Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Thank You!!!



Thank YOU!

To our friends at Cornerstone who made our day!
We love the games and letters you sent to us.
It is so good to feel remembered by friends at home.

God bless you all!


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Home for Christmas


If home is where the heart is, then I was home for Christmas. I was with my family - in the place God has called us. In that way, I was home for Christmas. But this year, Christmas was different than any other.

On the sad side, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins are on the other side of the world instead of across town. But the girls did enjoy opening the gifts their grandparents had sent as well as reading the Christmas cards and letters we received from friends and family.

Although away from our family, we were not alone today. We spent the afternoon eating (and eating) with our landlords and their family. Then later we joined the YWAM staff and an outreach team from Baguio for dinner (yes, more eating).

This is the first year I have ever worn shorts and sandals for Christmas. (We even had lunch as a picnic outside in the new nepa hut.) However some of our friends here had coats and even stocking caps on in the chilly 70 degree F weather.

Last night after the girls were tucked into bed, Lisa and I decorated a potted bamboo plant with lights and a string of popcorn. We even had a star on top. Though not quite the same as the familiar scotch pine, it was fun to surprise the girls.

Our meals looked a little different, too. Here in the Philippines, no meal is ever complete without rice. I am not sure I have ever had rice outside of a casserole for a Christmas meal - now I have. We did manage to bring some of our family traditions with us in the food department, though. We made wassail and rice pudding. Who would have thought that we could make a rice dish nobody here had ever had? Both seemed to be enjoyed by our friends.

Nobody shouted, "Ho! Ho! Ho!" I never even saw anyone dressed like Santa. Instead, we heard firecrackers popping.

Merry Christmas!!

Grace,
Tom

p.s. Although there was plenty of food and eating, I don't know of a parade. Just when we thought we were beginning to understand some holiday culture here in Bontoc!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Silence

We are leaving in just a few minutes to take the 12 hour bus ride to Manila. We will then take a flight to Naga. It will then be followed by a 1 hour drive to Bicol. Our primary purpose is language learning skills. In addition to that, we will get to know another American missionary family and spend a few days at the ocean. We will be back in Bontoc just in time for Christmas.

We don't expect to make any posts while we are away. This should give all of you time to review our blog so that you can let us know which post you have found the most interesting. You have 400 to choose from... Now you have 401.

Grace,
Tom

Friday, December 12, 2008

Post #400

For the last year, 8 months, and 5 days we have shared glimpses of this journey we are on with Jesus. We have shared the ups and downs, the joys and challenges, along the path. According to the counter, there have been some who have been checking in on us from time to time. So we are looking forward to hearing from you. Some of you have revealed yourselves and left a comment or more. Others remain hidden in anonymity. We want to hear from all of you, out of the 400 posts which do you remember most? Which were your favorites? Is there a picture or video clip that really captured your attention? Are there any that touched a special part of your heart?

Sometimes it is a challenge to come up with how to communicate in a few sentences what our family is experiencing...but we'll keep on trying.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Elves at Play


In keeping with the tradition we began our first year of marriage, our family has been busy making gifts for Christmas. The focus this week has been making gifts for friends here in Bontoc. Using some supplies sent from home and some we were able to gather here, the A girls have been busy little elves.


Of course, I can't give you any details or pictures; TOP SECRET, you know. I could have some mutinous elves on my hands if such proprietary information was divulged to the public.


We have enjoyed the tradition of always making a gift for each other. It has sparked some creative projects over the years. It has also created some very late nights the week before Christmas. This year it looks like we will be able to enjoy a bit more rest than usual. (That's happy!)
Grace,
Tom

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Sweet Geometry

Homeschooling can have its advantages. Not only do my girls have the cutest teacher in the country, they also get to have some pretty cool experiences. Yesterday is a perfect example. Annalise has been studying shapes in math. The two most recent terms she had to learn were sphere and cone. I, personally, have a difficult time thinking of a better representation of these shapes than the object lesson Lisa used to help her remember them - an ice cream cone.













You may be familiar with a milk mustache or a chocolate mustache, but what about a ube goat-ee (you bee goa tee)?

Monday, December 8, 2008

My Little Bird

Every Monday morning, the Municipal government has a flag ceremony in the plaza outside their offices. On the mornings I present for the police on behalf of the MRP, I attend as well because the officers' meeting follows immediately after. They normally sing the national anthem and have presentations by the various offices. Ironically, they rarely raise the flag at that meeting.

I was standing at one end of the plaza near a stage watching the presentations. A little girl in worn out clothes came and perched on the wall a few feet away from me. I say perched because she stood on the wall and then squatted down and covered her legs with her shirt. She reminded me of a little bird perched on a branch. She did not say anything, just sat there. I often noticed that she was staring at me. Since the plaza is just around the corner from where Lisa has Kids Club, I was trying to remember if she was one of the kids from there. She wasn't. It just seemed odd to me that such a little thing would hang out at the flag ceremony. It seemed even more odd that she would come an sit next to the only Americano in the plaza. There were certainly better places to see what was going on.

Considering that it is Monday, I was not sure why she was not in school. She looked old enough. Later, I found out that today is a school holiday in observance of the immaculate conception. It still seems odd though that she would choose to hang out there. There is no playground and I saw no other children in the area. Who knows?

Sometimes she would stand and I could see the various scratches and marks on her bare feet and legs. The toenails on her bare feet had once been coated with sparkly purple nail polish. There was still some polish on most of her toes. Her clothes were worn and had many holes in them. Her face was precious and she had the prettiest eyes.

At one point, she moved so close to me that we were almost touching. When I said hello to her she just looked at me. Her expression never seemed to change during all of the time I had been next to her.

Then I used the little bit of Ilocano that I know, "Anya nagan mu?" (What is your name?) It was amazing to see the transformation. Suddenly she had the biggest smile. She told me her name is La-loy. (I am not sure about the spelling, of course.) She also let me know that she is 5 years old. That was about the extent of what we could communicate.

