1) Angel was saved and baptized, and so were nine others that are very dear to me… Christian, John Lester, Freleyta, Deciree, Mian, Roselle, Kimberlyn, KC Anne, and Crystal Jane, in whose lives are noticeable changes and eager hearts that serve.
2) They were baptized by my husband John, who is an incredible man, radically saved, who has poured his life into discipleship, and just serving at every turn, with the humblest of hearts.
3) Two witnesses to these baptisms were my oldest two children, Riley, and Kendall, who are also incredible christian examples, who serve in teaching the children, praise and worship, and so much more.
4) John, Riley, and Kendall are coming home and we cannot wait to embrace each other again.
5) We have two Filipino Congressmen dedicated to helping us get Angel adopted.
6) We have wonderful, devoted, God sent ministry leaders to fill our shoes in our absence.
7) We have a church being built!
8) We have a car, all our own, a blessing from a Godly family, who has given us more than I could ever put into words.
9) We have a sister and brother-in-law who help us at every turn, willing to let our larger than average family stay with them until we find a home.
10) We have an abundance of uplifting friends and family, who pray and encourage and support us…
Goodness, once I started listing the things that matter, I realized I could be here for quite a while. I realized that most of the tears I have cried lately are tears of joy. There are things that have been getting me down and I may write about them sometime… In fact, I did… But once I read through the 3-paged journal of this past month, I thought what does this even matter?? Who cares about what I don’t have… There is so much that I do have, and I see it plain as day. I think I will hit delete on all that stuff that doesn’t matter… I know God has everything laid out already… and I trust in it. How could I not, when He has shown me so much!? I know I will make it back to my Filipino family and Angel, not as quickly as John, as he will head back in the next month or two, but I will… and that’s what matters.
Isn’t it wonderful to see… I mean truly SEE! Today my eyes are open to see this great life before me… Five years ago my husband and I began this journey of a life with God as Point. I, more reluctantly than any other member of my immediate family, gave up my home and everything in it… well everything that I couldn’t shove into my poor sister-in-law’s closet. I sold my beloved favorite shiny light blue minivan with automatic sliding door… And my husband sold his beloved ol’ pickup truck, which had molded to shape his bottom half. I literally had to sit on something to see above the steering wheel. He sold his kayak and treasured camping and fishing gear, tools, everything… and all for much less than they were worth. We took what we had and followed the Holy Spirit’s lead, prompting us to go to the Philippines. Mind you, I never EVER would have gone unless it was so clear to me, and it was abundantly so. What a journey it has been! Our family is forever changed. Our family has grown, not only in number, but in spirit. We can get through anything together, and we don’t need much! We have developed true bonds with true friends that fight with us on many levels. Some have and continue to visit us here in the Philippines. Some write messages of encouragement. Some send funds. Some pray. Some do all of the above. We are so blessed! Today, I think of my oldest two as they continue to study there in the U.S. They make my heart soar with joy! In just a few months they have both made all A’s and B’s on their report card. Kendall even made the honor roll as she had enough A’s over B’s. All of their teacher comments were so gratifying. They jumped right into sports. Riley playing baseball and Kendall softball for their school team. Win or lose, they always wrote about how much fun they had. Riley even went on to getting 3rd in district, and #1 in runs scored. He also got a prestigious “Heart of the Lion” award, for being an all-around example of a good student and friend to his peers. And Kendall told me she is striving for that award as well. They love and encourage each other like no other. It melted my heart when they each messaged me about Kendall’s hand being slammed in the truck door. Riley felt so terrible for accidentally having done it, and Kendall felt terrible that her brother felt so terrible. Instead of asking me to pray for her hand, she asked for me to pray for her brother! Stuff like this means so much more to me than that silly shiny minivan, or the comfort of a recliner. The memories and struggles of ministry life here have made them shine from the inside out!
