Category Archives: Tragedies

What Are You Willing To Give Up?

The giving of donations when tragedies strike mirrors who we are as Christians and what we are willing to give to others. Jesus did say that whatever you do for the poor, you also do it for Him.

However, it’s easy to give up things we don’t really need. We can give our old clothes, extra food, or even extra money. It’s unchallenging to give when we have more. Well, what if God did ask you just that? It’s one thing to say, “Lord, I offer my life” and we all know it is another thing to live it out. It’s difficult because we have our own wants and desires that we keep for ourselves.

Maybe it’s a sin that you’ve been carrying, a past hurt, an addiction, or maybe you haven’t forgiven those who have wronged you and that’s what’s keeping you from pursuing Christ. I’ll go even a step further and maybe it’s your money, your job, church ministry, or even your family. Whatever it is that we put first before Christ is a form of idolatry and we have to be willing to give those things up. I’m not saying God will take away your job or anything like that, but from that begs the question of – if God will take away the one thing you love the most, will your relationship with Him stay the same? Let’s say your marriage falls apart or you get bankrupt, is the love of Christ still your security? Remember Abraham when God asked him to give up his son? Are you willing to do the same?

The victims of the recent typhoon had to answer all these questions. God literally took everything away from them. We have to understand God can do anything He wants. And with that, we put everything on His feet and trust Him with all our hearts. Maybe in the course of life, you can really say that you’ve given up everything for Christ.

 

*This post is what I wrote for our Church’s bulletin, Word Circular for the December-January issue. I also wrote another article “What Can Ordinary People Do?” but it’s just a shorter version of one of my previous works here with the same title. Thanks to Kyleen for letting me write and to print not one but two of my works!

 

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What Can Ordinary People Do?

Their eyes seemed hollow and empty, resembling only a sense of their former selves that now lives in the darkness washed out by the storm. They did not say much and their movements were very little. This new world by which they only came to know just by a couple of minutes was something they could not fully grasp yet. These eyes that I saw belonged to the people from the different parts of the Philippines that were devastated by Typhoon Yolanda.

Last week, my college classmates Chi, Euge, and myself were invited by Yzel to volunteer at the Villamor Airbase to do counseling for the victims. I can speak for all of us when I say that we were all feeling a mixture of excitement and nervousness before we did the volunteer work. For one, though this seemed a perfect opportunity to help the survivors, there was a hesitation among us with regards to counseling these people. The victims of the typhoon would fall under PTS or post-traumatic syndrome. Though we all had psychology background, this was not only a whole other level, but in all essence, this was the real thing. Among us, Chi, Yzel, and myself were the ones who took up actual counseling classes in college. However four years later, only Yzel is the one who is currently doing anything psychology related. She is undergoing her masteral studies on developmental psychology and for this particular volunteering, she also underwent training under the Psychology Association of the Philippines. You can see on one hand, we had the education or the background to help these people in a unique way, but on the other hand, we are more than anything, simply ordinary just like any other human being. Furthermore, I had my own questions that needed to be answered like who was I to counsel the lost their homes when I have my own home waiting for me? Can we really make a difference?

Laying all hesitations and hindrances aside, we signed up for the 2am-9am shift at Villamor Airbase. We were expecting to be only a number of volunteers since this is a graveyard shift. True enough, they were lacking volunteers in all different sections. The Airbase was filled with different tents all with various responsibilities. There were tents for food, clothing, medical care, and the like. Each volunteer had a responsibility whether being a marshal, counselor, food distributor, and more. Since the operations were generally lacking volunteers we had to put aside our counseling duties but instead became marshals. Basically, marshals made the whole thing go. They are the runners, helpers, greeters, and overall person who do everything.

One of the things that struck me the most while I was there was the fact that we were the ones that would first greet the survivors coming from their tragedy. The survivors came in via C130 airplanes carrying hundreds of people in each plane. A C130 airplane is a military plane probably designed to carry supplies and not people so you can imagine that the survivors were cramped up in this huge plane without any seats or anything. And after a couple of hours in flight, we were the first people to meet them here in Manila. There’s so much intensity in this very fact that because we, the volunteers, have to make them feel safe and welcome.

