April 1, 2015

A "Princess" and her late night pondering.

The other morning the sun actually made an appearance in Scotland. I was sitting on my mums doorstep watching our boys run around the garden. Sticks became swords, grass became an exploding thing to be scattered and  leaves became some kind of rocket booster accessory. The garden was filled with noisy, wild, energetic toddler adventures.

Then my big boy  came with a yellow flower he had plucked from Grannys garden and placed it gently at the front of my hair.

"I'm putting flowers in your hair cause you're  a Princess Mummy"

 Two little golden flowers and a white daisy and I was "ready". Ready for what was not totally clear. Cold little hands spread out wide and chest puffed out "I'll protect you Mum!"
 A sweet gentle, moment which in all honesty turned my heart to complete mush. The tenderness was like a vapor as he quickly stormed right back into "fighting the dragon"- his 2 year old brother.

Tonight was pretty tumultuous. Some days toddlers are toddlers and some days they are really toddlers! There were tantrums. There were tears (theirs and mine!)
As my big brown eyed boys snacked on strawberries  at the table before bed I asked him what the most fun part of his day had been.

"with you putting flowers in your hair mum"

That wasn't even today!
 But what it showed me was it was important to him. Our relationship was important to him. Our relationship being close and right was important to him.

Parental love and a child's love reminds me of our relationship with our Abba Daddy. He calls us royalty too. Sons and daughters of the King of Kings. God loves us so much that if we mess up we feel the distance because we know in our hearts the relationship should be restored  and made right.

 After all the behavior battles and challenges of submitting to parental authority children don't want the relationship broken, and when it is momentarily affected , they want it restored.  The other day after superhero boy Josiah had been acting up he  didn't want to say sorry as speedily as usual and he was- miserable!
 About 10 minutes of sulking and then he came to Ron and I of his own accord and said "Dad, Mum will you forgive me?" What does a parent do? Oh we just long for that moment of reconciliation dont we? Of course we want to forgive them because we love them. We are just waiting  to hug them and start over. Why do we think God, our Father is any different? We sin and instead of going immediately to Him we sometimes feel ashamed or get stroppy, when all along He is actually waiting for us to go to Him and say sorry so that he can forgive us, wipe it away and then we get to start again with our mistake already forgotten!

 My husband loves me.  He sees the best in me, cheers me on in moments of self doubt, loves me unconditionally and yet loves me too much to let me get away with any stinky attitudes!
Parenting is kind of the same i think. We love them too much not to correct them for their stinky attitudes at times!

It's been a time of change for us. A mammoth journey from the other side of the world. For my boys everything is new- culture, food, people, places. People knowing them, but they don't really know anyone. A time of change that seems to have evoked reactions.My smiling little boy has become clingy as the clingiest glue and my big adventure boy has been having disrespectful outbursts.  It's been kind of annoying and unexpected, but i think i have been pretty annoying too! Unexpectedly, i haven't really loved all the change either!

Our 2.5 weeks in Scotland so far have been restful, weird, refreshing, awkward, enjoyable,frustrating. (and the negative describing words are no ones fault, its just how we have both felt!)

The boys don't associate Scotland as being their home. Almost every day Josiah talks about our "home", "our house" and names our street. He likes being here but he's verbalising he doesn't think of it as his home. Then it struck me, neither do I anymore.

I feel blessed we have the chance to see family and friends, I love love love watching our boys play with their cousins.It's less stressful to wake up and just think of our own families needs instead of hundreds of others.  I'm thankful we get to go around churches and be an advocate for the community of people we love in Tondo. I'm grateful we get a chance to update partners face to face.It's a privilege to see what God is doing through community changers in my home town. God's timing was perfect for us to come for certain family circumstances and it's right and good that we are here.
 But  it's a super weird feeling when your home country doesn't really feel like home anymore. Seriously odd.

It's quite thought provoking to ponder the fact that Manila, somewhere that was severely out my comfort zone, with all its craziness, became home.
I feel blessed to call two countries "home".
 It challenges the core of contentment, root of happiness and opens up opportunities to meet more amazing people from all corners of the globe. It gives our children two completely different cultural experiences. It has tested out faith and strengthened our trust in God more than I could have imagined. It's been our calling and is still so until God shows us otherwise, but it reminds us that we are only pilgrims on a journey and strangers passing through. If we are Christians, then anywhere in this world is not really our home....

We (I)  have a choice to go where He calls us in each season, or not to go. The choice is pretty simple, we obey and learn contentment where He asks us to be, or we disobey and feel miserable whilst struggling against change.

Excuse my late night ramblings. Friends keep asking us how we are getting on home and i havnt found much else than an awkward response! lol  I am but a "princess" that is pondering  life in a seemingly new land!  Maybe somewhere else out there, there is a Mama doing the same! :)

Another flower moment, though not as tender it was pretty hilarious :)

January 23, 2015

Sometimes life stinks.

