Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Spirit vs. the spirits

When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick.
Matthew 8:16

We have mentioned before that the traditions of the Igorot people include worship and sacrifices to various spirits. Yesterday began a series of reminders that we are, indeed, in a culture steeped in animistic practices.

At the local high school yesterday, a large number of students began acting strangely: screaming, speaking in other voices, and taking on the persona of former teachers that have died. We understand that 48 students were described as demon possessed. They were taken to the church across the street where pastors met to pray with them. Several were taken to the hospital due to difficulty breathing and because it was unclear how to respond.

This morning a mass was held at the beginning of the school day. During the mass, the same type of things began to happen. One person who was there described it as contagious; it began with a few and spread. The activity and confusion became so great that the mass was discontinued. School was dismissed and teachers gathered to discuss the day's events.

Just a little while ago, an announcement was made by the police requesting that people not be out in the morning tomorrow (many walk and jog in the early morning). This is related to the fact that the elders (community leaders, not church leaders) are performing traditional, cultural rites in an effort to address the situation.

Some of the YWAM staff has been involved in praying and being with the students at the hospital. Saturday evening, the pastors are meeting at the high school to pray. Until then, we pray where we are.

Please pray that through this situation, people will come to understand there is only one true God. And that He is a jealous God who will not share the dedication of His people with other gods. Open their eyes to the bondage that their traditions have brought upon them and their children.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Homeschooling in the Philippines

We have been a homeschooling family ever since Adriana started kindergarten. Over the last ten years, we have answered many questions about our school. But here in the mountains of northern Luzon, Philippines, Filipinos really do not understand that we school our girls at home. Homeschooling is not done. We have had our share of people try to persuade us to send our girls to one of the local schools. A few even seemed offended that we do not send them. It usually helps to explain that even when we lived in the United States, we homeschooled. We also tell them the school requirements in the States are a bit different, kindergarten to grade 8 then four years of high school compared to their kinder through grade 6 and four years of high school. Homeschooling has its challenges but we enjoy learning together and the flexibility of schedule allows us to minister as a family. Schooling in our home has varied throughout the years with the ages of the girls and the different curriculums we have used. Just as our girls have grown and changed so our homeschool seems to undergo some changes each year. So what does schooling mean for this year of Garden of Grace Girls Academy?...

This year, I began using AmblesideOnline as a framework. I am very thankful for all the resources available through this internet site. It has booklists to cover every subject for each grade up through high school, as well as schedules to implement which are very helpful. Because it utilizes many books available online, we did not have to purchase every book. This is especially appreciated when living far from the library resources and other sources of books we enjoy back home. But we have tweaked it a bit to fit our family's needs. First, I have chosen to have all of our girls study the same time period. We are studying history chronologically and this year we are covering the Early Church and the Middle Ages. I have taken AmblesideOnline's booklists and schedules for this time period and made some changes here and there. Here are more specifics on our school day:

Our day begins with Bible time. This term, Thomas, Adriana, Alexie and I are studying the book of John. In addition, Adriana is reading Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis and Alexie is reading More Than a Carpenter byJosh McDowell. Alayna and Annalise are studying different stories in the Gospels, following a list I got from Alayna also chose to read Amy Carmichael: Let the Little Children Come. I am reading And the Word Came With Power by Joanne Shetler to Annalise. This book tells about when she went to live with the Balangao people in the Philippines and translated the Word of God into the language of their hearts. We are now living a few hours from this village. (A great book to read to understand the culture here. We read it to Adriana when she was in second grade and to the other girls since then.) During breakfast, we discuss what we are learning.

Next up is Mathematics.
Once again, we are using Saxon. Adriana is studing Algebra 1, Alexie level 8/7, Alayna 6/5 and Annalise 2. I teach Annalise, while the other girls work independently.

Copywork and Dictation
Each day the girls carefully write out a passage in their very best handwriting. Some days it is Scripture, a verse of a hymn, a poem or quote from Shakespeare, or an excerpt from a book they are reading for literature, history, or geography. Once a week, the older three complete dictation. They study a selection from one of their books and then write the portion I read aloud.

As we are having water difficulties at the moment, I will post more on our school day another time. I want to have a shower and my window of opportunity is small. We currently do not have any running water so we must use the pump to get water from the tank in the courtyard. Sometimes the pump only works for a few minutes.


Monday, July 20, 2009

All Business...

