Jonathan Nambu is Executive Director of Samaritana Transformation Ministries, a non-profit, non-denominational organization committed to sharing and living out the Gospel among Filipino women caught in prostitution, in partnership with other members of the Body of Christ. To date, Samaritana has hosted 5 HNGR interns, and expects another intern this summer.
HNGR: Tell us how you got involved in the work you do. How long have you worked at Samaritana?
I personally joined Samaritana's work 18 years ago, first as a volunteer going out on night outreaches with my wife Thelma (who was one of the founders a few years prior to that), then later joining staff as a project manager. Currently I serve as executive director. At first I wasn't sure if I could or would be personally involved; I was uncomfortable and insecure as a man in what I perceived was primarily a women's ministry. Later I became convinced that my presence was important, and that as a man I had particular gifts to offer both to the ministry as well as to the women. My specific role has to do primarily with administrative aspects, resource development and networking, but I also play a role in overall leadership. I see all of what I do as critical to the pursuit of and sustainability of our vision and mission.
HNGR: You write in your article “ Looking into the Eyes of the Hidden Among Us: Reflections on Seeing the Poor and Vulnerable” that the poor are often hidden in plain sight. Why is it that the poor are “hidden” among us?
I think sometimes the poor are hidden because they try to hide themselves or stay hidden out of their fear and shame. We make the poor feel even more out of place and vulnerable, and so they can feel unsafe - even non-human - and try to hide to protect themselves. Sadly, though, more often the problem lies within me and you. We, the "non-poor", block them out of our line of vision, or turn the other way, to avoid looking into their eyes. As trauma specialist Judith Herman has said, "we just don't particularly want to know... who can bear to think for too long...?" We have the fear that if we see them, something will be demanded of us which of course is true. What we forget is that what will be required of us if we allow our eyes to meet will actually be part of our own redemption, a re-gaining of our own humanity.
HNGR: How can we begin to see the poor?
We need the grace and courage to not run away or walk on the other side of the road. We need to nurture the willingness to not only see the poor, but to be among them, linger, let our gazes meet, build relationships of genuine mutual friendship and solidarity. If we see the poor around us in this way, we also begin to see the poor woman/man within us more clearly as well.
HNGR: How do you and your staff at Samaritana relate to the women you meet?
We aren't able to do it perfectly or consistently, but our desire is to treat each of the women as a bearer of the image of God, with great honor and respect. We also want to offer compassion, but also invite them to new levels of freedom and empowerment.
HNGR: You have now hosted 5 HNGR interns. What has been your experience hosting HNGR interns and including them in the work you do?
Our experience hosting HNGR interns over the years has been great and enriching! We have appreciated the unique gifts each one has brought to our community, and the impact they have had in the lives of the women they have met and befriended at Samaritana!
Read more about the work Jonathan is doing at Samaritana, as well as his complete article, Looking into the Eyes of the Hidden Among Us: Reflections on Seeing the Poor and Vulnerable
>>, on Samaritana's website.