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!!


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


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.


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!)

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.


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.


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...


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!"