Tuesday, May 31, 2011

at the gate

Just two years ago, when we lived in our quiet, orderly neighborhood in the U.S., it was uncommon for anyone but the Fed Ex guy and occasionally the mail-lady to come to our door.  Okay, our neighbors Jim and Andrea did drop in once in a while, and occasionally a friend would stop by – though almost never unannounced.  

But this neighborhood is like another time and another place.  Here we live in community resembling nothing I ever imagined.

Friends back home, you know me; a woman with classic introvert tendencies.  You know that I treasure my quiet and my privacy.  Yet somehow, mysteriously, I find myself delighted to be in such community – one where friends drop by any time to borrow some baking soda or a movie, or to invite us to a soccer game tomorrow.  

As I reflect on the visitors to our gate even in just one day, I’m reminded of how vibrant this all really is.  The list below is just from today.  It may have been a little busier than normal, but not much.

At our gate today…

8 am – a fellow-worker arrives to meet about a project we are coordinating together.
9 am – another fellow-worker drops by to ask Elise to help with a power point presentation.
10:15 – a friend returns a book she had borrowed
11:50 – two street kids come by looking for work
12:15pm – a co-worker’s son drops off his bicycle – Michael will be using it while he’s out of the country (and yes, Michael is VERY excited!)
1:30 – a friend of Elise and Amy's brings a flash drive for Elise
2:45 – “Ate B” picks up school supplies for the Bible Club
2:55 - Michael’s friend comes over to play
3:15 – a couple of unfamiliar women deliver household items to store for a co-worker
3:20 – Bebing arrives from the market with fresh fruits and vegetables and to pray for her cousin with cancer
4:45 – Michael’s friend’s dad and brother come to pick him up and stop to talk
5:10 – a beggar woman asks for food
5:30 – our neighbor stops in to discuss an issue that needs attention
8 pm – two co-workers come to take a photo for an upcoming newsletter
8:10 – another beggar woman looks for food
And finally the gate is locked for the night.

And we are the quiet ones in the community.

So friends, go ahead.   
Surprise us.   
Show up at our gate, stop in and stay awhile.   
We’ll turn the fan your way and bring you a tall glass of something cold to drink.  

After we answer the call at the gate.

Monday, May 30, 2011

luxury of an education

A friend of ours, Ate "B" is a Filipina who deeply desires to minister to the children of this neighborhood, and not only to the children, but to their families as well.  She has begun a weekly Bible Club for many of the children, including many of the ones who come to work for us, as well as additional children who have joined them.  

  This is an answer to prayer for me!  I see so many needs, and really want to make a difference in the lives of these children, but without adequate language skills, I'm woefully incapable of getting beyond a very basic relationship with them. So I'm very excited about being able to pray with and encourage Ate "B" in her work.  Her vision is to help these children learn of God's love for them, while also helping them to learn basic life skills.  

  One of those life skills is to learn to apply themselves and succeed in school.  To help them do that, Ate "B" and I want to help them get some of the supplies they will need to even attend during this new school year, beginning June 6.   And to encourage them to value these supplies, we are requiring that they meet some standards, including regular attendance at the Bible class, diligence in their school studies, some Bible memory in Visayan, and some service projects.

 So this past weekend, a few of the children met at our house (along with Michael!) where we waited for Ate "B" to join us.  

While we waited, they played, and there was a mini hand-stand contest.  
These guys were good!

When Ate "B" arrived, we shed our shoes

and went inside to work on cleaning an empty apartment, 
soon to be rented by a colleague of ours.

They scrubbed,

and swept,


 and mopped.

(This reminded me of Pippi Longstocking's mopping methods:
they just grabbed wet rags, and deftly used their feet to scrub that floor clean!)

There was no slacking, and no complaining.

 These kids know how to work hard, and cheerfully.

Ate "B" (who was shy of the camera) inspects the floor

The apartment was (not perfectly, but almost!) clean 
from top to bottom in record time.

And all to earn some supplies 
that they will need to go to school.

Would I have been willing to work to earn my own school supplies, 
all those years ago when I was an elementary student?
I guess I always considered those supplies my right, my privilege.
Going to school was just what I had to do. 
There was no option.

