Hover or tap underlined words for translations to Tagalog and Ilocano text. Listen to audio translations below.
A Dream Came True
I am a native of Kansas and moved to Colorado for good. I am a nature explorer. I love looking at nature from the top of the mountains. My love of camping and hiking led me to live close to the mountains with my family. It is my one way of understanding more of God’s creation. Though I am passionate about Syfy movies, it is not the scary things in it, but the thought of how every creation of God was made different.
I have worked in the Psych field for over 26 years and the thought of having this profession together with my faith in God helps me to understand more the people around me. I am physically and spiritually driven. I love the gym, other than hiking the mountains and I always find ways to channel these strengths to help people that are hurting.
The First time I saw a KNN video (a video that gives news about ongoing projects of our church and the people around the world through HOPE Organization), I had a vision that someday I will be working for HOPE (a non-profit organization that serves the needy people around the world). The Philippines was not the first place I thought about going, but over time, I felt like God put this place in my heart. The first time I visited the Philippines was in 2000 when I attended a Jubilee (Christians around the world gathered in this place to renew their faith and love for God). It was inspiring! This Jubilee I attended was a spiritual milestone in my life. Many people from all over the world met at the PICC, Philippines International Convention Center to inspire each other in their relationship with God. The first day I was there when everyone else was sleeping from the long trip, I went to the park across Manila Hotel and prayed. I felt like God brought me there for a reason, and that one day I will be back. So when the Jubilee was over and I was back in Denver I would pray every day and tell everyone about my dream to return to the Philippines and work with HOPE worldwide. About a year later, my prayers were answered and I was asked by Preston Shepherd (our present minister of that time) to join the Hope Youth Corps.
On Serving the Filipinos
And so I woke up one morning living the dream of my life. We started our mission by building a Youth Center in Payatas. We helped abused kids in bettering their lives in the areas of Baseco and Payatas. These areas are full of less fortunate people. A friend from Denver became my roommate. At first, I thought, I was ready to serve, but I had to think also of how I can feed myself for the time of my stay. I volunteered and I was ready to be responsible for my own life as well. God allowed me to work as an Instructor for a Gym and to teach English as a second language for a Language Center. I had some help from sponsors, but I still had to work for 2 part time jobs to meet ends meet.
Starting a life in a foreign country was the biggest challenge I had in my life, but also the most fulfilling part of my life. I am a person that doesn’t want too much crowd but I was forced to face the reality that the Philippines was a populous area. I worked with a lot of nice Filipino people and so that helped me get adjusted to knowing and involving more people in my life. I would try riding a packed Metro Train and LRT (Light Railway Transit). Other than the challenge of encountering crowd every day, I found myself getting lost all the time. It was a little bit hard to understand their transportation system. There were not too many signs to follow. There is much challenge to heavy traffics in addition to the crowd that you have to deal with when riding the buses and jeepneys. A little bit chaos compared to where I came from. I had to learn their map, I had to learn the people around me, I had to learn how to ask and trust people. Learning under the heat of the sun was more challenging. The Philippines has a very warm and humid climate all throughout the year. I thought God put me there not only to serve but to better understand the life of the people I would like to serve. I got to work with a Filipina (now my wife Recy) and she was there and all others to help me go around and understand more the process of serving the Filipinos. Little did I know that even when I had all the challenges, as days went by, I had loved living there. I thought I was made to be tougher like the Filipinos. I understood more the hardships of Filipinos. I found myself more relatable to the kids, I worked with. I was more effective in serving them because I had a personal feel of the life they were living with.
I ended up falling in love more of their culture and some of their foods. I ended up loving their “Adobo” food, the people around me and seeing more of an opportunity to serve instead of seeing the hardships that everyone wants to get rid of. My experience made me more positive about life. It made me think lesser of myself because there were so many people there that needed help. But, I won’t omit the things I despised, their “dinuguan” (blood soup) and the smell of fish sauce. It was fun to know those foods, though.
Falling In-love to a Filipina
My time of stay in the Philippines made me get to know the woman I did not think of marrying at first. We were of the same purpose serving Hope Worldwide. We hang out a lot, but then the first time I went out for a date with her, I thought she was special. I returned to Denver after my duration of serving. My thoughts about the Philippines after I went back did not diminish. I always had a thought of the people I served, the things I have learned, the people I worked with. After one year and a half, I returned to the Philippines to volunteer for HOPE worldwide again. At this point, I was sure I have other purposes, and it was to get to know more Recy.
We worked together again in the same Youth Center I helped build. We started formally dating each other and got engaged shortly. I thought, God gave me a bonus, and that was to find the woman I was to fall-in-love and get married with. I think love knows no boundaries and our love for each other was an example of what this means. We were ready to share the same sacrifices for the people we served, we were ready to understand and embrace each other’s culture, we were ready to see the challenges of communication, and we were ready to face the consequences of our decision to be together for life. There is not much to deal with culture when you know you are marrying a person for the right reason, for the right time and for a lifetime commitment. I was fine to get to know more my future’s wife’s family. I knew in my heart, that if I was going to marry Recy, I will have to marry the whole family. It was not because that it was their culture, but I knew, I was willing to do it. I got involved more with her family. I thought I was marrying someone beautiful and with a heart, someone I fell in love with. The hardships and challenges of living there were the same, but God’s love was evident in my life. I was rewarded with things I never expected.
We Will Return to Serve Again
We are back for good in the United States at the time of this writing. We have 2 kids and we are still pretty much involved with HOPE projects in the Colorado areas. With what everyone has to say about the challenges of living in the Philippines, I thought I was made to be involved in these so-called challenges. I love my Filipina wife, I love her serving heart, I love serving the Filipino people. I love to see her putting up “balikbayan boxes” to send to her relatives to the Philippines. We don’t have always the means to help financially, but I always find it as an opportunity when we have a chance to help. I may not be there doing the same thing I used to do before, but the thoughts of it help me see that there are many ways we could help still even far from the Philippines. The Philippines has always a special part in my life most especially now that I am married to a Filipina. Our plan and dream are to serve for HOPE Worldwide again. Our dream for the future is to go and live temporarily there every year to serve more. God’s plan will prevail. – Contributor: Jeff Heller, Colorado, US
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