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John and Joe

February 2, 2016

“Ummm, you smell like Mexican food,” exclaims my husband as he hugs me from behind.  I begin laughing and say, “Hum, maybe it’s coming out in my sweat.”  He says, “I think so!,” as he gets more aggressive in the hug, saying, “I’m hungry and you smell so good!”  I laugh and break free to cook eggs and rice… Yep, we are back!  And I have moments of I NEED FOOD pulse through me… Where you look and look, hoping that something might magically appear where you’ve already looked a thousand times!… Where you settle for boiled eggs, and try to spruce it up, by dipping it in spicy vinegar…. It’s good… just not what I was looking for.

I do love being back!  I love seeing the change in the people that my hubs doesn’t even see.  I told him, “They’re different!  You’re different!”  He can’t see it, but I do.  Just the way the youth are with him, the team they have developed, the bond I feel like I am somewhat intruding on…  Every morning, at first light, John gets up and starts the water to boil.  He then turns on the outside light, which signals anyone who wants to come, that it is time for morning devotion.  He has Bibles out, and a verse or two on the board.  He puts out coffee and/or Milo (a local type of hot chocolate… sort of).  Sometimes he makes them rice, which they eat with their coffee, and sprinkle with sugar… Sometimes he has bread…  They usually have a discussion about the verse and then they head off to school.  I just love it!  Sometimes we have overnighters, usually two 15 year old boys, that we love to bits and pieces.  Other nights we’ve had more.  John wakes them up for devotion by banging a pot with a big metal spoon.  They know the routine and it makes me smile every time… even though that confounded pot banging is waking me up too.  🙂 They help out a lot.  This morning for church, one girl raked out everything.  They all set up the chairs and benches and brought out the Bibles.  They wrote out the songs we’d be singing and pretty much had everything ready.  Anything they saw me doing, they would run to do it for me.

The other day, I guess the water pipe, that we have running down from our tank, got clogged or something, because so many people and families came up to fill their containers.  It really opened my eyes to just how many rely upon our water supply now.  They drink it and I pray that it keeps them healthy. John and Lee fixed it so the water flows good again.

I got all the kids that attend here some clothes.  To all the girls I gave those cute Walmart $3.88 shirts, and the boys some nice basketball shorts (also a Walmart sale)…  Their faces lit up at receiving their gifts.  And my heart swelled at their hugs.  They’d see me and run with their arms out, shouting “Sister Mandi!” I would shout their names back, and scoop them up!

A few days ago, a couple from our church brought up their 5 or 6 year old son.  He had fallen off a motorcycle and hit his head on a rock.  I don’t know why people bring their kids to me.  I have no idea what I’m doing!!  I just boiled some water and cleaned it, put on some neosporin and a big bandaid.  He was such a trooper!  He looked scared at first, but I was very gentle and spoke calmly to him.  I gave him some grape flavored children’s Tylenol and told him it tasted like candy.  He agreed as he chewed it on his mom’s lap with a smile.  When they came again for Wednesday night church, 3 days later, he still had that same bandaid on.  I removed it, but I could have kicked myself for getting it stuck on so much hair.  It was hard to pull it off without pulling some hair out with it.  He squirmed more then, than when I originally cleaned it.  It looked good but was slimy like it needed to dry out.  I put more neosporin, left it uncovered, and gave his mom some more bandaids.  Thank you Lord that it wasn’t worse than that! John said he is glad I am back to being Dr.  He said some kid came here with stitches all the way down his hand from getting it caught in some kind of machine.  The boy wasn’t moving it and his hand was stuck.  John had to rub neosporin on it and help him open up his hand to get the skin to stretch back out.  He did that a few times.  He said there were several others and he went through a lot of neosporin while I was gone.  I told him I know what he means. 😉 I also gave Tylenol to some kids and adults who had fevers… developed one myself, accompanied by a sore throat, but I am good now, except for a cough.  Praise God!

Speaking of Doctors, My sister-in-law took Riley to see one recently.  He had developed another boil on his arm.  He had to get an injection, oral antibiotics, and swab his nose every night to get rid of a lingering staph infection in his blood.  I am so thankful that he is getting the treatment he needs… so thankful…  I was sharing with my friend how just being able to get my children the treatment they need is one of the biggest challenges I have mentally.  I am so relieved that my oldest two are safe and healthy.  I just miss them like crazy is all… They are doing well according to our back and forth messaging.  I opened up a 4 second video of Kendall batting at softball practice, watched it I don’t know how many times, and teared up most every time. 🙂 Ha!

The kids both had writing assignments due Monday… Both took pictures of what they wrote for me to check and help them make corrections… So I did, took a picture of the corrections and sent it back to them.  Riley’s was just a simple 100 word or so opinion on whether or not he agrees that TV influences crime…   Kendall’s was a sci-fi writing assignment.  Her story cracked me up… I thought you all might get a kick out of it too… So I am attaching it to this post.  The following is her story.  I just helped her make it clearer, and helped her understand how quotations work, and when to change lines…  Here’s her story…

“John,” cried Joe.

“What do you want Joe?”

“Come here,” she ordered as she panted down into the shallow side of the lake.

Joanna, has always been called Joe by those closest to her, including her brother John.  They were walking home from school, and Joe had wandered ahead as usual.  When John reached her, he demanded “What,” as he now panted with her.  “What are we looking at?”  He ordered again.  He saw nothing but her reflection, and now his own.  “Johanna Chris Carino, you scared me half to death!”  He yelled.  “Why in the world did you make me run down here to stare at nothing?”

“Im sorry John,” Johanna sulked.  “But don’t you think I look like Momma?”  John stared at her with immediate regret and pulled her into a hug.  She sobbed in her brother’s arms, “I miss them so much,” she sniffed.

“I’m here for you Joe,” he reassured.

Joanna smiled, “What if I could invent a way to get to them?”

John laughed and said, “Just how do you plan on doing that?”

“Well,” she said and began sprinting toward home.

“Wait for me!”  John followed behind.

Joanna darted straight for the barn, where she kept all of her equipment and other inventions.  She began working right away as if the incident at the lake had solved a missing link.  Soon after, John was right by her side.  “Hold this,” she tapped a piece of metal, refusing to look away from her work.  John complied.  Everyday after school, Joanna and John would race home by the lake, and begin where they had left off, until finally, on a beautiful Saturday morning, Joanna and John completed their work.  They knew that if it worked, their lives could change for good, and not just their lives, but the lives of everyone in the entire world!  Holding hands, Joanna and John asked God for it to work, and pressed the button.  With a thug, thug, thug, on came the machine.  They laughed and Joanna exclaimed, “It works!”

“Wait a second Joe,” John said.  “We still have to see if it will teleport one of us.”

“Alright, I’ll go,” Joanna volunteered, feeling excited, bold, confident and eager.

“No!  I’ll go.”

“But John!”  Joanna argued.

“Joe, I love you,” he retorted with a wink in his eye, and jumped in.

Joanna sat there crying, waiting, wondering if her brother would ever come back.  Sunday morning came and Joanna woke to someone tapping on her shoulder.  “Hey Joe!”  John  stood there in the light of the sun.  “Look who’s here!”

Joanna looked and there they were, “Daddy!  Momma!”  She yelled.  They were there, actually there! She couldn’t believe her tear filled eyes.

Her parents are missionaries, on the other side of the world.  They had left John and Joanna there to go to school, to get a good education while they traveled.

“How did y’all get to us?”  Her parents asked.

“Well,” John said.  “After we made the machine, we typed in where we wanted to go, and it took me there, straight to you!”

“Y’all sure do take after your father, I must say.”  Their mother approved.

“Mrs. DeVera,” Justin said tugging on her shirt.

“Yes, Justin?”

“How did John get back with them?”

