Sunday, March 30, 2014

team travel

Early last Wednesday morning our whole family arrived at the airport,
ready to join the school ISAC teams (International Schools Athletic Competition)
on a trip to Subic for the spring tournament.
We were was Amy and Elise's last tournament,
and our first time to go cheer them on!

 Sleepy teammates converge at the airport
The boys load all of our luggage on the bus
 In Manila we met up with our boy's basketball team;
they had taken an earlier flight that morning.
(What gentlemen.)

 And we started our 3-hour bus ride to Subic.
Much of it was through Manila traffic, 
but we also got to see some beautiful countryside (above).

Subic itself is unlike any other place we've been in the Philippines.
The strong American military presence here up until 1992
  left much reminiscent of America - 
military housing is now considered an upscale neighborhood,
and hotels and restaurants left from 20 years ago still dominate the landscape.
 Even our host school was once a DOD campus.

 Though our girls didn't place in the finals,
they played strong, and gave those teams a run for their money!

 We loved cheering our teams on,
and seeing their strong character and sportsmanship on the field and off.

Elise (center) warms up before a game
Amy warming up with a teammate.
Though Subic had a very American feel,
there were reminders that we were not in California.
The banana trees (above) right outside the soccer field fence attract monkeys.
We didn't see any during the games, but the athletic director told us that
occasionally monkeys will steal balls off the field during a game!

Michael and a friend saw some monkeys at the side of the road watching our bus go by,
and one host family told our girls to close their bedroom window,
because otherwise monkeys would come in to join the party.

Amy cools off after a game
 It was an intense three days, with three games the first day,
and the blazing sun required our girls to get lots of hydration, 
sunscreen and rest.

But it was also a fun three days filled with time sweating and laughing together,
supporting and encouraging each other, and experiencing life with host families from other cultures.

 It was a time to be built up and encouraged by our coaches,

all of whom helped our team remember to care for themselves
 physically, emotionally and spiritually,

and to find joy in the experience,
finding their identity not in winning, but in God.

Thank you, coaches!!

 "A life of frustration is inevitable
for any coach whose main enjoyment
is winning."
-Chuck Noll

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


 Can it be?
Michael turned 14 this week.

 To celebrate, the family drove to a field outside of the city
where Michael and Mark did some flying 
while their women watched and admired.

 It was really fun - for all of us!

 (Thanks, Elise, for the photos!)

 What a great way to celebrate a birthday.

 Per Michael's request we continued the celebration with dinner out - 
what could be better than pizza on your birthday?

 Because of some cocoa that didn't quite taste like chocolate,
the birthday cake was not exactly the success I had hoped.

 So we enjoyed a special treat of gelato instead.

Happy Birthday, Michael.
You've been a delight to our lives,
a blessing to our family.
And we pray that God will bless your year with good things.

You crown the year with Your goodness.
Psalm 65:11

Friday, March 21, 2014

sacred idleness

Last week was Spring Break,
a welcome chance to relax and enjoy time with family and friends.

One morning we grabbed some gear

Michael with his snorkel
and headed to the beach with friends for the day.

Sometimes we forget about the beauties of the tropics;
or to notice the goodness of God right where we are,
wherever we are.

 Work is not always required. 
There is such a thing as sacred idleness. 
~George MacDonald

Amy, Elise, Michael and T play some Frisbee
A little Rummy anyone?
 Mark and I also appreciated time with this special family,
and their fellowship and insightful counsel about transition.
With a season of change ahead for our family, 
their words and encouragement were especially meaningful and timely.
Thank you, T&J!

on the way home again

We're thankful for the time to rest, and to be refreshed for the work ahead.
Now the final quarter of the school year has begun;
in a way, the beginning of the end of many things.

 And He said to them,  
“Come away by yourselves to a secluded place 
and rest a while.” 
Mark 6:31

Sunday, March 16, 2014


By presidential decree,
as of last Thursday,
today has been declared a non-working holiday in Davao.
It's in celebration of Araw ng Davao,
the commemoration of the birth of this city on March 16th, 76 years ago.

Here's one unique way to celebrate...
barbequed croc on a stick anyone?

Incidentally, the city shares this birthday with my brother...
Happy Birthday, Steve!  Hope you celebrate with something more appetizing.

Friday, March 14, 2014

i'll get a blessin wi' the lave

I see the movement in my peripheral view.  It’s in the middle of the sermon on the ninth plague of darkness, and I am only just quick enough to see the deep black of his eye down near my feet before he is gone. A mouse.

Caught him in action!
An hour later, as we meet in the kitchen for the women’s Sunday School class, it isn’t a movement but a noise that draws my attention.  I can’t keep my eyes on Lil as she recites the Bible verses she memorized this week; the quiet rustling somewhere under the sink draws my gaze.  I'm quickly rewarded.  First one, then another mouse darts out from a hole in the floor and over to the corner of the room.  More rustling, and they eagerly circle the ring of the trash can, intelligent creatures that they are, diving down in for an irresistible haul.

