Friday, August 21, 2015

Finally! Settled in Paradise

After an 8-month long unexpected "furlough" in the U.S. and a month of unexpected traveling around the Philippines, we are finally getting settled in our new home on Camiguin Island.  When we left Louisiana the first week of July, we planned on moving back to Malaybalay.  We did not feel like we were supposed to move back to our old house though, but our friends there were unable to find us another house.  So, we figured God must want us to back in our old neighborhood to continue the ministries we began there last year.  We never actually took it to prayer; we just assumed this was His plan.

Ronabel and Luke, our little ham
We left Houston on July 7th ready to get to the Philippines to show off our newest little missionary and continue the work we had started last year.  We arrived in Manila, Philippines on July 9th and literally crashed at a nearby hotel---the time change and jetlag had gotten the best of us.  We spent the next day trying to get ourselves awake and functioning while trying to adjust to the heat.

We were able to travel to a neighboring town while in Manila to meet a little girl that we began sponsoring through an organization called Unbound several years ago.  This was a miracle that you can read about here (An Answered Prayer: Four Years in the Making).  After meeting Ronabel, it was time to get on our last flight to head to "our island" and to return to our "home away from home."

But our house in Malaybalay was not ready for us.  Some renovations were being done.  Luckily, we had already planned a quick trip to Camiguin Island to visit another FMC mission post and deliver some U.S. goodies. So after spending a night at the Cathedral convento (rectory) in Cagayan de Oro, we took a two hour drive followed by an hour ferry ride to Camiguin, the "paradise island created by fire".

Since our stay was going to be longer than originally planned, Father Joe found us a house to stay in for the week---on the beach!  It was the perfect place to relax after a week of traveling, to adjust to the heat and time change, and to have a family retreat before heading to the fast paced mission life in Malaybalay.

While there, we were able to get our "feet wet" again as we joined the Camiguin team and Father Joe in some of their ministries.  The kids loved joining the single missionaries' weekly praise and worship.  Travis and the boys joined the men's bible study.  And Travis, Luke, and I joined Father Joe on his hospital rounds.  We were also able to visit some of the organic farms that Father Joe has started to help feed and support the parish community.  Little did we know that God was preparing us for life on Camiguin!
Travis visiting patients at the small hospital
on Camiguin Island.

Visiting one of Father's farms and eating fresh coconuts
that his workers climbed up the trees to get for us!

A Packed House for Praise and Worship Night!

During our family retreat that week, God reminded us of our call to missions and the ministries He had called us to---caring for the poor, the orphans, and widows, preaching the Gospel and not straying from what we have been taught, being good stewards, etc.  He also reminded us to be humble, gentle, and loving at all times to one another and towards those we serve.

But He also reminded us of the call to move to Camiguin that he set before us last year.  The one that we put out of our mind and ignored because it didn't seem practical at the time because of my high risk pregnancy and the lack of medical care on the island.  The call that we stopped praying about because it was "too hard" and not what "we wanted" to do.  The call that we didn't even consider as we planned our return to the Philippines because it would be too hard now with a baby in tow and not practical since we wouldn't be staying long due to the adoption.

Cantaan: One of the beautiful beaches on Camiguin
As beautiful as Camiguin is, life on the island is harder, a lot harder, than on Mindanao.  First, it is a lot hotter than Malaybalay.  Secondly, it is more isolated from the rest of the Philippines (and the world) as it's only accessible by ferry.  Living is more simplistic than what we were used to in Malaybalay---mostly bamboo "hut" type housing, no real stores to buy supplies that we consider necessities, no restaurants for those crazy ministry days when you aren't home to cook, very little food choices, and then there's the fact that there is only very basic medical care.

Life for us in Malaybalay was tough, but we had found our "groove" there; life would be much harder on Camiguin even more so now with a new baby.  But it was very clear that He was once again calling us to put aside our desires of the flesh and move out of our comfort zone.  We prayed about and discussed this for days trying to find some way "out".

