Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Batch 2009

Today we attended the graduation commencement exercises at Mountain Province General Comprehensive High School. Lorna, a friend from the YWAM Student Sponsorship Ministry, had asked us to come. We were glad to be able to share in this event for her and other friends with whom we have spent time at church and in our home.

It was a long ceremony, about 4 hours. But it had some interesting elements that I have not seen before. As the students filed into the outdoor auditorium, they walked with a parent or grandparent to the seating area.
Lorna and her father walk to in the procession to the seating area.

Prior to the diplomas, numerous awards were presented to various students for athletic, academic, artistic, and community achievements. As each award was called out, students were escorted to the stage by a family member. The school faculty member would present the award to the family member who would, in turn, present it to the student. I found this a meaningful way to identify the contributions of family members to the success of their children. I was especially touched when the students were accompanied by a lolo or lola (grandfather or grandmother). (Some of the lolos even wore the traditional g-string of the Igorot tradition.)

Instead of caps and gowns, the ladies wore white blouses with the traditional woven tapis. Lisa and Alexie enjoyed looking at the various hairstyles the girls wore. The young men wore black pants and white shirts. Some of them wore western style shirts, others a Barong Tagalog. (This is the formal shirt worn by men in the Philippines.)

Rhealyn receiving her diploma.

Of course, many things seem to be universal about high school graduation, such as...

Ruth with her family

Rhealyn and her family

Lorna with her family

Rhealyn and Charmaine

Adriana celebrating Rhealyn's success with her brothers

We joined Lorna's family for lunch afterward.

and more Family and Friends
We pray that God will bless the graduates of "Batch 2009" as they pursue the paths God has for them.


Beyond Words

The school year has just finished here in Bontoc and with it my time with my grade 6 Values Education class. Besides the many lessons I presented throughout the school year, they now have their very own Bible. I am so excited that they will be able to continue to learn as they read this love letter from God. Please pray for my 25 students that God will continue to reveal His great love for them. My desire is that it will not just be words and teachings, but that each student will discover life and hope through following Jesus.


Sunday, March 29, 2009

More Birthday Fun

Alexie's favorite gift was talking on Skype and hearing her grandparents and cousin, Jordan have plane tickets to come visit us in June!
This year was a quieter celebration spent with a few new friends. Together we enjoyed a movie, popcorn and pizza and...
birthday cake that Alexie made all by herself
Our favorite 12-year-old!

Friday, March 27, 2009

How old is she?

Today is a very special day for our family. Today we celebrate the birth of Alexie Christine. She is such a lovely young lady. She draws people's attention not just because she is a tall blonde living here in the Philippines but also for her heart. The love she has shines whether she is cuddling a young child, playing with friends, or caring for patients at our weekly health clinic. On the other hand, the attention she is getting from the young men makes us want to keep her under lock and key. Maybe she needs a tee saying "I'm just 12!"

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Talking Over the Fence

After the internet technician left the house yesterday, there was still a fair amount of work I needed to do to reestablish our network. I am no computer guru and such things have me working at the edge of my knowledge level. So when the girls decided to play outside, I welcomed the opportunity to have it quiet.

After a while, Alayna came up and said that she and Alexie were talking to some young men over the back fence who had questions about salvation. She wanted me to come down and help answer their questions. My initial thought was doubt about the stated intention of the conversation. Alexie looks much older than 11 and her blonde hair and fair skin gather plenty of attention here. So I went downstairs with fatherly protection of my naive princess in mind. I did not really expect there would be much of a spiritual conversation with the young men when "the dad" showed up.

I was wrong! After a few minutes, I invited them in to sit and talk. For the next hour or so, we talked about sin and redemption. He really did have many questions and was eager to understand more about who God is and His great love for us. He had heard many of the names from the Bible stories and many of the words we often use to describe what God has done: saved, salvation, sin, redemption, gospel, etc. But he did not know what the stories or the words mean. Another missionary in town had talked with him and brought many questions to mind. It seems their discussion was an awakening for him. But it created many questions.