I still don't know why she chose to hang out at the Municipal plaza. Nor do I understand why she chose to be so close to me. But I do know her presence and her smile was a blessing to me today.

Grace,
Tom

Saturday, December 6, 2008

MRP Seminar

Today the PNP Values Formation and Spiritual Transformation Council (usually referred to on this blog as Moral Recovery Program or MRP) put on a seminar at the Mountain Province State Polytechnical College. Our host was the Criminology Department. Our audience, the Philippine National Police interns.

I was asked to speak on the topic, Love of God. I am still amazed at the openness to Christian teaching at public and governmental institutions in this country. What an opportunity to talk with these students and help them understand the source of their authority and the accountability that comes with it!

During the introduction, the MRP regional director talked about how the countries of the world are perceived in relation to corruption. According to his source, the Philippines is second in corruption only to Laos. What a terrible position to hold. Aside from the PR for the nation, the impact that has on communities and families is incredible. As businesses shy away from investment in a community, jobs remain scarce. As crime is overlooked, people are mistreated. As bribes and extortion are normalized, sensitivity to righteousness and integrity is eroded.

While I have not seen any overt corruption in Bontoc, we experienced attempts for bribery while in Manila. How much this could change if people in authority truly recognized that they are under God's authority. If they recognized that the people they misuse are made in God's very image.

I have little hope for a society which expects improvement because of the people caring about humanity. Man does not have that much compassion on our own. But what great hope there is for a society that basks in the love God has for us and then shares that love in honor and integrity with others.

It was a full day seminar. I was up late putting the finishing touches on my power point. I just finished my lesson for Sunday School tomorrow morning. It is 10:15 p.m. now. I am tired. Forgive any typos or pitiful grammar. Good night.

Tom

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Baby Talk

I remember when our girls were learning to talk and each sound was celebrated. We thought their little linguistic blunders were adorable and encouraged them to keep on talking. Now here I am making attempts to speak a whole new language. Definitely not as cute as a toddler, but I am celebrating some progress. This week I was able to talk a bit in Ilocano when I was walking to the market and back. One conversation was with my friend, Susan (pronounced Usan) from Can-eo. I managed to speak a number of sentences to her. Of course, the process is a bit more complicated than when my girls were learning and we just interpreted their "da" to mean "daddy." There are many syllables involved and a different way to say the same message depending on whether you are speaking to one person or a group. Consequently, I am currently reaching for my notes in my little language notebook for every attempt. Now if only their replys would be spoken slow enough for me to grasp and also happen to match another phrase in my notebook...

Lisa

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Dreaming of a White Christmas

Another of our traditions is after Thanksgiving we start playing Christmas music. Of course, we are a bit behind our Filipino friends as they have been playing it since September. Music was something we managed to squeeze in our luggage or should I say load onto our computer before we left. The girls are doing some copywork to go along with this festive time of year. Today's selection being "I'm dreaming of a white Christmas." Listening to the song today it was another line that grabbed my attention, "and may all your Christmases be white." Sure there have been years we have suffered through a green Christmas but the magical white blanket was sure to appear sooner or later. Not this year. No snowman will be crafted or snowballs thrown, no paths down the hill on a sled. Two years ago, we had no idea we would be spending a green Christmas in the Philippines. But God did. We do miss the snow and the fun of spending time in it with loved ones but joy is found not in having the white Christmas but sharing the news of Jesus. The other night we invited a student to join us for dinner. His family doesn't celebrate Christmas. He just recently came to know Jesus but the rest of his family does not. Without Jesus, there is no reason to celebrate.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Just Maybe

Our family has a tradition of reading Christmas stories everyday starting after Thanksgiving until Christmas. We have a collection of books that we store with our Christmas decorations that we only get out at this time of year. No decorations made it into our suitcases but a few Christmas stories did. Here's a quote from the story of the day:

"Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store.
"Maybe Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!"

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Manna - Resolved


By the way, the mystery fruit from last week is called goyabano.

We haven't had it since then because it hasn't been in the market again until today. The one piece we saw today did not look so good.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Leftovers

No hurrying to get those early morning deals at the shopping malls for us. Although like many of our loved ones back home, we were blessed to be able to enjoy Thanksgiving leftovers for lunch. We almost made it two full days without eating rice or soy sauce! Sure we like rice but we usually have it once to twice a day, so it was good to have a break.

The other highlight of the day was finding packages at the post office addressed to us. The girls are looking forward to Christmas when they can discover what surprises are in those boxes.

Lisa

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Giving Thanks from Afar

This morning we celebrated with Annalise as she completed her initial reading program. She is so excited about reading and writing. In our family reading is a favorite pastime. Congratulations, Butterfly!Thanks to goodies sent by Lisa's mom, we were able to enjoy a real Thanksgiving feast: gravy, cranberries, stuffing, hot apple cider, even pudding! Although Annalise was disappointed; there was no rice on the menu. There was plenty to fill our tummies and we even watched some football before the day was over. There were, of course, a few modifications. Turkey is not readily available - although it was tempting to look further into the one I have seen in the courtyard of a church downtown. But when we roasted the chicken with the same seasonings we use at home, the house still smelled great and the taste, although different, was just as good.

We also improvised a bit on football. We don't have a TV here and I am not sure if we would have even been able to watch it. (The Thanksgiving Day game would not have been on anyway - we are getting ready to go to bed and it's only 8:30 am in Michigan.) So we watched the movie, We Are Marshall. We all enjoyed it. The girls probably enjoyed it more than a regular game, anyway.
Later we did a craft. You know it is a good craft if it starts off with painting your hand.
One last blessing from home that was unique. Lisa's mom sent leaves she and Dad had collected from their yard and pressed. We used them to decorate our table. Since we have no changing colors and autumn leaves to enjoy here, they were a nice touch.

