I got an email today from a friend in the Middle East.  What he sent was really priceless.

He sent me 4 pictures taken yesterday when he and his wife and their daughter, visited my sister who is working there in the United Arab Emirates.

I must have stared at those pictures for the longest time.  I thank God for their ministry and how they took the the time to visit my sister.  What a priceless blessing.

I was deeply encouraged.

Bread for the hungry…

August 7, 2008

The other night, I accompanied my wife to a breadshop owned by a good friend. It was 9:10 PM and the store was closing at 10, according to our friend.

I took a seat at a nearby table/chair settings next to the counter and my wife did her business with the sole staff running the operations for that shift. In the middle of their transaction, a young man with his friend who was holding their instant noodle soup bought from 7-11, tapped on the glass and asked if he could buy 2 pieces of bread. I was just observing the whole thing from about 3ft away.

“Sarado na?” (the store is closed already?)- the young man asked.

He went to his friend and said what the store keeper said.

My wife pointed to the bread and said “you have 2 pieces left, why don’t you sell those to them?”.

“Magugulo lang ang records ko eh. Tapos na ang pag record ko pati yung pera bilang ko na…” (it will just mess up our records. I am done finishing my records and have already counted the money) – the storekeeper complained in her high pitched voice.

By this time, I was already standing behind my wife and I also added “dagdagan mo na lang ng +2 dun sa record mo – madali lang naman isulat yun…” (just add +2 to your records. It is really easy to just write and add those)

“Eh tapos na talaga records ko eh… di na talaga pwede…”( my records are really done now… I really cannot sell anymore…”

I looked at my watch. It was only 9:15PM.

This was a case of a storekeeper not doing her job and closing shop/records 45 minutes ahead of closing time.

This to me, was a case of a storekeeper who was so mindful of her financial recordings and having clearly forgotten that she was in the business of selling bread first, and recording those sales second.

Your hunger is not as important because I am too lazy to write additional 2 pieces of bread bought within 45 minutes of the closing time.

“wala pa kaming tanghalian eh.. kanina pa kami nagtatrabaho at nagbubuhat…”(we have not eaten lunch because we had been working and carrying stuff) one of the single men chimed in…. and went back to stir his noodles.

I felt my anger rising.

Not just because of the way the storekeeper was cheating on our friend, and for deliberately hindering my friend from having higher sales for the day, BUT IT WAS MORE BECAUSE OF THE DELIBERATE, INCONSIDERATE RESPONSE TO TWO HUNGRY MEN who just wanted 2 pieces of bread to go with their instant noodles for their dinner and lunch combined.

Injustice gets on my nerve everytime.

Sometimes when we think of the injustices done all over the world, in DARFUR, CHINA , MIDDLE EAST toward its migrant workers etc, we think of people with huge vested powers depriving people of their decent wages, housing and food.

But the forms and varying degrees of injustices are all over the world. It could even be as “simple” as being denied a bread for dinner – even when the person asking was BUYING within store hours and had the money to buy them – THAT WAS INJUSTICE.

I read somewhere that the measurement of our power is through the gentleness by which we exercise them.

It doesn’t matter what position you carry or functions that you do, it is in your gentleness in the dispensation of your function/position that your sense of power is measured.

This morning after saying our breakfast prayer, I was again reminded of so many people who may have so much less for food today. I suddenly remembered the incident and felt again the sense of injustice rising from within.

I immediately texted the owner and explained to her what I have seen and witnessed.

Injustice gets me angry all of the time.

Injustice gets me frustrated all of the time because many times I feel powerless to do anything about them.

Eventually, It drives me to my knees to pray.

That I will be vigilant in making sure that I exercise compassion and God’s tender mercies at all possible times.

That I will always remember that people are more important than my records and accurate plans.

That I make myself available to the Lord so He can feed the hungry both physically and spiritually.

Lord God, let the full manifestation of your KINGDOM be upon us now.

PS. Just got sms response from the owner: ” I talked to her already. She took it negatively.”

I rest my case.

I was about to unlock the car doors for my wife and friend when my phone received an sms. “My flight schedule is on August 4th..” We were about to have a relaxing dinner (my wife and I with our good friend Tess) in Antonio’s Grill in Tagaytay, and somehow, the SMS surreptitiously invaded my private thoughts for the evening.

I remember weeks ago blogging about how I felt when my sister first informed me about her signing the contract to work overseas.

https://compassionateconsiderations.wordpress.com/2008/05/27/i-signed-the-contract/

It used to be an idea. It used to be an anticipated distant fact. But now, we are just counting the nights and for me, I am counting the sleepless nights as I ponder and pray for my sister and nephew.

On August 4th, my sister will be joining the more than 3,000 people who will leave for their overseas work. On August 4th, her son, my nephew Joseph, will be joining the millions of young people who have been physically “orphaned” because the parents need to work overseas to provide for the family.

My sister is going to Abu Dhabi, UAE. I googled the country for the first time – and because the website could not really tell how life is like over there for a non-national worker like her, there was nothing left to do but to agonize in prayer.

