Friday, August 29, 2008

Happy Birthday Alayna!

Today our daughter who does everything with an exclamation point turned nine.

She started her day with her favorite breakfast, pancakes.

After breakfast, Grandma and her cousins called her on Skype and watched her open the cards and gifts they had sent earlier.
Of course, what birthday is complete without cake. This cake came courtesy of Aunti Flor, our landlady.
Signing the register at the post office for a package and a letter to Alayna

c/o YWAM

Box 11764 Bontoc P.O.

2616 Mountain Province

Philippines

Opening her package from Grammie and Papa once we got home.
Alayna and the rest of the Wonderful Blue Tigers! We had a birthday party with the SSM students at Fun Night. The theme was Alayna's Birthday Olympics. There was the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat as teams intensely competed for the prize in events such as shot put (with a cotton ball), javelin (a toothpick), discus (a paper plate), and equestrian and synchronized swimming (both too difficult to explain in this post).
Just before the torch was extinguished in the closing ceremonies.

All of the contestants. (Many are wearing their gold medals as crowns.)

Happy Birthday, Sugarplum!

We love you!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Rushing Wind

This morning my friend Walter, another YWAMer, joined me in Talubin for the Calvary Gospel School of Ministry. We caught a bus right in front of my apartment and got dropped of right in front of the school. The bus was definitely made for Filipinos. Even at that it had seen better days. My knees did not know where to go. The light overhead had bare wires exposed.

The school was as welcoming as yesterday. The staff has even made accommodations for me to be able to take a nap during the lunch period. (It was more tempting today than yesterday, but I had fun with the students as they worked at learning a song they heard during one of our breaks. - I had my mp-3 player hooked up to some speakers.)

Class went better. Students seemed more comfortable with me today and Walter did a great job of engaging them in Ilocano. I don't think the difference had much to do with me or my skills.

But the most amazing thing that happened had nothing to do with how to develop objectives or why evaluation is a good thing. As we were wrapping up class for the day, one of the students had a question. The question was only loosely related to the topic, but it led to some discussion. We played a worship song and I gave what we expected to be a closing prayer. But then the Holy Spirit poured through the room. The closing prayer became an opening prayer for an extended time of intense prayer. Students were sobbing, both men and women, as the Holy Spirit worked in their hearts. One student who had been questioning her purpose at the school and perhaps her faith in general encountered God and was reminded why she was there and who she is in Christ. Another young lady had talked to me yesterday and this morning about how she had been feeling far from God and had not felt His presence for a long time, was crying and knew she had been in His presence. Even many of the young men were crying as Walter and I moved about praying with students as God put them on our hearts. It was an incredible time!

Certainly there was nothing in what I did or said that prompted this move of the Spirit. I was so blessed to see God touch their hearts. Even after most had left, several students could still be heard behind the curtains of the stage, crying and praying.

This all began as we were wrapping up class at about 3:45 to end at 4. A little after 5, Walter and I finally left the room to see about heading back to Bontoc. Guess what, the last jeepney rolls through town about 5. So there we were, stuck. But the director of the school sent a student down to the road to stop every vehicle that drove by to see if they would take us back to Bontoc. About 40 minutes (and 6 or so vehicles) later, they found a ride for us. There was a vegetable truck heading this way. Fortunately for us, we were able to squeeze into the cab instead of riding in the back. (We are currently experiencing the additional rain of another typhoon so we would have probably been thoroughly soaked. The back of the truck was covered, but I am guessing not water-tight.)

In summary, the day was okay. The ending was fantastic.

Grace,
Tom

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Calvary Gospel School of Ministry


Today I began a two-week teaching series on Christian education for the Calvary Gospel School of Ministry. I was invited to speak by a pastor who is part of the steering committee for the Moral Recovery Program.

