Joshua has been telling us from the beginning that our beach day is the Saturday before leaving and we better be completely dead tired when we go. That I can say is true for the entire team! Especially after the last 2 days of heavy physical labor with a school in the afternoon. I am thoroughly exhausted!!! Today we drove to Alona Beach Resort on Panglao Island. This is our favorite spot. My itinerary: jewelry shopping, massage, lunch, pool, massage, foot scrub, pool. It has been done and it was GLORIOUS! I am still exhausted, but we served hard, played hard, and now rested hard. Tomorrow on the plane, I pray I sleep hard! It was interesting at the beach today. The Lord opened up several opportunities to tell people about our faith and why we are here. We had 6 people, 5 being our massagers, come to accept Jesus Christ today. The opportunity presented itself and we took it as the Lord opening a door. It overwhelmed a lot of us!
We drove home to pack and clean and regroup from our time here. All of us have too many stories to share in a single sitting. If you are reading this, I'm sure you have invested time and/or money and/or prayer into this trip. You may be a parent or a friend. One thing Joshua and I have shared with the group is how you, the people who weren't able to join us on the trip... will have a difficult time understanding our stories. Many students have been changed... I don't think you can come on this trip and not be changed spiritually and emotionally. I have come 8 times now and have been influenced and changed each time. There is no way for you to understand our heart and the passion behind our stories, because you weren't here. It is hard every year for me to go home and for most of my friends and family not to ask about the trip. Pictures aren't shown, stories aren't asked about. I encourage you to do the opposite. Ask to see pictures, ask about the pictures, ask about the stories. Tell them how you have been encouraged by what they have shared. Tell them how you seen them changed by what they have shared. Please ask! Thank you for reading this blog. I am signing off for another year, praying I'll be able to share about what happens in the Philippines next year!
Saturday, July 9, 2011
We spent the morning of our last ministry day continuing our service project from the prior day. Some students bagged sand and rocks. Some went up to the preschool to do some crafts with those kids. Joshua, a few others and I stayed in the "room" to lay tile. After I figured out the confusing pattern of the 14"x"14" tiles, I became the layer of the tile after Joshua or later Bill or Megan readied the underlying concrete. It was a concrete mess because the concrete was mixed on the floor of this room, using shovels. There was no concrete mixer or wheelbarrow. It was done though and I felt we had done a good job blessing the barrio. As I'm typing this 2 days later though, my hands are peeling from the toxins in the concrete. Well worth the sacrifice I'd say!
We headed home and jumped in the pool to get cooled off. Most everyone enjoyed the pool this afternoon, as our electricity was out. This meant no showers because our water is on a well that pumps using electricity. We swam until the electricity came back on, in order to get ready for our last school. A while later we headed to Triple Union Elementary. They had around 200 students as well. They were a great school, and we had a lot of fun.
On our way home at 5:30pm, we stopped at the basketball court and provided the barrio our a "heavy snack" and our dramas. The light snack was actually dinner, rice and pancit, but if we had announced that we were providing dinner, the barrio would have thought we were going all out with a pig. The "heavy snack" was perfect. The night was great. I was able to catch up with many barrio people that I hadn't seen yet on this trip. It was a perfect ministry time to end our time here in the Philippines.
Friday, July 8, 2011
Today we started a service project in the barrio. We headed down to the basketball court where they have the "office" space for the local barrio government. There was one "room" that they wanted tile laid. they Also wanted a cinder block wall built behind their stage. These were our two project for these two mornings. Today we sat or squatted in this "room" and hammered nails inserted into a pipe in order to chip away at the concrete. We needed to rough it up a bit prior to laying tile. While moving the contents of this room out onto the grass, we found an inhabitant living there, a rat. We ran all around the room with all of us scrambling to get out of the way amidst screaming. The rat ran out and into the next room, where Along finally caught it. He took it outside, pounded it's head with a rock and let it lie there on the side of the street. That was the end of that! We also hauled about 300 cinder blocks from a truck, up a ramp and across to the basketball court to where the stage was. Next we bagged sand and rocks to make concrete later. We were still working on chipping the concrete floor, it was such a slow and tedious process. When we were done, we headed back up to the house for much needed showers and food.
We left for Quinogentin Elementary school where there were about 200 kids. It was pretty crazy for a while, but it was so great to see our team take a group of about 15 kids, sit down with them and walk through the salvation bracelets.
