Whenever I see the results of Cross Catholic’s Gawad Kalinga house construction projects in the Philippines, my first thought is, “Wow! This used to be a slum?” The newness, the cleanliness, the bright, cheerful colors are a visual repudiation of poverty.
This is the tangible part of ministry. It’s also, in some respects, the easy part.
The Gawad Kalinga team tells us the more difficult – and more important – part of their work is bringing that newness and that brightness into the human heart. If the values and attitudes of the people are not changed, then even if you build new houses and clean up the dirty streets, in a few years their community will deteriorate back into a slum. That’s why the houses come packaged with a program of community outreach services aimed at transforming people’s lives, on the outside and the inside.
This is not a unique perspective. Cross Catholic’s Filipino friends at the Center for Community Transformation (CCT) also have made it the crux of their outreach strategy, and if you spend a little time with them, you discover they just can’t stop talking about it.
More important than beautiful houses are the beautiful souls of the people living inside of them.
We asked Karl Ombion, an engineer employed by the self-help and microfinance focused ministry, why he joined the organization. His answer: “Because of its commitment to long-lasting, significant transformation, starting with heart change from knowing Christ.”
But, we reminded him, hadn’t he previously worked with an award-winning charity organization that was helping Filipino farmers? Wasn’t that transformational?
“Not really,” he admitted. “It was just technical. Without the heart-change, it wasn’t long lasting or significant.”
No matter the time, no matter the place, Jesus is still the answer!