Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Christmas party for my friends at the bridge

Most people would just see a group of people casually dressed having a simple party. However, As I looked closer I noticed that there was something different about my friends that day. This was a special event for them, everyone was showered, dressed up, and some of the ladies were even wearing make-up; a luxury that is sparingly used. I was even surprised to see that a few of them were using some old 35mm camera's to take pictures.

I passed by this local fast food restaurant many times over the last several years, but to be hosting a party in it for the people who live under the bridge that lay around the block from it had never entered my mind. Starting with showing love to one needy man I was now touching the lives of over 75 men, women, and children. What a privilege God has given me!

Our party started with a few dances from some of the kids. This was followed by a couple testimonies. My friend Nestor shared how as a child he witness his father and brother's executions. He went on to live a life and crime until God saved him in prison. Now his life is dedicated to serving God and sharing the good new of how God had forgiven his many sins and made him a new person inside and out. After the testimonies I showed a 10 minute video that I had put together of my friends from the bridge. They were cheering and laughing as they watched pictures of themselves, family and friends set to popular Filipino music and "Lord I lift your name on high" which they enjoy singing at our bible study.

After dinner we had the kids taken to another room where they played games and had a time of teaching and sharing the gospel. Josette used some material from Evangelism Explosion for youth. May of the kids were engaged as they heard that Jesus receives into his family everyone trusts in Him alone. These kids not only get to hear these words, but they get to see the love of Christ lived out before their eyes as we go to minister to them each week.

I invited my friend pastor Noel Alberto to give a special message for the teens and adults. From Luke chapter one he taught how Jesus came to be born as man while remaining the Son of God so that He could pay for our sins. After a powerful message he invited everyone to pray on their knees and asked those who wanted to receive and follow Jesus to raise their hands. I was blessed to see many respond. Some were praying, some were crying, and all were having a good time. The coming days will give opportunity to see fruit in their lives to demonstrate the genuiness of their hearts.

We all had a great time together as friends and family. This was a special time that I pray will be the first of many parties to come that will continue throughout eternity. I know that the families were blessed and that God has been pulling at a lot of hearts at Manalo Bridge. Pray with me that they would all know Jesus as their Lord and Savior and that they would long for their Father in heaven who desires to prepare beautiful homes a from them in heaven.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Loving those who love the gifts, but not the gift giver

Finding balance between meeting physical needs and spiritual needs can be quite tricky. There is a part of me that wants to do and give everything I can to help those who are in need. I can see myself giving up more in my life to help some of the endless needs of the poor. At the same time I can see how giving too much can be a hinderance to the gospel. The problem is that people become more interested in the gifts than God, the gift giver. I'm sure that some of the people that I am ministering to fall into that category.
Right now I am in the process of helping a few of my friends from the bridge who have few to no teeth in getting false teeth. Two of them seem to be genuinely excited about the Lord and are faithful in reading and learning the word of God. Another is clearly not, but he is a regular attender to the bible studies we provide. However, there are a couple of possible reasons for this. It could be that he is attending the bible studies because he feels obligated due to the help I have given him and his family. It is also possible that he could be thinking that a one hour bible study each week is a small price to pay in exchange for what he has already recieved and for the possibility of getting more stuff in the future.

Let me just say that I don't help people in the hopes that they will feel indebted to me. And I don't help people simply to create opportunities to share the gospel (However, I don't mind that meeting phyiscal needs does create opportunities). Actually, I can't help but to help the needy. God has made me in a way that I find great joy in helping them physically, but even more, spiritually. I often remember that I was spiritually dead, a needy sinner, underserving and desperatly in need of help. God mercifully reached out to me, forgave me, and helped an undeserving guy like me. With that reality ringing in my head and heart, I can't help but be moved and motivated to help others. I really do enjoy it.

