Monday, October 31, 2011

one for all

“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit 
through the bond of peace.” 
Ephesians 4:3  

This verse was the theme for our annual staff retreat last weekend,

Amy and Elise move empty cans from table to table using  a strand of spaghetti
a time for playing together

A Minute To Win It competitions: Michael, the champion TP unroller!

Mark flips and catches a whole stack of pencils
  demonstrating little-known talents

and cheering others on.

There was time for prayer, 
reflecting on God's Word,

and singing together in more than one language!

Like the Three Musketeers,
the motto was
One for all
and all for One!

reminding us that the One,
Christ Jesus,
is for us,
so we can give all for Him;
the One deserving of our all.

Michael prepares to launch a ball
Then more games like group Dodge ball

Elise competes with Mr. H. for the ball
and group soccer

...interspersed with lots of food and fellowship.

We're so thankful for this amazing group of people.
You challenge us, 
make us laugh,
encourage us, 
and point us to Christ.
We are privileged to be here with you!

Friday, October 28, 2011

corner store

Our fruit supply is low, 
so I slip on my shoes and take a stroll down the street
toward the corner fruit stall.

The mid-day sun is blistering hot, and I wonder
if I should adopt the local custom of carrying an umbrella for shade.

I see our neighbor Ken,
 running down the street
trying to recapture his run-away chicken.
(sorry I didn't capture a photo of that one!)

 I pass the bakery where I see a tiny kitten guarding the door.


Two children come tearing around the corner of the store
in a noisy game of chase,
only to come to an abrupt halt when they see me.
My greetings don't bring the usual smiles...
I guess the surprise was a little too much.

On to the fruit stand,
a fabulous addition to our neighborhood!
This shanty houses a varying selection of local produce at great prices.
Though I rarely find the vegetables I hope for,
I always come home laden with fruit.

This was today's haul...a whole 250 pesos worth
(roughly $6)
for two pineapples, two papaya, three oranges and 7 mangoes!

It will be gone before I know it,
and I'll take another walk to the corner.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

obo manobo dedication

Saturday, October 22nd,
our family was privileged to attend the
New Testament Dedication 
for the Obo Manobo people of Mindanao.

For the first time, the entire New Testament is now available in their language!

“I have found that there are three stages in every great work of God:
first, it is impossible,
then, it is difficult,
then, it is done.
-Hudson Taylor

One translator shared Hudson Taylor's quote with us at the ceremony.
She and her co-translators have been working 23 years together through impossibilities and difficulties toward this day.

 The translators (one of them pictured above with the beaded headband) shared about the process;
from learning the language slowly through Obo Manobo children,
to developing literacy and other support programs,
and writing and revising each book of the New Testament.
What seemed impossible when they began
is now done.

 Can you find Mark, Michael and Amy in the crowd?

There were over 1,000 people there to celebrate.

Here's Elise, working to capture the event with her lens.
You can see some of her photos at her blog.

Celebratory dancing and singing held the attention of the crowd.

 One of the Obo Manobo dancers

What a significant day for young...

 ...and old!

 God now speaks in Obo Manobo.

 People came by motorcycle...
(1, 2, 3...there are EIGHT people on that bike!!!) horse...

...and by foot.
(Just kidding - I loved this photo 
of the rooster hanging out near the bathrooms,
and I couldn't resist!)

It was special to have time afterward to mingle and talk with people,

including one of the mother-tongue translators.

 Now the Word of God is in the hands of the Obo Manobo.

May it find its way also into their hearts and lives!

 At the end of a long day, we boarded a bus for home.
 As we headed back over the dusty roads,
leaving behind the village,
we took with us memories of a momentous occasion
in the life of one more people group of the earth!

"...Dos sabbot, go-os od kahangu, woy dos mgo bulak, od pongo-umpad,
Piru iddos kahi tod Longaggon, od taman en to waad tomanon."
1 Pedro 1:24b-25a

"...the grass withers, and the flower falls, 
but the Word of the Lord remains forever."
1 Peter 1:24b-25a

Thursday, October 20, 2011

a helper

"Never do for yourself
what you can hire someone else to do."
-Delores F.

These words slammed into my consciousness, outrageously contrary to all of my ingrained American principles. They were spoken by a colleague, an amazingly energetic woman whom I had grown to respect very early on in our first weeks in Davao.  But her words came as a shock to me.  I had just stepped out of a country where independence and the do-it-yourself mentality are worshiped, so why would I hire someone else to do a job I'm able to do just as well, thank you very much?