“Well,” Mrs. DeVera said, “The same way you got back home.”  Justin looked at her with a puzzled face, “Justin, look around. You see how everyone is leaving and coming?”

“Yes Mam,” Justin answered.

“So you see how they all push that blue button?”

“Yes Mam, that’s what I do when I go home.”  Justin looked at his teacher as Mrs. DeVera returned the look, waiting for him to realize.  “Oh, is that how John made it back?”

“Yes!  Good thinking Justin!”  Mrs. DeVera encouraged.

“Joe!”  John hollered.  As Joe, got up and headed toward her brother, she said, “Alright class, have a good weekend.”

“Bye Mrs. DeVera!”

“Goodbye Class!”

John, president of the teleportation company, handed her the phone.

“Yes,” Joe answered.

“Hey Honey!”  Mr. DeVera returned.

Out of Control…

January 15, 2016

It began in the dentist office… I went in to get the tooth issue from last August taken care of.  My sister-in-law had told her dentist about what happened during my last dental ordeal in the Philippines.  He told her to tell me to come in and he would take care of me.  I was so thankful and yet terrified.  The first visit, they x-rayed my teeth from every possible angle.  (I have never had an x-ray in the Philippines.)  He told me they were going to fix the tooth next to the one they removed, that looked like it was broken during the extraction.  And then he would take out the remainder of whatever was left from that tooth.  From the x-ray, he couldn’t tell if it was a piece of bone, or my tooth, or what, but that he could get it out, none-the-less.  He explained that he may have to cut it out, that I would be awake, but numb, and shouldn’t feel it.  He said I could take a Valium to relax me before hand if I wanted, but I told him that wouldn’t be necessary.

The closer it got to the date that all this would go down, the more nervous I got.  The kids all wanted to go with me.  I told them all they would be doing is sitting in a waiting room, but they preferred to do that rather than stay alone at their aunt’s watching T.V.  The fact that they were with me as I drove, kept me calmer than I would have been on my own.  I kept my brave face on.  But on the inside, especially when they called me back, I was really panicking.  I thought maybe I should have taken that Valium after all.  As he injected my gums with the numbing stuff, I could feel my heart pounding in my eardrums.  He and his nurse said they would let me stay there for a bit while it did its thing.  As I was lying there, I had tears streaming down both sides of my temple and into my hair.  The more I fought to keep them in, the more they came and I was so frustrated with my tears.  I have had teeth pulled before and I was fine!  I told this to myself.  I told myself how embarrassing this was going to be if they walked back in and saw me.  I hated the lack of control I had over my emotions.  Finally, I pulled myself together and tried to remove any evidence of tears.  They came back in and began to work.  My chest burned and it went all the way up into my ears…

It didn’t hurt at all, and it didn’t even seem to take them all that long to do it.  He had to cut my gums and I could feel that he got under the tooth real well in order to get it out.  It was a part of the tooth, rather than bone.  After that, he told me he wasn’t going to stitch it because that could cause more pain.  He told me some other things to avoid for 24 hours and that I was good to go.  The only thing that hurt by the time I got back to my sister-in-law’s was my head because of the unnecessary frenzy I had worked myself into.  I took a nap and when I woke up, I could feel the pain from it all.  But simple Tylenol made it better and I was fine from then on.  I wrote that dentist an extensive thank you letter to somehow try and express my gratitude… but words sometimes don’t ever say enough.

This was pretty much the first encounter I had while being here, with my emotions taking the lead and refusing to be restrained.  I am usually very good at hiding the way I feel… I am very in control of that department… usually.  But this trip is taking its toll on me.  I have spoken about our mission several times now, and this last time I cried so hard when I was speaking that my voice was cracking, my lips were quivering, and the whole room was crying with me.  I cried all over the thank you letters I’ve been writing.  And I cried all the way to church the other night!  I cried when I messaged John, when I got the passports…  Goodness me… How much tears can a body produce?

One major reason, that I didn’t mention in my previous post, (It was in the “to be continued” part) is that I am leaving my oldest two, Riley and Kendall, here, to go to high school.  And I will tell you more about that blessing in a moment.  I have tickets back now that the renewed passports of my younger two, Liam and Neely, came in.  I am leaving again for the Philippines on Monday, the 18th.  The other day John told me that Angel was sick and had a fever.  I thought, ‘O man I need to be there.’  Then I picked Riley and Kendall up from school, and when I asked how their day was.  Kendall answered in tears.  She said she felt stupid, lost… and that she even set the alarm off by going out the wrong door.  Then I thought, ‘O man I need to be here.’  Their homework has been out of this world and many nights we have stayed up just so they could get it all done, with me assisting where I could.  Kendall has been needing math tutoring and Riley has had several questions about writing and Anatomy and Physiology.  Sometimes I feel like I failed them in areas, and other times I feel like they are doing well.  It was quite an adjustment just fitting back into American society.  The whole school scene is so different from the past four years of their lives.  Even speaking and hearing so much American English has been an adjustment.

My heart is so torn in moments of vulnerability, that I can’t catch my breath.  I used to get these panic attacks when I was younger and pregnant with Neely.  They came out of nowhere.  They were irrational and hard to explain.  I would wake up feeling like I couldn’t get enough air, like I was trapped in a tight space, but I had plenty of it.  I thought maybe it was because being pregnant leaves less space for lung expansion and that I just wasn’t getting full breaths of air, but it also felt deeper than that, in a way I didn’t know how to explain.  Even after I had Neely, I would still wake up in a panic, and it didn’t always just happen when I slept either.  I hated the feeling and I think I began to fear it, so it would happen more because of that.  When my husband was saved, and I began living my life for the Lord in a way I never had before, I prayed for it to be taken away.  He did!  It never came back until just a few times in the Philippines, but I can deal with it better.  I pray!  And it goes away just as quickly as it came.  Here lately, it has come back in full force.  I can’t sleep.  I am exhausted but I fear closing my eyes, because a few times that I have, I jolt up with that feeling that I most dread.  I have to stay occupied.  I clean and organize over and over.  Wash and put away clothes.  Pack and repack… until I am so exhausted that I know I will fall into a deep sleep, and most likely stay there, until I have to wake up to take Riley and Kendall to school in the morning.

That is my way of dealing with things a lot of the time… to gain some sort of control, you know… do it on my own… which may work for a time, but never lasts in the end…  All my efforts usually come crashing down until I finally turn it over to who it belonged to in the first place.  But my husband will tell you I am stubborn… and he would be right.

As time has progressed, they have been doing much better.  I did see Kendall crying in the rearview mirror on our way to church.  She didn’t realize I could see her.  I said, “Kendall why are you crying?”  She smiled and said, “I hear tears are good for your skin.”  She is stubborn too. 🙂 Later I talked with her again about it, and she said, “It was just that it was a good day, we were listening to the music, and singing, and going to church together… and you’re about to leave…”  I cried with her at this other out of control moment, and told her how much I was going to miss that too, and that one day, it would be just like that, but with Daddy and Angel also.

Through everything, I am still confident that this was the right move, one of the reasons is that they need to be confident in this environment, just as they are there in the Philippines.  They need to be able to adjust well between the two, especially at this stage in their lives.  Riley only has the rest of this year and the next before he graduates.  And Kendall is a freshman.  The struggle is evident, yet much more doable at this stage, rather than later.

