Saturday, October 4, 2014

A Family Retreat in Paradise

As our kids begin to hit puberty, all five at once, our house has gotten a little crazy.  Add a hormonal, pregnant momma to the mix and you have a madhouse---literally!

After a couple weeks of pure chaos in our house and in our mission life, we decided it was time to have some quiet family time and figure out what God was calling us to do.  We were certain that he didn't want us to keep going like we were.  And there was no way that we could continue to be "Christ" to those we were sent to serve when we couldn't even be "Christ" to the ones in our own house.  So, we loaded up kids and headed to a nearby island where some of our fellow missionaries live to have a family retreat.

We were a little nervous about heading to Camiguin island.  We had heard many stories about how beautiful it was, but how "primitive" it was.  The girl's house was literally an open porch except for the bedrooms.  We had heard the stories of the lizards that live in the house and "rip your skin off" if you try to knock them off of you.  We had heard numerous stories of the ferocious bugs.  We knew we would be "roughing it", but we knew we needed (1) some family time and (2) some community time with other like-minded American missionaries.

We left our house at 7 am and drove three hours to another town to meet up with one of our missionary friends, had an American lunch of pizza at the mall, then drove another two hours to the ferry, then took a 45-minute ferry ride to the other island, and then another hour drive to the town where we would be staying.  By the time we arrived, it was dark, but even in the dark I could see the island's beauty and couldn't wait until the next day to go exploring with Father Joe and the other missionaries.  Here are some pics of our adventures on Camguin.


The family with Father Joe in front of the volcanoes.
He literally drove us to the end of the road. 

Our fearless leader napping at the beach while the kids swam.

Some of us at the Old Church Ruins

Heading to the Sunken Cemetery 






























































I know! This looks more like a vacation than a retreat, but in between sight seeing and relaxing on the beach, we did have a family retreat.  And God spoke so much TRUTH and WISDOM into our family.  He called us out on each and every one of our unChristian like behaviors through scriptures that He hand picked for each of us to share.  And reminded us of our task here in the Philippines.

Family Retreat on the girl's porch/dining room/living room.

At our very first session, He called us out on the ugliness that had been coming out of our mouths the past few weeks when talking to each other and our tempers which had become very short fused lately.  One of the first scriptures shared was Proverbs 14-15.  We were immediately called out on our quick tempers and called to be slow to anger and to answer each other with soft tongues.  Whoa!  Yes, God is all-knowing and sees and hears everything.  And when He brings something to your attention, it makes much more of an impact than when coming from a nagging parent or spouse!

He continued throughout our other sessions to remind us to put away anger and hurtful speech and to be kind and patient with one another at all times (Colossians 3: 1-17).  And that we will have to give an account for every careless word uttered (Matthew 12: 36-37).  And again in James 1:19-27 to be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.  And it continued for three days with verses like these reminding us of the sin of speech.  He also sent reminders about each one of our roles in our family (Colossians 3:18-21  and Ephesians 6:1-4).

But being the loving Father that He is, He also confirmed and acknowledged the good that we are doing by reminding us that He is in our midst and is rejoicing over us and will one day bring us home and restore our lives for the sacrifices we have made (Zephaniah 3: 14-20).  He confirmed that He will reward us for all of our trials, sufferings, and struggles in this life with the reward of eternity with Him in Heaven (Hebrew 2:14-15). And that the testing of faith produces perseverance and that we should consider trials a "joy" (James 1: 2-3).  And He is enriching us for our obedience and generosity in glorifying Him by proclaiming the Gospel (2 Corinthians 9: 6-15).

And just to be sure that we knew that He was NOT calling us out of missions He sent us reminders about our duty to the poor.  First in Sirach 4 then in Galatians 2:10 and then followed by numerous Psalms about the poor.  He reminded us that Matthew did not question his call, he simply followed Christ obediently (Matthew 9:9).  Then He reminded us of our call to pick up our cross and follow Him (Matthew 16:24-25).  He told us to be eager to preach the gospel like Paul in Romans 1:14-17.  And to remember everything we have learned and to keep doing what we have learned--- teaching, reproving, and correcting (2 Timothy 3:14-17).  And then reminded us to be mindful of the success of the Apostles (Jude 1: 17-18).

Lastly, He told us to simply TRUST HIM (Psalm 4: 6, Proverbs 3:5-6)



We challenge you to have a family retreat of your own---when things begin to get out of control, BEFORE things get out of control, when you feel your family is in a spiritual "rut", when you have a major decision to make, when you need answers, or when you just need to know that God is real and knows your family's struggles.

Here's the How-to:

  • Pick three days in a row where all of your family will be home and can meet three times a day for an hour each time.
  • At the beginning of each meeting, begin with a song and prayer inviting the Holy Spirit to guide each member of your family during their personal prayer time.
  • Then each individual goes off and prays and reads scripture for one hour jotting down specific verses that stood out to them or overall messages they received from reading.  Even small children can do this. If they can't read, give them a picture bible to point out bible stories from.  You will be amazed at how it fits in when it's all said and done.
  • After the hour, gather back.  Pray again for everyone's ears, hearts, and minds to be open.
  • Then each person shares about what they read and one person writes it all down.
  • Repeat this three times a day for three days. 
  • At the end of the third session on the third day, read everything that we said aloud to the group.  Let everyone reflect on the theme, what they think God was trying to say to your family or to them individually.  
  • We like to have "family time" in between sessions (movies, games, outings together as a family without extras).  We also try to go to confession and Mass together at some point during the three days.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Mission Life is Hard

The Philippine motto is "It's More Fun in the Philippines!"  I changed it to "Everything is Harder in the Philippines!" after our first week here.  Everything is physically harder to do here: shopping, cooking, bathing, sleeping, eating, homeschooling, driving, etc.  (I'll save the emotional and spiritual hardships in another blog.)

Shopping is harder.  There's no super Wal-mart here.  Instead, we have a million little Sari Sari stores lining all the streets.  Imagine your neighbor selling you the two eggs or the 1/2 cup of oil you need to borrow out of their living room window.  Yep, that's what we have here.

