Why are you homeless? An interesting lesson

Posted 4 CommentsPosted in YWAM San Francisco

During a night crabbing , (not night club-ing 😀) in San Francisco, Boyong, a Fil-American homeless showed us an interesting lesson about crab mentality. 

“Put the lid on or else this one will escape” , he yelled throwing his first catch on the basket.

A few minutes later he threw more crabs, “now you keep it open, no need for the cover”.

Amazing to watch those Dungeness crabs pulling down each other, trying to crawl out from the basket.   Boyong disclosed his sad experiences with people trying to pull him down.

He quipped, “We should do better than these crabs,  we should build people instead of destroying them”.   

That night his fellow friends  made jokes of their own misery as homeless.  Despite his flaws, Boyong was a very generous person. He shares his pack of cigarettes, gives away noodles, and canned goods to his fellow homeless.

A  HOLE ON HIS CHEST

Boyong prefers to hang out on the streets of Tenderloin for years despite having an SRO (single room occupancy). He lamented that being a homeless feels like an invisible person. Normal people ignore him and don’t want to talk to him.  His bad breath makes you vomit. But if you can endure his putrid smell and listen,  you probably could decipher him before making a judgement.

One day  a gaping hole turned up in our floor and Boyong offered to fix it. No charge for his labor. He claimed to be a former contractor.  That saved us money!

                         “Oh yeah, he was able to fix that hole, but not the one on his chest”

When a friend donated a brand new washer and dryer, Boyong happily installed them for us.  He fixed the electrical and the plumbing system.    But he works best when he was drank, he called himself a drunken master.  Alcohol –his daily elixir,  makes him shiver when he tried to stop drinking. 

AM DOUBTFUL

One time I met another homeless guy  Wilson who professes he earned a Ph.D. He could solve crossroad puzzles quickly.  He devour books, novels, just anything. Except he’s really out of this world, he mumbles  and talks to himself.

Boyong confirmed, “that man has a  doctorate in English literature!”.  Okay, whatever.   Boyong brought  zombie- friends like Wilson  to our Bible Study group in Tenderloin.   Well yes, we saw lives being transformed by  Jesus.  Here’s George who now works as a landscape contractor. Danny joined a team of ex-con waiters in a San Francisco restaurant.  DeeJay a former executive who embezzled money  became a manager of a store.  Listen to their stories.

MY OWN THEORY

Several years hanging out with Boyong, I came up with my own theory why someone becomes homeless. At times, I believe it’s an easy way out.   Say I lose my mind, that is, if I become addicted with drugs or alcohol or get tired of paying bills.

Fred an alleged contractor, said he owed huge amount of money to creditors.   Got divorced, lost his house and don’t want to pay child support.   People get mad at him hearing his story. 

His creditors forgave him after filing for bankruptcy except for the IRS and the child support thing.  He was a melancholic person. He made several attempts to jump at the Golden Gate bridge.  When he talks, his thoughts wanders around.   Until he’s no longer showing up in our meetings. No one knows his whereabouts. I felt a sudden prick in my heart.  He was gone.  

THE ROAD TO HOMELESSNESS

Boyong bought a Mercedez Benz, a big fancy house in Daly City and owned a construction company.  He was a successful businessman.  Until his life spiral down and hits rock bottom —he was bankcrupt,  separated,  alcohol addict , and had difficult relationships with his wife and children.  When I look in a mirror sometimes I saw Boyong’s broken self-image in me.  His low self-esteem, his failures in life and family.   Nevertheles,  God loves him unconditionally , but he has to fight his own demons… not alone. That wounded image he’s trying to overcome by himself, could be the road to homelessness. 

Boyong craves for attention, he was a lively clown, fun to talk with.   Crying inside but laughing outside. Recently, we have not seen him for weeks, and we sensed something was wrong.  We looked for him.  Found him  outrageously drank. When he got sober he was happy to see us. Until one day he was gone again, this time forever.   He was found slumped face down on a bathroom floor.   We held a memorial  attended by friends, and most importantly,his family- the people he was trying to win but also trying to forget. This time those crabs he was referring to were lifting him up with words of appreciation he can’t hear no more.

Love Unconditional

Posted Leave a commentPosted in YWAM San Francisco

This story is in memory of a mentally ill homeless friend disowned, persecuted and abandoned by his loved ones.

