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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Everywhere I Go


 Today, Wednesday, July 31st, marks THREE WEEKS since we turned the key on our new home and started living in The Philippines.  We allowed ourselves two or three days for jet lag and then began to get to work securing the licensing that will allow us to freely work with any child through The Bartimaeus Project.
We are very close to having that license!  We have children lined up and waiting to be evaluated and loved on.  How eager we are to get started!
In the meantime, we are spending our days getting to know this place we call home.  We have driven to the far corners of Luzon and been lost more than once.
We have taken buses, jeepneys and trikes as we get to know our close-by places.
And every place we go, every day, we are confronted with the poverty that earned this beautiful country the status "third world".

I am always uncertain as to how much to post and what pictures would be appropriate for this blog.  This is a country and a people of great dignity.  But I have seen horrible things and I want to share them with you because it is vital to your understanding of the answer to the question  "why can't you stay and help the poor in the United States?".
Yes, we DO have poor people in America.  Maybe even a few who actually starve due to lack of access to food or clean drinking water.

But not like this.

The streets in my town are lined with squatters.  The squatters are virtually homeless people who have make houses out of tarp, plywood, metal and garbage.  You can see them lining the Pasig River in the picture below if you enlarge it.

The squatter villages are full of children.   I have seen naked children playing within a foot of the busy street.
I have had beautiful children see my white face and hold out a hand to beg for a few pesos.
I have seen mothers carrying children who look very frail and sick. Walking down the street with hollow eyes, no hope to be seen.

And I don't have to go anywhere special to see this scene.   On the way to the grocery store, they are there.

Outside the restaurants where my family dines, they wait to ask for help



 And I say to myself "oh, we are here to help visually-impaired orphans. We aren't here for THIS kind of ministry."
But my heart is always prodded by that still small voice saying "whatever you have done for the least of these, you have done for ME."

And I say I would do ANYTHING for HIM.  And here "HE" is.  In the form of a dirty child holding out his hand.
In the face of a mother who's baby clearly has pink eye left untreated.  Looking just like a bone-thin old man coughing his lungs out on a crowded jeep, making me recoil just a bit as I think about tuberculosis.

Yes, we have poor in the United States.  but not like these . . .

Lord, teach us to serve and love and be your hands and feet.  Let us not confine ourselves to only doing what feels comfortable but let us love with reckless abandon.  For the time is short.   Let us not count the cost.

TEACH US TO LOVE.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Letting Go . . . He's Already God

I always found the phrase "Let Go and Let God" to be the worst kind of cliche. It sounds great on a bumper sticker but upon closer analysis, it is just plain old rotten theology.  Who am I to "LET" God do or be or accomplish or change anything. He's God.  His word says His plans can not be thwarted.   I don't "allow" him to do anything.  I can simply be used in His plans or sit idly by while He uses others to accomplish the things He was going to do all along.

With our without me.

The phrase might more accurately be stated "Get on Board or Get Out of the Way"   or "Go Big Or Go Home".

In the case of our 15 year old son, Lem and his biological brother, Ariel, we decided to "Get On Board".

If you are my friend on facebook, you've already had a condensed version of the events that brought Ariel in to our family. In fact, just YESTERDAY we were able to pick him up from Children's Garden and bring him  into our home.   I still can't believe he slept here last night, in his bunk bed.  His clothes are in the closet next to Lem's.  He and I had coffee and pan de sal (bread) together for breakfast and I still feel like I'm dreaming.   I am the mother of seven.  Six sons.  I don't mean to get hung up on the numbers but "more than we ask or imagine" is part of the verse that comes to mind.

 
Ariel (white shirt, gray hat) with Lem (purple), Kyle (maroon), Pastor Buddy (black jacket) and three current residents of Children's Garden



Ariel and Lem outside Children's Garden

My amazing sister in Christ, Sharon, saying goodbye to Ariel




In the midst of bringing Ariel home, Aaron and Elliana were invited to stay at Children's Garden for four days and participate in their street outreach program.  They readily accepted that offer and are there right now. I'm so grateful this chance came up for them.
Aaron and Elliana at Children's Garden, right where we left them . . . ha ha
We picked up our dog, Asia, from  a missionary family leaving the field yesterday, too. She's a yellow lab, 3 years old, with a sweet disposition.  I sure have missed having a dog around the house, although I haven't missed the shedding and she sure does shed!
Update on James, out gate guard:
If you're not a FB friend or haven't seen my recent post, our gate guard, James, shot himself in the foot and leg by accident last night.  He is of the Muslim faith and from Mindanao. He's a very handsome, dark skinned young man with a wife in Manila. He lives and works here to provide for her.  Anthony, Lem, Ariel and Francis went to the hospital to visit James as soon as we heard the news. He was standing outside the hospital, in pain, waiting for someone to help pay his bill so he could leave.   Anthony felt led to help out and then to take him to the pharmacy to get his medication.
We know we can not attend to every need that comes to our attention but we also know that without meeting FELT needs, we have no right to speak into people's lives.   That's just how it works.

James 2
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.

James, our Gate Guard (far left, black shirt) with Lem and Ariel


No, I don't believe good deeds save us but they are outpouring of genuine faith.  If James doesn't see us as people who are genuine in our faith, why on Earth would he ever be attracted to it?

In the midst of all this change and busyness, our precious Kyle turned twelve years old today.  We are off to the movies to celebrate.
Last night, we had cake and he woke up to a skype session with his best friends from North Carolina!  What a day already!!!

Thank you, brothers and sisters in Christ.  Your praying and giving are already enabling us to serve in ways we really hadn't anticipated but are so thankful for.   I have never been this humbled.