Another reason is how God answered prayer through a friend.  I had emailed the school I had wanted them to go to from the Philippines.  It is a local private school.  It cost money that I don’t have, but I knew they offered scholarships so I thought I’d try.  I got an email back, saying their scholarships were done for the year and if I wanted them to go next year, I could apply them online, for a fee of $225 dollars each.  I lost hope in that moment and began a journey in searching other routes and schools.  The local high school that they would have attended, had we never moved away, even advised against them going there.  They were concerned with them getting “eaten alive” by the other students.  So we were in contact with other districts that were smaller, but a good distance away.  It was a struggle and heavy burden until, my friend asked if she could speak to that private school, where she takes her kids, on our behalf.  I said sure.  Within two days, she had gotten a significant amount taken off for us, and had spoken with several others who wanted to help, and the remaining balance was raised.  I was floored!  I don’t even know who the other people are that helped get my children into this school!  And then  another friend of a friend wanted to bless them with their uniforms.  A few days later we were interviewing, testing, and touring the school.  This was another one of those out of control moments where I just cried… at the sight of the science lab, the gym, the computer room, library… all these things that my kiddos were going to be able to do, in a good, safe environment.  God took care of them!  I don’t know why I was so surprised…  but I am still in awe of Him and grateful for His people.

But I realize, that I do need to be out of control, so that He can be in control.  I love the fact that I am out of control… I just can’t handle this stuff!  I know that the Lord continues to do His thing, no matter how out of control I get on my end.  I am reminded that it is not about me.. It never was… And it’s not about my children… It never was… It is about something that’s not just a vapor in time, something that moths and rust cannot destroy.  Something that we should have our hearts set on.  I am so thankful for getting to see glimpses of that, when I see Jesus in people.  I cannot tell you how much I saw Him on this trip.  I love the people God has placed into our lives!  I feel like he put us in the midst of an army of angels!  And I intend to be a prayer warrior on their behalf.

I am ready to go back… I am eager to go back… and more importantly I am not in such a hurry to get back here.  Don’t get me wrong, I do eventually hope to reside in the U.S.  I love it here!  I love the people!  I love driving!  I love the food!  I love wearing my pretty clothes… putting on perfume… dusting off my cute boots and fur-hooded jacket… having clean finger nails and toenails, my lice free head…  But I also miss knowing how much more there is to life… It almost seems too easy to forget here.  As I look at pictures that John sends me… It’s not just a picture to me.  I know them.  I can tell you everyone’s name, what they are like… how they smile and laugh and cry.  I miss getting lice out of their hair!… Yep, whoever knew I could say such a thing!?  The thought brings me to what someone told me last night…  I was telling him, that even though he doesn’t have any children of his own, he is quite good with them.   He said, he thinks it’s one of those things, where if God calls you to something, He equips you…  I was freaked out by lice at first!!  I got so skinny because the food was hard for me to adjust to, and therefore I often just didn’t eat.  But now… we bond through things such as getting lice.  I have eaten dog, stir-fried pig intestines, pig brains, fish soup, chicken soup with the head and feet in it…  all because I want to minister with the people God has sent us to minister to.  When I think back on the ‘me’ before… that ‘me’ would tell you she could never, and therefore would never do this!  God equipped me with an iron stomach… There are other giftings I might have chosen for myself, but God knew what I needed.  My friend, who makes beautiful cookies to make side money, along with being a homeschooling mom, says that people tell her all the time how gifted she is at that.  She says it seems like such a funny gift, and that she would have chosen something else, something that she might weigh as more valuable.  I, however, think the ability to bring joy at the sight and taste of a cookie, ranks higher on my list than having an iron stomach… Just sayin’ 🙂

So I will will leave again in just a few days… out of control… and thanking God!

More Than A Thank You…

December 13, 2015

Well… we are here… We are here!!!  We are in the good ol’ U.S.A.  Not all of us… John and Angel stayed home in the Philippines.  John has to keep the ministry going and Angel doesn’t have her papers yet… But one day she will!  And oh what a beautiful day that will be.  I haven’t written since I knew we were coming… and that is because we wanted to surprise my mom…. and surprise her we did!  My dad, sisters, and brother were in on it.  They all tried to get her to take off of work that day, but she is a devoted school teacher and felt that her kids needed her more than she needed a day off.  So when she got home that evening, my dad said she would head to the bathroom first.  Sure enough, she did.  We hid upstairs and waited for the cue to come down.  When she came out of the bathroom, we all stood together waiting in the living room… (Riley now taller than her, and Kendall almost the same height)…  She stared at us in confusion for what seemed like an entire minute and uttered words like who? what?… until her brain made all the connections, and the only thing that could come out were heaves of tears that seemed to come from deep within.  The thought makes me cry every time.  (So let me just dry my keyboard here.)  She was so overwhelmed and surprised that this will go down as a priceless unforgotten moment in time.

We have been here for a week and a half now, and have seen so many people, and still have so many to see.  I got to meet and hold my nephew and three nieces I have never met before.  My kids got to play with their cousins. We have talked to three churches thus far, or I did, and Riley and Kendall sang.  It has been overwhelming to say the least.  The kids keep saying, “Momma this is so weird!”  When we arrived at the first U.S. airport, my eight year old Neely, whose known nothing but a Philippine life since the age of four says, “Momma, there’s a lot of Americanos here!” 🙂

We flew from Manila, Philippines to Hong Kong, which took about an hour and a half.  We had a four hour layover in that airport.  Then we flew from Hong Kong to Newark, New Jersey, which was over 15 hours.  Our crazy layover there was supposed to be two hours but ended up being three due to the chaos at the airport.  There were so many people that the workers seemed a bit overwhelmed.  I was trying to get to the part where I needed to get our luggage checked again, in order to get to our gate, but they stopped all the people from going up there and made us stand in a long roped off line.  People kept trying to bypass the line and go up unaware, and were blocked by an angry worker.  He kept jumping in front of people and aggressively ordering them to the line.  Some would get passed.  One woman in front of me had a flight that was supposed to leave earlier than mine, and I was afraid we weren’t going to make ours.  She tried to tell the man while I watched her bag for her, but he just kept yelling at her to get back in line.  It was crazy… When they finally let us through in groups at a time, they tried to stop Riley from coming with us, but we made him listen that he was with us!  Then we rushed through taking our shoes off and all that good stuff to get to our gate.  When we got there, it said MIAMI!!!  I immediately asked a worker and he said he thought they changed our gate to 111, but to check with information.  When I looked in the direction he pointed for information, there was a long line there, so I said forget it, let’s just hope he’s right.  We ran clear across the airport, with me in front, and Riley in back hurrying his siblings along.  By the time we got there, I was exhausted with a dry sticky mouth.  We would have made it just in time, but they delayed it because of all the confusion.  (I will try to avoid that airport from here on out.)  Our flight from Newark to Houston was over three hours.  There are somewhat quicker ways to get back, but I chose the cheapest route I could find.  I’m thankful that we made it as I was a bit nervous to make all the connections on my own.

I think it took me a good week to come out of my fog and feeling of complete delirium, from such a long flight and my days turning into nights and vice versa .  I somewhat feel normal again, well as normal as a person that has been living in a third world country can, coming back to a country that has everything!  Things do feel strange to me, and yet oddly normal.  I have no idea if that makes any sense…  I asked Liam, my 11 year old, how it feels to wear a shirt all the time.  He said it’s itchy.  Kendall said her shoes are giving her blisters, as she is not used to wearing them anymore.  In fact, all she had were flip flops.  When we came off the airplane, she was wearing cut off pants that were made into long shorts, a T-shirt, and her flip flops.  My dad said y’all need some winter clothes!  He also said he has never had a receipt that long in his life…  The kids needed everything… from socks to jackets!  My mother-in-law soon added to their winter wardrobe as well, and some friends sent us some cozy pajamas.  It has taken a while to get used to the cold.  I think the kids are okay now, especially since it has warmed up lateIy.  But I am still cold all the time. 🙂 I drove for the first time in four years! It was liberating!!! I felt so free to go anywhere and do anything I wanted.  It was funny to see the kids point out all that they remembered.  We drove by our old home, that now belongs to someone else.  All the trees were gone… the treehouse too… Neely didn’t remember it at all.  It made me a bit sad, but not for long, as there are too many things to be joyful and thankful about.