I have already talked about how I often attend the Municipal Government Flag Ceremony on Monday mornings. A few times I have presented during this time. Our whole family has even done a dramatic presentation.

The flag ceremony is held in the parking lot (I think it is officially referred to as the quadrangle) of the Bontoc Municipal Government offices. Each department forms a line facing the steps of the main entrance. An employee representing the department responsible for coordinating the meeting emcees the event.

Besides the obvious patriotic aspects, the flag ceremony provides a forum for the different offices to communicate important updates related to their duties. But often, the event incorporates a little bit of levity to help the employees start their week. So was the case this week as a couple of the ladies were called forward and music broke out from the sound system.

For those of you with slow connections and cannot download the video, I apologize. I did not get any pictures of the dancing.


Sunday, July 19, 2009


The other day, Thomas and I were walking to the market trying to gather up some food between rain showers. Just outside the market, a little girl, about three years old, looked up at me and called "Manang!" I bent down to greet her in return when she excitedly hurried up to me and wrapped her arms around my neck and gave me a hug. She continued to give me numerous hugs as we talked. It was difficult to leave my new friend. I would have happily taken her home with me. We did not have a camera with us, but I will store in my heart the love she showered upon me. We had never met before, yet she greeted me with the Ilocano term of endearment for big sister.


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Time for School

School for Garden of Grace Girls Academy never really stops. We tell the girls, "Life is school. School is life." Living in a different culture presents many learning opportunities. Learning a new language, trying new foods, being just a few of them. Starting Sunday evening we had a 24 hour experiment on living without electricity. Rumor has it that the rest of the country joined us in this scientific endeavor.

We used solar energy to light up our apartment throughout the day and took a dipper shower by candlelight at night. We could not use our electric water heaters connected to our shower heads nor the drop-in, bucket heaters to warm the water. But we did our own thermodynamic study by finding out how much water one must heat on a gas stove to clean a family of six. We also learned how long that process would take.

No computer or internet so our learning was centered around books and hands-on experiences. The electric keyboard was silent so no piano practice took place either. (That is not to say our apartment was a quiet place. Girls do not run on electricity so they still were able to keep their volume up.)

There was also a lesson in culinary arts as we designed a menu to use the items in our refrigerator voted most likely to perish. On top of the list was mayonaise which we ate in tuna sandwiches. Milk was drank albeit, sad to say, there were not any cookies that needed to be rescued.

The ironic part of this experiment was that we had running water all of those 24 hours. Prior to this, running water was getting to be quite the novelty. I am sure that this was because we needed to limit our variables to have a truly scientific experience. Since water is so precious to us, we took the time to fill our emergency water tubs on our porch. Even this had a scientific twist when Thomas took the lid off of one and discovered a dark substance lining the walls and an unidentified blob floating in the small amount of water remaining in the bottom. Personally, I would have just cleaned the tub and left the dark substance to the unknown. We know the tap water is not clean. We see the dirt and other bits of debris that it contains. But Thomas, being a better scientist than I, got our new microscope out to investigate. He used a mirror so the lack of power did not deter his efforts. Okay, not that he is a microbiologist and was able to clearly put a name to this strange floating presence but at least he took the time to get an up-close look. I chose to not look. I already know there are reasons we drink purified water and even use it to brush our teeth.

This is just a bit of the school that took place the beginning of this week. Maybe sometime soon, I will share the planned learning experiences of our 2009-2010 school year.


Thursday, July 9, 2009


Monday evening, I was given the sacred honor of walking a friend from this life to another. One of our SSM students, Gilbert, was admitted to the hospital that morning. He had not been feeling well for a few days. After lunch, I went up to visit him. He was having difficulty breathing so mostly, we sat together. But when he was able, he shared with me that he had been having dreams where someone would come to him and tell him to prepare for his death. I told him that none of us know when our time will come, so we should all be ready at all times. When I asked him if he was ready, he was struggling to breathe. Although he could not talk at the moment he answered positively, without words.

After that time, we did not have the opportunity for conversation beyond his medical care. As the afternoon passed, Gilbert's condition worsened. Later he had to be intubated and manually ventilated since the hospital does not have an automated ventilator. Another YWAM staff member, Noel, and I helped with his ventilations and were with him at his last moment. I honestly did not expect it to end the way it did - even up to the last minute. But suddenly, he was gone.

Noel and I both took great comfort in the positive assurance we had that Gilbert was now dancing on streets of gold. Gilbert was a talented musician and worship leader. Before, he worshiped God, whom he had not seen. Then he saw the One on who he believed and was able to sing the praises of the One he could see face to face.

