Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Fear has always been a part of my life, but never more than in the past year. Since January I have been dealing with the fears of leaving behind everything that is familiar, comfortable and safe. It feels like one worry will always be replaced by the next. This week everyone has been healthy, no worries there, but we have been battling creepy crawlies. I found worms crawling through my toothbrush bristles, a cockroach under our mosquito net (they seem to only come in one size here) and we've killed 5 fist- sized poisonous spiders in the last 2 days.

The exciting thing is that I feel less fearful than I used to. Each fear faced feels like a victory, knowing that we are still moving forward and not remaining paralyzed. I feel like I’ve been living out the words of Joyce Myer, “Do it afraid!” I came across this story and thought it was profound. . .

I once heard a story of a village where the children were told by their parents: "Whatever you do, don't go near the top of the mountain. It's where the monster lives." All the previous generations of children heeded this warning and avoided going near the top of the mountain.

One day, some brave young men in the village decided that they had to go and see the monster. They wanted to see what it was really like and defeat it. So they loaded their packs with provisions and set off up the mountain. Halfway up, they were stopped in their tracks by a huge roar and a terrible stench. Half the men ran down the mountain, screaming. The other half of the group continued on their journey. As they got farther up the mountain, they noticed that the monster was smaller than they had expected - but it continued to roar and emit such a stench that all but one of the men ran back down the mountain into the village.

"I am going to get the monster," the one remaining man said to himself, and he took another step forward. As he did so, the monster shrank until it was the same size as the man. As he took another step toward the monster, it shrank again. It was still hideously ugly and continued to emit and stench, but the man was so close to the monster now that he could actually pick it up and hold it in the palm of his hand. As he looked at it, he said to the monster, "Well, then, who are you?" In a tiny high-pitched voice, the monster squeaked: My name is Fear."

I feel like we are in the foothills of the mountain, but have begun the climb. I can't wait to take that little fear- monster in my hand and see him for who he is. God did not give us a spirit of fear! In fact I think I am going to declare that truth the next time I slam my flip- flop into a spider (more likely shout it across the room as Jason kills the spider). I still have a ways to go.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Simple Things

We did not allocate much luggage space to bringing toys, thinking "kids make their own toys". This theory has been tested and proven correct. Here is some third- world fun the kids have been having. . .

splashing in a wash basin

climbing a tree

stick, sticks, and mores sticks

motorcycles (not in motion)

very primitive bicycles



The kids are doing really well and seem adjusted and happy. It really helps that they are both extroverts and love being around people. Someone asked Josiah where he was from and he said "Africa!" Clearly he is a confused third- culture kid, but for now he seems more interested in finding a new stick than worrying about his identity. Annette loves to wave and say "hi" and "bye" to everyone. The Filipinos love to say "she is just like a doll" (pronounced "dole")

Bohol District Jail

Today our friend Raysem brought us to the Bohol District Jail to share in the ministry he has with the 362 inmates from across the provence. I was a little more relaxed this time around with the whole jail thing, but still had no idea what we were walking into. I am learning not to ask questions, but rather just let things unfold. We ended up riding in a pick up truck down a bumpy dirt road to a very inviting prison (if there can be such a thing) with flower gardens, an art gallery, library and barber shop. As we walked into the main courtyard a band began playing and all the men came out of the cells and began dancing and singing in unison to welcome us. We were stunned as our family was escorted to the seats of honor.
They proceeded to put on a program for us that included ethnic dancing and choreographed numbers. Raysem told us the lyrics were, "there is always hope" and "the power of the cross". Way better than Michael Jackson. I was undone and crying behind my sunglasses, moved by the stories of redemption before my eyes. I could sense the Lord's pleasure and deep love for these men.

Next they turned the mic over to "foreign brother Jason" to share God's word. Some men came close to listen and the rest hung out in their cells. Jason preached an awesome message about the father- wound and how to have a relationship with our heavenly father. In the end he had the men put their hands on their hearts and he prayed for healing and wholeness.

