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Dear all:

I work as Chief Operating Officer of a Catholic non-governmental organization in Manila, dedicated especially to helping uplift the economic situation of the people in "Old Smokey Mountain", the former dumpsite in northern Manila that has now been rehabilitated and turned into a large residential area for thousands of former scavengers and "squatters" there.

A Verbite priest by the name of Fr. Benigno Beltran SVD -- my current boss -- forsook a promising academic career in Rome and Germany to live among the scavengers in 1978 and, for the next thirty years, worked day and night to put an end to the scavenging, to shut down the dump and to give the people decent places to live. He set up a chapel, organized church services, and -- with the aid of numerous church associations and pious donors -- eventually erected an entire alternative-learning system for the poor children, a dance troupe that has performed throughout the world, and an economic cooperative for the inhabitants of the area. The late Corazon Aquino finally shut down the dump and gave the land to the scavengers (it was government land anyway) and "Gawad Kalinga", (which could be described in a nutshell as a Filipino Catholic version of "Habitat for Humanity") came in and established large apartment complexes for the poor. Old Smokey Mountain as it stands is arguably one of the greatest triumphs of Catholic social teaching in my country.

At present, the challenge is to build a permanent church, to remove the remaining mountains of trash (replacing these with an ecopark) and to ensure the people's access to cheap food and other basic commodities, as well as to fresh fruits, vegetables and meat from the provinces. It is this latter task that is now in my hands.

To my dismay, when I took the job in July 2009 I found that, since Fr. Ben's departure from Old Smokey Mountain in 2008, the parish cooperative and the other community ventures that had been carefully nurtured by the Church for 30 years were under tremendous strain, with many members being lost. The reason? An American-funded Evangelical group had come into the area -- once solidly Catholic -- and lost no time in proselytizing the people. At present the Evangelicals are setting up a large "Christian" school that towers over the small Catholic chapel (and sits literally behind this chapel), and which is almost wall-to-wall with the school that had been built by Gawad Kalinga. Today, only one Mass is said every Sunday in the Catholic parish (an anomaly by Phillipine standards) -- the reason given to me by the representatives of the urban poor living there is that the people "don't feel like going to Church" and besides, there is the presence of the Evangelicals.

This afternoon, I was in Smokey Mountain to talk to some of the urban poor representatives, and as I was walking about I ran into a largish group of women happily bearing cartons. When I asked about the cartons, they told me that the Evangelicals were giving away a lot of free milk. In other places around Manila, in the poorest areas, I have heard similar stories: how the various Evangelical groups never seem to run out of food and money for prospective converts, and how a lot of people go to the Evangelical worship services because "there is free food there." (I'm sure you can imagine what a night of free food can mean to the very poor!). Some even told me with brutal frankness that many poor people convert to the Evangelical churches mainly for the material gains, but continue to self-identify themselves as Catholics and often return to the Catholic faith when the material blessings run dry.

Now that I'm in my job, I've begun to realize that the stories about "rice-bowl" converts in Eastern Europe and Latin America do have some basis on the truth.

My question is: WHERE DOES ALL THAT MONEY COME FROM? It drives me nuts. It seems to me that American Evangelicals are intent on smothering the Catholic Church in poor countries with the sheer power of money.

Last edited by asianpilgrim; 09/04/09 04:30 PM.
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I don't know specifics but they usually are able to get a lot of money from private donors who fund "missions". The stress of the pitches I've seen have not been "we will save the Catholics", but "we will save the lost".

When a Protestant, I almost got involved with a missions group that was going to Russia, until I heard the testimonies which were full of anti-clerical undertones. Even then I thought it was counter-productive. I thought they would have been more productive if they encouraged the people they encounter to grow in their faith and know their bible (the last point they stressed as a motivation for their trip).

Terry

Last edited by Terry Bohannon; 09/04/09 04:41 PM.
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Your situation is similar to those who promote missions to Muslim nations preaching conversion....then instead of evangelizing to the Muslim they preach to the Christians.

Then when they report their successes they neglect to mention that the "converts" were already Christian. So sad....many contributors don't realize what is actually happening.

Here in the USA, instead of distributing food, they distribute "esteem" by offering volunteer "positions", like hosting, ushering, welcoming, and social function administration. As you said, after all is said and done the people will leave that church and move on to the next offer.

Don't be discouraged, there is a reason for everything. Perhaps we in the USA are being called to be more responsive to peoples' emptiness. (Not meaning your mission; your group has responded with a good heart.)