But the luxury of an education is not the privilege of the whole world.
And here, in my front yard, are children who have a greater appreciation
for the value of an education than I ever did.
Without it, many of them will end up literally sweeping streets,
or collecting recyclables
while finding their next meal out of a trash can.

How exciting to have the privilege of offering hope to even just a few children;
hope of a better way.
Hope in Christ,
that spurs us to work with all our heart to honor Him 
with this life He has gifted to us.

"...you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.
For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe."
1 Thessalonians 1:11-13

Friday, May 27, 2011

the work of our hands

Today we are celebrating 
because one more school year is now complete;
summer vacation has begun!

Below is a window into a few of the things 
that have occupied our hands 
during those months of school...

hours of flute practice
"Mr. Beveridge's WHAT!?!?"

"What else do trains carry?!?"

authoring One Year Adventure Novels
"A small voice whispered warningly in my head, but I pushed it away. A quest would be too dangerous."

Biology diagrams
"...the sessile, tubular form of a cnidarian..."

Whatever your hand finds to do, 
do it with your might,
Ecclesiastes 9:10

small scale architecture
"do you know where we can buy any more toothpicks, Mom?"

spelling tests
"i before e except after c..."

"I'm going outside to find some rocks..."

model airplanes
"spray the wings with misting of rubbing alcohol to make the tissue taut..."
even more hours of reading
"don't read it all in one day..."

Let the favor of the Lord 
our God be upon us; 
And confirm for us 
the work of our hands; 
Yes, confirm the work of our hands.  
Psalm 90:17

the art of scherenschnitte
"schnerinsnity?  scherensnit?  how do you say that again?"

"no, it's NOT a football..."

"did you know that Africa has fewer people with internet connections than those in the city of New York?"

I have held many things in my hands, 
and I have lost them all; 
but whatever I have placed in God's hands, 
that I still possess.
Martin Luther

piano practice
"no, 'chopsticks' doesn't qualify as practice time..."

fine scale modeling
"has anyone seen my x-acto knife?"

"Elise is in the kitchen again"

History...WWII Hurricane
"I copied the photo I found on Wikipedia..."

more piano practice...combined with flute; 
"no! not The Entertainer!  leave that one for the finale!"

experimentation with various crafting techniques 
"you want old t-shirts for what?!?"

"turn off the doorbell, wash the gecko droppings off the counter, and pull out your ingredients!"

engineering (a working mechanical lock)
"...it's really very simple; the pistons are activated by the insertion of the key, causing the entire mechanism..."

"...can i take him home, Dad?"

Take my life and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee
Take my moments and my days,
Let them flow in endless praise.

Take my hands  
and let them move
At the impulse of Thy love...

Frances R. Havergal

Yes, confirm the work of our hands.  
Psalm 90:17

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

bottle collection

 One of Michael's bi-weekly jobs is to take the trash out to the garbage truck when he hears it coming.
The truck isn't too difficult to catch, since the driver comes honking the horn down the street as they go.

And then, these trash guys like Michael, so they call out at our gate if he isn't there waiting for them.

You can see a garbage man with Michael at the gate below;
there's another man working the street with him,
and then two or three others up in the bed of the truck,
catching the cans and bags tossed up,
and sorting through it all to find items of value
to augment their salary.

One day Michael was commenting on what a terribly hot job they have;
all day out in the sun, lifting and tossing and sorting trash.

It was then that he decided to collect used bottles
for the sanitation workers,
refilling them with water ready to share.

Now the driver is all the more intentional about stopping at our house.

And Michael is learning to serve; 
to share a cup of water to bless another...

I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink;
Matthew 25:35

Monday, May 23, 2011

take the trash out

Morning lessons and housework complete, I head to the kitchen to prepare lunch.  There, across the kitchen floor to the trash that someone forgot to take out after breakfast marches a platoon of soldier ants.  They are staging just one more of a countless number of battles in this newest war to take over our home.

There's no time to engage them right now.  Mark will be home in just a few minutes, and there's a table to lay, and salad to make so that I can send him back to the office fed and ready for active service.

