A global pandemic. Lockdowns. Looting. Riots. Presidential politics.

The U.S. faced numerous challenges in 2020, which seemed to bring out the worst in a lot of people. All of it was chronicled on social media (platforms that in many ways reward division and hate). Your friendly neighborhood blogger, however, was blessed to start off the year with a trip to the Philippines with Marion Word Mission.

The nonprofit organization spearheaded by Dr. Cristina Pamaar has worked to “relieve the suffering of women and children” in the Philippines — Iloilo, specifically — for years. Doctors from Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, New Jersey, along with various philanthropic allies, converge on the island each year to lend their time and talents to the cause.

Some of the services include:

  • Surgeries (e.g., gynecological, dental, breast and thyroid).
  • Cancer screenings.
  • A traveling medical clinic.
  • “Mary’s Camp” for children “afflicted with cancer or other chronic illnesses, orphaned, and/or troubled by difficult circumstances.”
  • Marian Rose World Mission’s Football Development Program, which is open to “orphan boys aged 6-16 years old from the Don Bosco Boys’ Home in Dumangas and SOS Orphan Village in Zarraga.”

This year’s efforts started January 10 and ran through January 18. It’s hard to describe the dizzying pace that all of the volunteers keep, and the conditions that many of the doctors work in (while dealing with stifling heat), but it was a sight to behold. Doctors were up before dawn each morning on their way to various assignments and often didn’t arrive back at the mission until late at night.

In short, imagine a community in which all the petty squabbling of everyday life is replaced with an ethos of selfless service. Imagine a gathering of individuals in which everything that drives intellectual and spiritual wedges between people is stripped away and all that is left is a cheery determination to do right by one’s fellow man. That was my experience with Marian World Mission.

It was refreshing. It was inspiring. It was exactly the kind of thing one doesn’t expect to see on the news or trending on social media because ratings and algorithms always seemed geared toward negativity.

What made the trip even more memorable was Dr. Pamaar’s decision to give me a bird’s eye view of the mission. I was shown every aspect of the organization’s work on the island — and then some. She made time in an already insane schedule to introduce me to the religious and cultural staples of the island.

Particularly humbling were the many cathedrals and their rich history, which Dr. Pamaar explained in detail. It becomes easier to understand the population’s perseverance and hopeful disposition when its faith in God is explored.

Similarly, understanding the success of Marian Rose World Mission becomes easier when it’s understood that the biblical quote on its website — “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brethren, you do it to me. ” — is taken very, very seriously.

I cannot thank Marian Rose World Mission enough for the opportunity to take part in its work. Spending time with the doctors, volunteers, and the kind people of Iloilo gave me a clearer perspective of the things in life that truly matters, and for that I am forever grateful.

While the global pandemic threw a wrench in plans to return to the island in early 2021, I very much look froward to returning sometime in the future.

Additional details on the organization can be found here.

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