We Love the Philippines... and the Typhoon!

October 21, 2014

Nearly 400 United Methodist youth, young adults and adult leaders from 34 countries gathered in the Philippines in July for the Global Young People’s Convocation and Legislative Assembly. One of the young adults chosen to participate was Sheryl Farfan-Tello from the Kentucky Annual Conference. Sheryl attends Buechel UMC in the Louisville district and has been active with conference Ministry with Young People's events for many years. Here is part two of Sheryl's first hand account of her time in the Philippines.

I have always had a passion for traveling. I love the feeling I get when I go to new lands and make new discoveries. I had no idea God was planning to send me to Manila, Philippines. I was elected to represent the Kentucky Annual Conference, not with a group from my church, but all on my own as a voting delegate. It was exciting, yet a little intimidating to think I was going to the other side of the globe alone. Thankfully, I joined a group from the Southeastern Jurisdiction; together we attended the Global Young People’s Convocation Legislative Assembly.  

I trusted that God was going to be with me and my group on our journey to the Philippines at all times. During our flight, the pilot announced that typhoon Glenda had arrived in the Philippines. A lady next to me explained that typhoons happen all the time and that it was not a big deal. To me, seeing the fallen trees, heavy rain, buildings without roofs, broken windows, plus being evacuated at three in the morning into a basement seemed like a big deal. Yet, even during the time of the storm, I felt God’s presence among us. All participants were safe after the typhoon. While being evacuated, we all came together to sing, pray, dance and get to know brothers and sisters from all over the world.
Because of the damage at the retreat center, we were relocated to a hotel close to Manila. Everybody was exhausted from a long day of “joy” from Typhoon Glenda, but the legislative assembly had to go on. The next day, all participants enjoyed excellent Filipino cuisine, worship in English and Filipino, sermons from amazing bishops and learning at educational workshops. Also, we all gathered together to help put together food packages for the residents of Manila who were affected by the typhoon. The following day, the fun of the legislative assembly began.
The legislative assembly was very new to me. It took me a little while to understand the steps and rules, but I prayed for knowledge and understanding. There were a total of ten legislations written by youth and young adults. All voting delegates had the right to vote and make speeches on whether they were for or against each legislation. The non-voting delegates could also make speeches stating their positions on the issues. The legislation topics ranged from changes in annual conferences to homosexuality issues.  I have to be honest; from the very beginning, it felt like I was in a political setting. All of the voting and non-voting delegates were having different emotions around agreeing or disagreeing with the legislation regarding homosexuality. It took many hours to come to the voting part and on the last day the legislative assembly didn’t end until two in the morning. For a moment, it seemed that the participants forgot that we were a United Methodist Church.
It was challenging for all participants to contain all of these emotions, but we prayed and sang. God touched our hearts that day and reminded us that we were all in the same place for a mission, which was making disciples for the transformation of this world. At the end of our last day, some of the participants gathered together and presented to us a statement of unity. They explained that they did not want to have a split in the church because of our differences. They stated that the issue of homosexuality should not be our only focus, but that we must also focus on other issues that are affecting our world. Their desire was to keep the United Methodist Church together and focus on our ultimate mission of making disciples.
Overall, this experience was absolutely amazing, from beginning to end. I had the opportunity to visit another country, meet people from all over the world, and agree and disagree with my brothers and sisters. Most importantly, I learned that no matter where we come from, we love and praise our God with all our hearts. I will be forever grateful to the Kentucky Annual Conference for giving me this opportunity of a lifetime. I also thank God for protecting me during this trip, teaching me new things and reminding me of the reason why He sent me into this world.