It used to wear me thin to have to ask for funds and support… It was so draining and terrifying to me, and a humbling experience like no other. But God changed my view, and in this moment, I see it as God’s blessings above all. It’s part of the beauty of how He works. Riley’s teeth were in horrible condition. I don’t know if it was because of malnourishment, as we have had to eat a lot of rice, or the water, or bad genes, or what… But he had a cavity in each tooth. We had taken him to the dentist here in the Philippines, but she just said he had softening of his enamel and there was nothing she could do but fill the holes as they came. When he went back to the U.S., he was seen by a dentist, and so far he has had 9 of his teeth fixed. It doesn’t hurt him to eat chips anymore, and I am so thankful to those who donated for all the expensive work… There have been times when I have felt inadequate as a mom, because of things like not being able to help my son get his teeth fixed. And those things can creep into a mother’s mind and take up residence. But God blesses… and continues to do so time and time again! I refuse to see it any other way now. And I know that just like, the land, our hollow block home, flight tickets, and daily needs… He has provided. He continually provides and He will provide the rest of what is needed to build this church! I know it!
These days are hot!!! And we sweat beyond reason, and stink on a regular basis, if any ounce of work is done. But I have children that wake up early to do it with me. I kid you not, Neely and Angel argued over who got to wash the dishes today… I settled it by dividing who got to wash what… Seriously! I think this mother’s day God is showing me how great it is to be the mom of missionary kids. They don’t have a lot of material things, but they have so much more! And while living here, I will continue to do my best and love our extended Filipino family. These youth crack me up… They are are one of a kind, and loved by our amazing God. I want to see them succeed, to grow in strength, wisdom, and love. Often times they come, hot and sweaty, after selling fish all day long… stinking to high heaven. And while we may all stink, we stink together. And though Riley and Kendall are not here right now stinking with us… we all still remember their smell… 😉
This was the lesson for children’s church on Sunday… Matthew 6:26 (Mateo in Tagalog)
The church building in progress…
My sweet and goofy children… Neely, Angel, and Liam
And this is one of the cuties I teach, Kris Tifany… At 22 months, she already knows how to pray. She folds her hands and says, “Lord, tawad (forgive), Amen!”
I have been reading through some recent daily devotionals by Chuck Swindoll, from Insight for Living Ministries, and I must say, I really like the man. He just seems so down to earth, someone I could sit and listen to for hours. He made me laugh when he wrote on his April 04, 2016 post entitled Let’s Move On, “Sometime in my ministry, I am going to gather up enough courage to have a testimony time where the only thing we’ll share is our failures. Wouldn’t that be different? Ever been to a testimony meeting where everybody else seemed to be on Cloud 39, and you were in Tunnel Number 7? One after another is talking about soaring in the heavenlies, while you’re counting gum wrappers in the gutter. Why don’t we visit the other side? Why not hand the microphone around and say, ‘When was the last time you took a nosedive? Can you share with others what it was like to experience a major disappointment?’”
How hard would that be, but how true… Often times I have fallen into the trap of wanting to do good just to honor those who have supported us, many so abundantly, whether financial, or in wisdom and encouragement, that I feel forever indebted to them… Like there is no way I could ever pay back what they have given me, or be good enough. I have had to remind myself, on several occasions, that I am not here to people please… that everything I do must be to glorify God, to be pleasing to him alone. I imagine that is how my children may feel and I plan to remind them that they should work hard for the Lord and no one else. I think they feel an obligation to do well in their studies because of the ones who made it possible for them to be where they are today. They are doing so well and honoring those contributions. But I want them to know, that first and foremost, it should always be about honoring God.
I’ll take the mic now…
I locked myself in the bathroom the day before yesterday. I was messaging back and forth with my friend. She was saying how she worries for me because of all the bad stories she’s heard about adoptions. These are the messages that followed…
ME: Yes… I just take it day by day… Always hoping for a miracle in the back of my mind… My mind jumps all over the place to different scenarios. I just can’t wait until one sticks! This guessing game wears a body down. I just can’t imagine telling her one day that we just can’t do it…
FRIEND: Me either. I’m praying for a miracle too. I really thought it would be better from that end because I had heard how hard it was and how long it took (and how expensive!!) it is from this side. I can only imagine. It makes my stomach hurt just talking to you about it!!
