A Letter from Cathy Chang and Juan Lopez, serving in the Philippines
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Greetings from the Philippines!
Our family would like to share glimpses from late 2021 and early 2022. Since the Omicron variant numbers were still low around Christmas, we vacationed in a small town called Liliw, a two-hour drive south. Liliw is the tsinela (sandal) capital of the Philippines. We enjoyed a quiet countryside retreat in a bamboo hut. It was rainy and cold but very relaxing. We appreciated nature hikes and rest for our souls with home-cooked food in the mountains beside Mount Banahaw. Especially after completing her first semester of doctoral studies and ongoing accompaniment with partners in the Philippines and around Asia, Cathy appreciated this rest! This area includes the highest point in Luzon, at the edge of Manila. The mountain consists of a three-peaked volcano with hot springs. Known as a “bundok dambana” or sacred mountain, this site attracts many pilgrims. Several places are dedicated to Saint Cristobal as well as Agripino Lontoc, who founded those places during the Spanish colonization.
Meanwhile, in the southeastern Philippines, over 500,000 families experienced life-threatening and damaging conditions right before Christmas. Typhoon Odette (Rai international name) made landfall on December 16, traveling from Siargao Island, in the southeast, to the West Philippine Sea, crossing approximately 10,000 villages. Although the Philippines has a typhoon season, climate change has extended the season, causing more violent storms. Fourteen typhoons were category four typhoons and were designated super typhoons, according to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Administration or PAGASA.
Thankfully, the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) provided financial support for their immediate needs. Although there are still many needs, the local government is slow to provide additional support. Please pray for the communities impacted by Typhoon Odette, and if you can, please donate to PDA: https://pda.pcusa.org/situation/typhoon-rai/.
For our daughter Aurelie, the second academic quarter began with fits and starts. Many friends and teachers got COVID, which added to the stress of knowing how easily it spread. Soon after, the city government declared a week-long health break for schools. Her school sponsored a webinar about COVID vaccines for children. Fortunately, the government started vaccines for children aged 5 to 11. We are grateful that Aurélie has already received her first shot of Pfizer and should be fully vaccinated next week. School is still online; she is eager to be back at school with her classmates.
This new calendar year, Juan’s colleagues with the Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC) and their partners from the Association for the Rights of Children in Southeast Asia (ARCSEA) shared a special gift for 500 children in Quezon City. ARCSEA published a Mental Health Journal for 2022. As a resource person for online discussions and trainings about children’s mental health concerns, Juan observed how many people suffered from lockdown measures that worsened depression, anxiety, distress and apathy. Helpless and hopeless parents also had mental health issues. Hopefully, this book can alleviate a bit of the daily burdens and boredom.
Because of the myriad of crises happening each year, we invite you to pray and support different Asia and Pacific partners. Pray with Filipino friends preparing for the May 9 national elections for president, vice president, senators and congresspersons, especially for a peaceful campaign season. Pray for three colleagues from the Philippines, Indonesia and Fiji, to join the PC(USA) delegation to the upcoming United Nations 66th session of the Commission on the Status of Women. The priority theme this year is “Achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls in the context of climate change, environmental and disaster risk reduction policies and programs.” Pray for the Hong Kong government as the Omicron surges now impact children, senior citizens, and foreign domestic workers and leave them vulnerable in distressing situations. If you would like to donate money towards emergency supplies for these migrants please donate to Bethune House in Hong Kong that is assisting migrant workers who are forced to sleep outside because of full shelters and hospitals (https://donorbox.org/urgent-emergency-appeal-to-support-hong-kong-s-migrant-domestic-workers?fbclid=IwAR00N0_f-in-ls39p_qiA6CWk4nVCNwNxCv-HBhk4MRvnr1a_Ko-8POGarI).
With these prayers and actions, our family is deeply grateful for the ways that accompany our partners and us. Thank you for partnering with God’s mission.
With the peace of Christ,
Juan, Cathy & Aurelie
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Tags: Association for the Rights of Children in Southeast Asia (ARCSEA), Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC), COVID, hong kong, Hurricane Rai, Matthew 25, mental health, migrant women, pda, United Nations Commission on Women
Tags: Cathy Chang and Juan Lopez
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