Brief Bio

My photo
Quezon City, Metro-Manila, Philippines
I am a runner, pastor, sociologist, teacher, and missionary. After living in Chicago for 6 years, I discerned a call to go to Manila, Philippines to live and work among the urban poor, and combine my passions for ministry, running, and the oppressed. After serving in the Philippines in 2012 and 2013, I returned to the United States for two years to finish my dissertation, get ordained, spend time with my family, and work at a neighborhood center in Kansas City. Since then, I have been working in the Philippines with Companion With the Poor as a missionary. Each day I look forward to how God will direct my steps as I live into His work of restoring a broken world.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A Picture A Day [March Part II] - Tatalon and Manila

A Picture A Day [March Part II] - Tatalon and Manila

3/6/12 – Host brothers, Daniel (not to be confused with my twin brother Daniel) and Gabriel.  It has been great getting to know both Daniel and the rest of the Besmonte family during my time here in Tatalon.  Daniel has actually taken to running pretty well now, and has even run a few times on his own or with other friends.  He is now a trustworthy training partner for me, even with running a 45 minute medium run or going to the track for a workout.  He also is fond of his cell phone and often texting or talking with friends of his.  Just like any normal teenager I guess J  Gabriel on the other hand continues to be one of the cutest and friendliest 2 years old on the planet, though he can be shy with strangers.  He continues to keep me hopeful even when things are difficult or discouraging.  Because of the nature of my program, I am not certain how much longer I will be living here in Tatalon, but for the time being I have been more than blessed by this family.  I pray that God continues to use them all to further His Kingdom here in Manila and possibly in other parts of the world! 

3/7/12 – MMP Worship and Planning Meeting. Today was filled with sitting in the MMP office for a time of worship and prayer followed by a planning meeting for the organization as they look toward the future.  The worship was great, as it had a similar feel to the worship at the silent retreat (including the 20 minutes of silence after the reading of the New Testament which is a very difficult discipline and practice when you’re not used to it).  Attorney Ranier Chu (also one of the professors at ATS – Asian Theological Seminary) led the planning time, and really made us put our heads together on what the most important things of the organization are.  To hear about the holistic vision of this organization, and the selflessness of the missionaries involved encourage me greatly, and even made me want to help start MMUSA (Mission Ministries USA) some day!

3/8/12 – Language School Picture.  Finally a picture of some of my teachers at His Name Language School.  I did post some pictures a while back of one of our teachers’ 40th birthday party (Kuya Romy), but these are three of the other teachers at our school.  From right to left it is Kuya Jeff, (me), Mark, and Ate Decai.  Kuya Jeff is also a pastor in addition to teaching at this school, Mark is actually an assistant teacher but very helpful and becoming a good friend, and Ate Decai is full of energy and joy, and even announced recently that she is pregnant!  I am blessed not only to have great teachers, but teachers who will listen to us (in Taglish) on days that we’re struggling with life and ministry, are very patient when we make mistakes, and because they are Christians also sometimes engage with us in theological conversations.  A great school for sure!

3/9/12 – Picture of Dale, Sarah, and Family.  This picture is of two of the other missionaries studying at His Name, and one of the other MATUL students who is studying at ATS (Sarah).  These two have been a great encouragement to me over the past few months, and I have even been able to meet with Dale to debrief some of my thoughts and feelings as well (sometimes it is good to talk with someone who better understands my cross-cultural issues).  Dale and Sarah were doing an internship at Pastor Sonny’s ministry site so stopped by this afternoon to ask Pastor Sonny some questions and get his evaluation.  The two of them are also getting married back in the States in the next month during their break at ATS and then returning for the summer semester. 

3/10/12 – Sister Milleth’s Birthday Party at LRC.  Another party!  Sister Milleth is the wife of the head pastor at LRC Tatalon, the mother church of LRC Fairview where I have been serving over the past few months.  Pastor Jun and his wife Milleth (who is also instrumental in both the church and school here) moved into Tatalon over 30 years ago, just after my professor, Viv Grigg, moved in to the community.  From what I understand, they come from the middle class, but heeded God’s call for us to serve the poor, and like Dr. Grigg, moved in so to practice incarnational ministry.  Their example, family (their middle son, Josh, is the one speaking in the pictures), and model for ministry is one that has been transformational for this community in Tatalon, the whole church community here in Quezon City, and I believe even the world as a whole.  The church continues to build up and send out leaders, pastors, teachers, ministers, etc. and is now in the works of planting their third church. 

3/11/12 – Payatas Churches and Dump Site.  Today, after church in Fairview, I went with some of the teachers at King Solomon school in Tatalon and Fairview to visit some of the churches in Payatas where some of the sponsored children at King Solomon attend church.  We visited three churches, each very receptive to us visiting them, and the first one even providing us with a delicious rice cake dessert! The community is located at the base of a large garbage dump for Metro-Manila, and though it didn’t really smell much the day we visited the community, the odor is supposedly strongest during the rainy season (you can imagine large amounts of wet trash).  I was blessed by the joy and love that the churches shared with us, and am thankful for ministries like LRC and King Solomon School that help support the poor families in these communities!

