Over the past seven years I have traveled to many local places throughout Manila, Philippines.
Drawn to all things cultural and Filipino, I find delight in: a simple trike ride through local streets, a walk through the center of a neighboring Barangay, a trek along steep pathways where simple clapboard homes teeter precariously along cliff edges, a ride on a crowded unairconditioned train in which I am sandwiched shoulder to shoulder with the locals whom I have grown to love, a handkerchief covering my face from the polluted black belch of a jeep-nee I am riding in, the church that meets outside whose congregants greet me warmly with smiles that welcome despite our many differences.
Even though I live far from the edge of physical need, my heart is often drawn into the simplicity of life of the physically poor, and poverty of heart.
So, when I was asked by a friend to tag-along to enter a new-to-me part of the city, I jumped at the chance. I wanted to get out of the rut I had been in recently, and a day off to venture deeper into the city was just what I needed.
I admit, that at first, I felt nervous not having my husband as our directional expert; as I lack greatly in the GPS department. Yet, to my delight, when we got to the train station I quickly found the ticket counter and could read the signs correctly telling us where to go.
This pleased me, as it made me realize that in the future I could do this by myself; but for today it was more fun to share this local excursion with a friend!
Getting off the crowded train and exiting the station, I again had an instinctive direction of where to go, as it all looked vaguely familiar from past travels.
As we stepped down into the busy street we were immediately assaulted with the mayhem of honking horns, push cart food vendors, bottle-neck traffic, pedestrians weaving their way to safety and the endless whistle of a traffic enforcer trying to bring order from chaos.
As we dodged and ducked our way through the dissonance of humanity I felt puzzled, as something in me came alive.
At first, I couldn’t pin-point this incompatible feeling; as it seemed greatly unsuited for what surrounded me; putting all my senses on high alert.
Inside I knew that I would never want to live in this level of filth and foulness; therefore, how could this degree of poverty possibly make me feel so alive?
After I gingerly stepped around cavernous potholes in which I could vanish from sight, broken chunks of ankle-turning cement, puddles of unknown substances, food for sale on tables right beside open sewer grates, fresh excrement and black belching motorcycles; a slow dawning came to light in my mind, as I realized that in this distressing situation my soul was able to see mankind through the eyes of God’s love, and a heart overflowing with mercy.
A woman sleeping on the narrow curb on a piece of cardboard, a baby stripped of its clothing, a child alone on a busy street playing on a phone; all made me realize that God is no respecter of persons. He doesn’t love the one who has monetary wealth, any more than the one sitting in physical poverty.
As I gazed at the many toothless smiles, watched as bugs were being picked from tatted hair, listened to the constant cacophony of sounds around me, and took in the entire scope of sights and smells which assaulted my senses; my heart of compassion was struck with a deep life-altering spiritual and emotional recognition.
As I took in my surroundings I sense the Holy Spirits whisper; “Linda, each one of these Filipino’s are soul carriers.”
The whisperings of the Holy Spirit became a prompt to courageously force my eyes to look directly into each face and smile.
Not a smile of pity or shame; but a smile that reached to my eyes; as a broad and welcoming gift to each person who crossed my path.
I was amazed that even in giving a friendly handwave to a group of Filipino women, brought in return pleased, shy smiles behind cupped hands. Only their big, brown eyes telling the story of their delight that I would stop to acknowledge them.
Taking the time to talk to a group of teenagers with my few, broken words of Tagalog was received with giggles and a stream of fast spoken Tagalog in return. They laughed outright as they quickly realized, I only knew kaunti ang, a little. Their pleasure was evident as we posed to take multiple selfies and I walked away with their friendly voices calling after me.
A gathering of men called out cheerfully from behind their stalls bursting with electronic devices, gadgets, and an assortment of mismatched hardware. Their jostling and good humor was contagious. It was quickly rewarded as they elbowed and pushed together for a quick photo shoot; immediately gifting me with their unashamed, toothless proud grins. They laughed and poked one another as I showed them their faces on my phone; calling after us as we moved on, waving our good-byes.
As we wove our way through this area of the city, my heart continued to feel alive. How was it that so little could be given on my part, to evoke such a genuine reply of gratitude?
