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.