But as often happens, what I was expecting was somewhat different than what I encountered.
I was expecting to be teaching to the 12 second year students. It turns out that because I was coming, the school decided to have the first year students attend as well. This would not be a huge problem, but I had prepared handouts and activities for 12 and needed to be prepared for about 30.
This is an important consideration because of the language barrier. Most of the students are not confident in speaking English. A few are very limited in their understanding of English. I had anticipated that this may be the case and created a number of handouts so they could follow along easier. But the extra copy did not cover the additional students. I let fellow YWAMer, Pastor Rudy, use the extra copy since he was asked to translate as we went along. (I am glad he came.)
The other challenge that I faced today is the reluctance of the students to ask or answer questions. I do not like to lecture; I prefer lots of interactions with the students. But in most of my experiences so far, quietness reigns. Most came up to me afterward saying thank you and shook my hand even though they had been so quiet in class.
Okay, enough complaining.
I did enjoy teaching today. I am excited about all of these students eager to learn more about serving God's people. I think it is great that the school is available to them. I pray that what I present to them is relevant and will be useful.
Grace,
Tom

Monday, August 25, 2008

Veggie Tales

Tonight we sat around with some of our young Filipino friends for some entertainment centered around our favorite singing vegetables.

Here is a quiz for our fellow Veggie Tales fans:
Which Veggie Tales video mentions the Philippines?

Looking forward to hearing from you...

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Jack and Jill


At church today, some of the kids who attend Kids Club played a new game. As they sing Jack and Jill, they all need to skip in sync - or fall down. They were having a great time. I have not posted a video for a while, but I thought this was an interesting game. I hope you enjoy it.


video

Grace,

Tom

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Staff Outing

Today we took a day off and had a staff outing. Before we left Bontoc to drive to Mainit to enjoy a day at the hot springs, it was cool and overcast.
As we drove up the mountain, we passed through the cloud layer and it was beautiful.
I always enjoy seeing the people as well as the scenery. The mountain people are strong and work hard.
A couple kilometers from our destination, our journey ran into a snag. An oncoming jeepney was broken down, blocking the road. I don't claim to know much about vehicles and I did not expect that one more person staring at it would be much help, so I left it to the professionals.
But since the road was blocked, we had to leave our vehicles behind and hike the rest of the way. (There are no pictures of Lisa and the girls because they got way ahead of me. Funny how you can move so much faster when not carrying several bags. - Yes, that was a pathetic little jab.)
But the day was beautiful for a hike.
So was the scenery.
Getting close now...
We made it!
Here are the cottages, by the way. We did not plan to stay the night. But in case you are making your vacation plans, I thought you might like to see the accomodations.
Alexie and Taya were nearly inseparable, as always.
Joshua and Walter having fun.
The ladies cooling off.
(You may notice that the pool seems really shallow. They drained it yesterday and are in the process of refilling it. A similar situation occurred when we visited a place nearby last year when we were here. But we had a lot of fun anyway.)
Some of the staff kids.
(I think those are some really cute girls, but I might be a bit biased.)

Okay, I know I am biased. But I am also extremely blessed!
Grace,
Tom


Friday, August 22, 2008

Fire Department

Today, Lisa and I had the opportunity to meet some of the men from the local fire department. No, there was no fire. I had just been looking for an opportunity to meet them. In preparation for a team building activity I would like to do, I was wondering if they had any damaged fire hose around. Well they didn't, but it gave me an excuse to go to the fire station.

We talked about their work and how I had helped with the fire brigade for a number of years while I still worked at the plant. I really enjoyed the training. It was sad to find out about their equipment, however. They have only turn-out coats and boots. They don't have air tanks or turn-out pants. Their engine doesn't run. But they, like most emergency service personnel, are a creative bunch. They have found ways to make the most of what they have. They are also very dedicated. Of the four men we met, the rookie had 8 years with the service.

When they found out that I am an EMT, they asked if I would be willing to visit and teach them some medical skills. I don't know how much I will be able to offer them. But I look forward to the opportunity to get to know these men more and help them to better help people in their time of need.
Before leaving, we were able to pray for them. I was honored to have had this opportunity today.

Grace,
Tom
p.s. I just threw the picture in for fun. See, I had longer hair once.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Survey Says...

We serve a creative God! This week we were able to share our purpose for being here with several different groups of students. They just showed up at our door and asked us why we were here. At the local high school, these students are studying tourism. One assignment they had was to interview foreigners to find out what brought them to Bontoc for vacation.