Although we could not be with family personally, I had the computer set up with slideshows of pictures throughout the years. I think we all appreciated having familiar foods, reminders of home, and the faces of those we love around us today. We have so much to be thankful for...

Grace,
Tom

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Bunny Blues

You never can be sure what will prompt a wave of homesickness. It could be a memory or a glimpse of a loved one's photograph, a craving for a food unavailable, the news of beautiful fall colors or the first snowfall, or even more crushing the thoughts of the holidays spent far from family. Yesterday, Annalise came to me and said, "Mommy I miss my bunny. You know the one with the long eyelashes." If that was not sad enough she started sobbing. We had squeezed one of her bunnies in our luggage but not that one. "Can't we just go home and get it and then come back to the Philippines?" Not really nor could I just rush out to Build-A-Bear to get her a new one. All I could do was hug her close. The homesickness has increased as the holiday season gets closer. It is especially hard when one of the girls is suffering to the point of tears.

Lisa

Special Gift for You

Every Tuesday, Alexie and I walk to Bontoc Central School for Values Education Class. I have taught lessons on creation, Adam and Eve, and sin. Yesterday I reminded them of the consequences of sin and shared the gift Jesus offers.

Please pray for the students as they think about this lesson. I am so very thankful for this opportunity to share each week with this class of sixth graders. I am amazed that I have this freedom to teach the Word of God in the public school and I am loving it!

Lisa

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Parents and Pancit

Saturday YWAM Mountain Province hosted a meeting for the parents of the Student Sponsorship Ministry students. They came from various barangays such as Can-eo, Sacasacan, Sadanga, Sagada, and others. It was an opportunity to share with them what is happening with the ministry and to strengthen our partnership in the discipleship of their children.

After we said good morning, Lisa and I had exhausted our Ilocano and had to rely on translators.

Lisa shared with the parents how much our family has been blessed by the students. So many of them have been adopted by our girls as big brothers and big sisters.

After introductions, Gilbert lead us in worship.

What better way to begin a meeting than a little team building? A little rope and some blindfolds and people begin to loosen up and laugh. The parents, students, and YWAM staff did some activities that helped to illustrate my message about following Jesus and working out our discipleship as a community. As stated earlier, I had used up his Ilocano but Patrick was there to translate into Ilocano.


Then the student's performed the song, Walk With Jesus.

After a delicious lunch of rice, pancit, and sardines, we watched a slideshow of pictures of the students since the last parent meeting.

YWAM SSM students and parents
(with a few extras - In case you have a hard time finding 3 of our girls that ended up in the picture, they are toward the front wearing blue jeans.)

Grace,
Tom

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Manna

Manna was the term used for the bread-like substance that sustained the Israelites when they left Egypt and took an extended tour of the middle-eastern wilderness. I am no scholar of ancient languages, but I understand that the word manna literally means, "What is it?"

So what is it?


Often when we see a new fruit we will ask the vendor what it tastes like. It is funny because the person you are talking to will inevitably have a different answer than the people sitting around them. It seems the vendor will say the fruit is sweet. Her companions will laugh and say that really it is sour. Somewhere along the way it gets decided that the fruit is sweet and sour. I don't know why we still ask; it just seems to be the thing to do. At least then if we find our eyes watering and mouth doing the funny little contortions that follow eating something unexpectedly sour, we can say that we asked.

I suppose that could be part of the fun on their side too. Perhaps they want to convince us the new fruit is sweet and that we should try some. Then when we do the puckered, cross-eyed thing they can have a new cultural experience - they may have never seen an Americano do that before. Or maybe they have and that is why the response is so consistent...

Well anyway, this fruit was sweet; no crossed, watery eyes or puckered cheeks. Of all things, it reminded me somewhat of saltwater taffy.

Let us know if you have any guesses.

Tom

Monday, November 17, 2008

500 Pesos and a Gun

This morning I presented the exhortation for the municipal officers of the Philippines National Police. They are the ones who have jurisdiction for the local town.

My topic was stewardship. So to start off, I asked one of the officers to hold a 500 peso bill for me. After reading a few passages about debt and generosity, I asked them whose money it was that the officer was holding. I was relieved when the room full of armed strangers all agreed that it was my money. As such, the officer was accountable to me for how the money was used. In the same way, we are accountable to God for everything He has given us - which is everything we are and everything we have. He has told us how we are to use it. Therefore, stewardship is using what He has given us as He has told us. (I did get the money back.)

What made today different than the other times I have presented, for either the provincial or municipal PNP, occurred later in the day. Lisa, Alayna, Annalise, and I were out marketing. Three of the officers stopped me at different times to introduce themselves. In the meeting, I don't have the opportunity to just chat because I talk after the flag ceremony ends and their staff meeting begins. It was fun to see the girls' reaction as I introduced one of the officers by saying, "This officer held my money for me earlier."

There are times I feel like what I am doing isn't making much difference, then something like this happens. God reminds me that relationships take time and often grow when you aren't watching.

Grace,
Tom

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Knock, Knock - Who's There?


Before the semester break, several of the boys from the SSM came over to watch the first of the Lord of the Rings movies, The Fellowship of the Ring. We planned to watch the others after semester break.

At church today, I told one of the guys to come over this afternoon and we would watch the next one. So after church we moved some furniture around, popped some popcorn, got ready for a movie. When the guys showed up, we started the show. After a little while, there was a knock on the door. Some of the students from church wanted to watch it, too. They came in and people squeezed together on the chairs and couch to make room. A while later, there was a knock on the door and more students came in. No more chairs, so some sat on the floor - not nice, padded carpeting, just tile. Oh well, nobody was complaining. A couple more times this act was repeated. By the end of the movie, we had about 25 people squeezed into our living room and flowing into the kitchen all intently watching our computer screen. (No wall-to-wall carpeting - No big screen TV - No surround sound)

We have enjoyed building relationships with the SSM students and the students that make up the church we are a part of. Beyond friendship with them, it is our desire to be a part of discipling them so that they can take the message of the Gospel to the people they are around. It has been encouraging that the attendance for the Christian Education class I began last week at church has been so high. We pray the Lord will use it toward their maturity and relationship with Him.