ME: Sometimes I wonder, were we just supposed to save her life and give her love for a little while, a sense of what family is and can be… If so, I am thankful… Could I do it again? I don’t have the strength…
FRIEND: That is a thought. Foster parents do it all the time. And I can’t imagine how difficult that would be!
ME: Now I am hiding in the bathroom balling my eyes out. Getting it out is really getting to me.
FRIEND: I’m Sorry! Am I saying the wrong thing?? Do you need to talk about it this way or no? I feel like I don’t know what to say or if I am saying the wrong thing!
ME: No it’s just that I never talk to anyone about it like this I guess… I can open up with you, and I mostly bottle it up… Right now that bottle has sprung a leak… I know people have gone through far worse… I can do this!
FRIEND: I know you are right. And I know God is in control. I know He will lead you in the right direction, even if it is one you don’t like or one that is difficult. He will give you whatever you need to get through what He has for you to get through. I think you are doing it with grace and I am in awe. I think I’d be hiding in the bathroom a lot.
ME: Lol… I can’t seem to make my way out yet… Love you! I am going to get myself together… I got to get to work… And Neely keeps asking me questions through the door… Thank you for the talk… I think it was good for me to shed some tears.
I am going to pass the mic now for fear that I may take up the next several hours of your life. Ministry life seems so much more full of disappointments than I ever bargained for. I never knew how difficult this life could be. Yet, the rewards of someone coming to his or her salvation are so much more uplifting than I ever bargained for too. But lately, there just seems to be way more disappointments than anything else…
Today I sliced open my foot on broken glass. What’s funny is, Neely immediately grabbed the alcohol and told me to sit down, and she would blow. I laughed because just a week before we were in the same position, only I was the one blowing her foot. I remember getting onto her for jerking her foot away before I could pour it and not holding still. I told her it had to be done in order for it to get better. And here I was just as reluctant as she was! It was a much different feeling being on the other side. I don’t want to be on the other side not taking my own advice. I don’t want to be reluctant, non-trusting, afraid of more pain when I experience nosedives or disappointments. I want to trust. I want to take the pain and honor God in the process, whatever the trial may be.
Meanwhile, I do find comfort in the fact that I am not fleeing from Pharaoh’s army, surviving a shipwreck, or the bite of a viper.
My husband, John, our four children, and I made a commitment to come to the Philippines for a mission. Shortly into our stay, our hearts were opened to a little five year old Filipino girl, named Angel. She was nearly a year older than our youngest child. She lived in the village we were ministering to, and attended the school that was set up at the church for the local village children. I was assigned to teach Bible lessons as well as art projects. My four year old daughter and Angel were classmates. I still remember the day they met. Angel and Neely cupped each other’s faces out of sheer love and adoration for one another, though neither could speak the other’s language. Angel’s grandmother, with whom she stayed, asked us if we could care for her. Angel’s mother had died when she was only two. Her father was considered crazy by all who knew him. He was always drunk and hardly ever around. So the grandmother cared for her, along with several of her other grandchildren. This old woman was also the unregistered midwife and abortionist of the village. After further understanding, we learned that Angel had lost at least three siblings, one from drowning, another of malnourishment and diarrhea, another from murder. It was said that her teenaged sister was mentally challenged and raped by some men. The father was drunk and hit her in the head with a metal pan. The next day, she was found dead. The father ran away and was gone for some time. When he returned Angel’s older brother confronted the father about what he had done. The father, drunk again, beat him so much that he had to be rescued by the villagers and a close American friend of ours. We feared for Angel, not just because of her father, but because she seemed to have an abnormally swollen stomach.
