Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Our Annual Family Christmas Letter... {and the decision to still publish it}!

Merry Christmas!
It's just a few more days before Christmas now. It has truly been a beautiful season of Advent as our family read together from Ann Voskamp's new book, Unwrapping The Greatest Gift.

It has helped us to slow down each day, even just for a few minutes, in order to think about and reflect on Christmas and its true meaning.

This year, I had decided early on that I would not send out our annual Christmas letter. I would still write one for my own purposes, but I was not going to send them out or publish it publicly.

Writing our Christmas letter is a Christmas tradition of sorts for me. It is something that I have done every single year since hubby and I got married. Recently though, I had started to wonder if anyone even reads it anymore or at all, hence the decision not to send out or publish one this year.

But something happened which made me change my mind...
As I wrote our letter yesterday, another letter arrived in our mailbox. Just as I was wrapping up our letter, I started to read this other letter that had just arrived.

With this letter came a cheque for a large sum of money... intended for my girl to use towards projects she is involved with to further the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ, with a preference to put the money towards Compassion International's ministry. The donor chose to channel this money through my girl because of how she dedicates her time and passion for God's work.

This letter brought tears to this mama's eyes and immense joy to my heart! Isn't God's grace just the most extravagant of all?

Maybe it's through our telling of stories and the sharing of our lives on social media that this person came to choose my girl as an instrument of God's peace to a world in need. Maybe it's through the reading of our Christmas letters over the years... 

So, yes... yes, yes!
If our family's annual Christmas letter, our telling of stories and the sharing of our lives on social media causes just one more person to join the journey --- to do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly with God, then I will continue to tell the story of God's grace at work in our family's life. Yes, I will!

Your calling is radically this: Gloriously hijack every darkness with grace. To love mercy and do justice and follow Christ means to be The Revolutionary Guerrillas of Grace — radically turning the fallen world Upside Down.
~ Ann Voskamp, A Holy Experience.
Christmas... a thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices!
Merry Christmas... my dear blog readers, family and friends! Because I want to be a revolutionary guerrilla of grace, radically turning the fallen world upside down, you can now find our 2014 Christmas letter published here or you can click on the image below to read it.

Compassion is a command, an act of worship, a song of thanks to Him.
Do justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly with God!

Monday, December 1, 2014

On this first day of December...

The month of December always seems to have a life of its own, doesn't it? Our calendars get booked up way too quickly and it seems like there just isn't enough time to accomplish everything that needs to be done.

We decorated our home over the weekend.

Everyone is hurried... lost in the hustle and the bustle of the season.

For several years now, our family has intentionally tried to do Christmas counter-culturally... the upside-side way! Doing so isn't always easy... but doing so has reinforced in our hearts and minds what Christmas is really all about.

They grow up too fast! This girl is hanging her "Baby's First Christmas" ornament up.
This will be her last Christmas as a child... as she turns 18 shortly after the New Year!

To continue reading, please join me today over at the blog Compassion Family... I would love to see you over there!

Compassion is a command, an act of worship, a song of thanks to Him.
Do justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly with God!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Memories of Christmases Long Ago...

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas...
I learned this well-known Christmas tune when I was just a child. Yet, I always wondered what the words meant. White Christmas? Just like the ones I used to know? Tree tops glisten? Sleigh bells in the snow?

Hmmm... what might those words mean? I didn't know! Because... you see, I grew up in the Philippines and all our Christmases were green, sunny and warm!

Christmas Paróls. Photo Credit: Wikipedia
Christmas meant decorating our home with these colourful star-shaped paper lanterns, called paról, which we bought from vendors who came knocking at the gate of our house.

Christmas also meant carolers frequenting our house to sing Christmas tunes right outside our gate... many of them children who live in poverty, in hand are their makeshift instruments made from aluminum bottle caps strung on a wire, looking to make a few extra pesos during the Christmas season.

Christmas also meant parties... with special yummy food reserved only for occasions such as birthdays and Christmases. Foods like the famous lechón (roast pig) of Cebu; like the delicious dessert known as food for the godsand of course, the Filipino-style Christmas ham!

Thinking back...
My most favourite Christmas memory hands-down, more than the decorations and the carolers and the food, would be helping my mom shop for and wrap Christmas presents! 

My sister and me, a 70s Christmas!
You see, my parents owned a factory back then and there were hundreds of people who worked for them. Each and every one of them were on my mom's Christmas list! 

