Last Tuesday, December 20, I had the joy of assisting our sisters here in Pasay to distribute gifts to almost 1,000 poor families. They came queuing up at the convent gate from early morning for a day of reflection, prayer and sharing of gifts. Their children had a separate session of storytelling, singing, dancing, snacks and gift-giving. With the help of our Pauline cooperators, we were able to distribute tickets to families who live in the streets of Pasay, more than a hundred families whose homes were razed to the ground by recent fires in the city, street children and other poor families who are most needy. Although a picture paints a thousand words, their stories help us see beyond the visible…
This is Sharmaine (not her real name), an orphan, whose right leg was cut off and left leg severely injured. A van ran over her in an accident when she was 11 years old and the owner paid for hospital expenses but no support afterwards. She’s now 14, is confined to a wheelchair, but does not go to school. A cheerful girl with dreams, who will help her find a better future?
Mary Jane (not her real name) is four years old, the youngest of three children, and was born blind. Her father abandoned the family after her birth and her mother ekes out a living by doing odd chores for other families and selling scraps scavenged from garbage. Will she ever see the beauty of the sunset or the green grass, or read God’s word?
Friends and benefactors of the sisters donated rice, noodles, canned goods, biscuits, toys and old clothes which were then packed per family. But more people came than expected and we ran out of goody bags. What we have left were boxes of biscuits, and as I gave a pack to one of the mothers who queued early that morning she thanked me profusely and said: “Our family will have something to eat for two days.” I thought: Biscuits? For a family of five? I wish we had more to give but there was none, and I was moved to tears.
That afternoon as I knelt before the Lord, I brought these brothers and sisters to him and also the victims of the flash floods in Mindanao. Over a thousand have died and countless others missing. Entire villages have been wiped out and covered with mud. You must have seen the horrifying images on TV and the papers. They all need a lot of help to cope with the trauma and to rebuild their lives.
We have a community of Daughters of St Paul in Cagayan de Oro but thankfully, the flood waters stopped just two blocks from the convent and all the sisters are safe.
Many of us ask: “Why?” Especially as we approach Christmas? “Where is God in all this?” I look on the manger scene in our chapel and realize we may not be able to find answers. But we can live the questions in hope. Yes, the goody bags we gave to the poor are not sufficient to answer their needs. I hope that more than the material gift, what we gave them is hope – that God cares to provide for each of us our daily bread. That his light and his love shine in the hearts of millions of others who respond to those in need. Yes, he is Emmanuel. He is with us in the darkest night and in our deepest distress. And more. We, all of us, are in God.
May you find Jesus born anew in your heart, in the hearts of your dear ones and friends, and in all the people you meet this holy season.
Have a blessed Christmas!
If you want to help our brothers and sisters in Cagayan and Iligan, here’s how.
If you wish to join us in sharing your blessings to the poor please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for your prayers and messages of sympathy and condolences at the death of Papang. I and the whole family truly appreciate your support and solidarity. Here’s a tribute prepared by my nephew Mark Louis.
Thank you also for praying for Mamang. She is recovering well and is sending her greetings to you all. After nine years away from my family, I am spending Christmas with them here in Calamba, the first year without Papang.