Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Next Step In The Journey - Moving To The Philippines

So, the big news is that at the end of January 2014 I will (God-willing) be moving to the Philippines to teach (and do lots of other stuff) in an orphanage/children’s home called The Ruel Foundation. It is located on Mindoro Island, south of Manila.

This post is to explain a bit about how I got to this point, and what’s ahead.

In October last year after I got back from visiting my Compassion kids in Brazil, I was sharing some photos with friends of mine when one of them showed me an email she had received. It was from an orphanage director in the Philippines, looking for a teacher. This was the job description:
* Young Australian or American male
* Qualified teacher
* Committed Christian
* Preferably single with few ties or commitments
* Financially secure
* Able to teach sport and English to 6-10 year olds

My first thought was “You might as well put my name on it!” It was just so “me”, and the timing was just superb. My contract at the school I was at was about to run out, and because of lack of student numbers they were unable to keep me on, so I would be able to pretty much just go.

With the help of my friend Sarah Hayden, I contacted the Ruel director, we had a couple of Skype conversations and I basically signed on the line there. I then informed my Pastor, who is also an extended family member. He told me that if I went, it would not be with the church’s blessing, because they did not feel I was ready. While I strongly disagreed, I had seen what happened when people just left this church and went and did their own thing – they failed miserably. So I respected his decision, as family and as a man of God, and put it off.

As God would have it, not a week later I got a teaching job back in Melbourne, at the school I used to attend, so my immediate future seemed assured, though the job at Ruel was always in the back of my mind as a possibility.

As many of you know, in 2013 I went on three separate trips, visiting my Compassion-sponsored kids in 11 different countries, including the Philippines in April. I treated it kind of like a test – if I absolutely hated it and couldn’t stand the culture, living conditions or weather, I knew the Ruel possibility probably wouldn’t happen. Even though it was only a week, I thrived and had a great time.

What I saw and experienced on these trips really impacted me, and each time I came back to Australia, I struggled adjusting and settling in to our culture. Such affluence, abundance and prosperity, yet we are so greedy, prideful, self-sufficient and ungrateful for what we have. I have carried an increasing sense of discomfort and discontent, along with a feeling that I may be called to serve God somewhere else.

In June, I received an email from Pauline, the director of Ruel. She had been following my Compassion trips on my blog and Facebook page, and could see my obvious heart for kids and for God. She asked me if I would consider coming on board to Ruel as a part-time teacher, part-time administrator, since they already had one teacher going, but could use my skills and giftings in other areas. This confirmed things for me immediately, and I said YES straight away.

The first challenge was telling my parents. I love them dearly and they are Christians as I am, but I knew they would have trouble with my decision. Security, comfort and safety are very much ensconsed in their worldview, but I have come to see that fully following Jesus to where He wants you to go isn’t always going to be safe, secure and comfortable. My younger brother and sister were both married by 22, have five kids between them and have done the “settling down” thing, and I’m sure my parents envisaged the same thing for me. However, even though it’s what the majority of the developed world does, the suburban, domestic comfortable life has never grabbed me as something to aspire to. I can’t see that changing. I’ve been wired up differently.

From the animated discussions that followed, this seemed to be the gist of their “concerns” about what I was doing. Mum wanted me to stay to help with babysitting the grandkids (aged 1 to 5). Admittedly that will be the part I’ll miss most when I’m gone. Dad’s concern centred around the fact that I seem to jump from thing to thing, never committing long in one place, which following the same pattern he did when he was younger. That is true. In six years of teaching, the longest I have been in one place is 18 months. This is partly my insecurity in my ability at being able to handle the demands of full-time teaching, but I also think it also goes back to the restlessness and discontent I’ve felt, particularly over the last three years, and the sense that I am “not where I should be.”

Now I can’t guarantee how long I’ll be in the Philippines. Only God knows that, and I’m hoping it’s a long term thing. But I do feel in my heart that this job at Ruel is what I’ve been created to do. Everything I love to do and everything I am good at is lumped together in this one job: teaching music and sport, doing the website and blog and some office admin stuff. This does not mean that it will always be easy and fun. I know it is going to be THE most challenging thing I’ve done in my 32 years, particularly the fact that many of the kids at Ruel have physical deformities, which is something I’m not used to.

I consider my “life verse” to be Isaiah 58:10 “…and if you spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail…” 

Many of you are aware that I sponsor lots of kids with Compassion, 29 at this point. God has used these last 7 years of Compassion sponsorship to change my life in many ways: heart for the poor; contentment; living simply; giving generously; investing my time, money, emotions and resources in something greater than myself – His kingdom. For me, going over to the Philippines and serving is the next step.

So, to the question you might be asking: what will happen to them? Well, since Ruel is a voluntary position (I will actually be paying to work there), I won’t be able to continue financially sponsoring them for much longer. However, I definitely will NOT be “dumping and running.”

What I would LOVE, dear reader, if you have been encouraged, inspired or challenged in any way by the way I’m living life and the way God is using me through Compassion, is for you to consider sponsoring one of my kids, and giving them some of the love I have been. I currently have 27 kids who need a sponsor, and you can read about them here. As an added bonus, if you sponsor one of my kids I will give you a copy of all the photos and videos I took on my visits, as well as a copy of the letters they have sent, to help you get to know them better. If you are an advocate or have a blog, please put the word out. I am not abandoning these kids.

I also discussed another couple of options with Compassion. They told me there are organisations out there that like to be seen to be doing the social justice thing, and are happy to financially sponsor a bunch of kids, without the letter-writing commitment. That would be ideal for me, as I could continue the relationship I have built up over the last few years through letters and visits.

It’s certainly an exciting adventure ahead, and it comes down to this: On my Compassion trips, I discovered what it was to completely and utterly depend and rely on God, and I want that in my life. In my life I want to put myself in a situation where I have no choice but to depend and rely on God to meet my needs. I cannot get that in Australia, surrounded by affluence, abundance and prosperity. I don’t want “stuff” to stand in the way of my relationship with God, and though I live more simply than most (I don’t even have a couch in my house, and my TV  is maybe 25 inches!), I still find myself falling back into self-sufficiency, self-reliance, pride and ingratitude. So I’m following where I believe God is leading me.

Here are some links to The Ruel Foundation from Youtube and Facebook so you can find out more about who they are and what they do:

The Ruel Website

The Ruel Facebook Page

Ruel History on Youtube

Ruel Foundation - Introduction

Ruel House - Take a Tour

Ruel Foundation - Making a Difference (contains images of children with physical deformities)

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