Monday, August 29, 2011

When We've Been Here...

When we've been here ten thousand years;
Bright shining as the sun.
We've no less days to sing God's praise;
Than when we've first begun.

~ Verse 6, Amazing Grace, John Newton
This was an ordinary, yet not-so-ordinary week... as our family tried hard to get back to our normal wake-up times since returning from our missions immersion trip to the Philippines. By the way, we are still trying! :-)

#965 - #976 of grace-gifts... on these ordinary, yet beautiful God-given days!

~ His mercies, new every morning!
Compassion child, Jesus from Peru, now has a sponsor!
~ Visiting a friend who is sick.
~ Encouragement of seeing her grow in God.
~ Confirmation of our sponsorship of Compassion LDP student, Rochelle.
~ An opportunity to serve Him through a crisis pregnancy ministry!
~ Hubby and my girl becoming Volunteer Advocates for Compassion!
~ Movie night with the family.
~ A mall outing with my little nephews and nieces.
~ Helping and praying for a friend who is finalizing divorce papers.
~ A video... helping me to remember what I saw in the Philippines.
~ Fun Sunday afternoon at Buskerfest.

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Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Hodge-Podge Post

Hello weekend! Happy Saturday, everyone!

It's been a quiet week here on my blog, hasn't it? Not necessarily so here at home as we got back into, no... it's been more like... as we are trying hard to get back into routine after coming home from our trip to the Philippines.

It's been harder than I thought especially since it's still Summer... which means no school for the kids! My flexible work hours sure don't help one bit either... I've been working from 11am to 5pm instead of my usual 8am to 2pm. Sigh...

Well, this coming week is it... the last week of Summer holidays! We have to get our act together if we want the kids to get to school on time! Aaacck!

Well, like I said in the beginning of this blog post, the blog's been quiet but it's certainly not the case in our household. So here's a hodge-podge from my thoughts about this week:

  • Remember my first blog post upon coming back from the Philippines? The one where I said, "I don't want to forget..."? Well, last Saturday as we went grocery shopping at Wal-Mart, we met a woman and her baby. She came straight towards us as we approached our car in the Wal-Mart parking lot. She spoke very little English but she had a note, scribbled on a piece of cardboard that said, "Please Help... Four Kids... Need money for food and rent. God Bless You." Under my breath I said to God, "Thank you, God, for not letting us forget... for helping us to remember!" We went back into Wal-Mart and bought her groceries, diapers, baby food. Then we drove her to a McDonald's across the street, bought her some food so she could sit there and wait for her sister to pick her up. Turns out, she's a brand-new immigrant (two weeks only) to Canada from Romania. They ran out of money and can't find jobs. I was able to give her a brochure of a local organization that might be able to help her.
  • In Compassion-related developments, another one of my Child Packs now have a sponsor... little Jesus from Peru have been sponsored!!! It is truly amazing how God is showing me how HE is leading the way in my new journey as a Volunteer Advocate for Compassion Canada! Also, I am happy to report that both my hubby and my girl have officially become Volunteer Advocates as well! So cool!!!
  • This week I had the opportunity to visit a friend, the one I blogged about here who has been dealing with kidney failure. God is doing an amazing work in her life! She is now on daily dialysis and is doing very well. Best of all, she has started attending church. God is truly good...
  • In other Compassion-related news, we received confirmation this week that our sponsorship of Rochelle is now active! I'm excited about this new relationship that we have the privilege of cultivating. I am thrilled that our family is going to be a part of the God-story in Rochelle's life. By the way, they found out that her birth certificate has her name spelled as Rechelle... but I'm just so used to typing Rochelle. It's how she spelled her name growing up and it's how it was spelled when we met her in Cebu! So, I think... Rochelle it is!
  • Yesterday, for the first time in our married life... we had no mortgage payment!(#964)  I still can't believe it, it's like I'm in a dream. God is truly so good... this was an unexpected grace-gift, to say the least!