3/12/12 – Tatalon River.  So I know I showed one river photo before, though it wasn’t of the river outside of my community.  Well, this river boarders the community I have been living in for the past few months.  I walk over it (thankfully not through it) every day to and from language school or ATS.  Though my host father said it used to be clean and swimmable (30 years ago), it has since become a VERY dirty river with lots of trash always floating by.  The houses on the bank of the river are built hanging over the water too, and I imagine not very secure during the flooding seasons.  We shall soon find out, but I do know that the pastor at the church I’m serving at in Fairview said he used to live near this river, and during the last Typhoon, his whole house got swept away in the floods.  Thankfully they are in a new home in Fairview now, but it wasn’t an easy transition.  The pictures were prompted by a conversation with my pastor back in the States who mentioned a quote he had read like the following: “Teach a man to fish and he eats for a day; teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime…unless there are no fish in the river/lake!”  Poverty is a complicated issue, as is teaching livelihood skills, and it takes well thought out planning matched with the work of the Holy Spirit!

"Wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish, once these waters reach there. It will become fresh; and everything will live where the river goes. On the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.’"

- Ezekiel 47:9, 12

3/13/12 – MMP Pastors/Missionaries.  I can't brag about these guys enough. On the left is Pastor McLloyd, also 27, and the one I visited with in Taguig and Taytay a few weeks back.  He has been a major inspiration to me.  And the one on the right is my host father, Pastor Sonny.  I look forward to continuing to learn from these men and also the women who make up the MMP team of missionaries.  

3/14/12 – 25th Anniversary Wedding for Ranier Chu.  This event makes my top 5 best weddings ever, and is definitely top two in terms of international weddings.  It is hard to compete with the mountaintop wedding of the bishop of the Baptist church in Republic of Georgia that I experienced while in Seminary, but this one had a bit of its own beauty and incredible rich meaning.  The wedding ceremony was of Attorney Ranier Chu, the one mentioned above at the MMP planning meeting.  This was a wedding celebration of Attorney Chu’s Silver Anniversary (25th) with his wife, and a chance for them to renew their vows in the same church that they got married, and with many of the same friends.  I wish I could tell the splendor of seeing so many saints together celebrating in the same place (particularly during the mean and reception following the wedding), including about 5 of Ranier’s friends who were all discipled back in the 70s by Navigators and Inter Varsity (and Viv Grigg) who are now running microfinance institutions, church planting networks, saving whole communities from being wiped out by giving them land rights, starting over 500 schools, and so on and so forth.  This is not to mention the amazing love that was apparent between this couple of 25 years, summed up by Att Chu’s wifes comment that this wedding was a better experience than her first because of the increased love between them and all their friends and family.

3/15/12 – Driver Protest.  No school today!  At least for the high school and elementary students that is.  I did have to go to language school, though due to the below protest I was a little late J  From what I understand a regular occurance, there was a protest today by the jeepney drivers in terms of the fair for transportation and the increase in gasoline prices.  Because the government no longer has control over the gasoline prices, the protest was more of an attempt to get the government to raise the fair of transportation from 8 pesos to 8.50 pesos.  While the drivers still were active in the morning, many of them stopped driving in the afternoon, which meant that schools couldn’t meet because the children wouldn’t have had a way home.  I’m not sure how extensive this protest was (considering it still looked as if there were many jeeps in the afternoon) but it gave my family some time to spent together in the afternoon because all the kids were home from school.

3/16/12 – Getting Visa Extension, I-Card, and downtown Manila.  Today Lindsey (classmate) and I were able to renew our Visa until May and get our I-Card, a temporary ID for the Philippines.  We were also able to see some sites downtown, including the first building that I remember seeing when we went down to get our Visa’s in January, and the second picture, which is the Post Office Building in downtown Manila (with me sporting my “Banana Que” meryenda – aka “deep fried saba with carmelized sugar coating in bamboo skewe.”  It is one of my favorites here in Manila).  Needless to say, it was a good trip downtown and means I can stay for at least another two months!

3/17/12 – Shopping at Divisoria with Kuya Sonny, Ate Grace, and Gabriel.  Finally, after two months of living here in Manila, I got to visit the Divisoria Mall, actually a series of 4 or 5 malls, all with affordable prices for about anything you can think of.  I needed another pair of jeans since I only have one pair which get dirty fast, and my host father said that Divisoria was the best place to shop for them.  Got a nice pair of jeans for about $6.50 and then helped my host parents buy items for them to sell at their small cart where they sell stuff on the street in Tatalon.  It was a good time with the fam, and I’m sure I’ll make it back there sometime!

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