christmas came early.

christmas came early.

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i feel like it’s christmas! it definitely came early this year…that, or just these past couple of days have been joy-filled, and so wonderful. my mission has continued to unfold itself, and i am inspired and encouraged every day, even in moments of challenge, by the people that surround me, and by how i spend my days here in baguio city.

sr. terezhina is back from ethiopia, and i could not be happier! i had no idea she was going to be back, since her plane got delayed due to typhoon juan…and so i went upstairs when i got to SOSCFI, to find out sr. t’s status from sr. romy, and….to my surprise…sr. terezhina was in her room! i screamed!! literally, you know me. i screamed! sr. romy told me to shhhh, hahaha, but i could not hold it in! i was so excited! my partner in crime (by crime, i mean, bible studies and liturgies) hahaha, is back! woohooooo! πŸ™‚ so that is present #1.

present #2: sr. ofelia, the sister i stayed with at good shepherd in quezon city, last year, was here in baguio city for retreat, and so we got to spend some wonderful quality time last night. it was so great! as soon as i picked her up at the convent here in baguio city, we were holding hands the entire evening. it was so great! i caught her up on my life, and i told her how spending time at the euphrasian residence last year with her and the girls there, really spearheaded and laid the foundation for helping me listen to my call, to get out of the corporate world, and follow my heart into missions and ministry. it was so good to sit with her and share a meal with her, and i look forward to seeing her again soon, when i visit manila! πŸ™‚ God totally provides, and it was just so good to share with her my experiences, and to hear her rich wisdom right back. when she saw me, she said, “crystal, you look really happy.” and you know what, it’s true – and i told her, ” i could not see my life any other way right now. this is EXACTLY what i would want to be doing. ” when i thought about what i told her, i then thought to myself, wow, i really love my life right now.

present #3: chris, one of my friends who was a volunteer with franciscan volunteer ministry is one of the most talented musicians that i know. well, because i really want to dive into the music scene with the children over here (filipinos are always most likely, either dancing or singing, at least 20 hours of the 24 hours in a day!), i asked him for recommendations on songs that are good to sing as acapella – considering, sometimes musical instruments are hard to come by, at moments, and not as accessible…well! he just told me he sent me over some music…so i am super uber excited about that…i don’t know who is more excited – the kids or me. probably right now, me, and later, the kids…they have no idea what’s coming to them! so exciting! chris. such a kind and wonderful person!

present #4: tonight, i spent some time at maryknoll – it was the 10th anniversary of their daycare over there, and so some of the staff over there invited me to come on by…and so i did. πŸ™‚ it was so beautiful to watch the little children re-create the “story of creation” and to reflect on the importance of the environment and mother earth! seeing sr. cathy and sr. margarita is always a delight, and the staff at maryknoll may be one of the funnest group of people that i have come across. πŸ™‚ my friend, ivee, has a beautiful voice and plays wonderful music with her guitar. everytime i am at maryknoll, i always leave with my heart enriched and just a little bit more full. it’s such a blessing to have them here with me.

present #5: the parents, the children, the college kids at SOSCFI. i think it was difficult at first because i remember when i first started, i was like, wow, there are so many kids, and all the kids just STARE at me, and have no idea who i am – they probably don’t even notice i am here, don’t really know what i am doing here, parents won’t listen to me, college kids don’t care – they’re so busy anyway! it was like, ahhh crystal. purpose. get it together. it will be ok. hahaha, well, it is more than ok. it is wonderful! // it takes a little bit for people to get used to newcomers. anywhere! and i think it is a little mind boggling for them, to see a filipina looking person, and to hear her speak english, like, american english! πŸ™‚

// today i had to give my first discipline to some of the girls, as they were play-fighting, but it was too much. if anything, they respected me more, started calling me ate crystal, and started playing more nicely with one another. πŸ™‚ as i said bye to the children, they said, “i’ll miss you ate crystal!” hahaha, it was so cute…especially cause well, i just didn’t expect that! it is wonderful to be with the parents, and while it is sometimes hard to be surrounded by all the moms at bible studies and during meetings, because i am away from my mom, i think about what a blessing it is that the Lord gave my mom strength to let go of me a little bit and help support me on the mission i have been called to live right now.

//the college kids are hard-working, they’re focused, and they are talented. even though there’s about 7 or 8 years between me and some of the college kids (the education in the PI is different), i don’t even think of age as a factor. sometimes i will call THEM, ate, or kuya. i have embraced the college kids, and all of the children here, as my brothers and sisters. at orientation, when we discussed that mission lies in relationship, being on mission here in baguio city, that phrase could not be any more true. today, for the first time, i thought to myself, wow, how am i going to leave this place? it was the first time that thought ever crossed my mind – i think, because, i have become already so comfortable with those who i have met here…and this is only the beginning!

present #6: when i was at the jail last friday, i wanted to try something different. i didn’t want them to draw, but i wanted them to write, to think, and to talk with one another. i know some of them live in the same cells, but, what do they talk about? how do they interact with one another? i wanted to see that happen. and so, i had them interview each other – on different subjects, with different questions…and then they got to introduce that person to the group. it was really nice to see them interact with each other, to laugh, and to joke with each other, and one of the biggest blessings i have at the jail, is to just sit back, watch, and observe them as they completed their work. i ended the session by giving each pair a poem that i found online. i selected these poems because they were written by inmates who are also incarcerated in the US.