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!   Isaiah 49:15 niv

A U.S Marine highly decorated with Medal of Honor for valor talked to his father on the phone before coming home from the war. He misses his family so much after long years in the battlefront. He was very excited upon hearing a familiar voice at the other end of the line.

soldier homeless man

“Hello?” a male voice growled.

“ Hello dad?” I’m back., it’s good to be back” the soldier beamed.

“Oh great , how are you doing son?” the father changing his demeanor.

“Dad, I’m good, very good!”

“Glad you’re back after a long while, ..so when are you coming home?”

“Hmm, soon dad…where is mom?”

“Oh, don’t worry she’ll be here soon. She just need some air. ”

“Okay , dad, I want to tell you and mom something…I’ve a friend who saved my life. I wanted him to stay with us for a while…I mean, he got injured because of me.”

“Why, what’s wrong, what happened?”—the father inquired.

“He lost an arm and a leg …”

“ Am sorry to hear that son.. but how long he’s gonna stay  with us though?  You see, that could be tough for us.. you know… “

“ Son? I hope you understand.. hello?..” hello son? “ There was a long silence..

In the morning, there was a knock on the door of the father. An officer informing him about his son found dead who apparently committed suicide. When the father saw his son’s corpse, it had one arm and one leg.

A suicide note read “ I fear I will love you better in my absence. As I have become what I never wished to be, a burden on those I love the most”

Cristina A – My Whiz Bang IPhone5C

Posted Leave a commentPosted in YWAM San Francisco
I was happy with my Nokia cell phone, the flip kind that I had for many years.  With a simple lifestyle,  my “dinosaur” phone is enough to call my family, friends and when occasion warrant it,  call 911 and police emergencies whilst working with the homeless in the Ellis Room.
But guess what!!!!  Ruddy got me a whiz bang iPhone 5C as a birthday gift!  He wants me to use the phone as ministry tool to take inconspicuous photos of my homeless friends, and finish my long over due booklet project, “My Walk with the Homeless”.
While I appreciate the thoughtfulness of Ruddy, I  still feel conflicted when I consider the monthly payment on this newly fangled phone and the thought of how many people in the slum of Manila could probably live on this money.
iphone-5c
This is the tension I live in: why do I compare the Third World poor and the homeless as to who is most worthy of my compassion, time, resources and energy?  What’s the worth of the soul and why do I compare and think others less valuable than others?
My sponsored child from the Philippines looks so darn cute on her photo and the sponsor’s card in my refrigerator door, but I think people will think twice of hanging a photo of my homeless friends in their refrigerator door.
You see in the world of my homeless friends, pictures are not just pictures. For some, they are overly sensitive having their photos taken because of their run in with the law and they have way too many mug shots taken by policemen.
Suprisingly,  though, most of homeless friends loves it when I take their pictures.  I realized when I take their photos it communicate value to them, that they mattered to me and to the world, even though they are not the most photogenic subject.  Also, with their destructive lifestyles , they know fully well that life is short and when I take their photos they’re somehow “memorialized”, a proof of their existence and hopefully not easily forgotten.
I wonder if Jesus would walk the Tenderloin, will He take photos?  Not only will He take their pictures,  He’d even tattoed  my homeless friends’ names in His hands..…” I have engraved you in the palm of my hand, I won’t forget you”. Isaiah 49:14-17.
 Wow… Jesus would have notice my homeless friends ,  Your love is way too radical!
Love you all!  Cristina and Ruddy

Our Journey Begins

Posted 1 CommentPosted in YWAM Philippines

23535_413064965630_528815630_5678875_6769469_nOftentimes when smart people travel they bring a map.  But if  you were going anywhere in Manila decades ago,  your map might not work because the streets were changed or not yet in the map.   Inner streets have no signs, some closed because young people were using it as a basketball court.  So the best way was to ask around people who would likely tell you a few landmarks.  Now when you say landmark , most of us may think of a church, a park or a mall  but definitely not a 50 meter- high stinking garbage dump in the capital city of Manila.

SMOKEY MOUNTAIN GARBAGE DUMP

That’s our ministry location in 1989, a squalid heap billowing with smoke called Smokey Mountain where about 20,000 slum dwellers survive.    Poor as a rat,  people scavenge scraps, paper, and metal to sell to recycling vendors.   My fancy title – Director or base leader.  Job description –overseer , but at times driver of the 26 passengers Sarao jeepney  for a half day (due to  traffic) to pick up YWAM teams from the airport.  Whereas Sandy Wilks,  the leader of our  Student Sponsorship Ministry often drives the same  jeepney to be used as a funeral car to pick up a dead body and its dear family from the dump to the burial site.   Mang Anghel, my usual cheap barber from the dump,  makes express coffin out of plywood as part of the YWAM ministry.    I purposely remind him not to shave the back of my neck for fear that I might end up to be his next customer  in his plywood coffin business .  One time, a family was able to rent a casket somewhere and they  had a wake for 2 weeks to raise funds through gambling.  After two weeks the corpse was gone missing because it was borrowed by the other relatives next baranggay so they could also raise money by gambling.

