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.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Fruits of the Unplanned Ministry

Last month we traveled back to our first mission post in Malaybalay to welcome our newest goddaughter into the Church.  Our Filipino friends and mission partners, the Leanos, had asked Travis to be the godfather to little Zephaniah.

While in Malaybalay, God blessed us so much.  First, we got some much needed relief from the heat of Camiguin.  The cool air of Bukidnon felt so wonderful.  We even got "cold" at night and had to get a blanket and turn off the fan in our room.  (To think that I thought it was so "hot" there last year!)  Secondly, we got to spend some quality time with another American family, the Romeros.  Our single missionary partners are great and so is the Filipino family, the Mardoquios, that are now serving with us on Camiguin.  But there's nothing like talking with another American missionary mom who just "gets it."

Ricky and Irene Redondo
Another blessing was that we got to jump right back into the daily blessed chaos of ministry, from visiting our old friends and neighbors to helping whoever called or texted needing help whether it be prayer, food, medical assistance, or some odd request like false teeth. We also got to check in on patients at the hospital, join the weekly jail ministry, and attend the men's group (Travis and the boys not me.)  The best part was we got to do all this ministry again with the our good friends the Redondos!

Irene had been our house helper from day one in Malaybalay.  We hired her to help us with the hand washing of the laundry, the lunch cooking, and food shopping which were all totally "foreign" to me when we first arrived in the Philippines.   But Irene quickly became part of our family and a later HUGE part of our ministry.  She helped us so much with our gate ministry, from translating for us to telling us what/how/where to get what the person needed.  It didn't take long before she was handling the gate alone when we weren't home---praying over the people, handing out the rice, taking them where they needed to go, inviting them back for morning prayer or to the bible study, etc.

Irene was so eager to learn about Jesus, the bible, the Catholic faith; she wanted to know everything.  She was constantly seeking to be a better wife, mother, daughter, friend, and Christian.  Irene always prayed for her husband Ricky at morning prayer.  Ricky was a heavy drinker and was sometimes violent and unfaithful when he drank.  We joined her prayers for her husband's conversion and begged God for Ricky's conversion.  Slowly, he began to change, but the temptation of alcohol was so abundant in their community.  But he was determined to not only change himself, but to help his friends change also.

In June, the missionary men along with some of the men from Ricky and Irene's community of Isla Bonita including Ricky decided to do a Jericho march around the mountain community to put an end to the alcoholism.  You can read about it here.  After the Jericho Project, Ricky became a different husband, father, son, man, Christian.  He began to attend the weekly bible study.  He helped round up the men from the community for the men's group each week.  He started to attend morning prayer at our house when he didn't have work.  He even began helping us with lots of ministry including helping us with and accompanying us to the funeral of this baby when I didn't have the strength to do what needed to be done.

Soon after Ricky's conversion, the other missionary families left Malaybalay leaving our family as the sole missionaries at our post.  Ricky and Irene stepped up without us even asking.  They became our mission partners.  Ricky took over all of the work projects and ever-growing list of needs that was becoming overwhelming for Travis to tend to alone.  The needs were so great; there were houses to be built, roofs to be replaced, floors to be poured, bathrooms and kitchens, walls.  Ricky was a self-taught carpenter and was able tell us the best way to meet each person's need.  He quickly became Travis's righthand man.

Ricky sharing his testimony about how
reading scripture changed his life.
The best part was that because he was working for us, we were able to make his work schedule around our ministry schedule so that he could join us.  He wouldn't begin work until after morning prayer each day.  We would let him get off early on Thursdays to help with the bible study where he shared his personal testimony with his friends and neighbors.  We also gave him Tuesday mornings off so that he could join Travis for the jail ministry where he once again eagerly told his story of how God had changed him.  We also started a small group study of the Acts of the Apostles with the Redondos and the Mardoquios, the other miracle conversion due to the Jericho Project.