Speaking of thankful… That is exactly what I am… My sister said it perfectly when I tried to explain it to her.  She said, “Uh, is there a word better than ‘thank you’”?  I said I know right!  I told her that I feel so humbled by all the people that help support our ministry and just the things they do for our family…  We have been taken out to eat so much that I can’t even keep up with the leftovers.  We have more than enough places to stay.  If people aren’t taking us out, then they are cooking delicious meals for us. We have been given a brand new cell phone to use along with a service.  We even have a vehicle to use while we are here!  Alright… here I go again with the tears… Seriously, I don’t even know what to say to all these selfless people in our lives.  Thank you just doesn’t seem to say enough.  I don’t know that any of them could possibly grasp how I feel towards each of them individually.  I pray for them and pray that God will bless them in more ways than I ever could for their giving hearts.  It’s quite humbling and hard to describe.  John and I are so blessed with our friends and family.

And while we have had all these wonderful experiences here, we wish that John and Angel could be with us.  We constantly talk about them as if they were.  And it’s not just them… our Filipino family remain in our hearts and on our minds as they eagerly await our return.  I try to send a lot of pictures because John said they get a kick out of seeing them.

To Be Continued…

Earthquakes, Typhoons, God

November 14, 2015

It was 3:40 a.m., I was not really sleeping hard because my husband was having one of his sleepless nights, tossing and turning, and getting in and out of bed… I was dreaming that I heard our jeepney, which has a very loud motor.  I heard John say, “Earthquake!” and I woke to feel, and even hear, the last of it.  It’s like, by the time your mind processes what is going on, it is all over, preventing one from really getting the full experience… All you have to go on are fuzzy recollections of a bizarre moment.  Were the walls really shaking in the dark moonlit room?  Was my bed actually moving?  The electricity went off simultaneously and we both got up and went outside.  We could see many flashlights down the hill and hear people talking but everything appeared calm.  The stars still hung breathtakingly in the sky.  No one suffered any damage.  The idea of earthquakes, although scary in itself, does not rank on the top of my ‘what do you fear most list,’ as we don’t live in a big city with towering buildings.  Even if a house were to fall here in this area, due to an earthquake, they are mostly constructed of bamboo and would most likely not cause serious injury.  And it could easily be put back together.  Yes, our home is concrete, but not the part above us.  Now a typhoon, on the other hand, ranks highly on that list… especially after that last one…

I felt like a crazy newscaster as I walked with the wind pushing my back, and cold sideways rain piercing my skin.  We had walked down to the beach to check on everyone, as the wind and rain had calmed.  Trees were down everywhere, bamboo huts blown completely away, signs twisted and far from where they had originally hung.  Large rocks blocked the road, having been washed out of their resting places.  We saw families finding shelter in concrete restrooms used for tourists, or huddled in with others who had concrete homes.  We invited people to stay with us and we did end up having overnight visitors later on.  As we headed back up to our home, everything was picking back up again and I wondered if this was the eye of the storm… If so, isn’t the back half supposed to be worse? Could we withstand worse?  Sure enough, the weather attacked again, seemingly with all it had.  John stood atop a makeshift step stool, on top of our concrete kitchen counter, to pull the roof back down.  He tied it with rope to an exposed rebar.  It rained inside of our house for a few days and was so loud that you could not hear the person yelling next to you.  Our kitchen flooded and I had to stand in water to cook our meals on a two burner stove with a hose that connects to a propane tank.  The wind was so strong in there, that even though the house is enclosed, I had to block the fire to keep it from going out.  Tin from our chicken house / shed would whip through the air at razor sharp speed.  The sound was terrifying.  When it appeared that the storm was finally coming to an end, we ventured out again.  We saw much of the same… and the trees that remained standing were completely stripped bare, as if it were the dead of winter.  Yet, there is no winter here.  We had a lot of clean up work to do, things to dry out, mend, rebuild, rake up, replant… And we had to do it all without electricity or water.  Not only, was our place quite a sight, but we were as well.  We made the best of it and joked about who smelled the worst… and John made me laugh by saying, “Your face is dirty. Your hair is all askew. But you’re still the prettiest woman a man ever set eyes on.” If that sounds familiar to anyone, that is a line Charles Ingalls used on Caroline in one of my favorite “Little House on the Prairie” episodes.  We got to have several candle light dinners, have waxy fingers, tell stories worthy of a flashlight under the chin.  We even had candlelight Wednesday night church.  Riley got to build muscles by hauling water up from the well just so we could flush, wash dishes, cook, etc… And the people got to catch an abundance of their favorite fish, “Bangus,” which is what we call milk fish.  There were so many up along the shore from the typhoon, that they were selling them for 5 pesos per kilo… which is like less than one cent!  Also, there was plenty of firewood!

Everyone here was physically okay.  But I did hear of a family in a nearby barangay losing their one year old.  A mango tree fell on the child.  And the relatives of one of our church family’s lost a sister-in-law in a barangay even further away.  The children explained to me that she was only around 19, had given birth just a few days before she died.  She did not go to the hospital.  They said she was crazy and possessed by a witch because she had sores all over her and her baby died too.  I asked an adult who speaks more English what she knew about that, she said she didn’t know much but it was something like that…

You know…

I once so easily dismissed stuff like this as impossible and pretty much complete nonsense, but I find that now… with all that I have experienced… this stuff is not a joke… which brings my thoughts to Halloween… Here they don’t call it Halloween or even celebrate it on the same day.  It is the next two days, November 1st and 2nd… known as the “Day of the Dead,” or “All Saints Day.”  It is a school holiday and families go to cemeteries to remember loved ones that have passed away.  On Sunday, after church, which was November the 1st, the younger youth girls started talking to me about their family members who have died, as well as the lost loved ones of other families.  I had no idea that so many had lost someone so close.  Most all of them had had a sibling pass away, either due to illness, or an accident.  It made me so sad to hear and know.  One 13 year old said her sister had something wrong with her mouth, like maybe a cleft palate by the way she described it.  She said she was still beautiful though.  She spoke of her with such adoration…  Another had a brother who fell out of a tree as he was getting fruits…  The stories were endless… and heartbreaking…

The boy who lost his father almost three months ago, still comes regularly and is here during a lot of his free time.  They have all been making marble guns, the youth boys, Lee, Riley, Liam, and John.  One day it was John, Riley, and three boys… and I realized that all three of those boys no longer had a father.  When John came back in, I told him that.  I said you are being a father to the fatherless.  He said he realized what I had realized while he was out there and that is why he spent so much time with them… He enjoys showing them things, working in the garden with them, teaching them… Just last night I was cooking, and one of the boys asked if I needed any help, I said sure and gave him an extra knife to cut the carrots.  He was so funny.  He kept pretending to be a chef calling himself, “Master Chef Marwin.”  He repeatedly told me about how John had given him a high five earlier that day.  It made my heart grin to see the joy he had in that simple gesture.  Goodness I love these kids!

And now about Angel… the social workers asked me to provide pictures of Angel from the time we first got her until now.  I had an appointment to be accompanied by a social worker to a town three hours away, which is the nearest main office, but it was rescheduled again for somewhere between the 23rd and 27th of this month.  Please be in prayer for that… I went all-out on the pictures for the time being… I got a photo album, and Kendall and I had all kinds of fun drawing, coloring, and decorating it.  I have never been a scrapbooker. I mean who has time for that!?  It was very time consuming and I worked on it over several days.  Granted I don’t have an entire scrapbooking aisle and a Walmart to shop at, so I had to make do with what I had.  Some of the pages are quite cute, and others reveal that I was getting desperate and running out of materials… And there are still a few pages not quite finished, but… I wanted to show you anyway.  So next you will see a series of pics that make up my Angel book… Hope you enjoy…

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It’s a Wonderful Life!

