A Sharing by Joed De Mesa, CFC-SFL Batangas
It was late December, and for the fourth time in four years, we would once again be hosting our annual Atipan Gift-giving Activity. For most SFLs in Batangas, this was what we would call THE ultimate year-ender – the cherry on top of the proverbial ice cream. After a whole year of service and mission, giving back to our less fortunate Mangyan brothers and sisters was our way of giving thanks to God. He was unbelievable in our lives all year long; it was only proper that we pay it forward in a big way.
God’s Grace Abounds
The thing with giving is that you don’t get to choose what you give. When someone is in need, you give. You always have to believe that you are blessed, and that God will never allow you to be emptied. Coming to Atipan for the third time in four years, it was a challenge for so many of us. Unlike in previous years where SFL was merely a contingency of the mission team that FFL Batangas would bring to Atipan, this time around, we were the entire team. There was a lot of pressure, and it was even more so after the initial trip was delayed. But God showed us that a noble cause can never, ever falter, as long as you stay on course.
God’s grace truly abounds. No, you won’t feel it in the boxes of relief goods and sacks of rice. God’s grace abounds in the hearts of the people who have given their time to serve despite the challenges. God’s grace abounds in every family who felt the kindness and warmth of total strangers. God’s grace abounds in the radiant smiles of children playing endless games of habulan with their new ates and kuyas. God’s grace abounds in everything.
The Pursuit of Riches
I always knew that coming to Atipan, it was definitely going to be a humbling experience. To some extent, you can’t help but wonder if we ever did have problems anyway. We live on three or more full meals a day, a roof under our heads every night, and all the contraptions imaginable at our disposal. And yet, we still rant and ask why God has forsaken us after the batteries on our iPhones run out. We are still unhappy despite all the blessings that are before us.
The Mangyan people of Atipan showed us that we are truly blessed beyond belief. You look around the village and you realize the hardships that one had to go through just so they can live for a day. Most of the people are farmers and fishermen. In recent years however, their livelihood has provided little in terms of finances as families struggled to make ends meet. The growing pressure of providing enough subjected some of them to come down the mountains looking for other sources of livelihood. When worse comes to worst and they cannot find any work, they scavenge the streets of nearby towns as beggars.
You look at all this struggle and you will begin to realize how blessed you are. You become humbled as you thank God because He gave you enough for yourself. And now, He has given you enough for others as well. For so many times in our lives, we have dreamed of being rich or having a successful career, thinking these are the things that will make us happy. Yet amidst all the dreaming, we could never really be happy because we kept on going and going down the road with no end. The people of Atipan have shown that God has truly given us enough. The pursuit of riches ends when you can finally start sharing God’s blessings to others.
It’s the unconditional love that we have for others that can truly make us rich, not in possessions but in spirit. Give until it hurts. Never be afraid of running out, for God will never get tired of filling you up over and over again.