It was so awesome to see God answering Irene's prayers for her husband, but we knew that Satan would not give up so easily and that he was going to use everything in his power to tempt Ricky back into a life of sin.  So we continued to pray for God to help him stay on the right path.  It worried us so much when we left at the end of the year to return home to wait for the baby to be born.  We hated to leave Ricky and Irene behind without support.  We begged the Redondos and Mardoquios to stick together, to continue to pray together, to continue to hold each other accountable, and to continue the bible studies.

We tried to stay in touch with both families as much as possible after we left and later got updates from the Romero family when they returned to Malaybalay in January.  The Mardioquios had stayed the course and just finished training to become full-time FMC missionaries at the first ever Asian Intake.  The Redondos had had some struggles, but were still trying to keep their eyes and hearts fixed on Jesus.  Satan had indeed tried leading Ricky astray a few times, but he always returned to the cross seeking Jesus's mercy and forgiveness.

When we returned to the Philippines in July, we were able to visit with them and hear about their struggles.  It was hard for Ricky to find work to support his family and even harder to find a job where the men he works with don't tempt him to go out drinking after work.  He had slipped up a couple of times, but he was back on track again.   Irene was only working sporadically washing laundry and giving Visyan lessons the last several months, and they had been barely able to feed their family. But Irene told us that they would rather have no money then to have Ricky working at higher paying jobs where he is faced with so many temptations.

Irene had contacted me several times while we were stateside asking for help for others, but had rarely asked for anything for her own family.  I always sent extra to "pay" her for taking care of others, taking them to the doctor, going buy and deliver what they needed.  But it was not nearly enough to provide for their family's needs since I thought that they both had steady work.  My heart ached for them.  I was so upset with her for not telling me.  Mad at myself for not being a better friend and checking up on them more thoroughly.  Angry with God for not helping this family who were so dedicated to helping others.

But then Irene told me in the same breath all about the times that God provided for them when they had absolutely nothing left.  The little miracles that He provided to help them keep the faith and keep relying totally on Him turned my anger into complete awe.  He knows better than me.  And more importantly the Redondos know better too!  Irene then excitedly told me that when God did provide they always had someone more in need come to their house.  And so they shared with their neighbors--- the little food they had, the little money they had, they shared.  Not from their abundance, but from their need, their REAL NEED.  I sat in awe as I listened to all that had been happening in their lives since December.

Ricky and Irene at the
Couples for Christ dinner.
Irene and Ricky also shared how much they missed being able to attend morning prayer and the jail ministry regularly and how they missed our weekly Acts study.  It was just too hard to find work that allowed them to both fully participate in the ministries that they loved participating in.  They longed to be able to join in the "mission" fully again.  But once again, they praised God for the times that He did provide and they were able to participate.  They told us all about sharing their testimonies and praying with the community.  Again, they saw the positive when all I could see was the negative.

We only got to spend a few shorts weeks in Malaybalay before moving to Camiguin.  It was so awesome to be able to be back in missions with the Redondos as our partners again.  It was almost as if we hadn't left.  We just picked up where we left off: morning prayer, bible studies, feeding the hungry at the gate, tending to the sick, etc.  I was so sad to have to leave them again.  I wanted to take them with us to give them jobs again that would allow them to feed their kids three meal a day everyday and allow them to participate fully in ministries again.  I wanted to take care of them, because unlike them, I didn't fully trust God to take care of them.

When we returned to Malaybalay for Zephaniah's baptism, we were able to visit with Irene and Ricky.  Again, we were humbled by their faith.  Still without steady work, they had taken in two of Ricky's cousins. Yes, barely able to feed their own two kids, they took in two grown boys to feed and care for.  They had put the younger one in the alternative learning school, and Ricky had been teaching the older one carpentry skills by day and to read by night.  But more importantly they had been sharing the gospel with them, teaching them how to pray, how to read the bible, and how to live as followers of Christ.  I say this all the time, and I will keep saying it.  The poor are the most generous and giving people you will ever meet.

