Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Never Too Young by Emily

This is the final message our 14 year old daughter Emily gave to her peers at our weekly praise and worship gathering. 

 
Emily and Olivia being prayed over before giving their final messages. 

When I was ten years old, our family went to Mexico on a ten day mission trip. I liked visiting the elderly people in town and bringing food to the poor. I also liked painting some of the houses for the poor and elderly. But I thought that I was too young to share at the ranchos or to tell people about Jesus during the home visits. During desert day, I felt the Lord calling me to do something but I didn't want to listen because I was too young.  (Desert day is a day where we spend time outdoors with the Lord. We pray, read scripture, listen, and observe.)

A few months later, our family went back to Mexico for another mission trip to decide if God was calling us to be full time missionaries. Again, I enjoyed the home visits and the work projects, but was scared when I was asked to share at one of the ranchos. I thought I was still too young to have a testimony or to teach people about Jesus. But at desert day, God sent me to Jeremiah, chapter 1. Verses 4-8 struck me. 
Jeremiah 1:4-8
4 'Now the word of the LORD came to me saying,
5 "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations."
6 Then I said, "Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth."
7 But the LORD said to me, "Do not say, 'I am only a youth'; for to all to whom I send you you shall go, and whatever I command you you shall speak.
8 Be not afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD."
God was telling ME that I was NOT too young and that He had plans for me to spread His word to other nations. But I was still too shy and afraid, so I put that scripture away. 

 

Our family became missionaries the next year, we were sent to the Philippines to preach the Gospel and serve the poor. I enjoyed serving the people in Malaybalay through home visits and work projects. But I was still too shy and afraid to do what God was calling me to do. I still thought I was too young. 

Last year while we were back in the states waiting for my brother Luke to be born, Isaac and I went back to Mexico for a short term mission trip. God reminded me on the way of the scripture from Jeremiah that he had given me on my last visit to Mexico. I knew that He was telling me that I was not too young and was going to have to share when asked. I did share my testimony and our family's testimony a few times to individuals and to groups. God helped me just as He promised Jeremiah. 

A few months later, God made it possible for me to go back to Mexico without any of my family with me. I was asked to help lead one of the groups, I was nervous at first, but those verses from Jeremiah came back to remind me that God was sending me to the nations to spread His message and that He would give me the words. And He did. 

When our family came back to the Philippines last year, I tried to overcome my fear and shyness and share my faith with others. And in doing this I made many new friends here that I would not have met if I ignored God's call. 

Always remember that you are never too young to follow God's will. 

Power of Prayer by Olivia

This is a personal testimony about the power of prayer that our 13 year old daughter shared as her final message to her peers at our weekly praise and worship gathering in Camiguin, Philippines. 


 
  Our team praying over Olivia and Emily before their sharing. 


From before I was born, prayer has been a part of my life. After my sister was born, the doctor told my mom that she shouldn't have any more kids because her two pregnancies were not good. But my mom and dad wanted a lot of kids, so they didn't listen to the doctor. 

When my mom was pregnant with me, she had a lot of problems again. They were scared that I might die before I was born, but my mom and dad and all of their friends and family prayed very hard for me. I was born about one month early and had to stay in the NICU for a few days. While I was there, our friends and family kept praying for me. 

A few days after I got home from the hospital, a tumor like birthmark called a hemangioma began to grow on my upper lip and went inside my mouth and nose. I was not able to eat or breathe very well, so my mom and grandma rushed me back to the hospital. Everyone was praying for me again. I had 21 surgeries, both laser and plastic surgeries, to keep the hemangioma from growing and blocking my breathing. 

The doctors told my mom that I might not have teeth because of the high powered laser that they used on my gums. They also said that I may not be able to talk properly because of the way my lip was split and deformed. But my family and friends prayed harder for me. I had my last surgery when I was four years old. And I am fine now except for this scar that reminds me that God answered all the prayers said for me and saved me. 

