Monday, December 26, 2005

from WebMD.com . . .

"Viral gastroenteritis -- often called the "stomach flu" but not caused by the influenza family of viruses -- is an inflammatory condition of the gastrointestinal tract (the stomach and small and large intestines) that results from an infection with one of a multitude of viruses. Common symptoms include diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting."

This is how I spent Christmas Day, feeling much better now. Chris even saved me a turkey leg, she is the best.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Y.A.F.C.

Yet Another Filipino Christmas

Our holiday festivities began with a special luncheon for the street kid moms who help out with the Scholarship Program and who also atten the Mom's Bible Study. My mom was the guest speaker, giving the exhortation.


This is our second Filipino Christmas. It has been a fun time of parties, gifts, and cooler weather. Next year we will be in the States for the holidays.

From our family to yours, Merry Christmas and have a blessed New Year.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Best Friends

Something pretty amazing has happened. Eric and Faith have become best friends. Every afternoon they play together for hours. Now Faith just loves to be with Eric, and so she does whatever he does. She has become very good at making spaceships and robots with Legos. They play together so well, like they are best friends.

For both Chris and I, and also for the kids, the hardest part of leaving the States was leaving our friends and family. We are blessed with family and good friends here. We still miss our loved ones in the States. Some have even made the journey here, like Jimmy and Beth Capone, and my mother will be here this Saturday and will stay for Christmas.

We were worried about Eric and Faith finding friends here in the Philippines. I am so glad they have found a best friend in each other.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Monday, December 05, 2005

There are times . . .

when I really miss being in the States. Right now in Maryland the weather is getting very cold, and there might be snow in the forecast. I miss the smells of winter and the cool crisp air. I also miss the first world comforts that I have taken for granted for so many years. In that regard, I miss how most first world countries are usually much cleaner. I also miss living and working in a temperature controlled environment, where I am hardly every sticky with sweat or humidity. Also the Filipino way of doing things is different--not necessarily better or worse, just different. I guess I will go through this all throughout my missionary career. While Iloilo is my home, I still feel like a foreigner. While I love my life here, I am still a citizen of two worlds, calling two VERY different places home.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Friday, November 18, 2005

Last Full Day In-Country . . . Our Family

These believers, our fellow Christians here in this country that I cannot name--they are our family. They are being persecuted for their faith. Members of our family are going to prison, being beaten, being rejected by family and loved ones, and some have even been put to death, because of their faith. What are we going to do for our family?

The Bible says we are all one body because we worship one Lord. The believers here, they are our flesh and blood, they are our family. We cannot neglect the struggles and plight of our family here. What are we going to do for them?

PRAY
First and foremost, we must commit to keep them in our prayers. We must pray for their protection, for their safety from persecution and the secret police. We must commit to pray that their lives and families would be blessed, that they would have everything they need to read their nation for Christ. We can also pray for this closed country, that the hearts and minds of the leaders will be opened so that the Gospel can freely be preached, and so that the church here no longer needs to worship the Lord in secret places and "safehouses." We should also pray for strength, that the Christians here would remain strong in their faith, in the midst of great persecution. Truly this is the lesson these believers teach the rest of us, how to be strong in our faith. This is how they are an example to me.

GO
After having been here for this week, after having sat with them at meals, worshipped with them and prayed with them, I can no longer ignore their struggles. Another thing we can do is go. One day you can join me, to come back here and encourage the believers, and also boldly teach the word of God. Even for us foreigners, there are some risks in coming here, but it is nothing compared to the dangers these believers face every day. The rewards far outweigh the risks. You can be blessing, you can be an encouragement, you can go.

GIVE
Another thing we can do is give. We can invest in God's kingdom here by giving to "workers" who come here and live and minister here. If you are blessed, you can be a blessing to our persecuted brothers and sisters. This is yet another very real way you can liberate this country with the power of the gospel.

It is my desire to come back here in February, and hopefully also in March. If God would open the door, then it will be my privilege to come back here and be blessed by these believers again. I can no longer say "I did not know" or "I had no idea." I have seen their faces, met their kids, worshipped with them and ministered along side them. I cannot ignore the plight of my family here any more.

PRAY, GO, GIVE.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Nap Time, Again. Day Four In-country

Today I joined my brothers and sisters here, and caught a few winks with them during nap time. Then the brother next to me starting snoring and woke me up, oh well.

There is a sister here who was beat up by the secret police. They knew she was going to this secret location for this training, and they were trying to get her to tell them where it was. She refused, and was roughed up for her defiance. Also, it seems that every pastor I meet here has been jailed often more than once, and still they are faithful.

I am teaching in a "safehouse" in the city. Some of the students have come from far away and they stay here during this week of teaching. Some live in this city and commute. We all arrive in the morning. This morning I was picked up by a different driver at a different location, and we took a different route to get here. We have prayer and praise and worship, then I start teaching. We take a mid-morning break and we also take the lunch time/nap time break. Nap time is over at 1:30, and I start teaching again. I usually teach until about 2:30 or 3:00. There is also a lot of time set aside for prayer.

I keep saying this again and again, I keep feeling this over and over--their faith and faithfulness humbles, teaches, and inspires me. The persecution here is so great, and they remain strong in the face of such persecution. These believers are an example to Christians all over the world.