Even an unexpected tip, in response to a kind gesture, seemed to bring such pleasure to the receiver. “God, maybe they can afford a bowl of rice today.” I whisper as I extend the coin.
As we wound our way down alleys and side streets I found myself repeatedly asking the question; “What it is that makes my soul feel so alive and uplifted on days like this one?”
It was as if God was whispering to my heart;
“Linda, I have given to you the gift of mercy. On days like this I allow you to lift your eyes away from your own circumstances, and to generously lavish mankind with compassion. When you extend a hand, a smile, a touch; you are living freely as the woman I created you to be and in these simple gestures, you become the extension of Jesus Christ to the lost world around you.”
“We become alive when we live as the woman God created us to be!”
Different by Design
Even though no personal reward of this extension of my gift is needed, it seems that God tenderly caresses me with His love; as I capture a smile of delight on a child’s face, a quick selfie with a group of teenagers, the fun of being the white skinned woman with whom they can try to chat, a knowing that when I walk into their circle of friends my white skin breaks the monotony of their long, tedious day.
This alone is enough for me; yet how it hurts my soul to be elevated because of my skin color. To be elevated because I carry a purse that has money in it. To be elevated because I am called American. When in my heart, I know that God has not created one to be above the other; yet in this culture I am called rich, privileged, advantaged.
May I, in this richness, take the time to extend a moment of kindness that changes the outlook of one soul, for this one moment in time. May my mingling in their crowded midst, be like Jesus walking through a throng of Samaritans; willing to stop and listen, willing to heal the broken in body, soul and spirit; willing to touch a heart with a broad-genuine smile.
May my presence alone be a cool refreshing salve that liberally administers healing to a festering blister of sorrow, that reaches out in joy to a deep well of loneliness, that extends a coin for those whose purse is lacking, to be the hand that touches the lips of a thirsty soul with a much-needed bottle of cool water given in Jesus name. All because I am woman of mercy, and in this, I gift what I have been given by God. His gift of compassion and love.
“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed.” Isaiah 61:1
- What emotions rise to the surface of your heart when you encounter others who don’t have as you have?
- How can you begin to see others as soul carriers, equally loved by God and in need of the gospel message?
- What gifts has God given to you that you can use to minister to others?
- How can you give a “cup of cold water” in Jesus name?
Often when we help others in need, we choose to do things that make us feel better about ourselves.
What would it look like to give without the promise of receiving anything in return; but knowing that you have met a true need in the other person’s life and were obedient to the calling of Christ?
God, it ultimately is You who takes care of the poor around me. Show me how I can be an extension of your mercy and compassion to those in need. Bless those who don’t have as I have.
May I learn to be a woman who freely extends a helping hand to the poor around me, and graciously opens my arms to the needy. May I have a heart that eagerly helps those less fortunate than I am.
God, give to me a heart that is generous and full of godly compassion. Give justice to the poor and the orphan; uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute. Rescue the poor and helpless; deliver them from the grasp of evil people.
Teach me how to show mercy to the oppressed and to practice righteousness-right living before those in need.
Thank you, God, that the LORD is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble, those who know Your name trust in You, for You, O LORD, do not abandon those who search for You.
As your righteous daughter, teach me to care about justice for the poor. Raise up in me a heart full of concern to meet their needs in a way that adequately provides for them what they need most. May I learn to see those around me as soul carriers in need of the life-giving food of the gospel message.
God, I may not be poor in the physical sense of the word; but what about my heart?
Search me O God and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends You, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.
God, I recognize that I am often poor and needy in spirit. Thank you that you promise to hurry to my aid, because You, O God are my helper and my Savior. You will not delay in helping me. In Jesus Name, Amen!
The following prayer scriptures are taken from the New Living Translation of the Bible (Proverbs 31:20; Psalm 82:3-4; Psalm 9:9-10; Proverbs 29:7; Isaiah 1:17; Psalm 70:5; Psalm 139:23-24)
“Whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor.” Proverbs 22:9 (ESV)
Photography by Linda Jane Dingeldein