The Common Good

In Gratitude to My Sojo Family

Time became suspended for my family and me when Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines nearly a month ago.

The Sojourners family
The Sojourners family

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Days blurred into one another as my mom attempted to contact her family in Leyte, one of the Philippine islands directly hit by Haiyan. With her mother, siblings and family members still living in the Philippines, my mom feared the worst as she helplessly watched news reports of the typhoon’s devastation and destruction.

Together, as a family, we waited in agony for answers. Would my grandma and relatives survive? If so, when and how would they contact us without power or phone lines? Would this storm wipe out every connection we have to my mother’s homeland?

Two weeks after Haiyan upended our lives, grief gave way to joy as we received word of my family’s safety. My nanay (grandma) and several of my titas (aunts) and titos (uncles) lost their homes, but they managed to survive one of the most powerful storms recorded in modern history.

As you can imagine, there was much to be grateful for when I gathered with my family for Thanksgiving. At our table, we gave thanks to God for this miracle, knowing all too well that many Filipino families were not as fortunate or still waiting for news about their loved ones. We also remembered those who helped us during this time of uncertainty, especially the Sojourners community.

I am forever indebted to my colleagues at Sojourners for their support this past month. Their presence and prayers kept me from dwelling in despair and sustained me when my hope faded. As if that weren’t enough, they raised about $1,000 to help my family members rebuild their lives in the Philippines.

Their generosity shocked my mom and family. But they don’t know these sojourners quite like I do.

I’m grateful to serve day in and out with colleagues who follow after God with faith and conviction. There’s Rose who has been arrested more than two dozen times for challenging the powers that be. There’s Lisa who has spent the last three weeks fasting for families separated by unjust immigration laws. There’s Beau who serves as a part-time pastor and chaplain outside of Sojourners. There’s Erika who manages to volunteer at a women’s prison while juggling her busy work and seminary schedule. There’s Ed and Julie whose wicked senses of humor are woven into their constant care and service to others.

In the past year, each member of our staff—including some interns—also gave a direct donation to Sojourners to support our own mission. It’s no wonder that the Sojo community was there for my family and me during this difficult time. Each day, these sojourners inspire me to be better and to pour out my life for others. Don’t get me wrong: We’re a broken people with our own sordid array of flaws and failures. But at our best, we strive to live as gospel people offering God’s hope to those we encounter.

In this season of Advent, the world is waiting with longing and anticipation for the Christ child to be made known through generous people. People consumed by giving. People who seek transformative relationships over transactional ones. People who trust that there is more than enough for everyone.

During this #GivingTuesday (and always), join our staff and me in giving generously to others. Make a donation to help the relief efforts in the Philippines. Volunteer your time and talents to support your community. Fast for justice. Donate to a life-giving organization or charity.

After the storms subside and all our belongings cease to give us joy, the only thing that will matter are those we love and how we each lived our “one wild and precious life.”

Will you give generously without expecting anything in return? Will you live simply so that others may simply live? Will you spend your life for the sake of others?

The world is waiting. 

Elaina Ramsey is assistant editor of Sojourners magazine.

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