Others are starting to wake up. There is a competition going on between two brothers, it seems they are trying to out-snore each other. Those who have awakened are having lots of fun with this. Almost time to start teaching again. The battle of the snorers is over, one brother is the clear winner.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Nap Time . . . Day Three In-country, First Day Teaching

As I write this, everyone else is sleeping. We ate lunch, and now everyone is taking a nap. They are sound asleep, a few of the students are even snoring.

My ride picked me up at 8:00 this morning. We joined the throngs of motor bikes and scooters during the Monday morning rush hour. We arrived at our location about thirty minutes later. I am teaching in a closed room, in the rear of a someone's house. All the windows are closed and curtains drawn. For security reasons, I am not allowed to step outside until the teaching day is over.

I am so humbled to be teaching these believers. They look to me like I am some kind of expert, when they are an example to me. Their faith comes with a high cost. Going to church is not just a quick Sunday drive away. Several of the students in this class are serving as pastors, and some of those pastors have been imprisoned. These students are very serious about reaching their country for Christ. They are in the midst of a revolution. They are praying that one day their home will become open to the Gospel, and they will no longer have to meet in secret places like this.

Their faith is an example to me because it is so strong and pure, it must be, for only someone whose faith is genuine and strong would continue to be a Christian in the midst of such persecution. They have seen many miracles in their midst, like people being healed from sickness, pastors being set free from prison, and one pastor even ran his motor scooter on water for a week because he was ministering in remote place with no gas stations. Jesus once turned water into wine at a wedding, I guess turning water into gasoline is easy for Him as well.

Well, nap time is over, and the students are starting to wake up. Class will begin soon.

Later . . .
What a day, I am exhausted, having been teaching for almost six hours. It is my privilege to be teaching these believers. I will do it again tomorrow.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Day One In-Country

The first day in this country that I cannot name. I am in one of the largest cities in this place. So many cities in this part of the world I can only describe using superlatives. This place is so this . . . or there are so many . . . It is on of the most unique cities I have ever visited in the world. I have read about this place for many years, I am now here seeing this place with my own eyes.

I found a free wireless network in a coffee shop. Their connection is very fast, and they are just two blocks from my hotel. Needless to say I will be visiting here quite often over the next week.

Met with our contacts here, to organize the week's schedule. I will be teaching several leaders of their work here. I need to meet my driver in a different place each morning. Fortunately, since I have dark hair and brown skin, I do not have to wear a disguise when I travel to the teaching place. Other Westerners who come to teach must sear sunglasses, long sleeves, and wear a big hat. If those who are watching see a white Westerner going to places off the beaten path, they will wonder and start to question and harass. I blend in very well. These underground church leaders are hard core and on the front lines. Some of them have been to prison, and some are being harassed by the authorities on a daily basis. These men need your prayers. If I get compromised, I get kicked out of the country, if they get compromised, they are beaten and put in jail. Their faith is an example to me.

I am so blessed to be here. This is an incredible opportunity, a great adventure. This is my life. I may be just an ordinary man, but I feel the Lord is making my days extraordinary.

PRAY

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Tomorrow I Go

I think I have everything ready for my trip to the closed/restricted country I mentioned in a previous post. I have removed anything in my bag, wallet, or luggage that could suggest that I am a missionary (business cards, magazines, etc.), and I have packed clothes that do not have a Christian theme, like a Camp Sonshine t-shirt. I am bringing only one Bible, and my Bible school teaching materials are gift wrapped.

I am told this is not overkill, and that this country is officially very hostile to any kind of missionary activity, even the mere suggestion. I still find it hard to fathom that in this day and age there is still such a country that oppresses and persecutes the Christian church. Now some would say that this nation is a sovereign nation, and it has the right to conduct its internal affairs as they see fit, without foreign intervention. Bull. Oppressing a group of people simply because they are Christians is unlawful and ungodly. It is my privilege to be going to such a place, in the face of the official government oppression, and defy them by teaching in the underground church.

There comes a time when people must choose whom they are going to follow, no matter what the cost. There comes a time when Christians must fully commit to God's will, no matter where it may take you.

PRAY.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Worldview Changed

I was talking with G, one of kids who comes to Sonshine Center, the other day. G is about 14 years old. He has recently given his life to the Lord, opening up his heart to accept Jesus as his Lord and savior. His home situation is the pits. He lives in one of the poorest slums in the city. His mom is involved in various illegal and immoral activites, so he really does not like going home. Jesus Christ and the Sonshine Center ministry are the only bright spots in his day.

He also helps Chris with the preschool as a paid employee, and he is doing a great job. He has a wonderful way with children, teaching and nurturing them. I told him there might be a future in the education field for him, that he should look into on going to school to one day be a teacher. He told me that he would rather be a missionary. He told me he wants to share with others about the love of Jesus Christ, and maybe one day go to another country as a missionary.

A year ago when I met G he was confused, addicted to sniffing glue, aimless and without much hope. Now he is a positive role model among the other street kids, and he is starting to realize the destiny that God has for him. A year ago his main goals were to find the next meal, survive on the streets, and just get by. Now his ambitions have broadened considerably. He wants to reach his world for Christ.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Upcoming Trip

I will be making a trip to a "closed" country next month to do a one-week Bible school/training. I cannot name this country, suffice it to say that it is very closed and very hostile to the Gospel or any form of religion especially Christianity. While I am there I am to maintain the guise of a tourist, and if the authorities catch wind of my real purpose there, it could be somewhat uncomfortable for me. I am told the worst that could happen is that I will be placed under house arrest until my flight out, then my passport will be stamped denying me any future entry into that country. Don't worry, no going to jail, etc.

