Friday, April 29, 2011

no anonymity

Bright morning sun already blazed hot on each back 
as our family walked up the street early that day.  
We were on our way to an appointment, 
heading together toward the school.

On the way, we saw ahead this armored car, 
stopped in front of a private home. 

A guard with a rifle stood behind the vehicle.

As we passed the car, the driver's door suddenly popped open.

Quite unexpectedly, 
the driver stuck his head out, 
smiled at us, 
and pleasantly hollered to Michael,
"Hello, cute boy!"
before shutting and securing his door again.

I'm afraid that there is no anonymity for us here. 
Michael especially gets regular smiles,
pats on the head,
high fives,
and greetings from all sorts of local people.

Even armored car drivers.

(others of us could tell you stories too.
but I promised the girls I wouldn't tell theirs...
not yet, anyway...)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Living in a foreign culture, life doesn't always go as planned,
and things we take for granted in our home culture are often just not relevant anymore.

We experienced a few opportunities to practice flexibility this Easter...

We may have had a blackout when we woke on Easter morning,
but the sun was shining brightly and the birds still sang!

It may have been hot enough to melt the frosting crosses 
on the not hot anymore 
 hot cross buns I baked the day before,
but we enjoyed refreshingly cool fruit alongside.

We may not have had any chocolate Easter bunnies, no Cadbury eggs or jellybeans, 
but we did find some great imported treats to enjoy. 
(m&ms, mini Hershey bars, chocolate kisses! yum! what a treat!)

The ants may have all descended on the flowers Michael picked 
and put in a vase to grace our breakfast table,
but at least they waited until after breakfast was over!

We may still not have had any electricity by noontime,
but we had more than enough food even without the meat we planned to cook.

Michael's resurrection garden might not have all filled out with lush green,
but we could still celebrate the rolling away of the stone!

And though we were far from home,
we still could sing together with other believers
the victorious music of Easter;
"Up from the grave He arose!"
and  together with you we rejoice in knowing that we serve a risen Savior!

Monday, April 25, 2011

holy week retreat

A deserted mall on Good Friday

Holy week (the week before Easter) is widely observed in the Philippines.
We were honored to be invited to join a Holy Week Retreat outside of Davao.
We joined just for Good Friday, and on the way there,
the streets were deserted, 
and malls and stores were closed
in observance of the day of Christ's death.

The retreat was held at the Davao School for the Blind

Amy and Elise with Ate Tata

Mark enjoys fellowship with some of the men

Amy (bending in orange) and Elise (on right) join in the youth activities

Teams of youth competed to piece together verses correctly

Elise confers with Kuya Harold

Baby and DaiDai

Chickens and kittens dwelling in unity

Amy inspects a mango crop

Michael (in blue T-shirt) hoping to see him catch a fish!

Elise leafs through the Braille Bibles in the chapel

Eloisa reads God's Word to her partially blind dad in preparation for him to preach

Eloisa and Gia

Baby finds a familiar hymn

Yuri, 13, provides the music for the retreat

Michael sits with friends

Ate Juvi, Elise, Amy, Ysha and PauPau pose with a baby chick

Michael was pretty enamored with this little guy
A coconut shell made the perfect bed for a baby chick!

Barbara and Joy, a sweet friend

Elise, Amy and Ysha

Dinner - lots of rice, noodles with fish, and greens with sardines (we ate lots of rice)

Friday, April 22, 2011

Easter eggs


emptied out,

 then clothed with majesty...




All Easter eggs courtesy of Amy's research and industry
with a little help from Michael who made a trip or two
to the corner store for more eggs...

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

the food of Easter

Oh no.  He's there again.  Right outside the department store door; between me and my grocery bags filled with food for Easter and the street where I'll catch a jeepney home.  He's standing as usual.  Tatters cover his legs, spread wide for balance, and his arms reach high in supplication as he mutters his plea for alms.  He won't see me avert my eyes and look away.  I will look anywhere but at his disfigured face and blind eyes.  He won't see me.  And I don't want to look at his suffering, or to get anywhere near it.

Could this be somehow a failure on the part of God, 
that this man should know such shame and misery?
Is God in reality not powerful enough to eradicate his suffering...
and for that matter, 
the suffering in my life, 
and in yours, 
and in the lives of those we love?

Or is all this suffering somehow mysteriously linked to that hill in Israel where Almighty God carried out the final horrible details of an earth-shaking, history-making plan that He masterminded even before He spoke this earth into existence?  

Because He planned it just as it happened. (see Revelation 13:8)  The cross wasn't some cosmic disaster, nor a gentle gesture of sentimental goodwill somehow spun tragically out of control.  

Those one-inch thorns driven deep into Jesus' head; 
the lacerated back laced with ribbons of bleeding flesh made to shoulder a 75 pound cross-beam;
tapered, square-shafted five-inch iron spikes pierced into the median nerve of the wrist, inflicting severe, excruciating pain;
His every breath an agony of effort; 
and the darkness, 
the worst of all.  
The darkness of God's wrath, as He turned His back.  
Every single detail was planned from before time.

God planned this suffering?