September 17, 2015

As we were preparing for our trip to Hong Kong, I was stressing.  It was raining and the clothes were not drying.  I was trying to have clean school clothes for Angel, pesos set aside for her lunches and tricycle service, and just get her prepared physically and mentally for our time away from her.  I was trying to pack and clean and wash sheets for the visiting Pastor and company who were going to stay in our house, while already having visitors here with us.  But not only was my list not getting checked off, it was getting longer.  The more I tried to pack, and approve of the clothes my children chose to pack, the more I realized we didn’t have any nice clothes to wear!  The kids pants were like they were waiting for a flood, and Liam had at least one hole in each of his shirts. It was nuts!  John assured me that we would have plenty of time to shop in Manila before our flight.  So we left, having done as much as we could, with apologies and requests for things left undone before the Pastor arrived.  Angel seemed happy as I sent her off to school before we left, which made me feel better.  We loaded into the van with our mini suitcases mostly empty. But as we drove off, it was a relief just to not be rushing and double checking everything anymore.  I sat with the satisfaction of knowing that if I forgot something, it was too late now anyway, and there was nothing I could do about it.  Ah, what a relief!  In Manila we shopped and shopped and shopped. Even though, we were at what seemed like big stores that have it all… they did not! Kendall wears a 9 in shoes and no one… I mean no one had that size in any shoe that she wanted.  It is even hard to find my size… 8.  But we settled and found stuff that would work for her.  Neely was the easiest.  And Kendall had to pull me out of her department.  Everything was just so darn cute!  We shopped so long, my feet were killing me and it was nearing time to go but there were still things on my list!! It seems as though my lists never get completely checked off…  Then we rushed to throw the stuff in our bags and get taxis to take us to the airport.  We made it before the boys, as John, Kendall, Neely and I went in one taxi.  Lee, Riley, and Liam were in the other.  When they finally got there, we sped walked in, only to find that we were at the wrong terminal!  And the one we needed to be at, was at least 30 minutes away!!! This taxi driver heard and told us to all get in.  We were relieved to just be together because the traffic is outrageous and being split is just difficult in itself.  Okay, now picture this… night time…stuffy heat…people everywhere…a little taxi car… don’t ask me what kind… I don’t pay attention to these kind of things… It was just a small car (white…I do pay attention to color 😉 )…  John got crouched down in the front with the driver, while Liam and I slid in with Neely on one of his legs and on one of mine.  Then Kendall squeezed in next to me, and Riley beside her and we had to compress to shut the door.  Lee tried to get in front with John but it was not possible, so he came to the back with us.  At this point, Riley sat on my one free leg, and on one of Kendall’s, while holding most of his weight up, by grabbing the bar above Lee’s door and the seat in front of him.  It was hot.  There was no air conditioner.  I had to turn my head to the side to breathe and then someone… I won’t mention who, could not hold in his gas.  It could’t have been more well played out than any comedy movie.  We were laughing so hard we were crying, gasping for air.  Stressful situations tend to do that to me and it seems as though it was passed down to my kiddos.  What’s crazier is the driver slowed down in like an ally trying to negotiate a price!!  And promised to get us there in 10 minutes.  John was like What?!?!  It’s like 30 minutes away at least!  He said, “I get you there.  You give me 1,000 pesos. If no 10 minute, free.”  Insert thought:  (Is it okay for missionaries to bet with a taxi driver?)  Lee set his watch and literally started announcing the minutes.  We did some crazy leaning this way and that down some dark questionable streets.  Do you know that we were there in 8 minutes!!!  Seriously, it was unreal!  We all thanked God for the crazy taxi driver and the action-packed ride that brought us even closer together… 😉  We hurried through the baggage check and metal detectors… And when we finally got to the last window where we got stamped to go, they would not let Lee through.  The woman said that he needed more proof that he would return to the Philippines.  We showed his return ticket but she said that wasn’t enough.  (I am wondering… what other proof can one get?…) We said what about us?  We are his proof.  She told us to wait and took him on a hike across the airport.  We stood there dumbfounded and watching for a while, when John said, “Come on!”  We followed them and were stopped again, as only Filipinos could pass that certain point.  We waited and waited counting down the minutes to our flight.  Finally, a guard came and got us and we had to sit with an airport official and explain our reason for having Lee with us.  He asked if we were willing to vouch for his return.  I had to fill out a paper with all kinds of info and sign this and that saying that I believed he would return to the Philippines.  The clock was ticking but they let us go.  Our hearts were still racing from the rushing we did as we sat on the plane while it was taking off.  We gave thanks again to our awesome God!

Hong Kong was nice.  I allowed myself to sit and contemplate … ‘Mandi you are in Hong Kong!  Hong Kong!!!  Jackie Chan… Kong Fu… This time I decided I was going to experience it.  We rode the subway, which was just cool in itself… also totally movie like.  We rode a cable car to see the giant statue of a buddha on a small mountain.  It was interesting and kind of erie.  Several people, like us, were simply there to see a piece of history and a work of art created at human hands.  It was really a stunning sight, this giant statue poised up so high, literally among the clouds.  Along the path leading to the buddha were twelve life size statues up on pedestals that were guards.  Each guard held a different weapon and represented a different kind of animal.  Once we got past the guards, it took over 200 steps up a steep stairway leading to the buddha. At its base were a circle of smaller statues, still much larger than us.  These statues appeared to be making different offerings as they knelt down before the buddha.  There were signs that read, “Please do not throw coins.”  Yet there were coins on the ground all around them.  As we continued on along another path, it led to a large area where incense was being burned.  There were people at different sections burning them, some with their children in tow.  John saw one girl burn a bag of some kind of clothes in the main big fire in the middle.  It tugged at my heart to see people placing hope in this false god.  I mean, in my life I have seen people serving false gods such as money, most of the time unknowingly, but to see actual idol worshipping, was unsettling.  It made me super uneasy.  After we passed through all of that, we stopped and John wanted to pray.  (I guess I wasn’t the only one.)  So all 7 of us join hands off to the side but within sight of anyone walking by, and we prayed.  The rest of our experience was nice.  We visited a museum, a roller coaster / sea animals park.  It was the first time for any of us to see dolphins and sea lions doing tricks, which was really neat!  I froze from the air conditioners everywhere we went, taxis, subway, hotel, stores… It was great to just drink a hot cup of coffee as I curled up under a big, thick comforter…which completely lived up to its name…  It was funny because one night, in the hotel room, the kids started talking about how clean their feet were.  I heard a series of “Look how clean mine are,” as I saw feet raised in the air.  “I don’t remember who, but someone said, “I don’t think my feet have ever been this clean!”  Ha!  We had Bible study in our room and John talked about Shadrach, Mechach, and Abednego, and how they stood up for their faith even though it meant them being sentenced to die.  He talked about how not far from us, Christians have to do just that.  When we prayed, we asked for opportunities to be bold, trusting God with the outcome.  Later that day, I sat next to a woman, by the pool, watching my kids play and have fun together.  Neely and Liam started playing with her son and I asked her how old he was and his name and stuff like.  She asked how many children I have, which got me on Angel, and before I knew it, I was sharing my whole testimony with her.  She was very inquisitive and never ended up stating what her faith was, but I trusted God to do His thing with that, and I felt good that I didn’t hold back how merciful God has been to me.  And last but not least to our trip… our stomachs… They are thoroughly satisfied with all the American food chains we found to eat at… I can still hear my son excitedly exclaiming… “There is a baked potato on my plate!”  And can I just say thanks a million to the people whom God used to make this possible!  Really, I am so overwhelmed by your love and generosity… My mind swells with thoughts of you that cannot form their way into words for the love you have poured out onto my family.  We are so blessed by you!

