A Letter from Cathy Chang and Juan Lopez, serving in the Philippines
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On the morning of November 2, Jennifer Dalquez arrived in the Philippines after having completed her prison sentence in the United Arab Emirates. She was imprisoned in December 2014 and sentenced to death in May 2015 for fatally wounding her employer when he attempted to rape her. Jennifer’s parents approached Migrante International and asked their assistance to help authorities overturn the death penalty. Working with the PC(USA) Human Trafficking Roundtable, I asked for additional support from church members through their prayers and an electronic signature campaign, as well as from the Stated Clerk’s Office through letters to the Philippine President and the Emir of the United Arab Emirates. Thanks to God, through our collective efforts Jennifer is free and home. I was one of the first people from her network of supporters to greet Jennifer and welcome her home!
October 1 marked the third year of our family’s first term as mission co-workers. September marked the two-and-a-half-year anniversary of our arrival in the Philippines. More than the time that has passed, the relationships we have developed mark our time here. We almost forgot these milestones because of our desire to return to a routine in our adopted home country of the Philippines. The day after we returned from the United States, we went to our daughter’s school to meet with the teacher and get caught up. Before our meeting, we passed Aurélie’s new classroom. As she opened the door to many familiar faces and friendly cheers of “Hi, Aurélie!” we were reassured that going back to school would be a smooth transition for her.
As we were visiting churches and church gatherings in the United States from May to August, our partner church — the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) — was preparing for a new ecclesiastical year and quadrennium. June marks the beginning of the new ecclesiastical year and quadrennium, with a renewed commitment to “doing Christ’s mission in these changing times,” the annual sub-theme designated for our church’s common study, reflection, prayer and action. Under the new leadership of General Secretary Bishop Melzar Labuntog, new and returning bishops, and other national church council leaders, we strive to “do Christ’s mission together in these changing times.”
During a mid-October National Council meeting in the city of Hamtiq, located in the province of Antique in the southwestern Philippines, we voted on our annual budget and plan of action. This body acts as the Board of Trustees, with representatives coming from each conference (similar to presbytery) and the Council of Bishops (both actively serving and retired bishops).
I work in the UCCP national office with Migrant Ministry, a program that focuses on supporting the rights of migrant workers and caring for their families. Because of this ministry, the church leadership invited me to participate in the annual National Council meeting. As I prepared for this meeting, I was anxious because I had not discussed any Migrant Ministry plans with churches, conferences, and jurisdictions. When I read the annual budget and consolidated plan of action, this concern soon proved unfounded.
Imagine my surprise! The Western Visayas jurisdictional area (similar to a synod) where the province of Antique is located has made plans to continue Migrant Ministry, and the jurisdictional area of South Luzon is making plans to do so as well. More than places and faces, these are UCCP friends and colleagues who are actively partnering in this ministry with Churches Witnessing with Migrants (CWWM) and Migrante International.
Back in February 2017, the province of Antique was the first place I visited outside of metro Manila to explore how the (PC)USA could partner with the UCCP, with additional support from CWWM and Migrante International, in addressing labor migration and human trafficking. I have come to work very closely with these partner organizations. We rallied around Jennifer Dalquez and the campaign to save her life. More than one-and-a-half years since that first visit to Antique, we hosted our CWWM Conveners Meeting at our UCCP national offices. This meeting happened two weeks before the National Council meeting. At this CWWM Conveners meeting, I observed many familiar faces and recognized the names of many people who have now become friends — this was our second time meeting this year. A Philippine map of the places and types of ministry for migrant workers showed us the geographical diversity as well as the diversity of gifts among my new friends.
One of our North Luzon representatives for CWWM, the Rev. Roceni Bakian, was in the United States serving as a Presbyterian International Peacemaker and was unable to attend this CWWM Conveners meeting. She did return to the Philippines in time to attend the National Council meeting. After her new cultural experience in the United States, she invited me to join her North Luzon colleagues in song and dance for the traditional Solidarity Night, during which each jurisdiction usually shares a song or dance. I participated in two new dances — including a courtship ritual and group dance — and after a few minutes of practice, we were ready to show our shared cultural solidarity. Thanks to this song and dance, we are connected in a new way — and we are prepared to work together.
Looking forward, I hope that you will share my excitement and pray with me and our partners for the preparations for these upcoming events. After endorsing the Rev. Roceni Bakian as a Presbyterian International Peacemaker in September 2018, we are now making initial plans to host a Peacemaking Travel Study Seminar in the Philippines and Hong Kong in May 2020. This seminar provides participants firsthand learning about efforts for peace and justice in contexts of conflict and oppression. After participating in the Presbyterian Women Global Exchange to Indonesia, several female GPIB (Protestant Church in Western Indonesia) pastors are interested in learning more about women’s empowerment in the Philippines, so we are making tentative plans for their May 2019 visit. Finally, in December I will travel to Marrakesh, Morocco, to participate in my first international CWWM consultation and attend the Intergovernmental Conference on the United Nations Global Compact on Migration.
As you can see, we are grateful for our friends and colleagues — and for the ways that your financial gifts allow us to work alongside our partners around the Philippines and Asia. Your support also allows me to be that physical presence that welcomes home Jennifer Dalquez with hugs. Please consider supporting our ministry through prayers and financial gifts.
Grace and peace,
Cathy, Juan & Aurélie
Please read this important message from José Luis Casal, Director, Presbyterian World Mission
Dear partners in God’s mission,
We near the close of 2018 inspired by the hope of Christ. God is transforming the world, and you are helping to make it happen.
Thank you very much for your support of our mission co-workers. The prayers and financial gifts of people like you enable them to work alongside global partners to address poverty, hopelessness, violence and other pressing problems in the name of Jesus Christ.
Every day, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) mission co-workers are blessed to be able to walk alongside their brothers and sisters across the globe. Listening to each other in faith and in friendship, they learn from each other how to work towards a world in which everyone flourishes. Acting upon what they discover together, PC(USA) mission co-workers and our global partners strengthen the body of Christ.
Because you are an integral part of God’s mission, I invite you to become more deeply committed to Presbyterian World Mission. First, would you make a year-end gift for the sending and support of our mission co-workers? The needs in the world are great, and World Mission is poised to answer God’s call to serve others.
I also invite you to ask your session to add our mission co-workers to your congregation’s prayer list and mission budget for 2019 and beyond. Your multi-year commitment will make a great difference in our involvement with our partners. The majority of our mission co-workers’ funding comes from the special gifts of individuals and congregations like yours, for God’s mission is a responsibility of the whole church, not a particular area of the church. Now more than ever, we need your financial support!
In faith, our mission co-workers accept a call to mission service. In faith, World Mission, representing the whole church and you, sends them to work with our global partners. In faith, will you also commit to support this work with your prayers and financial gifts? With hope and faith, I await your positive response!
At God’s service and at your service!
José Luis Casal
P.S. Your gift will help meet critical needs of our global partners. Thank you!
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Tags: Churches Witnessing with Migrants, CWWM Conveners, human trafficking, Jennifer Dalquez, Migrant Ministry, migrant workers, Migrante International, National Council, North Luzon, PC(USA) Human Trafficking Roundtable, solidarity, United Church of Christ in the Philippines, Western Visayas
Tags: Cathy Chang and Juan Lopez