We were so blessed to be able to once again jump right into ministry with the Redondos during our short stay.  Irene assisted us with several of our old neighbors who needed to see a doctor and/or needed medicines.  She once again jumped in to help translate and gather what each person needed.  She also accompanied us on some home visits.  It was just like old times!  We laughed so much at how we had all changed in the last year.  She thought it was so funny to hear that our kids ride all around Camiguin on motorcycles and on top of the vehicle, something the old me would never have allowed.  I laughed when I heard my own words come out of her mouth and repeated to me.

We also checked on some finished work projects with Ricky and Irene.  We had hired Ricky after our visit in July to work on some of the projects that we still had on our list from last year.  The Romeros were overseeing the projects, but Ricky had taken charge of them just as he had done last year.  He was in charge of making the material list, hiring the workers, and being the lead carpenter on the projects.  He rotated the workers each day, so that different out-of-work men in their community could have a salary at least once or twice during the week.  He led the men in prayer at the work site before they began each day just as he had witnessed the missionary men do.  He was also able to make the work schedule around morning prayer and the jail ministry again.

We also visited the families that are still on our work project list from last year to find that not only is their home still in of repairs or additions but that many are much worse off than they were when we first put them on the list last year.  Our plan, if it is God's will, is to raise enough money to finish all the projects on the list and hire Ricky to be the lead carpenter and project leader.  This will not only provide for the needs of the people on our list, but also provide jobs for Ricky and some of the out-of-work men in Isla Bonita. And Ricky will be able to have a flexible schedule that allows him to participate in other ministries with the Romero family.

We ask you to pray with us for the Redondos who are expecting a new baby next spring.  Pray for the health of Irene and baby. Pray for their other two children, King and Princess, and the two young men they have taken into their home.  Pray that God will continue to provide for this beautiful family.  Pray that He will continue to lead and guide them and draw them closer to Him.  Pray for their call to missions.  And please pray about sponsoring one of our work projects. (Use this link to donate.)

Ricky, Irene, King, and Princess

UPDATE:  Before I was able to publish this blog, I received a phone call from the Romeros about Ricky and Irene's newest self-appointed ministry.  The Romeros recently noticed that the lives of one couple that was in their mass wedding a few months ago had changed drastically.  They have baptized their children.  They have been attending the weekly bible study as a family and have been attending the separate men's and women's groups that alternate each week.

The Romeros told us that Ricky and Irene had been a huge part of this family's change.  They have taken this couple under their wing and have been walking their faith journey with them closely giving them the support they need to continue on when things get tough.  Ricky has even made this husband his "right hand man" on the recent work projects, so that he can keep him busy and help him fight the same temptations he had encountered when he first had his conversion.  This made my heart sing for joy!

 Mrs. Genie, FMC's founder, had told me to hire a helper when we got to our mission post.  She told me that it would save my sanity because running a house and a mission in a foreign country was overwhelming.  Boy, she was right! Secondly, she told me of the fruit that would come about as the "helper" watched how we prayed as a family in the morning, how we prayed before meals, how we handled stressful situations, how we disciplined our kids, how we treated each other, and more importantly how we treated the people who would come to our gate.  I was scared to death at the thought of having someone "watch" my every move during the day. Scared of what they would witness in our crazy chaotic family life!

But again, she was so right!  I didn't see it last year, but I can see it now in Irene and Ricky and also in Lilay and Jerome.  They have indeed learned so much from watching and listening to the missionaries they worked for, and both families have become missionaries in their own way, in their own communities.  And both families have grown closer to the Lord through our witness despite all our faults and failures and the messiness of our imperfect, crazy, chaotic life!

Thank you, Lord, for letting me see the fruits of this unplanned ministry!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Angels in Disguise or Missionaries in the Making?

If you don't know who Reymark is, read this blog FIRST about his amazing story!  Then come back and meet Lilay!

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.
It was Lilay who first told us about Reymark and brought us to him.  It was Lilay who helped us convince Reymark's mother to let us take him to the hospital.  It was Lilay who volunteered to stay at the hospital with Reymark when his mother refused to stay.  It was Lilay who became the angel sent from God to Reymark and the missionary sent to help others during that week long stay at the hospital.

