Sunday, September 30, 2007

Jail Birds

Yesterday most of our group ended up in jail! My whole family spent some time there. We went to the Baguio City Jail to minister. This was actually a follow-up from the previous night when we had shown the Jesus Video in Ilokano. Many men gave their hearts to the Lord. We were all disappointed when we needed to leave, several were still praying with the men. But we took heart knowing we would be back the next morning.


So yesterday the majority of our group returned to the jail. We had a nice time of worship. We also presented a couple puppet shows. We also had a time of prayer for any inmates who wanted us to pray for them. I stood near as Adriana prayed for and held Marianne. She and Adriana quickly became friends. The morning went by quickly and the inmates had to leave for head count and lunch. After lunch we went to the women’s cell block. We had a fantastic time of worship and sharing. Adriana and I were able to spend some more time getting to know Marianne and a number of her cell mates. For many from our group, the time spent in the women’s cells is the highpoint of our trip so far.


The prisoners loved to fuss over the children from our group. The women who were near me were thrilled when Annalise would sit on their lap. Alayna was excited to take me to another cell to meet her new friends there. Often, the prisoners, both men and women would stroke the blond hair of the kids.

The “success” of our ministry has been a mixed blessing. It is indeed a wonderful thing to be part of some one coming to the Lord Jesus for the first time. But it is sad to leave them behind and not follow up on their discipleship. Fortunately, in all of the situations we have been in so far, there are others who will be available to disciple and encourage these young believers.

Today our group split to attend two different churches. At both churches we lead worship, gave testimonies, and presented a sermon. Our family went to Blessed Armor of God Church. Lisa and Alexie helped to lead worship with Fred and Carol. Adriana followed her Daddy’s technical bent and managed the projector and transparencies. Alexie and Cynthia later sang a duet. Then I preached my first sermon. I think everything went very well.


Annalise can read Ilokano as well as she can English!


During worship, three women with tambourines stood in the center aisle. In perfect rhythm and unity, they played their tambourines and danced. It was beautiful. For the first time in my life I wanted to be part of the worship time. Then I would have been able to watch them without turning around and looking through the crowd. (Of course, had I been singing with a microphone they probably would have covered their ears and run out in terror.)



It was hard to decline their invitation to stay for lunch, but we had the only set of keys to the house and the cooks couldn’t get in to prepare lunch for the rest of our team. As it turned out, the other group had accepted a similar invitation from the church they visited. Oh well, lunch was very good. We have been blessed to have several local ladies prepare our lunches and dinners. So much better than PBJ!

By the way, we are all well now. Pink eye has left our family. No coughs or colds are evident right now. Montezuma hasn’t been around for a while now either.


Part of our group loaded up in a Jeepney - the primary mode of transportation.



Note the reassuring sticker inside the Jeepney!


Friday, September 28, 2007

Good-bye Valley Cathedral, Hello Baguio

Sorry for the delay, things have been a little busy. It seems odd to me that of all of the modern conveniences I miss, internet access in my room is what I most miss. I like being able to check email and leisurely read friends’ blogs. I suppose it helps to reduce the distance between where I am and the familiar.

Before we arrived in the Philippines, a cargo ship had been blown ashore during a storm in a village near Valley Cathedral. The men from the ship were doing their best to survive until the ship could either be pulled back out to sea or the owner decided to return them to their home. One of the staff from Valley had been bringing them food and visiting with them (survival was not an overstatement of their situation). I had the chance to visit with them once at the ship. It is hard to imagine the storm it must have been to so thoroughly ground them. Several of them also accompanied us to Kakabay when Robuan became a believer and was baptized. As time progressed, many of them began showing interest in what true Christianity looks like.

Monday, we made arrangements to show the Jesus Video in the Tagolog language. Due to the potential for rain, Pastor Tang and I went to the school that is along the coast where the ship is. They have a shelter that would keep the projection equipment safe in the event of rain. Not only did the principal allow us permission to use the shelter, she invited the church to come in and make anti-drug and other presentations. Thank God for open doors!

When it came time to set up for the show, the rain and wind were incredible. There was no way we would be able to keep the screen from blowing away and the noise from the storm was too much for the sound system. Although we had really hoped to be able to show it right at the ship so that all of the 20 or so crew members might watch it, we had to change our plans. After a few phone calls, we got permission to provide dinner to all who were interested in returning to the orphanage to watch the show. In all, 10 of the crew attended our “dinner theater”. It was a much nicer setting than our original plan.