Well, that's the kind of week it's been for us... full of surprises from our Heavenly Father, who always loves and is always good! I just finished reading What's So Amazing About Grace?, a book by Philip Yancey. Here are a few quotes... they are gold:
The Christian knows to serve the weak not because they deserve it but because God extended his love to us when we deserved the opposite. Christ came down from heaven, and whenever his disciples entertained dreams of prestige and power he reminded them that the greatest is the one who serves. The ladder of power reaches up, the ladder of grace reaches down.
"But the fact is, the reason I do what I do, and so many of our volunteers do what they do, is that we're being obedient to Jesus." ~ Millard Fuller, founder of Habitat for Humanity.
The world thirsts for grace. When grace descends, the world falls silent before it.
Unwrapping more of His love in this world.
Act justly.  Love mercy.  Walk humbly with God!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Grace For The Journey

O, do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men! Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks! Then the doing of your work shall be no miracle. But you shall be a miracle. Every day you shall wonder at yourself, at the richness of life which has come to you by the grace of God.

~ Phillips Brooks. "Going up to Jerusalem", Sermons (1886), p. 330.
This week, I am treading a new journey (#946)... a new journey of knowing, of being broken, of responding, of living! So that I do not forget what I saw. (#947)

As I walk this new journey, I am thankful that I have HIS hand to hold. (#948)

#949 - #963... continuing to count grace-gifts as HE holds my hand!

~ Writing our Compassion sponsor children.
~ Including photos we took with Florianlyn in our letter to her!
~ Completing Rochelle's sponsorship form!
~ The gift of cultivating a relationship with her.
~ Sending another donation to help in the Horn of Africa crisis.
~ Sending a Family Gift to Florianlyn... to fix her house, and...
~ To help her mother re-open her convenience store.
~ Remembering... by looking at our trip photos again and again.
~ Visiting a friend... newly divorced, a new place, starting over.
~ Spending a family day at The Ex.
~ Buying food, diapers and a meal... for a beggar we met!
~ Serving together at church with my girl... teaching little children.
~ Dinner with my sisters and their families.
~ Back-to-school shopping.
~ Last, but certainly not least... the most unexpected grace-gift this week... the gift of becoming mortgage-free!

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Unwrapping more of His love in this world.
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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Thoughts, Reflections... Where Do I Even Begin?

It's been six full days since we returned home... from our family's very first missions immersion trip, to the Philippines! It has been an awesome experience for our family. We are utterly humbled by what God, in His grace and sovereignty, has allowed us to see... to feel... to experience... to be broken for.

Upon arriving home I busied myself with unpacking, laundering, stocking our fridge, catching up on work, paying bills... you know, those routine tasks that clamor for our daily attention. I hardly had time to digest, to process and to reconcile all the things that we have experienced on our trip.

But I'm fighting jet-lag, of course! So, in those quiet wee hours between midnight and dawn when sleep escapes me, I suddenly see images from our trip flash across my mind... and tears start to fall.

I realize that I've been changed.
God has changed me.
My heart is broken.
For the things that break His heart.

Where do I even begin to make sense of all these? I realize that it's been only six days... it will take some time, months or even longer, for me to fully reconcile things. But as I return to our comfortable home, to this comfortable place called North America... I am afraid that I will forget what I saw.

I don't want to forget...
I want to remember!

Beautiful Rochelle, the LDP student we now sponsor, is able to attain a university degree
because of the ministry of Compassion International.

Sweet Florianlyn, our Compassion sponsor child --- has hope for a brighter future
also because of the ministry of Compassion International.

Justin... who sleeps outside hubby's nephew's store each night.

Yohan's house. We sponsor Yohan for education through CEC88 Foundation.

Aleya's house. We also sponsor Aleya through CEC88 Foundation.

The countless street children...

Clyde, whom we sponsor through CEC88 Foundation. The black dots on his table are flies!

This little boy is scooping rainwater from the curb to drink!

The old man who scavenges garbage for a living.

The many, many, many shanties... and the people who live in them.

The sidewalk rice cake "bibingka" vendor who can't make ends meet. Hubby paid her 3X the selling price of her rice cakes... she was thrilled yet I know it would take much more than that to make a difference in her and her family's circumstances. 

I recently heard a song called I Saw What I Saw by Sara Groves... I think it beautifully describes what my heart feels right now.
I saw what I saw and I can't forget it. I heard what I heard and I can't go back. I know what I know and I can't deny it. Something on the road cut me to the soul.
Your pain has changed me. Your dream inspires. Your face a memory. Your hope a fire. Your courage asks me what I'm afraid of and what I know of love.
I say what I say with no hesitation. I have what I have and I'm giving it up. I do what I do with deep conviction. Something on the road cut me to the soul.
Your courage asks me what I am afraid of. Your courage asks me what I am made of. And what I know of love. And... what I know of God.

