Pastor Kevin Sanders

"He must increase, but I must decrease." -John 3:30

Time: "The Motherless Generation" (The OFW Dilemma)

 A recent Time article explored the impact of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW’s) on the Filipino family.  This article focused on the increasing number of women who go overseas, leaving children behind:

The government rightly applauds “Overseas Filipino Workers,” or OFWs as they are commonly called in the country, as heroes for the sacrifices they make for their families. But while children whose mothers are nurses in Canada or housekeepers in Hong Kong often go to good private schools and have MP3 players, there is a growing sentiment that trading global dollars for a generation raised on cell-phone minutes is a raw deal. . . .

Children with homes to call their own are also struggling. According to a new UNICEF study, Filipino teenagers with one or both parents abroad, though they do better in school and have more allowance money, said they felt they were worse off — particularly when it came to their future — than peers with both parents living at home. Past studies have also shown that children with mothers abroad report feeling less happy than those with fathers abroad.

I deal with this on a regular basis as a student minister.  Some students from OFW families seem happy and well adjusted, but others really struggle.

I don’t have a solution for this dilemma.  Families should be together–this is self-evident.  But I can’t judge those who make incredible sacrifices to put food on the table.

Maybe I’ll write some of my thoughts on how the church can respond to the OFW phenomenon.  Or maybe Erwin will talk about it on the radio show. 


  1. I spent most of my childhood with both my parents in another country. Much of my reading leads me to believe that this is not ideal – the ideal is that a child grows up with both parents.

    I imagine this “ideal” to be increasingly difficult as divorce rates, parents working abroad, being orphaned or abandoned … such trends climbing in numbers.

    I had a look at Scripture following or blog. While the Bible does not say much about children needing both parents, the instructions to parents and children are addressed to _all_ parents and _all_ children. Ie. it is implied that the Bible’s ideal is for children to grow up and be educated in right living (spiritual, moral, cultural) by both parents.

    A strange one to think about our “modern” mindset – Deuteronomy 21:18-21 says that a son who will not obey either parent shold be stoned to death! Wow! That is how seriously Scriptures took the instruction to parents to train up the children. (Compare this with Prov 23:13-14 for balance, and you’ll have an understanding about “disciplining children” that is different from what NSW laws enforce.)

  2. To clarify–you mean you lived most of your childhood apart from you parents. I was a little confused by the first sentence.

  3. Hi Kevin,

    Being an OFW myself, I still believe the Lord allows it as he is the source of everything even history itself. While I am in the mideast providing for my family and a product of both OFW parents as well, the Lord allows this to happen inpite of whatever tests that each and everyone may have so that we may place our trust in Him and glorify and worship His name and that He to guide us in all our ways as we pass our lifetimes as a shadow and a wind. Only then we may find Him when we search in our hearts because we are always in need (lonely, separated from family, making sacrifices). If you will recall, The Lord remembered Israel when they were slaves in Egypt or when they were captured by the Babylonians and delivered them from slavery when they prayed and sought for salvation and deliverance. Obedience, walk in His ways and Trust in the Lord has always been the message of his Word.

  4. Anonymous,

    As I’ve said, I’m not trying to judge OFW’s or present this in a purely negative light.

    But I think we (especially those in ministry) should be aware of the impact it can have on families.

    Thanks for commenting.

  5. so sad and yet so true..(sigh)

  6. still anonymous

    11/24/2008 at 9:27 pm

    yeah, this is the sad plight of our country..aside from the brain drain, working abroad also means families living apart and parents sometimes regarded as ATMs 🙁

    sorry about that hope its not offensive. Parents and their children end up strangers.

    for some, its the price to pay for survival, for others, its plain discontent.

    but of course, there is always hope! as long as the children are made to understand the sacrifices their parents are going through for their sakes, and how they should learn to sacrifice themselves

  7. It is sad. That’s why we tried to have a weekly online video chat with my parents for atleast 3 hours even longer most of the time.

    @Kev I think the church could play the role as the immediate parents of those children whose parents are working Overseas…

  8. You are correct! I’ve actually thought of multiple ministry angles for the church here. Maybe I’ll write about it some time.

  9. A fact indeed.. Im also here in another continent. I left my family for about 3 yrs. now. Though miles apart, i make sure i have contact with them everyday.(sms,phonecall,chat) Its the least i can do.

  10. it’s tough living in these times. my father was an ofw for 3 yrs when i was about to graduate from college. he was part of the first batches to the middle east. back then, our only means of communication was snail mail and long-distance calls. of course, we chose snail mail. we made sure we flooded him with letters. he forbade us from sending voice tapes (too heart-wrenching for him).

    today’s technology doesn’t lessen the pain of separation and the high cost of parents’ absence. my heart bleeds for children who are growing up without knowing their parents the way i did.

    the church can do A LOT in cushioning the negative effects, especially when it comes to raising kids properly. surrogates (as in, ates and kuyas in church) cannot take the place of the real parents but they can still make a difference! the opportunities to minister are endless!

  11. Hi, been reading your blog silently since I found it. Wanted to say this phenomenon is an ‘old story’ here in the Caribbean and has been part of the culture here for years and years. We call those kids who remain at home ‘barrel children’ because parents usually send barrels containing clothes and all the other ‘luxuries’ they can afford with their US/Canadian dollar/British pounds.

    Many of these parents intend to come back after a few years when they first decide to go. Many intend to ‘send for’ the children to come live with them. Many also never return and eventually may lose touch with the children and many times with a spouse who remained here. Sometimes this ends in divorce or basically going on with life with someone else as if divorced legally.

  12. I read this article at school last November, and I really cried. Though I’m not an OFW, my mom was once, for less than a couple of years (and then we migrated to be with her). It is really sad. Not just the article, but the whole phenomenon- Filipino diaspora, as others call it. But then, the country’s economy won’t survive without it. And truly, not having the “light of our home,” even for less than a couple of years, is heartbreaking; I still feel lonely whenever I remember those days. I can’t imagine how painful it is for other children, those whose parents have been gone for more than 5 years (like my bestfriend, whose mom’s been in Taiwan for more than 5 years). And there is still no end in sight. Still more Filipinos go to other countries to work, and more children are left behind.

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