We headed home, stopping to take pictures of the famous tarsier. They are the smallest primate in the world, only found in the Philippines. As you can see, I think they look like ewoks. We also stopped along the barrio road to take pictures of a huge, deadly spider. Marita cooked for us one last time. Our favorite: rice, pancit and mangoes!
Wednesday, we drove in to town a little earlier. The school we were heading to is downtown Tagbilarin, in the city. It has been our yearly tradition that when we go to this school, we first stop at McDonald's for breakfast. We did just that! I was a tasty change from eating dry cereal for breakfast! Tagbilarin City Central Elementary has a large Deaf program. They have 4 different classrooms and no central meeting area for us all to move to. We played games outside for a while, until we performed our dramas there on the stage near the school courtyard. When our dramas were done and I started explaining them I realized we were completely surrounded by hearing students. We then moved inside the classrooms for the crafts. We moved one class in with another, but our craft time was still separated into three different groups. Since I have been teaching the salvation bracelets at each school, I had to teach it in one class and run to another to then teach it. It seemed like such a quick visit there because I was running around. This first picture is of Marie. She is in first grade and is 48 years old. IDEA found her in the jungle and wanted to educate her. Her parents said no for many years but then decided to send her to this school, which is not a part of IDEA. Last year, as a preschooler, she couldn't tell me her name. This year she could.
After we left we drove to ICM for our last shopping opportunity. I sat down with a Bo's coffee and people watched. I don't enjoy shopping just to shop, and having been there 4 times already this trip, I didn't need to do any shopping. We ate lunch and then headed to Tanbagan, a school near our house. We love this school in the barrio because they are so nice and well mannered. I again taught a bunch of girls and boys how to jump double dutch. We did our usual routine and then headed home for a quick dinner.
Around 6pm we headed back out to BDA. This was our last night with the Deaf. We arrived and joined them for their Bible Study. I voice interpreted for our team. We then socialize for almost 2 hours. It was REALLY hard to leave! I had some great conversations and showed a few new Christians some of my favorite verses in their Bibles that we had given them. Near the end of our time, I look across the table and saw a gal Claris, who accepted Christ 2 years ago, sharing her testimony with a 1st year student who had not yet accepted Christ. It was beautiful! The Lord showed me the fruit of our labor here. Claris has been with IDEA since elementary school and I always remember her because she has very distinct freckles. This is very uncommon for Filipinos but her great grandmother was American who had freckles too. I always called her my twin because of my freckles and that had created a bond between us. When she moved to the high school, she struggled for the first two years. When she was a third year student, she "finally opened her mind, her eyes and her heart to Jesus' love." This was what she was telling this other student. Two years ago, on our beach day, Claris boldly came up to me and asked me to forgive her sins. Because I had taught about Jesus, she thought I had to power to forgive sins, like the priests do here in the Catholic churches. I explained the difference and over time she accepted Christ and then burst into tears. She cried SO loudly there on the beach. She said she needed to be forgiven for the sin of her parents divorcing because it was her fault for being Deaf. We had a long talk and she finally realized that it wasn't her sin. Ever since that raw moment on the beach two years ago, we have had a more special bond. She also was baptized on Sunday. One of the pictures on my blog is of her and I. She was telling this story to this other gal, explaining how her heart changed and how now she is focused on the Lord and has a heart that is over flowing with joy. She referenced my teachings this past weekend several times and related it to her story. Now she travels with a group of Deaf to the elementary schools to teach those kids about Jesus. There is such amazing follow through here when students accept Christ. I am sharing this because it seems we are here for such a short time, but over the last few years, I've really seen the fruit to our labor that I wasn't able to see the first couple times coming. It was such an overwhelming blessing for me to witness Claris sharing. It made it even harder for me to leave. Tearfully I walked away, hugging all those I could. Jessa and Judith and several others tearfully asked if I could stay... oh how I wish I could! Judith asked if she could come with us, joking of course. It was a quiet ride home for me, thanking the Lord for yet another time of ministry and Him showing me why I come every year.
