Living together as an authentic, Christ-centered, sustainable community that helps people to discover their value and live out their purpose in  community.
November 2020 Community Linker Newsletter

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Dear Friends,

Greetings from Shepherd's Home!  It has been a long time since our last newsletter, and we have much news to share...

During this challenging year of 2020 - when we experienced the eruption of the nearby Taal Volcano, COVID-19, and 3 strong typhoons that passed near us, we thank God that we can report to you that we are safe and well.  In fact, in the midst of these challenges our community has grown!  Baby Rafa was born to Juri and Precious Lolong - our first Shepherd's Home baby! Rafa has brought much joy into our lives and is reminding us about what it means to live with the faith of a little child.  And, we have had five others join our community this year - some temporarily and some longer term.  We thank God for the arrival of the Batalla family (Janette, Joe and Jaden), Mary Ann Cacamo, and Gariel Manguiat.

Although COVID-19 resulted in us needing to cancel some of our planned retreats and programs this year, other programs have continued, including a new group in our Residential Spiritual Formation and Discipleship Program.  We hope you will enjoy reading about our programs and news in the stories below.

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

A New Residential Program
by May Abrenica

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While COVID lockdowns have been happening all over the world, God surprised our community with the Batalla family. They are Joe, Janet, and Jaden who decided to live with us amidst the pandemic. Despite the tight security within the borders of each region, God allowed them to travel to us from their place in Taytay, Rizal. They expressed their desire to live with us and experience God through an authentic community setting. God used their arrival to start our Residential Program for this year. Amazingly, God then added three more residents who joined them... Gariel Manguiat from Batangas City believed that Shepherd's Home could help him find his purpose in life. Mary Ann Cacamo from La Union, who has been "trapped" here since March due to lockdown, also expressed her desire to join.  And, Ishmael Ciriaco, who has been with us since 2019 and currently working in Shepherd's Home Island of Sanity Bakery as a baker, also joined. We are thankful for the lives of each of these people and pray God will use the Residential Program in their lives as they continue to discover their value and purpose.

The Island of Sanity
by Dinah Ballast

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The Island of Sanity (IoS) at Shepherd's Home exists to create a place of loving connection for our neighbors. This includes creating spaces for people to be listened to and where their gifts and creativity are evoked. As part of this, IoS operates a bakery, selling pandesal each morning and other pastries during the day. This creates part-time jobs for our neighbors who work as sellers. It also creates the opportunity to go out each day and connect with neighbors.

Some of our sellers are women in dire need of jobs and students who need to earn money for their school needs. Each day, when the sellers come back from selling, we have a short time of sharing with them.  And, once a week, we have a special breakfast gathering so we can hear more of their stories. One of the sellers was a woman who was stuck at home and very shy. She was so happy when we invited her to sell.

These are exciting times for IoS.  We are in the middle of constructing a community center cafe (see photo above) that will be a new place for gathering and loving connection for our neighbors.

Alternative Learning School
by Ruth Ortega

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Since the implementation of lockdowns due to COVID-19, all schools nationwide have transitioned to remote learning. Children and young people have been hunkered down in their homes for many months now. Mental health issues have been on the rise, with children and youth being the most vulnerable. They need attention more than ever. As a trauma-informed informal school, we believe that the young need to know they are precious, unique, and special and the way for them to realize this is when the environment mirrors it back to them. The Alternative Learning School is trying to be this kind of environment for the neighborhood children who come to learn without the pressure of being graded. We teach them mindfulness, and sometimes we learn a song, or do art. We teach the general academic subjects by asking instead of telling, although they have more questions than we do. We carefully listen to their wisdom. We don’t give grades; we are generous with affirmations, stories, and fun. On some days, we learn concepts in math by counting the moles on each other's faces; on other days, we learn various things through our community farm - how much do Aunt Glo's pigs weigh? What words will we use to describe Uncle Pong's chickens? Do Tonet's birds eat worms? Why does Lolo Joel's goat have a name? Why do the community dogs bark louder at children? Most days are spent on learning how to read and listening to each other's stories. We also assist them with their modules. With the many uncertainties and the difficult situation we are going through, we know at Shepherd’s Home that being hospitable and available to our young and vulnerable neighbor is what we are called for at this time. For regular updates and stories about SH Alternative Learning School, like our ALS Facebook Page.

Loving our Neighbors
by Bing Dolojan

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It took us about half an hour hike and walk to reach the place where Nanay Niyang lives because the way is not paved.  I remember the first meeting I had with her. She invited us to go into their house, a typical old house in the place, taking the stairs made of bamboo.

Often, now, she is the one who makes the trek down to our place at Shepherd's Home. I don't know what brings her to always want to visit me. One thing I know - there is a space in my soul being met by her presence - my longing for a mother. Giving her a safe place - like inviting her inside our house, drinking coffee or juice or even plain water at our dinner table with me is what maybe brought her to tell some of her life stories. Her Batangeno terms remind me of my grandfather. I admire her physical strength. Living alone in her house, she needs to fetch water from the spring quite far from her house. Also, the banana or fruits she sells to us are really heavy for a 73 year old woman like her.

One time, she quickly bid me goodbye when she learned we were about to have a community activity.  After she left, I was confronted with my truth. What is more valuable to me? The activity or this woman? After more than a week passed, she came again. And, it was almost the same situation - that we have a community gathering. She said she didn't want to bother me more , so she bid me goodbye. But this time, I held her hand and explained that she is more valuable than the activity.  Those are scheduled weekly, and she just comes once in a while.  And so, she sat down again.

Connecting with Alumni

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Over this time of COVID, we have enjoyed connecting with many of our alumni over Zoom or social media. As part of this, we  have developed a series of discussions to help people think about their identity in Christ during these challenging times. If any alumni are interested in going through these discussions with some of us from Shepherd's Home, just let us know!

Community Life

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We thank God for the opportunities we have almost every day to share our lives with each other, as we intentionally work to live together in community. Community life is often a joyful and wonderful way to live.  And, at other times, it is difficult as we work through differences and conflicts.  But, we thank God for his grace and help as we learn more and more about what it means to love each other.

We'd love to hear from you. You can reply to this newsletter to share your thoughts with us. For those interested in donating to support our ministry at Shepherd's Home, please visit our Donation Page.