My friend and neighbor LingLing

We do have one large store in town called Gaisano which I've grown to hate as much as Wal-mart and try to limit my time and budget there.  The music is blaring so loud that you can't even hear yourself think.  And the music is so random.  You can here "I Need You Jesus" followed by some song too inappropriate to even mention to some old Journey.  It's the best and worst of the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and today.  At closing time, they blare "Closing Time" by Semisonic as all the workers try to rush you out of their department by singing very loudly.  Yes, sometimes, it's hard to keep a straight face here.

Gaisano is several stories tall.  Groceries on one floor.  Cosmetics on another.  Clothing on one.  School supplies and housewares on the top.  And you have to check out in each department separately.  Then you must "check" all your bags in before entering the grocery part.  Yes, I avoid it as much as possible.


We also have a few local open markets that sell everything from fresh meat, fish, fruits, and vegetables to flip flops and garbage cans!  Just the smell the first time was enough for me!  Having to shop at so many different places to get what we need for the week is such a pain, but I have come to realize what a blessing this really is.  First of all, I lost a lot of weigh when we first got here from all the walking!




Secondly, shopping at our neighborhood Sari Sari stores and local fresh markets helps support the families that we have grown to know and love.  It also keeps me from over spending and keeps us from indulging in things that we really don't need to buy (like the pack of Oreos that sometimes appear in Gaisano). My nose has also gotten used to the market smell, and I am so grateful to have an unlimited supply of fresh fruits and vegetables two blocks away from our house.

Cooking is harder, too.  There are no easy fix meals.  You can't just throw a meal together or run to town to buy something.  (Well, you can, but we still have no idea what a lot of the food that they sell on the side of the road is!)  Every meal has to be cooked from scratch.  I can't just open a can of something and heat it up.  You can't even pop the leftovers in the microwave to heat up.  You need to get out separate pots for each dish and heat it over the stove.

I know, I know.  This sounds pretty silly to complain about, and each time I proofread this part, I think about how "spoiled" I sound.  But try it for a month.  Make every meal from scratch (3 a day), never pop open a can, a jar, or box of anything, and never use an electric appliance.  Don't get me wrong I cooked a lot in the states and rarely used my microwave.  And I LOVE to cook, but some mornings I just want to say, "Just fix a bowl of cereal or grab a pop tart. Momma is sleeping in!" And somedays, I just want to say, "Fix a sandwich for lunch. Mom has too much to do today to cook."

Cooking also takes forever.  I only have two small functioning burners on my stove (oven does not work).  Making a simple breakfast such as eggs and toast takes up to an hour sometimes to cook enough in my small pans for all seven of us plus any guests we may have.  And the pots and pans are so paper thin that if you take your eyes off of them for just a second, your meal is scorched and you have to start over.  But I'm blessed because many of our friends and neighbors don't even have the two burners or two pots.  They use one pot on an open fire.  

And having to cook every meal is also a huge blessing.  I am in total control of what goes into my family's mouths.  No more temptation of junk food meals especially at breakfast.  I am not a morning person and therefore, relied on cereal (semi-healthy ones), pre-made waffles, frozen biscuits, etc. Now everything is fresh and very few things are packaged.  And everything is freshly cooked.  Even breakfast!  Another blessing is that everyone is learning to chop vegetables and cook!  Even Travis is learning his way around a kitchen.

Sleeping is even harder in the Philippines.  The bed and "mattress"---think kindergarten rest mat on a wooden platform--- was a little "hard" to get use to.  I didn't think I've ever be able to sleep without AC!  Those first few weeks were a bit uncomfortable until we saw that many of our friends and neighbors slept either on a mat on the floor or on the wooden platform without the mat.  And thank you, God, for putting us at the end of the street on the side of a mountain where a nice cool breeze blows through our house most nights. But now I find myself reaching for the lightweight "comforter" that was purchased for our bed (the one that I laughed at and said we'd never use).

But having open windows to let in the cool night air, also lets in ALL the sounds of the neighborhood all night long and very early in the morning.  Filipinos stay up very late and get up extremely early.  There can be a basketball game going on until midnight, and those same people are playing again at 5 am.  I now fall asleep listening to the sounds of my neighborhood---the drunk man singing karaoke down the street, the men playing basketball outside my window, those drinking too much, to the babies crying in the nearby houses.  I now know these people.  I now know their needs, and I can fall asleep praying for them.  And they have helped to make me a "somewhat functional" morning person.

Doing laundry is harder here too.  We have no washing machine, no dryers.  Everything is handwashed and hung out on the line.  Thankfully, I have helpers that wash all the laundry each morning.  But it is the rainy season here.  That means we have to constantly "put the laundry out, take the laundry in, put the laundry out, take...), sometimes ten times a day.  And then it may take several days to dry.  Need sheets or towels, and it rained all day?  Too bad.  Our clothes are not lasting as long under these conditions, and we may be naked by the end of the year.

The blessing was very hard to find in this one, but it is one of the big ones.  There were three ladies that came to us needing money and offering to do any kind of work we had in order to buy rice to feed their children.  We were able to give them each a wash day or two each week.  Giving them a little salary each week in order to feed their family.  They aren't getting a hand out which none of them wanted in the first place, but are each able to help provide for some of their family's needs.  And I don't have to waste my entire morning/day (It only takes them 2-3 hours.  It would probably take the unskilled person (ME) all day.) washing laundry when there are so many other things God wants me doing here.

Homeschooling the kids is also harder here.  Again, our house is open to all the sounds of the neighborhood---all day and all night.  Besides the distractions out on the street, we are constantly having to stop what we are doing to answer the call at the gate. Or to answer a text message. Or to head to the hospital to bring someone who is very sick or deliver food or buy medicine for our patients.  Our day gets interrupted so many times that sometimes I feel like giving up on school work altogether!  (Shh! Don't tell the kids I said that!)

