Last evening, my friend Narry Santos and I wandered for a few hours through Welfareville. Really – that’s what the folks here call a massive squatter officially known as Addition Hill, near downtown Manila. What a hopeless name for a slum! Over 100,000 people are crowded into a chaotic urban ghetto, roughly organized into 40 quadrants or districts. Homes made of salvaged lumber, cardboard boxes, chicken wire and scrap metal crowd into dirty laneways and make-shift cock-fighting arenas. Women playing bingo, teens shooting hoops through suspended garbage pails, men drinking local brew and kids playing whatever they can create … life here feels dark and broken. Driving home the brokenness of this place, a sign on the gate into Addition Hill reads ‘Building Supplies Forbidden By Law.’
Our host was Elder Marlon Roldan, head of OMF’s Urban Poor ministry in the Philippines. With his ragamuffin team of volunteers, expat missionaries and local believers, they are transforming Welfareville into a greenhouse of faith and renewal. Working with Community Based Organization (CBOs) and government social aid services, their team has planted six house churches and 15 small group Bible studies. Women are trading in their bingo sheets for needlepoint kits and are making beautiful art which they sell. With help from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), they drilled four wells deep into the ground and started selling clean drinking water. Young people are gaining necessary skills which will allow them to find a decent job. Little kids get a jump start on education through a holistic nursery school.
Marlon’s dream is to transform this broken-down slum into a haven of renewal through integral mission and house churches are at the heart of his strategy.
As we headed away, Narry and I reflected on the double-entente of the word ‘welfare’. For the despondent, welfare means powerlessness. A free hand-out. But in God’s Kingdom, welfare means transformation, wholeness, shalom: peace with wellness. Jeremiah 29! “Seek the welfare of the city.”
So Bravo, Marlon and your team for being builders of transformation in the city. Welfareville is light in the darkness of Manila’s slums!
Check out the whole story at www.dawnforthepoor.org.