Sunday, June 28, 2009

Happy Birthday, Lisa!

Lisa turned another year young today!

No, this picture is not really current. It is from 2005. I was just looking through the pictures that made it here in the madness of our preparations to leave for Bontoc. It looks like 2005 is the earliest birthday picture I could find. 4 out of the 5 girls pictured look older today than they do in the picture above. I am blessed to have such a beautiful wife!

It was a modest birthday celebration. Besides her favorite, angel food cake, we had mango ice cream as part of our family celebration. Last year she celebrated with a large bowl of mangoes, but this year they are not available because of the early rains. (Lest I overlook a kindness, our friends served ice cream after church in honor of her birthday as well.) Lisa's mom and dad also gave a call via Skype to wish her a happy birthday. Probably Lisa's favorite momento of the day is Annalise's handwritten card wishing her a "Happy Birfday!" - complete with a self-portrait of her in the pigtails she wore today.

I am truly blessed to share this journey with my best friend. (When you read this, Lisa, remember how much I love you!)

Grace,
Tom


Friday, June 26, 2009

Lolo & Lola are Home

In our last post, we talked about the the numerous things that happened when my parents and niece arrived. But that as only the first part of their visit. The next day we traveled to Baguio so they could see a little of the Summer Capital of the Philippines. Since it was rainy and cool, most of their touring was on the bus and in taxis. We had hoped to show them a park or two, maybe next time...

We chose to stay inside instead, mostly. In a recent post (Adventures in Baguio), I talked about how you could seal your kids into gerbil balls and let them work out their excess energy spinning around on a shallow pool of water. Well, the girls sweet-talked Grandpa and Grandma into paying for the privilege. So while it poured on anybody who even got near the edge of a tent, the girls spun, slipped, and giggled their way through the allotted time.
But it really poured.

We also took them to the market in Baguio. It gave them a chance to look at various handicrafts, trinkets, and souvenirs. They did a little bartering and bought a few things to take back home.

After spending a couple days in Baguio, we made our way to Manila. The first leg of our journey was great. We have become accustomed to the roads and buses between Bontoc and Baguio. Just taking the Victory Liner bus from Baguio to Manila was like going on vacation. The seats were comfortable. Best of all, there was actually leg room. I am not talking about being able to stretch out as if it was first class on a 747. It was not that nice. But I was able to sit without having my knees jammed into the seat in front of me. As an added bonus, about an hour out of Baguio, you leave the mountains and the roads become straight and flat so that you are not being tossed side to side on the mountain roads. Most of our trips to Manila we have taken the overnight bus directly from Bontoc. But it is not as nice of a bus and after our last trip where 12 hours became 22, I am a bit reluctant to jump on that bus again.

Our plan was to drop off our extra luggage at the YWAM Balut base then drive to Valley Cathedral Children's Home in Naic. Did you know there are two Yangco Streets in the Tondo, Manila area? Did you know that they do not connect and are actually separated by a river?If not, don't feel bad. Neither did either of our taxi drivers...or most of the numerous people who attempted to help them. It is always an adventure to get to the base and because of that, we have never taken the exact same path. As a result, I am not much help other than telling the region of town, Tondo, and the address. We finally made it after more than an hour of driving around. When we arrived, our friend, Greg, from Valley was waiting for us. So we went from bus to taxi to SUV with little time between each ride.

But it is always worth it! We all loved being with the kids.




Adriana making kites with the boys. Plastic shopping bags may clog landfills, but this week they enjoyed another life as a kite before their ultimate demise.


Whenever we make the journey to Valley Cathedral, I always look for the opportunity to make a trip to the village of Kakabay. Greg took Lisa, Dad, and me to the village Saturday afternoon. I went with the expectation of seeing some friends and delivering the books we had brought as a gift. We walked into a church service where we were the featured speakers. Each of us shared a little with the group and enjoyed the special music of the children.


Afterwards, Lisa helped distribute food that Valley Cathedral had sent for the people of Kakabay.

While Dad and I toured the village, Lisa read several of the books to the children who had gathered.

It is exciting to see the changes that have taken place in Kakabay since we first visited in 2007. The school is now enclosed and has about 4 times as much room. The school also is home to a church that was planted by Valley Cathedral.

Sadly, the well that was installed by YWAM years ago is now contaminated and can no longer be used for drinking water. Nobody knows for sure, but it is easy to suspect the nearby garbage dump as the source of the problem.
Later that afternoon, Mom told some of the stories she has memorized. These stories are so familiar to me because Mom told them so often when I was a child. They were especially helpful in making long car rides shorter before we owned a car with a radio and long before mp-3 players. It was a joy to me to hear her share them with these kids. She also read some of the books she brought to share with the ministry.