Grace,
Tom

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Ilocano Proverbs and Sayings

Although English is spoken by many here, we feel we need to learn Ilocano to better communicate the message we came to give. Here is just a sampling to help you understand the task before us. It is not just the words but the meaning that makes you go "What did you say?"


Tay áso nga taol nga taol saán a makakagát ken makadunor.

Barking dogs seldom bite.

Notice the number of words needed to communicate this. If this is true, we have no need to worry about dog bites here. A good night sleep yes, dog bites no.


Ti táo a manákem, dína makíta ti panagdissó ti sakána ití dagá.

Kitáenna ketdi ti sumarunó a baddekánna.

A wise man doesn't see his foot on the ground, he watches his next step.

At home, there are all these signs to clean up after your pet. Not so here, there are numerous stray dogs and we have yet to see someone clean up after their carabou (water buffalo) that get walked on the streets to the different rice fields.


Naim-imbág ti matáy ta malipátanen ngem ti agbiág a maibabaín.

It's better to be dead and forgotten than to live in shame.

This says a lot about the culture especially when you become familiar with all that is done to honor the dead. Seriously shame is a big fear. When teaching it is difficult to get much participation because everyone is worried they might not have the "right" answer. Being seen crying is also shameful.


No awán ti ánus, awán ti lámot.

If there is no patience, there will be no food.

Meal preparation takes time. No fast food restaurants or microwavable meals...no microwaves either.


No sáan nga makaammó nga nangtaliáw ti naggapuánna, saán a makadánon ti papanánna.

He who does not look back to his origins will not reach his destination.

The village you come from is often part of your introduction. When we first came here it seemed where someone was from was emphasized more than even their names.


Di pay nalúto ti pariá simmagpáw ti karabása.

The bittermelon is not yet cooked and the squash jumped in.

Even after learning some Ilocano, we might need a translator! This supposedly means "Who asked you to join in?"

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Dee Dah Day

Every Tuesday night YWAM Mountain Province gathers for Discipleship Talk. This meeting is designed to promote the discipleship of the students of the Student Sponsorship Ministry (SSM). I have begun teaching a series on the Christian disciplines based on The Life You Always Wanted, by John Ortberg.

Last week we talked about the difference between training and trying. That is where the disciplines come in. By considering the areas in our lives that need to be transformed, we can apply disciplines to help us train ourselves to change our behaviors and attitudes,

This week we talked about the discipline of joy. The author talks about his young daughter's expression of joy, the Dee Dah Day dance. When joy overflows in her, time for a Dee Dah Day dance.

If God is joyful, I want to be joyful. If the joy of the Lord is my strength, I am weak when I am without joy. If I am to rejoice in the Lord, then being without joy is a sin.

-----I have written, and deleted, something that was beginning to look like a thesis rather than a blog post. So I will leave you with a reminder to celebrate and fill your life with joy - have a Dee Dah Day.

Or as Uncle Remus would say, a Zippity Do Dah day...

Grace,
Tom

Monday, November 10, 2008

Colors of the Season

When we were at home, this season held two things for which we were always looking: the first snow and the first Christmas tree. Well, we still haven't seen snow here. But here is a picture of the first Christmas tree. Christmas music has been playing in the stores here for quite some time (at least since mid-September), but this is the first tree.

Completely unrelated, other than it was experienced on the same walk into town, was an offer made to me today. While walking to the market, there is an area where people seem to gather and just hang out. I think a jeepney to another village loads there. During the day, there are always people sitting on the steps to a couple of stores. The people are of all ages and just seem to be hanging out. Whenever we pass, some are talking, some smoking, some chewing moma, (and if I am with Lisa, Adriana, or Alexie, some are staring/gawking).

One of the stores in front of which this collection of people gather sells packaged ice cream cones, popsicles, and such. Today, I was debating indulging in such a treat. There are other places I have found the same treats, but this store is ideal because it is on the way to the market and I am finished with the ice cream by the time we make it to the market - so my hands are available for eating then empty for carrying our purchases. A perfect arrangement in my opinion.

So today, I am walking along, thinking about ice cream and the rain falling. I am with Lisa, so I would really rather be on the other side of the street - but there is the thought of ice cream. As we approach the group, I see a man who reminds me of a pastor I have been trying to contact. Now my mind is bouncing around between ice cream, gawkers, the need to go to the ATM across the street, is that the Pastor Angelo?, ice cream sounds good, is wearing a raincoat on a warm day really keeping me dry?, that is not Pastor Angelo, time to decide about the ice cream before we pass, etc. Suddenly a man I do not recognize at all stands up from in the steps right in front of the ice cream cooler and approaches me with a clear plastic bag and invites me to join him in a chew. "Moma, moma, you chew with me." He was quite insistent. My mind was not there. I declined as we passed by. No ice cream today, I guess.

Then it hits me. What kind of missionary am I? Here I was invited to join in what seems to be a major pastime - hanging out, spitting on the sidewalk, and staining my teeth and lips red - and I absentmindedly dismissed my opportunity. I have never tried moma, but it is very popular here. It seems to be the chewing tobacco of the mountain people.

Perhaps next time...

Tom

Friday, November 7, 2008

I Love a Parade...

Today at our weekly glucose/blood pressure clinic, I had to forgo blood pressures for a while. The elementary and high school students were having Districts. While I never got a complete description of that, it seems that it has to do with inter-mural sports. Rather than having basketball or volleyball as an extra-curricular activity as we are familiar with, everyone is included as part of a healthy living program during the school day.

