It’s tough to fully digest the past week’s happenings all at once in one post, I expect my individual reflections and post-mortems to come in waves over the next few days. I honestly never saw the importance of debriefing, until my month-long XJ mission trip in 2012 showed me otherwise- How do you process and communicate thirty days worth of experiencing God’s love In a secluded town, immersing in a totally new culture, making relationships with people you would never have met… You need that process of reflection to properly figure out what the trip has taught you about yourself, about God, about others, and it can help in you progress as a Christian member of society.
Point One: If practice makes perfect, multiple trips makes easy adaptation.
It marks my third trip back to Cebu, and it being my third time running the camp, I definitely noticed myself experiencing less culture shock and discomfort this time round. Much much much less. Firstly, it became easier to strike up conversations with the youths, because I could build on the rapport from previous trips. I already knew most of their names, and I think that in itself is a fairly significant step. It reminds them that I care enough about them to remember their names. Most noticeably, I realized how totally unaffected I was with the total lack of adherence to a timetable or discipline. The Singapore style of running a camp always has a focus on punctuality and severe need to be “on-schedule”, and I myself did struggle a bit with the stretchable timings in last year’s camp. But lo and behold, I was totally at ease with it this year, although I did notice some of my teammates feeling uneasy about it (essentially me one year ago). What do you mean “take as long as you need for the sharing, what TIME do I need to be back?”
And I really did appreciate that Pastor Davis didn’t enforce timings and stuff because I do admit, sometimes we do get so concerned about the timings that we forget that the “success” of a camp is not dependent on how much you adhere to timings, but on how much the participants were able to share and learn about God. And adherence to a schedule should never come at the expense of the depth of a discussion.
What I want to work on for next year’s trip: Try to learn some Cebuano to help build a stronger connection. It always feels good when someone takes the effort to learn your language and your culture, and hopefully 2017 is the year I properly put on my learning cap. I’ve downloaded the Cebuano app a few times before, but I honestly didn’t click it more than a handful of times.
Point Two: We may have different life experiences and backgrounds, but we always face similar struggles in following God.
One of the worries for the camp was that I wouldn’t be able to relate to a lot of their issues and problems, since their issues are generally more with regarding to lack of motivation to study, insufficient attention from their parents, broken families etc. But at the end of the day, it really boils down to the same struggles of glorifying God, putting God first, showing God’s love to others. They might not have the $$ to afford tuition classes and such, and God ultimately looks at the heart and the effort. God doesn’t care if we score an A, or if we got promoted, what he does care about is that we try our best, and in that process, we glorify Him. A lot of the Lorega youths tend to copy exam answers and skip school, since they are not doing well in school/lost interest, and I tried to explain that that isn’t an excuse to do these things since cheating and ponning school wouldn’t glorify God.
And man, I realize I fall prey to the very same sins. I am very thankful for my job, but I’m not always 100% trying my best and I do recognize that sometimes I forget that the point of my work is to glorify God and to spread His love. The concern with doing well is indeed the wrong motivation for work, and it tempts us to idolize work rather than to worship God.
What I want to work on for next year’s trip: Keep up to date with more of their lives and just keep encouraging them, since it would remind me at the same time.
Point Three: The kampong spirit is still so alive in Cebu, and I’m quite envious of it.
During our camp in San Fernando, there was one afternoon where there was a neighbourhood kids party. One of the activities for the kids was to climb the two-storey oil slicked bamboo pole, and the get the money placed at the top of the pole. No easy feat for these small kids but they didn’t stop them from attacking the task with gusto. However, there are some tasks that are near impossible. So our campers basically just crashed the party, and formed a human tower for the little kids to get to the top.
And it worked.
I was evidently way more invested than I should have been, getting super duper excited throughout the nail-biting thirty minutes of sweat and blood, but it was really cool seeing the whole community cheer on this Mowgli-lookalike and it was really heartwarming to see our campers exert themselves physically just for this little boy. And when Mowgli offered to share the prize with them, they all turned it down. I really couldn’t be prouder of it, but this moment alone really encapsulates the whole community spirit. No closed doors, no boundaries, no mine-yours, just one big happy helpful kampong.
What I can do: Raise my kids in Cebu.
Point Four: The more you give, the more happiness you receive in return
“God loves a cheerful giver.” A kid in Sunday school once asked me, if it’s okay to just pretend to be happy while giving. And it got me thinking, how many times was I genuinely cheerful to give, and how many time was I psycho-in myself into being cheerful.
I mentioned previously how the inertia to commit time and effort to going back to Cebu is a huge obstacle at the start of planning for a trip. But at the end of it, the amount of time and effort I put in, always seems so worth it. In fact, I’m happy to give it, since I see the fruits it bears, I notice the tighter bonds I form, I observe how I become more integrated and “at-home” I feel. And this makes me happy. It makes me cheerful.
Even the clothes I donated, which I haven’t wore in years (namely all my swimming shirts), were picked up by them with so much gratitude and happiness. It’s basically shopping buffet-style, everything is free to go, and it was really cute seeing them pick out clothes for each other. Seeing them put on the clothes immediately made my heart feel all tingly. And again, it make me fuzzy to see my clothes being worn by so many of them. Something so effortlessly done by me, can bring so much joy to them.
What I can do for next year’s trip: Sieve through my cupboards more carefully and pack to donate to them.