I cannot bring anything with me that would somehow identify me as a missionary or as a Christian. I can bring one Bible, but no Christian literature. The teaching materials I will be bringing must be gift wrapped, rather then in a binder or such, or else the authorities would wonder why I was bringing this into their country. When they are wrapped you can claim that it is a gift for someone and they will not open it. Truly, it is a "gift" for many someones. I also cannot wear Christian t-shirts or other such clothes, and when I am in-country, I also cannot use the words "missionary" or "pastor," or refer to someone as "brother." I am to assume that my hotel room will be bugged, and that my phone line will be tapped. I am to beware of most taxi drivers for they are also informants working for the government. They will try and strike up a conversation with you to determine of you are a missionary or not, and even pose as a Christian. Of course, the church in this country is very much underground. The places I will be doing the teachings are secret, and my change from day to day.

In spite of all this oppression, or perhaps because of it, the church is growing in this country. Remember the lessons of history, that even when Christianity was in it's very infancy it was severely oppressed by the then ruling power, the Roman Empire. While some Christians today are beaten or imprisoned, at least these days they are not going into stadiums full of lions and tigers. Even during that incredible Roman oppression, Christianity grew and strengthened. This is the power of the Gospel.

For most of us, having such restrictions on expressing our faith is a completely foreign idea. In the States we are blessed with the protection of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Going to such a country where the police surround churches and shut them down, where even email and Internet traffic is monitored and filtered, will be such a departure from the norm. In this country, Christianity is not just a simple Sunday morning social gathering, following Christ takes courage and has a potentially high cost.

Pray.
Populate Heaven and plunder hell.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Black Market

In one of the smaller malls in Iloilo City there is a section I affectionally call the "black market." Pirated DVDs can be found there a plenty. Often they are selling DVDs to movies that are still in the theaters. It is no secret that pirated DVDs are a big business here in Asia. I was a bit surprised to see them being so blatantly sold, not in some back alley or on the street by some guy in a trenchcoat, but inside a mall!

Just for kicks I asked one of the vendors for a copy of the latest Star Wars, Episode III, Revenge of the Sith. She found a copy, cost just 100 Pisos (under $2) and offered to test it on her DVD player in her booth. Honestly, it looked great, quality packaging with all the proper logos, the DVD itself even had interactive menus. I pressed play and was amazed to see a very good quality movie, good sound, good picture, etc. Then the Star Wars trademark scrolling prologue came up and I saw:
        Эпизод III Реванш Sith

The movie was in Russian.

I didn't buy it.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Wait

Today I learned, through the wisdom and counsel of a fellow missionary here in Iloilo, to let the Lord open the doors, and not try and push some doors open. In my zeal and excitement for something new and different, I was reminded to give pause and carefully consider before I fully commit, or before I commit to an extend degree.

Waiting is not always easy, but there is purpose. As I have been reading in some John Maxwell books, success is not a destination, but rather a journey. There is purpose is waiting. Pause is part of the journey. I have a sense of anticipation because I feel the Lord is about to open new doors of ministry opportunities for our family. At the same time I must remember that I need to let Him open the doors, rather than push the wrong door open myself.

"I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord, be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord." Psalm 27: 13, 14

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Broadband is Here

Iloilo City is not as urbanized as Manila. It is much smaller, just over half a million people. We are considered in the provinces, and that means we lack many first world comforts and conveniences. However we do have several broadband services available in our city. All last year we did not have Internet service in our home. It was too expensive, and we found ways to manage without by going to wireless hotspots and Internet cafes.

A new Internet service was made available for just P788 (about $13) a month. We signed up and we are so happy we did. It is not as fast as what is available in the States, but it is still pretty good, and I am able to share the connection using a wireless router, so Chris and I can both be on network at the same time. She uses it for homeschool and preschool planning. I use it to maintain our website, this blog, and email and communications. It is so nice to have high speed Internet in our home. It is a way to bring some of what we miss in the U.S. to our home here in the Philippines. I can even listen to WBAL online.

We are very thankful for this resource, especially since it was much cheaper that we planned. Once again we see the God always gives us the tools we need to succeed.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Like I Never Even Left

Walking around the streets of Iloilo it feels like I never even left. Taking care of business, running errands, going to the store, working with the street kids and the missionary staff here, it feels like I am picking right back where I left off two months ago. This place is so familiar to me now, it just feels like home. There has been some adjustment. We had our first power outage the other day, plus the bugs are back in force, then there is the cold showers. All in all I am glad to call this place home. I am still a citizen of two countries, and yet I am glad to spend most of the year in this place, my home Iloilo, Philippines.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Trip Log

I am not sure when I will be posting this. Perhaps from an open wireless network I stumble upon somewhere, or perhaps not until we arrive in Iloilo. Either way, I begin this entry to pass the time recording our trip back home to the Philippines.

First let me say that I am very much looking forward to returning home to Iloilo. Iloilo is home, and I am looking forward to walking into our house again. We have had a very full and eventful time in the States. We got to see so many friends, family, and loved ones. We also had some fun times going to Hershey Park, baseball games, and even Disney’s Magic Kingdom. Most of all it was great to spend quality time with family and friends.

We had a quick flight from BWI to Newark. The sky was clear and we were able to see the New York City skyline as we landed. We could even see the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building. Whenever I see the NYC skyline, I always notice what is no longer there. This is especially noticeable on this day, September 12th, the day after the fourth anniversary of that horrible day.