But then I stop and realize that some of the most important things my kids will learn are from those very distractions.   I've watched them stop their schoolwork and the answer the gate. Then come in to get a bag of rice for a neighbor or a stranger who is hungry. Or ask if they can give away their such and such or our last bag of beans.  I watched them give up their school time in order to go to the jail for a bible study with their dad.  I've seen them stop their school work to help our helper with laundry.  I've seen them put their assignment aside to ride to the hospital with a sick child to help comfort them.  All while knowing they are going to have to do their schoolwork in their free time later.  The lessons they are learning are far greater than the ones in their school books.

Yes, mission life is hard.  But the blessings far outweigh all the struggles we have.  I had two choices when we got here: dwell on all the hard things or find the blessings in it all.  If I would have continued to look at all the things we didn't have or things that I couldn't do or how hard everything was, I would be miserable.  I would have already packed up and headed home.  But instead I CHOSE to look for the positives, the blessings, both big and small, and be happy where God has me at the moment.

That's my challenge to all of you: Chose to be happy.  Chose to count your blessings.  Chose to have a positive attitude.  Chose to be thankful for all the blessings God has given you.  Chose to embrace the hardships and learn from them.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Missionary Impulse

WHAT IS THE MISSIONARY IMPULSE?

It's what changed our life. It's what moved us to the other side of the world.  It's what continues to change our life.  It's what gives us to the strength to do what God is calling us to do each and everyday.   It's what allows us to see Christ in the poor we serve.  It's what gives us the courage to proclaim the gospel to the people of the Philippines.  IT IS the DUTY of EVERY baptized CHRISTIAN...



 


Sunday, August 17, 2014

What If I Didn't Say Yes?

By Travis (My Husband, the Missionary)

Since becoming a missionary, I’ve had a lot of doubts and sometimes don’t know what I’m doing here in the Philippines.  It’s a lot harder than I ever imagined, and I don’t know why God chose me to be His missionary.  Even as I sat down to begin this update that I was basically forced to write, I had thoughts of giving up and going home.   Missions is the hardest thing I've ever done.  But God always has a way of reminding me of why I'm here.  

During our In-take training last November in Mexico, we were told of a super typhoon named Yolanda that had hit the Philippines destroying many small islands and killing many people.  We all knelt down and prayed for the victims and prayed for our fellow missionaries, the Leano family, and Father Joe, a Filipino priest, who were trying to get to the affected area to bring relief. 

As more information came to us in the following days, I felt extremely sad for the people and wished that I could help.  Being from South Louisiana, I’m no stranger to devastating storms and wanted to help the people in the Philippines because that’s what we Cajuns do after the storm---help each other recover.  Little did I know that God was going to grant my wish.  A few days later, we were told that we were being sent to Malaybalay in the Philippines for our first mission post. 

One of the first things that came to mind, after the shock of being sent to the other side of the world, was that I might be able to help with the typhoon relief.  The Leanos and Father Joe had been bringing food and water to some of the islands.  (Read about it here, and here, and here.)  I hoped to be able to join them once we got to the Philippines, so we kept in contact with the Leanos as we began to prepare to leave the states and learned that the main thing the people one island, Hilantagaan, desperately wanted was for their chapel to be rebuilt.  They had no electricity, no food, no water, but asked for their church to be rebuilt because they knew the real necessity during this time was Jesus. 

Before we left in January, we had a bake sale at our home parish in Jennings to raise money for the chapel and began planning a trip to the island with the Leanos.  In March, after taking a month to get settled in Malaybalay, I made my first trip to Hilantagaan to begin the rebuilding of the chapel.  We were blessed to have extra missionary men come with us to the Philippines and were even more blessed when they agreed to join the trip to the island.   

Although it had been four months since the storm, I was shocked to see that there was still so much devastation and still no electricity on the island.  Yet, the people were happy.  We set up tents and hammocks inside of the shell of a home and spent a week there with no amenities like electricity, running water, or a bathroom.  It was a tough, but no one complained because we knew these people had been living like this for months.

During the week, we helped haul cement blocks and mixed a lot of cement by hand in order to get the foundation of the chapel laid before we left.  The people were so gracious and thankful not only to have the funds to build their new chapel, but to have the missionaries from the U.S. there working side by side with them.  I wanted to stay and help finish the chapel, but knew that I needed to get back to my family and mission post in Malaybalay.  I hoped that I would at least be able to come back to see the finished chapel one day.  (Read about this first trip here.)


Thank you OLHC for helping to get our new chapel started!

By the end of July, the chapel was complete except for some finishing work.  Ramon Leano and I were able to plan a trip back to the island to help celebrate their first Mass in their new chapel.  This time I decided to take our two boys, Joshua the Filipino boy that we are trying to adopt, and my friend Ricky.  We arrived at the island to find that after nine months they still had no electricity and still lacked so much, but the people were even happier than before because they now had a place to celebrate Mass once again.    

March: The BEFORE
July: The AFTER



































The morning of the blessing and Mass was filled with excitement.  All the ladies were sweeping, cleaning, and decorating God’s new house.  I kept thinking about how long those eight months must have been for the people to wait to have a place where they could receive Jesus again.  Once the ladies were done, I took a moment to look at the beauty of this simple chapel and felt so blessed to have been part of making this happen and to have been able to return to be part of this day.


The people began gathering for the blessing very early.  And even before the priest had arrived from the main island, the chapel was packed.  The kids even left school to attend this very special celebration.  Afterwards, everyone came to thank us for the new chapel and to tell us how much it meant to them to have a place of worship again.  I will never forget the true joy on their faces.




Now as I look back and remember their joy, I wonder, “How long would it have been before these people were able to rebuild their church if I had not said “YES” to His call?  How long would they have had to wait to receive Jesus again if I had not said “YES” when God asked me to be a missionary?  I still don’t know why He chose me to be His missionary, but I know that His plan is always better than my plan.



Thank you to all who helped in the building of the Hilantagaan chapel and all those who prayed for the typhoon victims.  And thank you for your “Yes” to God’s call to support our call missions and our mission work.







Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Sponsor a Student

Sponsor a Student Program

We have seen the great need in our community for education. As a teacher, it breaks my heart to see so many young children on the streets instead of in school each day.  (See my other blog about this.) Children whose families can not afford the school fees and school supplies have to drop out of school. Many never go back, and they grow up to be adults who can not read or write.

