U.S.-Philippines United Methodist Women Strategize for Mission in Asia

U.S.-Philippines United Methodist Women Strategize for Mission in Asia
Children at the Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation.

United Methodist Women of the Philippines and the United States strengthened their historic ties and strategized ways to address the needs of women, children and youth in Asia today when they met in Manila, Jan. 16-19.

More than 70 women leaders from the Philippines Central Conference (PCC), and U.S. United Methodist Women’s Asia regional missionaries and national staff discussed mission opportunities and issues impacting women, children and youth in Asia at the “Looking Forward: Women Transcending Boundaries in Solidarity” conference.

“Our foremothers in mission didn’t know what the future would hold, but they met the challenges of their day, and they built the identity of women called to mission, called to advocacy, called to making a difference in the world,” said Harriett Jane Olson, chief executive of United Methodist Women in the United States. “We can no more predict what the future will hold than our foremothers could. But can prepare women to lead.”

At the Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation in Manila.

Bishop Peter Torio of Baguio Episcopal Area, Bishop Rodolfo Juan of Davao Episcopal Area, and Bishop Ciriaco Quintanay Francisco of Manila Episcopal area welcomed the women to the region.

The women kicked off the conference by experiencing the work of United Methodist Women partner mission institutions in the Manila area. Mission institutions toured included:

  • Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation Inc., which offers services and skills training for impoverished women, children and youth, including homeless families living in Manila’s North Cemetery.
  • Bocobo Learning Center, which provides early childhood education programs.
  • Mary Johnston Hospital and College of Nursing, a small teaching hospital founded by deaconesses that trains young people for careers in nursing. 
  • Decker Home Foundation, a facility that cares for retired deaconesses.
  • Harris Memorial College, a liberal arts college founded by deaconesses to prepare students for Christ-like service. More than half of the PCC women leaders attending the event were graduates of Harris Memorial College. 
In plenaries that followed, the women examined the history of women’s mission outreach in the Philippines and socioeconomic realities that impacted the work. Philippine Deaconess Chita Framo offered a comprehensive overview of the history of women in mission in the area, the institutions they founded, and the women advancing the work today. Filipina Christian feminist theologian Arche L. Ligo explored the role of gender in women’s past and current position in church and society with a view toward the future.

“One important feature in the Second Wave of feminism is the appreciation of gender’s intersection with the other social and hierarchical categories of age, class, race and culture,” Ms. Ligo said. “The new and uncomfortable thing about the use of gender as a perspective and lens of social analysis is, first, everything is gendered. This means that everything, both natural or man-made, impacts women and men differently. Poverty, hunger and underdevelopment affect women doubly in the sense that when she is hungry, then her children also suffer hunger, for the care, nurture and feeding of the children are culturally placed on her shoulders….True and sustainable development has to consider how it impacts women.”

Telling Their Stories

In small groups, the women talked about their mission stories and the challenges faced by women in their communities.

“One of the reasons we tell the names and stories of the women is that ... this helps other women to tell their own stories, to speak up when we have the opportunity, to make a difference and to actually transform boundaries to make a future that’s more just,” Ms. Olson said.

Many of the women’s stories involved ameliorating the effects of poverty, such as homelessness; the need for education; pursuit of gender justice; confronting human rights abuses, including the violation of indigenous people’s rights; and women’s reproductive health care and support for women living with HIV and AIDS.

The women shared stories from their work with survivors of human trafficking and the forced emigration that pushes poor women to leave the Philippines to work in more wealthy countries to help support their families.

Such emigration often destabilizes families and causes the children left behind to suffer—but the nation depends on it, they said.

“What keeps the Philippine economy afloat is the Overseas Filipino Worker,” said Xandra Bisenio of the non-profit IBON Foundation, in a presentation on globalization and Asia, especially the Philippines. Nearly 2 million people worked abroad and sent portions of their earnings to family members in the Philippines in 2015, she said.

Ms. Bisenio said that while the region is sometimes called “Factory Asia” because of all of the manufacturing jobs that have relocated there, transnational corporations control the process and profits, which keeps advanced countries the global centers of industry and traps underdeveloped nations in poverty.

“The change in the international division of labor is a product of a… perennial quest for higher profits,” she said.

Although the women discussed harsh realities throughout the event, they were exuberant with hope for the future.

Future Plans

The women’s future plans focused on expanding women’s leadership capacity for increased mission action together. Several meeting participants cited the leadership training opportunities they had experienced through United Methodist Women-related Scranton Women’s Leadership Center in Seoul, South Korea, and the Wesley Foundation in Tokyo, Japan.

The Philippines meeting was the second of its kind, following the United Methodist Women-sponsored “Women Transforming the World” conference in October 2017, when women from 21 African nations gathered for networking and leadership development in Maputo, Mozambique.

Yvette Moore is director of communications for United Methodist Women.


Posted or updated: 1/30/2018 12:00:00 AM

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