The last time we were in Newark, the concourse and waiting area was not that nice. Fortunately the International concourse is much nicer, we enjoyed our last Stateside lunch. I got one more coffee from Starbucks, and Chris enjoyed her new found addiction, iced frappuccino w/ a shot of caramel and a head of whipped cream.

On board flight 99, a Boeing 777-200 . . .
Bonus, this flight is about half full. The Anasco family has staked out three rows, nine seats in all. This will allow us to lay down and sleep during the flight. Also our seats have the Empower laptop plug-in so I can use my Powerbook during the flight without draining the battery. This way we can watch our own DVDs, the kids can play some games, and I can do other stuff like type these lines.

About 40 minutes later . . .
Unfortunately we are not able to leave, currently we are 33 minutes behind schedule. Our flight to Hong Kong takes the Polar route. The pilot just informed us that due to some solar/atmospheric disturbances over the North Pole, we are not able to leave just yet. It looks like we are going to be late for our connecting flight from HK to Manila. We might have to spend the night in HK.

Later . . .
So we had to get off the plane and wait for it to get cooler in order to take off. I don’t know why the weather and the outside temp is affecting our ability to take off. They did give us meal vouchers so we had dinner and then we got back on the plane around 7:45 and finally took off at 8:00. Of course we are going to miss our connecting flight to Manila. Estimated arrival time in Hong Kong, 1:00 AM local time, not sure what day that will be. So I guess we will be staying in Hong Kong for one night after all.

It is about midnight Eastern Daylight time somewhere over Canada . . .
Eric, Faith and Chris are sleeping. As I said earlier, the plane is about half full. We are taking up three rows, Chris and Eric are sleeping, and Faith finally dropped off. Even though this is still going to be a very long trip home. I am blessed that we have some room to stretch out and actually lay down. Hopefully this way we will get some actual sleep in this flight, rather than the fatigue induced unconsciousness that we usually get.

The solar disturbance over the North Pole has not stopped. This has changed our flightplan. Rather than a quick 14 hour hop over the top of the world, we have to take a 18 hour flight over Canada, Alaska, and then down passed Russia, China, and then eventually to Hong Kong.

Later, in flight . . .
Watched Kingdom of Heaven and the remake of the Burt Reynold’s classic The Longest Yard. According to the flight plan monitor on my view screen we are now crossing over the International Date Line. Don’t even think about asking me what day it is.

Later, after my nap . . .
Sprawled out over three seats and actually got about four hours of pretty decent sleep. Then Faithy decided to use me for a bed and I got maybe a couple hours more. Did I mention that I have a cold? Nothing like flying 16 hours with a head cold. The Chinese tea they serve helps.

Later, getting some work done . . .
About two hours to go. This empower seat power adapter is working great. It is just enough juice to keep things going. My battery is not being charged, but it is not being drained either.

I feel the Lord has given my kids a special dispensation of grace for travel. They are doing an incredible job. For the first part of the flight they sat together, playing games, and then they watched a movie and then had dinner. They both slept for several hours, and they are now keeping themselves busy reading, listening to music, and being just great. Eric is actually working on his latch hook rug. It also helps to have three rows to ourselves. They are not fussing at all, they have been very patient throughout this flight.

After breakfast . . .
About one hour to go. Chris and the kids are enjoying a pretty decent breakfast. I chose the native dish of dim sum. Not too bad, but it is better on the streets of Hong Kong. Eric and Faith are watching Black Beauty for the third time.

Not too sure about what awaits us when we get on ground. The staff here assures us that Continental will make sure we get a connecting flight to our final destination. We also have a flight to catch from Manila to Iloilo later today. I know this is true, the Lord will prepare the way for us. This delay was not a surprise to Him. He is always one step ahead of us. I trust in Him completely to work out every detail from our connections to our luggage. He always takes good care of us.

Finally one land . . .
Continental is putting us up in the Regal Hotel next to the airport, nice but confusing place. I walked in and tried to turn on the lights, I felt aound and switched every switch and no lights. In the darkness I somehow saw a little slot in the wall, you need your keycard inserted for the lights to work. Weird, now I know. We will get about five hours of sleep before we need to walk over to the airport terminal for our 9:20 flight to Manila. Did some sniffing around and found several wireless networks, but all pay as you go. I took one more nice, hot shower, now it’s time to get some sleep.

The next morning, . . . what day is it?
After an excellent breakfast at the hotel, we are now waiting at our gate to leave for the Philippines. We will arrive in Manila around noon, then we take the Cebu Pacific shuttle to Manila Domestic Airport, we leave for Iloilo at 3:20, we will be home by around 5:00 or 6:00. Getting even just a few hours of sleep in a bed rather than on three seats in a plane was beneficial for all. Chris and the kids are still a bit tired, but we are all doing well.

Home . . .
It is so good to be home. Took my first of many cold showers. Ready for bed.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Fall?

We are enjoying this taste of Fall like weather. In the mornings it is very cool, almost jacket weather. This is the calm (weather-wise) before the storm. Just three days to go and we will be home.

Honestly, I am still very much looking forward to going back. Now my tune may change when the heat of the Philippines hits me like a hammer, and when I have to start taking cold showers again. We have been blessed to share about our missionary work with family, friends, churches, and fellowship/bible study groups, and doing so gets us excited about what God is doing in the Philippines. It gets us excited to be going back.