The first to show up was a girl from church and her friend. Later a young man from our church showed up with 3 friends who are taking the class. But what surprised us most was when another group of 3 students showed up. We had not met any of them. All of this was a reminder that we are always being watched since none of these people had ever been to our house before.


Unfortunately, we may not have been much help to them in regards to tourism. We did not come to Bontoc, or the Philippines in general, because of its natural wonders or other attractions. (Although, I did tell how much we enjoyed visiting Sagada Caverns last year.) However, we were given an open opportunity to tell them that we are here because God put it on our hearts to share the love of Jesus and the salvation He offers to the people of Bontoc. We were able to tell them of how God has led us on this journey. I even had the opportunity to pray for one of the students before she left - she wanted to be more passionate in her faith.


This certainly brings a new meaning to the idea of opportunity knocking on our door.


Grace,

Tom


p.s. It's a good thing they came early in the week. They would have gotten pretty wet. We are currently under another typhoon - Class 2, I believe. The schools are shut down (homeschools excluded to our girls' disappointment) and it has rained heavily for a few days in a row now.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

My Sermon

Sunday it was my turn to preach a sermon. No, I had not been asked to speak nor had I planned on speaking. But the Lord has been speaking to me about an important message that needed to be shared and as I sat in the church service I felt I could not remain silent any longer. At the conclusion of the service, I asked the pastor if I could share with the congregation.

Children are so precious to me. Over and over Jesus's words, "Let the little children come to Me" have filled my heart and thoughts. This is the reason I started the Sunday afternoon Kids Club. I spend the week inviting boys and girls to come and welcoming them to Kids Club, so it pained me greatly to see week after week others turn children away if they arrived during the morning service. It was clearly communicated time and again, "Go away. You are disturbing our worship." Unbelievably after so many times being sent away, they would return. I believe our worship and God's Word was drawing them to Himself. I can not even remember all I said but I can assure you I have never spoke before a group with such passion. God answered my prayer for the words to speak His message. He is good about that. I shared my heart about Mark 10:13-16.

People were bringing little children to Jesus to have Him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, He was indignant. (Here I paused to make sure they understood that Jesus was really angry. There are few times I remember that Scripture speaks of Jesus being angry so I feel this is significant.) He said to them, "Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." And He took the children in His arms, put His hands on them and blessed them.

Our heart towards children should be what Jesus modeled. He did not say, " I am too busy. Come back later." Children tend to be noisy and full of wiggles. Believe me I am well aware of this. Daily life with my own four children has proven that time and again. They require large doses of patience. Yet, so do we. God didn't wait for me to act right before He opened His arms to me. I still miss the mark many times. I am so thankful He still invites me to sit on His lap. I just delivered the message God had given me. It is His job to change hearts.

Lisa

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Not Against Flesh and Blood

In the United States we enjoy many blessings. One that we do not often think about however, is a general freedom from experiences with demonic activity. In fact, the concept is often put in the same category as Martians, the Lochness Monster, and Bigfoot. (Although Bigfoot has gotten some recent press lately, generally in the Offbeat section.) I think it may be fair to say that we, as a nation, are experiencing the blessing "to the 4th generation" of our Christian forefathers. Most people in the American church can point back generations to their own Christian heritage. Because of this influence, the spiritual strongholds of evil have been somewhat subdued. This is not to say that Satan has no power in America. But in comparison with regions of the world that do not have large numbers of believers, it is minimal.

In countries like the Philippines, it is a different story. True Christian faith, meaning to the exclusion of all other spiritual forces, is not pervasive. This is especially true as you work your way back through the generations. Here, a heritage of animism and spiritism are being diluted with Christianity and atheism. In America, our heritage of Christianity is being diluted with various cults and apathy.

Additionally as a nation, Americans tend to respond to the intellectual (with great variations in ability) rather than to the spiritual. This is why demons and smurfs are similar in most people's belief systems, a cute outfit to wear to a costume party. But here, people are much more aware of the spiritual world. Offerings are still made to spirits. The other day, I was walking down the sidewalk and a little old lady was squatting at the edge of the sidewalk making a small fire. Her companion was directing pedestrians to walk in the street, away from the lady. Of course, I cannot be certain that any spiritual activity was taking place. But there was no food being prepared.