He seemed very hungry to learn more, so we gave him a Bible. He had never had nor read one before. We talked about where he could start reading so he could better understand who Jesus is. (It was an Ilocano/English parallel version. His friend who does not speak English and sat quietly nearby the whole time began reading the Bible right away as our discussion continued.) Before he left we prayed that God would reveal Himself to my new friend.

It was one of the most incredible conversations I have ever had! He had so many questions - sincere and honest questions. He was so interested in what salvation meant. He was so eager to read the Bible. I look forward to talking with him again soon. Please pray for David as the Holy Spirit works in his heart. Pray that he will pass along to the other young man, Rodel, the things we discussed.


Monday, March 23, 2009

Hunting Trip

The times of running water have been less and we were without internet for the past 5 days. No, we have not been visiting a remote village, just a few reminders we are not in Michigan (or even Kansas) anymore but living in a third world country best described as "random." By the way the ATM is still not working for us here in Bontoc.

Thomas returned from Baguio late Wednesday night. He quite easily attained some cash from the ATM within moments of getting off the bus. Along with the cash, he successfully hunted down and bagged:
allergy medicine
2 pillows
4 movies
dried mangoes (some for a snack on the bus back to Bontoc and the rest to add to our homemade granola)
2 water heaters (so we can indulge in hot bucket showers when we have no running water)
4 notebooks (that was all the stock they had)
2 bottles of hand soap

I am not as efficient as he and usually visit many of the stores of the mall and along Session Road looking around. But Thomas is a hunter, not a shopper, which is why he could quickly capture many items on his "list" and still have time to enjoy some pizza in the mere 3 hours he was off the bus. Part of that time he spent in a taxi getting to the mall and back to the bus station. Pretty impressive, especially if one is familiar with shopping in the Philippines. There is no Super Wal-mart here. He had to visit a minimum of 6 different stores on different levels to get those items along with the pizza place.

All of us are happy to have him back and thankful for his enduring the 14 hours of the bumpy bus ride. Now we have cash to buy some rice.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Bus Trip for Cash

Thomas left on the 5 a.m. bus to Baguio. Still not able to access any cash here in Bontoc, so to the big city to visit the ATM there. Hopefully, he will be successful in getting cash without difficulty there. He should arrive about lunch and have about 3 hours before catching the last bus back to Bontoc. This is the first time he has attempted the round trip in one day. It is also the first time he has made the trip without the rest of us. I sent along a list of a few things to pick up at the mall while he is there but shopping is not ever on his top ten list of things to do. Imagine sending your husband with a list for a store over 6 hours away in a foreign country and there's not a tool or electronic gadget on the list....

Saturday, March 14, 2009

A Busy Morning!

At our weekly health clinic, we typically have about 15 patients. Most of them visit regularly. This works well for us because our desire is to build relationships with these people. It also allows us time to talk with them and help them with their blood pressure and glucose levels.

This week was a little different. When we arrived, there was already a group of people waiting. We got to work right away, taking blood pressures, checking sugar levels, and repeating the need for a healthy lifestyle. But people kept coming and coming. We found out that our partners at the Municipal Health Office had put an article in a local paper about the clinic. In the end, instead of being there for an hour, as scheduled, we were there for a busy 3 hours and served 45 patients.

It was busy. It was hectic, at times. Plastic chairs are not meant for 3 solid hours of sitting. But amidst all of these complaints, we were able to touch a lot of people. Perhaps even make some new friends as I expect many of them will return for followup in the weeks to come.

One of the things I enjoyed about yesterday was the variety of patients we saw. Normally, our patients are in their 20s - 50s. Yesterday, we had teens to hunched over little ladies with their arms tatooed from their wrist to their shoulder that were in their 80's, even 90's. Interestingly, the little old ladies rarely had a problem with their blood pressure or glucose. I suppose all those years of hard work has conditioned their bodies well - except for their teeth and their backs. Lisa did note that it took some extra work to get their finger clean prior to checking their glucose. On the other hand, one of the teens I spoke with had high blood pressure.