I do what I can with the limited resources that God has given me to help the poor with their physical needs. More importantly, I always try to do the most loving thing that I could possibly do - I share with them the best thing that I have, Jesus Christ. If I merely feed them, give them clothes, medicine, an encouragement, I would be selfishly hording my greatest treasure for myself.
So how much giving of material things is too much? I believe that we should give enough to show love and meet desperate needs, but not so much that the reciever becomes focused on the gift rather than the gift giver (who ultimately is God). I imagine that having the right balance will be a life long challange. I also realize that there will always be some who will take advantage of me and who are not really sincere about Christ, but in the end, those who truly embrace Christ make it all worth it.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

O-yaah, Kool-Aid and butter, the drink of "Little monsters"

You know, sometimes us parents are just not fast enough. It was five something in the morning and my ears woke to the sound of, "milk", "milk." Tyler took at late nap the day before so he was only up for about an hour before it was time for bed again. The result was that he woke up very early. Struggling to open my eyes I cracked them just enough to see his dark form. The sun hadn't come up yet and I wasn't about to get up yet either. I told him to wait a little while and to lay back down.

About an hour later I got out of bed and got ready so that I could take Grace to school and drop Jess off at the train. As I walked down stairs I was met by Tyler who had a big smile on his face. He said, "I have milk daddy." Right now, Tyler is at that age where all liquid such as fresh juice, Kool-Aid, etc. is milk and all meat is chicken. I could see that he had a cup in his hand, but I didn't recognize the concoction that was inside it. There was red powder and chunks of some soft yellowy substance. I took the cup from him and walked into the kitchen to try and discover what he had gotten into. I found a small plastic stool pushed up against our kitchen table. On top of the table was a canister of Kool-Aid and a container of butter (some say Parkay). The butter now had red swirls through it and I was too afraid to look into the Kool-Aid container. That will teach me not jump up and get his "milk" as soon as he asks for it!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

A living picture of the Gospel

After about six hours of waiting in lines and several heart tests later, we were finally able to see the doctor. Charlita and Ariel know that their son has some kind of problem with his heart, but I could see the shock in Charlita’s face when the doctor told her that Chariel needs surgery to repair his defective heart. She asked him if they could just give him some “gamot” (medicine). The doctor held back a surprised smile and said no. I could tell that she was in deep thought as she stood motionless while trying to grasp what this all meant. Her eyes began to water, but she held back the tears and did her best to compose herself as she listened to the doctor. Dr. Manrique explained the results of the tests that Chariel had taken. His heart has various defects including an obstruction in one of the valves and it is enlarged (I believe because it has been struggling to get more oxygen into his blood).

The good news is that the defects in his heart are not beyond repair, but fixing it is going to require two surgeries. I’m not a doctor, but I will attempt to explain the situation as best I can. If you would rather not read my feeble attempt at describing the technical details about the heart just skip down a few paragraphs.

The heart has four chambers; right and left atrium on the top, and right and left ventricle on the bottom. Normally, (starting from the right ventricle) the blood travels through a valve to the lungs so that it can be oxygenated. Then it returns to the heart through the left atrium, passes through a value and proceeds to the left ventricle. From there it is pumped through another valve to the aorta which distributes the blood to the various parts of the body to deliver oxygen and nutrients. The blood then returns to the right atrium to repeat the process.

In Chariel’s case, some defect is basically allowing some blood to bypass the lungs and go straight to the body without being oxygenated (making his fingers and toes blueish) or unoxygenated blood is mixing with oxygenated blood through a hole in the between the right and left atrium.

I believe the reason Chariel needs two surgeries is that one of his heart valves is too small to handle the increased blood flow that would result from the repairs to normalize his heart. This means that the surgeon will have to first do a temporary shunt to reroute some of the blood flow until the valve grows large enough (in a year or two) to be able to handle the increased blood flow expected to result from the second operation. The second operation will repair the defect in the heart and remove the shunt from the first operation.

We found out that the cost of the first surgery will be about $3000 and the second surgery will be about $7000-$8000. We are applying for government assistance, but we don’t know if they will help us in part, in whole, or at all. If you have read my blog before, then you probably know that Charlita, Ariel, and Chariel are 1 of about 15 families living under a bridge in Manila. They have no running water or electricity. It’s doubtful that Charlita and Ariel could come up with the $10-$11 thousand dollars in their entire lifetime. Ariel told me that he usually only gets work a couple of times a week and often goes weeks without work. Based on that, I estimate that during a good month (one in which when he finds work at least two days every week) he would make about $48 dollars a month. That’s about $1.60 a day for the whole family to live on! While driving home I told them that I don’t know how we will pay for the surgeries, but not to worry, God will provide. I probably would not normally say that, but from some reason I believe He will this time.

