Scripture reading: Mark 6:1-3
Preaching: Myrla Baldonado
Mark 6:16 is about the prophet Jesus who is a carpenter who had the wisdom that awed many people who went from town to town preaching and healing people. He also sent his disciples to knock on people’s doors to preach the Good News and simply to remove the dust from their feet if people don’t believe . He was also a healer who healed a lot of people. This situation and circumstance bears a lot of semblance interestingly to that of what I have gone through in many instances in my life as an organizer of 40 years for over 30 years in my homeland, the Philippines and 8 years in the US.
After reflecting on these verses I see the striking semblance of the workbprophet Jesus to an organizer and leader. It has led me to think how these words has mguided me over and over again in my work as an organizer and a leader of many. I am privileged for having chosen a life that embraced the ideal of contributing to change in society and in the world in general. But constantly I have to stop to reexamine myself to think daily if my actions are oguided by the actions of the Son of God Jesus whom I chose to follow. In many ways that road has not been easy to take from my experiencing state violence as in being disappeared and tortured by a U.S. Trained and backed Philippine Military to being ostracized by my community when I crossed cultural boundaries to organize multiculturally for domestic worker rights, It is a good time to mention again how grateful I am for the rare opportunity to share my reflections here at Wellington and to have my story give life to the verses in the Bible,
As you all know July 4th is a long weekend holiday. I recall that when I started to come to Wellington and for six years I will be absent in the Fourth of July weekend for domestic workers like me are not entitled to day offs . Illinois has a one day in Seven Day Act to which domestic workers are excluded from. In fact, right now as I speak there are approximately a hundred thousand workers in Illinois who are dreaming of being able to go on day offs and especially be able to go Church on Sunday’s and enjoy a long weekend with our familia or ourselves as we do. Today this modern day example of slavery is still happening.
So what is the wisdom of a prophet or a leader. The wisdom of Jesus addresses the greater good and is healing. This also defines that a leader who fails to address the common good is not a good leader or the leader we want. Where does that wisdom come from when some would say He was just a carpenter. He is definitely working class.
When martial law was declared in the Philippines like most student activist we were forced to leave the schools to organize in the factories, communities and farms to end the militarization and the US domination I was in college and had to give Up the opportunity of a good life and a future for myself. However having come from a petty bourgeoisie I did hesitate to become a worker in a factory whereg went for an easier task where I would identify like one where I would not leave my middle class background. But martial law was harsh that I experienced and saw a lot of the sufferings and From a level of discomfort in organizing and living in the slums of Manila and organizing farm workers Many decades with the poor and afflicted I finally gained the wisdom of the working class.i did get out of my comfort zone and earned a lot of wisdom from the poor toiling masses of leaders like for example during my time as orgamixer in Clark and Subic the 2 largest overseas US military bases where my work and sacrifice as a torture victim bore fruit when the workers I helped organize went on strike and when we were able to finally close down the military bases. I gained so much wisdom from living working marching from the base workers.
Decades after I was on force migration due to poverty in my homeland and became one of the Filipino workers in diaspora here in Chicago . The closest available work at that time was caregiving for the elderly . Due to an unregulated domestic worked industry I suffered from abuse discrimination and in isolation . Until I broke free from these and became part of the national movement for dignity and respect for domestic workers. I became an organizer of domestic workers . Telling my truth wisdom with all authencity not denying the fact that I breathe and live and interest of the domestic worker despite the embarrassment of my US based middle class family. Again I went out of my comfort zone and was able to put to good use what I learned in my immersion in the Philippine movement this time working for fair living wages stopping the exclusion domestic workers from labor protection erasing the invisibility of the work and gaining dignity and respect for it.
If my time in the former US military bases area was the peak of my political life, my time with Wellington ave church is the peak of my spiritual life when I was able to truly able to follow Jesus and relate my life story and work to his teachings. The Good news after all carries our own personal liberation that makes possible the liberation of humankind.
So I firmly believe d that the goal of leaders in the labor movement is to work and act like Jesus with selfless dedication, recognize the wisdom of the working class and lead and work by example in harmony with everyone in a collective way.
Myrla has found Wellington a “home away from home.” She is an immigrant from the Philippines. A long time community organizer in her homeland for peace and, justice issues that relate to US policy , she now works as a domestic worker organizer for the Latino Union of Chicago on its multicultural program, the Chicago Coalition of Household Workers. She goes back and forth to Springfield to lobby for an Illinois Domestic Worker Bill of Rights. Previously, she spoke nationally and helped pass Federal Regulation to include 2 M home care workers in the Fair Labor Standard Act.
Her biological family are all in the US, however, she maintains strong personal links to the Philippines by providing long distance mothering to four children of a friend who passed away and in giving home as well as emotional support to three adult Amerasians who are unrecognized children of US servicemen. She also tries hard to continue advocacy for U.S. Responsibility on the environmental clean-up of Clark and Subic two huge former US military bases in the Philippines which has enormous contamination problem.