A couple things we have noticed in our time here are the apparent lack of long-term planning and the low threshold for celebrations. We knew before coming that timeliness was of little importance here. It does not surprise me that I never hear the term "5-year plan". But it is almost comical to me how impromptu things can be. Last Thursday, the local government decided to make Friday a holiday so people could travel home for All Saints Day. It isn't like the holiday suddenly changed days. Earlier, we had been trying to coordinate our staff outing to the hot springs with the semester break at the school. Nobody knew when that would be, not even the students. Today, one of the SSM students who helped us at the clinic put it the best I have heard it. "In America, time is like gold. Here, time is like bronze."

As for celebrations, parades are popular here. Of course some are planned and communicated such as the Independence Day, Am-Among, and Lang-Ay. But there are several that just seem to happen that nobody knows about unless they happen to be in it or on the street when it happens. I cannot explain the basis for a couple I have heard about. They were over and nobody I talked to could really say why there had been a parade. As I understand it, one parade consisted of employees of various governmental offices - I don't know why.

Well today, we did not know about the parade until the police officers were positioning themselves to reroute traffic while we waited for the Municipal Health Office to be unlocked for our clinic. But we did find out that it was related to the Districts. Now back to my original statement - I had to forgo blood pressures for a while. While it would have been fun to watch the kids in their parade, we had a lot of patients. Many of them were teachers from the schools who are normally busy at the time of our clinic. So as the parade marched by on the street below, we continued on with our work - with one modification. It is nearly impossible to take blood pressures with a marching band outside your window. The faint thump noise made by blood squirting through an artery is no match for the drum corps. Once the parade was over, we were able to resume taking blood pressures. In the meantime, we just focused on testing glucose levels.

It did get pretty busy today. Fortunately, Alexie and Alayna were there to help. We also had two of the Student Sponsorship Ministry students volunteer to help today as well. One is a 1st year nursing student. The other is studying education with a major in science. She would like to be in nursing, but can't afford the additional expense. Jil, the nursing student, was supposed to have class today, but the college is still working through issues with registration so most classes have been postponed until next week. (Refer to the second paragraph.)

Grace,
Tom

p.s. If you would be interested in sponsoring a student that is a part of our Student Sponsorship Ministry, please let us know and we would be glad to share more details.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

SOLD!!

Since May, we have been trying to sell our Honda CR-V. We have prayed and asked you to pray with us. This morning, we received word that we now have a check and a lady that lives near my parents has a new vehicle.

This is a real blessing in answer to our prayers!

While I do feel a twinge of sadness about the CR-V (I really liked it), I will not miss the insurance payments.

Thanks for your prayers.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Love from Home

Today, we enjoyed several of the gifts that Lisa's parents sent in a recent package. The girls wore the new skirts Grammie made. Last night they were very excited as they all planned the outfits they would wear today. There was much twirling throughout the day.

It was funny that we received an email after dinner this evening from Grammie warning us that the soup mix she sent was rather spicy. The email was a few hours too late. We all enjoyed the flavor of the soup, but we did need to work to take out some of the heat. In doing so, we realized that we have certainly adopted some of the practices here - to help cool it, we served the soup over rice.

Later, the girls danced around the table, literally, during an evening snack of dried apples that came in the package, too.

Thanks, Grammie and Papa!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Writing on the Chalkboard

Today I was back in the classroom, chalk in hand, introducing myself as "Mrs." It has been a while since I was teacher to a class larger than four but before I began my career of motherhood, I was a kindergarten teacher. This was my first day teaching values education to a classroom of sixth graders, all Filipinos except for a strawberry blonde named Alexie that sat in the back row. The school board and the local government officials have approved this values education program but unless a local pastor or missionary volunteers to come in to teach the class it is not being taught. I really enjoyed being in the classroom. I am excited to have this opportunity to teach the Bible each week to the 29 students.

I always think it is best to start a story at the beginning, so the lesson was on creation. The students actively participated which was so encouraging as Filipinos often act shy and remain quiet when asked a question. This is not to say it was like an American classroom. All the students remove their shoes before entering the classroom. They waited in their seats until I dismissed them and then stood to in chorus say "Thank you, madam. Good-bye, madam. Goodbye, classmates." before going home for lunch.

I am looking forward to returning each week and helping the students get to know the Creator of the beautiful mountains that surround them.

Lisa

Monday, November 3, 2008

Some Voting Advice

We are far away from our home in the U.S. but we haven't forgotten that tomorrow is the day to vote for a new president. This week, Garden of Grace Girls Academy, is studying a unit on elections. Today each of the girls had to answer the follow question, "In your opinion, what are the most important qualities that a person running for President of the United States should have?" This is what Annalise had to say.

I think the President needs to obey God and the Bible. This would tell him what to do.

He has to be American so he doesn't kill us. He should be like us but a little bit higher.

He should be strong so he could fight. So if his guards didn't see the bad guys he could be saving himself so he could live.

He should be a good leader. A good leader shows us how to be good.

Just some wisdom from our 6-year-old to guide you when you step into the voting booth tomorrow.

Seriously, we encourage all in the U.S. to get out and vote. Ask God for guidance as to who should be the next leader of our country and vote accordingly.

Lisa

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Games

One of the things we have enjoyed about our time here is more time spent playing games together as a family. Lately we have not played as often as when we first came. So after dinner last night we learned a new game, Spoons. Lisa had looked up the rules on the internet earlier while the kids played outside. It was a riot - a little bit of thought, a little bit of action, and a lot of laughter.


The SSM students have also enjoyed learning to play different games. It is interesting to see how much you can learn about somebody when you play a few games with them.


Some of our favorites are Skip-Bo, Toss-Up, Uno, Wig-Out, Jenga, sungka (a variation of mancala), spoons (a new favorite).


What games does your family enjoy?

Saturday, November 1, 2008

For the Spirit of the Dead

Today Lisa and I went for a walk around town. It was a beautiful day, quiet too. With the holiday, many of the shops were closed. There was little traffic. Even the basketball court at the plaza only had a few people playing on it.

