• January 29, 2010

“A simple offer of friendship” - Leeanne’s first weeks in Philippines

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.

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