After sharing we passed out gifts to the prisoners of drinks, snacks, soap and toothpaste. It was family day and there were lots of kids visiting their dads, of course some people never have a single visitor.
I loved walking from cell to cell, talking with the famlies and hearing a piece of their story. Life is hard in the prison, but equally hard for the woman who carry on without their husbands for 10- 20 years. I was struck by how easy it was for us to walk into the prison for a one time experience, but for these people this was their unchanging reality.

As we were leaving a guard gave Jason a painting he'd made called "Shield of Love " with this message written on the back "I was on the rooftop multi- purpose listening to you. . . when you prayed to God, the Father on our behalf . . . when you prayed to him to get rid of the wounds in our hearts left by our genetic fathers. I'm fine now. Thank you very much" Our hearts continue to be in awe at the power of God's love.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


Arms of Love has a small farm that provides profit and food for the ministry. We have been blessed to eat the fresh coconuts, papayas, avocados, bananas, vegetables, eggs, herbs and pork that comes for the beautiful farm on the corner of the property. Today the pastor/ farmer informed us that the pig was giving birth. I have never seen anything give birth and was really excited to hurry so we won't miss the event. I didn't realize this poor sow was pushing piglets out from 8 am- 6pm. When we arrived there were 3 and we watched #4 be born. We learned tonight that there were 13 in all!! It was so incredible, but if I'm honest made me a bit queasy (I wish I had a stronger stomach). Josiah found it educational and Annette (our animal lover) wanted to leap out of our arms into their muddy pens.

I'm not sure how I feel about holding the newly born little guy!

Farming and raising animals is a great source of livelihood for the poor here in the Philippines. ICM has a wonderful curriculum for training people how to do container farming, vermiculture, seed banking etc. We have been trying to educate ourselves on some of these methods that have empowered the poor with other sources of food/ income.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tagbalaran Prison

First of all thank you so much for your prayers for Annette. Her fever broke Monday morning and she returned to her perky self. I really sensed the prayers for her healing. Praise God!
We went on a very unconventional family outing today to the Tagbalaran City Jail, just a few miles down the road from Arms of Love. Jason visited last week with Pastor Buni and preached a message to the inmates on our Identity in Christ. When he suggested that the kids and I come along I was a bit hesitant, but the Lord gave me peace (and favor with the guards- usually kids can't visit) so off we went.
The men and women are only supposed to be held in this facility temporarily until their case is heard, however we met people who had spent the last 15 years in this small prison! Pastor Buni has been faithfully visiting the inmates for the past 12 years and has built some incredible relationships with them. Many of the prisoners and guards have come to a saving faith in Jesus Christ.
It was beautiful to see the joy and abandon in their worship.

Most of the prisoners have kids they never see so they loved seeing Josiah and Annette- who of course put on a show for them.

I heard it said once you should always be ready to "preach, pray and die". Today I certainly wasn't prepared to do any of the three (Jason did pray). I was out of my comfort zone so much that all I could manage were smiles, small talk, photo taking and sanitizing the kids' hands when nobody was looking. I think my biggest take away was the realization that prisoners are just people. They seemed the same to me as people outside the tall, barbed wire enforced walls. And they are lonely, forgotten, and rejected. They are people who need love and in many cases desperately want to hear about the hope Jesus brings.
Please pray for Jason this Saturday as he is visiting a larger prison in the city and preaching to 350 inmates along with bringing them small gifts. Please pray for revival to sweep the hearts of the men and women.

End- note: The prison in Cebu (just an hour from here) is famous for the inmates who dance to Michael Jackson in the courtyard (incredible). If you haven't seen it Youtube it. I was a little disappointed that these guys didn't dance for us, maybe we will start a new sort of prison- tourism industry (:

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Ode to My Camera

I'm not sure what happened, but when I opened my camera yesterday everything was in a fog. Somehow water seeped into the lens and now it is destroyed. I am really, really bummed. We can still take photos on Jason's iphone and will replace it at some point. There is so much color and beauty here to capture, sigh. Here are the last few images from my camera. RIP

On a more serious note, prayer partners please lift up Annette. She has had e fever for 5 days and is not showing signs of improvement. If she is not better by tomorrow we will go to the doctor. We really value your prayers and appreciate the comment- love you leave!