Come Christmas-time, my mom became Santa! She made sure to start her list early and checked it twice... and oftentimes, I was her trusty elf... er, I mean assistant! :)

After the shopping was all done, she and I would stay up late for at least a week and wrap presents. I remember taking the time to wrap each present nicely, making each one special with a bow and hand-labeling each card.

As a young child, to me Christmas became all about giving... and not at all about getting.

Every Christmas, I looked forward to the big Christmas party where all of our factory workers and their families were invited to! My favourite memory of those parties is when I got to help hand out the Christmas presents!

When I was a teenager...
My parents moved our family to Canada... right before the Christmas of 1988. That was when I experienced my first white Christmas... when I finally knew what glistening tree tops look like and what sleigh bells sound like!

My two younger sisters and I. Our first white Christmas!
That was also when Christmas became all about getting.

It was so easy to get sucked into the commercialization of Christmas that this first-world society so readily promotes.

The flyers. The sales. The promos.

The crowds. The hustle. The bustle.

And Boxing Day. Yes, that! Upon arriving in this country a mere few days before Christmas, we were quickly schooled about Boxing Day... not about its true origin and meaning, but about its commercialization and how we are to participate in it!

It's The Day everyone goes shopping, we were told. Bargains and amazing deals will be hard to resist, we were told. You have to beat the crowds and head to the mall early, we were told.

And that we did. We did what we were told. We didn't question one bit where the true meaning of Christmas disappeared to...

Even after hubby and I got married... after our girl came along... even after our boy joined our family, we did Christmas no differently. We were totally sucked into the whole commercialization of Christmas!

Oh yes, all those years we packed Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes and volunteered at dinners for the homeless... but at the same time, we also used Christmas as an excuse to lavish extravagant gifts upon ourselves.

We weren't celebrating Christmas meaningfully and we weren't giving generously. Sadly, Christ wasn't at the centre of our Christmas. 

But God's grace...
It relentlessly pursued us and slowly changed our hearts. Today, Christmas for our family looks much different than the Christmases of long ago. It has done a total about face. We now celebrate an upside-down Christmas...
Be brave enough to return the fake CHRISTmases and only bring home the real one that has CHRIST at the center of it.
Be brave enough to return any Christmas too small for the size of your soul — and only wear a Christmas large enough for real joy.
Be brave enough to turn Christmas upside down because this coming Christ ushered in the Upside Down Kingdom where
less is more and
weak is strong and
least is greatest and
consumers can get consumed and
giving is greater than getting.
~ Ann Voskamp, A Holy Experience.
The true meaning of Christmas...
It has come to stay at our house... and we are grateful that it has! It is upside-down, it is counter-cultural, it is cross-shaped. It is how Christ-followers are designed to celebrate Christmas!

It is looking more like the Christmases from my childhood days... where consumers aren't consumed and giving is greater than getting; where doing justice and loving mercy is at its core and where walking humbly with God is key.

Friends, will you join us? 
In making Christmas an upside-down one this year? Here are a few ideas...

:: Buy a Gift of Compassion and give it as a Christmas gift. {Hint: this is a great teacher gift!}
:: Check out Advent Conspiracy... because Christmas can still change the world.
:: Give the Gift of Mentorship... a gift for our friends at UrbanPromise, a gift that will keep on giving!

Because... one of the above idea just might transform someone's dark Christmas into one that is merry and bright... in turn making your Christmas truly merry and bright!

Your calling is radically this: Gloriously hijack every darkness with grace.
To love mercy and do justice and follow Christ means to be The Revolutionary Guerrillas of Grace — radically turning the fallen world Upside Down.
~ Ann Voskamp, A Holy Experience.

Compassion is a command, an act of worship, a song of thanks to Him.
Do justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly with God!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Celebrating A Birthday...

We are celebrating a very special man's birthday! It's just another ordinary Thursday for our family... both kids are in school, he's gone to work at a client's location and I'm about to start my work day... but trust me, this man is no ordinary man!

There are a few stories about him that I would have liked to publish on the blog today... in celebration of his birthday, but it's been a busy season and blogging has taken somewhat of a backseat here.

So... I am thinking back instead to this story that I wrote about him, in celebration of his birthday last year... and I think it is worth re-publishing today... because this very much describes just how special of a man my hubby is! He truly is a keeper!