(actually i think he was reacting to the sunlight and not smell!)

When we were sorting the stockroom the other day I noticed I could easily identify the difference between the smell of rat pee, cat pee, rat poop and general damp stink.It's not a talent I came to the Philippines with, but definitely one I have acquired!
 Do they teach this stuff in mission school?!

Since Christmas the dump site area has become more smelly and I say that with no disrespect to the people living there- they also are saying it!

I was walking through what is usually black mud the other day and noticed it was brown mushy goo half way up my boot. You can guess which components made that up! I was doing house visits with one of the youth leaders who also lives there who said "I think im going to be sick with the smell".
You know the place is particularly poignant when the residents start to mention the aroma.
We held our breath and walked past the hardworking and risk taking men and women who sit in the middle of the stench sorting trash to earn money to provide food for their families.

There is a woman called Virgie I notice every time I walk through that particular part. She is plump with a kind face and she is always sitting in the same spot sorting through trash bags. She looks like she should not be doing that job. She shouldn't have to. I like it when she comes to church on a Sunday because it means she is not sitting in waste even for a little while.

Each year from Dec- Jan ,the  amount of trash coming into the community increases. That means that the amount of rotten food piles up quicker than usual. That means that children, in particular toddlers who don't know better than to play in it and put their fingers in their mouths get sick faster.

Another reason the smell had become so  awful was because one of the main men in the Pag-Pag trade was expanding his business (literally) and occupying more physical space for all the discarded food, which would be boiled and resold.
 Residents were complaining as their children were getting sick and they could smell it even across the street. While they were getting sick, he was getting cash. The man was doing what he could to provide for his own family, which is commendable but unfortunately at the expense of his neighbors. After a couple of weeks of people complaining nothing was done by him so Ron decide to go speak to him. Thankfully the man responded and cleared it and has kept the pag pag in one area instead of all across the street.
I'm thankful for a bold man who has build good relationships over the years.

So all this got me thinking about smells!

I wonder what the odor in the stable was like in Bethlehem? In nursery school nativity plays it always looks clean and tidy, but i wonder what it was actually like? I imagine the smells could have been a little offensive with all they animals!

Just doesn't make sense does it? That the King of Kings, the most beautiful One would be born in a place like that.

I wonder what the streets of Jerusalem smelled like in Jesus time? Ive been in the crowded streets  of were the old Jerusalem was. It's really cramped and busy. I remember there was a kind of musty sweat smell mixed with amazing food scents going though the marketplace. Jesus walked on those streets and other narrow streets like them. His shoulders rubbed with everyday people from all walks of life. His perfect hands touched  the skin of playful children, abandoned beggars and exiled lepers.
He walked among and loved on sweaty, ordinary human beings.

The creator of the universe- lived among messed up people, like us- for us.

A few weeks ago a woman in the community died very suddenly. She was 9 months pregnant. Her name was Ate Lea and she had a beautiful broad smile. We work with her 3 children.
Due to the families limited means and insufficient procedure from the allocated government agency that helps pay for funerals, Ate Leas open coffin rested on a manmade hill of trash outside their home for more than 2 weeks.  I have never seen a pregnant woman in a coffin before. I cannot articulate how I feel about the disgusting injustice of it all. It was one of the saddest scenarios I have ever had to force my eyes on.

Seeing Ate Lea like that was not the way I wanted to remember her. I hate looking into open coffins, but do is as a sign of respect to the family and because that's the way of the culture. I hate it. Her face bore no resemblance to what she actually looked like. Two weeks earlier I had laid my hand on her bulging stomach and felt the kick of her baby.
Disfigured in a coffin is not the way her children should have had to remember their Mama. They watched as she decomposed with their little brother or sister still in her womb.
On about the 8th day, when the embalming fluid had run its course the neighbors began complaining about the smell, hoping the barangay would commit to their words and help transport the coffin.
Each day there was a delay, the fetor of the woman's corpse was attracting more flies. Each day that passed her husband drank more to escape the horror of what was happening to his wife.

Death stinks.

The deathlike stench of our sin got up into the nostrils of a Holy God. A God of love and a God of justice. Everyone ever born tainted with the  foul stink of sin. His standard of perfection was one that none of  us could meet. But because He is great in love and mercy, He made a way for our case to be dismissed in the courts of heaven.

He gave of His most beloved son- Jesus to take our place, take our punishment and redeem the lost ones. The dead ones.

The bible says that we were "dead in trespasses in sins" . But because God is rich in mercy and great love, he loved us even when we were dead in our sins and then made us alive in Christ by His grace (ephesians 2:4)

I was a dead woman and Jesus  loved me back to life.

I wonder what the cross smelled like?

Blood, sweat and tears mingled  and fell  from the cross like precious diamonds far beyond value.

