Saturday, April 26, 2014

Easter Sunday: American Style in the Philippines

After a very emotional Holy Thursday and Good Friday, we were very blessed to spend Easter Sunday with our friends and neighbors "American" style.  Well, as American as we could get here on the other side of the world!

God (and some of you) know how I enjoy hosting parties, gatherings, etc. for any occasion.  We had planned on having a big celebration in a park near our house on Easter Sunday with our entire neighborhood, but I battled a migraine for most of the week and some of the other missionaries battled sick kids all week.  I didn't think I'd be able to pull off a big celebration, so I planned just to have a quiet day at home with our little family.

But after the very blessed Holy Thursday and Good Friday, I knew that I needed to celebrate with those that had brought such joy to my life the last few months---the kids of Avinca Village.  Thankfully, the stores had reopened Saturday, and I was able to buy food to prepare for our celebration.  One of our missionary friends found plastic Easter eggs for me, and I found an actual pork roast to cook!

We got up early Sunday morning to a delicious smelling roast that I had put in a slow cooker the night before.  It smelled like home!  The kids even said that it smelled like my grandma's kitchen.  Then we cleaned up outside and set up the tables and chairs under our carport. Now it looked like home!  Then Isaac decided that we needed some Cajun music playing so he set up the iPod with the Backdoor Band playing.  Now it looked, smelled, and sounded just like home.

The neighborhood kids watched all morning through the gate as we cleaned and prepared for or celebration.  Some of them wanted to come in to help clean and sweep like they do on a regular day for me.  I told them today was a special day and that they could not work for us and that we were preparing a surprise for them.  Finally, we opened the gates and let them in. 

Isaac led us in an opening song.  Then Travis read Luke's gospel account of the Resurrection in English and the boys' friend Ian (who likes to stalk my blog looking for himself) read it in their language. 

Then we said the blessing and dug into the pork roast, rice and gravy, mashed potatoes, corn, and sweet peas!  I think they liked it!

After lunch Travis took all the kids outside of our gate onto the side street so that Emily could hide the Easter eggs.  When the moms realized what we were about to do, they excitedly got up to join Emily.  They may have had more fun hiding them than the kids had finding them! 

The kids kept asking Travis what they were going to do with the bags he gave them.  I think they thought I was going to make them pick up trash.  Some days I have them scour the neighborhood streets picking up all the candy wrappers that they throw on the ground.  We told them that they weren't picking up trash, so they decided to wear them as hats.

Finally all 72 eggs were hidden, and it was time to explain what we were doing!  They were so excited.  Some of them knew what Easter eggs were from TV or movies, but they had never had one much less "hunted" for them.  Travis opened the gates and let them in.  They ran around in circles at first not really knowing what to do, but when the first one spotted an egg----That was it!

It took them a few eggs before we made them understand the concept of the bag.  Many of them were carrying their eggs in one hand and the bag in the other.  Once they had a free hand, there was no stopping them until... someone realized that there was something in his egg!

 Travis had filled the eggs with candy that my mom had sent us from the U.S. but ran out before all the eggs were filled.  So, he copied good ole Aunt Judy, and started filling them with pesos!  The kids' faces were priceless when they discovered the treat inside.  And the race was really on to find the most eggs after that discovery!

We did have one who wasn't interested at all in finding the eggs or in the candy.  He was content with his cup of mashed potatoes!

After hiding eggs numerous times, the mess was all cleaned and the neighbors had all left.  Our family got ready for Easter Mass.  We had decided to fore-go the Easter Vigil on Saturday and attend the English Mass on Sunday evening.  I sat in the church surrounded by many of the neighborhood kids who had joined us in amazement at my first Easter away from home. 

From Holy Thursday to Easter Sunday, God had perfectly planned it all just for me.  He knew exactly what I would need to get through our first holiday away from home.  He humbled me when I needed humbling, but blessed me when He knew I would need a boost!

I can't imagine what my life or my kids' lives would be like if we had not said "Yes" when God called us to leave behind everything and move to the other side of the world.  Missions is truly the BEST life!

Happy Easter
from the

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Holy Week: Filipino Style

Our family has been so blessed to be able to celebrate Holy Week here in the Philippines.  On Monday, each Catholic church sends out 12 apostles to bless all the homes, sari sari stores, businesses, etc. in their area.  I had heard about this, but it was very humbling on Monday when I was shopping in town at one of the local vegetable stands and witnessed a family's little stand be prayed over and blessed with Holy Water.  Later in the week, three men from our parish showed up at our house to bless our home and pray for our family.

On Thursday, Travis tried to go to the bank and to the bakery to buy bread for our Good Friday tuna fish sandwiches. NOTHING was open in town.  All the banks, bakeries, stores, vegetable stands, fruit stands, restaurants, etc.  The entire city had closed down.  Praise God! We would definitely be fasting the rest of the week! We were in awe of reverence the people here had for what was about to take place. I wanted to jump on Facebook and the phone to everyone back home to tell them how awesome it was and that everyone needed to jump on a plane to come celebrate Easter here!

But during Holy Thursday Mass, I was beginning to feel a little homesick as I watched Father Emmanuel wash the feet of the 12 apostles that had been scouring our neighborhood blessing homes and stores earlier in the week.  I wanted to be at home with my parish family where I actually understood the words of the liturgy and knew the people getting their feet washed.  I was just about to feel sorry for myself when the twelve men stood up and walked down the aisle to find their wives.  Each one bent down and tenderly washed the feet of their wives. 