It was Friday afternoon...
He walked in the door at the end of a hard work day, at the end of a stressful work week, which must have felt longer than five days to him... and he greets me with the brightest smile he's had in days.

Coaching basketball in an inner-city neighbourhood with Ephraim's Place.

Serving lunch at a Compassion project in the Philippines.

I knew right then, even without him uttering a word, that something beautiful had happened in his day.

Then, he told me the story...
On his way to a client's place earlier that day, he saw a homeless man as he exited the highway. The man was standing to one side at the end of the exit ramp, begging. The traffic lights worked beautifully in a way that hubby was stopped right beside this homeless man.

He rolled down his window and struck up a conversation. He learned that the homeless man's name is Bruce. Bruce has been homeless for five years... since his wife passed away. He sleeps under a bridge every night, the one right by Pharmacy Avenue just down the road. Most days, he stands at this exit ramp until 6pm... getting enough money to buy dinner.

Then, the traffic lights changed. It was time to keep moving.

Hubby went about his work day and finished the job at his client's place just before 5pm. As he drove past that same exit ramp to get onto the on-ramp across the street to come home, he saw Bruce still standing there.

Instead of coming home, he drives past the on-ramp and goes to a Mr. Sub restaurant. With a foot-long sub and orange juice in hand, he gets on the on-ramp and drives towards home. He takes the first exit, turns around and enters the highway again going the opposite direction... to get to the off-ramp where Bruce was standing.

He handed Bruce the foot-long sub and orange juice. Bruce was surprised to see him, in awe that he would actually come back and bring him dinner. After a handshake, my man drives off. Exiting the highway and turning around one more time to get onto the on-ramp towards home.

As he approached the on-ramp to come home, he saw his new-found friend, Bruce... dinner in hand, walking towards home earlier than the anticipated 6pm, to his home under the bridge, the one right by Pharmacy Avenue just down the road.

And my man comes home with the brightest smile he's had in days.

He's a keeper, isn't he?
He could have driven straight home and not bother to check if Bruce was still there. After all, it's been a stressful work week and a long hard day. He's entitled to come home and relax. Besides, it's too much work to go the opposite direction on the highway, just to get to where Bruce was standing. Plus, he'd have to stop and buy the food still!

Yet, my man chose compassion over comfort... choosing to demonstrate a cross-shaped love, a Jesus-shaped love.

You have no idea how much this makes my heart smile happy and overflow with thanksgiving.

More than when he buys me flowers. More than when he washes the dishes. More than when he takes the trash out. More than when he makes sure my car's gas tank is always at least half-full.

I am truly blessed beyond measure.

Because a man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in His commandments (Psalm 112:1); a man who chooses compassion over comfort, choosing to love with a Jesus-shaped love, he's a gem. He's a keeper!
In an endless cycle of grace, He gives us gifts to serve the world. This is how to make a life great and eucharisteo embarks us on the path: "Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave" (Matthew 20:26-27).
It's the fundamental, lavish, radical nature of the upside-down economy of God. 
Empty to fill.
Here I can become the blessing, a little life that multiplies joy, making the larger world a better place.
God can enter into me, even me, and use these hands, these feet, to be His love, a love that goes on and on and on forever, endless cycle of grace.
~ Excerpts from Chapter 10, One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp.

Compassion is a command, an act of worship, a song of thanks to Him.
Do justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly with God!

Monday, September 22, 2014

And, it's a wrap!

Hello, Monday!
I am having a slow start to this work week as I sit here and reflect on the weekend that just passed. It was full of action. It was a lot of fun. It was very exciting!

You see... the filming team from Compassion Canada was here with us from Friday morning to Sunday night to film the Toronto segment of the youth curriculum that they are producing which my girl is hosting for them... and at about 9pm last night, the last item on the shot list was filmed and then, it was a wrap!

They filmed the Philippine segment of this project last month... you know, that time when I wrote about releasing my girl to fly.

And fly she did... spending 10 days with this same filming team, in the Philippines, a Compassion International field country which also happens to be the country of hubby's and my births! 

She soared... on wings like eagles, drawing strength from our Heavenly Father... even when her eye migraines flared up.

It is such wild grace to see God answering this long-time prayer that I've had for my girl, literally since the day she was born... that she will live life as "a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendour."

Being the face and voice of this curriculum series is truly one way I see God using her for the display of His splendour! Not only that, it is also a way that God is fulfilling her desire to speak out "for those who are denied a voice."

