Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Philippines Is In His Heart

The July Cover Story for Filipinas, the Magazine for Filipinos Worldwide, is of course on Tebow.

It covers the most repeated details of his story including his parents' decision not to abort him, to his accomplishments on the field.

However, the article provides insights into the mission work in the Philippines and the people and faith that drives him. You get the sense that his maturity stems from the desire, even burden, to care for the children in the orphanage his father founded. You could even say he is grounded by a "fatherly" duty towards them. It is also very easy to see why he doesn't care at all about the "haters", as he said yesterday at UF's Media Day.

Every summer, when schools are on break, Tim goes to that barangay (barrio) in the Philippines where his dad had set up his mission. There, as a virtual unknown and away from the media spotlight, he walks the streets of Cotabato and visits the markets of Digos with the Holy Bible in his hand to preach the gospel of Jesus. He saddles homeless kids on his shoulder in the slums of Sarangani and plays kuya (big brother) to them while handing out candies and chocolates. He bathes in cold water just like the natives do, and runs errands for volunteer doctors and nurses who perform surgeries on indigent patients in makeshift operating tables.

A world away from their home in Jacksonville, Florida, that faces the Atlantic, Tim finds himself in a different playing field in the island of Mindanao that is nestled in the Pacific. “It is a much different ballgame,” he says. “There, I hear no roaring chants from fans rooting for a touchdown, but deafening silence as people desire to receive the words of Jesus that I preach about. I see none of those eyes of adulation when we win games, but eyes of faith of people searching for Jesus who I talk about,” Tim relates. “You kind of find out from the get-go, what sets faith apart and what a game is just about.”

With all his outstanding achievements in football, Tim will definitely emerge as the top NFL draft pick of his 2010 class as soon he steps out of college. But he has set his sight and his heart on other things, too—that little orphanage of more than fifty children in Mindanao that his father had founded. “Those kids make me more grounded and help me put things in proper perspective,” he says. “At the end of the day, what matters may not only be about scoring a touchdown, but also winning the future of those kids who do not get the opportunity to receive that touch of hope and love that you and I may have the means of giving.”