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 other mothers were impressed with her prayers and her faith and told her that they wished they had what she had.  She then shared her testimony with them.  She told them about her past sins and how she is a changed person now.  She told them about the missionaries that came into her life and taught her about Jesus, how to pray, and how to be a better Christian.  She told them that they "could do the same." As she described the evening to me, I knew without a doubt that she was "the one" that was meant to be Reymark's watcher that night.  God had put her there not only to take care of Reymark, but to be the angel/missionary the others needed that night.

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.
As the week went on, Lilay became the fulltime pediatric ward angel/missionary.  She gave me the full report each time I arrived:  whose baby was getting sicker and needed to be prayed over again, whose baby was getting better and would be discharged, whose baby needed medicine that the parents couldn't afford, which mother had not eaten all day or all night, etc.  We were able to take care of most of the needs of the families in the ward each day.  She also told us about the Muslim mothers who shared a husband and both had babies with serious pneumonia.  We silently prayed extra hard for these women and their babies.  By the end of their stay, their children were coloring in the "I love Jesus" coloring books we had passed out earlier in the week.  :)

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"
The night we brought Reymark home for the hospital, Lilay had all of her family and all Reymark's family including both of his parents gather around Reymark's new bed in her grandma's living room to pray in thanksgiving for Reymark, the missionaries, the sponsors from the U.S. who had helped to buy all of the things Reymark needed.  It was then that Reymark's parents broke down and cried because they didn't know how to pray.  Once again Lilay, the angel/missionary, began to teach and pray just as she had learned.

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!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Boy Who Is Saving Many Souls Including Mine!

A month ago our friend Lilay asked us to pray for her nine year old bedridden cousin whose feet were swelling.  We prayed for him and then went on about our "other" missionary business.  The next week our friend thanked us for the clothes we had given her to hand out in her neighborhood.  Her aunt was excited to have clothes for her 9 year old bedridden cousin.  We had only given Lilay some newborn clothes that our baby had outgrown, so we were confused and thought maybe her cousin was actually nine months not nine years. But he was indeed a nine year old.  We began to ask questions and eventually decided to make a home visit to the family to see this nine year old who wears infant clothing.

What we found WAS a 9 nine year old boy wearing our five month old's hand-me-down clothes. He was so weak and so feeble that he could only wimper in his mother's arms when I touched him.  It was obvious that he was in pain.  My gut instinct told me that the boy was starving to death. I tried asking questions, but with my limited Visyan and the family's limited English, we didn't get much information, just that he had "always been like this."

I offered to take him to the hospital, but the mother refused. She said that the hospital had refused to help him because of "his condition."  How could anyone refuse to help the poor and weak especially a child?  I was furious.  I thought of just grabbing him and running back to the U.S. with him where I knew doctors who would help him, but I knew that wasn't an option.

I didn't stay long.  I couldn't.  I was so sick.  I felt so helpless. As a mother, I couldn't bear to watch this child whimper. Nor could I watch the mother's blank stare and lack of emotion. So, we prayed over him, gave them the milk and diapers we had brought, and left feeling heartbroken, helpless, and angry.  I was angry at myself for not coming sooner, angry at the mother, angry at my friend, angry at the neighbors, angry at the hospital and doctors, angry at the Philippine government for not taking care of the poor, and angry at God for allowing this child to suffer like this for nine years.

I laid awake in bed several nights tossing and turning with the image of Reymart in my mind.  I had many "conversations" with God about Reymark.  I was so angry that this child had suffered so much.  This couldn't possibly be God's plan for this child.  I questioned why He had brought me to Reymark. What was it that I was suppose to do?  I asked why He would send that kind of child to the poor who couldn't afford to properly care for him.  Why give us a healthy baby boy and not this poor woman?  I begged him to miraculously heal this boy. At times, I even joined the family's prayer for God to just take him.

Unable to get Reymark off my mind and heart, I visited again bringing more milk and diapers for Reymart.  The mother told me that he drank a lot of the milk we had given them the first day, but that he had begun to throw it up.  She then asked for a "cream" for the bed sores that he had on his bottom. After seeing the huge hole on his bottom when they removed the diaper, I knew that I had to figure out how to get this baby to the hospital.  I called in Rebecca, another missionary and our team leader who had been living on Camiguin for the past two years.  She knew a lot more Visyan than I and had more knowledge of the kind of medical care available on this island.