I am blown away... 
... by God's relentless love, His constant goodness and His amazing grace. 

As we sat at church on Sunday with the video camera rolling and filming us as we worshiped in songs... I couldn't help but reflect and give thanks and be in awe:

Because... God continuing to use a family as broken as ours for Kingdom purposes blows me away.

Because... God using unqualified ordinary people such as us to create something beautiful and radical blows me away.

Because... God choosing to use our family's story to inspire others to do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly with Him utterly. blows. me. away! 

Here are some Instagram photos... some ours and others from several members of the filming team, to give you a glimpse of this journey, both on the Philippine segment and also from the Toronto segment this past weekend.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for praying alongside with us this past month and a bit... your prayer support was truly what kept us going!

This weekend... 
I saw first-hand just how much work it takes to film curriculum like this!

I am blown away by the dedication of the entire filming team... their passion inspires me! Even though they are "doing their job" as staff members of Compassion Canada and as a Video Production Professional, it is very evident that it is more than just a job to them... I can see that they really are passionate about their faith in God and about releasing children from poverty in Jesus' name and that is what drives and motivates them!

I am deeply thankful that God has blessed our family with this privilege of working with such a passionate and dedicated team! I am very excited to see the final product and even more excited to see how God will use it!

In these next few weeks, please be in prayer for the creative team and for the video production team as they start to put everything together. Their hard work is just starting!

In these next few months, please be in prayer for the churches who are considering how this curriculum will fit into their youth programming... that God will use this for His glory and for the advancement of Kingdom work.

We truly serve an awesome God!
To Him be all glory, honour and praise... He has done great things! And the beautiful thing is... He wants to partner with each one of us to make this world a better place. Let's join Him, friends... and leave a Jesus-mark in this world!
It doesn't matter who you are, how big your audience or your bank account, you can make a mark.
You can do it. Jesus did. He is the example, the eternal Truth we love because he loved us first. We serve because he served first.
~ Jeremy Cowart, What's Your Mark?

Compassion is a command, an act of worship, a song of thanks to Him.
Do justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly with God!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Fourteen Today!

Time has its way...
... of flying by! It truly flows like a relentless river, doesn't it? Fourteen years. Fourteen! 

This boy turns f-o-u-r-t-e-e-n today!!! How is it even possible that my baby boy is now fourteen and in high-school?

Doing a Rubik's Cube demo and sharing his testimony and
talking about his advocacy of Compassion International earlier this summer
at the Canada Day celebrations in Cebu City, Philippines.

Off to his first day in high-school earlier this week!

This past year, this boy has not only rapidly grown in size... he is, at this moment, on the verge of surpassing me in height (gasp!), but has also, more importantly, grown in ways that only God can grow him in.

This mama is deeply thankful for God's grace that is clearly and very evidently at work in my baby boy's life.

He is kind-hearted. He is compassionate. He is passionate. He is generous.

He is a gift... true to the meaning of his name. Jonathan... gift from God!

This mama is blessed beyond measure because of this gift from God... this gift of a son. 

My baby boy!

As we celebrate fourteen candles today... 
This, as has always been since the day he was born, is my continued prayer for this boy of mine:
May you grow up to be... "a man whose heart beats to God's heart, a man who will do what God tells him." {Paraphrased from Acts 13:22, The Message.}
And I am deeply grateful that God is answering this prayer of mine in many ways... as I see tangible evidence that my boy's heart is beating to God's heart.

Such as what our Compassion LDP student Rechelle wrote to us about just yesterday, regarding our visit this summer... "You have been a great inspiration to our youth. They are sending their gratitude and prayers. I wish you can see just how God moved in their lives through your testimony. God has given us a generation of youth that has started to be active in God’s ministry. They have learned to be focused based on what Jon shared with them. They are quite eager to learn more from God."

Sharing his testimony with the youth at Rechelle's church,
using his gift of speed-cubing as a topic starter. 

Such as his taking over funding the sponsorship of our newest Compassion child, JD.

This is from our visit this summer. JD would only hold Jon's hand! So precious!

My mama-heart is overwhelmed with thankfulness...
Because of God's goodness and His faithfulness to my baby boy. As he grows into a young man, I will embrace turning this new page in the journey of motherhood... and I will not stop praying that his heart continues to beat to God's heart.

Because... there is no better way for a heart to beat than for it to be in sync with God's!

Because... "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. (3 John 1:4, NIV)"

Happy Birthday, my son! I love you... so very much!

