Leeanne is the first Heart’s Home volunteer to come from Australia. She left her country in December 2009 for a 14-month mission in Manila, Phillipines. We present you these heart-lifting extracts from her first letter to her sponsors. Between violence and beauty...
During our visits we sit and talk with our friends – very often families, women with children. As four of us in the community are still quite new; our Tagalog is not yet enough that we can sustain conversations on our own, so most often we sit while Marianne, who has been here 14 months already, introduces us and we listen as the family share their latest news, enquire about who we are and where we come from, and have the conversations that friends do.
It still surprises me that the welcome we receive on these unannounced visits is warm and genuine. If the woman is feeding her fretful baby, it doesn’t matter, she will smile and tell us, come in, come in. If the single-room dwelling is overflowing with children, it doesn’t matter, everyone can always shuffle a little and we find some space of the damp wooden floor. If the family from the slum has nothing to offer, no “merienda” (an afternoon institution in the Philippines, much like the English and their tea), there is no resentment at our visit. And if we come at the worst time – when a family is grieving the sudden death of their baby girl, when a husband is numb from learning the violent crime committed against his wife – the grief is not hidden behind closed doors, but shared, simply, profoundly, and we are welcomed.
Before coming to Tahanang Puso (Heart’s Home in Tagalog), it was not always easy for me to describe the nature of my mission here, the point and purpose of it. When we visit our friends, we have nothing to give them – no food, no pencils and books, not even the learned knowledge for how to respond to their challenges and sorrows.
But we do give them ourselves, a simple offer of friendship, which we hope is affirmed in their hearts as a sign of how they are loved by us and by God. There is a poverty in being looked at as a problem that needs solving, of having only your health, education, or economic status enquired about. There is a deep poverty in feeling forgotten, useless in the eyes of the world. When we visit our friends, it is more often that they are having an ordinary day – washing clothes, preparing to sell the old fish from the fish port, perhaps a child’s birthday to be celebrated. Sharing these simple moments elevates them to meaningful moments, it builds a friendship which is earnest, it reaches into the heart and hints to the person that, yes, they are so significant!
Among Heart’s Home missionaries, I’ve learnt that The Little Prince is a favourite book, and in particular, the character of the Fox who says: “Here is my secret. It’s quite simple: One sees clearly only with the heart. Anything essential is invisible to the eyes... It’s the time that you spent on your rose that makes your rose so important.” We are spending time with roses. Though I cannot yet speak with them, in time I will learn their stories and share them with you.