The SO loved one said yes to all the earthly smells that were so alien to heaven- for those He so loved. You.

He made a way for us to come exactly as we are, be forgiven and start life over in a relationship with Him.

After 3 days he walked out of the tomb, destroying the very sting and stink of death.

He disappeared in the clouds back to the fragrances that belong only to heaven.

He always was, is and will forever be victorious.

 I wonder what heaven smells like?

Maybe Ate Lea knows.

Ate Lea and her bunso 2 weeks before she passed away.

Thank you to those partners who responded and made it possible for us to help the family.
 Pray for them.

Ate Lea reminded me just how fleeting life really is. It's short. It's uncertain. People don't like to think about death, but the fact is 10 out of 10 people die. I'm not trying to scare monger but instead writing this to remind myself that my life is like a vapor, a puff. I want to make the little time I have here count, living it for God- this thing called life is all His and all about Him. What grace, that one day when I take my final breath I will see Him face to face and be with Him for all eternity.
Of this I am certain and grateful.
 " All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" Romans 3.23

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3.16

"If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved" Romans 10.9 


November 23, 2014

Our mission is not our identity.

Being a missionary Mama is a privilege, but it's not my identity.
Doing ministry in the slums of Manila with a lovely husband and special team, a privilege, but not my identity.

"Be willing to stay forever and Be willing to go in a moment"

This was the advice I was given years ago from a man who had ministered in Romania. I asked him if there was one piece of advice he could give, what it would be.
I appreciate more now why it was such good advice.

What we do, is not the sum of who we are.

My identity is in Christ.

If we lose focus on Jesus and make our mission our world- it's an idol

If we give up all our time with Jesus because people "need our help"- they are an idol.

Christ wants to be first.

The greatest commandment, out of everything He could have said?

He asks us to LOVE HIM FIRST then LOVE OTHERS.

We must do both, but we must strive to put Him where He deserves to be in our lives- really first.

When we first arrived in Manilas largest dump site, I just wanted to respond. But in honesty in that first season I got it wrong. Without knowing it at the time I was putting people, "Gods work" before God.
The result? We felt burned out really quickly!
Why? Because you can only give away what you get from being with Jesus.
When you are with Jesus and know His heart, His direction, you don't have to struggle to make things work- He shows You one step at a time what to do and with that comes His peace.

Ministry, mission, a calling- is NOT about us!
It's about God.

I think we missionaries know this in theory but I'm sad to say that I have witnessed many times where the ministry becomes that persons identity. It consumes who they are. Their whole lives would be totally devastated if they had to leave their mission. Stepping away and letting someone else lead what they have built would be soul destroying-identity destroying. Gods' work no longer becomes about God, it becomes about them.
Instead of getting their worth in who Christ is and who He says they are, they get their identity in their work.

Scary stuff! But challenging, how very many times have I put other things before God?!

We are all disposable. It's not about us. God used people before us and He will use people after us. When? No clue. It's up to Him.

A few people have been asking us since the relocation of the Navotas Cemetery Community was relocated if we are so sad.
I am sad for my friends who have to start over. I am sad they will miss their neighbors greatly. I am sad they are facing new challenges. I am sad I may no longer see some of them again.

Am I sad, we no longer have a church there or able to run community programs there?
No, because its not about us.

None of it is about us.

God has allowed the relocation and I believe with all my heart He will do a new thing in the lives of the people. He has delivered them from the tombs. He is giving them a new start. Many challenges, yes, but I know He will be with them and lead His people each step of the way. The good news of who He is will spread. Not one more baby will be born among they tombs.

The families are resilient and creative, they will find new ways to live. I have heard of Pastors rushing to the relocation sites to hang on to their church. But it's not their to hang on to really is it? 

Im not saying it's wrong to set up at the relocation sites. Support is clearly needed in some,but I think its arrogant to assume that the people "wont survive" without ministries or NGOS.
For us, if God asks us to begin a work at the relocation sites, we will. If He doesn't, we wont. Same goes for when the dump site is demolished. We have learned never to try to plan this far ahead! But what comfort that none of it will be a surprise to God!

I'm embarassed to say I have witnesses in some organizations a kind of ownership of people and sad to say even in Christian ministries.  This is not how it's ment to be! They are not "our families", "our beneficiaries" , "our" anything! They are people God made whom we have the privilege to know and partner with, whether a short or long season.

People are not ours! Communities are not ours.
Organizations that we even establish and lead are not ours.

Our aim must be leading people to follow Jesus whether we are there or not. Not followers of people , of churches or organizations- of JESUS. 

In our missions we must remember that we are here to build for Gods kingdom- for His Glory- not to build an empire for ourselves or for others to see.

It's all about God and if we have a chance to play a tiny tiny part , helping support the  communities He calls us to, then what a privilege, but we need to be ready to give it all up if He asks us, because God is the main character in this, not us dust formed little people.

