What presents can we give to the Birthday Boy?

Probably, Jesus likes best that we give him a lot. . . a lot of prayers for his mission to succeed. His mission is to tell as many as possible that his Father is a loving God. The Father wants as many people as possible to go to His home, not in USA, not in Mars or Jupiter but an unknown place to all except Jesus himself and the Father, of course after 2014 years, probably many more people who have been there and stay there know.

The second part of his mission is convince the ignorant, the doubter, the misled, the rebel and the unclassified that there is such a home that is way better, far better than we can imagine and that everyone can make it there. Surely there is no free ride or else it cannot be that good. Jesus wants to tell as many as possible, that the church he set up is to help them gain entrance into the Father’s Home. All are encouraged to be members in order to tap on the power of Holy Spirit to accelerate their acquiring of the knowledge and the direction to go to the Father’s Home, which we commonly call ‘Heaven’. Maybe it can be named the House of Truth and Everlasting Joys.

The other big parts and most difficult one in today’s context is to recruit and train executives and managers, workers and runners, to run his church and convert ordinary peoples to become sacramental members through the process called Baptism. The sacramental members are also named after Jesus’ title ‘The Christ’ as Christians. Incidentally Baptism is the prerequisite to be his executive or manager. Jesus set a very high standard of qualification of his own for his executives and managers. Hence, the passing rate is very low. His workers and runners also have to pass His tests in order to work in his pastures. The two most important qualities that Jesus is seeking from his colleagues are humility and obedience. When Jesus was on earth physically, he did miracles to save lives, heal the sick, cure the diseased and feed the poor and the hungry. In short, Jesus was showing us what makes him happy. He said more than once that if you help the marginalized, feed the hungry, cloth the naked, you did it to me. We can do it too as birthday gifts to Jesus.

Jesus often said that I am the way, the life and the truth. So in our Prayer gifts, ask. Ask for the wisdom to know the way to the Father’s Home, the life to meekness and humility to bear the fruit of obedience, and understand all the facts of Jesus and our faith in him. This gift will touch Jesus’ heart.

Jesus’ church is fully aware of the onslaught of falsehood from the secular views and insatiable consuming inclination. He knows his followers have short memory and needs to be reminded often. His church has designed a celebration to mark his birthday with the same message every year. A message of consolation, of hope, a message that upholds our faith, a message of God’s promise that we are not alone on the journey to God’s Home. This message is found in the story of Jesus’ birth- Emmanuel, when translated means GOD with Us. He was, he is and he will be with us.  

So let show Jesus that we embrace the Christmas season with hope and joys and let us  help each other to appreciate God’s presence and God’s love.
Laurence Koh