Wednesday, March 29, 2006

I Want a Sista!

Today Jessica and I went to the doctor for an ultra sound. Jessica is 17 weeks pregnant with our fifth child and we decided that we would like to know if it is a boy or a girl. This was actually our second ultra sound, but this time we felt that it was necessary to take our three year old daughter Grace with us. You see, she insists that we are having another girl. This all started the morning we found out that Jessica was pregnant. When I shared the good news with Grace, I told her, "Grace, your mommy is having another baby." She responded, "That's what I wanted . . . a baby sista!" Later, Jess explained to her, "Sweetie, it might be a baby sister, or it might be a baby brother. It is upto God which one he wants to give us. He always knows what is best". Some time shortly after that, she announced that God told her that she was having a baby sister. She told us that as she was coming up the stairs in our house, God said to her, "Grace" to which she responded, "Yes Jesus?" She went on to say that God then said, "Your going to have a baby sista." (note: she would be the only one in our family to ever report having a conversation with God like this).

Now I'm totally fine with another girl and would be truly happy either way, with a new son or daughter, but I can't help wanting a girl for her sake. This new baby will either turn out to be a great faith builder for Grace or a lesson in trusting that God's choices for our lives are the best ones for us. Meanwhile, she continues to insist that she is having a baby sista. Jessica thought that if it turns out that we are having a baby boy, it would be better if the news came from the doctor. We would either get to celebrate God's answer to her prayer or we could all be mad at the mean old doctor for telling us that were having another boy.

As Grace sat on my shoulders, we watched the screen showing the images of the baby in Jessica's womb. Grace observed with us the baby's heart beating, it's spine, arms and legs, and finally the baby's face. The doctor printed out copies of the images for us, but unlike in the States, for some reason, she said they don't tell the gender of the baby till around the sixth month of pregnancy. So for now it is still a mystery for Jess and I . . . but not for Grace. She looked at the picture of the ultra sound and declared, "It looks like a girl!" She has more faith than we do. Perhaps she should become an ultrasound technician when she grows up. We would appreciate your prayers for the health and safety of Jessica and this new baby, and for God's perfect will in regard to it's gender. Click here to read part 2.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

My Little Monster - Part 1

Last night I took Jessica out to dinner and a play for her birthday. The kids stayed home with their Ate Meriam and Ate Mylene watching them. Our kids are pretty good kids for the most part and they are pretty easy to watch. Kian and Christian are usually content playing games on the computer or watching television. That just leaves Grace and Tyler, who were nicely playing together in the kitchen. Well...for some reason Grace decided to go into the sala (that's what Filipinos call the living room). Tyler was having fun innocently playing in the kitchen by himself until he decided to close the door, and somehow climbed up on a stool to lock it. Unalarmed about being locked in the kitchen by himself, Tyler proceeded to pull a stool up next to the table and then climb on top of the table (he is 1 year and 10 months old mind you). I don't know how he did it, but he managed to kick the stool away and was then unable to climb back down from the table. This is probably about the time when the ladies noticed that Tyler was locked in. Perched on the top of the table he started calling out, "Help!", "Help!" Unable to get into the kitchen they went outside where they could see Tyler through the kitchen window. They called to him, "Tyler, unlock the door." The table is situated right next to the door, but somehow in his attempt to unlock the door he instead turned off the lights. Fortunately his older brother Kian was able to find the key and Tyler was rescued. Click here to read part 2.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Pictures for Ate Dora

While visiting ate Dora and our other friends from the bridge we have been taking pictures. When we gave her copies of some of the pictures that we took of her and her family, we learned that this was more of a blessing than we thought it would be. We could see the joy in her face as she looked the pictures over. She then shared with us that she has no pictures of herself or her family. Around fifteen grandchildren and no pictures of them! This would be unthinkable for most grandmothers in the States. When I thought about it, I realized that in the small room of her shanty, there is nothing on the walls. Actually the walls are less than a quarter of an inch thick so you really couldn't nail anything to them (otherwise you would have a bunch of nails sticking out of your walls). I suppose she could stick them up there some how. She kept smiling while she and her granddaugher "Girly", and a few other grandkids were admirering the pictures.