Oh that I could truly have a fresh revelation every day and remember and live like every area of life is no longer my own. Marriage, kids, ministry, friendships, money, time
- whatever, they are, are  not mine!

Oh to live as though I am truly holding "everything loosely but Christ"

He wants us, before He wants what we do for Him.

Isn't it mind blowing that God wants our hearts!

November 13, 2014

Exodus from the tombs.

I will never forget my first memory of going to meet the community in Navotas Cemetery. Never.

I had never seen graves above the ground before. Big bulky stone caskets piled high on top of one another. A narrow pathway made from trash. There on the ground, a half naked little girl, playing in between the tombs with a dead rat.

taken today in the exact spot I saw the little girl.

With a dead rat.

What kind of a place was this? 
Where people had to choose between living on top of graves or above the sea on dangerously structured wooded beams. 

But through the years we have had the privilege to find out that this place of death, is also a place of life. Here I met some of the saddest people I have ever known and some of the most joyful people I have ever known. If I was to describe the church locate in the middle of this place in one word I would choose joyful!

Tonight was the end of an era.

It was time for this whole community to be relocated.

A few months ago we witnessed another part of the dump site community being relocate. It was not families that we directly worked with, but we knew many of them. It was heartbreaking. With little notice from the National Housing Association the families homes were tore to the ground. When we went there during one of the demolition days it was tragic. Totally chaotic. Invaded with injustice.

Yes , these people were informal settlers. They were squatting on private land, mostly because they wanted to work in the city to be able to feed their families. It was just all organized (or not organized) really badly in our opinion. What could have been a successful project turned into a nightmare for many, leaving them worse off than they were before.

But tonight in Navotas was totally different. In all the years we have come to this place we have never ever felt an atmosphere like there was tonight. I actually can't really find the words to describe it well enough, but Ron and I were walking in amongst the tombs visiting families saying
" This is so different!".

I would describe the normal atmosphere in this community as thick and heavy. Almost every overseas volunteer who has come , male or female said they have found walking around here intimidating. But not tonight.
I can only describe the feeling in the place as "light", as in not weighty. (I'm not sure this description even makes sense)
As the last "batch" of people demolished their own homes, there was such a calm, organization and rest over the place. Some were continuing life as normal as if nothing was going on. Selling at their sari sari stalls, food vendors, kids sword fighting with sticks, boys gambling, mothers filling up water containers. While others were pulling down the remains of their homes, packing their bags, gathering their belongings or sitting waiting on the relocation truck.

Almost everyone we spoke to said they felt "sad and happy".

Many families will face new problems in the new sites, trying to establish new livelihood or find a new school for their children. Yet they spoke with no sense of panic. Not one person seemed to be fretting. It was so weird.
Of course we don't know everyone's story there, but as general feeling I would say it was so peaceful. Even the residents said "It's all been very peaceful and organized. No problems"

One elderly man is impressed on my mind. He had a small blue backpack and a well creased face.
" I'm going back to my province". I wondered when the last time he had been there was? How long had this man lived among the dead?

It was like an exodus. It reminded me of the Israelites who had been in bondage as slaves so many years. They all left together, the old with the young. Some would have been born in captivity and only ever known suffering and poverty.

Later on when we gathered the last group of children awaiting relocation together in Pastor Dodongs house, we gave them each a children's bible written in Tagalog. Ron told them about Moses and the Israelites, how God went with them. He guided them to the unknown.
We asked the kids how they felt about leaving the place they had all been born into.
"sad, happy, excited, scared"

Those children tonight were full of such tangible hope and joy. It was bursting from their songs to Jesus. I am so glad that these children will no longer play with bones, or jump over dead bodies.
I am so glad for them.

When the bibles were given to each one, they all opened them and just started to read. It was so powerful. They turned the pages carefully and in their native tongue, in easy to read Tagalog, they read aloud Gods word. We had to actually stop them because they just kept reading and reading!

I am so proud of the young leaders who have loved these kids, taught them and been big brothers and sisters over the years. They all have a huge transition. This is an end to all they have know, but it's a new beginning. Some of them we may never see again. I don't' know, but I know they go with Jesus in their hearts and that is the most important thing.

Some of KCM Navotas young leaders. The others have already been relocated. Very special people.

The children gather round the leaders who have loved and taught them over the years- and prayed.

Faithful team leaders and friends in Navotas, Pastor Dodong and Ate Virgie.

" And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so as to go by day and night (Exodus 13:21)

Taken tonight. To the left where hundreds of houses stood on shaky bamboo stilts- a beautiful sunrise now in their place.

"And the Lord said....
Tell the children of Israel to go forward" (Exodus 13:15)

November 11, 2014

Dumped on my birthday.

I have quite a few unedited update blogs, but I just thought I would scribble this one quickly........

Yesterday in Tondo was a very different kind of day. We always go not really knowing what a day will bring. We are always met with needs.