One funny thing,  people from Smokey Mt. would not believe that my wife Cristina and I were the new “base leaders”,  they thought we were the humble “katulong” (servants) of these white people from abroad serving with us in YWAM.   They prefer to talk to our American counterparts and we end up to be their translators. One time we went to Malacanang Palace, the Office of the President of the Philippines all dressed up in our national costumes (barong tagalog for me) with Dra Emma Palazo to be awarded for her Botika Binhi Project.   I drove the Sarao Jeepney fully packed with people attending the ceremony.  While I parked the jeepney they all went ahead but the security guard would not even let me in because he said drivers like me were not allowed inside the building.   Until the YWAM staff realized I’ve been gone long and they have to ask another white guy to get me outside.  See, how we were discriminated in our own country.

 

DISEASES AND PARTIES

Tuberculosis, diarrhea, worms,  intestinal and respiratory disease, you name it that’s the kind of thing we face and breathe everyday.  Anyway,  “Combantrin” was our excellent deworming brand.  We have to take this magic pill once or twice a year especially when we have that ticklish feeling inside our tummy.   Dining with the people in the dump was inevitable especially if you’re the one leading Bible Studies or when you’ve been invited at a birthday party.   Filipinos are hospitable people.  Imagine at times  they were cooking noodles (pansit) with firewood while those blue flies flying like fighter jets were landing dead on the wok.  Doug Donithan and  I have to  watch out for those small “raisins” in our pansit and flicked them with our finger one by one.

One day we were invited at a wedding party and the young couple borrowed utensils  from our  Daycare for malnourished babies ran by one of our heroes,  Els Van Teylingen, from Holland.   During our time, we don’t use yet those expensive disposal diaper but we have those white plastic buckets from Gleanings for the Hungry as our containers for A– soaking the dirty cloth diapers , container B– wash with soap & water and C- rinsing & ready for drying on the clothesline.  There was  lots of food-  lechon, pansit (chinese noodles).   And jeez.. the  powdered orange juice drink were being mixed with water and blocks of ice in one of those Gleanings buckets.   I thought my wife was trying to be funny waving her hand and mumbling … its letter A,  bucket A, container A and I was not getting it.  I was oblivious but my wife Cristina and our YWAM Secretary began giggling incessantly when I drank that living water, ahem, juice!!

 
TURNING THE WORLD UPSIDE DOWN

jeepneyOur YWAM team of 40 targeted 1000 children for educational sponsorship, we served 24,000 people per year for TB control- immunization & the nutritional daycare.   A whooping 0.5 M pesos budget per year!!   Our amazing team conducted home Bible Study and also started two new churches in the dump.  The best part was equipping the Smokey Mountain people  with  education and skills  as we observed the astounding success  of some friends a few years later.    That was priceless.   But without  the gospel  of our Lord Jesus we say we might be just sending an educated soul to hell.   Raising up community leaders like Manuel Manarang, Dennis B,   created quite a stir in the dump — they literally “turn the world upside down” for Jesus.   We even saw the boldness of  Manuel approaching military General Ramos during his visit to present our issues in the dump but the bodyguards prevented him.  Many people drastically changed lives spiritually and economically hearing of their powerful testimonies about Jesus.

 

GOING TO CHURCH IN THE MALL

Although we supported the  church in Smokey Mountain,  most of our team members attended the Union Church of Manila on Sundays whereas we, the Ancheta family joined Victory Christian Fellowship under Pastor Luther Mancao.  The crazy thing, whenever we ride a  jeepney people start covering their nose as we boarded.  Even if we’ve taken a shower.   So we refrain walking in the dump before going to church  because the stink sticks to our clothings.    Later on when we afforded buying a car  we enjoyed driving to Greenhills or the SM Mega mall Victory church.  After church, where else you want to go– we’re already in the mall.   The catch though,  we always have to lay our hands on the Toyota car because every time we close the door the “balakubak” flakes starts falling, … that’s the rusted pieces falling on the ground.   I forgot to tell you, our area in Balut was always flooded most of the year not because of the rain or typhoon.  It’s  the high tide, a salty corrosive water.  Not good for cars.  Every day the Earth experiences two high tides and two low tides.  Could be the reason why sometimes we have more than 7000 islands sometimes less in the Philippines.

