On Behalf Of

On the third day of our first trip to the PH, we were building homes in a little village named Bajumpandan II, near Dumaguete.  About 300 volunteers were assigned there. 

This day, all of the volunteers had been given bright yellow, new, tee shirts to wear because ExPresident Jimmy Carter & Roselind were going to visit to witness our progress.  President and Mrs. Carter were working with Habitat at a site in Manila.  About noon, after a fly over in his helicopter, the Carters touched down in Bajumpandan.  The President held a welcome ceremony where volunteers lined up to meet him and shake his hand. 

We had already been working in dirt and cement for about 4 hours because we started work in early morning to avoid the heat of the day.  The men simply shed their dirty shirts and put on their new yellow ones to greet the president.  The women had no place to change and stood in the receiving line in soiled shirts.

Bruce Pichard from our group was in line before me.  He shook the President’s hand and told him how the organizers wanted us to look nice, thus the new shirts.  The president smiled and joked with him.  Next in line was me.  My shirt had cement all over the front.  Although I had combed my hair, I was conscious of my dirty shirt.  The president looked straight at the smudges.  I leanmed forward and whispered in his ear, “don’t you say a single word”.  With a wonderful big smile and a little laugh, he whispered back, “That’s the way it is supposed to be” and gave me a big hug!

After the receiving line, we all had lunch and water at long tables under tents for shade from the hot sun.  Music was playing, when suddenly, Bob Frick, one of our FPC members and the oldest at 80, got up and asked for the microphone.  The crowd of about 300 International volunteers and about 300 local workers and residents were quiet.  Bob spoke directly to the Filipinos in hushed tones. 

“On behalf of all of us here and all of the American soldiers who were stationed in the POH during WWII, THANK YOU.  You cared for us. You tended our wounds. You sheltered us.  You fed us.  You fought with us.  You befriended us. We have not and will never forget your kindness and love.  Four members of our group had fought in WWII, Bob Stevenson, Scott Westerman, Tom Worhele, and Bob Frick.  Through tear-filled eyes, everyone began clapping and cheering.

Much more than just work, this mission has filled our souls with joy.