Prayer continued to be a big part of my life. When I was a little girl I prayed to be able to travel to the Philippines to meet our sponsored child Ronabel even though my parents said it was impossible. Later, I prayed for my dad to let us be missionaries.  We later became missionaries and were sent to the Philippines! I got to meet Ronabel last year. (Read about it here.)

I also prayed for God to send us another baby.  My parents told me that that was not possible either. But we now have baby Luke ten years later. 

God hears the prayers of the faithful. We just have to keep praying everyday and not give up waiting for God's perfect time. 

 
Olivia and her friend/translator Idvon


Mark 11:22-24
And Jesus answered them, "Have faith in God. Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be taken up and cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

When You Get Out of God's Way

Remember, Louie and Fe, two of our cerebral palsy patients whose parents are also handicapped?  If not, read all about them HERE

Louie and Fe in December 2015 when our missionary friends visited them for Christmas. Louie and Fe, December 2015, when our missionary friends visited the family at Christmas. Since then, we missionaries teamed up and have gotten them medical care, provided them with food each week, bought them bedding to lay on, fixed their home, built them bathroom, and hired some to help with their care. 

A month ago, Louie and Fe's father Irenao had a stroke and lost what little movement he had in his legs and lost all motion in his arms and hands. He was in the hospital for a few weeks.  Once he was discharged, he had to stay at his brother's house on the other side of the island since he was no longer able to move around and care for himself. 

I wasn't worried about Louie and Fe during this time because I knew I had done "my part."  I had found a sponsor to pay for a caretaker that had already been tending to the bathing, diapering, and exercising of the kids each day. And we wete taking care of transporting them to the hospital forty-five minutes away once a week for them to get physical therapy. 

 
Fe practicing sitting up at physical therapy

 
The physical therapist and Lilay showing some of Louie's exercises to his big sister. 

It wasn't until the physical therapist stopped me at the hospital last week after Louie and Fe's physical therapy visit. He voiced his concerns to me about Louie and Fe regressing the last few weeks instead of progressing. He also asked about who was feeding them now that the papa was not home. Even though the father was unable to walk, he was the one that crawled around in the special kitchen that we had built for him and cooked the food. And he was the one that fed Louie and Fe. I had no idea how to answer the physical therapist because I had even thought about that. Missionary fail #toomanytoocount!. 

 
Irenao sitting in the new kitchen cooking lunch for the family. 

I quickly began to investigate the situation. Again, too "busy" to actually go over to their home in the mountains near my house. I did learn from my missionary helper, Lilay, that the caretaker had not been going each day twice a day as she was hired to do because of a medical situation in her own family. She had not been there in quite some time and was too shy to tell us. Their mentally handicapped mother had been feeding them each day, but no one had been there to bathe them or to do their physical therapy exercises. 

After hearing this, I did what I am so good at doing, I micromanaged the situation. I had a meeting with the old caretaker and a new one. Not wanting our friend, the original caretaker, to be out of work, I offered her a part time caretaker job. She would take care of her elderly and sickly parents in the morning and go to Louie and Fe's house after lunch to do their exercises. This way we would not have to have the therapist train a new person, and she would still have some steady income and time to care for her own family. 

I had also contacted another friend who was in need of work to take the morning shift which consisted of bathing, diapering, and playing with the two kids. She agreed and was happy to help and have steady work.  I was proud of how quickly "I" solved several of the problems we had been present with recently all at once. 

The next day the new caretaker came to our house to inform us that when she arrived that morning to care for the kids, they were alone in the house. She also began to tell us how the kids had food all over their faces and bodies including in their ears. I had forgotten that besides being mentally handicap, the mother was almost completely blind. She couldn't see well enough to feed the kids. 

My heart sank to the pit of my stomach. I was sick. I had been "too busy" with "other things" in my own life and with other missionary "stuff". I had failed to check on them even after being told they were being neglected once again. I had failed these two kids. I knew from the very beginning that this situation needed a long term plan, but all I had done was get a quick, temporary fix for them.  Missionary fail #ishouldjustquit! 