Along the sidewalk near the bridge is an area with several graves. Bontoc has a cemetery, but in many places in this region, graves are commonly located along (even under) the walkways. Most do not have a headstone, but rather a small shelter. They look like they could be little roosts for 1 or 2 chickens. As we walked by that area on our way back home, there were a few people tending the graves there. They appeared to be cutting back the weeds. Others had already visited many of the other graves. Under the little shelters, a candle was burning and there was a plate of food. We would like to have taken a picture to share with you, but we did not want to be insensitive to the people there.

One need not look too far to see that spiritism is very real here. I recognize that for many people, these are just traditions. They see them as nothing more than that. Much like people in the US look at ghosts, goblins, and haunted houses at Halloween. But the more I look around me and consider what I read in the Bible, the less I see that is truly neutral in this world. I am not on a witch hunt. And I don't think I am as confused as Don Quiote, confusing windmills for dragons. But I am convinced there is a spiritual battle going on around us. The enemy gains a great advantage when we allow him into our camp and think doing so is a harmless tradition.

This blog is not intended to be a place of great theological discussion. Nor do we claim to have any spiritual advantage over those who visit. Indeed, many of you who read about our journey on this blog are mentors to us; people in whom we see qualities we would like to emulate. But I would like to pass along some things of which I am reminded as I consider many of the things I see around me.


For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Ephesians 6:12
Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.

1 Thesssalonians 5:21-22

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Philippians 4:8
Grace,

Tom

Friday, October 31, 2008

All Saints Day

Today when Alexie and I went to do glucose screening we found the Municipal Health Office closed for holiday. As we had about a dozen people already waiting, we set up at a nearby table outside and proceeded with the testing. One lady who we identified last week with high blood sugar and high blood pressure spent much of the week in the hospital due to these conditions. She came again with her daughters who also have elevated levels.
While at home in the States children are busy dressing up in costumes excited about bringing home a bag of treats, that is not the tradition here. Most people we have spoken with are not familiar with the Trick-or-Treat tradition we have in the U.S. The reason all the government offices were closed today was to allow people to travel to their home villages. Many shops and such will be closed for the whole weekend in observance of All Saints Day. Tonight, families will gather at the graves of their loved ones and light candles, praying for their spirits. Some will stay there all night. Tomorrow they will eat sticky rice, making sure to leave some for the spirits. This is a much bigger holiday here, with the emphasis being November 1 instead of October 31.
The pictures below are an example of how candles are now being sold in so many of the stores here in town. Much like a Christmas decoration display at home, they are not normally there and will disappear soon after the holiday.

Lisa

Now if we just had some Oreos...

I continued to search and found....

Now that does NOT mean the next time I go shopping I will be able to get this again even if I go to the exact place I got this. But the girls said, "This tastes like real milk." Imagine that!
Life is school, school is life...today we had some language study while eating our corn flakes.

Lisa

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Got Milk?

We have been able to get Oreos a few times but it just isn't the same without the cold glass of milk companion. At home, I would make a run to Wal-mart or Meijer and usually buy four gallons at a time. No such stores here. Never seen a gallon of milk in the refrigerated section (okay there really aren't refrigerated sections here in Bontoc). We have purchased powdered milk that we add to oatmeal or a recipe but we haven't got to the point of mixing up a glass to go with Oreos or anything else for that matter. Sometimes you just miss a taste of home. As Oreos were missing on the store shelf, we went for cereal and milk. Not the row of cereals to chose from either. Looking at the bright side, it doesn't take quite as long to pick when there are only 4 kinds. We grabbed a box of corn flakes and a box of milk. No special dairy sections to give you goose bumps, just on the shelf next to the candy.
Keep reading to see what, "UHT Processed Long Life" means.
It was really a box, but was it really milk?

In fairness, it did not taste bad, at least that is what the rest of the family said. Thomas tells me I should stop reading the labels here but some habits are hard to break and it was too late for me. Even chilled in our little fridge didn't cause me to forget what it really was. Thanks, Mom, for the calcium supplements!

Lisa

Monday, October 27, 2008

Thanks for your prayers

Yesterday, Thomas and Annalise stayed home all day resting. Today they are much better. The only time Annalise said, "I need to lay down." was when there were vegetables on her plate waiting to be eaten or she didn't feel like doing school. So from that she seems to be as good as new! Although to make sure we didn't overdo it, this afternoon we watched a movie with some of the SSM students.

Annalise especially enjoyed being with her friend, Jordan. He is amazingly patient with her. When we went to Mainit, he gave her rides on his back in the pool all afternoon. Today he played with her and her Fancy Nancy sticker book. She insisted on sitting next to him for the movie. Not many young men would take such time with a 6-year-old.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Robuan's Funeral

Last week was a blur of days for me. The overnight travel and full agenda while in Naic made Monday through Thursday difficult to distinguish as separate days. But I will try to paint a picture of my experiences related to Robuan's funeral.

The entire experience began with getting on the Cable Tour bus Monday afternoon. (The first time I saw the office in town, I thought there was a suspended cable car in the mountains somewhere.) The bus was nice except for one detail which became a major drawback for the trip: the seats were too close together for my long legs. I could not sit with my legs in front of me like normal. I could move them sideways or lift them and put my knees on the back of the chair in front of me. As the 12 hour trip went into the night, sleep was elusive because of this. Fortunately, the person directly in front of me never tried to put their seat back. Most of the trip the chair next to me was empty so that helped a lot. When I arrived in Manila about 3 in the morning, my friends Greg and Jerry, from Valley Cathedral Children's Home, were waiting for me. About 2 hours later, I was resting in a bed at Valley.

Later that morning I visited with the Valley staff and those students who had not yet gone to school for the day. The kids were really disappointed that Lisa and the girls had not come as well.

We made plans to go to Kakabay to visit with Robuan's wife, Tess, and to hold a memorial service for the people of Kakabay and the teachers from Valley Cathedral Academy. Pastor Tang invited me to share the message that God had put on my heart from the time I had first been told of Robuan's death. So in the afternoon, we loaded up the generator and sound system and went to Kakabay.