 But yesterday was weird! I was met at the rusty church gate by two young women from the dump site community. They put a blind fold on my eyes and took my hand, one at each side. It was strangely quiet. My blindfold was removed and a group of young men boomed out "Happy Birthday" on a variety of instruments. I suddenly had a flash back to when they were little barefoot boys playing in the trash Now young men, following Jesus, skilled in their musicianship.
Cool moment!

Handmade confetti, a multitude of colors, each tiny square hand cut by younger children in the community. They hung it carefully above where I was standing in a "chicken joy box" (popular fast food chain Jollibee)
A yummy chocolate  cake was presented. Last year the women done the same and bought me a cake as a gift. I was later moved to tears to know that they had sacrificed their whole days earnings to buy one. Would I have thought to do that for someone?

A beautiful poster with carefully handcrafted notes, delicate butterflies shaped from card and individually curled ribbons attached. So lovely.

Ron and I went to lead worship in our time in the house of prayer. We were joined by many of the community, all ages. It was such a special session. These times that we have together loving Jesus are so precious each week. The sweet presence of Holy Spirit was so evident. He was touching hearts afresh. It was a beautiful time loving through song and interceding in prayer for the communities.

After that they wanted a time of "appreciation". Over the years I have come to learn this is a normal birthday thing, but I find it so totally awkward! I was trying to explain we don't do this in Scotland. Each person there takes the mic and says a memory or appreciation of the person whose birthday it is. Its truly awkward, but lovely how they get all transparent and emotional as they relay special memories ( whosever birthday it is)

What really blessed us was to hear some things of how God had used our mission to change lives. God has been so faithful. He really changes lives! It also blessed me to think that every partner who has given to our ministry has also been so part of the change.

After that some of the mothers had prepared pink Jelly in recycled yogurt pots. They made delicious chicken adobo and rice. There we all sat at tables in the middle of a dump site, with flies buzzing round our plates- as a family.

When our bellies were full some of the youth said they had no gift for me but wanted to bless me. I was sat down on a chair. First they checked my head for lice (quite common buddies here in the slums! hehe) and massaged my head, massaged my hands and done my hair in a pretty style. It's not the first time the young women have done this over the years. It's so humbling.

It felt wrong to have them do this for me. After all we are the ones called to serve right?! But I knew it made them happy to be able to give and we so want those with limited means to feel the joy that they can also give.
It's always precious to have extra time with the young women just catching up on how their lives are. Throwback moments came to mind as I remembered them coming into the feeding program as children saying how hungry they felt. I remember them learning Jesus loves me and I remember when each of them came to know Him as a friend. They are now young women, in college and leading others to the Jesus they love.
-Another cool moment!

 I am writing this in the hope to convey a little more of how special this community of people are. In the worlds eyes, they have nothing, but oh my in the eyes of God, how rich they are because in spite of their financial lack, they find ways to give. Not just to me on my birthday, but to others inside and outside of their community. Lets allow my friends to challenge us ( and me again), how else can we give? What else can we practically do to bless someone else? How can we use our time and talents to put a smile on someone else's face? What more can we do to show love and care to those around us?

What a privilege to be on this dumpsite for another year. Will we be here this time next year? We have no clue, but what I do know is God has been so faithful thus far and I know he always will be.

"You've  never failed and You won't start now" (Oceans, Hillsongs)

literally falling asleep with the lice check :)

October 19, 2014

It's sometimes going to hurt.

I have been thinking about an update blog for weeks and just not finding the words. It's been a kind of overwhelming time here. Some of the hardest, most exhausting we feel we have ever gone through since moving to the Philippines.
There is a season to everything and some are wonderful and some are just tough! Sometimes everything happens at once. It's been one of they kind of times.

Since our house flooded during a typhoon last month, we have had sickness after sickness. This weekend will be the first that no one in the house sick. Wooohooo!
When we got stranded on the second floor of our home, Josiah and Eli though it was all a huge adventure. Living only upstairs was a great game to them! A child's perspective is an awesome thing.

 We were much better off than many in Manila. We still had food and electric. Hundreds of others were stranded with no food and no dry clothes. The flood was an inconvenience because some of our appliances were broken and some furniture damaged, but it never took long for Ron to have the house looking ( and smelling kind of) back to normal. The amount of sickness was the most challenging. Ron was unwell and just not getting better for weeks, but we are so thankful that he came back clear from Tuberculosis. Docs just wanted to check because we work with so many families that have TB.

The hardest thing about living at the other side of the world is being away from family. It's a funny thing having two countries that are home and the Philippines really is my home now. But if you want to talk about the sacrifice of being called to another country, for me it's just being away from people we love, especially when they are very ill or going through sadness. It's the times when our toddler can't understand why he cant play with his cousins or pull Granny through Skype to paint. It's missing your nieces and nephews grow up. It's not being able to celebrate good times and bad times with friends.

