Living together as an authentic, Christ-centered community that welcomes and equips the poor and broken to follow their God-given call in community.
September 2018 Community Linker Newsletter

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Dear Friends,

This is now "Part 2" of our last newsletter. In this newsletter we want to share with you some news from our staff and our plans for the upcoming year at Shepherd's Home. We are excited to share that in this next year, our staff will be dividing into four service teams, formed around their areas of call.  These four teams are:

Our Residential Program Team - This team will facilitate our 10-month Spiritual Formation and Discipleship Program, mentoring and working closely with our residents as they grow in their understanding of God and self.  Residents will also intern and serve in one of the other three teams.

Our Agriculture Team - This team will focus on developing our agriculture and sustainability programs while providing opportunities for our residents and neighbors to learn more about healthy living and organic farming.

Our Alternative Learning School Team - This team provides an alternative style of education for young people in our neighborhood who have been unable, for whatever reason, to pursue traditional schooling. The team creates an environment where students decide what they want to learn and where young people's gifts, dreams, and vocation are discovered and pursued.  This team works in partnership with the Philippine Alternative Learning System (ALS) and helps children prepare to take the ALS accreditation and equivalency exams.

Our Island of Sanity Team - This team operates a community center called the "Island of Sanity."  The goal of the Island of Sanity is to create a place of life-giving connection for our neighbors that will recognize people's gifts and help them to use them in jobs that can benefit our neighborhood.

We hope you will enjoy reading articles in this newsletter about Geygan, who serves on our Agriculture Team, and about the developing work of our Alternative Learning School Team and our Island of Sanity Team.

Let us also take this chance to announce that our 2018-2019 Residential Spiritual Formation and Discipleship Program will start on October 1, 2018.  You can learn more about this program on our web-site.  In September we will also be offering a 5-day, intensive Introduction to Servant Leadership Course.  In this course, you will experience a safe community where the value and purpose of each person is considered and where you can grow in understanding your true identity in Christ. You can learn more about this course here.

The Shepherd's Home Family.

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Geygan Orial's Story
by Dan Ballast

A core belief that we share at Shepherd's Home is that every single human being is precious and valuable and that each person has a unique and special purpose given by God.  We believe, further, that if a person can find a place that is safe and accepting enough, they will come to life as they are empowered to give their gift to their community. I think these ideas were reflected beautifully when Geygan Orial, our grounds and maintenance assistant, recently shared his life story with our community.

Some of you reading this newsletter may have met Geygan at some point.  For many of us, our first impressions of Geygan are that he is intensely shy. Often, if you are in a group, and ask Geygan for his thoughts, he will just smile and stay silent.  But, over time we have learned that Geygan has a creative, artistic and mechanical mind.  He can fix and build things, he is an amazing artist that can carve, sculpt and draw, and he has a special ability to care for nature - including animals and gardens.

One of our practices at Shepherd's Home is that each week, one person will share their life story with our group.  At first, many of us assumed that Geygan would not want to do this.  But, we realized we should not assume this.  So, we asked him if he could share - and he agreed!  On the day Geygan shared his story, we listened with amazement and tears in our eyes, as he shared for almost two hours about his life.  His life has not been easy.  When Geygan was young, he was sick, they had no money, and his father was gambling and drinking. He and his mom were encouraged to go and live with Geygan's aunt. Later, Geygan remembers when they made a special trip to go back and visit his father. He recalls, "When we met my father, my father didn't even come near me or embrace me." I can only imagine the pain he must have felt in his heart.  Yet, Geygan also recalls with gratitude, stories about special people and teachers that God put in his life to help him.

What a privilege we have at Shepherd's Home to be Geygan's family, where we can "come near him and embrace him" - embracing all that God has made him to be.  Today, if you visit Shepherd's Home, you will see the handiwork of Geygan around our campus - from picture frames, to candle holders, to wood carvings (see inset photo above), to pig pens, to gardens and beautiful grounds - Geygan is coming alive and giving his gift.

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An Evening of Music and Stories
by Dinah Ballast

As I have met many of our neighbors around Shepherd's Home, I have become aware of people who are just sitting at home.  Some feel depressed and useless.  This connects with a long-time personal dream of my own - and that is to make a kind of "coffee shop - community center" where people could go and find life-giving connections with others.  By "life-giving" - I mean it would be a place where people would be valued and their gifts, whatever they are, could be seen as needed and used in some way.

As a result, I have decided to help lead a new team at Shepherd's Home called the "Island of Sanity."  Together with Ate Mercy, one of our staff, and with Ate Janet, one of our neighbors, we have begun to plan on how we can operate this center.  Our desire is that it would be a kind of "showcase" of people's gifts - including art, music, and food.  And, our desire is that we could use our discussions at the center to help our neighbors think about work and jobs they could do in our community.

As a small example of what we plan to do, last July 26, our team organized an "Evening of Music and Stories."  This event was inspired by two of our residents, Kaye and Selya, who had met some of our older neighbors who loved music.  As a result, our Island of Sanity team organized an evening where people could come and share their gifts in music.  Many of our neighbors came and joined in.  As they shared their music talents with us, we also asked them to share stories from their life - which they were so happy to do. We saw the power of valuing people, their gifts and their stories.  We hope we can continue to do this through the Island of Sanity, and , in this way, to let people know that God loves them, values them, and has a purpose for them.

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The Shepherd's Home Alternative Learning School Begins
by Ruth Ortega

Jose Rizal, our national hero, once said, "The youth are the hope of the Fatherland." This cliché has always been taught in schools to empower students to finish their education so that they can get employed and not end up being a social burden. Yet even while the revolutionary meaning to it has been de-emphasized, it means little to the youth who hear it being taught in schools today and much less to the marginalized who have never heard it re-echoed because they are unable to go to school.

San Miguel, Batangas where Shepherd’s Home is located has a youth population of about 789 (as per barangay census 2017) and of which only 40% have finished high school. This barangay does not have any school for secondary education. Those who finish grade school must take a 40-minute ride to school and hike as much as 3 kilometres each day to get home. Most of them can not afford to pay public transport so big families with 2 or more high school-aged kids can only send one of their children to high school. Henry Giraux termed the youth today as "Generation Zero: zero opportunities, zero hope, zero future."  This very well may be true for the youth of San Miguel who are striving to survive from social homelessness. “We don’t know what life holds for us here in our community so we try to finish high school to get a job in the city. Life is hard here, life is hard everywhere for us” is their common remark. Would it be that this group is being called to fight against the neoliberal regime that has pushed them out of their places of belonging in this society?

Our Alternative Learning School came into being in January and our work really kicked into high gear over the last two months as 17 young people from San Miguel, aged 14-27, signed up to be a part of our program. It is a school without walls, patterned after the Alternative Learning System (mobile school) of the Philippine Department of Education, whose goal is to help prepare marginalized children, young people, and adults to acquire a high school degree without going through formal schooling. More than this goal is our hope to usher this generation towards critical consciousness through a dialectical, problem posing education so that they may be able to tap their inner capacities and relate to the ever present abundance of their place...that opportunities, a hope, and a future are right where they are and in who they are…that their "future is problematic and not already fatalistically decided." These learners from the most marginalized families of San Miguel may never have heard of Jose Rizal’s adage, but they have always been told that they are the hope of their families. Despite feeling like they have no place in society, there is a persistent soft nudge they must admit, they have never stopped believing that they are the hope of the Motherland.

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