In 1998 I was due to write to the Cardinal in England to ask him to ordain me as a deacon and we were having a retreat and in prayer I really felt God was saying to me don't write to him and ask him to ordained as a deacon instead write to him and ask permission to leave the seminary for a year and go and live in the slums.
For the first year, I lived basically the whole time the slums and since then I've lived on and off in the slums. My real desire is to live permanently among the poor in the slum areas. That's where I feel like at home actually.
Payatas is home because it's where God wants me to be and I'm happy. I
really believe my calling is, first of all, to serve the poor to be with the poor, to be their friends.
Jesus says when we see the poor we see him, when we feed the hungry, we feed him, when I visit the sick, we visit him. I want to see Payatas become more and more like Heaven. Heaven is a place where there is perfect joy and peace. Heaven is a place where there's no more poverty, no more suffering, no more sickness, no more hunger and no more thirst. Where there's just joy and happiness and abundance and health and peace and shalam. Where everybody knows God and individuals, families and communities are transformed by God's love. I want to see even people who are poor because they've experienced God's amazing love for them that they go out and love others and reach out and to see Payatas changed as individuals are changed and families are changed and communities are changed. Meeting the Lord and His love changes the whole life.
My dream is to see change.
Living among the poor and the broken in Payatas has probably been the most humbling and transformative experience of my entire life. Here I have witnessed extreme dirt and squalor, and inspired by many holier and greater people who have gone before me, I decided to live in it. To become part of it. To immerse myself in the immense suffering and squalor that exists here, in the forgotten corners of Manila, in the forgotten corners of the world. While many in the world forgot these people, God did not, and I'm deeply grateful that he gave me his merciful heart for his Children.
To be honest, despite everything I tried to do, all the services that I performed, the English I tried to teach, the children I tried to feed, and the Gospel I tried to preach, I would be a brazen liar if I told anyone that I ministered to these people any more than they did to me. Here I saw broken families with sick children laugh and make fellowship in the mud. Families without running water and a sustainable income with a greater 'ligayah', joy, than I have ever possessed. Fathers with no job raising their children with duty and care, and Mothers whose husbands had abandoned them move on with awe-inspiring emotional strength and resilience. As one of the amazing teenagers
I work with said on my first day here: "I am not poor. I am rich. My father is God, my Lord is Jesus. They are the richest people in the world"
I don't think there's a limit to all I could say about this place, and the immense impact it's had on me. But it is beautiful. It's full. It's rich.