As people were coming out of the planes, we as volunteers waited for them at the base. There were probably only about 50 marshals trying to shepherd in hundreds and hundreds of people coming in. Except for the military and government personnel who were there, the volunteers were just normal people no different from you or me.  They were students, employees, teenagers, middle-aged men, transcending social status and gender differences. They were not coerced by anyone. They simply went out of their way and sacrificed their time more than anything else.

In the end, Chi, Yzel, and Chi’s mom were able to do counseling for the victims. Euge and I stuck to being marshals doing all kinds of errands. Euge put it perfectly when he said he just wanted to do mindless activities. I agreed with him simply because it was already almost 5:00am at that time and I was just too tired to put my counseling hat on. Counseling requires a lot physical, mental, and emotional strength to empathize and at that time in the morning after carrying shoes, blankets, and food, I was just not up for it.

All the people there are in every sense normal. They had jobs, school, parents, and families. Even the victims, though stripped off of their possessions, were people. They had their hurts, doubts, and regret. Through the face of the impending tragedy, we were all ordinary human beings bounded together by the circumstance our country was facing and with that I couldn’t help feel a sense of hope. Hope is what the survivors were looking for and it is what people like you and me try to offer. Each of us has his or her own battles that we face everyday and that makes us ordinary. But through the ordinary also lies our own unique gifts and it is when we share them with others that make us more than ordinary in the eyes of others.

Aren’t You Bothered That You’re Not Bothered Enough?

We’re living in a crazy world right now. It’s just crazy what’s been going on especially on our country. Amidst the corruption, scams, and crimes that politicians put on us, we are also struck with probably the strongest typhoon of the year.

I’ve seen pictures and images of the devastation of the typhoon and it just breaks my heart. At the same time, even though we can only see pictures of the destruction we can’t really know what it must have felt like for the victims. We can only empathize so much because we have not seen it first hand. Probably even a reporter who’s in there right now and sees all the chaos can’t really put his or her shoes to the victims. It takes a great deal of heart and empathy to actually feel what they felt. The loss, grief, and helplessness is just overwhelming.

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(Picture from GMA News Online – http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/334649/scitech/socialmedia/yolanda-in-pictures-super-typhoon-ravages-central-philippines)

With this mind, I’ve been thinking a lot with how these types of calamities affect us who are well, not affected directly. Moreover, how does the destruction in the Philippines those others in the world watching us.

What is the line drawn between apathy and actually caring for them? Is there a common space between selfishness and thinking of your daily life versus selflessness and actually going out of your way to help? How can you say that you’ve done enough for those people? How affected are you really? Aren’t you bothered that you’re not bothered enough?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not here judging those who have the ability to help and not help. I’m not here convicting anyone that amidst the numerous tweets and posts about rescuing people there’s someone posting a complaint about his or her boss. I believe that this calamity has struck each of us individually and with a special purpose. Maybe some are supposed to continue their daily jobs and whatever it is their going through and maybe that is the best way that they can help.

I used to think a lot about this when I was working for a watch company. I’d be on my desk trying to analyze the features of a certain watch while their was a storm and can’t help but think “Is this what I’m supposed to be doing right now?” People have lost their families and hopes and I’m stuck stressed with work. Now is this right? Maybe and maybe not. Was I selfish? Is thinking about the victims enough?

I don’t mean to sound like a prick and saying that I’m better than anyone else. I don’t want to be seemed as a self righteous person and judging others who are not. I’m just mulling over these questions as to how much do these calamities affect us and are our response to these questions enough. Again, aren’t we bothered that we’re not bothered enough? Is it enough to merely think about them and include them in your prayers? I’ll go a step further and ask, is it enough that a person volunteers and does outreach work?

I honestly don’t know the answer to these questions. Well, these are truly pending questions that only the soul can answer. Like I said earlier, there is a specific reason a person is where he or she when a tragedy strikes. Now it’s up to the person what that reason is. Maybe a certain person needs to pray or maybe someone else needs to actually go to Tacloban and help. It is important someone doesn’t judge anyone else. Some have been give more than others for a reason and there is also another reason why some are safer than others.  A silver lining to all this is the fact that you’re actually of doing something. I guess that’s the first step. The mere fact that you’re thinking of praying or donating your clothes and stuff like that shows how much affected you are.

I am bothered, extremely bothered… but I actually hope that I’m not bothered enough. I hope I’m bothered enough to do more.