After watching the show, all 10 of the men decided to ask Jesus to be their leader! As we were talking after the movie, some of them appeared very eager for us to show them what the next step was. How awesome to be part of God’s work! We were able to give each of them a Tagolog Bible and since their ship isn’t going anywhere too soon, I pray that they will have a chance for some discipleship before they head home.

Tuesday night there was a going away party for our group at the orphanage. It was fun and the food was good. Many kind words were said by both our group and the people associated with Valley Cathedral. Adriana shared with the group how hard it would be to leave because it had become like home to her. She hopes that she will be able to return soon. But most surprising and wonderful to me was when they brought my friend Ranier and many of the children from Kakabay in to sing and dance as part of the presentation. I wept as I listened and watched. The only thing that could have made it better was if I could have seen Robuan once more before I left.

Then I was asked if I wanted to accompany the group back to Kakabay. On the way the girls sang several songs. It was beautiful.

When we got to the village, we woke up Robuan and his family. (It was about 10:00 p.m. when we got there.) We sat and talked over a small kerosene lantern for a while. During my previous visit, Robuan had said that friends visit each other. I was so pleased to be able to visit with him once more before we left. I teased him that since I visited him in Kakabay, now he needed to visit me in the USA. I told him I would take him ice fishing. (Ice fishing is a comical discussion in the Philippines!)


Grace,
Tom

Hurry, hurry, the bus arrived early. Gobble a quick breakfast. Last minute photographs. Stuff damp laundry into duffle bags. One last hug for Emman and a prayer too. I will miss him so. The pain in my eyes (Thomas, Adriana, and I now have pink eye) is only exceeded by the pain in my heart…

I spent the first few hours of the bus ride looking out the window taking in all the sights. Frequently tears would stream down my cheeks. I waved at all the people I saw. It is amazing the affect this simple gesture had on the people. They would smile and wave as if I was a long time friend. I really love these people!

The Philippines:
Trikes
Horns honking
Always more vehicles than space can allow
Palm trees
Rain pouring down
Scrawny dogs everywhere
Laundry hanging out to dry
Chickens
Caribou grazing
Street vendors
Coca Cola signs – sounds good but as it is warm, not so refreshing
Children in school uniforms
Umbrellas rain or shine
Fire ants
Various shades of brown skin
Glossy black hair
Homes that look like they will tumble with the next gust of wind
Litter everywhere, especially in every body of water
Fans
Bandanas
Flip flops
Such poverty but yet the people bless me so

Journey to Baguio:
Large, spacious bus
Air conditioned
Movies showing
Bread passed around
Really need to use a C.R.
Traffic jam
Finally, a CR – bring your own paper
Jolly Bee – burger, fries, and a Coke for lunch
Back in the bus
More movies
Busy roads
No traffic signs to guide such as traffic signs. Not that the one or two I’ve seen are followed, so why bother?
C.R. stop – 2 pesos per person, b.y.o.p.
Seems like a long time driving – maybe because it has been
Rain pours down
Winding roads up the mountain
Finally, a familiar face; Harry climbs on board and guides the driver for the last of the journey
Guys unload in the rain
Harry and Dee’s place is cute and cozy
Directed across the street and behind the first building to our home for the week
We’ll be sharing with the Traptows
Downstairs kitchen, living room, and comfort room
Upstairs 3 bedrooms and comfort room
Our family in one room – two sets of bunk beds
Turned on the tap, no water. that's when I noticed the sign on the wall

Running water on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday
At first glance, no shower
Silly us! We’re not in the U.S. Those buckets of water with the dipper – that’s the shower.
Remember, no paper in the toilet.
Toilets don’t flush – see buckets and dipper
One foot square hole in the wall to let in fresh air

Welcome to the mission field!


Just a few of my thoughts...

Lisa



Monday, September 24, 2007

Various Topics

TOYS
Friday night is movie night at Valley Cathedral Children’s Home. This is a much anticipated treat for the boys and girls here. It is amazing to see how they entertain themselves the rest of the time. Sure there are swings and a merry-go-round here. They even get out bicycles some afternoons for the children to share. But usually the boys and girls entertain themselves with simple toys such as bottlecaps or bottles with strings tied around them. The other day, several of the boys were thrilled to have paper airplanes to play with, while Emman, my tutoring buddy was excited to have a paper boat. Saturday, Adriana joined some of the Filipino girls in a game similar to jump rope. The girls had a big circle of rope created by tying several bits of string together. Two girls positioned themselves at the ends while another jumped the strings in the middle. The girls would raise the string higher and higher to make it more challenging even up to their waists.

