A Letter from Cathy Chang and Juan Lopez, serving in the Philippines
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Write to Juan Lopez Carrasco
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Recently, I noticed that Facebook friends have posted the “first day of school photos” with students ranging from kindergarten to first year of college. Even professors have posted their “first day of school” photos. I also hoped to add our family’s back-to-school activities on social media, but I am cautious about what to share. After the harassment that I (Cathy) experienced in mid-April, and the worry about whether it would impact the status of our missionary visas, I am happy to share that our visas have been approved. Our family is deeply grateful for your prayers and support, and we ask for your continued spiritual and financial support. Thankfully, we returned to the Philippines and have eased into work and school routines.
On August 22, many Filipino students and teachers began their new school year. After more than two years, the Philippines is one of the last countries to resume in-person school. Many schools offer two options: online or hybrid. Students and teachers are still mandated to wear masks. Vaccines are not mandated for staff, teachers or students. Two days after this first day of school, a storm called Florita forced both businesses and schools to close. These rainy days, combined with flash flooding and landslides, make both urban and rural roads dangerous to travel. The rainy season typically extends from June until November, and August is typically the month when school is canceled.
Our daughter Aurelie will return to hybrid school on September 21, with two days onsite and three days online. August 25 was the start of my second-year doctoral studies in peacebuilding. The program at Payap University in Chiang Mai, Thailand is face-to-face, but my professors and students are allowing me to join via Zoom.
Before returning to school and work, our family enjoyed more social opportunities during the U.S. summer months, thanks to the loosening of COVID restrictions both in the Philippines and the U.S. Aurelie and her friends have been enjoying sleepovers, Filipino comic events and indoor go-carting. In late May, our partner church, the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) celebrated its 12th Quadrennial General Assembly, along with its 74th founding anniversary. In late June and early July, I (Cathy) joined the first-ever hybrid 225th PC(USA) General Assembly in Louisville, Kentucky, as a Missionary Advisory Delegate, assigned to the Immigration committee. I also served as a resource person for the overture promoting human rights ( pc-biz.org/#/search/3000842). Throughout July, our family traveled to several Michigan presbyteries including our home presbytery of Lake Huron. In early August, we joined a family reunion in celebration of my (Cathy’s) parents’ 50th wedding anniversary and my father’s 80th birthday.
Surprisingly, these different U.S.-based events scattered around Kentucky, Michigan and California converged around the common themes of migration and seasonal migrant workers. This theme emerged as I reflected on our time in the U.S. and how to write this letter. Back in 2013, when I first learned about human trafficking in Michigan, I also learned about how workers in agriculture are susceptible to human trafficking. Fast forward to summer 2022. During our visit with the First Presbyterian Church of Pontiac, Michigan, Juan and I enjoyed fellowship with the members and a fuller conversation afterward. When I noticed the bathroom signs in Spanish, I also learned that the church provided the space for seasonal migrant workers to receive legal counseling. Just a few weeks before, during the 225th General Assembly, we discussed and approved both in committee and in plenary, the importance of a legal network for migrants (https://www.pc-biz.org/#/search/3000838). Later during the family reunion, I talked with a cousin who was discussing how information systems might enhance the relationship between employers and seasonal migrant workers, and in the end, reduce any opportunities for abuse or wrongdoing.
In addition to connecting the dots around migration, our Michigan church visits provided more discussions between the past and today. Since these discussions can help you to understand better our context for ministry, we’re sharing more about it here. Several people observed that the new Philippine president, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr., is the son of the former president, Ferdinand Marcos Sr., and the vice president, Sara Duterte-Carpio, is the daughter of the outgoing president, Rodrigo Duterte. Based on these earliest weeks of this current administration, it appears that the struggle toward justice and truth will still be an “uphill climb.”
September 21 is the 50th anniversary of the declaration of martial law as imposed by former president Ferdinand Marcos Sr. This history is in danger of being rewritten. The UCCP Council of Bishops has expressed its concerns about this administration. In late July, leading up to the Philippine President’s first State of the Nation address in late July, the UCCP Council of Bishops released this prayer statement (uccpchurch.com/our-prayer-for-the-sona-2022/).
Here is an excerpt:
In the past, we have not only seen and heard but more so experienced first-hand the atrocities committed by our leaders, especially during the Martial Law years under the Ferdinand E. Marcos Sr. presidency. Because of this, your people painfully learned the lessons of oppression and tyranny leading us to decide to put an end to such leadership through your inspiration and power, peacefully wielded by your people through the People Power revolution.
Today, perhaps we have forgotten the lessons of the past, for if the recently- conducted elections were truly without fraud, we can say that we have chosen the son and namesake of the oppressive and tyrannical leader of our country’s Martial Law years to now lead us. Forgive us, dear God, for forgetting the precious lessons of the past, for not being able to enlighten and fully guard the hearts and minds of our sons and daughters and thereby allowing them to be exposed to lies and distortions of truth, leading them to choose again another Marcos who believes that the time of his father’s leadership, those years that we were under Martial Law, was a “Golden Age” of our country’s prosperity, a great lie perpetuated to distort and change the truth.
Using the concluding words of their prayer statement, we enjoin you to support them and the Filipino people:
O God of justice and love, we pray that you increase our commitment to strengthen our resolve as a Church to champion our prophetic tasks, heralding the Gospel of life and freedom, and be sustained in our journey with the people and accompany their aspirations for shalom. We pray in the name of our risen Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Walking alongside Filipino friends, we are your friends in Christ,
Cathy, Juan and Aurelie
Please read the following letter from Rev. Mienda Uriarte, acting director of World Mission:
Dear Partners in God’s Mission,
What an amazing journey we’re on together! Our call to be a Matthew 25 denomination has challenged us in so many ways to lean into new ways of reaching out. As we take on the responsibilities of dismantling systemic racism, eradicating the root causes of poverty and engaging in congregational vitality, we find that the Spirit of God is indeed moving throughout World Mission. Of course, the past two years have also been hard for so many as we’ve ventured through another year of the pandemic, been confronted with racism, wars and the heart wrenching toll of natural disasters. And yet, rather than succumb to the darkness, we are called to shine the light of Christ by doing justice, loving kindness and walking humbly with God.
We are so grateful that you are on this journey as well. Your commitment enables mission co-workers around the world to accompany partners and share in so many expressions of the transformative work being done in Christ’s name. Thank you for your partnership, prayers and contributions to their ministries.
We hope you will continue to support World Mission in all the ways you are able:
Give – Consider making a year-end financial contribution for the sending and support of our mission personnel (E132192). This unified fund supports the work of all our mission co-workers as they accompany global partners in their life-giving work. Gifts can also be made “in honor of” a specific mission co-worker – just include their name on the memo line.
Pray – Include PC(USA) mission personnel and global partners in your daily prayers. If you would like to order prayer cards as a visual reminder of those for whom you are praying, please contact Cindy Rubin (email@example.com; 800-728-7228, ext. 5065).
Act – Invite a mission co-worker to visit your congregation either virtually or in person. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to make a request or email the mission co-worker directly. Email addresses are listed on Mission Connections profile pages. Visit pcusa.org/missionconnections to search by last name.
Thank you for your consideration! We appreciate your faithfulness to God’s mission through the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
Rev. Mienda Uriarte, Acting Director
Presbyterian Mission Agency
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
To give, please visit https://bit.ly/22MC-YE.
For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6
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Tags: 225th GA, Church Visits, human rights overture, human trafficking, Matthew 25, migration, networking, UCCP
Tags: Cathy Chang and Juan Lopez
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