Travis and I met with our missionary partners who had originally found the kids in the mountain area last year. We began throwing out ideas, but were clueless as to what was actually available here in the Philippines for an entire handicapped family. Family was the key word! They needed family to help them. We decided to visit the papa at his brother's house the next day to possibly bring him home to see the kids which we thought would help speed up his recovery process. We also planned to "check out" his brother's family who had been caring for him. 

We hoped that the situation would look "good enough" for us to ask them to take on Louie and Fe also. But we all knew that was a long shot. Most people here are barely getting by feeding and caring for their own family. No one would agree to take on a family of five especially when four were handicapped and couldn't contribute to the family.  Even if they wanted to help, we figured they would not agree because of the huge financial burden it would add to their family.  So, we also made a list of people to contact to search for a faculty that would take the whole family or at least Louie and Fe. (Yes, I thought about taking them both in and adopting them! But Travis reminded me we  were already drowning in a foreign adoption.)

The next morning we loaded up our boys, the three single missionaries, one of the Philippine missionaries, and Lilay and Jerome, our missionaries-in-training. We headed to the other side of the island and went up and up and up the mountain. On the way, we all prayed that God would be with us and guide this visit and show us what needed to be done. 

When we arrived we found, a fairly large house filled with a lot of people and even had a few piglets running in the house. My heart sank. I thought that  there was no way these people would have room for one more person much less an entire family. But as we got closer to the house, I saw a whole group of people caring for Irenao inside a little hut next to the main house. 

One lady was sitting in the floor feeding him. And another was massaging his hands and trying to get him to grasp his fingers. When he was done eating, some of the men stepped inside to help another lady with the changing of his diaper. The teamwork of this family was awesome, but their compassion was even more amazing.  This is exactly what Louie and Fe needed---a whole team of loving, compassionate caretakers. 

We also quickly realized that we could not take the father home to see his wife and kids like we had planned. So, we sat down with the family to talk. "Come, Holy Spirit" was our silent plea. Within minutes of sitting down to discuss options for Irenao and the kids, the entire extended family---brothers, sisters-in-law, nieces, nephews, cousins---all agreed to take in the family to help care for them. 

What? We didn't even have to wait for them to discuss it amongst themselves. When we explained that even once Irenao recovered from the stroke would need help with Louie and Fe's care permanently. One asked, "For life?"  We quietly said, "Yes, for life," knowing that those two words would be the deal breaker. "Come, Hoky Spirit" barely got out of my mouth as the family all began to eagerly nod their heads saying, "Yes, they can live here for life. And we will all help!"  

I wanted to get up and dance. I wanted to run to the peak of the mountain and shout. I wanted to cry! I wanted to laugh!  I had so many emotions running through me that I had no idea what to do. And I wasn't the only one. One family member began shouting, "Praise the Lord". Irenao and his niece were shedding tears of joy. And our mission leader grabbed her ukelele and began singing! 

 

 

We thought the family would need time to discuss the situation and make arrangements, so we planned on moving the family the following week after we returned from bringing other patients to the mainland. But Irenao begged us with tears in his eyes to return with his family that day. And everyone else agreed that they should be moved right away. So, we loaded back in the car and headed down the steep mountain back to the other side of the island where we packed up Louie and Fe and all of their things. 

We made the 45 minute trip back to the other side of the island and went up the steep mountain for the second time that day. We brought the kids in and laid them on the mat next to their Papa. At first, they were unsure about this new place and all of the new faces and voices. But then they heard their father's voice...

 


UPDATE: Fe and Louie's mother and older sister will be joining them this week after they finish packing up their home. Please be in prayer for everyone involved. Pray that God would help the family to not grow weary in the caretaking of these precious souls, that Irenao will recover fully from the stroke and that his legs would also be healed, that the older sister would make friends easily at her new school, and that God would use these kids and their infectious smiles to bring the family closer to one another and to Him. 

