Living together as an authentic, Christ-centered, sustainable community that helps people to discover their value and live out their purpose in  community.
April 2019 Community Linker Newsletter

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Dear Friends,

Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus, who has risen from the dead and conquered sin and death for us!

We have recently been studying Isaiah 53 as a community.  Verse 5 (shown above), explains how Jesus' death and resurrection makes it possible for us to become WHOLE and to be HEALED.  These words are talking about our spiritual condition - being spiritually alive and well. And, yet, we find that many people, even many of those in ministry, are not doing very well spiritually. We wonder, what is the problem?  Jesus clearly intended for us, even in the midst of physical suffering and struggle, to experience an abundant spiritual life with him (John 10:10).

At Shepherd's Home, we have come to define "spiritual wellness" as real and authentic connection with God, with each other, with ourselves, and with the places where we are ministering. Each of these four areas (God, others, self, place) require significant and intentional work and time. In our consumer-oriented world that wants to fill every moment of our lives with work, entertainment, social media and gadgets, it is almost impossible to find the time we need to really pursue our spiritual health.  It seems we must be willing to radically change some of the structures and habits of our lives to pursue this.  But, will we do it??? For most, it will require intentional decisions to "go against the flow" and to find others that are willing to join you and keep you accountable. This is a large part of what we are doing together each day at Shepherd's Home - as we work to live simply and sustainably, creating the time and space we need for God, for each other, for ourselves, and for the people around us. It is not easy, but we are learning it is possible!  How are you doing spiritually these days?  Do you need some time to step back and consider your life?  You are always welcome here at Shepherd's Home, a safe place where you can take the time to connect with God, with other people and with your own soul.  Please respond to this e-mail or CONTACT US to learn more.

In Christ's Love,
The Shepherd's Home Family.

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A New Community Forms in Occidental Mindoro
by Ruth Ortega

Our vision at Shepherd's Home is that we will see the birth of new and unique Christ-centered, authentic, sustainable communities. Recently, five of us visited an emerging community led by Kaye and Celia Viray who were among the graduates of the first residential program of Shepherd’s Home. Kaye and Celia now live in Occidental Mindoro. They are running a small organic farm by a beautiful beach near the seaport. They have employed four regular workers who live with them in their compound, one with her whole family.

The Viray's main work is loving their workers and their families which extends to their neighbours in Sitio Amazona where they live. Celia worked for a long time as a nurse in New York and Canada before they came to settle in the Philippines. She has a keen eye on the health issues of women and children in their neighbourhood. She personally accompanies those she perceives as needing medical attention to the health care providers in town. We met some of the women whom they meet with to study God’s word and pray and these women are always excited to share about how they are learning to love their neighbours as well.

Kaye is passionate in organic farming and the conservation of natural resources. He asserts the rights and needs of his barangay by speaking out in proper government forums. He has the ability to induce response from the right people. His creative and artistic spirit is imminent in the house he designed and the beautiful landscape of the farm. He is truly caring and protective of his friends and workers, patiently teaching them the technical operations of the farm. Two of their workers owned a motorcycle but did not have the license to drive. The day after we left their community, he personally accompanied them to get their license.

What does it take for such communities to be birthed? Some of the more visible elements we noticed in their courageous pursuit of community building are: a) Finding the RIGHT WORK. Kaye and Celia have decided that no matter what, the life they will choose is a response to a call they have clearly perceived; b) Christ-centred community. The work they do is not about individual heroism but of a COMMUNITY that aspires to love God and their neighbours; c) SUSTAINABILITY. In order for such communities to survive, they must develop a structure that allows them to meet their physical and spiritual needs.

At this time, Kaye and Celia are faced with an important question - that in loving, how can they help improve the quality of life of those they serve without creating dependency?  We sent them one of our books (Toxic Charity) which might be of help. This will be a point of discussion for our two communities as we move further and support each other’s journeys.

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Building Community with Families
by Pong Dolojan

Over the last month I've had the incredible privilege of meeting with friends from Pinamalayan Christian Church (Oriental Mindoro) and also with many members of the Lanceta family from Isabela. In both cases, they asked for help to build more authentic relationships in their families.  For the Lanceta family, their mother, Nanay Ising, passed away in March, survived by her husband, Pastor Ben. I thank God for the opportunity to be present at Nanay Ising's funeral services and to celebrate the life of this dear servant of God.  As I spoke with their family at this time, they recognized that this was a crucial time for them. They wanted to carry on the legacy of their mother and to stay connected as a family.