Going through the airport on the Hong Kong side was much easier and we had a few hours to use their wifi and eat some last minute burgers.  The flight back was as before, a little over an hour and a half.  Once we reached the Philippines, the negotiating began, first with the taxi to the bus station…  which actually, because of the traffic, took longer than our flight.  The driver was trying to avoid the horrific traffic and took all kinds of side streets, had to make a few turnarounds, and fit through some tight squeezes, as children, vendors, etc. filled the streets… some clearly living there.  A tinge of guilt made its way into my thoughts, though I fought it back down by remembering the laughter and joy on my children’s faces, but still… I couldn’t help it.  All these people never knowing anything but this… scrounging and scraping for the basic necessities of survival… all too easy to forget when I am away, even if only for a few days…

A six hour bus ride later, we were in Bolinao with just an hour tricycle ride to go…  If you have never ridden in a tricycle, it should be on your bucket list… It always makes me smile just because it is like the coolest thing ever… a motorcycle with a side mini carriage. I mean really… The rain had ceased, thank the Lord, otherwise we would have had a wet ride home.  But I sat, and felt the salty air blowing against my face and through my hair, which I knew would be hopelessly tangled once it was all said and done, but not really caring… and I thought about how wonderful my life really is…  It’s a Wonderful Life… my favorite Christmas movie ever…  You know when George Bailey gets his life back, and he’s running joyfully exclaiming aloud that he loves everything and everyone… even though everything still remains the same as it was before… He even kisses the lose knob on the handrail that always drove him nuts before.  Well, that is how I felt in that moment.. I love you you silly tiny unusual vehicle!  I love you unavoidable potholes!  I love you toilets that flush with a bucket of water!  I love you filthy public restrooms that never have toilet paper and charge based on the nature of my bathroom visit!  I love you double dead fish smell!  I love that my family escaped such luxuries, that we got to relive in Hong Kong, to really see life… and how wonderful it really is!

“Still”

August 21, 2015

My 11 year old son, Liam, knows that his two little 8 and 7 yr old sisters won’t really listen to him, so he told them to go see Riley, our oldest son, who is 16, because they were arguing with each other.  Riley is often left in charge, and what does he do to resolve the situation?  He whispers in Angel’s ear and then whispers in Neely’s.  Then he says, “Okay Angel, what do you tell Neely?”  She proceeds to say, “You have pickle breath.”  Then he says, “Okay Neely, what do you say?”  Neely says, “You have pink poop with purple polka dots.”  And now that they are laughing, he says, “Okay what do y’all really say?”  And they tell each other they are sorry, give hugs and go play again….  Now that is wisdom… 😉

How can such joy and esteem in them be the source of my sorrow?  My love for my children stretches farther than any imaginable expanse.  My love for them helps me to get a glimpse of the love the Lord has for his children… It’s what helps me to grasp how far the east is from the west.

I try not to get lost in dream worlds and unrealistic happily ever afters.  But any small hope I carried of this is slowly fading away.  In the beginning, I saw all six of us, with our unexpected blessing, making us a family of seven, one day going back to America… and just living.  And now, my oldest is almost 17 and will soon be gone…  By the time we get back we won’t be whole anymore…  I know children get older, get their own lives, their own families… I just thought we would all have more time with Angel in America.

But this is only one aspect.  Another is when they get sick.  I pretty much get the lowest of lows during these times.  Since I have written last, they have battled with fevers, toothaches, earaches, infected pus-leaking blisters, rashes, lice, worms… Yes, worms!  Again!!  I despise these horrid creatures who think they can make their homes in the precious tender bodies of my babies.

One afternoon, Angel timidly revealed that she had one in her stool.  She showed us, and there it was, a long, live worm with the same thickness as a pencil.  My heart fell to my toes.

How could this be??  I had given them deworming medicine just before we moved into our home.  I had taken them to get their stools tested.  I had collected it in a ridiculously tiny bottle that was given me, along with a single plastic glove.  I distinctly remember reaching into the dirty hospital toilet and leaving the glove on the floor behind the toilet because there was no trashcan in sight.  It was tested…. There were no parasites!  So how could a worm this long be living inside of her??  I mean how fast do these things grow?

I had two bottles of deworming medicine left because I had given a few away for other children.  I made Angel and Neely drink them.  A couple of days later Angel had more come out in her stool but she hated having to go, terrified of the live creatures coming out.  I convinced her not to hold it in, or they might try to come out the other way… That same night, Neely kept gagging and saying she felt the same feeling she had before, like one was coming up her throat.  I stayed with her for hours giving her water, trying to get her to hack it up, looking down her throat with a flashlight… I had her sleep with me, so I could pull it out if need be.  The next few days, she, too, had worms come out in her stools.  The rest of us got and took medicine but none of us had any.  I gave them another lesson on hygiene and always, always, washing their hands before eating, using their spoons, and basically not eating or drinking away from home.  I will give them some more medicine again soon, just to make sure.  I am drained, especially that night with Neely.  I plead with God and feel so inept.  I declare that I am going home, to where my children are safe.

And then there are days like these…  Angelo came and got me, shirtless, with his extra large shorts barely hanging on to his extra tiny six year old body.  “Sister! Mamang there!”  He yelled with his best English accent.  I proceeded down the trail, careful not to slip on the mud.  As I came out of the trees, I saw the tricycle waiting for me just a few yards down.  It wasn’t an ordinary tricycle, with a mini carriage, which includes a seat for crouching down into.  No, this was a side car that I often see pigs in.  I even saw a poor cramped cow in one before.  I climbed in and sat on the metal side bar.  It was either there, or on the dirty, wet metal bottom. There were bars to hold onto just above my head.  The road was wet and bumpy.  I could not escape the muddy puddles we splashed through, nor did my head refrain from banging against the bars.  I looked in front of me, at the tiny framed mother holding her bony toddler.  He was bundled in an old worn out sweater,  She was trying to hang on, simultaneous to covering his ears from the slight chill in the air from a coming typhoon.  Her love was evident.  I know a little about her.  I have prayed with her before, and for her children.  I have seen her husband push her to the ground.  And I feel a sense of needing to stay.

And then there is me… My wisdom tooth kept trying to surface on the bottom left side.  But it was sideways and only partially exposed.  The part that was exposed got a big hole in it and started causing me pain… So I reluctantly agreed with my husband that I needed to get it taken out.  We went to the nearest relatively large city, an hour and a half away.  I had spoken with a dentist here before about my wisdom teeth and having an oral surgeon.  But she explained to me that there are none here… that if I wanted to sleep while I had it removed I would have to be admitted to the hospital, and be put to sleep like they do for patients that are having surgery and stay there for a few days.  Umm… I don’t think so…  So I knew going into this, that it would have to be pulled with numbing injections.  I have never experienced so much pain since giving birth.  I thought he was breaking my jaw in two.  I kept saying “No, no…”  because I just knew he was disconnecting my jaw.  I even pushed him off once.  After he finally got it out in three pieces, I started crying when I saw the kids. And then I couldn’t talk without crying.  I didn’t know what was wrong with me.  I guess the trauma of it all just hit me.  They kept asking me if I was okay but it made me cry more, no matter how much I fought it.  For a week my face was swollen, and I could not open my mouth wide enough to fit my pinky in.  John had to blend my food… and blended food just does not fill a body up.  I lost weight.  Some bruising showed up on the side of my lower cheek down into my neck.  I am finally able to open my mouth more and more, but still not all the way.  And I don’t feel like I have all the feeling back yet.  This was just over two weeks ago.  But the worst part is, once the swelling went down enough, I could feel something inside the hole.  It sure felt like a tooth.  John looked inside with a flashlight and revealed that sure enough, there is still tooth.  My poor husband.  I can see the pain behind his eyes in watching me suffer.  He blames himself, apologizes over and over again.  He is worried that I need to get the rest of it out.  I told him that I will never ever ever go to the dentist here again.  He wants to see if we can find an oral surgeon in Manila, 6 to 7 hours away.  He says that if there is not one there then I am going home to get this taken care of.  I don’t really know what to do.  I just keep trying not to think about it.  But it is hard not to when I still feel like I am carrying a rock around in my cheek.

