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Visiting the Home: A Key to Understanding People

Most urban worker feels that working and serving among the poor can be too frustrating at times. One reason for this is the feeling that your contribution seems to be a drop in the bucket only. At times a program you attempt to initiate and facilitate seems to fail in addressing the whole problem of a poor community. If it does help, such help is too little to impact the community you are serving. However, a principle illustrated by a ripple effect encourages urban poor worker to keep working on what they believe is helpful to the community. One step at a time, if you are able to address a certain need that will affect some aspects of the problem that you want to meet in a community, you can thank God for the opportunity and allow Him to use it for His purposes.

Hope for the Nations-Philippines has been operating in Agdao, Davao City for sometime now and reaching out to the poor communities in that area through holistic education is still in process. Various short term and long term workers have witnessed the ups and down of ministering to a community like Agdao through the years. Both local and foreign workers faced the challenge of of doing urban poor ministry in a way that does not hurt the people you are serving. How can this be done is still the question that is most important in a ministry like this. HFTN-Philippines staff and volunteers are still learning how to be effective servants in the contexts of the poor. The learning may be a lifetime process but one thing is sure; as long as Jesus calls us to serve the poor, nothing is impossible. As long as Jesus is the center of this ministry and we desire that God’s will be done in the lives of the people we serve, we will have the energy to keep going.

For this reason, Kids of Hope (KOH) program is currently strengthening its outreach by reflecting on the importance of building relationship with the families. It is in this context that urban poor workers whether full time staff or volunteers can find the courage to keep on serving even when the going gets tough. One way to facilitate this is through home visitation. KOH workers set aside Friday each week to visit the homes of the kids in Agdao who are under the program. It is done by rotation to avoid missing a family. Seeing and observing these poor families in their own environment created an opportunity for urban poor workers to gain wisdom as they serve. Every visit is an opportunity to talk, listen to each other, share burdens and concerns and to pray together. The conversation is a tool to know what each person is thinking, how is he doing and to look for a chance to bring the person closer to God. Through this, the families who welcome the staff and volunteers in their homes will also have the opportunity to open their hearts to God. Such fellowship motivates them to look at the workers as friends and people who advocate for them. 

Most of the KOH worker noticed the change in the attitudes of some parents after the regular visits. One of the mothers was often absent and seems to be reluctant to participate in volunteering during the feeding operation. After the visit, she now comes to the center to help very early on Saturdays to honor her commitment. She was the same mother that some staff wished to give up because she does not respond positively to their call for commitment. However, the same KOH staff changed their minds about her after a visit where they are given the chance to listen to her side of the story. They found out that she was the sole bread winner and caretaker of her kids; her husband is not interested in helping raise the family. After discussing the options of how she can honor her commitment to KOH as a mother to a sponsored kid in spite of her busy schedules, she looked at the possibility of coming earlier than the other mothers on Saturdays before she reports for work. Since then, her dedication in honoring her promise impressed most of the staff for she never missed her duty.

The lesson learned through this experience is to never judge people before you have walked in their shoes. Empathy is something that every urban poor worker needs to develop in order to impact the lives of the family that one seeks to serve in the communities in Agdao. Such skill can be acquired through times of listening and reflective helping. Furthermore, thinking about how Jesus walked the extra mile for us is reason enough to extend the same grace to others.