So... what do I know of God?

Well, He is good, always good. He is faithful. He is gracious. He is love. And, He is truly all that matters. Our family has experienced all these attributes of God during our three weeks in the Philippines.

Now that we are home, I rely even more on these God-attributes to get me through this new journey... of knowing, of being broken, of responding, of living! So that I do not forget.

By His grace, I will remember. I will respond... with even deeper conviction, with courage... because I know my God is all that He says He is!

Will you respond too... by giving hope, one child at a time?
Will you be the Jesus-difference? 
Will you sponsor a Compassion child today?

I have seen with my own eyes... the ministry of Compassion International. Your sponsorship dollars really do make a difference... they really do get to the grassroots level! Your letters really do positively impact these children. The staff at Compassion really do consider their work as ministry.

The difference truly is Jesus!!!

Unwrapping more of His love in this world.
Act justly.  Love mercy.  Walk humbly with God!

Monday, August 15, 2011

We Are Home!

Home. Sweet. Home. (#916)

Our family is now home from our trip to the Philippines... our first ever missions immersion trip! We have so much to digest, to process, to reconcile (#917)... through it all, we have indeed seen that our God is truly good (#918), that Christ is truly all that matters (#919).

As our family start this journey of digesting, processing and reconciling all that we have seen and experienced, I continue to count grace-gifts... even more in awe of the greatness of our Sovereign God!

Grace-gifts #920 - #945... with a heart forever grateful!

~ Lunch with my parents at my childhood home.
~ Visiting Tacloban, where hubby spent most of his childhood summers.
~ Meeting many relatives there... most for the very first time.
~ Fun times... freaking out over lizards (again!} in our hotel room!
~ Historical sights of Tacloban.
~ A very filling buffet dinner with our immediate family!
~ Seeing my 102-year-old grandma one more time...
~ Saying goodbye to her not knowing if I will see her again.
~ Use of the airport V.I.P. Lounge!
~ Delayed flight... more time with my parents.
~ The whole family upgraded to business class... sweet!
~ Last dinner in Manila with hubby's brother and his family.
~ Unexpected one day + night stay in Hong Kong.
~ Being able to see Hong Kong for free... an unexpected gift!
~ Lovely hotel in Hong Kong where I recovered from an upset stomach.
~ Smooth flight home.
~ Good seats away from peanut allergens... safety for my boy.
~ The weekend to get re-organized at home.
~ Unpacking, doing laundry, getting groceries, paying bills.
~ Meeting a work deadline on time.
~ Ready to get back to routine.
~ Looking forward to a brand-new week!
~ Relishing in the reality that God is always, always, always good.

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Unwrapping more of His love in this world.
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Monday, August 8, 2011

Grace-Gifts Beyond Measure

Our family is currently in the Philippines, on our first ever missions immersion trip! We continue to be broken... broken by the things that break God's heart. We've had a great week, often going from being surrounded by poverty to enjoying luxuries. I am totally relying on the grace that can only come from God in order to navigate this stark contrast!

We are on the last few days of this trip. As I continue to count grace-gifts, I continue to be in awe of the things that God has allowed our family to experience...

Grace-gifts #898 - #915... in thanksgiving for His amazing grace!

~ Shakey's pizza!
~ Visiting more friends and more relatives.
~ Meeting Rochelle
~ Visiting her home.
~ The staff at Compassion's PH920, their dedication and commitment.
~ Grace to navigate the stark contrast between poverty and luxury.
~ One night stay at the hotel where hubby and I got married 17 years ago.
~ Enjoying a nice shower at the hotel. :-)
~ Having lunch at hubby's childhood home.
~ Visiting the university where hubby graduated from.
~ My girl sharing her testimony with another group of teenagers.
~ Visiting the 6 children we sponsor for education through CEC88 Foundation.
~ Having dinner with my childhood classmates!
~ Day trip to the island of Bohol.
~ Safety during the boat trip there and back.
~ God's creativity: Chocolate Hills & Tarsier Monkey.
~ Riverboat cruise on the Loboc River... lovely!