When we got back to the bridge several of the families there came to me to find out the latest with Chariel. As I began explaining to them the situation I again saw that Charlita did not fully understand the seriousness of Chariel’s condition. For a second time she appeared to be shocked. This time she was shocked when she heard me tell the others that the doctor said Chariel’s longest life expectancy would probably been in his teens if he did not have these surgeries. They were probably to numb to even being thinking about their little three year hold having his chest opened and having human hands working on his heart.

I think that everyone living at the bridge was shocked when they heard the cost of the operation. I could hear many of them repeating the words, “That’s over a half million pesos!” I could understand the sense of hopelessness that Charlita and Ariel must have felt when they heard what seems to be a price beyond their ability to pay for the life saving operations for their only child. What a powerful way that God has given me to share with them how God is experienced in paying for debts that are beyond our ability to pay. I will use this opportunity to share with them how God paid the penalty of our sins with the life of His only Son. They have heard the gospel through my friend Pastor Sonny and me several times, but now they will get to see a living illustration of it.

My wife Jessica and I were able to cover the 5,000 pesos for the heart tests, but the cost of the surgeries is beyond what we can do on our own. I now plead with you and all who read this to let God use you to show his love for His people at the bridge. Consider proclaiming to this family and community how great God is by making a sacrifice to help Chariel. Lets illustrate the gospel together not only in words, but also in deed.

Monday, November 13, 2006

She knew her son was different, but she didn't know why

Our Sunday afternoon Bible study at the bridge is going well. The other day as Pastor Sonny taught from the word of God, I was able to show a few visitors from our mission (Pastor Paul and Judy Snuffer) the ministry. It gives me great joy to see Robert, my first friend from the bridge, leading the worship songs, everyone paying attention, reading along in their bibles, and asking questions. I was amazed to see for the second week in a row a few visitors from outside. I am also enjoying seeing friendships deepen among the people at the bridge like I had not observed there before.

As usual, its always fun to see the little ones in their bible study. Pastor Paul took a few good pictures that I thought I'd share. Merriam has been faithfully teaching the children and we were pleased to have her sister Marife join us for the first time this week. Josette also faithfully helps teach the children, which allows us to separate them into there age groups and teach them better. We were also able to move the kids Bible study from a small space under the bridge to a larger shanty. It blesses me to see the kids looking forward to teachers Meriam and Josette's coming each week. They usually follow us out to the car and wave us good-bye.

After the study we all sat around talking when I could see the pain in the face of one of the mothers. Her name is Charlita. She was holding her son Chariel in her arms as she began to cry and tell us there story. I had noticed Chariel before, but only from a distance. He is a three year old little guy who is always in his mom's arms and cries a lot. He is one of the few children who does not join the other kids for the bible study. His mom comes when she can, and now I understand when Chariel doesn't join the other kids. Seeing him up close I noticed that his lips, fingers, and toes are blue.

Charlita told me that she wanted to tell me earlier, but felt ashamed to ask for help. She knew that her son was different, but she did not know why or what the problem was until just a few days earlier. Her only son Chariel was having difficulty breathing and passed out. They took him to a doctor and right away he knew that Chariel has a heart problem. It was a blessing the Pastor Paul and Judy were there because they were able to share that over 30 years ago their son was also a blue baby and had to have his heart repaired. I told Charlita that I would help them as much as I can.

The next day I picked up Charlita, her husband Ariel, and Chariel (Charlita + Ariel = Chariel). First we went to Philippine General Hospital (PGH). As we were driving I could hear Chariel laboring to breath. I began thinking about the man who was blind from birth in John 9:1-3. In verse two, His disciples asked Jesus, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus replied in verse three, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life." Was this why Chariel was born with a defective heart? Is the Lord going display Himself to Chariel and the people from the bridge through His power and love?

When we arrived at the PGH emergency room the doctors told us that he needed to be admitted so that they could run some tests. They assured me that he was welcome, but they also warned me that at the time, it was TWO PEOPLE PER BED. They wanted to make sure that we were okay with that before they admitted Chariel. Then what I had observed began to makes sense. I saw several beds with more than one patient on them. I saw children hooked up to breathing machines laying next to children hooked up to heart monitors on the same bed. The doctor told us that we could also go to the Philippines Heart Center. Charlita and Ariel left it up to me (which is the culturally correct thing for a Filipino to do). I decided to try the other hospital hoping that it would have more room and because it specializes in heart surgery.

