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The Anteambulos of Manila

In a recent article I discovered the Roman system for the patronage of art and science. Successful business people, politicians, or wealthy families would subsidize artists, thinkers, and writers to produce works of art, or to perform tasks, in exchange for protection, food, and gifts. One of these tasks was the role of the anteambulo, literally “one who clears the path.” The anteambulo would proceed in front of his patron as they traveled through Rome, making way and communicating messages.

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When our family arrived to Manila, almost two years ago, we did so without a Canadian team in the city, starting ministry from the ground up, sent with a mandate for exploration. These were challenging beginnings, something we refer to as the white space, the empty page yet to be filled. There were lonely times, and times where we have lacked clarity, but there has also been times of great blessing as God has brought us people to journey with and opened doors for us to walk through, sometimes in the most unexpected places. It has been a time of discovery, having our eyes opened to new cultures, and new ideas. It has also been a time of sharing, telling the stories of what we have seen as we have moved forward. In many ways our family has been filling the role of anteambulo, travelling ahead, communicating a message and clearing a path.

Focusing on the marketplace, we were, in essence, developing a new approach to ministry that CBM had been dreaming about for the past several years. We were sent to pioneer an idea. When we think of pioneers we often imagine images of early settlers or cutting through jungles, images that don’t really line up with the Mega City reality of Manila. Ray Bakke, a global leader in Urban Transformation, has described Manila as “the greatest lab in the world.” The presence of a strong church, combined with the various religious, social, and economic groups that teem the city, Manila is a microcosm of the world. It is here that we have an opportunity to try out new ideas, shape new vision, and work through early challenges in order to launch new ministry that has potential to impact the rest of the region and beyond. Manila, as it turns out, is an ideal place to be a pioneer.

So far our exploration has taken us to some of the poorest locations in Manila where we have participated in business development training. It has taken us the rice fields of central Philippines where we have begun to work on ways to help small plot farmers increase their sustainability. It has even taken us to some of the wealthiest districts imaginable where we have worked with young entrepreneurs seeking to engage their faith through their work, in the tech industry of all places!

There are more stories to come, more opportunities to share where God is taking us which is the purpose of this blog. It is here we intend to share stories from the trail, memories made while we clear the path, explore new ideas, and search for new expressions of ministry. It is our hope that you not only experience a deeper connection to our work and life in Manila, but that you will be inspired to join in the exploration, to discover for yourself what God is doing in your community or in your place of work. We also invite you to share your own stories with us, moments where you have been an anteambulo, where you have been the one clearing the way and witnessed the Gospel in action within the context of “the other six days;” integral mission at work…in workplaces around the globe.

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