// after they read the poem, they had to discuss with their partner their thoughts, if they connected with the poem or not, how they felt about it….at the end, i gave them sheets of paper and said, if you want to write a poem yourself, go for it, here is some paper, and when you see me next, bring me the poem, so i can read it. πŸ™‚ // well, on sunday, i was at mass…and sure enough, two of the boys brought me poems! so i read the, i sat with the poems, and i didn’t know what to do with them. i was like, ok, crystal. so what is your purpose here? i guess i didn’t really think that far? haha, for once! so after thinking it over, i decided…ok, well my whole purpose here, is to get them writing – they said they were bored, but they like to write. i know they have thoughts, i can’t even imagine the number of things that go on in their head every day, and every minute and every second…so i had their poems with me, in my bag all week. this served as a constant reminder, crystal. when you go back, what will you have done with the poems? and so i decided…i’m going to get them journals, to support their writing. and so, that’s what i did. // inspired by one of my friends eugenia, who is an amazing poet and conducted her own writing classes/workshops in a prison in NY, i decided that i would get them journals, personalize them with their names in it, so that they know it is theirs (to emphasize ownership and responsibility), put their poem back in it, wrote them a little note, and on the additional blank pages, wrote additional poetry prompts to help them get started on writing more, should they have writers’ block. some of the prompts were: write a poem about the last time you fell (into anything), write about your day yesterday, write a poem about yourself…etc. // the other day, i was able to see the boys that wrote the poems, and i presented them with the journals i got them, and i got to explain to them why they got it, and what they are to do with it. their sincere thank you’s almost made me cry, because they repeated it, many times, and i saw it in their eyes, that they were both so genuinely thankful and excited for it. // the poems are not for me, but i wanted them to know that i encourage their writing.

// it’s prison awareness week at the prison, and i was assigned to do the 2nd reading for their mass, but turns out, i can’t go, cause of another obligation that i have to attend to. πŸ™ when i told one of em i couldn’t go, there was that sincere sadness! it made me so sad! and then i was like, whoa, crystal. you’re sad about this. it was crazy! but i really felt sad that i couldn’t be there to celebrate the week with them. he even did one of those, “darn!” snaps. haha it was funny. i did NOT expect that reaction!

// it was a beautiful time at the jail, in that i got to watch them practice for one of their talent showcases they have – they are putting on a program to kick-off NACOCOW week. national correctional consciousness week…or something of the sort…some of the guys danced this incredible number, with turns and flips, tango and cha-cha. haha…it was pretty amazing, but moreso, it was precious. i had my bag on, cause i was ready to go, as i was just finishing up some convos, but then, when they started dancing, i put my bag down, cause they said they would perform it for me and jewel! the first words that came out of my mouth was, “oh my gosh, i think i could cry right now!” it was SO great to see them smiling and laughing and enjoying themselves.

// it was a present to hear them say, “bye sister crystal, thank you, see you again, take care of yourself,” it was a present to hear them wish me well on my travels to manila, and it is always a present when i get handwritten notes from the inmates (since they usually know when i am there) – haha, clearly, word travels fast. randomly, an inmate will come to me, and say, sr. crystal, i have a note for you. haha, it’s sweet! seems within 10 minutes of my arrival, i get a lot of, “oh! crystal, you’re here!” or “hello sister” or “you’re the missionary!” it is sincerely a present because i am welcomed, they are candid, they are real, and they are open.

// i was talking to one of the boys there, and i literally had no response to what he had to share with me. i mean, what do i say? what could i say? nothing. for someone who talks a lot, i have been doing a whole lot of listening here in baguio city. i really thank the 19th annotation for that. haha, perhaps God knew that i would need that skill, SO much, here in the PI, and so marie really helped me with that last year! well, it has paid off. that afternoon, all i could do, was just look at him, and tell him, “you’re good. you’re a good person.” i would have been ok with not saying anything either, but i just had to say it. it came out – and i wanted him to know that.

// i know it is called prison ministry…but my ministry when i am at the prison, is my desire to be with them, and talking with them, and spending time with them. this is not go in, walk out of the bars, pat myself on the shoulder and go on my merry way. no, this is, yes, building relationships with the inmates, and connecting, and talking to and listening to, and being there.

present #7: having the experience of going to the philippine military academy with two of my partners in fun over here, having the taxi get a flat tire, getting out of the taxi, thinking to myself, is this real life? am i really in this situation right now? busting out the umbrella cause it was raining cats and dogs, IMMEDIATELY finding a taxi, and then making it over to the academy and having lots of fun! then helping to lead a rosary and the liturgy at a church in irisan – and having the priest, who i introduced myself to, prior, as a missionary…mention me at the end of his homily, as “the girl who read the first reading and the psalm, is a postulant/candidate to enter the missionary sisters” (oh snap!) then having a delicious birthday dinner with the community and some friends. yeah, that was a whole day of presents…and jaw-dropping surprises.

present #8: connections and communication with friends and family. orange county, new york, philadelphia, new orleans, boston, micronesia (charles and tyler. double bonus!), hawaii, washington dc, san diego, florida, nor cal, i’m just so blessed to have a wonderful, loving supportive group of people around me.

lastly, i will leave you with this:

β€œNothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in a love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the mornings, what you will do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.” ~ Pedro Arrupe, SJ

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