The church and its witness: life in exile
Reverend Cathy Chang
By the rivers of Babylon — there we sat down and there we wept when we remembered Zion.
Reflection: This psalm evokes the pain and loss from the Babylonian exile. Jerusalem, once the center of the people’s faith in God, was now destroyed. In the same way, I wonder how the faith of our overseas Filipino workers is challenged or even lost, when they work in countries where their faith is no longer the main part of their lives. Some might enjoy rare days off for worship and fellowship; others might not even enjoy those extra blessings. In this new work setting, their faith does not find the same full expression as when they were with their own faith communities in the Philippines. Like the Babylonian captors who desired to listen to songs of mirth, perhaps their foreign employers seek only the satisfaction of workers through smiles and “Yes, Sir” or “Yes, Ma’am.” Yet these songs of mirth belie the mixture of emotions beneath the surface
I imagine that exile also includes the experiences of family members who are left behind in the Philippines. Without the presence of a family member or loved one, these remaining families and friends might also mourn a time when they once enjoyed more joyful expressions of worship, together in the Philippines.
While the pain and loss of separation for both workers and their families seem too much to bear, most still somehow manage to remember God’s faithfulness. In this memory is their hope for life amid exile.
Action: The faith of Filipino migrant workers is often what sustains them to continue working and providing for their families. Consider: What are your values about work and family? What does your faith teach you about work and family?
Prayer: Lord God, the loss and longing of the exiled Babylonian community resonate with the experiences of overseas Filipino workers separated from their families. These same workers desire and seek out spiritual resources to sustain them. Sensitize our faith communities to provide pastoral care and comfort. Amen.
Reverend Cathy Chang regional facilitator for Addressing Migration and Human Trafficking with Presbyterian World Mission. She is based in the Philippines and works throughout southeast Asia. Previously she served as associate pastor at the Bertha E.R. Strosacker Memorial Presbyterian Church in Midland, Michigan, and Lilly pastoral resident at Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church.