John and I were never looking to adopt. We had four children of our own already, two boys, and two girls. It seemed perfect, but that was before Angel entered our lives. It was strange how both John and I felt so much love for her and like she belonged with us. We knew we could give her the love and care she needed, so we spoke with our children and asked them what they thought. They all agreed that our family was a good family, and that it would be even better with Angel. So we agreed to care for her. We went to the Barangay captain, who typed a written statement signed by both the grandmother and her father. We also went to get her a birth certificate, bringing two village witnesses with us. However, I don’t know that it was done properly. No one seemed to know exactly how to spell her last name, or exactly what day she was born. Some said it was October 27th, some said the 24th… But they were in agreement on the year, month, and generally the same week. Her birthday was documented as October 24. We went to see a lawyer who told us that we would need to stay here with her for at least two years. It was longer than we had initially planned, but we were willing. A few months later, we found out that he was wrong, and that we would need to stay for at least three years. At that point we figured God just wanted us here longer and we were not willing to just throw her back. I took her to the doctor and discovered that she had escaris worms. She was given medicine to drink. Three days later those worms began to come out. It was quite a traumatic week for both she and I. I had to help her by pulling live worms out of her bottom. They were at least 8 inches long, and the diameter of a pencil. This happened for a solid weak, and I removed at least 100 worms from her tender little body. I removed all the lice from her hair, and continue to do so, as we live in an environment where they are abundant. She has learned fluent English, thrived in school, earning many awards. She can speak three languages. She went from being a lot shorter than Neely, to much taller, and is now the tallest in her third grade class. We taught her how to swim, how to ride a bike… We even took her for a car ride for the first time, out of her village, where she had always stayed. She is now nine, calls us Momma and Daddy, and knows no other home but ours.
Through these years, we have worked in the Philippines as missionaries, and have begun a church in another area, that is SEC registered by the Philippine government and we are in the process of building a church building, and praying for a Filipino Pastor to eventually take over.
I have visited with many social workers and collected the requirements I was told to provide. We have paid for Barangay clearances, police clearances, authenticated birth certificates and marriage certificate from the Philippine Consulate in America. We’ve gotten letters of recommendation, etc… And all was going well. We were just waiting for a home study from the busy social workers. Yesterday, I traveled three hours to speak with a head social worker who told me that everything I had done or been told was wrong… that we could not adopt under tourist visa status, or even missionary visa status. We had to have some sort of residency visa, in order to adopt in the local courts. She said but even then, your country would not recognize it and that I need to contact the Inter Country Adoption Board. I explained to her that I had spoken to an American who worked for the Hague Adoptions, and that she said that what we were doing is a domestic adoption so we would not have to use Hague. We could not afford it for one, and Angel would have had to come from certain orphanages that they work with. I had also gone to the U.S. embassy a few years ago and the woman there, had told me that as long as we adopt through the Philippine government, that we would need to fill out papers when that was complete, and as soon as she stepped on American soil, she would be a citizen. However, the social worker said that was not in her knowledge and that we just need to contact ICAB.
I feel like I am running around in circles. Does anyone know what they are doing? I certainly do not! I am just trying to give my daughter the security of knowing she belongs to a family that loves her. I want to be able to take her to America with us, not to change anything about her, but to allow her to experience both worlds with us, to allow her to meet her extended family and friends who already love her, to give her a good education for her to better her life and maybe even one day she can do great things to better the village where she came from.
How can this be? How can a country prevent a child from having a loving home to grow up in because of mere rules? Change them! Evaluate the situation! Care more, or even just a little! I can’t stay here forever, and I don’t want her to have to either. How can I tell her your country has failed you. My country has failed you. I have failed you… That is precisely what I feel like in this moment, a complete failure. Where do I go from here? I have written to two emails I got from the ICAB site, but so far, no replies… Does anyone know anyone that might be able to help? And if you don’t, just please pray fervently. Thank you…
Just before the sun set in the sky, I walked down to check on a friend who had a fever. She was sitting where I usually find her, just down from her house at the waiting area of a “store,” although it’s not a store by anyone who might be reading this’ standards… It’s not even as stocked as a little league baseball concession stand, but a “store” nonetheless. I sat by her and felt her head and asked how she was feeling. She said, “That medicine that you give is good Sister”… (That would be extra strength Tylenol.) 🙂 Then, a woman, I have seen periodically since I have been back, came and stood in front of me.