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Thursday, August 4, 2011

How To Make Sense Of This?

Just when I thought our family has seen what poverty truly is, God shows us more! As I mentioned in my previous blog post, I am having a tough time reconciling the stark contrast between the luxury and the poverty that is so very evident all around us here in the Philippines!

Yesterday, we visited Rochelle, the Compassion LDP student whom I blogged about just before we left Toronto a couple of weeks ago.

First, we visited the Child Development Centre, PH920, where she grew up as a sponsored Compassion child. She now assists teachers there every Saturday... giving back to younger Compassion children what she has received from the centre as a child. Blessed to bless... what an amazing thing!

The space where 328 children come to attend Compassion-run programs.

Kitchen and food preparation area.

Some of the staff at PH920. Rochelle is the one in the white t-shirt beside me.

Next stop, Rochelle's house. Nothing could have prepared our family for what we saw there. It truly, truly truly broke my heart. Before we arrived at her house, Rochelle kept saying to me that I have to be careful not to hit my head at her house... I thought that maybe their doorway is low and because I am pretty tall compared to most Filipino people, I should be careful entering the doorway. Well... I'll just let the following pictures tell the story.

Alley leading to Rochelle's house from the main road.

Turning the first corner in the alley.

Notice me telling my kids to be careful not to step in sewage water.

Open sewage "trench" along the pathway.

My girl ducking to enter Rochelle's home. The whole ceiling was low,
not just the entry way. We could not stand up inside the house!!!

My girl and Rochelle towards the back of the house. What you see on top is the ceiling.
The girls are sitting down on low stools.

Hubby and my boy towards the entry door. You can see the ceiling on top of hubby's head.
They, too, are sitting on low stools.

Me exiting the house.

Turning the first corner; seeing people doing laundry.

The open sewage "trenches" once again.

My girl trying to avoid stepping on sewage water.

The whole house is no larger than 8x16 feet and all seven family members live there! Rochelle told us that when it rains, it floods inside the house! Remember the sewage water? Well, when it rains all that would be inside the house within minutes!!! It's literally an inhabitable place... but not only do Rochelle's family live there, a whole community of people do as well!

Heart-breaking... I have no words to describe what I feel. Upon leaving that community, I literally felt sick to my stomach... how can such atrocity exist? It was too much for me...

Then, we went to Ayala Centre where we treated Rochelle and a few of the staff from PH920 to ice cream! We had a great time of fellowship and getting to know each other more.

My girl and Rochelle enjoying their Halo-Halo (a Filipino ice cream dessert)!

A view of the mall interior... one of the many examples of First World
establishments here in the Philippines. 

We said goodbye to Rochelle and the staff... we truly had a great visit with them! Next stop, Marco Polo Plaza! We went from the luxury of what is Ayala Centre to an even more luxurious place. I'm sure you can now understand why I am having such a hard time reconciling things in my heart... how can such poverty exist right beside such luxury???

Our family gifted us with a one-night stay at this hotel because it is the place where hubby and I got married 17 years ago. It's been renovated and has a new name and a new owner. It used to be called Cebu Plaza Hotel.

My kids at the hotel entrance.

We were greeted with luxuries like this in our room.

And this...

And this as well...

And this in the bathroom...

Then we roamed the hotel grounds...

This is the poolside garden where we got married. Parts of it is still under renovation.
The actual spot of our wedding is behind us where the crane is.

Hotel lobby.

Relaxing before dinner. This room is bigger in area than Rochelle's whole house.

Then we went to dinner at the hotel's penthouse restaurant...

Such contrast... how to reconcile them? Maybe I'm not supposed to... I don't know. All I know is that a response is needed. And it is needed now! Today... not tomorrow.

Blessed, in order to give!
Saved, in order to serve!
Redeemed, in order to love!

Thanks-living. It's the only way.
It is our response.

After the visit, our family has decided that we will be sponsoring Rochelle!!! It is a huge commitment to see her through 4-5 years of university at $330/month but we know that our God is gracious. He has blessed us so that we can bless others therefore we will walk in obedience to His command... that is to act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with Him!

Will you join the movement of releasing children from poverty in Jesus' name and sponsor a Compassion child today?

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Unwrapping more of His love in this world.
Act justly.  Love mercy.  Walk humbly with God!