Almost every American home overflows with cottage industry tools used exclusively for each individual family.  Ovens to bake our own breads, jacks to change our own tires, trucks to haul our own mulch, hammers and saws to build our own decks, sewing machines to sew our own clothes, washing machines to wash our own clothes, ladders to clean our own gutters, and grills to barbeque our own steaks.

If you don't grind your own flour, whip your own lattes, power wash your own siding, grow your own organic vegetables and remodel your own bathroom, others look askance, wondering why you fall so short of the American ideal.

Delores' statement flew in the face of that pattern of thinking.  
"Never do for yourself what you can hire someone else to do."

It has taken me some time to come to grips with this counter-cultural thought process.  Here in the Philippines, jobs are scarce and labor is cheap.  We are most definitely among the rich as expats in a developing economy.  As such we have a unique opportunity to offer a bit of employment to people who are working hard to earn an honest day's wage to provide food for their families.  We have the ability, and perhaps the responsibility, to help just a little by outsourcing what we otherwise would have done for ourselves.

It sounds great - altruistic, and freeing, too!  Who wouldn't like to have someone else clean their toilets?  But in all honesty, I still struggle with this whole economic model.  I shudder to think that I might come across as lazy or spoiled, so I hesitate to take my clothes up the street to the lady who washes and irons.  I am embarrassed to allow someone else to clean my space, someone who will see into the corners filled with dust and clutter and realize that I'm not really Martha Stewart in disguise, with everything in picture-perfect order.

Maybe it's all just filthy ugly pride.  Knowing me as I do, it probably is. But I do think there's a measure of ingrained culture going on here too.  After all, I've spent 18 years of married life doing all the toilets and laundry and cooking and painting and it's part of my identity.  Even more, I actually enjoy caring for the needs of my family.  This new paradigm takes some adjustment.

I have found that in the Philippines there is a different level of labor required.  Our windows all over the house are open 24 hours a day, trying to capture any airflow possible.  Furniture, windows and floors collect dust like magnets and must all be swept and washed regularly.  With no hot running water, cleaning presents new challenges. All our wet laundry is hauled upstairs to our solar clothes dryer on the deck. The heat is often grueling, and you all know how invigorating it is to do simple daily tasks on a very hot and humid day!

So I braced myself to do what just about every expat in this community has done; I hired a Filipino helper, or 'katabang' to do some of our household chores.  Bebing is a young single woman who has been with us since January of 2010.  She works a total of nine hours a week for our family, and she earns the going wage, which is right now about $1 an hour. 

Please understand that this is an excellent job for her.  Also understand that although she works very hard for every minute of those 9 hours because she is a hardworking person with lots of integrity, it would be a financial disaster if we chose to pay her above the going rate, even though it seems like highway robbery to pay her such a small amount.  Higher wages would potentially upset the local economic balance, and create discontent and anger in others who do similar work.  Bebing is content.  And we work to find other ways to help and thank her for her labor.

Bebing came from the country where she grew up on a farm.  Her earliest work was in the rice fields: back-breaking, exhausting work.  When her older brother came to the city for a job, she tagged along, hoping to find employment to assist her family back on the farm.  She was not tall enough to find work in any of the stores since there are physical characteristics required to apply even for retail positions, and height is one of those. 

She eventually found work in the home of another expat where she worked full-time. When that employer moved on, Bebing had training in both housekeeping and in English, enough to make her an asset to other expat employers.  Currently she works for a total of four families, a few hours here, a few hours there, and she enjoys the variety.  Bebing's work includes jobs like cleaning our dusty window slats, scouring our bathrooms, sweeping our dusty driveway, going to Bankerohan Market to purchase our produce, washing some of our floors, cleaning our deck, folding dry towels and going in to town to pay our bills.

Bebing washes the kitchen floor

It's a fine balance. Though Delores' motto is 'never do for yourself what you can hire someone else to do,' I'm still not 100% convinced.  For one thing, I don't want our family to be spoiled beyond repair.  It's important for our children to remember how to wash dishes and help in meal preparation and clean their own rooms, and to suffer the consequences of disorder and mess when they don't. If I followed Delores' motto to the letter, I would tremble at the potential impact on their developing characters. 

Somehow though, having Bebing in our home three afternoons a week is character building for us, too.  It's humbling to watch her do our tasks so diligently, for such little reward.  Observing her contentment has diminished Michael's expected value of the 'extra' jobs that he sometimes likes to do for additional spending money.  It's increased our awareness of Filipino culture as we listen to her stories, and we are constantly reminded of the dramatic contrast between our lives and hers.  We've had occasion to bless her, and through her, the entire family on the farm, and her friends, too.  Before working at our house, she never had a birthday party, or a birthday cake.  We had the chance to surprise her with her first ever.