The goal of our sponsorship program is to provide financial support for students to continue attending school and to provide each student with a pray partner to support them spiritually throughout their studies as they try to break the cycle of poverty in their families.

What grades are we looking to get sponsors for?
Elementary Students (K – 6)
High School (7 – 10)
       ***Beginning next year, grades 11 and 12 will be added to high school.  This will make it even
             harder for many of the poor to finish school.
College Students
ALS (Alternative Learning School) for teens and young adults who may have never been to school or dropped out before finishing elementary or high school.

How much does it cost to sponsor one student?
The cost to send a student to school in the Philippines is MUCH lower than in the United States. Each students need is different.  Some need as little as $10 a month.  We can match you with an individual student or you can donate to the general fund by donating online here and typing Student Scholarship Fund in the comment box.

What can sponsorship help to cover?
Sponsoring a student would help cover their school fees and/or tuition, school supplies, uniform, daily lunch, and transportation to and from school for some.  For adult students in the ALS program, it may also include a scholarship for their families living expenses.  


Who needs sponsorship?
We have several students currently needing sponsorship.  We have already helped these students get enrolled for the new school year which began in June and have paid all the entrance fees.  You can find their picture and story below.

How do I sponsor a student?
Read about each student below.  Pray about which student God is calling you to sponsor.  Then send us an e-mail at seilhanfly@gmail.com. In the e-mail please include your:

     
  • Name
  • mailing address
  • phone #
  • e-mail
  • Name of student you would like more information about
Remember that sending a student to school can be LIFE CHANGING.  Perhaps you belong to an altar society, Knights of Columbus, Youth Group, College Ministry Group, Mom's Group, Book Club, etc. and you could sponsor a student as a group.  If you are unable to sponsor a student at this time, PLEASE pray for the students and for God's help in finding a sponsor for each of them.

Meet the Students:

Joshua is a 14 year old student at the Alternative School.  He is hasn't attended school since about 3rd grade.  When we found him, he could not read or write.  He now goes to school three days a week and has a tutor two days a week in order to catch up to where he should be. He is thriving in school and is already reading and writing in both Filipino and English!

His short-term goal is to finish the ALS elementary program this fall and be able to enroll in the high school program at the beginning of next year.  His long-term goal is to go to the USA and graduate from LSU. (Go, Tigers!)  All of these goals lead up to his ultimate goal:   to get good job in the US and send money back to his family here so that they do not go hungry anymore.

Joshua needs a sponsor to help pay for the tutoring fees and his travel back and forth to the school which is across town.

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Jenny Rose is a 16 year old college student.  She is a freshman majoring in Public Administration.

 Jenny Rose knew that she would not be able to attend college without a scholarship, so she tried out for the university's dance team.  I watched her practice in the street every night for weeks in order to perfect her tryout dance. We prayed for her to make the dance troupe and receive a full scholarship.  She did!  The scholarship paid all of her tuition, but not all the miscellaneous fees, books, uniform, and travel expenses to and from school and practice each day.

Jenny Rose needs a sponsor to help pay for her daily travel to and from school.  As well as, her miscellaneous fees and extra money for all of her weekly assignments and projects.

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Oneil is a 22 year old young man that never attended school because of his family's extreme poverty. He ran away from home at a very young age in order to escape.  He entered the workforce at about 13 years old in order to help provide for the needs of his siblings.  He traveled with the carnival for years sending money back home to his mother to help provide food for his 7 younger brothers. He had not seen his mother or siblings in over 4 years due to the travels of the carnival, but he had continued to send them money.  When we met Oneil, he could not read or write at all.  He wanted to be able to find a better job and live near his family, so that he could help his mother more.  But being unable to read or write, he felt that he would not be able to do anything, but travel with the carnival.

Oneil, like Joshua, is now enrolled at ALS in the elementary program and has a private tutor to help him move faster through the program so that he can get back to work quicker.   He needs a sponsor to help with the travel expenses to get to and from school each day and to help pay the tutor that he needs. We would also like to find a sponsor for Oneil's siblings since he is no longer able to work a full-time job and send them money for their basic needs.

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Jonld is 22 years old and is a third year college student who is behind in his studies because he keeps
having to leave school due to lack of funds.  Jonld is studying Electronic Technology.

Jonld hopes to graduate and work abroad in order to make enough money to take care of his parents.  He wants to be able to provide for their daily needs and build them a decent home to live in.  Jonld needs a sponsor to help pay his tuition fees each semester.



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Ara is one of our July brides.  She is a mother of a precious little boy that we met at our gate a few months ago with a very serious staph infection that we helped get treatment for at the local hospital.

Ara is a second year college student.  She wants to finish college and get a good job so that she will be able to tend to her family's needs without having to depend on others.  Ara needs a sponsor to help with her tuition which is a one time per semester need, about four times a year.  College tuition here in the Philippines is much less expensive than tuition in the the U.S.



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Ian Justine is a first year high school student.  Much like the others, his goal is to finish high school and college, so that he can get a good job and help to provide for the needs of his family so that his mother and father do not have to travel far from home to find work.  Ian travels across town to a school with a soccer team in hopes that he can gets a soccer scholarship to be able to attend college.  He practices just as hard as he studies.  He's a great player and student.  When he's not at school or soccer practice, Ian loves to join us for our ministry work and Mass.  He has even become an altar server at our parish.

Ian needs a sponsor to help with the cost of traveling back and forth to school each day and for the miscellaneous school fees that that come up during the week.  And maybe the occasional pair of new soccer shoes! :)

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We also have NUMEROUS elementary students in need of a school uniform and school shoes.  School has been in session here for over two months now and many still do not have uniforms.  The total cost of a uniform including a pair of school shoes is about $25.  If you can't be a monthly sponsor or a college tuition sponsor, maybe you can sponsor an elementary uniform.  To do this, please donate online at http://www.fmcmissions.com/portfolio/travis-and-melissa-seilhan/gallery/missionaries/ and type "School Uniforms" in the comment box.