RAIN, RAIN, GO AWAY
Saturday afternoon our family was going to return to Kakabay but the rain pouring down made access not possible, even dangerous. Think mudslides. This was disappointing and sad as we were going along with those bringing food to the village. For some it would have been their only meal of the day. Thomas said one of the boys that lives there, Arnold, only eats whenever his mother is able to sell things gathered from the nearby garbage dump. I am so blessed I have no idea what this must be like.

CELEBRITIES
It seems wherever we go we are treated as special. The people here think our white skin and blonde hair are very beautiful. Our girls often have people playing with their hair and calling them dolls. This bothers me especially when I heard the Filipinos often bleach their skin and hair. Many think the lighter your skin and hair the more beautiful you are. I do look at my girls and think they are beautiful but I look at the dark skin and hair of my new friends and think they are just as, if not more, beautiful. I want them to know God made them beautiful.

Besides all the compliments on our physical appearance, the girls are frequently showered with gifts. The children of the orphanage and the surrounding poor villages give food and items such as china figurines. One of the cooks here, Eden, gave each of our girls a paper basket she made. The small one she crafted for Annalise took her four hours to make and the other girls were given larger ones. I am overwhelmed by the generosity of those around me that have so little.


ILLNESS
Annalise really looks like a celebrity now; she has pink eye and is wearing sunglasses. Overall, the pink eye epidemic is slowing down. But it has finally entered our home.

Adriana’s mystery rash has disappeared.

NEXT MOVE
Wednesday morning, we will leave for Baguio. It will be difficult to say good-bye. Many of the children, and staff, have become like family.

Adriana, Mot, and Jenny





Thomas' buddy, Jason


Annalise having her hair stroked by a friend

Jump rope


Friday, September 21, 2007

Awesome news from Kakabay!

There’s a new name written down in glory! Today Alayna and I had the opportunity to return to Kakabay with some others from our group. I had the opportunity to lead my friend Robuan to our Lord, Jesus. I was not sure at first whether this elder in his community was just being polite to his new western friend. But when he agreed to profess his new faith through water baptism I knew it meant something much more. It is one thing to entertain a guest at your porch, quite another for a man with limited mobility to make his way down the bank to be baptized in full view of his village. I was honored to be able to join in his baptism. It was a wonderful experience. What a great thing it is to be a laborer in our Lord’s work!
Robuan's baptism
Me with Robuan and his wife Teresita (the little boy in the background is the youngest of their 10 children) Of course other things happened in Kakabay as well. While we were given a more extensive tour of the village, our friend Denny, Alayna, and I were given the opportunity to pray for another man in the village who was sick in bed. We felt honored to be invited into his house to pray.
The kids from the village were with us wherever we went. During our hike, we came to a clearing at a bend in the river. Several of the boys were quickly naked and jumping in from the high banks on the other side. Many girls were swimming too; but only the youngest were naked. One of the guys from the group took of his shoes and shirt and jumped in as well. When we returned to the school at the front of the village, we made lots of animal balloons. Somebody spoke of my balloon ministry. I had never thought of it that way, but I can see how the Lord can use even silly, little talents for His glory.
Alexie and Adriana had the opportunity to work with one of the local ladies to learn to weave baskets from magazines. They are quite colorful and attractive. Valley Cathedral works with a co-op in Canada, shipping items from local crafters to Canada for sale. The proceeds are used to provide needed income for the people here.


Adriana, Alexie, and Eden working on baskets (Jesse and Baby in the background)Grace,
Tom

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Kakabay Blessing

video

This is the video I attempted to add to yesterday's blog. The children's singing was an incredible experience for our group.

I am adding prayer for the physical health of our team to our prayer list. Specifically for our family, Adriana has a mystery rash over her whole body - no fever or other symptoms though. Annalise has a cough. She had an ear ache last night, but it is gone this morning.