She was able to get a little more information about Reymart's past condition.  Reymark had developed tetanus from the instrument used to cut the cord after his home birth.  He had spent some time in the hospital as an infant.  He had a sponsor to help pay for his needs, but they had quit receiving help several years ago.  Reymark could never suck or chew food. He only "drank" the milk they poured down his throat.  After the sponsorship ended, the family could not afford the milk and other supplements he needed.  They had also received help from the social services office in our small town, but they had also stopped helping a few years ago.  Basically, the parents of 6, had to decide between buying rice and feeding the rest of the kids or buying milk to feed Reymark.

How does this happen in our world today? How could people...? How could God...? But before I could finish my angry thoughts, I recalled how much food my family had consumed just that morning at breakfast.  It sickened me to think of all the Reymarts in the world literally starving to death while we had our fill not once but several times a day.  Yes, we had seen the commercials with the photos of starving kids and had listened to the stories of people coming to our church looking for sponsors for children like this.

Before missions, we had donated to many of those feeding programs and still sponsor two of the children.  We thought that we had done "our share".  As missionaries, we discovered that "our share" was simply a tiny drop in the ocean.  We have handed out thousands of pounds of rice to the "hungry" in our two years of missions.  We have fed numerous "hungry" kids at our table.  We pray for the "hungry" before most meals.  Again, we thought we had done "our share." But that week during our family Desert Day (a time of personal prayer with the scripture), God showed me that "our share" was not enough.

He first led me to 1 Corinthians chapter 11.  At first it seemed to be the same old stuff he repeatedly sends me to in scripture, "be imitators of me", "maintain the traditions", "the head of a woman is the husband", "women should veil themselves", etc. These are many of the tough things that He continuously calls me out on.  I almost closed my bible with an eye roll, but then I got to verse 23 and the breath was knocked right out of me.  "For when the time comes to eat, each of you goes ahead with your own supper, and one goes hungry..."  I cried the rest of my desert day time and most of the day as I thought about Reymart a few miles away literally starving to death while I sit down to my own meal.

All that we have done has always been from our abundance.  Even in missions, we have always had enough for ourselves.  We have rarely missed a meal even if it was only rice or bread.  We may have been "uncomfortable" at times, but it has never hurt.  Reymark's story hurt...it hurt deep down in the pit of my soul.  I knew that I was sent to Reymark not only to save his life, but to save my soul from my own selfishness and greed.  That night I cried myself to sleep again thinking of Reymart, but this time my tears were for myself, my family, my friends, and all those back home in America who thought they were "doing their share."

The next day we spoke to a social worker who knew Reymark and some of his histroy.  We found out that Reymark had Cerebral Palsy and that he had a sponsor that helped with his needs years ago.  We learned that the sponsorship was taken from him and given to another child who was in need because Reymark "didn't make progress" because the mother wasn't doing what she was told to do at home. We found out that as Reymark's condition worsened over the years the assistance from the government social services office also stopped including giving them milk for Reymark.  They quit helping him because his parents were "not doing their part" to help provide for his needs.  This was almost too much for my heart to hear.

Reymart at the ER

We made another visit to Reymark's house after talking to the social worker.  We asked his mother about his cerebral palsy. It seemed as if she had never heard those words.  As we questioned her regarding all the things we had heard from the social worker, I realized that not only was she financially unable to care for Reymark, but that she was mentally incapable of understanding what Reymark needed.  We finally convinced her that the bed sores needed to be cleaned and properly bandaged by a nurse or doctor.  She agreed to let us take Reymart to the hospital on the other side of the island.  It was the longest 45 minute ride of my life.  Reymark whimpered the entire way there.