What a privilege! 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Progress and Planning




 It seems months since our family turned the key and opened the door to our beautiful home in The Philippines! In reality, we have not even been here two full weeks.
It seems weeks since I've had a long phone conversation with my "bestie" or cleaned my house top to bottom in anticipation of a visit from my parents.
I can't remember the last time I drove toward Wal Mart talking to my sister on my cell phone. But I know it is not as distant-past as it feels.
A BIG change like the one we are undergoing really tampers with your sense of time.

There has been, in just under two weeks, so much progress in this "missionary life" that I don't know where to begin.
We have already had the distinct honor of hosting three hilarious, instantly-loveable, fellow Believers in our home.
First is my "soul sister", Sharon, who runs Children's Garden (the shelter that cared for Ariel for a long time), next is
Jake, an American (from OMAHA - where I was born, of all places and currently calls NORTH CAROLINA home - yeah, weird? I thought so, too) who has committed a year to living and serving at Children's Garden.  Finally, Allie, who is the daughter of Children's Garden's US counterpart's president, AmerICANHELPer.  She's just a few days younger than my oldest son and is a sunshiney, fun-loving cheerful spirit who is open to wherever God will lead her.

God placed these new friends in our lives at the perfect time.  We were just getting settled and after weeks of hard work, needed some fun!






Everyone but Anthony, the eternal photographer, at a restaurant together
The Beach in Batangas
The rock island some of my kids swam out to
What A Great Daddy!!!!


Sharon and Me: See the resemblance????



And through out this time of transition, I can literally FEEL God holding our family in the palm of His hand.  We have driven in crazy traffic and not been harmed. We have, no doubt, been targeted for a robber (per our Gate Guard's announcement) and not been robbed.
We have eaten various foods from street vendors, restaurants, etc and not been ill. We are being "held".
I attribute that solely to the prayer warriors in our lives who I KNOW have been walking with us in spirit.

We visited a nearby church called "Christ Commission Fellowship" and, much to our surprise,  found another CHURCH PLANT before us.  From Village Church to Explore Church, it seems we are destined to attend church plants.  Yes, it's always a lot of hard work but the payoff is immeasurable! Being on the "ground floor" of the building of a part of the Body is a privilege.

In order to officially begin Bartimaeus work full force, we have to register some paperwork with various government offices and wait for a few approvals.  We are free to visit the children (and we will next week) but we are not officially sanctioned by the Philippine government until we fulfill a few more requirements.  The hard part about this is these are NOT things that can be done online. We must go, in person, to various offices in the most congested parts of Manila and drop off paperwork.  Everything must be previously notarized and, of course, there is a small charge for every document submitted.

Everything takes longer here.

We went to open our bank account and were informed that we had to submit 1 inch by 1inch color photos of ourselves to make our account official.  No, they can not be emailed, either. We must go to the drug store, pay for photos, pick them up later (not instant pictures) and drop  them off at the bank.  All this in pretty dicey traffic.

That is the way here. This is NOT the USA and an "I want it NOW" attitude will only end up in futility so we are learning to step back and allow for things

That lack of "hurry up" has a nice side, too.  Friends stop and linger. Meals are unrushed and full of fellowship. Church service was relaxed and loose with not one "alarm" beeping that it was noon and time to race the Methodists to Golden Corral . . .ha ha. . . .

It's just so different here. Not worse. Not better.  Just different.  . . And I love it.

My heart breaks with every drive down the highway as I see the squatter villages with unclothed children playing so near the street it makes me hold my breath.  And I'm taken aback by the physical beauty of both the people and the landscape.  The resourcefulness of the poor is something to behold and the way NOTHING is wasted here never fails to amaze me.  People make something out of all the things we discard in the US.  Useful things that we buy.   They make and make well.

The food here is UMATCHED! The fried chicken is heavenly. My favorite dish (which is so so bad for me) is called "Crispy Pata" and it's basically pork fat fried as crunchy as a potato chip and seasoned.  There's a soup called "bulalo" which is a piece of beef in a broth that tastes so good it could make a grown man cry!    I choose Filipino food over Mexican, Italian (sorry, mom) or any other type of food any day.

I had every intention of writing a deep, beautiful post about our place in this country but I feel like I've only succeeded in rambling about some of things and people we are encountering.

Let me wrap up with a few pictures and by saying, I am so blessed and happy to be here. I consider it an honor to serve in such a place. I want to thank you all who are praying and giving.  It is our heart's desire not to disappoint but to make YOUR sacrifice count for the Kingdom.
For HIS Fame,
Nikki
Skyping with my parents.  Always a blessing!

Elliana's foot with sea urchin barbs in it (see the dark parts?). She said it was truly excruciating. A man saw what happened on the beach and brought us a packed of vinegar he happened to have. Anyone believe in angels?

The Taal Volcano . . . just a few miles from our house. Can you believe this beauty???



Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A Post in Pictures

At the LAX airport one week ago awaiting the 13 hour flight on Philippine Airlines that would take us to our new home.

The line for check in (16 bags and 12 carry ons) was made much longer when our family stepped in!

Getting all settled in with no idea we are about to be bounced around the sky in some pretty heinous ways (ha ha)

settled in watching movies

a little in-flight PDA

This is the CLEAN side of the plane after the turbulence hit. I have NEVER been on a flight this turbulent and I hope to never again! A man was hurt in the restroom. It was a good  8 hours of rockin and rollin!

FINALLY home . . . sitting on our back porch at the new house. Happy to be on solid ground!

Riding the jeepney with the kids to get a few groceries.

The road in front of our house that goes toward the gate.

The mall! Air Conditioning and coffee!!!!

Our new van (a 12 seater, stick shift, diesel, STAREX)

YEAH .  . even before a sign of the fish, we get the NINERS . . . sigh