:: :: ::

As I continue to count grace-gifts, with unending thanks... these are the things I am thankful for... #3216 - #3226:
:: The gift of being a mama. 
:: This son of mine, truly a gift from God.
:: Both kids in high-school for just this one year... and being in the same school again, even for just this one year!
:: An eventful summer, truly a blessing... an unplanned three weeks in the Philippines and then my girl returning (again, not originally in our plans) with Compassion Canada just a month after.
:: Seeing the classrooms that Eucharisteo built! 
:: The many things which God allowed us to see... breaking our hearts even more for the things that break His.
:: Celebrating 20 years...
:: Countless everyday blessings... which I often post on Instagram.  
:: God's sustaining grace... when life seems hard and the road seems rough and the future seems uncertain.
:: Our ongoing advocacy of Compassion International's work and the gift of seeing it first-hand again in the Philippines this summer!
:: For the many opportunities to be still this year... not easy, deeply thankful that God's grace is sufficient.
In counting grace-gifts...
I am learning to let be and be still... and to pay more attention to my Jesus... and to be ready to act on the things that He has in store for me to do... because "all there is to see is Jesus."
All the world is window. People, circumstances, situations, relationships, no material is opaque. If we are willing to see, all is transparent. All of this globe is but glass to God. Eucharisteo washes the windows. Eucharisteo, wholesale worship, is redemptive work, wiping away the soot of days cindered.
~ Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts.

Compassion is a command, an act of worship, a song of thanks to Him.
Do justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly with God!

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Time Has Come...

Tomorrow, she will fly!
Earlier this year on her birthday, I wrote about helping unfurl her wings and releasing her to fly.

Little did I know just how soon that time would actually arrive... that God already had a plan in place... for her to fly... onto Kingdom purposes and also literally, to quite a faraway place!

And this mama's heart is not sure how to feel...

Yet, I know this for sure... that He who promised is faithful!

My baby girl... at six months of age.

Collecting seashells on a beach in Halifax. (Summer 2006)

So, this mama will release her to fly... and embrace turning this new page in the journey of motherhood... and hold on unswervingly to the Hope we profess... and cover her with prayers... and celebrate the beauty that is God's grace at work in my baby girl's life.

For many years, since the day she was born... this has been, and still is today, my prayer for her:
That she will live life as "a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendour."

Blogging... speaking out for those who are denied a voice.

Learning to drive... she is driving the car that we bought just before she was born!

So... tomorrow, her wings will unfurl!  
Tomorrow she will fly... halfway around the world, for the second time this summer but without us this time, to the country of hubby's and my birth, the Philippines. This will be the longest {10 days} and farthest that she'll be away from us.

Tomorrow she will fly... with a film crew from Compassion Canada, to film a 6-week youth curriculum series on what the Bible says about poverty and justice. This curriculum will be made available next year as a resource for youth groups across the country!

Tomorrow she will fly... to be the face and voice of this curriculum series. Such wild grace to see God answering my prayer that she be used by Him for the display His splendour! It is also a way that God is fulfilling her desire to speak out "for those who are denied a voice in society. The oppressed. The impoverished. The enslaved."

Dear beautiful daughter of mine...
Yes, you are mine... but you are first and foremost, God's daughter! As I have repeatedly told you since you were just a wee little girl, "God loves you infinitely more than I ever can!" So with that in mind, your mama will stretch out her arms and release you to fly... onto Kingdom purposes which He has prepared in advance for you to do.

And I will learn the delicate balance of releasing and embracing... this not-so-easy, yet oh-so-beautiful new rhythm that comes with this exciting new season of motherhood... of letting go and releasing you to fly, yet embracing you with love and covering you with prayers.
A mother holds her child's hand for just a short time, but holds their heart for a lifetime.
~ Author Unknown.
Her most favourite place to be... sitting behind the Compassion table!

Although at times I feel like I am incapable of facing this new season, I know that our Heavenly Father will give me the grace and the strength to do so. 

Although at times I feel like my heart is unraveling just thinking about tomorrow, I know that God is unraveling His perfect plan for your life, for the display of His splendour.

At Inspire Hope last month... introducing her social enterprise, Freedom Creations! 

Sharing her story at Inspire Hope.

Promo cards for the youth curriculum series that she will be hosting.

So... fly, my baby girl... fly! 