Since it was a hot day and there was no where for us to sit at the bridge (I had brought Jessica, Kian, and Christian with me) we walked down the street and sat at a few tables out side the gas station's convienence store. Ate Dora told us that one time she needed a picture for an I.D. and since she did not have one she had to use her sister's picture. She said that they look similar, but the picture on HER ID is not of her. Hopefully no one will look to closely and cause an embarassing momment for Ate Dora. We gave a picture to Robert also. One of him and I playing chess along side the bridge. He said that somehow he is going to nail it to the block wall in his house. I know that these are little things, but they do communicate that we care about them. My family and I drove over the bridge last night at around 9pm. It was dark and everyone around and under the bridge were no doubt sleeping by then, but I could not help to pray and think about them as we passed by. Please remember them in your prayers as we minister to them and try to get the local church involved in helping us reach out to them. CLICK HERE to read more

Monday, March 13, 2006

A Wheel Chair for Robert

Jessica and I were having some coffee with our friend Jeffrey the other day. We got on the topic of ministry to widows, orphans, and the poor. During our discussion, we noted how many church plants or young churches talk about how they are going to reach out to the poor SOMEDAY once their church gets established. Yet, somehow, even after churches get established, many still never get around to ministering to widows, orphans, and the poor. When Jeffery told me that this is an area he would like to see his church grow in, I told him about my friends at the bridge. I showed him a picture of Robert and explained how he is virtually trapped at that bridge because of his paralysis. Jeffery asked if he could use a wheel chair. I told him, "probably" and that I was looking into getting Robert a special three wheel bike made for handicapped people.

Early the next morning Jeffrey called me and said, "I have a wheel chair, where can we meet so that I can give it to you?" Jess and I were excited and praised the Lord for this blessing. As we were on our way to pick it up, I pictured a dusty old wheel chair that someone had hidden away in their garage. That was not a disappointing thought and we were grateful for the Lord’s provision, but when we met Jeffery, he carried a box to our van. The wheel chair was brand new! We couldn’t wait to bring it to Robert on Monday when we would visit him next.

That Monday afternoon we pulled up to Robert’s bridge (We also brought Kian, Christian, and Grace with us). I went a head of them to call down to Robert so that he would have a few minutes to get ready for visitors. After sharing greetings with each other I told him, “May regalo ako para sa iyo” (I have a gift for you). He got ready while I went back to our van to get my family and the box. Kian helped me carry the box as Christian followed. I was a little worried that Robert might be disappointed because he had mentioned in the past that he wanted a special three wheel bike made for handicapped people. I hoped that he would be pleased with this wheel chair because I really believe that it can change his life. He will no longer be trapped at the bridge all day. He can move around, go to cooler places when it is too hot or even look for some kind of work. When we reached him with the fairly large and heavy box, he read the side. "O, a wheel chair", he exclaimed. I couldn’t tell if he was excited or disappointed, but he didn’t waste much time climbing over the rail to sit in it and try it out. In Tagalog, he started talking about the three wheel bike again, but we encouraged him to try it out. I suggested that we all take a walk down the street to the gas station convenience store to get a cool drink. It was a very hot and humid day and there is no shade near Robert’s place.