After all of our fun, Sunday we returned to Manila so Dad, Mom, and Jordan could catch their flight early Monday morning.
Early Monday morning, we dropped them off at the airport. Jose, a fellow YWAMer, then drove us to the bus terminal for that luxury ride back to Baguio. We spent the night there and because the weather was nicer we visited Burnham Park before getting on the bus to Bontoc. (That bus ride is much different than Victory Liner.) We made it home without any problems. But the bus driver did give us a little scare. A couple times he stalled the bus and we weren't sure it was going to start again. Fortunately, each time he was able to coax the engine back to life so we continued on.

Now we are working on conquering the mountain of laundry and getting back into the normal flow of things.

Grace,
Tom

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Lola & Lolo are Here!

There has been so much that has happened in the past week. Hopefully the collection of pictures below will give you an idea of what we have been doing.Mom, Dad, and my niece, Jordan, arrived Tuesday evening to lots of excited hugs. We were all glad to finally be in Bontoc! The bus ride was long, bumpy, and tiring. (Dad was missing his easy chair.)

The kids have enjoyed playing the new game Grandma brought with her, Bananagrams.
Annalise read Grandpa a book or two.
We visited the Bontoc Museum and explored the interactive, outdoor exhibits.

Mom learned a little bit about pounding rice.I think they now appreciate grocery stores much more. Jordan had no interest in looking through the meat market - not even for a picture!
Everybody loved the beauty of the mountains and the Maligcong Rice Terraces - 8th Wonder of the World.



Because Independence Day was Friday, we held our YWAM Health Clinic on Thursday. Mom and Dad enjoyed talking with the people who visited.
Of course, we had to see the parade!
This is a picture of Mom and Irish. Irish is one of the students in our Student Sponsorship Ministry. Because she lives by the University of Notre Dame, Mom was able to get a number of buttons with "Irish" themes: Kiss Me I'm Irish, Luck of the Irish, and such. She brought them along so she could give them to Irish when they met.
Also at Fun Night, the staff and students performed some of the traditional gong music and dancing. Jordan was a little embarrassed at being so close to handsome young men wearing g-strings.
Saturday was a beautiful day for enjoying the Mainit Hot Springs.
Dad and Jordan both gave their testimonies at church on Sunday. I loved hearing my Dad share some of the stories of his life's journey. There were a couple he shared that I had never heard before.
We had just left this souvenir shop when these two ladies were walking by. They excitedly ushered Jordan back into the store. There they grabbed one item after another until she was all dressed up Igorot-style. It was really cute. They spoke no English and our limited Ilocano only helped us to find that their names were Margarita and Concepcion. Margarita kept trying to get Jordan to dance, but she was a little overwhelmed already. I was curious how Jordan would have reacted if they had tried to put a snake vertebrae headband on her.
Monday morning, Dad and I attended the Municipal Government Flag Ceremony. Afterward, Dad took my place as speaker for the Moral Recovery Program. Having been a government employee for his career he was able to share insights from his career. It was very well received.
Mom also brought the game, Water Works, from home. It is a game I remember from my childhood. We have enjoyed playing it and just being together.

Today, Alayna and Annalise celebrated their birthdays a little early. Their grandparents and cousin brought their birthday gifts. Rather than waiting until August, the girls were delighted to discover the gifts beneath the wrapping paper.

We are blessed that our family has been able to travel to our side of the world and get a small taste of our ministry and our lives as we spend some precious time together.

Grace,
Thomas

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Welcome Wagon on the Way

After much anticipation and not-so patient waiting, our very first visitors are finally coming! Thomas and Alexie leave this afternoon for the 12 hour bus ride to Manila to greet his parents and our niece, Jordan. Please pray for their journey and the return trip to Bontoc. It has been raining for the last three days so conditions are optimal for landslides. The plan is that they will ALL be in Bontoc Tuesday night. We did not think they would be up to the 12 hour direct bus after traveling the MANY hours over the ocean so they will spend the night in Manila, then go to Baguio spend the night, then take the bus to the remaining members of the welcome wagon.

UPDATE the welcome wagon has had many difficulties in their journey and your prayers are really appreciated...