Church mice.  I’d only read of them in books; quaint little things.  And now, here they are, in real life.  I can’t help but think of Robert Burn’s response as he surprised a mouse in a different place and a different time:

-          From To a Mouse by Robert Burns (one verse and its translation from the Scots)

They may steal, but it's waste after all, and a bit of left over food isn't much to ask; we’ll be blessed with what is left, and never miss it.

I can't help but think of other shareable food in the church.  Lavish feasts of the Word of God, nutritious teaching, healthy doses of wise counsel. So many fellow-Christians in developing lands - believers with no access to God’s Word in their own language, pastors with no seminary training, teachers who have no teaching – are hungry to know more of the Word, more of Christ, more of the truth.  

Have we in the church of the West any left overs to share?  Some of you have shared excellent books, others Sunday School materials, and others gifts to make His Word known. Still others have shared in ways that only God knows about.  Thank you for sharing.   

May we ever be open-handed with the spiritual riches entrusted to us as a nation.  I think we’ll be blessed with all that’s left, and never miss what we’ve shared of our great wealth of spiritual resources.   

Yet what we share might mean all the difference in the world to hearts hungry for God’s Word.

...they received the Word with all eagerness, 
examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.
Acts 17:11b

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

traveling salesmen

She greeted me not far from my gate, bottles of shampoo piled in a box she clutched,
wondering if I would like to buy some?
Just what I was hoping to buy out on the street in front of my house.
Then again, maybe not. 

I'm ceaselessly amused by the items sold on the streets in this town.
Bottles of water, sunglasses, oranges, jewelry, stick brooms - 
I saw all of these being sold on the street just this morning.

The neighborhood corner (above) became a casual jacket shop for about a week.
It's gone now. Maybe next week they'll be selling stainless cookware.
But then, I guess could just visit this new neighborhood lot full of stainless kitchenware for sale...

Vendors (above) walk the streets daily from early morning til late at night,
 hawking food like rice porridge, sweet corn, balut and pandesal, or bread.

These venders (above and below) strategically park their ice cream carts
right outside of schools at the end of the school day.

Every American kid's dream;
an ice cream man at the school gate.

We've seen many like these sales guys above (and below).
They are

Yes.  Shoes.
Bet you could get a good deal - 
though whether they have your size or not is debatable.

 Or need those shoes repaired?
Sit down and visit awhile as they get stitched at the side of the road!

No city would be complete without 
a street vendor of saint dolls.

Forget your mattress at home?
No problem! 
This guy has got you covered.

 Family movie night?
I'll bet you could find Frozen for 50 cents here.
Yo ho ho...yes, they are pirated.

And if you need a quick snack after all that shopping,
you can buy a bag of boiled peanuts (above)

or pick up a fresh coconut or a sweet pineapple in a bag
at a portable storefront.

Who needs Walmart?

Sunday, March 9, 2014

hello kitty

Just in case you were worried ....  

...Hello Kitty is alive and well in Asia.
She even made an appearance at last week's high school retreat...

*thanks, Mark and J.A., for the classic photos!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

there and back again

While Mark was away in another S.E. Asian country,
this (below) was his home away from home:

The open-air deck (upstairs) is where Mark and his roommate slept, 
for the sake of a little bit of air flow on those hot, stuffy nights.  

 E, a little girl who helped out around the house, 
poses by the only running water source at the house - an outdoor tap. 

 Mark does his laundry -  each cycle required a manual fill and drain, 
and the clothes had to be moved into the spinner after washing.
(Great time to pause and give thanks for my washing machine...)

 The upstairs of the house where the 14 staff members slept.  
Through the 'Hobbit Hole' at the back of the photo is the balcony that was Mark's room.
(Notice his mosquito net-covered mattress on the floor?)

Mark poses with F, his room mate for 3 weeks.
F's servant's heart was so evident as he voluntarily swept and mopped 
the dusty upstairs floor every morning before work,
singing as he cleaned.

Above: a few shots from around the city.  Its claim to fame is that it's at the equator.  This friendly man on a scooter not only showed Mark the way to the equatorial monument, but also gave him a ride there!

Mark ran almost every morning he was there. 
He took this cool shot of one of his running companions on a hazy morning.

Mark had a few opportunities to explore the city - usually with his fellow-workers (top).
The little guy on the bottom left was a little wary of this strange man, but with some prompting from his mom gave Mark a thumbs-up.  And the friendly "bus" driver on the bottom right talked excitedly to Mark until he figured out that Mark didn't understand his language.

The world is a book, 
and those who do not travel read only a page.
- Augustine

We're so thankful you're back home, Mark,
but grateful too that you could make this journey...