At the Philippines Heart Center the doctor seemed a little irritated and asked Chariel's parents why they didn't have this problem correct soon after his birth. He said that the doctor who delivered Chariel should have recognized the problem right away and recommended the surgery. However, the doctor at the heart center quickly changed his tone as Charlita explained that they couldn't afford to have the baby in the hospital. They delivered the baby by themselves in their home. As the doctor explained to me the problem with Chariel's heart he pulled out a sheet of paper breaking down the costs of the surgery. If the tests determine that they can do the surgery, then it will cost about $7,000. That is cheap compared to having heart surgery in the U.S., but it is much more than missionary family can afford. We will ask the Philippine government for help, but if the Lord puts it on your heart to help, all of us over here would deeply appreciate it. Either way, all eyes are on God to see what He will do through us and you. Stay tuned. Click here to read what happened next.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Our Sandy Little Monster

(this one is by Jess)

He came running into our bedroom clearly in a panic. “Owie, Owie!” he exclaimed, frantically , his hands against his head. It was not uncommon for our energetic 2 year old to get a bump on his head. I reached to examine for bumps when I noticed that he had sand in his hair . . . and all over his face . . . and around his eyes. . . even on his hands. 'Did he fall head first into a sandbox?' I wondered to myself. No, he couldn't have. We don’t have a sandbox in our yard. In fact, we don’t even have a yard. I decided to worry about the sand later and deal with the source of the pain first. Anxious to find that bump, I asked Tyler to show me exactly where it hurt. He pointed to his face while he continued his panicky panting of “owie, owie”. Then I smelled it. . . the unmistakeable scent of pepper! I knew at that moment there was no bump. It was the pepper in his face that was burning! I rushed him immediately to the bathtub to pour water over his face and hair. I thought about how pepper spray is sold as a weapon and I wanted to cry thinking about how it must sting. My poor little guy. Fortunately, it only took a few minutes of running cold water over him before Tyler was back to his happy self. “Yaaaay” he sang, clapping his hands as he watched me grab the blue bottle of bubble bath from the counter. I let the tub fill up and enjoyed watching my little monster play in his bubbles.

Later, I wondered how he got so much pepper all over him. Did he open the container of pepper and then blow on it? I never did learn what happened. What I did learn though is that pepper isn’t all black as I'd always thought. Yes, there are some black specks in the mix, but most of the pepper is the color of, well, sand.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Grace's Introduction to Mormonism

I picked up Grace and her Ate Merriam from pre-school the other day (Merriam volunters there as a teachers aide). Jess and I were happy to find this Filipino school because it is a Christian school and it is near our house. Grace started going there around last August. On our way home Merriam had a concern and asked me, "Does the Bible have a book of Moses or Nephi?" Right away I recognized those books and knew that they are not from the bible. I recognized them as two books from the book of Mormon. I was puzzled and wondered why she asked me about those books. Perhaps they were studying about cults at her church. Or maybe she had a conversation with a Mormon.

Even though Merriam has only been a Christian for about two years now, she has grown a lot. We gave her a one year bible for Christmas in 2004. She read the whole thing for the first time in 05 and is well on her way to flnishing her second reading this year. Through that, the Lord has been giving her discernment. She was able to recognize that the books of Moses and Nephi were not from the bible, but she wasn't sure where they came from.

So why did she ask me about the books? Well, Grace's school is a Christian school, but unfortunatly they don't require there teachers to be Christians. Grace's teacher (teacher Tin, short for Christine) seems to be a nice girl, but she is not a Christian. In her attempt to teach bible lessons to her students she was teaching them from the book of Mormon. She had no idea that it was extra-biblical and not Christian.

After examining the book, Merriam told Tin, "I don't think this is Christian." Tin was shocked and told Merriam, "I better bring in the bible I have at home so that you can check it for me." When Merriam asked Tin where she got the book from she said that she got it from the school library.

This episode seemed to have sparked a lot of interest in Tin who agreed to and seems eager to meet with Jessica and Merriam for weekly discipleship and bible study at our house. I will try to schedule a meeting with the owner of the school soon. I hope that this will serve as a wake up call for them and that I can be a blessing to them as I offer some godly counsel.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Our Experiences are no Accidents

When we heard that she was going to have her baby by herself in her bathroomless house, with no medical help, our hearts were moved. Besides not having a bathroom, to get water Ema had to hand pump it from a community well. Her husband Roland was working seven days a week as a security guard for around $6 a day. Every day he would leave early in the morning and ride his bike for a little over an hour to get to work. After his 12 hour shift, he would complete his day with the one hour bike ride back home. Since Ema was now 9 months pregnant, Roland was prepared to leave work and ride home as soon as she called to tell him that she was having the baby (however, with no phone in their home either, she would need to go up the hill to a relative's house to use the phone).