Once the meal is consumed and the dishes all washed, I stage my recognizance.  
I find that they are coming in at the window, trailing through the shelves, up the door frame, along the ceiling line, and back down to the trash.  Sigh.

ants on the shelf
 I've tried chemical warfare.  Before the fumes have died away, the ants are back again, coming from another direction, marching right over the dead bodies of their compatriots.
I've tried natural means; a paste of cinnamon mixed with baking soda and a bit of water is a good temporary deterrent.  But nothing seems to hold them back for long.

  They've found their way into our food - into containers I didn't think they could enter,
or into foods I didn't know they would want.
They've eaten their way into packages of...
Baking powder.
Uncooked Rice.
ants in the bread

But they aren't content with food.  They've also eaten their way into
Bath towels.
The couch.

 Then, on Mother's Day evening,
Michael told me that he had woken that morning to ants biting him in bed.
He hadn't told me before, because he
'...didn't want to ruin your Mother's Day.'

I went to his bedroom to check it out.  
Sure enough, there were a few ants on his sheet.
I stripped it off, and  to my shock, 
found his whole mattress covered in ants.
(No, Michael doesn't eat in his bedroom)
I took his pillowcase off, to find his pillow also swarming with them.
 Michael moved to the landing for a few nights while we set up traps to poison the ants.
They are gone now.

ants climbing down to the trash
Though the ants have sometimes been a temporary nuisance to us,
we've never yet experienced such an onslaught as we have over the course of the past two months.
And just when I thought they were finally gone,
since we haven't seen any in the house for several days,

I find that they are back again today.

These little pesky ants remind me of the more critical war I wage against my mortal enemies: the world, the flesh and the devil. There are times of peace, when all of life seems to be right; no conflict, no struggles, all joy and delight.  And then, without warning, the enemies of my soul are back with assault after assault, launching another attempt to drag me down, to render me useless in the kingdom of God.
And like these 6-legged foes, my mortal enemies are quick to converge when trash is left lying around in my life; the trash of selfish thoughts, pride, ungracious and unforgiving attitudes, worry and discontent.

Why can I not learn to take the trash out?!?

 I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 
Romans 7:19

But sweet words from the Word flood my heart, 
and give me courage to not give in or give up in this struggle with sin.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
Romans 8:31

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Isaiah 41:10

please pray with us that our war against these ants will soon be won;
but maybe more importantly, that God will use even this
to refine us in character!

Friday, May 20, 2011


It's a very common sight to see recyclers pedaling 
around looking for things which people have discarded.

Here are two recyclers taking a short break in front of our house.  
What's interesting is that they will share and trade the
things they have picked up.  One day I saw a group of them,
each with an old air conditioning unit. They were in the 
process of taking them apart ... presumably to see
whether they could build one good unit from the parts
of several broken ones. 

Much ingenuity with a little money is vastly 
more profitable and amusing 
than much money without ingenuity.
-Arnold Bennett

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

by the inking of my thumbs

Once in awhile we are distinctly reminded 
that we are aliens in a foreign land.

Yesterday was such a day,
when the kids all needed a government seal of approval
for visa purposes.

So we hiked up the path to the main road to catch a taxi,

 pausing to greet the cows grazing along the way.

We took a taxi to the Bureau of Immigration
where the guard at the gate let us in, 
and did a brief check of our bags.

The guard outside the door was very friendly,
and though she looks so official in this pose,
it's all an act.
She was very relaxed, and happy to have her photo taken.  
She insisted that Amy, Elise and Michael join her for the photo.

Inside we met our well-connected, well-informed friend, Kuya "J," 
 who helped us through all the requirements.

There were forms to be signed,

and then the inking of the thumbs for fingerprints.

At least this time it was ONLY thumbs.
It gets pretty messy when it's the full set.

 This gentleman's official job is to get the fingerprints just right,

and in just the right spot on each form.

Once the prints are done, Kuya "J" always has clean-up supplies 
along with him to help us de-ink.
Thank you Kuya!

Kuya stays behind to wrap things up,
but our part is done,
so we flag a taxi back home.

We're so thankful that systems are in place, 
with people to help us through all of the government documentation.
This is an ENORMOUS help to us, 
since on our own it would be a huge task to keep on top of all the requirements.

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, 
but you are fellow citizens with the saints, 
and are of God's household
Ephesians 2:19

May our temporary alien status
contribute to bringing others
into Heavenly citizenship
for eternity!