Again, thank you all so much for your past prayers and support.  Please continue to pray for us, for these students, and for the poor around the world that long to go to school.

Monday, July 28, 2014

My Husband, the Missionary

It's no secret that Travis did not want to be a missionary.  FMC's director jokes about how he's memorized Travis's essay "Why I Want to Be an FMC Missionary?" Travis's essay was just one line, "I don't want to be an FMC missionary, God wants me to."  That was it.  Short, simple, and 100% honest.  But even though he did not and still does not really want to be a missionary, that does not stop him from doing all of the things God is calling him to do here.  And not just "doing" them, but doing them with love---the love of Jesus.

Last week, as we were driving our friends home from the hospital, we passed a man laying in the road full of blood.  We weren't sure what had happened or what was going on, but it didn't seem like anyone was stopping to help the man.  We circled the block and saw that he was about to get run over by all the traffic passing by.  Travis quickly got out and pulled the man to the sidewalk as our friend began to ask the bystanders what happened.

We found out that he was "just" the local drunk and that he had had way too much to drink.  He had fallen off the sidewalk and his beer bottle had broken during the fall and had cut up his face.  As he tried to stand again, he fell into the road where we saw him.  It was the real life Good Samaritan story.  His fellow Filipinos were just walking past him ignoring him as he laid there in the road.

Travis tried talking to the man while our friend found some wipes in her bag to clean his wounds.  A crowd began to form to see what these "white" people were going to do with the drunk man.  One older man knew where the man lived and offered to show us how to get there.  So, Travis loaded this very filthy, very drunk, very smelly, and very bloody man into our van to take him home.  Unable to understand the older man's Visyan, we parked very far from where we needed to be.  But Travis had already unloaded the man when we realized it, and the man was too heavy to load up again.  So, they began to practically drag the man back down the street.

Finally, we were shown this little cement path to take.  We began to venture down the path into a small little village on the outskirts of town.  One that you would never know was even there unless someone took you to it.  We kept walking down the path down the hill, and Travis kept stumbling every few steps with this man who couldn't carry his own weight.  I followed behind praying that the hundreds of dogs barking at us didn't attack, and listening to my husband talk to this man about God.

I listened as he told the man how much God loved him and wanted to help him.  At one point the man mumbled something, and I heard Travis tell him, "I know He loves you, because He sent me to pull you out of the road before you got run over by a car."  I was in tears as I followed, watched, and listened.  This man who never wanted to be a missionary had become one of the most kind and sincere missionaries that I know.

We finally arrived at the man's house to find his daughter and her child there.  We explained what had happened and offered to bring him inside and get him cleaned up.  She was too shy and/or too embarrassed to let us in and assured us that she would clean him up.  Travis reluctantly turned the man over to his daughter and stepped away, but not before laying his hands on the man and praying for him---for him, his addiction, his health, his daughter, his grandchild, and for all their material and spiritual needs.

We slowly turned and made our way back to the van where I saw Isaac, our oldest son, sitting waiting for us.  I had forgotten that he was also with us.  He had stayed in the van with our friend's little girl while we tended to the man.   As we got in, he wanted to know what had taken us so long. As I retold the story to him, I smiled at the great witness that Travis had just provided not only to this man and to all the by-standers, but to our fourteen year old son.

I used to think that the greatest example Travis could have given our kids was to say "Yes" to missions when he really wanted to say "No."  What greater way to teach your kids to follow Christ, then to follow Him into to foreign missions when it's the last thing on Earth you want to do. But these last seven months in missions has shown me that the greatest example he can give our kids is to love the people here like Jesus does---no matter how young, how old, how drunk, how dirty, how smelly, how sick, or how unworthy they seem.

Please pray for this man that Travis's witness will lead him to Jesus's mercy and healing.  And for Travis to continue to have the strength he needs to continue to be the missionary God has called him to be.  And for the rest of our family to have the courage to follow his missionary example.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Meet Joshua


This is Joshua.  He was one of the first kids at our gate when we arrived in the Philippines back in February.  He spoke no English, but his smile captured my heart from the very beginning.  He was always at our gate waiting for us to return from where ever we had been no matter what time of the day or night, so that he could come in the yard to play with our kids or work for us.  He was constantly offering to sweep, clean the yard, cut the grass, trim the bushes for just a few pesos or for some food.

Sweeping the driveway
(Yes, that is a Filipino broom.)
Joshua had a bad reputation in the neighborhood and was one of the kids that we had been "warned" about, but there was something in his smile and something in his eyes that told me he just needed some love and guidance.  We were told not to let him in our yard and especially not our house, because he couldn't be trusted. But of course, he was one of the first ones to be invited to come into the yard.  And was one of the first ones to join us at our table inside for a meal.  He quickly became a regular at our house and at our table.  And eventually began sleeping over often.

I soon found out that he was not enrolled in school and hadn't been to school since second or third grade.  I also discovered that he had a great desire to learn, so I began teaching him Math a few times a week.  Yes, the English teacher started with Math!  He spoke NO English, and I spoke NO Visayan.  Teaching addition and subtraction was easier!  We soon moved on to learning colors especially while playing UNO, his favorite game.

Playing his daily game of UNO!
I knew from the very beginning that Joshua was one of the reasons that God had sent us to the Philippines and had put us in the big blue house on the corner in Avinca Village.  But being the teacher, I thought that it was to help him get back into school.  So, that became "my" mission, to get Joshua back into school.

But as I began to question him about meeting his parents to get him back in school, he shut down.  He stopped coming around for a few days.  I began to question the neighbors, and I found out that his mother had died shortly after delivering him leaving behind five other siblings and this newborn.  Joshua's dad lived in another town far from Malaybalay in order to find work to support his family.  Joshua had been raised by an aunt as a baby, then lived with his dad for awhile, and was now living with one of his sisters who was struggling to support her own family.