When Jessica and I heard about their situation, we sensed God directing us to invite Roland, Ema, and their 3 year old daughter Rose to stay in our home until the baby was born. Just a week earlier, Jessica had given birth to Isabella, our fifth child. We couldn’t imagine having a baby on our own. We also made arrangements with a Christian-run birthing home for Ema's delivery so that she could have some experienced midwives helping her, as well as oxygen and IV's on hand in case of an emergency. Although the humble birthing center was nothing close to a fully equipped hospital, it was much better than what Roland and Ema had originally planned. Below is the place at the birthing center where the babies are cleaned and weighed. If it looks like a kitchen to you, that's because it is a kitchen.

At Ema's first check up we were surprised to see around more than 50 pregnant women waiting to be seen by the mid wives. It was a blessing to watch the Christian workers from the birthing house in action as they ministered to the expectant mothers. They taught bible lessons every week to the women as they came for checkups, until their babies were born. The back of the shirt of the woman below says, "Reaching pregnant ladies for Christ."

After staying with us for about a week Jessica could see the pain in Ema's
face. She asked her if she was having contractions. Ema said yes, but she had not been timing them or keeping track of how long she had been having them. By that afternoon the pain was strong so we took off for the birthing center. On the way there, I was praying that the baby wouldn't be born in the car. I think Roland was also praying due to fear, because he asked me to slow down. God was gracious and we made it there safely at about 7:30pm. The midwife examined Ema and found that we arrived just in the nick of time because Ema was ready to have the baby (she was dialated 9cm!). Their son Adrian was born at about 8pm. When Roland came out to the waiting area, I congratulated him. He asked me if I'd like to see the baby. As I told him ''Of course", he looked down, pointed to his top lip, and began to prepare me as he explained that his son was born with a cleft palate.

Our experiences are no accidents and God uses all of them. Just a few weeks earlier, I had the privilege of helping 4 year old Angelo get corrective surgery for a cleft palate. That experience not only taught me how to help someone with a cleft palate, but it also made it possible for me to comfort and encourage Roland and Ema. I even had pictures of Angelo with me in my cell phone after his surgery. I showed the "after the surgery" pictures to Roland and told him that his son's lip can also be easily corrected. The mid-wife told us that we can bring the baby in for the surgery as early as 4 months old, which I am excited to help do.

The Lord not only put it on our hearts to help Roland and Ema with the delivery of their baby, He also moved us to help Roland get a new job. My friend, Mang (Mr.) Bert, mentioned that there was an opening for a pedicab driver in our neighborhood. Since Mang Bert has been a pedicab driver for about 15 years now, he has a lot of respect in our community. This made it possible for an applicant to be hired on Mang Bert's recommendation. I found out that if Roland got the job he would make about the same money as he was making as a security guard, (and potentially more) but he would only have to work 8 hours a day. He would also get at least one day off a week. This would allow him to spend much more time with his family. However, a possible obstacle to Roland taking this job was Filipino culture. This culture views being a pedicab driver as being lower than a security guard. I really wasn't sure if Roland would humble himself and take this job. I prayed that his love for his family and his desire to be with them more often would be greater than his pride or fear of shame.

I gave Roland the job application and got the approval from the owner of the pedicab that needed a driver (a pastor friend of mine who attends the bible study at our house). The job was Roland's if he wanted it. I was so pleased when he told us that he was ready to resign from his security guard job to take this one. I don't know what swayed hime, wiether it was my “importance of family” talk or or my “personal health” talk with him, or perhaps it was simply his weariness from being gone 14 hours a day, 7 days a week. Either way, I believe he won't regret it.