Getting some of the children hear to open up is a bit delicate as they have had a tough life. One teenage boy and I have been able to chat about small things and he eventually opened up explaining how he got to this children's home. He is the 4th oldest out of 9 kids. His dad is an alcoholic and mom was admitted to a mental facility 7 years ago. Part of his family roamed the streets of Tagbilaran looking for ways to survive. At one point his 3 brothers and 2 friends were hungry so he went up to a bread shop and nabbed a few buns. Little did he know that a police officer was right behind him. He spend 3 months in jail at the age of 14 for this misdeed before being sent to AOL. I couldn't help but think of Les Miserables while he was telling his story.

He contemplated running away but Grandpa Boni (more on him later) convinced him to stay. Now 7 of his brothers and sisters are here with him. I asked what he thinks would have happened if he choose to run away, without hesitation he replied that he would be dead. One of the friends he was with was beaten to death in jail and the other is dealing drugs in the city (punishable by death in the Philippines).

He is now working to get back on track from years of wandering and grateful to be in the presence of loving people. With the wisdom and character building he has learned at AOL he now is a beacon of light to his friends from the old days of stealing, drinking, and fighting.

It is really a blessing to see the love of Christ displayed and seeing changed lives as a result.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Jesus in the Philippines

Coming from Hong Kong where every surface imaginable is plastered with advertisments, it has been so refreshing to read the slogans paintited on the back of the motortaxis here. Here are a few that I shot as they sputtered past me today.

And just for fun, a pig in a motortaxi

Apart from the motortaxis ministering to me, I have been so inspired by the devotion of the Filipionos here. They really know what it means to seek the Lord first and find their enjoyment in Him. The children and staff rise at 5:00 am for devotions before doing their chores. Every evening after dinner they also have time of devotions as a home. Other functions we have atteneded also reflect this passion for worship and God's word. There are devotions (I'm not talking 5 minutes, but 45 minutes) before staff meetings, teacher's training, church services, potlucks and even birthday parties. Wednesday night we attended Pastor Tati Bone's 55th birthday party. Before eating, we worshiped and his friend gave an hour long sermon! Josiah said "mommy is Jesus in the Pill-a-peens?" That would be a resounding yes.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Falling Down and Getting Back Up

Like the afternoon tropical thunder storms, it feels like everyday throws something new our way. We continue the process of regrouping, picking ourselves up and waiting for the sun to come out again.

This week our list of ailments is growing:
mosquito attacks
diarrhea for a Christine
. . .then Annette
. . .then Josiah
. . .then Annette
runny nose, fever, and asthma for Josiah
unidentifiable crankiness for Annette
unidentified skins sores for Jason and Christine
a night of vomiting for Christine
three nights in a row of little- no sleep

The living conditions are more third- world then we had anticipated, probably because we are living with all locals (there are no foreign missionaries here). We are eating entirely locally grown and prepared food which is causing a stir in our tummies.

Last night as I was up vomiting (sorry if this is TMI) I realized how very little I have suffered. I began to start another list in my head of things I have not endured:
my father did not rape me
my mother never beat me
my parents didn’t abandon me
I don’t come from a history of alcoholism, mental illness and abuse

The beautiful, precious children here have suffered these things. If they can get back up in God’s strength, so can we. Thank you Jesus for transforming lives, restoring hope and helping us to get back up again.

Friday, August 12, 2011

ICM Teacher Training

While the Arms of Love Kids are in school we will be partnering with a fantastic ministry that works with the "poorest of the poor" called International Care Ministries. ICM does a LOT, values, health,and livelihood training, feeding programs and schools. The Philippines has free public schooling, but kids must qualify to enter with some basic literacy and math skills. Of course this system keeps the poorest illiterate and in a cycle of poverty. In Bohol alone ICM has 15 kindergarten preparing kids in their program to enter the government schools. I am so passionate about this project and really wanted to be involved.