"Sometimes God allows what He hates 
to accomplish what He loves."  
- Joni Eareckson Tada

Is it possible that our suffering
may be exactly what God has planned
to accomplish something far more valuable
than comfort and happiness in our lives?

As I look at His outstretched arms,
into His face distorted with agony,
into this suffering, 
is this not why I celebrate Easter?  
Is this, after all, the real food of Easter? 

That because of suffering
I am brought back to God (1 Peter 3:18)
  I am healed. (Is. 53:5)
I am forgiven. (1 Peter 2:24)

Only by the suffering of Christ 
is my greatest suffering,
my agonizing need for Him,
finally filled.
The true food of Easter.

**thanks to good friends who have invited me to read and think on the book 'Suffering and the Sovereignty of God' by John Piper, which is giving me this Easter a fresh appreciation for the meaning of the cross of Christ...

Monday, April 18, 2011

down to my toes

A few friends stopped by last week looking for work.
They did some weeding and sweeping and watering for us in the front yard,

and Michael (in green) taught us how to make a kite out of a plastic bag.

He took it for a test-run on the street, and it worked great!  
Wish I had thought to take a photo of him flying it; 
the smile on his face was priceless.

When their work was done, 
they enjoyed some time playing with (our) Michael, 
the scooter, and the rope swing.

About this time I began to notice their shoes.

Jericho's were fine,

but Josanne's were a few sizes too small,

Jasper's had a hole worn through the sole,

and the straps on Michael's were falling apart.

So I took a look around our house, 
and found 3 extra pairs of out-grown flip-flops to share with them.

They were so delighted with their 'new' shoes.

Many children in this country live life barefoot, 
or in shoes just like these.

Though that might sound carefree and easy,
without shoes, there is nothing to protect their feet from getting cut and infected.

And because soil-transmitted diseases are common, 
shoe-less kids are at risk of both long-term physical and cognitive injury.

Shoes are also a required part of the school uniform,
so without shoes, many children are not even qualified to attend school.

Here's just one more privilege I have taken for granted;
the shoes on my feet.

May we remember to give thanks today 
all the way down to our toes!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

As a day someone dumped a cartload of old shoes near the neighborhood trash cans.  These are a precious commodity!  People scrambled to find matches, and one little boy came away teetering on a mis-matched pair of high heels.  Amusing, but not exactly practical!

Friday, April 15, 2011

crystal-clear surprise

   Visiting friends for the weekend in a remote Filipino village, Steve* stood leaning against a woven straw house in the shade to escape the heat of the afternoon sun.
   An old Filipino man dressed in nothing but a g-string came and squatted on the ground next to Steve.  Steve squatted down to join him.  Soon the old man companionably laid a hand on Steve's knee.  So Steve laid a hand on the old man's knee.  
   They squatted there for some time; two men from different worlds, united in a silent exchange of friendliness.  
   Suddenly the old man spoke, and to Steve's surprise, in crystal-clear English asked, "Who is your favorite American President?  Mine is Theodore Roosevelt."

*Steve, who has taught Bible to Amy and Elise this year, is a beloved story-teller and shared this fun story with their class

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

exotic fruit

My knife slices cleanly through the thin golden skin, 
revealing the bright orange flesh of a papaya.
And I am suddenly very aware of what I'm doing.
I'm cutting into a fruit that I never ate in the US,
because there it was a luxury.

Here, papaya trees grow rampant, and the papaya above cost something like 15 cents.
We eat papaya almost every day.
And we eat pineapple almost every day.
Yes, they are small ones, but they are the best pineapple you've ever had.
and they, along with the papaya, are the cheapest fruit in town.

These fruits, exotic by some standards,
are staples in this economy.

And this slicing open of a papaya also slices open a door somewhere in my mind.
As the seeds slide over and around the blade of the knife, the seed of an idea plants itself inside of me.

Not all fruit is equally valuable to all men.

What is of value to us 
may be a fruit you would be more than ready to trade for one of ours.

I won't tell you how much we might be willing to pay for a fresh strawberry.
Or any fresh berry for that matter.
Or a Bartlett pear, 
or a peach.  
Fruit that's not only rare, it's just not here.

So, I wonder, are the fruits of the Spirit also not all of equal value in all men?

The fruit I might most value, because it is most rare in my life,
might be plentiful in yours.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 
Galatians 5:22-23

The joy I find most exotic, most unattainable, is perhaps truly more valuable fruit when it finally is found growing in the soil of my heart.  
Conversely, the fruit of gentleness may grow more naturally there, so though it may be considered of high value to another, in my life does God see it of less value, because it comes more easily, more naturally?

Could it be that not all fruit is of equal value?

When I find myself craving peace,
when I ask the Lord of the Harvest to develop that fruit in me,
and He, 
despite the hostile soil 
and the weeds that would choke it out,
finally brings the fruit of peace in my life,
is it not of greater worth than if it had come easily to me?

So I take heart.
Those most rare fruits,
the ones I crave to see in my life,
are the fruits that even in a small, under-grown, unripe condition
may actually be of great worth in the sight of my Maker.