These circumstances allowed us to witness another interesting aspect of Filipino culture. They call it "Utang na loob", which basically means a debt of gratitude. When shown kindness, many Filipinos feel indebted and that they must somehow pay back the kindness shown to them or be shamed. Roland's heart was heavy as he tried to figure out a way to show his gratitude to us but didnt think there was a way. With their new baby now two weeks old, they were ready to go back home . . . but they didn't want to leave our house without giving us anything as a way of paying their perceived debt. When we learned of this, Jessica and I shared with Roland and Ema that the help we gave them flowed out of our gratitude to God for His goodness to us. I explained that we were actually worshipping God through helping them because it allowed us to tangibly declare how great God is and express our gratitude to Him.

I told them that rather than focusing on us, they should think about the God who cares so much about them that He put it on our hearts to help them. Then I told Roland, "Your debt isn't to me, it’s to God who moved His servants to show you His love; the same God who wants to forgive your sins if you will trust in Him." Roland covered his face with a towel as he began to cry. His burden was lifted. He no longer felt indebted to us and saw that his debt is to God. I explained to him that we can never pay God back because the price for our forgiveness cost Him more than we could ever pay, it cost Him the life of His Son. All we can do is to accept His mercy, say thank you God, and joyfully show our gratitude by serving and obeying Him. Pray for Roland, Ema, and their children as the Lord continues to speak to their hearts.

Friday, September 29, 2006

This typhoon thing takes getting used to

This whole typhoon thing takes a little getting used to. Being a native California boy has gotten me used to earthquakes, but falling trees, sheets of rain that seem to fly sideways, heavy winds that topple billboards, pummel signs, knock down walls, launch roofs, and blow down houses is completely new to me.

I even started writing this blog on my PDA (my little electronic organizer) because we were without power for two days. We woke up on Thursday morning and learned that power was out in the entire manila area, city of more than 14 million people. Now, there are a lot of electronic gadgets that I can get by without, but we were really missing our air conditioning. Despite cloud filled skies and continuous rain, it was very hot and sticky. After a night of hard rain the winds from the typhoon grew stronger. Schools and government offices were shut down giving me lots of time to think. I couldn't help thinking about my friends living under the bridge. When the wind caused our windows to rumble I remembered that they have no windows. The shanties that they live in have many openings that wind and rain can rip through.

Charlyn is my key contact at the bridge because she is the only one with a cell phone. I sent her a text message around noon to see how everyone was doing. She told me that the wind was really strong and the river was rising, but everyone was okay. My cell phone service was going on and off, but just after lunch she text-ed me again. She told me that some of the block walls around the bridge and near their house had fallen down from the force of the typhoon. She also told me that one of the houses got blown into the river. Thank God no one was killed!

After the worst of the typhoon had past I decided to drive over to check on my friends. Other than some minor flooding and being littered with fallen banana trees and other foliage, my neighborhood seemed to have faired well. As I began driving there I saw that the way to the bridge looked like a battle field. The streets were filled with uprooted trees, downed signs, fences, and stunned people doing their best to clean it up.

As I neared their place I noticed that the road was closed. I parked and walked a few blocks to the bridge. What at sight! About a 75 foot section of a twenty plus foot high block wall had fallen over the road and bridge. There was a large crane, dump truck, and a crew of men dismantling the remains of the wall. The path that served to get to the homes of most of the people from the bridge was completely blocked.

Looking at the foot of the bridge I could see where the kids would often gather to wave good-bye to me as I left. I remembered the time when they all posed for me at the end of the bridge.

Now that spot was covered with the remains of the block wall. The little ones who live down the covered path were now locked in until the crews and cranes could clear out all the debris. Sadly, to save money it is likely that the owner will not remove the broken cement from the walk way to their homes. Their simple walk home from school has turned into a literal hike.

As soon as my friends saw me several of them came over to me anxious to tell me about what had happened. I was amazed at the site of this huge wall hanging over the road. It looked like it could fall at any moment. They told me that this was not the only wall to have fallen; another wall fell right where their houses are. I asked if I could see them, to which they eagerly agreed. They led me down a rickety old hand made ladder that dropped about ten feet down on the side of the bridge opposite the fallen block wall. We had to slide and crawl through several small spaces until we reached their homes on the other side of the bridge. These small spaces were actually more homes of other families from the bridge.