My eyes filled up with tears as I realized that "love" was really the only language that needed to be understood.  The love in these couples' eyes revealed the love that Christ had as He washed the feet of His apostles that night.  And the love that He feels for us each time He washes away our sins when we fall.  I stopped feeling sorry for myself and concentrated on what really mattered, "God so loved the world that He sent His only Son to die for us."

Olivia bringing up the water for "Pilate" to wash his hands.
The next morning, the kids left for the church at 5:00 am.  They had been practicing with the youth group for weeks to present the Passion of Christ for the parish Good Friday morning.  Isaac was an apostle. Philip was Barabbas. Emily was Mary Magdalene.  And Olivia was one of the women of Jerusalem.  I was anxious to see their performance, but I was not ready for what I was about to actually witness.

Travis and I walked over to the church about 7 am for the "play" to find that there was standing room only.  People were standing outside the church all the way to the street.  We squeezed in towards the front and found a spot with the youth kids.  The Way of the Cross began and as it was read aloud, the youth began to dramatize the Gospel parts being read.  I thought, "Awe, how nice."

Until the soldiers actually began to whip Jesus right before my eyes.  No pretending.  Real lashes on his back.  The pain I felt in my heart intensified when the children watching began to laugh as the soldiers scourged and spit on the boy portraying

 Jesus.  "Jesus" was finally forced to pick up His cross, and the crowd followed as we left the church and began to walk.  I was so overwhelmed as I watched hundreds of people file out of the church to follow these teens.   And was more in awe as we walked through the crowds gathered on both sides of the street who joined us as we passed them by.

My heart began to sink as I walked along side of "Jesus" and the "soldiers" as they whipped him, mocked him, pushed him.  There were kids running alongside throwing paper rocks at him and laughing each time.  At first, I began to get mad as I wondered where their parents were and why no one was telling them that this was serious, that this really happened, and that it was not funny.  Then I realized, this is exactly how it happened. Whoa!

This was the "way to the cross".  There were people following Jesus weeping.  There were people following in disbelief.  There were people laughing.  There were people following just to see the show.  There were people following to help torture Him.  There were people in their homes and yards that didn't care about what was happening on the road in front of their house.  There were men sitting on the side of the road drunk from the night before.  Some were still drinking.  There were people chitchatting and laughing along the way as if it were a regular day.  There were people throwing real stones at Him, spitting on Him, kicking Him, mocking Him the entire way.

My heart broke as I began to think about the "realness" of this walk.  But soon, Satan crept into my thoughts.  I began to get a little prideful as I thought about how I would NOT have been one of the ones mocking Him, spitting on Him, throwing stones at Him, laughing at Him had I actually been there for the "real" way of the cross.  Then it hit me---I mock Him each day when I choose not to love those around me.  I spit on Him daily when unkind words spew from my mouth.  I throw stones at Him when I choose not do what He asks of me.  I mock Him each time I sin and refuse His love.

At this point, I am about to burst out crying and throw myself on the street to beg for God's mercy, when two small boys from our neighborhood come up from behind calling my name.  "Tita MeeLeeza, we walk with you." And then one reaches out to hold my hand as we walk in silence the rest of the way back to the church for the "crucifixion."

The rest of the "Passion of Christ" was just as passionate as the beginning was.  I was in awe of the teens that had worked so hard these last few weeks to provide such a profound experience for the parish, for me in particular.

After it was over, so many wonderful people came up to thank me for allowing my kids to participate and to officially welcome us "foreigners" to the parish.  I looked around the church before we left and realized that I do know these people, they are my family.  They are my brothers and sisters in Christ. And our language is Love.

To see more pictures from the Passion of Christ, visit our family's Facebook page. (Link at the top of this page.)

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Mystery Machine to Mission Machine

I'm sure most of you have seen or heard of Scooby Doo. Well, the mystery gang must have been here in the Philippines solving crimes and left behind their Mystery Machine just for us!  It has become the official "Mission Machine" of the Seilhan Family!

We have been praying and searching for a vehicle to use here in the Philippines.  Each time one was found, it was out of our price range or sold already.  We had kind of given up on the search thinking God was trying to tell us to just stick close to our neighborhood for our ministries or that He just wanted us to embrace the inconveniences that came with waiting for and riding on the motorella.

We finally just gave it to Him and said, "Ok, God if you want us to have a missionary vehicle, find us one.  If not, help us accept your will."  Of course, when you finally let go and let God, He can do some amazing things like send someone right to your gate with the perfect vehicle for you to purchase!

Yep, last week a neighbor who was selling a minivan showed up to ask if we were looking to buy a vehicle to use during our time here. "What? Really?" After seeing the Mexico seat covers, we knew that this was our new "Mission Machine" since Mexico is where we fell in love with missions.

After having our mechanic friend check it out, we made an offer of what we had been able to raise for a vehicle which was a lot less than they were asking.  And of course, since God had chosen it for us, they accepted our offer, and we are now the proud owners of the Scooby van!

It's bigger than it looks!  Not really!  LOL!
But we all fit and have room for extras!
(Yes, that is the flat tire we woke to on the first morning.
Mission life gotta LOVE it!)

The best part is that our driver fits (well sort of)...