It’s a funny thing, world view. How your whole idea of life is cultivated from the series of events played out from the beginning of time. That the decisions from men hundreds, thousands, millions of years before your first breath granted you the ability to be born. To be born exactly where you were born. And into the family you were born into. And it is where you happen to land, without choice or preference, that forms how you see the world.
I was born into a family of five. A middle class American family with a good education. A good home. Plenty of clothes and food on the table. And an unfulfilling fear that this is all there is to life.
I stood inside of a church without a roof. It was raining hard. There were children with little clothing shivering in the mud and watching us. The typhoon had left this city without a home. Families were living crowded under pieces of scrap metal on the burial grounds of where their houses had previously stood. People walked around aimlessly, financially unable to rebuild what nature had destroyed. Crops, being the major income source for a large portion of these people, were left as nothing more than broken stalks and bent trees. I was congregated with a group of people who, while also lived in the Philippines, had been untouched by the Typhoon’s fury. But we were standing in a whole village that was a sad wasteland of over 1,000 people dead and 27,000 without shelter. We came to do what little we could to rebuild. We began fashioning a roof to keep the rain out of the church that had to be completely rebuilt from the mud up. Young boys squatted on the top, skillfully maneuvering pieces of wood in the pouring rain. And while I shivered in my rain coat, beginning to feel the hunger pains of a missed meal- I witnessed something that I will never forget.
The people began to sing Christmas carols. Everyone was smiling and clapping their hands in unison to “Joy to the World” in different languages. When they were done, they served us fish and rice on banana leaves. The preacher of the church stood up and said a prayer for the meal, thanking God for all of the things He had blessed us with. “Why do we smile and sing even when all this has happened?”, he questioned. “Because we are alive!”
With this one phrase, my worldview changed. My heart ached with sorrow for these people in such inhumane situations, but yet fluttered with a contagious joy that they possessed for simply being alive to sing.
I gave my sandwich that I had brought for lunch to a mother and young girl. The young girl cried upon receiving it, therefore making me cry harder. We went on to another area to help rebuild an additional home. It continued to rain off and on through the day. The children of the area came to see what we were doing and giggled at our attempts to say various words in their language.
After we did all we could do for the day, we had a three hour bus ride home. My jet lag was really kicking in (my body feeling as though it had pulled an American all-nighter by the time we were heading home) but I couldn’t allow myself to sleep and miss a single minute of what we were passing. I silently sobbed, staring out the window at the mass destruction. I became angry with my own ignorance and spoiled lifestyle. I wanted to throw up. That with all I had been blessed with, I was still left wondering what else was out there. Was this a mark of ambition, or self-centeredness? But as the miles passed, I was overcome with the feeling of God’s grace and His powerful ability to change hearts that are willing to change. I was thankful for this overwhelming opportunity to fully submerse myself in a different culture and for an experience that made me feel truly human. To cry for something that deeply moved my soul and changed my entire view of life. To realize that when everything else is stripped away, we can find pure joy in being alive to sing.
A child playing in the water of a well that is in front of what used to be a 5 bedroom home. Now the entire family sleeps in the small hut that is made out of scrap metal to the left.
A picture I captured of a small girl hiding inside of the rebuilt church to stay dry from the rain.
To observe the way that random things had settled from the storm was a strong visual representation to me of man vs. nature. Here is an old broken guitar, medicine bottle, and confetti next to a tied up chicken. It’s both playful (Chuy’s style), but yet deeply heartbreaking.
Clint helping to put a tarp on top until we could get the roofing supplies.
The meal of fish on banana leaves. I was told to eat quickly to avoid being the one left with the heads.