I don’t know her. She wasn’t here before I left. All I knew up to this point, was that she was the sister of the man who owns the store. I had commented one day on what she was doing. She had a bowl of chicken heads and feet, and it looked like she was de-skinning them. (Is that a word?) I think I had said something like, ‘Oh barbecue!’ Or something silly like that… just to make conversation rather than just awkwardly passing by, but not really succeeding.
Anyway, now she stood before me, speaking as if someone had turned on the faucet. She poured out her heart to me, speaking in English and Tagalog. She said that she was so glad that we are here, and that she came from Manila, where she used to be involved in a born again church. (That’s what they call a Protestant church here in the Philippines.) She continued that she was there, at church, basically every time the doors were open and even had been going, on and off, since she was in 3rd grade. She said she read her Bible all the time and even taught… but her baby got sick. She prayed for him, but he died when he was only two. She continued that she asked God why He would do that when she gave Him everything. She kept talking, not really leaving room for me to say anything, which was good, because I didn’t know what to say. She said she didn’t pass her trial because she stopped going. She said that was in 2006 and she is living here now because her husband is seeing someone else. She has many more children as old as 19. After listening to her heartbreaking story, and seeing the tears come and go in her eyes, it was time for me to speak. I had no idea what to say. What could I say? I told her I have never lost a child and I cannot even begin to imagine how hard that would be. I told her that I am glad we are here too. She asked when our services are. I told her Wednesday nights at 6 and Sundays at 8 for children, and 10 for adults. Those are our scheduled times anyway, but living among the people, we tend to have church daily in one way or another. She said she is in the market selling on Sundays. I told her she is welcome anytime and hopefully she can come. She said she prayed and asked the Lord to be a part of His family again. I said some other stuff too, but not incredibly wise. Later, is when all the verses, and what I should or could have saids, came to mind. She didn’t come Wednesday… Pray for her with me. I will go down and visit her again.
Yesterday, Daddy asked Angel to say the blessing at dinner. She prayed for the food, but mostly about school. She kept asking God to make the kids nice and not mean and repeated such things in various ways. I noticed it was not her usual prayer. Before filling her plate with food, she got up, came to where I was standing in the kitchen, and said, “Momma, I need to talk to you in your room.” I went in with her. She began by saying she always breaks things. (Earlier she had broken a new coffee cup and confessed teary-eyed. I told her it was ok. It was just an accident.) She mentioned the coffee cup again and some things she had broke while I was gone. She said, “I’m always doing bad things, Momma.”
I said again, “Angel, those are just things, and those are just accidents so it’s ok.” I tried to make her smile by saying, “Kendall broke a lot of things too, remember?”
Then she lunged into my chest, burying her face, as she spoke through tears, “I always say bad words at school Momma, and sometimes I be mean, and I lie all the time. I try to stop but I still do it and I don’t know why. It’s like the devil makes me do it.”
I had to ask her to repeat some of that, as it was hard to understand what she was saying.
I got down and told her, “Angel… it shows that you have a good heart because you know it’s wrong and you want to stop doing these things. The devil can’t make you do anything. You always have a choice, and if you want to stop in here (I pointed at her heart) enough, then you will. Pray for God to give you that strength. Did you know that I used to say bad words, when I was younger?” She shook her head no. “Do you know why?” She continued shaking her head. “Because I wanted all the kids to like me and think I was cool. But it didn’t make cool. It didn’t make me happy either… or God. I don’t do that now, and you know what,” She sniffed as I continued, “It makes God smile.”
This morning, before she left for school, I got down and prayed with her. We asked the Lord for strength to make the right choices, and for all the choices we make today to give Him a smile. She smiled when we were through and hollered, “Thank you Momma!” as she trotted down the path.
I had no idea that was going on in her life, but I am glad her little heart is being worked on by our loving,caring Heavenly Father.