We parked the vehicle outside of the garbage dump and carried the equipment through it into the village. Fortunately it was dry so the walk was not difficult.
In the covered area just outside of their doorway, Robuan was in a white casket. At either end of the casket was a candle stand. The open portion of the casket was covered with glass. On the inside of the lid were pinned ribbons with the names of their 12 children and a picture of Robuan cut from one of the snapshots from the album I had given the village when we visited last month.

Someone from Valley had printed a full-page print of a picture I had taken last year of Robuan, Tess, and their youngest son. When we arrived and gave Tess the picture, she began wailing. Although I could not understand what she said, it was clear that her emotions darted between grief and anger as she cried out. It was explained to me that she felt guilt because she had not taken good care of him.

Tess shared that Robuan had been looking at the photo album a week before and talked about his salvation. He even teased that he had proof of his decision and she did not.

After sitting a while with her, I joined the others as they set up the sound equipment for the service. Pastor Tang spoke a few words (in Tagalog) and then introduced me. I reminded them of the day they saw Robuan proclaim his decision to follow Christ by being baptized in the river. I talked about how I was sure he was in heaven, no longer restricted because of the stroke he had.

After the service, we headed back to Valley where I was able to visit with the kids more. I love being able to enjoy the love and affection these kids so readily share. It is especially amazing when I consider the horrific things so many of them have gone through.

Wednesday, we headed back to Kakabay for the actual funeral service. I was asked to speak again. Pastor Francis translated for me and performed the graveside rites. After I spoke, several eulogized, again in Tagalog. It was easy to see the grief that they felt. After the closing prayer, the somber, quiet tone changed. People went back to where the casket still sat. There they began wailing. I have never experienced such a show of emotions. Men, women, and children were all crying, sobbing really, and wailing. It was really loud! There were even a couple of gunshots fired. One man was so overcome with emotion that had to be helped as he staggered from the room.
Pastor Francis commented that this was a cultural lesson from "Filipino Missionary 101". It certainly was not something I have seen before nor was it something I was expecting from this culture.

As soon as this began to calm down, the casket was taken out to a truck that had been brought all of the way to the village. We all then walked about an hour and a half to the cemetery. When we reached the road, the casket was moved to a hearse.
The cemetery is much different than the manicured lawns and rows of marble headstones of the midwest. There were crypts of various levels of craftsmanship. Some were covered with marble or tile and inside barred enclosures. Others were simple cinder block enclosures with a name painted on the end. They were placed close together, even on top of each other. I had to overcome my own cultural hang-ups and walk on several crypts in order to get to the grave. Rather than manicured grass, I was warned of broken glass underfoot.
Prior to committing him to burial, a graveside ceremony was performed. For the most part it looked much like what I was familiar with at home. There was one thing, however, that I had to ask about later and saddened me that it was part of a Christian funeral. At one point, the small children, perhaps Robuan's grandchildren (?), were handed over the top of the casket. While holding the child, the second man would turn his back on the casket for a moment, then turn and return the child to the first man. When I asked about this later, I was told it had to do with preventing the untimely death of the children.
Then it was back to Valley for a few good-byes. (I was sad that my little buddy, Jason, was sick when I went to say good-bye.) I did not have a lot of time before we needed to travel to Manila to catch my 8:30 pm return bus. Fortunately for me, there was more room between the rows of seats so I was able get some sleep before arriving back in Bontoc Thursday morning around 9 am.
It was a long trip. At times I was feeling very sick. But I pray that in some way I was able to be an encouragement to the people of Kakabay during their time of grief.
Grace,
Tom

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Pajama Day

Okay, we did all get dressed but some of us would have liked to have stayed in bed all day. It seems there must be a virus attacking us. More of us are feeling ill. The good news is no one had a fever today. Trusting for a quick turn-around to complete health as tomorrow is Kid's Club. To add to the discomfort, we had running water today for only about an hour!

Thanks for all your prayers...
Lisa

Friday, October 24, 2008

Please pray for Annalise

Annalise has been sick for the past few days with a fever, headache, and abdominal pain. She didn't even finish her piece of the cake I made tonight. The thought of seeking medical care here is a bit scary so we are trusting that it won't be necessary. We appreciate everyone joining us in prayer for her.

Lisa

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Back Together Again

Thomas returned home at about 9 this morning. We are becoming so Filipino we celebrated with food. We had a delicious brunch of pancakes, baked apples with cinnamon and sugar, and bacon. You wouldn't think in a town with pigs galore, bacon would be hard to come by, but it is. I just recently discovered a place in town we can buy it. The girls excitedly exclaimed, "It is in a plastic package." Yes, we were thrilled to have found honey-cured bacon vacuum sealed in plastic packaging with English labeling! It is quite a pricey treat so we cherished every last crispy morsel.

Another Filipino tradition is pasalubong, bringing home a gift when you have been away. Honestly, Thomas was quite busy with the purpose of his visit (that and being very sick) to even think about it. But my good friend, Lita, was thinking of his girls. Knowing that mangoes are my very favorite she sent some home with Thomas along with three pineapple and a bunch of bananas. It is a huge blessing as mangoes and pineapple are no longer available here in Bontoc.

We are all hoping to enjoy a peaceful night sleep in the comfort of our own beds.

Lisa

P.S. Thomas is still processing his experiences of the last few days. He is thinking about how he can possibly put it into words.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Whatever...Day 3

As I sit and reflect on the day, my thoughts all center on how blessed I am to have Thomas in my life. Truly he is a gift from God to me and our girls. I have had to endure only a few days without his presence. Tomorrow morning we will be reunited, but there are women out there who must endure day after day without their husbands. Some, like Teresita, are suddenly alone when death takes their husband. Others are forced to walk alone because their husbands just left. My heart aches for all those women, especially those who must parent on their own. So when these last few days I have been filled with loneliness, I said a prayer of thanksgiving for my husband and a prayer for those other women. My prayer is that God will be near and carry them through.

