Story and photo by Mac Hightower
Stuttgart Citizen volunteer
When Arlene Ambelang arrived in the Stuttgart military community in 1995 with her husband Mark, she found language barriers a big obstacle to overcome as she did not speak German or very good English, which made finding a job and making friends difficult for the native Filipino.
As she adjusted to a different life in Germany, Ambelang said she began to feel disconnected from her new community. That was, until she discovered the community chapel.
Ambelang, who was raised Catholic from birth, said her affiliation with the religious services groups on base helped her overcome loneliness, beat cancer, and feel fulfilled every day.
Her service began unofficially while praying one day. She noticed the chapel seemed a bit dirty and took the initiative to dust it. Later, she would water the plants. She continued doing little things here and there to help out and before long, Father Oliver Quilb took note of her commitment to the chapel in 2001. Quilb was a contract priest from the Phillipines and he inspired Ambelang to volunteer more with the church.
Her most notable impacts included cooking meals for a monthly parishioners’ fellowship on Panzer. The event grew to be such a success that by 2011, the fellowship exceeded building capacity. Ambelang continued buying groceries at a personal expense and spending the better part of every Friday preparing a full meal for more than 50 practitioners. She said that while it was hard work, personally, it was very rewarding.
“I was raised where no matter how little we had, we would still share it. Food is like a blessing for the soul,” Ambelang said.
Eventually, her efforts were recognized by the Catholic parish coordinator Cecille Mitchell, who arranged for Ambelang to receive a small stipend for groceries purchased for the events.
Ambelang continues to dedicate her time to the church even though COVID-19 restrictions have put a halt on large gatherings for meals.
She has found new ways to give of her time and a new place to show her passion for the chapel by singing in the choir every Sunday at 5 p.m. To many who know Ambelang from church, she is a dedicated example of what giving of oneself should look like. But she has a much more modest description of herself.
“I do not have a success story,” she said. “My job doesn’t fulfill me. I do not have a big career. So, giving my time toward doing something good is where I get my self-worth.”