This is a look at my communication with them via cell phone texts after bus left Bontoc at 3:10 PM:
3:46 PM We hit a road grader. Nothing serious. We stopped so they could inspect. On our way again.
5:10:01 PM We r stopped as men work to clear rocks. More keep falling. DANGEROUS!
5:10:29 PM Made it!
5:11 PM All is well. Movies r B grade tagalog. (The movies commonly shown are very violent R rated movies and I was concerned with my dear 12 yo sitting in the front seat.)
6:56 PM We r ok. Movies still in tag. and seem goofy.
9:19 PM We left the gas station. Drove 100 meters and the drivers got out with tools. Waiting 2 c what happens.
9:26 PM We are moving again it seems!
3:58 AM Remember how I said they were working on d bus? We have been at d half-way point since 9pm. On another bus, waiting. We will transfer once more.
4:00 AM We used a vacant lot for cr. (Not that the bathrooms they usually stop at are nice but ...)
4:03 AM Ok. We are both tired but dont feel like sleep.
4:13 AM Here they refunded part and left it to us to make it the rest of the way. They had hired a van which would have cost 100p plus d refund, each. (This is the reply after I said in the States they would give you a coupon for your next trip at least.)
4:26 AM While waiting 4 d van another bus line said they could take us for less than d refund. We loaded, drove 15 min and r waiting again. ??? The adventure continues. I think Alexie is asleep.
7:44 AM We r ok. We have just boarded d next bus. We will c where that takes us. In San Jose City now.
7:58 PM Bus broke down at 9 p.m. Boarded next at 4 a.m. to San Jose. Now on bus to Cubao.
Cubao is part of Man. (Manila) Dont kno time left.
8:14 AM Estimating by hours traveled, about 2 to go. But that is just a guess since our route is probably different.
8:18 AM Conductor just said 5 hours. WooHoo! (that's my exhausted love's sarcasm after being on the bus for 16 plus hours to travel what should take about 12 hours and finding he is just over half way!)

ANOTHER UPDATE...
1:04 PM Just arrived at SM north. (Mall in Manila) Going to eat!
1:15 PM Huge slices of Chicago style pizza and Sarsi (Philippine version of root beer, both the Sarsi and the pizza are treats as we can get neither in our small town of Bontoc but does not make up for the 22 hour adventure instead of the anticipated 12 but seeing family will!)
12:30 AM We r loaded in the van and heading to the base. ( All of the family has arrived safely and going to the YWAM base for the night.)
12:37 AM All went well (They got through Immigration including the special clearance since Jordan is a minor and not traveling with a parent and left with all their baggage.)

Now they just need to travel in the Philippines for the reunion with the rest of the family. Thomas and Alexie decided they were going to walk back,
"It's quicker and easier on d bum." I hope the rest of the Americanos brought their walking shoes and packed light! Just kiddding, we want them to experience real-life in the Philippines and that involves taking the bus over the bumpy mountain roads. But we do hope it is not the loooong adventure Thomas and Alexie just endured.

Monday, June 1, 2009

18 Years After "I Do"

Not only is this week the anniversary of our arrival in the Philippines, today we celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary. We celebrated it by attending the Municipal Government flag ceremony and teaching for the Moral Recovery Program. What topic could be better than Sanctity of Marriage? After introducing my bride, I introduced this scene from the Fiddler on the Roof. Then Lisa and I read the parts to introduce the topic. (I was not up to trying to sing it.)

video

In the States we have the phrase, "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas." Here the phrase is, "15 meters from the door, married no more." So often when we think of the sanctity of marriage it is with the idea of infidelity in mind. But I asked the police officers to think of it in another way. Sanctified means to be set apart or not common. I am blessed that my marriage is set apart from what many accept as common in marriage. I would not walk away from a room full of gold, gems, and other priceless treasure with the attitude, "15 meters from the door, mine no more." Lisa is worth so much more to me than any treasure. The treasure we have is something set apart from common relationships. 18 years ago we made a covenant with each other that has grown into a real bond -
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Not long after we got home, David stopped by to ask if he and his family could visit after lunch. David is the young man who I sat with answering many questions about salvation. (Click here to read about that.) I have tried to talk with David several times since then, but he has been very shy. So I was quite surprised when he asked to visit. We had a great time talking with him and his wife, Myla. They are both trying to learn all they can as they follow Jesus.

Recently they even went to their village and shared their new faith. Few in their village have heard the Gospel from someone they trust. We were so encouraged that they were so excited and bold in their faith. But they were a little discouraged that they were unable to answer many of the questions people asked.

Towards the end of our time together, David began mentioning that he was encouraged by talking to older people who could share their experiences. After looking around the room, I concluded that he was not talking about the girls - I was the old person! Hmmph!

Lisa and I agree that this anniversary did not look much like the anniversaries we had in the States. There was no candlelight dinner. We did not contribute to Hallmark or FTD. But together we shared in the calling God put on our hearts. It was different; but it was good.

Still in love with my high school sweetheart,
Tom