We loved Camiguin, loved the mission team there, and loved Father Joe. We loved VISITING Camiguin, but didn't want to live there.  It wasn't practical for us to move and begin again when we'd only be in the Philippines for a few months this time because of the adoption of Joshua.  Plus, we had promised our director that we'd be a support for our Malaybalay leaders who were about to begin the first ever Asia Intake to train two Filipino families to become full time foreign missionaries.  And there was still lots to do in our old neighborhood.

But we had learned that when God wants us to do something, we must do it even when it does not seem practical!  He's not a practical kind of guy!

After talking with the Camiguin team leader and our Malaybalay team leader and our FMC leaders back home, the decision was made.  Our family would join the three single missionaries and the Bolle family in Sagay on Camiguin Island.  The Bolle family had just discovered that they were expecting a new little one.  It was thought that we would be a support to them and their ministries as the pregnancy, like ours, was a high risk one.

Some of our old friends and new ones at the bible study.
We had to return to Malaybalay to interview with Joshua's social worker regarding the adoption.  We also wanted to see our friends and neighbors, and of course, to show off our new little missionary.  We packed up our things and took all our luggage and belongings with us to Malaybalay just in case God changed His mind and allowed us to stay there.

He didn't.  He just kept confirming what we already knew, it was time for us to move on and let someone else water what we had planted.  But before loading up again, God allowed us two very blessed weeks in Malaybalay with our missionary team, our neighbors, our friends, and our ministries.  It was so awesome to see some of them still going strong, but we were even more blessed to see so many new faces in attendance.

A month after leaving Louisiana, we loaded up again, said goodbye again to everything familiar and headed to back to Camiguin Island via a three day stay in Cagayan de Oro at the convento.  We needed to get Luke's visa, wait out a typhoon, and get the Bolle family off to the airport.  During our time in Malaybalay, the Bolle family had determined that it would be best for their family to return to the states to await the birth of their new missionary baby. So instead of joining them in their ministries and being a "support" to them, we were now going to be the ones to fill their "shoes."  God always has a bigger plan than what we imagine or plan for ourselves.

Finally, after five weeks of traveling, we have arrived at our new home away from home in Agoran, Bon Bon, Sagay, Camiguin Island.  And once again God has rewarded us for saying "yes" when we didn't want to.  Our house, although quite a bit smaller and a lot more native than our last, is awesome!

Our new "Home Sweet Home" and our new mission vehicle "St. Patrick, the Tank".
FYI: the boat has a giant hole in the bottom. :(

The view from the our backyard

Yes, our back yard is actually the Pacific Ocean!  That was a very unexpected answer to the prayer I had. "Lord, if you want us to move to Camiguin, you are going to have to help us with the heat there."  Well, the kids are enjoying cooling off each afternoon, and we are all enjoying the nice ocean breeze.  It's not the cool mountain breeze of Bukidnon, but it's moving air!  Thank you, Jesus!

We have begun to join in and take over a few of the ministries here. The weekly praise and worship at the single missionary girls' house is one of kids' favorites so far.  The weekly children's ministry at one of the local chapels was our first "take over" and the first one was awesome!  The men's bible study is will meet for the first time this week.  Travis has also jumped right into the medical ministry which includes visiting patients in or taking patients to the small hospital on the other side of the island.  We hope to be able to begin a jail ministry and a women's bible study soon.

Our First Children's Ministry Group

Although life here is definitely harder and hotter, it is also a lot slower paced and much more laid back than Malaybalay which has given us extra time to try to figure things out here.  The slower paced life has also been a blessing as we continue to adjust, not only to life in missions with a baby, but life in general with a baby after twelve years!


  1. What a wonderful journey, thank you for sharing Melissa! Tell Travis I said hello and we will be praying for you guys. God Bless

  2. I love to read your blogs. And, Melissa, we had temps hovering around 100 for over a week. We were "fanning" with you. May God continue to bless you and may you continue to serve Him even when it is where you don't want to be.

  3. You guys ROCK, my missionary cousins! Boy when God says get out of your comfort zone, he really means it!! My thoughts and prayers continue to follow you wherever God leads! Stay safe, love you!!

  4. Very nice blogs. Very touching. Love y'all from Philippines. God Bless