Joshua on his first day of school.
I finally got Joshua to introduce me to his sister, so that I could talk with her about helping to get him back in school.  She was so grateful for the change she had seen in Joshua lately and was eager to get him back in school.  We found an alternative school with an elementary program for Joshua to enroll in so that he could catch up to where he needed to be in order to enter high school next year.  We agreed to help with transportation, school fees, lunch, etc.  Mission Accomplished!

Or so I thought.  By the time all of this happened, Joshua had practically moved into our house and had become part of our family.  Our kids began talking about adopting him and taking him back to the US with us.  We told them how crazy that was even though Travis and I both secretly longed to do that very thing.  One day while we were discussing it, we recalled the family retreat that we had had not long after we had arrived in the Philippines.

During that retreat, we received many verses about taking in strangers, taking in foreigners, and helping widows and orphans.  And several verses from the book of Joshua.  We remembered how even way back then during the retreat our kids had mentioned that God wanted us to adopt Joshua.  After recalling this, Travis and I decided that we needed to really pray about this and whether it was God calling us to adopt again.

Swimming at the cold spring for the first time.
Soon there was no doubt that God was asking us once again to accept another person's child as our own which we had done already.  But we had no idea how to even approach the subject with Joshua's family, but God had already taken care of that too.  Just as we were wondering how to get in touch with Joshua's dad that lived far away, he showed up in the neighborhood for a visit.  God had sent him right to our street.  We set up a meeting to talk with  Joshua's father, one of his sisters, and one of his brothers about his schooling and his living arrangements.

We were worried that his dad had come back to town to get him or to tell us that he needed to move back in with his sister.  He had already become part of our family, and we didn't want to loose him.  Our biggest fear was that all the signs leading us to wanting to adopt Joshua had not actually been from God but from our own longing for more children.

Opening his first piece of mail from the US
and finding Chewy Sweettarts!
But as the "meeting" began, God revealed that He had already set this idea in the hearts and minds of Joshua's family.  Our wanting to adopt Joshua was a relief and an answered prayer for their family.  This family had been struggling for so long just to put food on their table each day.  With everyone working or searching for work, Joshua had been shuffled from place to place. And with no one to really look out for him during the day, he became a wanderer and eventually quit going to school and began to hang out with a not so good crowd.

His family had all seen the excitement he was now showing about learning and going to school, but also the change in his attitude and behavior.  Everyone was in agreement that the best thing for Joshua would be to be adopted by our family.  They all wanted a better life for him.  It was one of the saddest things I have ever listened to.  Because they loved him so much, they were willing to give him up so that he would have a chance at a better life.  By the end of our visit, there wasn't a dry eye.

The next step was to talk to Joshua about all this.  Again, we had no idea how to bring this up to him, especially since we had the whole language barrier thing still going on.  But again, God had a plan already set in motion that helped us approach the subject very easily.  After an emotional wedding ceremony where the priest talked about what a Catholic family should look like, Joshua told us that he wanted a family like the priest had talked about.  He told us that we were the only people to show him love and kindness no matter what.  He shared how we were the first people to invite him into our house and to our table.  He explained how much it meant to him that we trusted him, invited him into our family, and loved him despite what others had said.

Then he told us that the only thing he ever wanted was a mother to hug him and love him.  And then added that he wanted me to be that mother.  I can't begin to describe my emotions at that point.  Those were the saddest, most heart wrenching, yet the most beautiful words I have heard come out of a child's mouth.  I could not speak, so I did the only thing I could do, the thing any mother would do,  I grabbed him and hugged him.

In the past few weeks, we have been meeting with a lawyer to figure out if this adoption is possible and what we need to do to make it happen.  We have run into several roadblocks and speed bumps this week.  We are asking that you add us and Joshua and his family to your prayer list.  Please pray that God's will be done and that the transition will be a smooth one for all of us involved.  Pray that God will guide the lawyer to the quickest and easiest route for this adoption.  We know that God has already planned another Day the Lord Made Just For Us.

Our new missionary family!

***We have also discovered that international adoptions cost a lot more than our domestic one did.  If you feel called to help us with application processing fees and court costs that we will encounter along the way, you can donate to our mission fund at http://www.fmcmissions.com/portfolio/travis-and-melissa-seilhan/gallery/missionaries/.  Just type Adoption Fees in the comment box.  



Monday, July 21, 2014

I Do 11Xs

While most of you were celebrating the Fourth of July, we were celebrating the wedding of eleven couples who got married in the Church.  (We are a day ahead of you guys!)  We started out with a few couples from our neighborhood who has told us while visiting with them before the baptisms of their children how they were never actually married because they couldn't afford the license or the required classes (both civil and church ones) much less afford the cost of a wedding ceremony and reception.

We knew that missionaries before us had done "mass" weddings and the wheels began to turn back in April.  After talking with Father about why so many couples weren't able to receive the Sacrament of Marriage, the wedding train was full speed ahead.  Father was just as anxious as we were to give the couples in our neighborhood the opportunity to receive the nuptial graces that come with the sacrament.  After witnessing my own brother's wedding back in the USA in May, I knew that God was calling us to begin planning a wedding!

We had only two months to plan a wedding, but with God as the wedding planner it all fell into place.  We had our wonderful Filipino missionary friends, the Leanos, running all over the island getting birth certificates, baptism records, etc.  They stood in lines waiting for all the proper documents for each couple.  They had "people" for everything----a ring guy, a dress lady, a flower lady.  And we knew a caterer!

They only problem that we had was trying to figure out exactly how many couples we had.  Word got around our neighborhood and Father began announcing it at church.  We had couples sign up and drop out daily.  We just continued to pray for who ever was supposed to be included!

Finally, the BIG day arrived and we had eleven beautiful brides and eleven gwapo (handsome) grooms and a church full of very happy moms, dads, and children!  And the Filipino wedding traditions made the day just perfect!

The color was red.  The color of the Holy Spirit.
And boy, could we feel HIS presence!

























Father blessing all the couples.

Blessing of the rings
Vows and Ring Exchange
Filipino tradition: Cord and Veil
A reminder that they are "bound" together as "one."





































































Another Filipino Tradition:  The couple administer
the Holy Eucharist to each other.


















First "Official" Kiss

Making it officially official!








































The head table
Yum!