Since arriving, most nights someone has gotten up with a nightmare. One of my older daughters had even seen someone standing at her sister's bed one night. I would have dismissed this as overactive imagination but a few nights later she refused to go into her room because she knew the man was going to be there again. As we shared with the staff, some of the Filipino staff immediately suggested the possibility of spiritual activity. They discussed that our home is built in what was once a rice field. It is quite possible that sacrifices and offerings were made to the spirits over the years for their "protection" and "blessing" over the fields. Currently, the rice fields that surround our home are being harvested.

Many nights we hear men scream and shout outside our home. Even tonight the familiar voices have cried out. Alexie wondered aloud whether it was better or worse that we cannot understand the language used.

Sickness has also been an issue. Nobody has been terribly ill, but for short periods felt quite miserable. One Sunday morning, I had to leave church with Adriana. Another Sunday, I stayed home because Annalise was sick. Thursday Annalise was sick so I stayed home from Chapel Talk to be with her. Last night Alayna was sick so we stayed home from the Fun Night fellowship with the staff and SSM students. Tonight Alexie is sick - we did not miss anything, but I will be hesitant to take her to church unless I am sure she is feeling better.

You may remember the night we returned from Baguio we had a flood. Because of the work involved in cleaning that up, I did not wake up at 4:30 a.m. to join the SSM students for their weekly prayer walk.
I know this post may seem a little too mystical for some who read it. We have actually been considering and praying how (and if) to post it. It is not our desire to over-spiritualize everything. But we cannot ignore the spiritual battle that rages around all of us whether we pay attention to it or not. (Read Job or Ephesians, the Gospels or the book of Acts and you can see that it is real.) I submit this post to you now, however, if for no other reason than to ask you to continue to remember us in prayer.

The YWAM staff came over yesterday to pray for our family and home. We asked God to bless our home and that His presence would fill it. We asked His protection. We also spoke against the enemy in the name of Jesus. We reminded him that he has no authority in this place.

In the power of HIS might,
Tom

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Love Letter from God


Many of those who read this blog have committed to partner with us financially. Tonight we were honored to tangibly share that blessing with the students of the Student Sponsorship Ministry.

At a recent Bible study Lisa was leading we realized that many of the students did not have their own Bibles. There are some Bibles at the base, but many are in very poor condition. We felt the Lord put it on our hearts to purchase Ilocano/English parallel Bibles for each of the students. It is vital that believers have the Word available to them. With the many different teachings they may be exposed to here, we felt it was even more important that the people here be able to study the Bible. On our recent trip to Baguio we were able to purchase enough for each student to have his or her own. It is the first time some of them have had their own Bible.

So tonight, our Bible study was about how to study the Bible. Considering that many of them never had their own Bible, we felt that it was an appropriate lesson for the evening.

Please pray for the students. Pray that God will speak to their hearts through His love letter to us, His Word. Pray that study and meditation will become regular habits in their lives.

And thank you. Thank you to all who regularly pray for us. Thank you for those who support us financially. Your support makes it possible for us to be here serving where the Lord has called us. These Bibles and supplies for Kids Club are just two examples of how we are enabled to minister to the people here through your generosity. May God richly bless you for your faithfulness to this ministry.

Grace,
Tom

Monday, August 11, 2008

Different Audiences, Same Goals

The ministries in which Lisa and I are involving ourselves certainly have their differences. Lisa's heart is for the children she sees. She has been working hard to implement a Kids Club for the children in the neighborhood of the church we attend. While our whole family is involved along with several who attend the church, Lisa is definitely the energy behind it. She really loves these kids. But the children do not have a background of church attendance. Other than our girls, none of the children's parents attend church that I am aware of. Throughout the teaching, children are coming and going from the building. Punching, kicking, and back-flips are common. Lisa and the rest of us are doing our best to keep order as she teaches.