Fly tomorrow knowing that I am blessed beyond measure to be called your mama and I am super proud of you... deeply thankful for God's grace in your life and your willingness to follow where He leads!

He has truly blessed you...
... with a restless discomfort about easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships, so that you may seek truth boldly and love deep within your heart.
... with holy anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may tirelessly work for justice, freedom, and peace among all people.
... with the gift of tears to shed with those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, or the loss of all that they cherish, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and transform their pain into joy.
... with enough foolishness to believe that you really can make a difference in this world, so that you are able, with God's grace, to do what others claim cannot be done.
{Benedictine Blessing by Sr. Ruth Fox} 
Friends, will you join us...
In covering our baby girl in prayer as she embarks on this awesome God-assignment? Please click here for her prayer letter.

And even though I am not a brave mama because braveness is outside my comfort zone, I *will* be brave... and I will try not to bawl my eyes out at the airport tomorrow. But just in case, maybe I should just bring a box of tissue along with me. :)

:: :: ::

~ To follow my girl on this God-assignment: read her blog and follow her on Twitter or Instagram.
~ Take action by sponsoring a child with Compassion.

Compassion is a command, an act of worship, a song of thanks to Him.
Do justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly with God!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Dear fellow first-world Christian

Three beautiful weeks...

In a breathtakingly beautiful country, the land of hubby's and my births, our beloved Philippines... a country that is utterly full of brokenness at the same time. Brokenness that I believe our God will take and make something beautiful out of. Darkness that I believe our God will bring light into.

Because He is good, always good like that.

As I type out these thoughts of mine, our family is on an airplane, our eleventh and last flight in three weeks, flying back to the first-world which we call home. Somehow, a part of me doesn't want to go back home.

These three weeks, the Philippines and its beauty and its brokenness have together captured my heart anew in a way that I am having a hard time explaining or fully understanding.

God breaking my heart all the more for the things that break His.

This is Jamson. A Compassion child from Love and Share Children Center.
He is our friends' sponsor child! They sponsored him after reading this blog post written by my girl.

Jamson and John. John is our newest sponsor son from Compassion! He is so adorable. We are in love with him!

John playing in his neighbourhood.

John and his cousin, Lester. Lester is also a Compassion child. This is the path to their homes.

Family photo with John and his parents, Dondie and Michelle.

And I don't want to go back home to being a safe and apathetic first-world Christian all over again.

Because being surrounded by the comforts of the first world makes one forget. It makes one selfish. It makes one not care as much. Out of sight, out of mind.

Don't get me wrong, friends... safe and apathetic first world Christians aren't only sheltered in Canada like me. We are actually all over the world. We are even right there... in the Philippines, living right beside the extreme poor.

I am not talking, therefore, about where we live or which country we are citizens of... but about our economic status as compared to our brothers and sisters who live without the bare necessities of life and our posture towards them and their plight.

Those who live on less than $1.25 a day.

I believe that it is time for us first-world Christians to wake up. Those of us who live on waayyy more than $1.25 a day. Atrociously more... and mostly for ourselves.

When you have worshiped God alongside brothers and sisters who, even though they have barely nothing in terms of material wealth, sing their hearts out with arms high and hearts abandoned... you realize that your worship is anemic and you need to wake up.

When you hear about a seriously ill child who has no choice but to face death, unless a miracle happens, because the life-long medication he needs is not feasible financially for his family who barely has their daily meals figured out... you realize that you take the provision of your daily bread and healthcare as entitlement and you need to wake up.

When you meet families who've lost everything, whose homes were washed away by Typhoon Haiyan, who are thankful for a few sheets of plywood and galvanized iron to repair their shanty... you realize how vain it is to think about renovating your bathroom and that you need to wake up.

When your girl sits to pray with a group of third-world teenagers and their prayer request is for the opportunity to continue their education... you come face-to-face with the reality that getting an education is not a given and you realize that you need to wake up.

When you hear atrocious stories about minors being forced into modern-day slavery, into prostitution, because their parents have no other choice but to "sell" them because they are so poor... you realize how much evil is in this world and that you need to wake up.

When you see a family so grateful for the now-paved cement floor on which they can sleep on because it is a vast improvement from their previous dirt floor bed... you realize that the reason you have a queen-sized bed to sleep on, in a house that is infinitely bigger and infinitely more luxurious than that one-room shanty you set foot on is all because of grace and you need to wake up.