Grace,

Tom

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Day in Kakabay


Yesterday Thomas and I returned to the village of Kakabay with some of our team. We came bearing gifts of rice for each family and snacks for the children. However we received a greater gift when the children sang for us. Words can not communicate what filled our hearts as the melody of their voices filled the air. I was one of four women who came to teach at the small school there. I was first in the classroom when the afternoon session gathered and some of the children just started singing. I didn’t understand the words as they were in their language but I was so blessed by the songs in their hearts. The children understand very little English despite the fact that they know some songs in English. The teacher, Nanette, translated for us. The school just started in June so even the 12-year-olds are at a kindergarten level at best. The young boy, Adrian, I assisted was burning with fever. The teacher said his whole family is sick with fever. Fever and skin rashes are widespread here. Most of the children have runny noses and mouths with severely decayed teeth. They do have a pump well but no bathrooms, or CRs (Comfort Rooms) as they call them here. I have never been to such an impoverished area. The needs are so great it is easy to feel overwhelmed.

Lisa

I agree with Lisa that the most remarkable memory from yesterday’s visit was when the children sang to us. The video is unable to impart the impact we felt within us.

I was also blessed to be able to spend some time talking with a man I had met and prayed with on Saturday, Robwan. (Unfortunately, I did not get pictures of Robwan.) He is 53 years old and has suffered a stroke. It has reduced his strength in his left side and made talking difficult for him. He moved to Kakabay about 30 years ago and found that life was much easier there than where he had lived before. He and his wife raised their 10 children in the village. He raises chickens and turkeys. They also have a convenience store in their home. They sell prepackaged snacks, individual packets of Milo and instant coffee, pop, candy, and sugar. The men from our group prayed again for Robwan’s healing.

Several from our group were also able to attend the funeral of a local man who had committed suicide. He leaves behind his wife and 6 children. Suicide is always devastating, but I can only imagine what this means for this family. Before we left the village, the funeral procession passed with several men carrying the casket and the family walking behind.

Leaving was not a simple matter for us. Because of the condition of the roads which were worsened by recent rain, our truck was not able to get out of the village. Men from the village pushed. They put wooden planks down in the mud for traction. Children gathered rocks from the stream to put in the mud also. Finally, we were able to get up the hill and make our way out. One teammate wept as we drove out to the main road, overwhelmed by what she had experienced.

On the way home, we stopped at a bakery to buy some food. Our whole group, 32 adults and children, had been invited to someone’s home for dinner. It was a wonderful time of fellowship with their family. The fried chicken was excellent too.

Grace,
Tom

p.s. Sorry, it appears that after 2.5 hours of uploading, the video isn't going to play nice. I will work to get it on the blog first thing tomorrow morning. It represents an incredible memory for us.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Anyone Got the Time?

For those of you notice such things, I just realized that my entry times were off by about 15 hours. The blog is now set to Philippine time, so future entries should be correct.

Tom

A Busy Weekend!

Saturday was an awesome day of ministry for our family, despite the fact that I was involved. Valley Cathedral has a ministry to provide meals to people. In the morning, about 50 people came to the orphanage for a meal. While they were here, our group was to provide entertainment and a gospel message for the kids that gathered. I was quickly frustrated by how some things didn’t go the way I felt they should have. (I could argue my case, but you know I am, of course, right.) Regardless, things went well and the kids appeared to have a good time.

Later, we went to a mountain village, Kakabay, which has a satellite Valley Cathedral school for young children and did the same stuff. I was reluctant to set up the puppet stage and nearly had everyone convinced of the same when the pastor and the Holy Spirit convicted all of us that we definitely needed to do so. Suddenly, my attitude was better and I had a great time. I feel we really blessed the people there, but I am sure that I was really blessed there. We handed out balloons. We sang with the people. We put on a few puppet shows. (For those who know Mot, the monkey puppet who has accompanied us on other mission trips, he continues to be a hit wherever he goes.) Alexie and Adriana both did a great job with their puppet shows. All of the girls did well (and have done well every time) mixing with the children we meet. Our friend Leon followed his heart and gave a great teaching about being so filled with God that we overflow. Then, we prayed for any who desired. It was a great time.

One thing that was a little different for our puppet shows is that our translator was a puppet as well. Pastor Tang was a good sport and agreed to try his hand at puppeteering while introducing and translating the puppet shows. He captured the attention of the audience immediately.

The natural beauty surrounding the village is tremendous. The people are beautiful and kind. But it is located beyond a slowly burning trash dump. The road back to the village was difficult for the motorcycle trikes and the vehicle I rode in. In fact, we had to walk the last 100 yards or so because it was too difficult for our vehicle. The huts are built primarily of bamboo and thatched or metal roofs. I understand about 100 people live in the village.

The school has two adjacent rooms; one with walls, the other has only the wall dividing the two with bamboo benches forming the remaining partitions. The enclosed room is well decorated considering the situation of the residents of the village.