If anyone would like to help the Obedencio family, they could use a few more things to make caring for them a little easier such as a wheelchair for Irenao, two strollers or a double one for Louie and Fe's trips to physical therapy, a small refrigerator/freezer to store ice in for their therapy, and a sponsor for Lea, the older sister's schooling.  To donate, use the link at the top of this blog and type "Obedencio Family" in the comment box. 



Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Change Isn't Always Better

It's Back to School time here! I know that no one back in the states wants to even think about a new school year much less school fees, school supplies, and uniforms, but that's what is happening on our side of the world right now as you enter into your summer vacation.

This year is there will be lots changes taking place in the educational system here in the next two years. This will be the first year that 11th grade will be offered. Next year, 12th will be added. This sounds good in theory. Kids won't be finishing high school at age 15 or 16. Those attending college will be older and a little more mature when they begin and when they graduate. It also means those not going to college won't be hanging out getting into trouble until they can get full time jobs at 18.  

But the adding of two more grades puts an extra burden on many of the families here in the Philippines. This means two more years of school fees, school supplies, and uniforms. Families with older kids are having to make hard decisions about who will be going to school and who will not. It may mean that the younger children will not be able to begin on time because the money will be used for the older sibling to finish.  Or it might mean that the older children will not be able to graduate from high school because the money is needed for the younger siblings to begin school.  It is a tough, no win situation for many families. 

But this new policy has also created a larger scale problem for schools and students.  Many of the schools can't physically hold another grade level. There is simply no room to keep the entire class one more year much less two more years with the upcoming grades entering. So, it became a first come first serve basis for 11th grade registration. Many students were not able to get into a public school 11th grade class. They are also no longer able register for a technical school or college since those are now requiring the full twelve years of schooling. This leaves a great deal of young people stuck with no options. 

Meet 16 year old Graceziel, one student who is stuck, but is determined to get an education and become a P.E. teacher despite having no one, but God, and nothing but her faith. 

 

We first met Graceziel when we lived in Malaybalay. She lived in our neighborhood with her aunt and became close friends with our two girls. Her mother die when she was 9 years old, and her father left her and her siblings with relatives to find work. He ended up starting a new family in another place and never came back. She, just like Joshua and so many others here, has been shuffled around from relative to relative for most of her life with no stability, no support. But despite the crappy situation she was given, she was and still is one of the most joyous and faith-filled teens I have ever met.  She was always very involved in her church and in her youth group.  When we'd talk about her life situation, she'd always remind me that God would take care of her and her needs. 

She contacted me recently to ask for prayers.  Without the help and support of a parent, she was unable to register for 11th grade. She did not have the money for the registration fee at the time of enrollment. She also had to move out of yet another relative's home, to another town, and into a boarding house that she pays for with the money she earns washing dishes at a restaurant.  Even though she is living completely on her own, supporting herself with a very poor paying job, she managed to save up enough money this summer to pay the registration fee for 11th grade only to discover that it is too late. All of the public schools in her area are full.  The only option she has is a private high school. 

Even that didn't break Graceziel's spirit, she began searching for a private school that still had spots abailable. When she found one and saw the cost, she began searching for scholarships and government aid to help her pay the tuition. When I talked with her this week, she had received a voucher from the government for over half of the tuition. She asked me to please help her pay the registration fee of $130. She then assured me that she would continue to work while attending school to pay the monthly tuition if I could just find someone to sponsor her registration fee.  

This absolutely broke my heart!!  What 16 year old should be washing dishes at night to pay for her own food and rent, living in a boarding house alone with no family while going to high school?  This is the part of mission life that I hate. This is the part that keeps me up at night. This is the part that makes me question my God, my faith, my belief.  This is the part that reminds my why I am still here serving when our two year commitment ended last September.  