When, for Sunday worship, you sit in a world-class facility which cost an equivalent of $65M in Philippine pesos to build and you contrast it to the church you just visited in a poverty-ridden community, with intermittent electricity and without running water, who can not afford to purchase 200 Bibles and you lose it emotionally, bawling your eyes out during the entire worship service... you realize there is much disparity in this world and that you need to wake up.

When someone from the affluent church happily sends 200 Bibles to the church-in-need... you realize beautiful things can happen when you take the time to tell stories and bridge the disparity gap and that you need to wake up.

Dear fellow first-world Christian...
It is truly time for us to wake up and walk alongside our poverty-ridden brothers and sisters and make something beautiful out of the brokenness.

Because... together, we can eliminate extreme poverty. 

Yes, the Bible says that the poor will always be with us. That's why God commands us to love them... it is not a verse to get us off the hook!

Poverty will always exist, yes... but extreme poverty doesn't always have to exist. Did you know that it is projected to be eliminated by the Year 2030? We, both individually and as the church, the Body of Christ, can help to vastly improve the situation of the world's poorest, both physically and spiritually. Perhaps, extreme poverty can even be history before the Year 2030! 

By living with just enough so we can give sacrificially and generously, living simply so others can simply live. 

Starting with our daily living and indulgences that we so often take for granted, and extending out to those bigger ticket expenses that we so often think we deserve or are entitled to.

Starting with how we spend our time and how we apportion our resources that we so often think are rightfully ours.
From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. ~ Luke 12:48, NIV.
By being light in the darkness. By being Jesus' hands and feet. By being love in action.


When the worlds of poverty and wealth collide, the resulting powerful fusion can change the world.
~ Shane Claiborne.
This is my prayer. 

That my world will continually collide with that of the world's poor.

Will that be your prayer too, my friend... my fellow first-world Christian?
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. ~ 1 John 3:16-18, NIV.
As an act of worship to our King. An endless hallelujah! Because of His great love for us.

:: :: ::

Here are some starting points: 
~ Free slaves with International Justice Mission.

Compassion is a command, an act of worship, a song of thanks to Him.
Do justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly with God!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Wild Grace!

What a beautiful and inspiring day it was!
We traveled to the island of Masbate, considered one of the poorest provinces in the Philippines, and spent the day with our sweet Compassion daughter Florianlyn and her entire family... so awesome to see her again after three years!

We stepped foot on and saw with our very own eyes the classrooms that Eucharisteo: A Celebration of Joy built!

We also saw a Compassion project in full operation and bustling with children, staff and volunteers.

There are no words to adequately describe what the day meant to me. It was pure gift. God truly is so good... such wild grace!

I am in awe and humbled that He would invite our family, as unqualified as we are, to partner with Him in His Kingdom work... to do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly with Him.

He calls us out of our comfort zones to the kind of fasting He's after.
His love truly relentless.

He takes our yes, one yes at a time... our obedience, one step at a time.
His grace truly indescribable.

He makes our joy complete.
His gifts truly extravagant.

Arriving in Masbate, after missing our flight the previous day!

Masbate's very small airport.

Masbate's only paved road.

One of the many rice fields we drove past on our way to Patnubay Child Development Center.

People in Masbate spend a lot of time fetching water. There is no running water in many places.

The sight that met us upon our arrival at Patnubay Child Development Center.

It took us a while to spot our sweet Florianlyn in the crowd of children!

The classrooms (and three washrooms) that Eucharisteo built! It is, apparently, the most talked about building in Masbate. :)

Florianlyn and her friends.

Just before the morning's worship service started. This was where I experienced the most authentic worship in all of our time in the Philippines this trip! The kids sang like they really meant the words.

Florianlyn even sang a solo! :)

After the worship service, kids went into the classrooms for their classes.

Inside one of the classrooms that Eucharisteo built!!!

They are still using some of the old classrooms as they are continually growing in numbers.

Our family, with Florianlyn and her parents and also Pastor Ben.

Home visit! We brought her a Canada Day t-shirt. 

Flipping through the encyclopedia book that we brought for her.

Hubby talking to Florianlyn's dad about their home. The home is much improved as compared to how it was during our last visit. This is proof that a small gift (small, in terms of dollar amount to us) makes a world of difference in how a family living in extreme poverty can have shelter.

Siblings through Compassion. :)

She has kept all of our letters.

Devotion verses are posted all over their home. This really warmed my heart!!!

