" Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God." Luke 12:6 (NIV)
This is the verse behind the name of Sparrow Music, Inc. This verse continues to
“Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” Luke 12:7 (NIV)
True to these, our field trip showed us how God cares for the children in Payatas. Not only that, I was also reminded of:
1) How God cares about our littlest concerns.
After our increased Civic Welfare Training Service (CWTS) enrollment last semester, I had this nagging thought, “Where can I bring our 80+ students to show them an ongoing community engagement?” We used to bring our students to Bulacan or Taytay. Going there would be easy easy, if the class wasn’t this large. With a large class, everything multiplies... The number of vehicles, facilitators needed... Budget... Budget. Budget. Budget.
The National Service Training Program (NSTP) has the budget, but in our college, everything is by reimbursement. Cash out? Instructors usually pay the expenses first because we don’t want our students paying. So the farther we travel from University of the Philippines (UP), the larger the cash out would be. In the past, that was easy, some instructors like me have savings we can spare, but this year is particularly challenging. I’m applying for my PhD; every step in my application and enrollment meant “Wooo, goodbye 10k!” Goodbye savings... this ain’t reimbursable... the return of investment will still take a while... I was simply asking God, “Lord, a community that’s near... one that could accommodate our classes. But Lord, all my contacts are either far or have small facilities...”
Conclusion of the matter, I needed to contact someone new. And if you know me, you’d get it when I say that is not easy for me. I am the epitome of an introvert. It’s only by God’s grace that I can actually teach... Plus, my hectic schedule hardly allows me to leave campus to connect with Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to do reconnaissance in the field. I didn’t know if I actually had to deal with this. I didn’t even know if I’d still be a UP employee by the 2nd semester, but I had to step up... I had to assume the responsibility. Step up. Swallow my shyness. Again, for the nation.
Before I could actually do so, God connected me with Sparrow Music when I attended Campus Crusade for Christ 50th anniversary in November. That was way before my employment for the 2nd semester was guaranteed, before I actually planned on doing something about that field trip.
I first heard about Sparrow Music during one of our NSTP coordinator meetings in 2015. Ma'am Sherla of the UP College of Music enthusiastically shared about their partnership with this NGO in Payatas. While she was telling us their success stories and best practices, I thought, “I hope I can do that too... Establish a partnership with an NGO and share it like this.” So when Sir Ferdinand Medina, executive director of Sparrow Music Philippines, Inc., was introduced to me over lunch in that event, I thought, “Wow, small world...big God!” I wasn’t even the one who introduced myself!
I contacted Sir Ferdi in January. Good thing, he remembered me despite only speaking with him once. Thanks to him, even when all these things occurred during his new baby daughter Ysa’s birth, and only via Facebook chat and phone calls, and with Sarah’s help, we were able to set schedule for the fieldtrip. On the side, God also provided the amount we needed for the transportation, the availability of vehicles, the approval of the dean and consent of the parents of students, etc.
By Feb 5, everything was set. I was already busy with logistics when Sir Ferdi called me. I thought it was just to confirm our schedule...but then he told me he can't make it on the day of the fieldtrip... Before I could react, he said, "Don’t worry..." He assured me that he prepared the Sparrow volunteers to facilitate our activities. We ran through the topics and he gave me contact details, and a map to the place.
I would have been rattled if having set that fieldtrip given my circumstances wasn't already a miracle. I knew no one in the Sparrow aside from Sir Ferdi. I've been to Payatas, but that was more than 10 years ago. All I knew was that we have to be there.
Getting to Payatas was easy, until we missed a turn. Last two turns to Sparrow and I still erred... Nyahahaha! We got lost and reached the other phase of Payatas. The residents even thought that we were a political candidate’s convoy because one of our vans had a red plate. Good thing, they were kind enough to direct us to Sparrow based on the address I told them.
2) How God can use a life to change another.
We were welcomed by Sparrow volunteers Geo, Danica, and Mari Fe. At first, it was obvious that they were nervous because suddenly they had to speak in front of our students, but when they started... I couldn’t help but be in awe. They were younger than me. Abegail and Danica (also volunteers) were just as young as my students. They all grew up in Payatas. Indeed,
“ Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12 (NIV)
They are much younger, but they are bolder, even braver than I was. They are changing lives of fellow Payatas youth, because their lives were also changed when someone like Noemi and Sir Ferdi stepped out in faith to start something in this community too. Above all, they recognize that it is God's love and grace that enables them to guide the younger kids, not only through music lessons but through life. #veryempowering
Hearing the children play Pachelbel's Canon in D and sing Love Yourself, Thinking Out Loud, Still, and 'Til I See You for, and with, my students was very inspiring. I knew our students love music; most of them sang and danced during our Talents Day last semester. They were in awe of the kids and kept telling me how their talents fail to compare with the kids’.
For me, however, more than being able to perform at that level, I'm happy for these kids to have music as their form of expression of love, of worship. Music does many things lectures cannot. It is through writing poems and songs, or singing relatable songs that I have poured out my heart since childhood. My heartbreaks, my frustrations, my successes... My Ate Aya started sharing the Gospel to me through Hillsong and Citipointe Live. I believe music is a gift to these kids, as it is to many Filipinos.
3) When God answers prayers, He answers not only yours, but other people's as well.
For years, CWTS projects of our students have had a particular weakness: sustainability. That's why we encourage them to partner with organizations who can help sustain what they plan to start.
While looking around the Sparrow Music facility to see if it was feasible to build a library my students envisioned, we asked Abegail where the kids study. She told us where, and shared that they were praying for a place where there are books, chairs, tables for the kids to improve their study habits... That was exactly what my students were proposing in their project. That was how I pictured it in my mind! I couldn't help but be so excited to see that shared vision come to life.
Just as Danica asked me earlier that day, "Ma'am, what’s your first impression of Payatas?" all I could think was, "There’s too many people here." The last time I was here was during my Ate Aya's 18th birthday celebration. To see many children growing in this environment, mostly in poverty, even after 10 years, still breaks my heart. But seeing the determination, the passion of these volunteers and the willingness of the parents to break that cycle of poverty that has ran across generations, I could only be hopeful. Just as my Dad broke that cycle through education, these children, by God's grace, can also dream dreams bigger than any mountain of garbage we could ever dump here. I'm believing with these kids that poverty won't stop them from being maximized by God to change this community, to change this nation.
1 Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens.
2 Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.
3 When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
4 What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?
Psalms 8:1-4 (NIV)
Likha Minimo is a professor of physical sciences at University of the Philippines, Diliman.