We woke up very early this morning to set out for the "Dolphin Cruise." The weather the night before made us wonder how it would be out on the Philippine Sea. We climbed on the boat in Baclayon at 6 and headed south towards Panlican Island. It was VERY choppy and we didn't see any dolphins. Giving up, went to the island to rent snorkel gear. The sun came out and the water calmed down... just a bit for us to snorkel. It was BEAUTIFUL!!! We saw so many fish! At one point I looked to my left and saw hundreds of bright blue fish swimming near me. I looked to the right and there were hundreds there too! After a few hours, we headed back home. From here on out, Joshua has named this activity the "Snorkeling Cruise" as there will definitely be great snorkeling, but he can't promise the dolphins.
He drove home and showered, and headed right back out to Loboc Elementary. This is our craziest school. There are over 500 students here, and only 22 of us, 6 being under 10. We played games and did our dramas. We didn't do crafts at this school because we've learned from the past, it's just too hectic. In the middle of the games, I had to run back home to grab materials. I hopped on the ATV, drove the 2 blocks through town, few miles on paved road and a few more miles on the barrio road. I love driving the ATV through the barrio. It's a great upper body workout! After our time at Loboc, we were blessed to listen to the famous Loboc choir. They travel all around the world performing, representing the Philippines. They have even been to the White House!
We all were tired from an early morning so we hit the sack early this night.
Happy 4th of July!!! On this day we drove to Jagna Elementary School to work with our last IDEA sponsored school. We were lucky enough to rent the Garden Cafe meeting hall next to the restaurant in order to do our routine in the shade and air conditioning. We Americans were blessed, but the poor Filipinos were cold!
When we were done, we ate at the Garden Cafe and headed home to restock supplies. We had Calun San Sur, a barrio school, that afternoon... and they were crazy!!! There were 30 preschoolers on top of the already 130 students at this elementary school. We love this school though, because our friend Enday, Along's wife, works here and it's the closest school to our house. We see the students a lot, walking along the barrio road, as we are traveling. The teachers there blessed us with coconut water and then opened up the coconut to eat the "meat". It was yummy!
We headed home, ate dinner and had prayer time. No fireworks for us this year, but I woke up several times this night to thunder, massive rain and harsh winds.
Thursday, July 7, 2011
Today was Sunday and I had the privilege to teach during church. I had already taught 3 times this weekend, but for me it seemed this was "it" as it was the last time I would be able to speak the Truth to these kids for another year. I gave pretty much my usual message of salvation giving the students a choice as to who to follow, as basically every decision we make you are choosing to follow Jesus or choosing to follow the enemy. They could choose to follow life, joy, hope, and the Truth or could choose to follow sin, sadness, hopelessness, and lies. I also included a twist this year. I had Megan Duffy stand up with me with an bucket and a heart on front of the bucket... to signify the bucket was her heart. I asked her how she sinned and she told me the sins that I had asked her to say. I then put rocks, with the sins written on the rocks, in the bucket. This continued for a while, until the bucket was full of rocks and was getting heavy. I showed them that this was how their hearts felt, heavy, full of sin. I then asked how to get rid of that sin and for her heart to be light again... accepting Jesus Christ and asking him to forgive all their sins. I took the bucket from Megan, poured out the rocks and handed it back to him. She did a great job with her facial expressions portraying grief of her sins and joy when they were gone. I think it was a great visual for those kids. At the end, 6 more students raised their hands to accept Christ. That's a total of 18 this weekend. Praise Jesus!!!
We then packed up and took all kids to the beach to eat lunch and play more. It was a beautiful day and we had a lot of fun in the water and on the beach. We also had Mart, the Deaf pastor here, conduct baptisms. We had 18 different people who had accepted Christ in the past, want to be baptized. Many of those had accepted Christ with me last year or two years ago. It was such a raw moment, when those who were baptized in the ocean raised up again and they were so overjoyed! What a glorious time! After we played a bit more, it was time to leave. We said goodbye to our friends, knowing we'd get to see them one more time on Wednesday.
We headed to BQ to stock our supply list. We then headed to the same slums again. This time I had more Jesus Film DVDs to hand out, more tooth paste and brushes, and we brought our gear to perform our dramas. It was chaos!!! We performed our dramas on a rocky coral incline with their shacks surrounding us and hundreds of children and adults watching. It was amazing! Joshua gave the Gospel message with Along translating and had most of the group praying along with him. Not sure how many of the prayers were heart felt, but hearing that many children and adults who are in a hopeless situation pray that prayer, is overwhelming.
We headed home for showers, pb&j sandwiches for dinner and group prayer time. What a great day and great weekend. We had a lot to be thankful for!