Three days to go.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Ready

As of this writing, we have twenty four days left here in the United States. I have enjoyed my first Stateside furlough. I have enjoyed the comforts of this country like hot showers, cooler weather, public libraries, etc. Most of all I have enjoyed seeing family and friends, what we have missed most of all. It continues to be a wonderful visit here in the U.S.

I was worried that at the end of our time here in the States, that I would dread going back, that I would become so used to the comforts and familiarity of our U.S. home, that I would regret having to leave it. Honestly, I am starting to feel different about that. I am looking forward to going back. Now my tune may change twenty four days from now, or actually twenty five days from now when I step off the plane and get hit by the heat of the Philippines, or when I turn on the water for my first cold shower. Right now I am getting excited about going back.

So much of missionary life is simply everyday life, taking care of the kids, doing dishes, going to work, etc. At the same time life on missions can be a big adventure. Even though I am just an ordinary man, I feel that the Lord has made my days extra-ordinary. I truly love what I do, I am looking forward to going back.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

8 Years

Last night Christine and I celebrated our eighth year of marriage. We went to the Candlelight Inn in Catonsville, MD. This is not only a great place for a fine meal, this is where we were married on that Summer day eight years ago. The ceremony was held in their covered deck, and the reception was inside the restaurant. I seem to remember that it was one of the hottest days of that Summer.

Please continue to pray for Christine and I and our family as we continue serving the Lord wherever He leads. I could not do this without her. I am so glad I am not without her

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Calvary International HQ

Chris and I spent the morning meeting with the leadership of Calvary International at their world headquarters in Jacksonville, FL. This is yet another reminder of why choosing Calvary as a missions sending agency was truly a godly decision. We are so blessed to be a part of a such a supportive missionary agency. We met with Tim and Nancy Lovelace, the Vice-presidents of Field Ministries. They were so encouraging and spoke blessings into our lives. We also benefited from their wisdom through their many years on the mission field.

We then had lunch with the founder of Calvary International, Pastor Daniel Williams of Christ the Redeemer Church. Pastor David Sheffield also joined us. We were so blessed by them, their wisdom and encouragement (kudos to Lulu's for a great lunch!).

We then had dinner and an evening of fun with other Calvary International missionaries. I am so blessed to be a part of a community of faith such as this. I am blessed to be with Calvary. There are several expressions of Christ in our lives, Calvary International is definitely one of those.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

My Wonderful Mom

We are spending a week with my Mom at her home in Florida. We are having a great time. My Mom is a gem, and the kids really love her. We also get to spend some quality time with my friend Jason and his family. Jason (Jack) and I have known each other since we were six, a very long time. They always bless us when we get together. They just got back from Australia, and they are seriously considering visiting us in Iloilo next year.

Several friends have expressed a sincere desire to visit us in the Philippines, just like the Capones did in July. I am so blessed that these are even considering coming to our side of the world. My prayer is that they would put feet to this talk and make the huge step of faith, get out of the boat, and see how the Lord can make them walk on water.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Powerbook Heaven

I have been so blessed with a brand new Apple Powerbook. I am in Powerbook Heaven. It is a sleek and thin aluminum machine. The screen is a very wide 15". The keyboard is backlit so the letters light up when it gets dark, like the buttons on a cellphone. Once again I see how the Lord always gives us the tools we need to succeed.

My other Powerbook is over five years old, and is still running strong. Chris is now using it for email and Internet. We decided to upgrade my computer for movie making and graphics. I fully anticipate to get at least four years out of this new computer before I even think about upgrading again.

Thank you, Lord, for Your provision. What a blessing.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Camp Sonshine Maryland

Spent the morning visiting friends at the big Camp, Camp Sonshine Maryland in Silver Spring. Our camp in the Philippines is the first international extension of the Camp Sonshine ministry.

Camp Sonshine MD is soooooo huge, with over 250 staff, and too many kids to count. My first summer there were only about 50 staf and about 200 campers total. Needless to say my first summer was a looooooong time ago.

I must admit I kind of like the simplicity of Camp Sonshine Philippines. Our camp is so much smaller and I feel that all staff have more contact with the kids. Either way I am blessed to be a part of Camp Sonshine again. This last summer was my ninth summer with Camp Sonshine.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Apologies

I found out that several people have been keeping up with this blog and they are wondering why I have not been posting for so many weeks. I apologize for neglecting this blog and I will try and keep this more up to date. Thanks for reading. It is an encouragement to me to see that so many are interested in our family and our ministry. God bless you all.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Yesterday I was trying to talk God into sending be back to the U.S. I told him that I could take my computer and management skills and make a good salary, and then give a large portion of that salary to missions. Couldn't I make an impact through the money that I give? Would that not be a bigger benefit to missions and His kingdom? Better that I make the money and give most to missions, than someone else who will just keep it for himself. Could I not be a great blessing to the Sonshine Center and the staff here through my giving?

I had a strong feeling of not wanting to live in a third world country. I miss the comforts, security, cleanliness, etc. of the States. I miss my American home. I find that I am getting frustrated with my Filipino home. We are leaving for the States in July. We return to the Philippines in September. I am afraid that I will not want to return.

Later that day, God reminded me of a few things. We had a great last day of Camp with the street kids of Iloilo. I saw one of the kids, boben, singing and worshipping with all his heart. I saw him raising his hands, and singing with his whole heart, crying out to God, "Here I am to worship, here I am to bow down, here I am to say that you're my God." I was reminded that it is not enough for me just to read and hear about missions. It is not enough for me to read about kids like Boben in someone's newsletter or website. It is not enough for me to hear about these things when missionaries come to speak at church. These things I must see with my own eyes. I can't just read about it, I have to do it.