This clinic is different than most would be in the US. Our set-up does not allow for much patient confidentiality. The waiting patients are within a few feet of the patients we are meeting with. This allows for a certain amount of positive peer pressure for people to improve their lifestyle. For instance the teen I just mentioned. She confessed that she smoked, "sometimes". This brought some disapproving, but not condemning, comments from the elders in the "audience". It is easy to tell when there are friends in the group. When high blood pressure is identified and I talk with the patient about lifestyle modifications, their friends in the chairs will begin teasing them. It's all lighthearted and fun. Perhaps as friends, they will encourage each other to make healthy choices.


p.s. Our camera batteries were dead at the clinic, so the picture is from the Am-Among Festival in September.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Anticipation of the Cardboard Box

After spending the last few weeks diligently searching through a catalog and researching on the internet, I have finally placed the order for supplies for next year's school year. Those of you who know me or ever stood behind me while I checked out several armloads of books, realize how hard it is for us to be without a library. There is a library here, but most seem to be leftovers from someone's garage sale back in the US and when I asked about children's books, I was told there were 5. Part of a set of encyclopedias. We do not even have water 24 hours a day, so it is not surprising the library is lacking. Anyway, sometime in the next several weeks, we will go to the post office and find what looks like an ordinary cardboard box addressed to us. But really it will be a treasure chest containing:

5 art supplies
3 craft kits
5 games
2 CD-ROMS, one to go along with biology and one for history
one microscope and 2 biology lab sets
and 126 books!

Treasures to help us during the long rainy season and materials to educate four daughters in Grades 2, 5, 7 and 9! History, science, art, music, math, grammar, literature....oh, my!
Can't wait...

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

My Sister Made Me Do It

I asked Annalise earlier this week, "Why do you think you are having such a hard time obeying?"

"Because of my sisters' example," she promptly replied.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Opened Doors

Bontoc Fire Department in their new, formal uniforms.

Today, I was invited to attend the flag ceremony at the Municipal Plaza. I often attend this ceremony prior to meeting with the Philippine National Police for the Moral Recovery Program. But today was for a different purpose: I was being presented a certificate of recognition for the fire gear that was donated by my coworkers back in Michigan.

I was a little uncomfortable with accepting the plaque because all I had done was share the need with some friends at home. They had done the work and shouldered the expense of gathering and sending the gear. (What a blessing when people generously respond to God's promptings!) I was glad when the presenter credited the donation to my friends at the nuclear plant.

Best of all, was afterward. The available officers of the fire department joined me for a snack at the diner across the road. We had a good conversation about some of the differences between fire fighting in our community in Michigan and here in Bontoc. (They are the only fire service for all of the Bontoc barangays - some are an hour away.) We talked a little about how communities are divided: provinces, municipalities, barangays, etc. We also talked about Jesus. I was able to share that the resurrection of Jesus changes everything. That the forgiveness of sins comes through faith in Him, not by the good things we do. One officer seemed a little surprised when I said that Ghandi was a good man - but his righteousness could not save him.

Once again, I want to say thank you to those who have partnered with us in this ministry. Because of support from people at home (through prayers, finances, and special gifts like the fire gear and diabetes testing supplies) we are given the opportunity to make connections with people here in the mountains of the Philippines. We rejoice over the relationships that are growing and the opportunities to bear witness of the Good News of freedom, hope, and salvation.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Rejected Again

This is not the ATM in Bontoc, but there is a similar feeling recently.

This is the ATM in Bontoc

Today after once again having our ATM card rejected, we noticed a new sign posted:
This is the newly posted note by our ATM.

We will see whether international transactions are once again accepted before our cash runs out. We haven't made a trip to Baguio yet. The card may work there. If it does, that would resolve the issue. If it doesn't, I will have made the 6 hour trip and spent more of our available cash for nothing. Right now, we are waiting and praying.

This situation creates quite an irony. Lisa has been busily planning for our next school year. Because there is no usable library in Bontoc, the number of resources we plan to order is larger than it has been. So we are able to spend a rather large amount on school supplies from another country using the same card that won't buy us a carrot here in town.

The good news is that this is all God's problem. He called us here. He knows our needs and has promised to take care of us. We are called to be obedient stewards. So we need to do what He says, but He promises to carry the burden.

Please pray with us that the issue will be resolved soon. (That's part of doing what He says, pray.)