When we arrived at the hospital ER, it was discovered that not only was Reymark literally starving to death, but that he had very severe pneumonia.  He was too weak to cough, so know one had known that he was sick.  The nurses immediately began an I.V. and started a breathing treatment. The doctor told us that Reymark would not have lived much longer and that even with the medical care they would give him, it would be a miracle if he survived.  But we knew Reymark was already a miracle in the making!

The doctors and nurses began yelling at the mother for letting this child get to the brink of death before bringing him in.  I knew exactly how they felt, I had been just as angry as they were last week before I knew the whole story. This was exactly why she had refused to bring him in all the times I mentioned it.  She had been yelled at many times in the past nine years for not properly taking care of Reymark, but no one had taken the time to find out why.  She was so upset that she refused to stay with him after he was admitted. Our friend Lilay offered to stay with him in the hospital.  (That's a whole other blog!  Read it!)

Genevieve proudly displaying her "O."

When the breathing treatment was finished and the nurses came to address the bed sores, it was discovered that he actually had four very large, very deep, very infected bed sores on his fragile little bottom.  We were sent out to buy a swimming ring for them to prop him up on to keep him from sitting on them any longer.  They told us that he would need to have a debridement surgery on them once he was strong enough.

He was also in need of type O blood which happens to be an uncommon type for Filipinos; therefore; there was not any type O in the hospital blood bank.  We began searching all over the town for someone with type O; literally asking people on the streets if they were type O.  We began to panic, but God had already planned this out way before we found Reymark.  One of the single missionaries sent to Camiguin last year was type O!  The next day we drove Genevieve to the hospital where she happily donated blood to Reymark.
Once he received the blood, he began to get some color back into his little face.  After a few days of I.V. antibiotics and breathing treatments, Reymark was ready to for the surgical team to clean out his bed sores.  The surgical team was awesome.  They took their time to teach Lilay how to care for the sores until they were healed and how to make sure Reymark didn't get any more.

Reymart after receiving Genevieve's "O"

Actually all of the nurses and staff in the hospital took their time and taught Lilay how to properly care for Reymark.  They taught her how to cook and blend foods for him and gave her recipes for different nutritional shakes and smoothies.  They taught her how to properly bathe Reymark and clean his mouth and teeth after each feeding.  They even helped her come up with a schedule for his care which included when he should eat his meal shakes and when he should have his PediaSure smoothie snacks.  They also added when he should be held and for how long and when he should be put down and when he should be rotated.  Everyone wanted to make sure that Reymart never ended up in the hospital again with bed sores or malnutrition.

As Reymark's discharge got closer, we worried about putting Reymark back in his home where he may not be cared for properly.  We prayed and prayed for God to help us know what to do once he was discharged.  We were really hoping that Lilay would continue to be his caretaker, but wasn't sure how that would work since she and her family of eight were homeless and living with her grandma.  But God had already moved in everyone's heart before we had to bring up the subject.

Reymark's AWESOME physical
therapist's first words to me were,
"Do you believe in miracles? Because
I believe God sent this boy to you
and me to show us a miracle!" 

Lilay, her husband Jerome, and her grandmother had already discussed and prayed about Reymark's situation.  They were all in agreement that he should live with them where there would be plenty of people to care for him.  And they had already discussed this with Reymark's parents who had also agreed that they could not care for him and provide for the rest of their family. We knew that Lilay's family wasn't going to be able to financially support Reymark and his extensive needs either.  But we knew that God would provide in time.  And He did!

Reymark was discharged and is now living with our friend Lilay at her grandmother's house.  His mother and his father come over to help with his care often.  He's eating drinking some very delicious smoothies and shakes that Lilay prepares for him with his new blender.  She is now able to make a large batch for others to feed him while she is at work or at school because he now has his own refrigerator!  He's attending physical therapy daily on the other side of the island thanks to another donor.  We were also able to buy him a baby bed and get him out of the rice sack hammock that he had lived in for nine years.  He is starting to move his head and limbs a little on his own now, and the bed allows him room to stretch out.

Reymark at home in his stroller ready
to go explore his neighborhood.

Lilay, her two youngest kids,
Luke, and myself with Reymark

Reymart on our second visit September 12 compared to our visit yesterday on October 7.
What a difference a little bit of food and a WHOLE LOT OF LOVE makes!