This is the small convenience store that we helped their family to re-start up. The income it generates now pays for much of their daily needs.

Florianlyn is fascinated with Jon's cube. :)

Our family and Florianlyn's family... connected via Compassion! 

The entire neighbourhood's children gather for a speed-cubing demonstration!

Florianlyn's cousin scambles the cube.

Sweet Florianlyn!

The center's medical doctor is doing one of the two yearly check-ups. We also met the center's dentist that day!

Lunch is being cooked! Pork abodo... yum!

New children are being registered!

Getting newly registered children's weight.

I can't get over God's wild grace... in allowing us to be a part in building this!

Lunch is almost ready...

The little ones get to eat first.

She's enjoying her lunch!

A special lunch of grilled fish and squid and vegetables was prepared for us. Wow, such hospitality!

Hubby takes a turn at serving the kids.

I take a turn as well. :)

The difference truly is Jesus!!!

We sit down to eat lunch.

Our family with Pastor Ben and his wife, Florianlyn's caseworker and the center's Project Director.

Children playing a game of basketball, not far from the Compassion center. Will you sponsor one of them... one of those outside the gate, for such a time as this?

After lunch, we went to walk around in Masbate's only shopping center where Florianlyn and her sisters experienced their first escalator ride! We bought their family some groceries and then went to Jollibee (a popular fast-food place) for a snack, where Florianlyn's mom Analyn said grace for us. So awesome to see her so full of faith... proof that the difference truly is Jesus! There has also been much transformation in Florio (Florianlyn's dad) these three years... he is a changed man!


The day ended with us back at our hotel room. The view outside was window was beautiful. Much like the day we just experienced! 

Friends, as you can see from the photos above...
Time and again our family has seen with our very own eyes how Compassion's ministry is making a real difference in people's lives, physically and more importantly, spiritually. Yet, I'm sure that you can also see that the need is still so great... the poverty situation so dire.

We had the opportunity to sit down at dinner with Compassion Philippines' Country Director, Noel Pabiona, this past Sunday night. It was an inspiring time of fellowship. We learned much about how Compassion's ministry is being run here... from how Complementary Interventions (CIV) funds are being disbursed... to how each child is required to learn at least one life skill before graduating from the Compassion program in order to ensure a livelihood... to how fundraising in-country works!

Compassion's work here in the Philippines as a field country is lauded as top-notch in many ways! The biggest Child Development Center (CDC) globally is located here. A third of all Compassion children globally enrolled in post-secondary education are from here... the most among all of the field countries.

Friends, will you heed God's call to practice the kind of fasting He's after?
Shout! A full-throated shout! Hold nothing back—a trumpet-blast shout! Tell my people what’s wrong with their lives, face my family Jacob with their sins!
They’re busy, busy, busy at worship, and love studying all about me. To all appearances they’re a nation of right-living people— law-abiding, God-honoring.
They ask me, ‘What’s the right thing to do?’ and love having me on their side. But they also complain, ‘Why do we fast and you don’t look our way? Why do we humble ourselves and you don’t even notice?’ 
Well, here’s why: The bottom line on your ‘fast days’ is profit. You drive your employees much too hard. You fast, but at the same time you bicker and fight. You fast, but you swing a mean fist. The kind of fasting you do won’t get your prayers off the ground. Do you think this is the kind of fast day I’m after: a day to show off humility? To put on a pious long face and parade around solemnly in black? Do you call that fasting, a fast day that I, GOD, would like?
This is the kind of fast day I’m after: to break the chains of injustice, get rid of exploitation in the workplace, free the oppressed, cancel debts. What I’m interested in seeing you do is: sharing your food with the hungry, inviting the homeless poor into your homes, putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad, being available to your own families. 
Do this and the lights will turn on, and your lives will turn around at once. Your righteousness will pave your way. The GOD of glory will secure your passage. Then when you pray, GOD will answer. You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.’ 
If you get rid of unfair practices, quit blaming victims, quit gossiping about other people’s sins, If you are generous with the hungry and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out, Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness, your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight. I will always show you where to go. I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places— firm muscles, strong bones. You’ll be like a well-watered garden, a gurgling spring that never runs dry. You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew, rebuild the foundations from out of your past. You’ll be known as those who can fix anything, restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate, make the community livable again. (Isaiah 58:1-12 MSG)
Will you sponsor a child

Compassion is a command, an act of worship, a song of thanks to Him.
Do justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly with God!