In March we were able to follow up with a group from Pinamalayan Christian Church and host them here at Shepherd's Home. And, in April, my wife and I joined the Lanceta family for a time of retreat in Baguio City.  Some common themes emerged from both of these times with these precious people. We recognized that we often define "spirituality" for our families based on the religious activities we do together. Many of these activities, are, of course, important and helpful.  But, we realized that often they are only external and do not really bring us together in a deeper, spiritual way.  We need to find practices in our families that can truly connect us with God and with each other. We all admit this is not easy. For various reasons, we often avoid direct and open communication in our families, and, we often find it easier to do ministry outside our families.

Based on these and other similar experiences, we believe God is calling us at Shepherd's Home to serve families by helping them to connect with each other and with God. Do you sense this need in your family or marriage?  Please contact me at 0928-521-0417 or at e-mail pong@shepherdshome.org to discuss this opportunity. I have understood that it is often helpful to connect with people first in their places - to share stories and to realize we all have similar struggles. I or my colleagues would be happy to come visit you.  Just let me know.

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Beyond the ALS Test
by Juri Lolong

In one sense, February 24 was the culmination of seven months of our work with the students in our Alternative Learning School.  On this day, we accompanied 15 of our students to downtown Batangas where they took their accreditation and junior high equivalency exam - or ALS exam (see above left photo).  We are still waiting on the results of the exam.

Many of the students who took the exam are from Cawa, one of the remotest parts of our barangay of San Miguel.  To get to Cawa you need to walk about one hour from Shepherd's Home away from the city. This walk involves climbing mountain trails that in rainy season are muddy and slippery.  The reason many of the young people from Cawa are in our ALS program is that it is simply too difficult for them to get to a school every day.  Just to take the ALS exam, they needed to wake up at 3am to make it to downtown Batangas in time.

I have really grown to love the place and the people of Cawa.  When someone recently asked me why, I said, "We are the same."  They are creative people with gifts and dreams who struggle to fit in this world. That is me. And, that is Cawa. We are the same.  And, my reason for being part of our ALS team, is not just to help kids take the ALS exam so they can get a job.  I want to help young people dream dreams and pursue those dreams.

Since the ALS exam we continue to visit Cawa and the people of Cawa continue to come visit us at Shepherd's Home.  One day we were helping Embet (one of the ALS students from Cawa) and his family to make a garden outside their home (see their home in top right photo).  Some of the other ALS guys were also helping us. As we were doing this, I shared how I had been collecting driftwood I found in the mountains to make art works. Two days later, three of the boys from Cawa showed up at Shepherd's Home wanting to learn how to make driftwood art. I wasn't prepared and didn't have any driftwood available. So, we decided to see what we could do with a mango tree that had recently been cut down on our property. Together we figured out how to cut the mango branches into small circles that could be used to make nice art pieces (see bottom left photo in our ALS hut at Shepherd's Home). The boys figured out how to use vines to connect handles onto the pieces.  We were able to sell everything we made and our only cost was the varnish. The boys, since then, have continued to make their own art back in Cawa.

Our prayer is that these "misfits" from Cawa, will actually not want to ever "fit in" - but, instead, will become all that God intended them to be, and that they would pursue their dreams. It is my amazing joy to walk with them - people just like me.

Editor's note: Juri is an incredibly gifted artist and we are blessed to have him as part of our family at Shepherd's Home. Some of his recent paintings, which come out of his own life and heart, are shown below. He is currently working on another amazing painting - be looking for its "unveiling" soon.

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Happening Now...

Over this holy week vacation time in the Philippines we are hosting a retreat on the topic, "Who am I really?" for friends from Tugueguerao and Isabela.  Please pray with us that this time will be used by God in the hearts of the participants.

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Retreats and Seminars

Would you like to bring your family, small group or church team to Shepherd's Home for a retreat?  You can learn more on our Retreat and Seminar Page.

We'd love to hear from you. You can reply to this newsletter to share your thoughts with us.