Soon after Gilbert died, friends and family began to gather at the hospital. His body was moved to a room adjacent to the hospital courtyard. Because cell phone signal is unreliable in the village of his parents. (Cell phones are common and land lines are almost nonexistent in the mountains here.) Late in the evening, a message was passed by having the provincial police send a radio message to the police station in the village.

The family was able to make arrangements with a jeepney driver to bring them to Bontoc to so they could bring his body back to Sadanga, their home village. At 4:30 am we traveled to the village. There people began to gather at the family's home. Some of the men began to build a casket.

While all this was going on, there was a conversation about how Gilbert's passing would be observed in the village. Many there wanted to hold to the animistic traditions of the past. But Gilbert's family is Christian. In fact, his father is the pastor of the church in the village. The two pastors who were with me and Gilbert's father talked with the elders about many of the practices surrounding death. I was proud of the family for the stand they made. They had a lot of pressure to compromise their understanding of how to live out their faith. But they never wavered on practices with spiritual significance. For instance, they refused to sacrifice a pig or supply a chicken for sacrifice and the divination of its gall bladder. They also held meals at the family home. This was an issue of great fear to many of the community because it was feared that the spirits would cause bad things to happen. Some would not come to the house because of this.

Yet they held to some cultural practices. From the time of Gilbert's death Monday evening until his burial on Wednesday morning, vigil was kept by friends and family at his side. All day and throughout both nights, people sat with the family. (More on that later.) The visible combination of traditional practices and what the family felt was an important break from tradition was the use of a casket. The local culture dictates that people cannot visit the home until the body is tied, sitting upright in a frame. In order to accommodate both traditions, a frame was built in the sala (family room) and Gilbert lay in the casket in front of it.

Although the process was exhausting, I really appreciate how the time spent together between the death and the burial promotes a sense of community. Throughout the time, the people in the sala changed as new visitors arrived and those who had been there slipped off to find a place to rest before returning. As we sat in vigil, people talked. In the sala itself, there was always something happening. People shared thoughts and remembrances of Gilbert. Hymns and choruses were sung. Stories were told. Wisdom was shared.

During this time, I was impressed with the image of birth as an explanation of life for the believer. While a baby is in the womb, it has no idea of the life it was meant for. But our physical body was not meant to live in the womb. It is not until it goes through the process of birth that the baby can begin to understand the meaning of love that it will come to understand in its mother's arms. In the same way, we don't know what to expect when this life ends and we are born into the next. But our spirits are not meant to live in this temporal life. We are meant for the eternal. And it is only when we pass through death that we can begin to truly understand what God has in store for us - that of which we have only a glimpse now.

I appreciate the prayers of so many of you. It was a difficult, yet amazing time. In the US, we are often separated from death. When a loved one dies we have viewing times and a funeral where friends and family drop in for a while. My experience these past days was much more of an embrace of this part of life. It will take me a while to truly process it. Yet even now, by God's grace, I learned much about the people here and about life, itself.


Saturday, July 4, 2009

Friendship Day

Here in the Philippines, June 12 is Independence Day. So our friends and neighbors have already moved on to other things. However, July 4 is Philippine-American Friendship Day. It recognizes the US liberation of the Philippines from Japanese rule and recognition of the islands as its own country.

In talking with someone interested in the political history of the area during the June 12 celebrations however, I learned that neither the Spanish nor the Japanese had much of a presence in this region. Which would explain why there was no talk of Friendship Day in this area. I understand Manila has a large celebration, but the coastal areas would have been much more affected by the liberation than the people of the mountains who may have never seen a Spanish or Japanese person during their occupations.

Anyway, enough history. We celebrated with some good American picnic foods: baked beans, potato salad, barbecue chicken, soda, and a desert of roasted marshmallows and s'mores. Of course, all of it came with a little twist because this is, after all, not America's midwest. There was no opening a can of baked beans or deli potato salad. The barbecue chicken came from the oven instead of the grill. Talking with family was done vie video-chat on the computer. And as you can see below, we had to make a little adjustment to the campfire now that we live in an apartment instead of a subdivision.

May God bless America!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Update from Valley Cathedral

I came across this on YouTube. It is a video of the children singing at Valley Cathedral on Father's Day.

I was blessed to be able to spend Father's Day at Valley Cathedral with all of my daughters and my own father.