Keep up your good work and trust God,
Fr Deacon Paul

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Your situation is similar to those who promote missions to Muslim nations preaching conversion....then instead of evangelizing to the Muslim they preach to the Christians.
Well, contrary to the popular perception, most missionaries don't want to be martyrs, and preaching to Christians is a lot safer than preaching to Muslims.

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Evangelicals, Lutherans, Calvinists, etc are very big on producing poignant films about mission work in foreign countries. It consists of the typical fare of "Millions in Ukraine, Brazil, the Philippines etc,etc are lost in darkness (they're Catholic or Orthodox) and do not know Jesus Christ as there personal Saviour" Then you get the testimonies of Olga's, Ivan's and Jose's who talk about how through the mission's efforts they've learned that they can now have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. After that they trot out Pastor Bob and his family who tell heartwarming stories about the locals and how they risk alienation from there own families for embracing Christ. Finally you get to hear how much the mission has accomplished, and how many souls can be won, with the added stipulation that that won't happen without your financhial support.

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As Terry and Lawrence alluded to, you must remember that most Evangelicals do not consider Catholics to be Christians. At least where I live (Texas), they have no knowledge of the Orthodox Church (Their only exposure to it is My Big Fat Greek Wedding), so when they are told by the missions people about the Orthodox, they just say that they're the same as Catholics without the Pope. So they consider the Orthodox lost too. A mission group to Russia that I know of wore shirts reading something like, "Shining the light of the Gospel where it has never been before."
My best friend (who is actually Reformed not Evangelical)is very involved in missions. His desire is to go to Ukraine as a long term missionary. It's difficult for me when I receive their prayer e-mails and letters, as I am concerned about attempts to convert Orthodox. My friend is pretty ecumenical. He doesn't automatically consider Orthodox/Catholic as non-Christian, but he is the exception. I know that fellow team members don't share that view.
My first exposure to Orthodoxy came from just such a mission trip in 1998. Only I turned out to be the convert. I was chrismated in 2002. I married a Ukrainian girl who translated for us. She was Baptist. Then she moved from Ukraine to Texas and became Orthodox. Not exactly the results I was expecting when I first went to Ukraine as a Protestant.
As far as the money, the people involved in missions are willing to donate a lot on top of their tithes or to donate supplies. I wish that we shared their zeal. But I also think that Protestant style evangelism is much easier than Liturgical Christian evangelism. The goal is to make a brief presentation, get them to say the prayer at the end of the booklet, and come to church. That is so much quicker and easier than immersing someone in the liturgical/sacramental life of the Church, so there is an immediate pay off and roaring success to report back to supporters, further encouraging them to give more support. The problem is, a conversion that takes 15 minutes produces a shallow faith, if it can truly even be called faith. I wonder how many quickly fall away so that the great success is merely transient and illusory.

Gregg

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Nice story, Gregg. smile

Asian Pilgrim,

I've never audited any of these organization's books, but my impression is that evangelical congregations here in the US actually do basically get a tithe (10%) of the congregants income. At even a fairly small and poor church of maybe 100 households making US$20K/year, that's $200,000 per year. The effect is even bigger at the many 40,000-people suburban megachurches that are around here. These people do far more than put a dollar into the Sunday collection basket.

And as Gregg mentions, many people are willing to put in extra for "missions", beyond what the church may or may not allocate for "missions" from the Tithe.

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Asian Pilgrim:

Christ is in our midst!!

I have to echo Markos' post. The Evangelical churches I am familiar with demand a 10% tithe for the local church and pass the basket for more for missions. One local church has six missionary families they support and that they receive regular letters from. Most of these churches have a world map in the vestibule and run some sort of string or thread or yarn from their pin on the map to the location of each missionary family wherever they are in the world. The end point usually has a recent photo of the missionary family, complete with children. The usual letters tell of the children doing work with their peers in the local communities and the work of the missionary and his spouse. It's all a very tight feeling--the missionary is a member of our congregation toiling for Christ and supporte by us in some far-off place and helping us all fulfill the Great Commission to go out and preach the Word to the whole world. So while we're supporting Catholic schools and our lay teachers, the Evangelicals are sending their money and people to other lands.

I know of people who are elderly and living on next to nothing who are deeply involved in skipping a meal or a prescription in order to help the missionary effort--and build up treasures in Heaven.

Would that our people had this zeal.

BOB


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