I was shocked to see the place where I had seen the little children play so many times. Just a couple of weeks earlier my son Kian had set up a small basket ball hoop on the wall which was now laying face down on their play area. The fallen wall extended across the ground just two feet shy of about four houses. The path to Edwin and Charlyn’s house was cut off on both sides. I had to crawl under a small space between the fallen wall and the ground to get to their house. Once there, they quickly served me a hot cup of coffee (Filipino hospitality!) and I snapped off a few pictures. I could see that a house that was on the second level of houses was gone. Charlyn told me that it was blown down and fell into the river which washed it away. We all thanked God together that no one was hurt. It was interesting to note that the wall fell down all around the area where we hold our bible study. Since this area was left unharmed, Lord willing, we will resume tomorrow. Not even a typhoon can stop the Word of God from being taught to these dear people and I thank the Lord for the opportunity to be a part of it.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Bible Study at the Bridge

Praise the Lord, we started a bible study at the bridge. After months of searching I found a Filipino pastor in the area who has devoted his life to serving God and the poor. During my search for him, a mutual friend gave his number. His name is Sonny Malangis. I called him and we agreed to meet at a restaurant near the bridge. It was then that we discovered that I met Pastor Sonny before - actually he met me. He attended a preaching conference we held last July and he sat in on a seminar that I taught.

I learned that Pastor Sonny (Standing in front of his church) has a church that is about a 25 minute walk away. He has committed to walking to the bridge every Sunday afternoon to teach my friends there the word of God in Tagalog. I knew right awayI would like Pastor Sonny. When I took him to the bridge, he immediately began to engage with the families living there. He began to laugh with them and to talk about life with them. I'm praying that all of my friends there will become followers of Jesus Christ and that we will either plant a church right there or that we will be able to bring them to pastor Sonny's church to worship on Sunday mornings.

Kuya Edwin (the man in the center of the picture) and his wife Charlyn have stood out to be a core couple at the bridge. They speak the most English of all those living under the bridge so between their limited English and my limited Tagalog we are able to understand each other pretty well. Kuya Edwin built several benches so that the people wouldn’t have to sit on the ground any longer during the bible study.

Edwin and Charlyn opened up their home so that the kids can meet in it for bible study while the adults meet separate for their bible study. Our friend Merriam (holding the books, Charlyn is standing to the far left) agreed to teach the kids which is an extra joy for me to see since the Lord used Jessica and I in the process of drawing her to Himself.

The space under the bridge where Edwin and Charlyn live is tight, but it works well for little ones to hear the word of God, do some coloring, play games, and eat snacks. Merriam is teaching the kids bible stories starting with The Creation and the fall of Adam and Eve into sin, to the story of Jesus Christ and the Salvation He offers to all those who trust in Him alone.

Every week these precious little ones would run out to the road to greet me and then run back down to the bottom of the bridge to let everyone know that I was there. Now I have the pleasure of seeing them learn about the Lord! Pray with me for God to open their hearts and give them faith to trust in Him as their Savior.

It is also a great joy to see Robert helping to lead the worship in song because he is the first person that I met at the bridge and the first one there that the Lord used me to draw to Himself. We provided a guitar for Robert and I can't wait to see him again because I found a few cassette tapes and books of Tagalog worship songs for him.

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Monday, September 11, 2006

New Praise & Prayer Request posted. (click here)

Saturday, September 09, 2006

A lot can happen in the seconds you wait for a traffic signal to change

I was stopped at a traffic signal behind about ten cars waiting to make a u-turn. Then a little boy – probably about seven years old, started scrubbing the window of my car with a small damp cloth. I rolled down my window and gave him 5 pesos and a gospel track. A few seconds later two little girls came up with their cloths. I rolled down my window again and gave them each a gospel track and 5 pesos. About the same time my eyes caught the site of two older girls around 20 watching me as they waited to cross the street. You see, between the East and West bound lanes of the road there is an island filled with landscaping and people waiting to cross the street. No sooner had I rolled up my window up again did another little boy come up with his cup. As I rolled down my window again I could see smiles form on the faces of the two older girls who were just waiting for the opportune moment to make their way through the cars to the other side of the street. I hand the little boy a track and 5 pesos too. As I was just about to roll up my window a thought flashed through my mind. I called out to the smiling girls, “Here’s one for you too.” They stepped up to my car and I gave them both a gospel track. They took them with a smile as the light turned green and the cars in front of me began to move. Waving as I passed by, I pulled up to the intersection and made my u-turn. When I passed the spot where I had previously waited for the light I was pleased to see a small group of 6 people reading the gospel tracks. I never would have thought that so much could transpire during a few seconds of waiting for a traffic light to change. It reminded me that we need to always be ready, willing, and looking for opportunities to serve God.

