My co-worker, Sharon wrote an update on our community visits for their prayer supporters that captures our experience very well so I will share it here.

“The theme of the conference in Manila was, ‘Challenges of the City and the Urban Poor’ and the use of Asset Based Community Development, which is based on looking first at the assets rather than the needs. All 50 of us went into the slums where CHE is actively making an impact, even in the community living on the garbage dump. We found resourceful, resilient people able to salvage and make incomes and build homes from anything (even make them “cute” as one woman described the shack she lives in!).

“We met and were welcomed into the homes of CHE trainers dedicated to teaching lessons faithfully every week, and Christians living joyfully and reaching out to their neighbours. A pastor living next to his church in the dump site told us how he managed to put two kids through university on proceeds from picking through garbage. We observed people living simply but using their skills to provide for their families, and mothers learning how to care for children in very unhygienic conditions through the CHE process.

“I was particularly fascinated by CHE volunteers working with TB-DOTS (Direct Observation and Treatment Strategy). They visit with their neighbours and watch for people exhibiting TB symptoms, accompany them to the clinic for testing and if positive, the volunteer functions as the TB treatment partner to get them to take their full course of treatment. In order to do this, the CHE delivers the medication to the home each day and accompanies the patient for follow-up testing for at least six months. Now that is a volunteer commitment to speak about.”

From my own perspective what we saw in these poor communities helped us to better understand our morning Bible study from Isaiah 61 and to put our own work into perspective. Isaiah states that those whom the Lord liberates will re-build the broken cities, not us. In Manilla we observed glimpses of that possibility, enough for all of us to leave with a different perspective on the “poor”!