My father was an OFW–Overseas Filipino Worker. In 1972, he left behind a wife and six children, ages ranging from 3 to 17, to accept a high-paying engineering position in Malaysia. He remained an OFW until his death 22 years later.
Our family enjoyed the material and financial blessings that come with having an OFW parent. We had “stuff” that many households didn’t have in the early 70’s–color TV, stereo system, a packed cupboard, nice clothes, etc. My siblings and I were able to study in private schools. We didn’t worry about where to get our next meal. Life was good.
Everything changed, however, when my father run off with his secretary to the US. He eventually divorced my unemployed mother, leaving her to provide for four remaining children who were in high school and college. Our family’s case is not unique. Today, there are more than 10 million Filipino OFWs and migrants in around 200 countries. Without a doubt, many of them share our family’s sad experience.
The social cost of this OFW phenomenon far outweighs the economic benefits. Broken homes, philandering spouses and dysfunctional families–these are the curse that may inflict any household with one or two parents working overseas. OFWs have been tagged as the nation’s modern-day heroes because of the huge sacrifice they endure in order to provide for their families. Ha! If you had a cheating OFW father, would you consider him a hero?
I am reflecting on this issue because this week, our church is hosting the Global Diaspora Forum. About 300 scholars, church leaders, and mission practitioners all over the world will be gathering to discuss current issues affecting the diaspora and ministries to the diaspora. The term “diaspora” refers to the 1 billion people who have left their home context and/or country. These are “people on the move”–scattered throughout the earth due to armed conflict/war, economic forces, career advancement, educational opportunities, and natural disasters.
I have to admit that I remain angry at all the forces that compelled my father, and millions of other Filipinos, to become OFWs. Now that my younger son is among the Filipino diaspora, I’m worried. Therefore, at this forum, I am looking forward to hear how the Church is reducing, if not eliminating, the social costs paid by the diaspora, OFWs included. Do we find any redemptive factors in this phenomenon? Where are the diaspora in God’s mission? In faith, I express this hope:
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. (Romans 8:28)
Photo Credit: OWWA
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