Thus went my first month missionary-ing in the University of the Philippines Diliman.
Well, I still love UP!
I still love the free-thinking, rebellious, non-conformist, ambitious, activist and intellectual culture espoused and encouraged on campus.
Of course, being here means I get to talk to free-thinking, rebellious, non-conformist, ambitious, activist and intellectual students. EXCITING… one of the perks of my job.
So far, in my short stay here I have been able to speak with students with intellectual and emotional barriers as thick and high as the walls of Jericho.
Students who say thinks like:
“I believe in a God. I’m a free-thinker.”
“I believe in God, but not the kind of God the church teaches. I don’t believe all that Jesus-turning-water-into-wine stuff.”
“I’m a writer, so I appreciate meta-narrative. The Bible is a great example of that… but I think it’s nothing more than a great piece of literature.”
“I think truth is relative… but murder is wrong.”
“I love pain. I’m a masochist.”
“I don’t want Jesus to pay the penalty for my sin. I want to pay it.”
And my personal favorite (after introducing myself as a missionary):
“Cool! It’s my first time meeting a missionary. You better keep doing what you’re doing. Go find some troubled youth who might benefit from you.”
When I remember these encounters, my emotions range from amusement, to worry, to pain for these kids. Oh, have I mentioned? Most of these students I’ve talked to are freshmen. FRESHMEN! At fifteen/sixteen/seventeen they have been exposed to enough pain and suffering and ideologies and whatever for them to arrive at such conclusions of confusion.
That last statement up there is my favorite because it does have some truth in it — the students I meet who are most receptive of the Gospel are the “troubled” ones. More specifically, the ones who know they are troubled, or know they’re in trouble… in more ways than one.
I think of student R*, who in our first meeting cried as she shared of the pain caused by her dad’s refusal (or inability) to reciprocate love to her mom.
I think of student JN*, so starved of affection from her dad, who left her early as a child.
I think of student JG*, who knew there had to be more to God than what the “clergy” in front kept spouting every Sunday morning.
Obviously, so far I’ve been having fun at best, and encountered interesting experiences at worst. I have to admit though, I have a tendency to teeter towards being too overwhelmed by all these… barriers.
See, these barriers, they are so real. SO REAL. And sometimes, it could be a challenge to not be too engrossed with this girl’s pain and wallow with her in her ocean of darkness. Sometimes it is difficult to keep her from drowning and pull her to the shore.
What else can I say?
A month here in UP has affirmed my heart, has shown me – in no uncertain terms – how terrible the world we live in is, and also how seriously I must take my job if I am to make any lasting impact. If I am to save drowning people, I gotta keep training and preparing with all I’ve got.
I’m gonna have to be rested and nourished in the presence of The One who is not only the Life Guard, but is also the Life-Giver.
*names hidden because I obviously didn’t get their permission to publicize their stories. So there.