|Jerome and Lilay Siapo|
I first met Lilay and Jerome when our family visited Camiguin Island in July. Lilay was working for the missionary family that was hosting our "Welcome to Camiguin" dinner that first night. Our first impressions of each other are pretty funny.
I had been traveling for days on planes, in taxis, on motorellas (motorcycle carts) and had been staying in a convent's bunk room. And had just gotten off of an hour long ferry ride. All with a three month old, four teenagers, and a pre-teen! As an added bonus, I had just returned to the Philippines after being in the U.S. for 7 months where I had become re-accustomed to the air conditioning. I was HOT, tired, hungry, HOT, and had a massive migraine. I also had an infant who was tired, HOT, and hungry. Did I mention HOT?
I was not in the best mood and wasn't really expecting to meet new people. Having dinner with other missionaries that knew the stresses of traveling to the other side of the world with kids is one thing, but having dinner with new people under these conditions is another thing. I tired my best to put on my smiling missionary face, and I thought that I had done a fairly good job. Until Lilay and I became friends and talked about that first night! Lilay told me that she thought I was "very strict" which translates to "mean, not nice, serious, not a good person." I thought she was obnoxiously loud and a little overbearing. My head was pounding that night, and she made it pound even more as she seemed to yell over all the noise of the kids to people at the other end of the table.
We eventually got a chance to bury those first impressions when the Bolle family came to visit us in Malaybalay and Lilay came with them. You can imagine each of our thoughts when we realized we'd be spending a week together under the same roof. But it was great! She got to see the real me---the rested, happy to be back in missions me; the laughing, playing with the neighborhood kids me, the semi-adjusted to the heat me. And without a migraine, she wasn't that loud. ;) We had a great time laughing and getting to know one another.
Shortly after that week in Malaybalay, we moved to Camiguin. Lilay was there waiting to help me get the house cleaned that first night, get our things put away and organized the next day, and has been right there beside me as I suffered through the heat and tried to learn the ins and outs of life in a very, very small town. I knew that she was an angel sent from Heaven not only be my "helper" but to become my friend just as He had sent Irene to me last year.
It didn't take me long to figure out that God had big plans for Lilay and her husband Jerome. They quickly became our ministry partners. They began helping us with the kids' ministry and the men's group---gathering the people, setting up, translating. They are also so very eager to learn about the faith. They constantly seek to grow closer to the Lord. They want to do what is right and don't mind being corrected about something that is not becoming of a "Christian."
|Lilay learning how to use the |
exercise ball with Reymark.
I will never forget that look of pure exhaustion and joy on her face when I arrived at the hospital the morning after Reymark's first night there. She had not slept at all because of the constant "watch" that Reymark needed in his delicate condition and all of the unexpected happenings that came about throughout the night. But she was so full of joy as she told me about all that happened during the night.
A mother whose baby had died earlier that evening came back to the pediatric ward in the middle of the night screaming and crying and searching for her baby. Lilay was there to help the nurses with her. She then returned to the room to find several of the other mothers upset by this and led them in prayer for this grieving mother. Later in the night, some of the moms were crying about their own children's illness. Again, she led them in prayer and taught them how to pray for and over their children.
|Exercising at home.|
The next morning, I arrived to find that one of the families in the ward had lost their house and all of their belongings in a fire the previous night. Lilay once again prayed with them after they received a call from their neighbor. By the time I arrived, the mother was thanking God that no one was home at the time of the fire and that they were all safe. We offered more prayers and asked to help the family buy food, clothes, or any other necessity that they needed, but the mother said that they had lots of family and friends already taking care of them.
|Lilay and Reymark at Mass.|
When it came time for Reymark to be discharged, Lilay offered to become Reymark's caretaker. She had talked to her grandmother who she lived with and her husband Jerome about Reymark moving into their house. I had been praying for God to show us what to do with Reymark after his discaharge. I knew that he could not go back to the environment we had found him in. I knew that Lilay would make sure that Reymark got the love and care he needed, but I also knew that she and Jerome could barely support their own five kids. I did not want to ask her to take own this "burden." But God had already moved in her heart to trust Him to provide. And He has in a mighty way.
|Lilay and Luke|
aka "coffee and milk"
In the weeks and month following Reymark's discharge, he has made tremendous progress because of Lilay's care and love. She prepares his food in the blender each day. She bathes him. She talks to him. She sings to him. She reads to him. She takes him out for walks in the stroller. She takes him to church. She goes with him to physical therapy and does the exercises with him at home. And best of all is that she's teaching his family to do all of this, and they have begun to help with his care!Lilay does all of this for Reymark and still continues to be my right hand. She helps hand wash the laundry a few times during the week. She helps prepare meals for us when we are too busy with ministries and/or aren't home to cook (there no fast food or grab a sandwhich here). She takes care of our kids when we have to travel to the mainland (too expensive and time consuming sometimes to take everyone). She massages my head and neck when she sees that I have a migraine. And she tells me how beautiful I am and what a good mom I am just at those moments when I feel ugliest. She always knows when and how to cheer me up. (Everyone needs a Lilay!)
|Giving haircuts to our neighbor's |
sons after cutting our boys' hair
in our backyard
Jerome, who goes by Siapo ("Sha poe"), has shown up with a weedwacker when we mentioned that we needed to cut the grass and trim the bushes around our driveway that scratch the car. He shows up with his clippers to give haircuts when the boys start to look shabby. He came to my rescue when a water pip busted and Travis was on the mainland. He gives the kids free rides on his motorcycle when they need to go to town. He plays basketball with the boys. He helps Travis gather all the men for the Tuesday night men's bible study at our house.
If we have a problem of any kind that we can't figure out (and there are plenty when you live in a foreign country), we can call Lilay and Jerome. They are always just a phone call or text away. And will always drop what they are doing to lend us a hand whether is for our own personal needs or to help us with ministry. They are both truly Heaven sent to us and many others here on Camiguin.
We found out that it was Jerome and Lilay's 9th anniversary last month. Travis and I wanted to bless them with a date for all that they have done not only for Reymark but also for the blessing they have been to our family. We offered them money to go on a date alone, but they wanted us to tag along because they had NEVER been on a date. They had NEVER been to a restaurant before. They didn't know what to do. We had such a great time and shared many laughs. They were so giddy the entire time. Thank you to the benefactor that sent in a donation specifically to bless this beautiful couple!
|Celebrating 9 years of marriage|
on their very first date
with a big bowl of chocolate ice cream!