The cool thing is that we are making friends with them. They seem really excited when they see us on the street. It is also rewarding to see some of the children really listening and learning the Bible stories she has been sharing. We trust in the promise that God's Word does not return void. I know that I asked Jesus to be my Lord as a young child. I am sure the patient teacher who was leading the Vacation Bible School class had no idea that I was catching the teaching, much less praying along with her as I walked circles around a tree.

Your prayers for the Kids Club are greatly appreciated. We so desire to see these kids know that they are loved - by God above and His church here below. Perhaps when they give their lives to the Lord, they can bring His love into their homes.

My experience in teaching has been a little different. This morning for the Moral Recovery Program with the Philippine National Police, I had the opportunity to share with ~80 soldiers, officers, and interns standing at attention. (Okay, maybe not attention. The proper term is probably parade rest.) Once again, I had gone with the intention of observing another member of the MRP team present the teaching. At least this time I was somewhat prepared, however. When the time slot for the MRP exhortation came, I was the only MRP representative on-site. So I was called upon. Afterward, the other MRP member and I went and had coffee together. (He had arrived just late enough for me to have started already. I would be suspicious about this, but he did not know I was coming.) My desire is that by participating in the MRP I can get to know the officers. As relationships develop, I long to be an encouragement as we walk through life together and to also share the hope that Jesus offers.

We know that many who visit this blog are faithful to lift us up in prayer. We are grateful for this. The ministries and activities in which we are involved are greater than who we are. Without the Lord's direction and power we would be lost. But your prayers to our good and faithful Father on our behalf support us. Please pray that we would be obedient to His direction and that the hearts of the people here will be open to the truth of His Gospel.

Grace,
Tom

Friday, August 8, 2008

Happy Birthday, Annalise!

Happy Birthday, Annalise!

Today we celebrated Annalise's 6th birthday. It began with an video phone call with Grandma and Grandpa and the gang courtesy of Skype.

Enjoy a walk through her special day.

A new book to enjoy.


An after lunch treat of "Fairy Fluff".


Helping make the cake for tonight's Fun Night birthday celebration.


Fairy friends made with Mommy, sisters, and lots of love.

Enjoying her new fairy wings and wand.

The cake made by Auntie Flor for Annalise.

Auntie Flor and Annalise.


Mommy and Annalise making the cakes that Grammie sent.

The finished cakes ready to be taken to the Fun Night birthday celebration.

The birthday girls, Glenice and Annalise, at SSM Fun Night.


Happy Birthday, Annalise Joy! We are blessed by the joy you bring into our lives. Everywhere you go, you bring smiles to everyone who interacts with you. We love you!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Wet

Okay, so here we are in a tropical country during the rainy season. We knew there would be rain. We knew there would be lots of rain. For the past week, it has rained almost constantly. Much of the time this rain has consisted of major downpours. Because of the rain we were a little concerned that the road between Bontoc and Baguio might get closed off due to mudslides. Fortunately, there were no problems with our travel.

Baguio was cool and wet. But as long as we were inside it was no problem. We got a little soggy whenever we stepped outside, but we expected that.

When we came home to Bontoc yesterday it was cool and wet. But being inside offered no guarantee that one would stay dry. After the long trip home, soon after going to bed, we found that our apartment was flooded. The supply hose to the kitchen sink ruptured. By the time it was identified, every room was under water. So Lisa and I stayed up until about midnight pushing water toward the bathroom drains.

As I was attempting to drain the lakes throughout the apartment, I was reminded that in everything we are to give thanks. Here is the list I came up with:
  • We have no carpeting, only tile floors
  • It was a supply line rupture, not a septic line back-up.
  • The rupture occurred after we were home instead of while we were gone.
  • The kids were already in bed so we weren't trying to clean around them as they tried to improvise a slip-and-slide.
  • Our luggage proved water-proof, enough.
  • Nothing was damaged.

It is ironic that often we don't have water. The municipal water supply is rather unreliable. But hey, we had water then (and with very good pressure).

Oh well, the floors are all clean now. Even the dust bunnies under the beds are gone.