A few of us at Bebing's surprise Birthday Party
Having Bebing in our home is also an opportunity to live out our faith right in front of her eyes, and to encourage her in her faith.  We have been able to pray with her, cry with her, and laugh with her.  And she's cried with us, laughed with us, and then turned around and gone back to do the work that she takes so seriously.

Bebing kindly helps Michael to plant a new flower she brought from the farm for him.

 Some days it's really hard to give up our privacy.  There are times when I inwardly cringe to hear the creak of the gate and Bebing's sweet, small voice calling out a greeting.  I'd rather just do the work myself because I'm weary of being in a fishbowl; tired of having someone regularly infiltrate the sanctuary of our home, closely observing all we do and say. 

And yet...Bebing is an amazing gift in my life.  I'm not sure what I would do without her, or without her help.

Bebing and I, and the beautiful flowers she bought for my birthday

Maybe my faithful Father is at work through her presence in my life to teach me to know HIM better.  Maybe He knew that my old American ideals of independence and self-sufficiency needed a radical shift.  Maybe it was time for me to begin learning to accept help with grace; most especially HIS help.

For the past few years I've held fast to this promise from Psalm 73:28,

but do I truly believe it?  Or do I sometimes shrink inwardly at His presence, and at His infiltration of the private, cluttered corners of my heart filled with the grime of sin?  Do I inwardly rebel at depending on Him and admitting any weakness?  Does my filthy ugly pride bristle just thinking about letting go of my control?

Having a house helper gives me a gentle nudge toward being real and admitting my needs, toward accepting help, and toward not trying to do for myself what only God can do for me.

How has He nudged you toward greater reliance on Him?

11/9/11 eta: I just found this quote by Agatha Christie...I guess Delores was quoting her!

“Never do anything yourself that others can do for you.”

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

guess who?

Michael imitates Filipino-style headgear for working in the hot sun

After the heavy rains over a week ago,
The street out front wasn't draining.
Michael noticed a neighbor chipping away some excess concrete in front of another drain, 
so he decided to try the same thing in front of our place.

He took a hammer and chisel,
armed himself with protective glasses,
(and oh yes, the head gear,)
and went to work creating a smoother drain hole.

He got lots of smiles from passers-by,
amused to see an Americano boy outfitted and working like a native.

this photo reminds me all over again that yes, we live in a foreign culture

Unfortunately his work didn't totally solve the problem.

So Mark helped him uncover the drain...

and Michael dug out some of the clogging sludge.
Not exactly a job he would have learned to do in our old American suburb.

Now the street is dry.
Thanks, Michael!

Opportunity is missed by most people
because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.
Thomas A. Edison

Monday, October 17, 2011

God's words

We hosted the weekly Bible Club when Ate "B" was out of town.
Without her translation skills, it was hard to teach a lesson,
so instead we sang songs and read together from the Bible in Visayan.

Then we made some fun, colorful posters with those same Visayan verses.

"Trust in the Lord with all of your heart
and lean not on your own understanding."
Proverbs 3:5

Each child chose their favorite poster to be laminated.

 Everyone was pretty excited to have a laminated poster to take home!

And I'm just tickled to get God's words into their homes!

...lay up these words of Mine in your heart and in your soul...
You shall write them on the doorposts of your house 
and on your gates....
Deuteronomy 11:18 & 20

Saturday, October 15, 2011

5K Fun Run

I have been running pretty consistently lately and decided to enter a local fun run.
And I didn't have to do it by myself ... Michael decided to enter also.
I've run a number of fun runs in the US, and this was similar in most ways ...
different in a couple!

 The first difference was that it started at 5am on Saturday morning.
We were up and out the door by around 4:20 am.
Our cat wondered what we were doing.

 Turns out we could have slept in a bit.
At 5am the race organizers were still setting things up.

 A local fitness guru warms us up with some exercises and stretching.

 Michael and I at the finish.
We ran together, and he out-sprinted me at the very end.  We started off with an easy 9 minute mile, then picked up the pace and ran the final mile in just under 7 minutes.  We were just over 25 minutes for 5 kilometers.

There were some snacks after the race including bananas and rice porridge.

Some local street-kids also benefited from the food.
One was hitting me up for money, but I wasn't too sympathetic,
considering the big pile of food he had in front of him
(two bowls of porridge and about five bananas!).

We had a lot of fun, and are already looking forward to another fun run in late November.
If you come to Davao, you can run it with us!