Thursday, July 15, 2021

If Jesus Were Here, What Would He Do?

by Joan Yap


I was in Hualien, accompanying our case worker for a meeting, when we received a phone call from our supervisor informing us that we would be sheltering a Filipino migrant worker who is in a catatonic state. Riza (not her real name) had overdosed on drugs. As a result, it would be difficult for her to remain in Taiwan and would need to go back to the Philippines for appropriate care.  The Hope Workers Center (HWC) was asked to look after her until her situation improved and a suitable person could be found to accompany her to travel home.

My first concern was; would she be fit to stay at our center? Her well-being may be important but there is also the need to consider the other residents in the shelter. When I saw her, she was skinny, with big eyes and untidy hair. She didn’t say a word and could not maintain direct eye contact. Many anxious thoughts crossed my mind. What could we do to help her? What would be her behavior in the center? How would her presence affect the other residents? I asked myself if Jesus were here, what would He do?

I recalled the verse in Matthew 11:28, where Jesus said "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” No doubt, Jesus would welcome anyone who comes to him. I may not be qualified to accompany her because I don’t have the experience to handle this kind of situation. But when I saw her, I saw a woman, a mother, and a daughter who needed help. Her family must be worried and anxious for her to come home. In the meantime, while remaining in the center, she will hopefully find a family who will love and care for her, which in turn may greatly contribute to her healing.

True enough, all the residents in the shelter rallied together to help her. They, too, are wounded people but are willing to support their “kababayan” or fellow Filipino. Riza found a friend in them. They accompanied her wherever she went; whether it was doing exercise, singing karaoke which was her favorite, or watching movies together in the center. Every day, I would also try to have a one-on-one activity with her. 

As each day passed, she responded more and more. One day, when I tried to have a conversation with her, I was surprised when she spoke, as it was my first time to hear her talk. I asked her about her favorite food, whether she had any children, and what were their names. In answer, her first 3 words to me were “sinigang,” “son”, and “Brian”. I was happy as it gave me hope that she was getting better.  In the days that followed, she continued to improve little by little, and started to interact more with other people. She was gradually able to show some emotions such as laughing, smiling, being sad and angry etc.

During her stay, a lot of questions kept coming to my mind about what happened to her? How did her employer treat her? Was she abused? Why did she decide not to talk? What made her start using drugs? Did she have any family problems? She shared a little but that’s all that I could do as I didn’t want to push her. I respected her silence to give her the space she needed and listened to what she was only willing to share.

Her presence brought home to us the reality that depression is something very real! The covid situation, work/financial pressures and family relationship problems, can make a person more vulnerable to depression. One of the other residents shared that she is in the same situation as Riza but what sustains her is her love for her family. It gives her the strength to fight the depression. The most important thing is to find love and support from the people around them.

When Riza left our center, I was a bit emotional, as her employer had asked her to return. I was hesitant, because I could see that she wanted to stay, but it was the only way she could go home. Riza stayed in our center for three weeks. Her sister recently informed me that she now lives with her mother in Bohol, Philippines. I am praying for her complete recovery. 

Joan with the residents at the Hope Workers Center (HWC)

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