Good night,

Tom

Calvinball, the Next Play

One thing about this version of Calvinball (see previous post), is that money is helpful. Every play is somewhat costly. To use the format of a recent credit card promotion:
  • Travel to Baguio and back, 1696 pesos
  • Shipping of 7 pieces of paper, 1558pesos
  • The opportunity to share Christ in Mountain Province, priceless
But at least we enjoyed the concession stands. While in Baguio to Fed Ex our birth certificates back home, we were able to visit McDonald's (to the delight of the girls) and a Mexican restaurant (to the delight of Tom and Lisa).

Of course the VISA game is far from over. Thousands of pesos and numerous hours have been spent to play and many more will yet be spent before our long-term visas are obtained.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Visually Insignificant Stationary Astroplane

Tomorrow morning we plan to leave for Baguio for a couple of days. The main reason for the trip is to take our birth certificates and marriage license to the Federal Express office so we can securely mail them home. This was a major snag in obtaining our long-term visas.

If you are familiar with my favorite cartoon character, Calvin, you have heard of Calvinball. Calvinball is a game of speed, strength, pain tolerance, and wits. In Calvinball, one must do more than just move the ball down the field while avoiding the very athletic tiger, Hobbes. Most sports involve something of that sort. In Calvinball one must also be thinking; Calvinball is also about keeping up with the rules. Because unlike most games, the rules in Calvin ball are ever-changing. Whoever is the most creative in their time of need may come out the winner despite the present circumstance and the outcome expected by the rules of the game. An appropriately timed twist of the rules and the soon-to-be-defeated can suddenly dominate the field.

Enter the international version of Calvinball - VISA. For those of you who have never stepped onto the field of play, VISA is an acronym for Visually Insignificant Stationary Astroplane. This of course means nothing, but that is the way the game is played. Having known a number of people who regularly play this game in countries around the globe, it seems the game is played in a similar manner wherever you go. You strategize and plan. You read the rules. You call all the right people and get all the right information. Then the whistle blows and the game begins.

This is where the pain begins. My hero Calvin cannot outrun Hobbes the tiger. Without Calvin's incredible imagination - granted by the cartoon genius, Bill Watterson, who brought Calvin into being - Calvin would become tiger bait everytime. But Calvin is often able to stay a step ahead of Hobbes because he can change the rules to grant himself a nick-of-time advantage. We are not Calvin. One unchanging rule in the game of Visually Insignificant Stationary Astroplane is that Hobbes is the only one who can change the rules. This rule must be encoded in some international regulatory document more revered than the Geneva Convention, because it seems every nation follows it. (If only the 10 Commandments could make it to that document.) Of course, many of those I know who engage in Calvinball of this sort do have a creative genius working outside of the squares of the comic strip - a much better ally than even Bill Watterson. Yet until the point is scored, we Calvins, must continue to try to outsmart our Hobbes and the ever-changing rules.

So here is where the game stands. The aforementioned documents need to be certified by the Philippine Consulate in Chicago. Prior to leaving home we had contacted the Consulate in Chicago to ask if there was anything we could do to start the visa process. At that time we were told that for the visa we were applying, we needed to do everything in Manila. There was nothing their office could do to help us. Once we got to Manila however, the documents were not official enough. Nothing could be done in Manila to resolve this situation. Our last stop in Manila was the US Embassy. It seems our documents must be made officially official in...Chicago. Once it became clear that no one in Manila could help us, we hopped a bus to continue the trip toward Bontoc. (We'll call it a time-out.)

Once we got settled, we looked into the rules a bit more. Time-out is over and now we need to make the 6 hour trip to Baguio to mail our documents home so that someone can take them to the Philippines Consulate in CHICAGO. Then they will be mailed back to us so we can make the 12 hour trip back to the Calvinball field in Manila.

We intend to use this Calvinball excursion to also purchase a few things that we cannot get in Bontoc.

Of course all of this is subject to change given the steady rains we have had for the past few days. (It is an extension of Calvinball after all) Sometimes the rain causes mudslides that close the road for a couple days.
Tom

Friday, August 1, 2008

Name That Fruit

Okay, we have done enough talking. Now we open it up to you.
Be the first to name this fruit and win a fantastic prize.


Note to our Filipino friends: Please let those who have not been on the islands have some time to guess before revealing the answer.