Monday, September 04, 2006

A Blog From the Hospital

I'm writing this blog from a hospital bed. We arrived here at Medical City Hospital at 3:30 a.m. this morning, but not for Jessica. Instead we came for Tyler. We were woken up by his coughing and discovered that he was having trouble breathing again. We started to give him medicine in his brand new nebulizer, only to find that it was missing one small part that prevented it from working.

After a couple of hours in the emergency room, Tyler had been treated a few times, but his breathing was still labored. Tyler's pediatrician decided to admit him for 24-48 hours for observation and more intensive treatment. This required him to take medicine intraveniously. They stuck an IV in his right hand first, but unfortunatly they had trouble getting it to work so the poor little guy ended up getting the left hand stuck with a needle too. By 9am we had been there over 5 hours, and Jess was starting to have fairly strong contractions. She figured she would eventually go to the maternity ward to see if she should be admitted now, but planned to stay by Tyler as long as she could. By 12 noon, Jess went to check in with labor and delivery on the 5th floor.

Tyler being checked into the hospital at the same time created an interesting problem for us. He needed someone to watch him because he couldn't be left alone. I stayed with him in his room on the 15th floor and arranged to have friends come to relieve me so that I could join Jess and she wouldn't have to give birth alone.

After waiting for about an hour, my friend Josh showed up with some lunch and shortly after that Kian and our friend Meriam arrived to keep an eye on Tyler. Their timing was perfect because as they entered the room the phone rang. A nurse called to tell me that Jess was in labor and that she needed me (she was dilated 4-5 cemtimeters).

When I arrived at the birthing suite, I saw Jess hooked up to an IV and a machine to monitor her contractions and the baby's heart rate. After the doctor arrived she told us that the baby's heart rate was dropping below the minimum acceptable level of 120 beats per minute whenever Jess was having heavy contractions. The doctor then told us that we should have an anesthiologist on call in case we need a c-section. I have to admit that I was skeptical of the doctor's opinion. A few months ago she already suggested that we should just schedule a c-section because it's easier. We told her that we would rather not have a CS if we didn't have to, but she still seemed to really advocate it. That's why I was skeptical of her suggestion to have a CS, especially since she gave it so quickly after only having been in the room for a short time.

Though our firstborn was a CS, God was gracious and allowed our last 3 children to be born naturally, without any anesthesia or complications. Jess had been determined to stick to the same natural delivery plan with this fifth child, but after sevaral more hard contractions with only a little progress, she was starting to get tired, scared, and weary of the pain. In between contractions she looked into my eyes and asked me what I thought we should do. I didn't want to risk the health or life of the baby, but I felt the doctor was giving up too soon. I told Jess that I think she should try a little longer and that hopefully she would thank me later. We prayed and kept trying, but agreed to let them have an anesthiologist ready.

The baby's heart rate stayed stable for a few more contractions and then Jess began to feel a pinching pain in her womb. Then for a moment, the baby's heart rate dropped to the lowest it been since they started monitoring. I thought to myself, "If it does that one more time, then I will agree to a CS." I knew that machines aren't always accurate, and I was praying that this was true in our case. I asked the doctor to check on Jessica's progress (she had been stuck at about 6 centimeters for the last half an hour). After the doctor checked, she said that Jess was fully dialated!

Jess said she wanted to begin pushing. The doctor started making arangments to move her to another room, but with the way the baby's heart rate had dropped I didn't think we should wait (besides, we were paying for the birthing room so that we could labor, deliver, and recover all in the same room). I told Jess to just go for it and start pushing. She did and the doctor and nurses gave up on trying to move her to another room and instead got ready to deliver the baby. About ten minutes later on September 3 at 3:35pm Grace got her baby sister.

Jess had a natural delivery and Isabella Nancy Ransom was born. She was 19 1/2 inches long and weighed 7.5 pounds. Later, Jess thanked me for helping her to make the right decision.

So the baby is here and ready to go home to an anxiously waiting big sister. The only thing we are waiting for is for the doctor to release Tyler. Once we get settled in and some much needed rest I will post a bunch more pictures. Until then, please pray for Jess and Tyler. She is pretty sore and Tyler still has something going on inside of his little body.