Jisella Ibarra is living for a year in Malaysia through the ELCA Young Adults in Global Mission (YAGM) program. The program relies on coordinators who facilitate the young adults’ ministry and provide mentoring and spiritual guidance. To support a YAGM coordinator, go to www.elca.org/missionarysponsorship.
Recently, I took a trip to the Philippines thanks to some additional support from home. (Thanks Dad!) I work with Filipino and Indonesian immigrants, so I wanted to see where most of my kids were coming from and why so many people immigrate to Malaysia from the Philippines.
It wasn’t very hard to miss the high degree of poverty. We hear about poverty and we are saddened by it. But I have to say it is really something else when you are in the middle of it all and can breathe in its intoxicating reality.
There were kids begging the tourists for money just to be sent away empty handed. At times you could spot a group of kids counting their coins just hoping that it would be enough to feed all of them for the night. And at the next corner there would be a poor child lying on the ground too weak to get up. I doubt they had families to take care of them or a home to go back to.
There were many Filipino women with desperate looks in their eyes accompanied by white men. I can’t imagine how terrible their situation was to give into prostitution and live with it as if it was a normal part of life. It shocked me to see how open this community was to this matter.
Never in my life had I felt as vulnerable as I did then, just to imagine what all of these women go through just to survive. My heart screams “That isn’t life.” I just ponder in agony, where is the love that Jesus came down here to teach us? That selfless love all Jesus’ followers should have?
As I have come up to this point in my YAGM year and have experienced so many things I never could have imagined, I feel that the main purpose for my time here in Malaysia is about seeing things that we miss in our ordinary lives because we are too busy to stop and take a closer look. It’s about giving into vulnerability and letting our hearts to be broken by the injustices of this world. It is when we are most vulnerable that we are able to see with more clarity what God wants us to see and give ourselves into his plan.