So Thursday we got to visit one of the schools (which was actually built with the help students from ICS in Hong Kong!) It was inspiring to see what a difference the teacher was making even with her limited resources and many challenges. The kids put on a little program for us. Aren't these girls precious! The director told us afterwards that the girl in the middle was abandoned by her mother ):
On Friday I was given the privilege of training the teachers at their monthly staff meeting. The teachers have huge hearts, but haven't received a lot of training or preparation. Before beginning I was chatting with one teacher, Lillian, who teaches kids who live in a dump. I really began to wonder how relevant my training on phonemic awareness and classroom managament was going to be for her. Fortunaltly it went really well. The biggest challenge was talking over the passing rain pounding on the tin- roof (: The ladies were very grateful and so eager to learn all they could. I learned from a teacher's assistant after the training how much she is paid. I was shocked that they make less in a month than I would make in a hour of tutoring. For these ladies teaching truly is a minsitry.

Arms of Love Children's Home

Whew. . . it has been a busy week with enough new people and experiences to fill several blogs. We have been at Arms of Love for five days now and have really felt accepted as part of their family. All of the orphaned/ abandoned children are school- aged so normally they are gone at school from 6:30 am- 5:30 pm. This week however the teachers were at a conference so the kids were around Monday- Wednesday. It was the perfect opportunity to learn their names, play some soccer, and get acquainted.

- Josiah and Annette instantly having 26 loving big brothers and sisters AND tons of room to run around
- a good set- up with a house to ourselves (and the only room with air- conditioning and a flushing toilet)
- watching the kids and parents worship with all their hearts in Tagaolog
- being completely inspired and humbled by the ministry of the staff here

- Three days of dissentary and weak achey feeling for me (Christine)
- Zillions of mosquito bites for Annette. We covered her crib with a mosquito net, but didn't realize til the morning there were 3 mosquitos IN the net, so sad
- Reaching the point where a vacation/mission trip would be over and realizing we are just getting started. Having moments of longing to "go home" and remembering there is no home

This is the view from the porch of the house we are staying in

The kids earn allowance by working in the garden

Lots of company while washing clothes

Josiah performing stunts on a tire (:

Every night we eat dinner in a different "home". Arms of love is divided into four homes with house parents.

One afternoon Jason and I were doing crafts with the kids (yes, Jason did crafts and he was awesome!) Josiah decided that he needed our attention and started yanking on some of the kids' projects, including a bracelet that Rollie was making. Annette of course needed attention too and started screaming. Even after all that, when Rollie finished he came over and tied a bracelet on Josiah and Annette's wrists. Later he bought them treats with his meager allowance.

We've been humbled by the generosity and love of the staff and children here and can see that we are going to learn a lot from them.

Saturday, August 6, 2011


We have had a great week in Bohol and have been enjoying unseasonably sunny weather (this is the wet season). Most days we've spent at the beach but we have ventured out on a couple outings to see some unique points- of- interest in Bohol

These are called the Chocolate Mountains, which of course set Josiah up for major disappointment. There are over a thousand individual dome- shaped hills made of grass covered limestone. They turn brown in the winter (thus chocolate)

Not disappointing to the kids were the Terser Monkeys. These endangered species (actually not a monkey, but that doesn't matter) are some the world's tinniest primates and could easily fit inside your hand. We were surprised that they were not in cages, but just hanging out in trees. It was like an Easter egg hunt to find them. They are so docile you can get really close to them and they don't flinch. Aren't they cute?! (in their own way)

The third place we visited was the Bohol Bee Farm. We were prepared for this to be a tourist trap, but it was so well done. It had lodging, a fabulous restaurant, bakery, gift shop, homemade organic ice cream shop (with casava leaf cones), organic farm, tours, and livelihood handicrafts. The Bee Farm provides jobs and housing for 200 Filipinos. Jason and I were both so inspired by what a positive place this was for tourists and locals alike.

THIS was my salad. It was so pretty and yummy.

We are learning the names of all 20 kids are Arms of Love through their pictures online. We are so excited to go meet them tomorrow!!