Lisa

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Whatever...Day 2

I must be honest and say there were times today it was difficult to "think about such things." It is like when you decide to take up a new exercise routine. There is inspiration that carries you through that first workout, but the next day when your body is protesting, any excuse can cause you to slip back into just relaxing. But nevertheless when I determined to do it, this is what I came up with:

Alexie getting up and right away starting on her schoolwork while her sisters were still sleeping.

The peace and quiet of the morning.

Alexie mixing up pancakes by herself and helping to cook them.

Being able to fold and put away the laundry I had hung up to dry yesterday and washing and hanging another load before breakfast.

Smucker's strawberry preserves to spread on my pancakes.

Getting to taste a new fruit.

Alexie helping by doing some school with Annalise while I was away this morning.

Talking with a new mother and the memories her precious one-month old baby girl brought to mind.

Getting some extra exercise in the sunshine as I walked to town and back twice to attend ONE meeting.

Meeting with the local elementary principal today and the opportunity to start teaching value education to a class of 6th graders next week. Alexie's excitement to join this class.

The provision of a Bible-based curriculum guide for me along with a pamphlet and Bible for each student.

The times I turned on the faucet and water appeared.

Adriana's science experiment turning out like the book said it should.

Hearing "I am sorry." and "Thank you." from some of my girls.

Emails from friends, family and some blog comments too.

Keeping up with friends through their blogs.

A funny book to read, as I am rereading Cheaper by the Dozen

A text from Thomas letting me know he arrived safely.

Having Annalise read to me.

A reminder that all my girls are unique, no gingerbread girl cut-outs here.

Getting to chat with him tonight via the internet and hearing he was able to share with the village of Kakaby today and that he was invited to speak at Robuan's funeral tomorrow.

Thinking about how God ordered our steps and allowed us to visit Robuan a few weeks ago and present him with a photo album containing photos of his baptism.

Word that just last week Robuan had looked through the album with his wife and talked about his faith and how this is helping her now.

Annalise happily playing with magnetic letters as Adriana, Alexie and I prepared supper.

Leftover cake and brownies for dessert.

There's more but I better get some sleep. Being tired doesn't help me "think on such things."
Lisa

Monday, October 20, 2008

Whatever...

is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things.
Philippians 4:8

With Thomas away it can be easy to think about what I am missing but with this verse in mind, I've given some thought to my day and this is what I choose to think about:


we had running water for most of the day

we have two new tubs of water ready if we do not have running water

there is plenty of drinking water in the apartment

most of what I had planned for the school day was completed

Thomas was able to share God's Word with the Philippine National Police and the Jehovah Witness's that came to our door

I turned leftover oatmeal from breakfast into a delicious cake that we got to enjoy before he left.

Some of the girls quickly worked to fill Daddy's suitcase with love notes for him to find when he was away. Something they have learned from me.

We had a gigantic salad for lunch. The first salad in a long time as lettuce is a very rare sight at our market.

Our kind mailman gave me a ride home on his motorcycle concerned it was "too hot to walk."

Alexie and Annalise worked together and prepared tonight's supper. They worked so well together. Alexie was patient and Annalise was eager to do anything to help her big sister. The only thing I did was cut up some onion as the job was causing Alexie to shed so many tears.

a note of encouragement from my mother

an exchange of love texts with my Dear Hubby

a quiet house with all my girls tucked in bed

The truth is I think I could keep going with this list. It is amazing what you can find to think about in just a regular day on the calendar, if you're looking with this focus.

I highly recommend it.
Lisa

Praise and Prayer

We have been praying even more intensively about Kids Club recently as I have been very discouraged. Not many children were coming. Those that did come usually were not staying but coming in and out distracting others. I know God had spoken to me about this ministry and I needed to keep on and trust the power of His Spirit to work. Yesterday when I came to church there were six children sitting in chairs waiting for me. They asked to have Kids Club early so they could come as the time it was scheduled is when a few of them need to sell newspapers. I have learned the value in flexibility so we moved it up two hours and 11 children came and stayed. I also was blessed that I had five Filipino college students assisting me. They helped with games and provided some translations when the need arose. We shared some laughs, games, brownies, and God's Word. It was such an answer to prayer and an encouragement to me. Looking forward to what God is going to do next week...

Thomas is just left to travel about 14 hours so he can attend Robuan's funeral. There are many traditions surrounding death in the Philippines and we believe it is important for the family of Robuan and the rest of the village to remind them of the proclamation Robuan made in front of them all when he accepted Christ as his forgiver and leader and was baptized. Robuan struggled against old habits as he grew in his new-found faith. But he was a child of God because our salvation is based on the work Jesus has done for us, not the rules we obey.

This will be the first time we will be separated since moving here. It is never easy to do without him but add to it still adjusting to life in another culture and it becomes a bit more overwhelming. He'll be gone until Thursday morning. Please pray for safe travels and effective witness to the village of Kakaby and pray for the five of us staying home. I can't just slip a frozen dinner in the oven or take the girls to their grandparents or a friend's house for a distraction. To add to the adventure, for the last three days, we have often been without water. Thomas drew me a diagram of the different ways to adjust the valves in hopes that one out of the three will provide water while he is away. Hoping that we will not only survive while he is gone but will enjoy some special girl time together...

Lisa

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Semester Break Celebration

In order to celebrate the semester break for the SSM students, the students and YWAM families traveled to Mainit to enjoy a day at the hot springs. The weather was beautiful, the pools were full (a first for us), and the food was delicious.







In keeping with our adage that life is school and school is life, the girls had an anatomy lesson provided by the young boys that are family of the pool owners.
Adriana and Thomas enjoyed the views provided from the top of the jeepney on the ride home.
It was a great day!