A Story Needing to Be Told
July 21, 2010
By Chaplain Sarge Wright
John Taylor, now a retired United Methodist minister living near Shingle Springs, California,
has been a longtime friend and colleague. He has a zest for living and an intense life mission that has been both interesting and productive.
John was introduced to Heifer Project International by the Rev. Bill Beck in 1970. His first service opportunity was to deliver pregnant cows to Korea in 1971. This experience introduced John emotionally to HPI, but also led him unexpectedly into a larger life mission.
A Korean missionary pleaded with him to accompany 10 Korean-American babies to America for adoption – which took him on an adventure with the 10 babies through Asia Minor, Thailand, the Philippines and Japan, and back to California. John told me that, flying at 35,000 feet over Southeast Asia one night, he "had a deep emotional conversion experience which radically changed the direction of my life, my ministry and my goals. No longer would I be content to live in relative luxury while remembering fine people living in poverty and misery."
Later, on a mission trip to Guatemala, John was inspired by Father Gregory and Mother Theresa, who developed the "finest mission that I ever visited in scores of poor countries across the world." Consequently, young people in financial distress would become his special motivation for ministry for the rest of his life – and become his expanded family, as well.
Now, at 81 years of age, John and his wife, Maggie, have embarked on an even larger and more energetic mission – which follows his latest words to me: "I am entirely and enthusiastically dedicated to helping the poverty children of the world get a break in life, and I totally believe that to do that requires formal education. It is not necessary for every person to go to college, because there are various avenues to different careers. But it is necessary for them to get the basic learning experience which comes through a high school educational experience."
Let me backtrack a bit. Maggie was born in the Philippines and came to the U.S. as a young adult. After she and John married, they planned to be in mission together in the Philippines area and subsequently purchased a home in a barrio where they live each winter. They continually were confronted by the horrendous poverty of their neighbors, family, and friends: expensive sicknesses, homes with dirt floors, leaking roofs, uncovered window holes in the walls, outside roofless cooking fires, and primitive toilet facilities in the yard. Many families could afford only a half-sardine and a scoop of white rice for each person, three times daily.
The root cause of this poverty is an unemployment rate which exceeds 90%, and the root cause of the high unemployment is lack of education: A person must have both a birth certificate and a high school diploma when applying for a job – even to bag groceries or sell clothes.
The government of the Philippines provides for the first six years of school, but the subsequent four years of high school is each family's responsibility. The Taylors saw brilliant minds wasted doing manual labor or washing clothes for neighbors who had more discretionary funds and a measure of compassion.
John and Maggie soon decided that the best way to help individuals and their families was to provide cash and clothing to help educate the young people. Consequently, they now support 20 young people in high school and a few in college or vocational programs. They are blessed continually by visits in their home by students and graduates.
Recently a personal Certificate of Deposit matured and the Taylors decided to reinvest it for the greatest benefit. After the bank offered a miserable interest rate, they decided to give the money, instead, to a trusted relative in the barrio to purchase a piece of land, which will employ seasonal workers; the net profit will be used to supplement John and Maggie's youth education program and to help meet other pressing needs of impoverished people in that area of the Philippines.
The Taylors' experience over the years has provided them proof of "the joy of giving" – but also has demonstrated what one dedicated family can do to change one little section of the world.