I hope this is not sounding like  "woe is me" kind of blog! lol. But I'm thinking if I'm going to give an honest account, then I need to be willing to be a bit vulnerable. It's not always fun or exciting out here. The trouble shooting  and problem solving parts are sore on the heart at times. Really my husband is the one carrying the brunt of all that side of the work. But in it ALL, we can have joy.
The joy is Jesus, not circumstances. And truthfully there are times we need to fight daily to get our joy restored because that joy is strength.

Even in parenting right? It's not like everyday is packed with jobs we all love to do. Parenting is not for wimps! But in the midst of the day in and day out necessities we definatly can EN-JOY it all.

Last weekend we took 30 of the youth leaders to hear Francis Chan speak. We were all challenged and encouraged. He said this;

 "It's sometimes gonna hurt to follow Jesus.
It's gonna be tough but it's gonna be worth it in the end" (Francis Chan)

"For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" ( 2 Cor. 4:17)

The reality is that following Jesus will just be tough sometimes. He will ask us to do things that don't make sense. He asks us to live a radical, out of the box, out of the norm kind of life. He will ask us to sacrifice until hurts. He will ask us to love and help and give all ourselves to help when there may be no return. He asks us to be remain faithful when it would be easier to take the easier options available to us.

But He IS worth it

I woke the other morning after a kind of discouraging dream about loving some in the slums who seem to throw it back in our faces and those who don't seem to be bearing fruit or changing. God clearly spoke to my heart;

" I have called you there to love- no strings attached. Keep doing it."

Ok, Lord I get it! I needed a reminder that this life is not about me It's not about little joanna but about a big God!. Our lives should really be all about Him. How challenging is that?!
(SO challenging)

"That those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again" 2 Corinthians 5;14

The times we feel most overwhelmed, under pressure and heavy with the burden of responsibility are the times we need to be running to God. On the days we least feel like singing, it is exactly then we should sing. Sing truth. Read the truth of His word.
But oh my! How our flesh will fight doing these very things. Why? Because spending time with Him, in prayer, worship and the words are our lifeline and if we don't have these things the very life will be sucked from us and we will merely survive and be robbed of the things God has for us.

It's been a couple of months of real spiritual warfare and attacks on our family and on our ministry team. The enemy is not happy and this is a good thing!
Since God put on our hearts to raise funds for 500 children's Tagalog bibles, it's been non stop. I was asking God, why now Lord? It's a time of  difficulties financially to sustain things. (2 main funders are very late in giving and even through this we have seen God provide for the kids in Tondo and Navotas)
 But God said "Now".
So we stepped out and again he has been faithful.
His word, the good news, the truth going into 500 homes in easy to read Tagalog.
He loves these families so much that He wants them to know the truth that the truth might set them free from the strongholds of poverty.

If we trust Him and obey God will bring us all through the exhausting and fragile times because everything has a season and he knows how much we can bare. He doesn't ask us to do ANYTHING without His help. He has promised us He will be with us in it. Through the best times and through the worst He sings his songs of love over us. I can imagine the angels cheering us to keep going, to finish the race of life in faithfulness. Don't become weary in doing good. Keep getting refreshed and recharged before Jesus, keep pressing in and pressing on- in our families, in our communities or for people in a foreign land. Jesus is the motivation. If He is not- we will burn out. If we are followers of Christ, our lives are not out own anymore. They are His.

People often ask how we cope with all the suffering we see here. Simply, Jesus, my husband and boys. I'm thankful that whatever I go through, I go through it with them. Thankful.

at the beginning of the month we got 2 days in hubbys home province at our favorite beach. perfect timing.
They are a sweet escape from the amount of suffering we see in Manilas slums.

September 6, 2014

Hidden no more.

Just wanted to write a quick update and thank you to those friends who have been specifically praying for the sisters I blogged about a of couple of weeks ago.

You can click and read here

Two beautiful girls hidden for most of their lives.

We urged you to pray that the hearts of the parents would be soft as we asked permission to provide the girls with opportunities to get involved in community programs and allow us to begin integrating them into the society.

As I went back to the house the second time after meeting them the mother whom I had not yet seen shouted "sister sister come on in" offering me the only plastic chair in their tiny home. She and the girls were sitting on their shanty floor peeling garlic.

"Yeh we will have money now selling garlic" Beline shouted excitedly.
As i sat beside them and got to know the mother a little bit, I really felt that God was working. She was so friendly and warm. We were chatting like we already knew each other. She told me a little more about the girls stories. How they had never been to school because she knew they needed a special school and that was not an option due to lack of finances.

I asked the Mama if her daughters could come and join our music activities that day. She look a little surprised for a second and then said "YES"! straight away. Within moments she had helped them change their clothes and get their rubber boots on. She waved them goodbye and I could sense she was just thankful they were getting to go somewhere.