To Us!  Finally!













































First Dance

























Thank you to all the sponsors and donors that helped make this dream come true for so many!  Please continue to pray for each couple as they begin their new lives together.

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Cry of the Poor

This past Wednesday, Travis and I found ourselves at the hospital at the orthopedic surgeon's office again.  This time with a two day old baby whose left foot was twisted and deformed and needed to be set in a plaster cast.  While there we met a little girl with metal rods sticking out of her leg from a surgery that she had had five months ago after breaking her leg at school.  Her leg had become infected around each rod, because they had been in her leg too long.  Her parents could not afford the instrument fee for the surgery to remove the rods and the infection was now spreading all over her body.  After hours of waiting, we talked to the hospital director who agreed that she must be admitted, put on antibiotics, and have the rods removed as soon as possible.

This was a typical day for us...Bring someone to the doctor, end up at the hospital for hours, and meet someone else in greater need than the person we brought.  And the cycle just continues with each visit to the hospital.  It pains me so much to see the poor not get the medical treatment they need, so even though this is not the ministry I dreamed of, this is the ministry we seem to do the most of lately.

The next day we went back to the hospital to check on the little girl to make sure she was getting the antibiotics that she needed.  We were "accidentally" sent up to the third floor.  As I walked up to the nurses station to ask which ward our little friend was in, I noticed that there was some commotion going on behind me.  As I turned around, my heart sank.  There were nurses performing CPR on a baby right in the middle of the hallway.  There is no ICU, so patients needing special care and attention are placed in the hallway right in front of the nurse's station.

I immediately turned around and motioned to Travis and Olivia and the two other missionaries with us to pray.  We all stood around that bed and prayed.  We prayed and prayed and prayed for a miracle.  We begged God to save this baby.  All the great scripture quotes flooded my head as we prayed, "Ask and you shall receive, lay hands on the sick, whatever you ask in my name will be given, signs and wonders will accompany you..."  I knew God was going to save this baby.  That's why He sent us here.

After about 10 minutes, which seemed like years to me, the baby was pronounced dead.  Right in front of us.  Travis and the two other missionary men immediately knelt down by the bed and prayed over the lifeless body of that baby.  I stayed back with Olivia and begged God one last time for one breath, just one breath, one movement, just one movement. But there was no movement, no breath.

I stood watching in disbelief.  I think I went through all the stages of grief in a blink of an eye.  I was in denial.  Surely, God would not have sent us up here to watch a baby die.  Then I became angry with Him for not saving that baby when we prayed so hard for a miracle.  Then I tried to bargain with Him to just revive that baby.  Wouldn't a miracle like that draw all these people around closer to You?  Wouldn't that be an awesome way to take away everyone's doubt?  I was just about on the verge of breaking down into a heap of tears when I finally realized that God was not going to bring this baby back to life.

But right at that moment I heard the most heart wrenching cry that I have ever heard---the cry of a mother for her baby.  As I opened my eyes, I saw her sitting on the floor screaming for her baby.  I looked around for the father who was just standing there next to the bed in disbelief.  I waited for someone to comfort this mother, but no one moved.  The dad was in shock, and the nurses had returned to their duties.  The other by-standers just watched.  That's when I knew why God had sent us to the third floor.

I sat down on the floor and held this mother as she screamed in my ear and cried on my shoulder.  She clung to my clothes and sobbed a sob that I will never forget.  After what seemed like an eternity, she got up and went to the bedside to see her baby and her husband took over.  I didn't think that I could manage another moment there, so I scribbled my name and phone number on a paper and handed it to the doctor and left to check on our little girl who was actually on the second floor.  Things after that seemed to just be one big blur.

We arrived at our regular Thursday night bible study and things were more chaotic then usual.  The other two families that usually "run" it weren't there, so we were in charge of the night.  Thankfully, the visiting missionaries had agreed earlier to share their testimonies and give the teachings.  All we needed to do was set up and lead the music ministry.  Isaac and Emily were leading the Praise and Worship that night for the first time.  I was so proud of the two of them, but as they began to play and we began to sing about how great our God was, all I could think about was that poor mother crumpled on the floor of that hospital.  And how my God had failed to show up that day.

The more we sang His praises, the more upset I got, the more I questioned what I was doing here in the Philippines.  Jesus cured all kinds of people while on earth and raised people from the dead, then told His disciples in John 14 that they would do the same.  He also tells them that whatever they ask in His name, He will do.  Was my faith so weak that I was unable to be the missionary that He called me to be here?  Was my faith in Him not strong enough to save that baby?  But didn't He say if we had faith the size of a mustard seed that we could move mountains?  Was my faith less than a mustard seed?  So many scriptures ran through my mind and with each one came more questions?  But ultimately they all came back to "WHY?"

Why am I here? Why did you send me to the third floor? Why did you not save that baby? Why did you let my child witness this baby's death?  Why should I believe? Why? WHY? WHY?  And while all of these questions are racing in my head, the screams and cries of that mother still rang in my ears, and the vision of her on that floor still burned in my eyes.  I was mad at the nurses, the doctor, the other by-standers who just walked away like nothing had happened.  I was mad at myself for not having enough faith.  And I was mad at God.

I went home that night and cried myself to sleep.  I cried for that mother as I thought of her going to bed that night without her baby.  I cried for my lack of faith, for my lack of trust, for my unbelief.  I cried because I felt that the God I had given up everything to follow had abandoned me when I needed Him most or worst of all didn't even exist.  I have never felt so alone and empty in all my life.

I woke the next morning to my phone ringing.  It was an unknown number.  My heart sank as I realized that the events of the previous day were not a dream and that it would be that family on the other end of the phone.  "Dear God, if you are real, give me the words to speak."  I answered to hear a man's voice on the other end asking if I was the one from the hospital.  I muttered out a "Yes."  Then he asked if we could come to their house and meet with them.  Again, the word "Yes" came out of my mouth.  He gave me directions, and I hung up the phone.