Through all the frustrations and challenges of living away from the comforts and security of life in the U.S., I still need to be here. As much as I would love to be a sender, the Lord has called me to GO. So what else can I do? He said GO. I must go.

Humility.

I know this is one of the reasons why the Lord brought me to the mission field, to learn humility. I see how much pride and selfishness I have. It is time to be purified of these things. It is not all about me. Through many situations and circumstances, I feel the Lord is trying to teach me to be humble, to make myself more like Christ and be of no reputation. I must take on the nature of a servant, as just He did.

This is no fun. This has not been easy. It is necessary. Please pray for me.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Dude, the Philippines is hot!

I sit here typing this, and sweat drips off my arms. Bright and early in the morning, around 8:30, when the sun is high enough, it is already 95 degrees. Coming out from under the shade the sun is like a hammer, especially in the afternoons. I take about three showers a day, to rinse the sticky, thin film of sweat off my skin. While we are used to these kinds of temperatures in the States, what we also have in the States is the constant presence of air conditioners everywhere we go--in our cars, homes, places of business, etc. Not so here in the Philippines.

We do have air conditioners in our home here in the Philippines, but honestly we hardly ever run them. Thankfully our family has gotten used to the heat. While it can get oppressive at times, especially when doing any kind of manual labor or lifting, for the most part the heat does not bother us. Even at night, we are now accustomed to sleeping with just a fan, even with the heat and humidity.

For any of you reading this who will be visiting us soon (hey Jimmy and Beth Capone!) prepare for some hot times.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Last week we started praying everyday for Eric to find a friend here. Faith was fortunate in that she had Cora, even though she is a year younger than Faith, they get along very well, often disappearing off in their own world playing their little games. Eric and Faith are also very good friends.We started praying for Eric to have such a good guy friend here.

Before we knew it, the Lord answered our prayer. Jandar is a two weeks older than Eric and he lives in the house next door, and they love playing together. This morning we heard him through our window saying, "eric, eric, are you awake yet?" As I write this he, Eric and Faith are running around outside in our courtyard.

Yet again the Lord shows us that He cares about the little and big things. Actually for a seven year old boy having a good friend is not so little a thing. And more importantly He shows us yet again that things happen when we pray.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

The calm before the storm.

We are now in the midst of the calm before the storm. Here is our schedule for the next few months:
-April 12 - 15, Camp Aklan
-April 21-21, Camp Alibunan
-April 24-30, Camp Bocolod
-May 2-6, Camp Iloilo
-May 15-21, Camp Guimaras (Christ for the Nations short-term team here)
-May 23-27, Iloilo Compassion International Camp
-May 30-June 1, Sonshine Center Building Work Days
-June 2-5, Trip to Boracay
-June 13, Preschool Begins
-June 28, Sonshine Center reopens
-July 4-15, Calvary International Discovery Missions Team visits
-July 8-15, Jimmy and Beth Capone Short-term Missions trip
Oh, and one more thing . . .
-July 18, we leave for a two month visit to the United States

I am told this is how it is every Summer, one thing after another. This is what the song writer refers to when he says, "A little less conversation, a little more action."

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Before God will send you to the nations, He wants to know what you are doing to reach the world next door. We boldly declare we are willing to go to the ends of the earth for Him, how about to the ends of your school, to the ends of your workplace, to the ends of your neighborhood? Before you can go to the other side of the world, God wants to see you going right where you are at. Step out of your comfort zone, open your front door, and go to the lost world you are already in.

But be careful. As was said in the Lord of the Rings, it is a dangerous thing stepping out your front door, because you never know where you may end up. If God sees you stepping out to your immediate world, He may just take you to the other side of the world as well.

Friday, March 25, 2005

A home.

I love our home in Iloilo. It is a big airy home with bright rooms that seem to catch every breeze that passes by, and breezes are very valuable here in the Philippines. We have a welcoming receiving hallway that leads into a bright and open living room. We have a large dining room, with a huge table, enough seating for eight. The kid's bedrooms are upstairs and our family/TV room is also upstairs. The house is not really our home, it belongs to my Lola who will eventually will it to her son, my Uncle Ed.

We do not own a home in the United States. When my children are older, there will be no home of their youth for them to visit. No home where they had their many birthday parties, Christmas mornings, etc. There will be no hometown for them to visit, with memories of elementary school playgrounds and high school sports fields.

A part of me regrets this. A part of me wishes we would have a somewhat normal or traditional life in the U.S. with a home to raise our kids in, a place to watch them grow, a place for them to come to and feel instantly comfortable, a place full of happy memories. It seems that our destiny will be of many different places to call home, perhaps in different countries all of the world, or at least in different parts of Asia. When Eric comes "home" from college during a break, I have no idea where that "home" will be. It could be in yet another country we will be missionaries in, some other far away land.

While I am a bit saddened by this, I am reminded that this Earth really is not my home. Our home is Heaven. We are just passing through. I truly believe that death is a homecoming, where we go to the place the Lord has been preparing for us, just as He promised in the Gospel of John. Indeed, rather than spend a lifetime building a home for my family, I feel it is our destiny to build God's kingdom on this earth. Rather then focus our energies and finances on earthly treasures, as wonderful as they can be, I feel we are instead laying up for ourselves treasures in Heaven.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

What do I miss?