Just a week previous to this moment NO ONE in the community knew who these girls were. NO ONE knew their name. NO ONE had seen them.
In they came and joined the activities that day, and the next day and have been coming to several programs since this time. They now know where our base is and bring themselves along.

Beline and Bebe (Pheobe) taught me about being brave. They have been hidden all their lives. Mocked when they did venture out into  the community for the first time. Still they held my hand, walked through staring eyes to get to our center and were brave enough to join in. Beline was so ready. Bebe took a little longer , but by the end of the first choir session was smiling and joining in.

Change happened fast in the attitudes of other young people towards them.I never usually get to write that sentence so I'll say it again!

Change happened fast...

 Even some who had been making fun of them a couple of weeks ago were now genuinely welcoming them. This time, they were welcomed and teenagers who did not know what to do a couple of weeks ago were sitting beside them chatting and making friends. Girls who were ignoring them were eating with them, singing with them. I looked over from the other side of the hall and I no longer saw the new girls and the others. I just saw a group of girls getting to know each other and building relationship- the way it should be.

Change happened fast because both the sisters and some of the residents of the community overcame something new. I am proud of them all.

I am so very glad they are hidden no more. I thank God.


August 19, 2014

Burdened until sunrise.

Some days spent in Manilas slums reveal new levels of corruption, injustice and suffering. They leave the heart with a burden and travailing to keep labouring in the communities we are called to. But Oh how we need God to break through even more.

Part of our ministry is just walking around the dump site sitting with, listening and getting to know peoples stories. This is how we find desperate ones, brave ones, forgotten ones, strong ones. This is how we find who to respond to next. Every time I am aware that God directs our steps.
We often say we think we have seen it all and then we find another toxic layer of issues.

I truly believe God in His grace reveals them in His time because He knows when we are ready to bare them, even if we don't feel that way.

Yesterday I went out walking with 2 of the young women to visit families that were living in the flood areas. Black, filthy, stagnant water covered every crevice of ground in that particular part of the community. All of a sudden  I had a prompting from within to leave my team mates and walk through a dimly lit underpass. My purple rubber boots squelched through the stinking black fluid.
Everything was grey apart from the flashes of white  from the children's smiles, like little stars dotted around a black sky.

"Take a picture of me Ate Jo!"

My feet kept moving forward and then I noticed I was in a corner at a dead end. It's still near our center, but I  have never been in this cove before. I couldn't work out how I had never found this place even though we have been very near it. Suddenly someone touched my hair from the back. I turned to find a girl staring at me. Peering through the broken wooden frame on her shanty.

"Bota Bota." (Boots Boots)

We had been giving out tickets for adults living in the floods to come and get rubber boots. I noticed the young girls speech was slurred. She seemed to have additional support needs.

"What's your name" I asked in tagalog.


Then another head popped out from behind the door of their tiny make shift home. A beautiful smile and  then  a high pitch voice "I'm Beline" .
She too seemed to have additional support needs. They are sisters, 24 and 14.

"Picture tayo Ate!" (lets take a picture big sister)

I stood with the girls on their doorstep for a long time. It's a quiet little cove. Only one other neighbor who was 8 months pregnant on the ground hand washing clothes.  A little later, a cousin joined us who I know a  bit from our mothers group. She told me that Pheobe and Beline had never been to school and have stayed inside their house most of their lives.
Later I asked around our team and  residents in the same area to see if I could find out more. It was extremely disturbing to me that not one of the mothers, young people or children knew who they were or had ever seen them.


"KCM. KCM" (the name of our ministry) Beline had been saying pointing to the  butterfly logo on my t shirt. The cousin told me they always asked to come along but no one would take them. Brenda and Clarissa, youth leaders gave them a florescent pink rubber boot ticket. They were SO excited and an hour later they were sitting in our hall. The father was also there, sitting quite a distance from his daughters. Ron shared the gospel with him. Pheobe and Beline were beside me, giving spontaneous hugs and asking peoples names. Beline kept talking about how big the bananas were in the province and that there are no bananas or money since they moved to Tondo. This seemed important to her and impressed on her memory.

If you are a believer and are reading this, I urge you to remember these girls in prayer. Im asking you to pray as we begin the first stage of building relationship with the parents and get to know more of the girls story. Im asking for prayer that the parents would have open hearts to allow us to provide opportunities for the sisters to be involved in programs and integrated into the community.

Within this culture people with additional needs are often hidden, in particular children. Not always, but very often. Lack of education, wrong so called religious teaching and lack of acceptance means parents are often ashamed. There is an obvious lack of respect and dignity to people who seem different. I find this frustrating and very difficult to understand. It's a huge issue.