 

FROM SCARS TO  STARS

In 1993 news headline, Cory Aquino the new Philippine President “ordered to wipe out Smokey Mt from the face of the earth” due to the stigma brought to the nation by its  worldwide publicity.   Smokey Mountain became the symbol of poverty in the Philippines.  People  relocated to a nearby government housing.   YWAM  ministry continue to exist to this day turning their scars into stars,  trials into triumph giving them the Living Hope.  We recognize  also the accomplishments  of a friend  parish priest Ben Beltran who implemented many great projects in the dump.

MOVING TO SAN FRANCISCO, BAY AREA

In 2001,  my family moved to the U.S.  at Gleanings for the Hungry in Dinuba, California .   We were amazed how this ministry sends tons of food to more than 40 needy nations around the world.  Hosting thousands of youth to process the drying of peaches in summer were some of our memorable experiences.  Later with the influence of CPA Bill Cornell we  introduced  Quickbooks  and  the Denari  donor system when I was assigned working in the Finance Department.   Every Monday,  staff introduced themselves to hundreds of volunteers and we have to tell them our spiritual involvement, such as DTS, Bible Study, hospitality.   Crunching  numbers doesn’t sound religious at all, especially when we’re Religious Visa status.   After much thought,   I would say my ministry involvement was most  biblical,  –”the ministry of reconciliation ” (2 Cor 5:18)  reconciling books and people’s relationship with God.

In 2007  we met Tim & Karol Svoboda in  YWAM SF, a ministry reaching out to more than 3,000 homeless in San Francisco.  Every time we cross the Bay Bridge,  my daughter Sydney and wife Cristina holler “I love San Francisco”!!!!   The Tenderloin, and the Ellis Street reminded us so much of the poor living in Smokey Mt.   Except for this  difference.  The poverty here is spiritual not  material.  Most of the “poor” here receive  welfare checks as compared to the poor from the garbage dump who gets help personally  from the hand of a YWAM person –plus they hear the gospel.  The poor we know are generally grateful, downcast and humble but the poor in SF, not all of them I believe,  have an attitude problem– ungrateful, narcissistic & that sense of entitlement.  That’s why we are so blessed being part of YWAM San Francisco under the leadership of Tim and Karol Svoboda in transforming this dark city with the love of Christ.  People, Passion, Places.  My wife one day had a frightening clash with a mentally ill homeless gal pushing her around .  Later on our then 8 year old  Sydney complained her ears were hurting due to the constant blasting shouts of invectives  in the streets!  Oh well, drug addicts, mentally deranged, alcoholic … what should we expect?

TRIBUTE TO A HOMELESS FRIEND

Butch, a Filipino homeless, was exceptional.. “was” because he just passed  few months ago.  He loves to be on the street with his buddies but he actually had a single room occupancy (SRO) awarded to him by the government.   Although he was alcoholic, he was trying to put his life together, attending our Bible study, our church and reconciling with his loved ones.  He was also one of our  financial supporters  for a few months when we were starting as staff in SF.  He also fixed our plumbing and electrical …while he was drunk.  This is quite difficult for me to understand– alcohol withdrawal is  dangerous than withdrawing from drugs?  So that time, too late for me to realize that I scolded him to stop drinking while he was staying in our small gettho house in the Bay Area. He obeyed.  During the night his body was vibrating wildly wondering if I should call 911.  Reluctantly I ran fast to buy a bottle of alcohol and it was a miracle– he was healed,  I mean from that wiggling body.

My wife Cristina  joined a ministry called 360 — a  one year discipleship program for those homeless who are committed to change despite they still struggle with loneliness, depression, sex, alcohol or drug addiction.    We started a Bible study with some homeless friends until we had a  small church  attended by about 30% “special needs people” ( mentally & physically challenged ).  I was later ordained as a pastor with the Foursquare church.  As you can imagine the atmosphere in our church  could be uncomfortable and distracting to some people so I figured you should have a special calling to be a part of our church.   Our vision  is  to reach out to thousands of  Filipino immigrants  in  the Bay Area,  we are called as a community to give the life and light of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.     And so is our faith journey ….   .