Reymark has changed so much in the last month.  He is starting to fill out and even getting some pudgy little cheeks.  There seems to be a little "meat" now between his skin and bones.   He's much more alert.  He even seems to smile at me when I talk to him now (probably because he has no idea what I am saying).  Reymark's entire demeanor has changed.

But the most important thing that has changed is hearts and most importantly---MINE! 

They say that he is blind, but I'm pretty
certain that he sees a lot more than the
rest of us.  When I hold him, I'm sure that
he looks directly into my eyes and sees my soul,
the one he is helping to heal.

If you feel called to help with Reymark's care, you can click the "Donate" link at the top of our blog page. The PediaSure formula, the nutritional supplements, and the food Reymark needs daily along with the transportation to physical therapy on the other side of the island each day is very costly.  We would also like to one day be able to bring Reymark to the mainland to see a few specialists including an occupational therapist and an eye doctor.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Water, Water Everywhere, But Not a Drop to Drink

We live on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with lots of mountain springs and waterfalls.  We are surrounded by water, yet, a large number of people here do not have access to clean water to drink, cook with, water their crops, bathe with, etc.  Many people have to climb several kilometers up a mountain to the water source and carry buckets back down several times a day.  Sometimes there is a water source nearby, but it is under the mountain rocks and unaccessible.

Father Joe, the priest we work under, is working to provide water to as many people as he can on his beloved Camiguin Island with the help of unusual gift from God.  Father Joe has the "gift of finding water."  He can "sense" where water is in an area.  He then uses two sticks to find the exact spot.  He's explained it to us several times, but we wanted to see him in action.  So last week we loaded up and headed to one of the water source projects he has.

When we got to the end of the road, and I use the word road loosely, we were told we had a "little hike" up to the water source that Father had discovered some time ago.  Travis decided it might be best if he carried Luke in the carrier instead of me carrying him.  Best decision ever!  Once Luke was all strapped in, we were ready to hit the trail.  And again, the word trail is used very loosely.

The journey up to the water source was tough for two old out of shape people who grew up in flat Louisiana.  We are not mountain climbers. We got left behind and resorted to playing "Marco Polo" with the rest of the gang.  Soon our "Marco" wasn't answered with a "Polo."  We were too far behind.  Thankfully Father Joe had told one of his workers to stay behind to help us old folks along.  He didn't speak English, but kept smiling and pointing with his lips (that's how Filipinos do it) each time we turned back to ask him which way.

Travis trying not to slide down the edge while Emily tries
to keep an eye on the rest of the group ahead.

We finally reached the rest of the group at the water hole and were amazed at what we saw.  The men had dug through the rocky mountain to find a small spring.  The hole was about 8 feet deep.  They were emptying the hole with a bucket and pouring it down the mountain into a small pipe that they had run down the mountain.

Here's a video showing what has to be done each day in order to get the water from the source to the farm reservoir.

You can see in the pictures below the bamboo that they had originally used before Father was able to buy the black piping.  This particular water system travels down the mountainside to water the crops on the farm that Father has to help feed and care for his parishioners.

While at the site, Father told us that there is another larger water source higher up that they will try to get to soon since a long drought is predicted for this area in the coming months.  The majority of their crops were lost during last year's drought.  He wants to prevent this from happening again.

He also told us of several mountain communities that he has located the water for.  He just needs the piping to run the water down through and the tank to store the water in for the people of the area to use.  The total cost of the pipe and water tanks for these four communities is over $10,000.  As Pope Francis stated in his lastest encyclical Laudato Si', "access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of other human rights."

He also stated that it is our job to help provide safe drinking water to the poor.  "Our world has a grave social debt towards the poor who lack access to drinking water, because they are denied the right to a life consistent with their inalienable dignity. This debt can be paid partly by an increase in funding to provide clean water and sanitary services among the poor."

If feel called to help  with the Sagay Water Project, please visit our donation page or call Family Missions Company's office at 337-893-6111.