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.


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 we had some language study while eating our corn flakes.


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!


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.

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...

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.


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.


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.


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."

Monday, October 20, 2008


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.

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...


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!

Friday, October 17, 2008


Today I received a text message stating that my friend, Robuan, went to be with Jesus yesterday. Robuan holds a special place in my heart because the Lord allowed me to be part of Robuan's salvation and baptism during our time here last year.

He lived with his family in the village of Kakabay, near Naic. I am so glad I was able to visit with him once again when we were in the Manila area taking care of visas.
This was posted outside of his house. He and his family moved into a much smaller place when he donated his house to be the school for the children of Kakabay last year.
Robuan's baptism 09-2007
Visiting in 09-2008
Robuan only spoke Tagalog and I only speak English, so our friend, Jerry, would always interpret for us. I always joked with Robuan that one day, we would be able to share stories without an interpreter. I guess he wanted to get to that place first.
While I am confident that Robuan is in a better place and once again able to use his whole body, please pray for his wife, Teresita, and their family as they deal with the loss of a husband and father.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

I am thankful for...

Probably not what you were expecting! Seriously, last week Thomas was able to fix our toilet so it now flushes. Earlier this week when I was able to push a button rather than dump in a bucket of water to flush, I was very thankful. Maybe you don't believe it, but I really did pause and say a prayer. A Western-style flushing toilet is something I used to take for granted, a convenience that I didn't think much about (with the exception of the many years I have spent potty-training my four precious daughters where it is important that you know the location of every available toilet.) While traveling in the Philippines, the common variety is a squattie-pottie. Back home we didn't pack our own toilet paper when we were going to be out and about. I never paid to use the bathroom and there was soap and running water at the sinks. Sometimes the sinks even had sensors so I didn't even have to turn the water on. Not so much here.

Running water...I am excited when I turn on the faucet and water appears. Another thing I never thought about, it was just something I expected to be there every time I wanted it.
A nice hot shower...soon after we moved we were able to install heaters on our shower heads. But even with those, running water, and electricity, you are not assured of a hot or even warm shower. Most nights I spend several minutes trying to adjust the water flow so that it is able to heat. Sometimes nothing I do seems to be quite right so whenever I feel hot water showering down I say a little prayer of thanksgiving.
Electricity...sure there were a few times back home when we would lose power but usually only if we had experienced a severe storm and even then the power was most times quickly restored. Today we had another scheduled brown-out from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. This time we were told on Monday to expect it. There have been other times we were totally unaware. After a few such experiences, we learned that if you hear a Filipino language coming from a loud speaker, it is best to ask for a interpretation. We also have a supply of candles at the ready. The good news is our stove top is fueled with gas so we are still able to prepare meals whenever a brown-out occurs.

Before I was thankful for many blessings and took the time to say "Thank you" to my Heavenly Father for them. Now my words of thanks come more often for a much longer list.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Box of Encouragement

Today Annalise walked with Thomas and I to the post office. Usually we find mail for other staff members to deliver, but not today. Imagine our surprise when there was a package with our name on it. The whole family was so excited to open the box, some jumping up and down in anticipation.

A big thank you to Norm, Criselda, Nick and Tanya! It is such an encouragement to know that there are people thinking of us.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Chicken and Dumplings

...because sometimes it's nice to have something other than rice.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Trike Proverbs

Here in Bontoc motorcycle trikes are the main form of public transportation. As you can see, they line the main street and it is easy to catch a ride to anywhere in town. We don't often use them preferring to take advantage of the nice weather and exercise.

Just because they are small, do not underestimate their usefulness. We have fit our entire family in one. We have seen large hogs loaded on them. I have seen boxes strapped from just above the ground in the back and going all the way over the top, ending just above the windshield.

You don't see trikes much in Baguio because of the steep grade of so many of the roads there. Around Manila, many of the trikes are bicycles instead of motorcycles. But here in Bontoc, the 125cc motorcycle reigns.

Most show the wear and tear they have seen over the years, but some are kept in very good condition. One thing that we have noticed however, is that regardless of the condition, most of the trikes share a bit of wisdom. Usually it is a bumper sticker on the back, but it may be painted on the frame or letters sewn onto the vinyl roof. Here is a sampling of some of the wisdom offered by the Trike Operators Association.