Through the night God laid a heavy burden on my heart for these sisters and some of the others we visited that day;
- a mother beaten by her husband who thought it was okay
-a little boy who's baby sister had just died
-a family who was squandering money on gambling while their children were hungry
- a teenage boy who had dropped out of school because of struggles with his gender and was depressed
- an old widow who was riddled with TB who pushes a heavy trash cart just to get enough food

I was burdened in prayer until sunrise about these situations, but mostly about my new friends Pheobe and Beline. The previous night Ron was burdened throughout the night about the great horrors happening to Christians in Iraq at this time. What is a burden actually I was thinking?

I think a burden is when Gods emotions and Gods heart collide with us.

I think it's when we feel a tiny bit of what He feels. He impresses it on us so that we will intercede on their behalf and be compelled to do something about injustice.

"Burdened- required to yield to a vessel having right of way"

 "Burden- that which is carried or borne out of difficulty"

Labor- Uncomfortable and painful. Sometimes quick. Sometimes long, but with the fruit of a  beautiful new life.

Often our team and residents come to the house of prayer to pour out, travail in prayer and cry to God about all the injustices we are confronted with on a daily basis. Always His peace and beautiful presence breaks through ,strengthening our hearts. I love this room. There is both much suffering and joy here.We travail and intercede on behalf of the horrors we find in the community and we rejoice as God births new dreams  and responses in us.Through worship and loving Him we know that we know that He has it all control. Nothing comes as a surprise to Him.
Ate Nora travailing in prayer for the injustices in her community

He knows their story before he leads our feet through the mud to learn them and respond to them.

Being here is both uncomfortable and painful at times as well as being an honor. But we must keep pressing on. There is also much joy in being here. Jesus is still in the business of totally transforming  lives! And whether we see the rewards of our labor in this life or the next it is worth it.

I am learning in this place that we cannot have the joy without the suffering and the suffering without the joy. Like twins they must remain side by side for change to be birthed.


"And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night?" (luke 18:7)

August 17, 2014

I either believe it or i don't!

Don't know what was in the air, but I found my boys extra exhausting today!

My darling free spirited toddler seemed to be testing boundaries- a lot!
My sweet sunshine baby only wanted to physically cling to me all day!

Doing house chores and cooking are a lot more challenging with a very heavy bubba on your hip... and you only have one hand to do it all! As I inwardly complained about washing dishes and chopping sweet potatoes with one hand, I was reminded that one day, quite soon he will be too big to carry. These moment (however mad they are) will become a memory.

Finally 8pm (on the dot) came and Eli went down to sleep. I thought Josiah was also in the land of nod and so i lit a candle, got out my bible and journal to de-stress BUT then my handsome husband came and said "he only wants you darling"! Sheesh!

"I have nothing left to give" I moaned to my hubby from the top of the stairs. Sitting on top of Josiahs guitar covered bed spread I thought immediately. Wait a minute! That's not true! I do have more to give because I have a God whose grace is right now sufficient. More than enough and Christ and His Spirit are dwelling in me.

I either believe it or I don't!

I'm not really a worrier, but there are times (like today) I think- "God, You really need to  kind of step in about NOW!"

Some of the things our team at Kalayaan Community Ministries are currently doing in the dump site and cemetery community are;
- Feeding a minimum of 1520 hot meals per week to under nourished children.
-Sending wonderful young people from the slums through private colleges and universities
-Delivering food crisis parcels to more families than ever
-Empowering Mothers and Fathers to establish businesses so as they could support their own families
-Financing hospital fees and medicines for those in emergency situations
-Facilitating several children's, youth ministries and young leaders training days.
... and a load of other things, not including the boring stuff like paying electric and water bills at our community based centers.

"God, You kind of need to step in about NOW"
You know what? I believe He will.
You know why? Because we have seen Him do it countless times before.
You know how? Through the kindness of friends and partners who are moved with compassion and also in totally mind blowing miraculous ways.

His provision is enough and His timing is perfect.

I either believe it or I don't!

"Todays bread is enough bread
  Todays grace is enough grace
  Todays God is MORE THAN enough God" (A.Voskamp)

I either believe it or I don't.


"And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. " (2 Corinthians12:9)

(One of my life verses)

SUFFICIENT- ENOUGH to meet the needs of a situation or a proposed end.

Worry replaced with worship yesterday- photo credit KCM partner Thomas Tham

August 13, 2014


A headache of desperation to get to Jesus
A pounding inside to shut everything else, everyone else out and go to the secret place,
My time has been consumed today with many things, but not much with the One
- The One my soul needs.

By candlelight i sit now with nothing to distract- but The One
Where I'm born to be.
Here. Just here.
You should be priority-always
Without abiding I cannot be a good wife, mother, missionary or anything!

I need Your beauty to strip away the rottenness of my heart
Your love that flips my whole world upside down.

Thank you!
You always make yourself available for little me
With the most patient eyes I have ever known, You pierce though me to the core You created.

I need you Real.

Little i. Big You.