We have been in the Philippines for about five months. What kinds of things do we miss? Many people know that the way to my heart is through my stomach, so naturally some of the things I miss are food related. Both Chris and I really miss Mexican food. We loved Don Pablo's and Taco Bell (not really "Mexican") We try and eat Mexican at least once a week, but it is not as easy to prepare since we have to make our tortillas from scratch. This can be a lot of work, but it is worth it. Chris has really impressed me by learning how to make many things from scratch, like Italian bread (very good and a hit with all who try it), different kinds of cookies, cakes, and breads.

Of course we miss the comforts of the US. Since it is so hot here we keep our windows open 24/7. Few houses have any kind of thermostat or central air conditioning. Having your windows open all day invites more than just the breezes. It can get very dusty inside. Also, even with screens on each window, the bugs are ever present. It seems we are always battling with ants. All food items must be completely sealed, or ants will find their way in and have a feast. I also find myself missing carpeting. Few places have wall-to-wall carpeting. I hear that babies growing up here do not spend much time crawling since there is no comfortable carpeting to crawl on. Of course, I also miss hot water. We are going to Hong Kong next week. I am so looking forward to taking a hot shower. I have not experienced this singular pleasure since October. Life in the United States is definitely much more cleaner and in some ways "softer," or another way to put it, less harsh.

One thing our entire family misses very much is a public library, no such things here in Iloilo. I am not just saying this because I previously worked for the Howard County Library. I was spoiled to not only work for this great library system, but also to patronize the Howard County Libraries. We are all avid readers, and making a trip to the Central Library in Columbia, Maryland was always a treat for all four of us. I would even take my kids there on my days off, and they loved it, it was a treat for them. Having so many books available to check out and read, and all for free. We do have a small library in our home here in Iloilo. We brought many books with us, and we also got some from Amazon (yes, they deliver to the Philippines). There is an OK bookstore here in our local shopping mall, and both Chris and I have been reading electronic books that we download from the Internet. But there is nothing quite like spending an hour or so browsing the stacks at a good library, coming home with an armful of books, and coming back the next week for more. Our family visited the library at least once a week. Chris says the next time we visit Maryland, she is going to "live" at the Central Library.

More than anything, we really miss people, family and friends. I miss the friends I would hang out with at work or go have lunch with. I miss the times spent with a bunch of guys, watching Monday Night Football at Damon's or going to an Orioles game. Eric and Faith really miss their friends, and their extended family in Maryland, and speak of them often. And I know Chris really misses the pleasures of watching her young nephew, Ryan, growing up. The fellowship of family and friends is what we miss the most.

What would we miss if we were not here? Now that is a good question.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Praise the Lord for windows.

No not the computer operating system. One of the major pieces left in order to complete the renovation of the Sonshine Center building is Windows. We need 90 windows. An appeal has been made for individuals, groups and churches to sponsor a window for $333.33. Many people have come forward, pledging to purchase a window for the Sonshine Center building. Through these individuals coming forward, we now have 15 windows for the Center. I am amazed to see God moving on the hearts of people to give to a project that they have not even seen with their own eyes.

We need 75 more. My prayer to the Lord is, "This is not enough." I am thankful for the 15 purchased so far, but we still need more. Our God is not a God of not enough. When I consider the total need, and how people have come forward to give, I am blessed, still I say, "More Lord." I am blessed and encouraged to see what He has done so far, but I know His work is not yet completed. I fully expect Him to provide all 90 windows, and everything else needed to complete the building.

We are not to limit God. He is ready and willing to provide. All He asks is that we trust, have faith, and believe in Him.

Thank you Lord.
More Lord.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

The other day I saw a little girl sleeping. She was curled up in a ball, sucking her thumb, fast asleep. She looked so calm and peaceful, the way kids do when they are sleeping, in spite of the fact that she was sleeping on the ground on a sidewalk on a corner of a busy intersection. What appeared to be her family was a few feet away. They were filthy and looked desperately poor. They had a younger child with them, happily playing in the dirt. he was as naked as the day he was born.

My heart is broken for such as these. A part of me wanted to jump off the jeepney I was riding and offer some kind of help. A part of me still wants to scoop up the little girl and take her home.

The image of her still haunts my thoughts. I can still picture her family sitting on the sidewalk. I can still see her sleeping, her face like an angel. This motivates me to strive and work even harder for the kids at the Sonshine Center. I may not be able to help every street kid in Iloilo, but at least I can brighten the lives of some. I may not be able to take them all home with me, but I can least be a part of something larger than myself that blesses and enriches the lives of these kinds of kids.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Chris and I have a new Ilonggo language tutor. Our first tutor, Rowena, was great, and we now have become friends. Her family came to Eric's Birthday Pool Party. She no longer teaches at the language school so we now have a new tutor. Our new tutor, Sam, is also great, but she demonstrates the challenges of learning an unwritten language. Ilonggo has a few strict grammar rules, but much of the language is formed around common usages. Since we now have a different tutor, we are learning her usages and idioms.

In some ways this absence of strict grammar makes Ilonggo easier to learn. Just go ahead and speak, don't worry about grammar, mix in a little English, and usually you will be understood. Once I got over my perfectionism, I found I could speak and understand much more than I really know. And since I look Filipino (probably because I am Filipino), when I am on the street people already expect me to know the dialect.