If anyone wants to be the answer to Graceziel's prayers, please use this link (Seilhan Family Missions) to donate.  Please type "Graceziel" in the comments box on the donation page. Or mail in a donation to Family Missions Company, 12624 Everglade Road, Abbeville, LA 70510. Please write "TMS-Graceziel" in the memo. 

Her total tuition bill for the semester including the registration fee and monthly tuition is $250.  If you'd like to help her with her monthly rent and food so that she does not have to wash dishes at night, please send us an email (seilhanfly@gmail.com) or message us on Facebook (Seilhan Family Missions).  

Please pray for Graceziel and for all the "Graceziels" out there who are "stuck" without any place to call home and no one to turn to. 



Thursday, March 17, 2016

Meet Mark Neilson

Mark Neilson is Reymark's three year old cousin. When we first met Mark Neilson when he visited his grandma in Sagay, he was having 20-30 seizures a day. His medication wasn't working to control them, or so we thought. Mark Nielson needed to go back for a followup with the Pediatric Neurologist, but his parents had not yet saved up the money needed to see this private doctor and getting in to see the free government neurologist at the public hospital is just....well we won't go there. That's another rant for another day.
We found out that Mark Neilson had seen the same doctor we had taken Reymart to previously. So, we made the trip to the mainland to meet Mark Neilson and his parents and took him to the pediatric neurologist that he had prescribed the medication he was currently taking but wasn't working or so we thought.
The doctor informed us that the medication was indeed working because Mark Neilson was having 40-50 seizures a day when he first saw him.  The medication had indeed cut the number in half, but this was still not acceptable especially for a child this young.
When we asked what else could be done, the doctor said that Mark Neilson was already taking the highest dosage of the medication allowed. He also mentioned that he had suggested to the parents that Mark Neilson needed some additional testing and brain scans. All of which cost way too much money and could only be done at a private hospital. If the followup appointments were too expensive, then the tests and scans were way too far out of their reach. Mark Neilson's parents had decided to just be thankful for the 20-30 seizures a day versus the 40-50 he had been having. This was NOT ACCEPTABLE TO ME!
Thanks to our benefactors and sponsors we were able to help him get several tests run including the brain scan the next day! During the scan, it was found that Mark Neilson had numerous spots on his brain. The scan was sent off to be read by a specialist on another island. We then pleaded on FB for prayers for Mark Neilson. The good news is that these spots are NOT TUMORS and are NOT CANCER! The bad news is that they are damaged spots which are causing the seizures and will do so for the rest of his life without a miracle from God. (Which we are still praying for!)
The even better news is that after several months and several different medication trials Mark Neilson is down to only 1 or 2 seizures every few days!!!!!! This is HUGE for him and his family! Thank you, JESUS!
The bad news is that this new medicine was prescribed as a "last resort" due to the its extremely high cost. The doctor had been holding off on trying this one even though he thought this would be the correct one, because he knew that the family would never be able to afford it if it did indeed work. But in seeing that we weren't going to stop until we helped this precious boy, he prescribed it and it WORKED!
The total cost of one month's supply is over $250. This is unattainable for this family. Both of Mark Neilson's parents work hard to provide for their family of five, and they even have a relative caring for Mark Nielson for free while they are working. But this is more than they make in a month with two full time jobs.









I have talked with the doctor and with several others including the pharmacy about the cost of this medication, the need for it, and the lack of help for the poor. There is no government support at all. No prescription program. No handouts. No discounts. Nothing! Poor families have to find another way, do without, or settle for less expensive medications that do not work as well or at all. This is the injustice that the poor are served everyday. This is what breaks my heart everyday in missions.
Mark Neilson, Lilay, and Reymark after one of their neurology checkups.
If you feel called/inspired/lead to help us help Mark Neilson, continue to remain almost seizure free. You can donate towards his medication and followup visits at the online here, note in the comment box "Mark Neilson". Or mail a check or money order to Family Missions Company, 12624 Everglade Road, Abbeville, LA 70510. Please note "TMS: Mark Neilson" on the check.