Becoming an OFW ( Overseas Filipino worker) would be for the most part, and for millions of my Filipino brothers and sisters would for the most part, be considered a great blessing. Money is expected to come in and with a much higher rate, it would be more than enough to provide for the college education and many needs for the family left behind ( GREED isn’t factored in the previous sentence.)

Under ideal circumstances, I would have also been delighted to see my sister go. But frankly, I wish there was another way for a single mom like her, to provide for her only child, Joseph.

I worry for them both. I worry for my 16-year old nephew who will suddenly be thrown into the world of harsher realities. Of being alone, coping alone in an environment where there is not much love that surrounds him at this critical stage in his life. I worry about other influences giving him time and affirmation. I think about those nights when he would be alone in his room trying his best to muffle his sobs. I think about the un-prepared breakfasts and the un-eaten dinners. Joseph would really need to grow up fast. At the age of 16, Joseph would be contending against something which I did not have to even face when I was his age – being physically “orphaned.”

What any young people need would be the Matthew 3:16 experience. To know that they belong somewhere, that they are loved, and that they are a source of significant pride. But I guess for millions of people in this country, those needs would need to give way to the fulfillment of the more basic survival needs: money for food, clothing and shelter.

I feel really sad about this exchange. Someone said “Money cannot buy happiness, but it certainly can buy some degree of freedom…”

But come to think of it, ” some degree of freedom is considered happiness” for millions of people around the world. Some degree of freedom, of not having to go to the Middle East, of not having to leave a son by himself, for me right now, for the most part, is happiness.

And then I started thinking of my sister Joy and how brave she has been. I have not known a braver soul after my mother’s heart. They are both alike in many ways – and it is quite sad to see their fragmented relationship, is still unable to move beyond the catalyst that shattered it in many ways. I cannot imagine what she is thinking and feeling right now as she takes care of the last minute details of her departure.

What thoughts come to her mind when she goes to bed. Does she count the nights and days with excitement or does she try to hide her tears and fears?

2:51AM Prayer for my sister Joy and only nephew, Joseph

Lord God, have mercy. I present my sister Joy to You. I know that you love her more than we ever could. Lord God, she is leaving for the Middle East to work so that she would be able to send Joseph to school and even afford him a college education starting next year. Being an OFW is already a common phenomenon here in the country Lord. But that may be so, but not in our family.

I cannot imagine that time would come when she would need to go Lord and brave it out there in a very foreign land. Lord forgive me when I get really anxious – but thousands of stories about abuse and threats to personal safety, would really make one count the cost. But many times Lord, we do not even have the luxury to count the cost because we are already bleeding from many sides.

Lord, protect my sister from harm. Protect her from evil-doers. Protect her from evil. Surround her with your peace and comfort on that particular day when she leaves the country. This is her first overseas trip – and I could only imagine a host of concern as I recall my first overseas trip. But the difference was, I was going not because of a financial need, whereas my sister is going to the Middle East for that.

Lord God, please honor her desire to provide for her son. This was not how you have designed families to be – and someday, all of these things will be reconciled back to you. Lord, there have been so many like my sister, who is braving the world out there for the sake of their children.

Remember them Lord.

Hear their cry.

See their afflictions.

And I pray for Joseph. I pray that you will comfort him as well. I pray that he will totally find you in the alone-ness he feels at the situation. Lord, my sister requested that I spend more time with Joseph so that he will not need to find an outlet for his frustrations and sadness. Lord, use me now to minister to my nephew, and where necessary, to become a loving source of paternal love. He has never known the love of a physical father and my heart is grieving that he will also be paying a personal, high non-financial cost for a brighter future. Protect him from the world. Protect him from the evil influence of this world. Give him the passion to seek YOU most of all. He is an “orphan” in the coming weeks and months and perhaps, years. Use us all Lord to surround him with your love.

When I look at him, I still remember vividly, the first time I saw him when I arrived from the US in 1994. I was too excited that I immediately kissed him and carried him. But it was too much for a 2-year old handsome nephew, and he cried and looked for his mom. I remember how he would drink his milk in regular intervals and I would ask him “are you drinking your beer?” and he would smile and nod at me. I remember the time inside the bus from Mindoro when he would look at me to check if I was sleeping or not, because he felt like throwing up, yet did not want his uncle to see. Or that night as we were being rocked by the huge waves crossing the Mindoro Straits and he was really afraid, and he turned to his mom sitting next to me and asked “Mommy, I am afraid, is it okay for me to cry?” I heard him asked that question and I immediately hugged him and said “sure, it is okay to cry…”

Lord, maybe he will do a lot of crying when his mom leaves. They may not be physical tears because many times, young people do their cries tear-lessly. Lord I pray that You will be His source of strength and comfort. Thank you for being the Father him and to us all.

Lord God, I surrender them to you. I love them both very much and I wish I could afford both of them a sense or degree of freedom. It breaks my heart that they will need to be separated because many times they feel, they only have each other. Let them know Lord, that they are included and loved and that You are fond of them as well.

Thank you Lord. I know you care for them. This may not be your design but you allowed it to happen. You are the sovereign God and Your hands are not limited by our circumstances. Thank you for taking care of them. I also ask for your provision of time, money and energy to become an influential mentor, friend and uncle to my nephew.

In your hands I surrender this prayer through the precious name of your Son, Jesus.

Amen.