Most educated people here know and understand English, and some Filipinos speak it very well. When movies are imported from the U.S., they are shown in English without subtitles. The Sonshine Center Filipino staff are definitely fluent in English. The children who come to Center speak only Ilonggo.

The language school, CNC, where Chris and I, and the other missionaries here, go for Ilonggo instruction is actually a school that teaches English to Koreans. The deal is that we teach English to Koreans, and we get lessons in Ilongo in exchange. This has also blossomed into a unique relationship with the school. Students and tutors from CNC come to the Center at least once a month to help us minister to the kids. One of my students comes every Saturday to help out at Sonshine Kidz Klub. The school has also started giving a monthly financial gift to the Center. This is an incredible example of God's favor on the Sonshine Center.

Friday, February 04, 2005

I love short- term missions.

In college I went on five short-term missions trips, all five to Mexico. On those trips we would do street evangelism through dramas and skits. On my first short-term missions trip during my Sophomore year at Oral Roberts University, I led someone through the Sinner's Prayer for the very first time. I will never forget that experience. As a young teenager, I heard the call to foreign missionary work. I remember the night I heard the Lord reveal to me that I would be a missionary. On the short-term trips during my college years, I felt that call to missions strengthened and confirmed.

The Sonshine Center has several teams visiting each year. This year, we have a team coming almost every month. I love when short-term missions teams come. I love to see people join the ministry, even if just for a week or just a few days. I love the enthusiasm and excitement teams bring. A husband and wife we are very close to will be visiting us with a team this summer. Another couple we were in Guatemala with will be visiting as well. I am so looking forward to these upcoming visits. It will be my privilege to serve the Lord here in Iloilo alongside these brothers and sisters in Christ.

How about you? What is stopping you from coming here for a week or ten days? What is keeping you from coming here on a short-term missions trip? Christ is calling YOU, say "YES," and He will take care of the rest. He will provide the how and the when, He will overcome any obstacles, but before He can bless you with money for a plane ticket, you have to say "yes."

Just GO. You will never be the same.

Monday, January 31, 2005

The young girl who engages in prostitution has been coming to Center. I look at how young she is, she cannot be more than thirteen years old. She especially looks childlike when she is playing games or doing other activities at the Center. When I think about the men who take advantage of her, a part of me wants to find them and beat the living 5h!t out of them.

Chris reminded me that we do not war against flesh and blood. Indeed in this and with many other situations, we war against principalities and powers, and strongholds of darkness. Also, our weapons are not earthly, or man made, they are mighty for the pulling down of these strongholds.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Happy 7th Birthday Eric!
Today is my son's 7th birthday. I do not feel old enough to have a seven year old child. He is such a blessing. Seven fun years of t-ball and football games, watching him learn how to read and do math, going to Orioles games, going camping, now going all over the world. Today we will go to his choice of restaurant, go spend some of his birthday money, and watch Star Wars (his first time). Usually we would take him to Famous Dave's, for the passed few birthdays he had requested ribs for this birthday dinner treat, no equivalent of Famous Dave's here, but we will find something he likes.
I am the richest man in the world.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

We spent the weekend on the island of Guimaras having two days of children ministry with the kids there. A short-term missions team from Indiana came, and this was the main thrust of their trip. We held "mini" camps with the kids on the island, getting them ready for this summer when we will have a week-long camp there. I will be posting an update with pictures and stories on the website soon.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

This week we found out that some of the Sonshine Center girls are no longer coming to Center, the reason being they have sold themselves into prostitution. Their family situation has become so desperate, their needs so great, they have sold their bodies to make money for their families. These girls are just kids, barely twelve or thirteen. I am filled with a righteous rage that men would take advantage of young girls in this way. My heart is broken that their families, often with their parent's consent, have taken this very desperate measure to make money.

What can be done for the poor? Are we really accomplishing anything? My faith is encouraged by the story of Nomil. Nomil is currently studying in the States at Christ for the Nations Institute (CFNI). He came to Camp Sonshine Philippines many years ago, first as a camper, then volunteering as an assistant counselor. As he got older he was offered a job to work at the Sonshine Center as a paid employee. He is now studying at CFNI for a year on a full scholarship, tuition, room, board, everything. Here is a young man who came to Camp Sonshine as a young boy who is now growing into godly adulthood, and studying at one of the premier Bible schools in the United States. His was life was transformed by the ministry of Camp Sonshine. Now Christ has blessed him with an opportunity to study in America.

Are we really accomplishing anything? For Nomil, the answer is definitely "yes."

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

I am sitting here in language school with one of my students, Sebastian. Some of you may remember that I teach English to Korean students. I volunteer at this school, in exchange I get Ilonggo language instruction. We are enjoying the new wireless network here at the school. Sebastian has helped us several times at the Center, and is wanting to come again to help minister to the kids. I never expected to come to the Philippines and minister at the Center with Koreans. They are such a blessing, it is great to have their help.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

On the way to church there was a funeral procession. The person who passed away was not very rich since there was no car or hearse carrying the coffin. The simple wooden coffin was being carried by the mourners, being followed by some carrying flowers. What is striking about this is that the coffin was very small. A child had passed away. The most striking thing about this funeral procession, however, was that children were carrying the coffin. Children were carrying the flowers. The mourners were all children, no adults. No mother or father to grieve this child's passing. Not even an uncle or Auntie to assist in the burial. Just children.

In a country were over half of the population is under the age of 18, there are so many who are fatherless and motherless. One such child was buried last Sunday.