During this time, we had a Pastor friend from Texas staying with us, someone who comes to visit us every year.  This time it was harder than ever to see him go.  And despite my tooth, I had a really good two weeks.  I could see how much my kids enjoyed him being here.  I could hear my husband gain back his Texas accent.  It’s just so nice to have somebody, who thinks like we do, here with us, encouraging us, allowing us to unload on him.  We weren’t ready for him to leave… It was much too soon.  I know the people here will miss him too and look forward to his return.  It just feels like home is so far away again.

As school begins again in the U.S.,  I see Moms all across America posting first day of school pics.  I get an inkling of sadness, but then I start to laugh at the thought of posting our first day of school pics… shoeless, shirtless, uncombed hair… I think I will…

I quit writing for a while… I quit letting everyone in…  I hate that sometimes I feel like giving up.  I hate that I can’t give up.  I mean a man just died here on Monday.  His 13 year old son came to church for the first time on Sunday, the very day before.  This man was not married and he cared for many children.  He gave them allowances to be able to go to school.  He fed and looked after them.  His home was almost like an orphanage…  He was also a devout Catholic.  How can I give up?  How can I throw in the towel on broken hearts and distraught faces?  A 13 year old clings to my side the day he died. She is currently staying with her grandmother as her mom finds work in another country, and she comes to our Bible studies regularly.  As she leans on me she says, “Sister, you’re like my mom. I miss my mom.”  Then she continually sings “Still,” one of her favorite songs in church.  And I sing along with her…

“Hide me now under your wing.  Cover me within your mighty hand. When the oceans rise and thunders roar, I will soar with You above the storm.  Father You are king over the flood.  I will be still, know You are God. Find rest my soul in Christ alone.  Know His power in quietness and trust. When the oceans rise and thunders roar, I will soar with You above the storm.  Father You are king over the flood.  I will be still know You are God.”

Photo on 7-30-15 at 4.37 PM IMG_20150705_093552 IMG_20150705_092327

Here’s What’s Been Going On…

April 4, 2015

Our little hill proved to be just that bit of umpf we needed to get an internet signal and it worked so great that first day we got it, but since then, it changes with the wind. John is still working with the internet guy for a better solution, but praise God for what we have!
Here’s what’s been going on here… We moved into an unfinished house, without electricity or water but we were all so happy to call this place our own. It was rough, but do-able. We went through many candles. (I don’t know what the fascination is with kids sticking their little fingers in hot wax and letting it dry.) Riley and Lee would go each day, to the well down the hill, to pull up a bucket several times and fill the containers with water, then haul it back up on their shoulders. I was expressing my gratitude because I know just carrying up a few hollow blocks of cement is completely exhausting, and here they were, carrying five gallon containers of water up the hill, and not just any ol’ hill… but a hill with sharp stones, spikey twigs, and uneven levels.
Riley expressed that the hard part was not carrying it up the hill, but pulling the bucket up the well with the water inside. Then he showed us the large biceps the extra work was giving him, just like he used to do when he was little. He makes us all laugh and never complains. We have lights and running water now, and boy do I love having these two luxuries. Our home is simple but sturdy. Everything… the floor, the walls, the counters… are concrete. But the roof is tin. Our toilets are typical Philippine toilets… no seats or lids, with a bucket of water and a smaller pail, for flushing purposes, beside it. The portion where the walls meet the roof is open, all the way around, so the house can have air flow. It is not yet bug proof, but they are planning to put some screening around that part to control the bugs, especially their attraction to the lights. (If it gets to be too much, I turn off the lights inside and turn on the light outside for a while, until they all swarm out there. Then I do it again if need be. John, Riley, and Lee made all our beds out of some scrap wood. (Sure am glad those are not made out of concrete.) I laughed when they put a headboard on mine. “It has a headboard!” I exclaimed. I guess it has been a while since I have had a bed with a headboard. I hadn’t really noticed until I had one again. The tin roof is super loud when the rain hits it, but it hasn’t rained all that much yet, not enough to call it rainy season. Let’s just call it super hot season. The technique here is to get up with the sun and do everything… all your cleaning in the morning, then you rest for the middle part of the day, because just breathing will make you sweat. Then, you resume your work as the sun begins to descend.

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One of the little girls I teach in Sunday School, who is two or three years old, was sick the other day. She had bolate, which means worms. Her mom told me that she kept vomiting and that four long worms came out, so they took her to the doctor and got deworming medicine, something for the dehydration, and pain reliever. I spent time with her as she lay their on a bamboo table, atop a comforter I had given her. Her mother expressed to me, “She likes so much this blanket you give.” The little girl kept crying out every so often in pain. They were trying to get her to eat or drink but she wasn’t very interested. After talking for a while, I learned that the mother also has worms sometimes in her stools. I told her that she needs to get rid of them, that they are only becoming more, and getting bigger, and that it is not healthy. Then a few of the other mothers there, said that they also have worms. I was telling them the medicine they need to take and that I can get some when I go to town next time. They asked if the worms come out dead or alive. When I told them that the worms are still alive, having had the unforgettable experience with Angel, they all screamed and said, “Oh I don’t like!” I said, “But they need to come out!” They are afraid… for one, because, well I imagine having something wiggle its way out of you, is probably the strangest of feelings, and two, because many of them have seen or have heard horror stories of these worms coming out of the mouth, ears, and even the eyes. I am sure, many of you remember the story of the worm coming out of Neely’s throat. That was quite an experience I must say, and I wasn’t the one it was happening to… Just thinking about what that must have felt like is a horrible thought. So I can understand their concern, but I don’t think I could sleep at night knowing that I had worms inside of me. Since then, the littIe girl has recovered and is doing just fine, and her mom jokes that when she eats, she shares her food with her intestinal friends. I jokingly told her I was going to pour the medicine into her drink when she wasn’t looking… Really though, I am going to get some medicine… and I am going to try my darnedest to convince them to swallow it down. And once they do, three days later… there is no turning back. 🙂

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Our dogs… oh my word our dogs… One Sunday, our oldest dog, about a year old, named GusGus, and perfectly healthy, kept throwing up. The next day, he didn’t want to eat much, but still seemed pretty sturdy. By Wednesday, he was dead, found by one of the kids behind the boys kubo. “Sister Mandi, Sister Mandi, natay ni GuGus,” the boy shouted. It was always hard for the children to pronounce the first ’s’ in GusGus. Riley had to lift him onto a board and put him into the fresh hole he dug, and when he lifted him, all kinds of grotesque liquids spilled from his body. It was like he was liquified from the inside out. It was strange. I asked around about it and they were saying maybe bolate. John got some worm medicine in town and we gave it to the other dogs. Soon after, our other dog, about five months old, named Jandi, began showing signs of illness, with snotty eyes and vomiting, but she kept eating and kept walking, unlike our two little puppies, that belonged to Neely and Angel. They got sick too. They were cute, fat, and so playful, until I found one of them lying in its own vomit. He didn’t make it much longer after that. Its eyes turned a glazed over blue and then it wouldn’t eat, only laid there to die, whining on and off. After the first puppy died, and the next was obviously headed that way, John hit the other in the head, rather than let it lay there and suffer. He said he didn’t want to do that again. He has had to put animals down before, but he always had a gun for that. Jandi kept hanging on, and seemed to be recovering. She never quit eating and was such a fighter. But her eyes kept snotting for about a month, and then, she became blind, with that blue look to her eyes as well. But she kept wagging her tail, and kept eating. Then she got this big knot under her chin that somehow opened and kept leaking, and then one under her arm. She seemed to be getting weaker and weaker, but she kept eating and wagging her tail. One day, she finally laid down, and started whimpering, and we thought okay, she is showing signs of pain now, so John and Lee prepared to do the deed, but she stood up and wagged her tail and began to walk again. She was fighting so hard and Lee said she doesn’t want to die. John couldn’t do it. Kendall followed Jandi wherever she went throughout the day and would give us updates, but as night fell, she lay there whimpering, refusing to eat. I gathered the girls inside to prepare for bed. They hadn’t known that Daddy had to put the puppy down, and he didn’t want them to know about this one either. I told John I don’t want anymore dogs. All we do is bury them. I think he is in agreement as he has had his fill of being the man… the husband, the father, the leader who has to, not only make such decisions, but carry them out. It’s not like in the U.S., where we can just take it to the vet, and our human meds proved to be of no aide. Our cat, named Uging, which means Charcoal, is still healthy, and our chickens are doing good. Only one died from an illness, like a cold, maybe similar to what the dogs had. But that was a while back, and the others appear to be just fine… that is, if they aren’t being squeezed to death by a snake. I don’t think I ever wrote about that, but we lost two chickens back a few months ago, before we moved, to a snake… a python, presumably. There were tracks and a half wet, squeezed chicken. The snake was never found.