Later that day, we took our two good friends, Ricky and Irene, with us and made our way to a neighboring town to actually meet this couple.  We prayed on the way for God to give us the words to say, the courage to say them, and the strength to stand.  We arrived at the uncle's house where the couple was staying and entered the living room to find the baby laid out on the coffee table.  I had told myself that the baby would be there because I had already heard stories about the hospital sending deceased babies home in a box.  But I was not really prepared to see it laid out that way right when we entered the house.

We all knelt down beside the body and prayed.  I prayed again for God to give me the words that needed to be said.  But again words were not needed, the young mother sat next to me and hugged me.  She held my hand, and I wrapped my arm around her shoulder.  We sat like that for awhile.  Then the owner of the home explained to us that the baby's name was April Jay, he was one year old, he had had pneumonia, and his parents were so poor that they couldn't afford to bring him to the hospital.  And by the time they found enough money to go to the hospital it was too late.

I didn't think my heart could break any more than it was, but to think of the suffering of this child, of this mother, of the poor around the world, it crumbled to pieces.  Knowing that your baby is sick and dying, but not having enough money to get the help that could save their life...I can not even begin to imagine how that must feel.  As a mother, there have been numerous times that I felt helpless when my children were sick, but never have I experienced the helplessness that this family felt.  And the little bit of faith that I had found again earlier, quickly vanished.

All the way home I couldn't think of anything but how much the poor of the world suffer.  A mother is about to bury her child because she couldn't come up with enough money to get to the hospital.  Doesn't the bible say that "God hears the cry of the poor?"  Then came all the emotions again.  I went from being sad and heartbroken to mad and angry again.  I was mad at the government. I was mad at our world.  I was mad at all of the rich of the world who have no idea what suffering really is.  I was mad at myself for all those years of turning a blind eye to the reality of the poor.  And I was mad at God again.

Throughout the next day, I tried to pray. I tried to read my bible.  I tried to find answers.  I tried to mustard up the smallest bit of faith.

On Sunday morning our family, along with Ricky & Irene and their family, piled in the van to make the 45 minute trip to the chapel for the funeral.  I still didn't really understand God's plan or why He didn't hear our prayer and the cry of this family.  I was strictly going for moral support and nothing else.  But God had other plans, of course.  During the ceremony, I was called up to give the funeral "message" aka the homily since there wasn't a priest available.  Are you kidding me?  I was the least qualified person in that room to give a "message" from God about this particular situation.  "OK, Lord, you better work a miracle now."

I stood up and walked to the front of the chapel praying for words of wisdom.  I introduced myself and our family and told of how we came to meet this beautiful couple.  Then all these crazy things started coming from my mouth like "God put me there on the 3rd floor for a reason, that His plan is always better than our plan, that He can bring so much good from suffering, that He uses tragedy to bring us closer to Him, that He does hear their cries, that He wants them to completely turn their hearts to Him, to trust Him completely, etc."

These were all the things that I had known and believed a week ago, but had buried down in the bottom of my heart the past few days.  When I sat down, I realized the "message" I gave was exactly what I, myself, needed to hear.  God was speaking through my mouth directly to my heart.  He was answering all my "Why's?" and reminding me that He had not abandoned any of us that He was right there in our midst through it all.  He told me that He does hear the cry of the poor and that's why He sent me---to be His shoulder that they cry on.

It was so humbling to think that He chose me for this great mission.  He sent me, with all my faults, with all my failings, with all my doubts, with all my sins, to be His hands and feet and His shoulders. But not only is He calling me, He is calling each one of us to be the body of Christ here on earth to all those we meet: the sick, the suffering, the poor, the rich, the old, the young.


Monday, June 9, 2014

Here Comes the Bride, and Another, and Another...

Back in May, right before our trip to the USA for my brother's wedding, we were so blessed to be able to participate and sponsor the baptisms of nine of the children from our neighborhood ranging from 3 months old to 13 years old.  It was such a joy to get to know these families, but so sad to hear the reason why they had not been able to baptize their children---they simply could not afford it.  The couldn't afford the Church fee, the white gown, or the party that they thought they had to throw afterwards.



After convincing them that they didn't need the fancy gown or the big celebration afterwards, we began to collect all the necessary paperwork.  While doing this, we found that the majority of the parents had never been married, not civilly nor in the Church, for the same reason---they simply could not afford it.  Tradition here is that once you move in together and begin having children, you are considered husband and wife.  And while that seems to satisfy most government requirements, it did not satisfy these couples.  These women dreamed, as most of us girls do, of having nice, big  church wedding. I knew right then what God was calling us to do---sponsor a mass wedding.

Those of us married know how tough marriage can be.  It is even tougher when you don't have the graces that come with the Sacrament of Marriage.  I knew that God was asking us to not only sponsor this wedding, but to mentor these couples, to help them put God first in their marriages, to help them lead each other to Heaven.  And that's exactly what our parish priest asked us to do.  We will do a marriage prep seminar before the wedding ceremony and then have some follow up sessions afterwards.  And eventually try to get a couples' bible study going at the parish.

As of today, we have 11 couples seeking to be officially married in the Church on July 5, 2014.  That's right 11 brides and less than a month of planning---paperwork, licenses, dresses, flowers, reception, and cake!  Thankfully, a mass wedding like this was done here last year in a neighboring village, and I have the help of some seasoned missionaries! But we need your help too!

We need prayer partners for the couples as well as financial sponsors for each one.  The entire celebration will only cost about $150 per couple!  That includes renting a beautiful gown, buying each bride a bouquet, and having one large reception with individual wedding cakes for each couple.  Not a bad deal, huh?

If you'd like to sponsor a couple, please visit our FMC donation page and make a one time donation of $150 with "Philippine Wedding" typed in the comment box.  Be sure to include your email address.  We will send you the name of your sponsored couple so that you can begin to pray for them.  We will also send you a picture of the couple on their wedding day.

If you are unable to fully sponsor a couple, you can still make a donation online.  As with any wedding, there will be "surprise" costs that pop up as we get closer to the wedding, therefore, any amount will be a great blessing to these couples. 

Meet the couples here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.716524638389875.1073741862.532149780160696&type=1