As we left, the boys were playing basketball. I really would have liked to stay longer and talk with the people, play basketball and see more of what life was like in the village. We have another opportunity to go to the village on Tuesday. I look forward to it.

Today our family, along with others from our group did more puppets and singing for the children’s church at Valley Cathedral. All of the girls were involved with the puppets, even Annalise got in on the act.

After church, Lisa, Doc, and I led a leadership seminar for the pastoral leadership of the church here. Doc did the lecture portion. Lisa and I facilitated some experiential learning activities that involve teamwork and leadership. The activities went very well. There was a lot of applause and laughter as the group worked through the activities and discussed them afterward. I feel we were an encouragement to the team. (Although for those of you who have participated in the Nuclear Blast exercise before, I have never seen it play out quite like it did here.)
Grace,
Tom

Friday, September 14, 2007

Let’s Get Busy!

Yesterday, I spent the day in bed. Montezuma can take revenge even in the Philippines. But I am up and around again today.

For the first several days, things were very relaxed. Most of our time was spent with the kids. Lisa shared a testimony and Alexie sang a song during the midweek service. When Alexie was asked for an encore she was joined by her sisters for a couple more songs.

Yesterday the pastors and leadership associated with Valley Cathedral Ministries met with our group in the morning to share opportunities where our group can minister. This began a tsunami of activity as our group is now investigating and partaking in these opportunities. Almost everyone in the group now has a child whom they are tutoring. Many have accepted invitations to lead Bible studies. There are several food distributions with which we will be participating.

Fortunately, laundry is a simple issue. As there are no electric washing machines, all laundry is done by hand. There are several ladies who live within walking distance who we have hired to do our laundry for us. This is a great situation for all involved; they are able to earn an income and we are able to focus on ministry activities.

On a side note, Tim and Becky, the boys’ house parents, are in the process of creating a blog about their life here at the orphanage. When it is ready, I will let you know the address in case you are tired of reading ours and want something interesting to look at from time to time.

Grace, Tom

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Settling In

video


We have been blessed in our time at Valley Cathedral Children’s Home. Right away the kids from our team began making friends with the children who live here. Sometimes the girls read to the children, other times they swing and play. The adults have gotten in on the action as well. spent most of our time holding children on our laps, plWe haveaying, reading stories, carrying them and otherwise being loved and loving. This is not a place for those who don’t enjoy hugging and being hugged.

Our accommodations are spacious and comfortable. Most of us have air conditioning and a room that overlooks the ocean. The sunsets are beautiful. Warm water seems to be hit or miss in our shower, but anything cool is somewhat welcome – even if it is a shower.

While there are potential opportunities in the prison and someone was looking into the potential of visiting a hospital, the real ministry we are engaged in is to bless the children and the staff of the various Valley Cathedral ministries. The children love the attention they are receiving. We hope to help the staff of the orphanage and the various churches associated with Mommy Zelma’s ministry, reducing their burden while we are here.

This week there is a camp going on in cooperation with the school. They are learning songs, first aid, knots, teamwork, etc. The kids from our group began to participate, but most became discouraged when nearly everything was in Tagolic. Josh, Adriana, and Annalise all stuck with it to the end.

As part of the camp, there was an evening service last night. Our group put on a couple of puppet shows and a drama. Doc presented a teaching. I think all of it went well. I had to bring Annalise home and put her to bed, so I didn’t stay for the campers’ talent competition that followed.

While we are certainly feeling blessed in so many ways, there have been challenges. There has been some strife among team members. I have had more difficulty adjusting to the change in time and temperature than I had anticipated. That may also be the case for others. But at this point all of these issues are relatively minor and I am confident that they will all be worked out as we begin settling into a routine.

I suppose I am talking in circles by coming back to the kids, but that is what this part of our journey centers on. I have a few children who are in the process of adopting me: Jason and Hannah. My story is not unique; everyone has their favorites and has been selected as a favorite by one or more children. One little girl Jenny has stolen everyone’s heart, especially Alexie’s. She is three and when she came to the home last year, she was the size of a small baby. Now she is growing and healthy – and very much, adorable.

While their backgrounds vary and are generally heartbreaking, it is encouraging that they are able to stay here. The living conditions are at a standard much higher than most of what I saw as we drove here from Manila – even what I saw in Manila. The buildings and grounds are clean, well maintained, and attractive. They are provided with nourishing meals and education. Most of all they are cared for by a loving staff of dedicated people.

Grace,
Tom