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The other day, a man hollered up the trail to our house for Lee, carrying a dead rooster. It looked grand, full of bright colors, and very large. It appeared to be the fighting kind, that people raise around here for gambling purposes. Lee carried the rooster up to the door, as the man left, and explained that our rooster had killed this one, and so it now belonged to him. Apparently, ours got bored here because the hen is sitting on her eggs and not much else, so he wandered off and got himself into trouble. We were all pretty impressed that our little ol’ rooster could take down this big guy… Anyhow, Lee proceeded to pluck and clean it. And it was obviously a fighting one, as it had been sewn up in two places before… a rooster for a rooster… I just hope our little guy is not a fighter now.

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Can you imagine, first of all, being pregnant in your early forties… being a grandmother already… having had 12 children before this pregnancy… Not to mention, this is the woman whose husband was murdered a few years back, down the road from here. Though she seemed healthy, I was concerned for her, because I know that in the U.S., just her age alone, makes it a risky pregnancy. She had no doctor, no ultrasounds, no vitamins, nothing but experience. When her time came, just a few weeks ago, she had a surprise… twin girls. She had them in the heat, on the floor of her bamboo hut. Yep, that makes it fourteen now… Like I said… Can you imagine?? They are two cuties, both healthy, and a good weight. She had the two of them all bundled up, and I was thinking how hot they must have been. But they were sleeping peacefully, there beside their mother, right on the bamboo slat floor where they were born.

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Tourist season is well underway, which means that our church members are busy busy. Some have little kubos, that they rent out, some with just a roof and a bamboo table inside. Others catch fish, eels, octopus, and sea urchins, to sell. There are those who clean sheets, and pick up trash. Still others have little makeshift stores they sell various items in. Many of the men are building more kubos. The people here are quite the entrepreneurs… anything they can think of to sell to the tourists, they do it. Even nearby villagers come to try to earn money, sleeping in simple lean-tos or just on a bamboo bench. All of the children that are old enough to walk and talk, are walking along the beach selling shells. This is their livelihood, and they have only these three months to make most of their money for the remainder of the year. It is really a different life here and our own children are getting to experience it. They like for Kendall to sell with them, and for them, because she can speak the language and the people are so shocked, first of all, to see her selling, and second, because she can understand them and communicate with them… a sure winner for getting some shells sold. They give her a cut of the money for doing so, even though, at first, she refused, but they insisted because they said it is only fair. She takes it now because it is really like an insult not to. They feel better when she does. But she spends it at their stores and buys snacks for the little kids and all are happy. Neely, Angel, and Liam get in on the action too. The kids like for them to, and always come and ask me if they can. Neely has become quite good at the language as well. That girl is not scared of anything, which is worrisome. I was walking home with her today and she stopped at this man with a styrofoam attached to his bike and spoke to him in Tagalog, “Magkanu po (How much Sir)?” He smiled and answered her, and she searched in her wallet for ten pesos. As she searched she switched from Tagalog to Ilocano, “Adda chocolate (Is there chocolate)?” “Awan(none),” he continued in Ilocano. He gave her another flavored popsicle and she gave him the ten pesos and said, “Salamat Uncle.” ‘Salamat’ means ‘thank you’ and ‘Uncle’ is said to show respect in Ilocano, like ‘po’ means ‘sir’ in Tagalog. I just stood there and watched her in awe. I always talk to her about talking to strangers and what can happen to children, and the tricks someone might use to lure a child… and I almost got onto her for doing what she had just done… but I thought otherwise, as it is simply a different life here, where children are anywhere and everywhere they want to be, working to have money to go to school, only coming in when they are hungry… and often cooking for the whole family. I have heard, on several occasions, a parent telling his or her child to go home and cook, and the children are only like nine and ten years old.

While tourist season is good on income, it is not good on church attendance. We moved our Saturday night Bible studies to Wednesday nights. They wanted Saturday before, but now it is just not feasible, so we voted to move it to Wednesday. And Sundays are just so busy for them. One Sunday, we were waiting and waiting and we had one man show up, a man who is faithfully here every chance he gets. I knew John was disappointed but he said, “Well let’s get started. God’s got a plan and if it’s only one today, it’s only one.” We pulled all of chairs together in a circle and began. About twenty minutes later I saw a woman walking up the hill with two kids in tow. I recognized her as the one who came right at the beginning, but she was shy and never came back… and here she was, trudging up our hill, unexpectedly, to join us for Sunday Service. I felt such enormous joy leaping inside to see her again. She sat and joined us and spoke often, affirming what she understood. All in all, we only had one other woman come that day with her baby. We had a good time learning together and prayed together for those who were not with us. We also, at their request, gave thanks to God for all of the work being given to the people.

One day, I was visiting some of the members, when I saw one of the men, who comes on and off, drunk and staggering down the road. His wife got up to fetch him and was pulling his arm. I think she was telling him to go home and pointing out to him that I was there, because he kept looking at me after that, with a sort of regret in his eyes. But he kept having to stop and sit down, until at last, he laid down and passed out… right in the road. His wife kept pulling at him. Many kids were standing around him and pulling him as well. These are all children that come on Sundays. One girl, the same age as Neely, kept stomping her feet at him, shouting, “Uncle, aggawid kan (Go home)!” The wife just sat there in front of him, waiting. His daughter looked on from a distance but mostly ignored the situation. The kids successfully pulled him off the road and he woke up, threw up a few times, and then his wife helped him home. It was really quite strange to witness. Not long after that, this man came to our house and asked for a ride to the hospital because his daughter, who is 12 or 13 was sick. John has taken several people to the hospital before this, but I don’t know if I have written about any of them. Anyway, his daughter is now fine and he and his wife came the last service we had.

Things like these are hard, and sometimes we wonder if anything we are doing here is taking effect, or not. I have asked John, and he has asked me, on separate occasions, “What are we doing here?” And both of us have to reassure one another… We take turns giving in to our weaknesses, like when John can’t be there for this father, who is about to undergo bypass surgery, with major blockage. Please keep him in your prayers. But there are times when we know that people are getting it… like when one man who comes, more often than not, and has many questions regarding the Jehovah Witness beliefs, personalizes the lesson we are trying to teach, revealing his own enlightenment. We still don’t have a church building to call home, but for now, we hold the services on our porch, not completely screened in yet, but enough to keep chickens and other animals out… And we are not right by the road anymore, so it is much less noisy. We thank God for that, and for all the people who have blessed us with constant prayers and donations. May God bless you abundantly. Though times get rough and hard to bare, we turn to God, who never fails to console us and push us on. My devotion brought me to Jesus and what he did, as we are about to celebrate Easter. This verse really stuck out to me and comes to mind time and time again her lately…

“Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify you name!”
John 12: 27-28