I could tell that Robert was a little uneasy, but he went with us. He asked me to push him down the bridge because it was a little steep, but once we got to the bottom he took over. He was a little shaky at first while getting used to controlling the chair. The side walk before the bridge has so many holes and cracks in it that we were forced to move to the street. I was praying inside, “Lord protect him and don’t let him get discouraged.” We finally made it to the gas station and walked into the store while Robert rolled into it. It was only about a block from his home, but this was probably the first time he had ever been inside of it, or any other store. We bought a few drinks and sat out in the shade to enjoy them. Then Robert shared that one time someone tried to give him a chair, but he was too embarrassed to use it, so he refused to take it, which made his brother Lito very unhappy. As Jessica and I wondered why he took the wheel chair this time, we speculated that it was because he knew us and that we were there to encourage and help him get started. As we practiced using the chair in the parking lot of the gas station he was quickly getting the hang of it. People from the community who often saw Robert sitting on the rail of the bridge were looking at us and smiling at us. I pray that Robert will get comfortable using the chair and that this will open up many new doors in his life. Next time I visit him, I will take him for a stroll to a near by fast food place to share some ice cream and to play a game of chess in a clean air conditioned place. Robert knows that I am a missionary and that it is the love of Christ that compels me to love him and the rest of the people at the bridge. However, the most loving thing that I can do for him is not to get him a wheel chair, rice, or medicine. The most loving thing that I can do for Robert and the families who live at the bridge is to share the good news that Jesus Christ loves them and wants to forgive their sins if they will trust in Him. Regardless of their response to Jesus I will continue to serve them, but I will never stop sharing the good news about Jesus with them. I can’t wait to see what the Lord does in their heart’s trough us. Click here to read more.

Friday, March 10, 2006

The Other Side of the Bridge

While chatting with Robert and Ate Dora ("ate" is a title meaning "big sister" that you would give to an older female), she asked, "Would you like to visit my house?" This is very Filipino. Hospitality is a part of Filipino culture and even if their place is small or they have very little food, they will still invite you into their home and share what ever they have with you. She lives on the other side of the bridge, just under it near the river. As I walked to Ate Dora's place with a small group of children following me, I saw people hand washing their clothes. They have a community pump that they share to get their water for washing. Those who can afford it buy different water locally for drinking.

There were clothes hanging on lines and in the windows of their houses. Ate Dora jokingly calls the houses under the bridge "condos" because they are nicer than the homes like Robert's that are fixed between the bridge and the road. These homes are improvised with pieces of wood, metal, and tarps. They were built on stilts so that they don't get flooded when the river rises. Ate Dora told me that they have to move to higher ground sometimes during the typhoon season. It's not uncommon for families who are living as squatters along side the river to be swept away during the night while they are sleeping. This happens when typhoons cause the water to rise quickly. The squatters who have no electricity, and therefore no television or radio, sometimes have no idea that a typhoon is coming.
I was told that there were about 15 or 16 families living under and around the bridge, but I don't know how many people are living there all together. There are dozens of bridges like this that cross the Marikina River and I can't help but wonder if those bridges have communities living under them too. When I first met the children who live here they were respectfully calling me "Kuya."(a title meaning "big brother" that you would call an older male) It was cute as I was visiting with Robert the other day and they were calling out, "Kuya Sean." I guess they are getting used to me being around.

As I was walking through the structures leading to Ate Dora's house, I was hoping that the brown water that was running across the path was not human waste. I didn't want to give the appearance of uneasiness -- this was their home -- so I walked straight ahead watching my steps till we reached her house. I said a quick prayer in my head as I drank the water she offered me, a kindness which I was not about to refuse. As I sat in Ate Dora's house, which was probably no more than a 10X10 space, we had pleasant conversation. She pulled a hand fan and began fanning me, her grand child, and herself all in one motion. She has about 15 grandchildren. She told me how one of her daughters-in-law could no longer take the living conditions or married life so she abandoned her husband and two sons (The little boys towards the back in this picture).

I'm praying about the possibility of bringing a genorator down there so that I can bring our projector to show a movie for the kids followed by the Jesus film. We will see what the Lord will enable us to do. Click here to read more.

Monday, March 06, 2006

My Little Friends on the Bridge

Whenever I visit Robert, I bring a customary snack (called merienda). Merienda can be pretty much any food and Filipinos enjoy having it several times a day in between meals. A few visits ago I brought a canister of some long, tubular, flaky cookies called "Stickos." As we were playing chess and eating our stickos, little faces appeared through the railing across the street. These little faces had little eyes that were looking longingly at our stickos. I walked across the street and found three little kids, each no more than five years old. I gave each one of them a sticko and said hello. After exchanging names and smiles I walked back to Robert and the chess game we had started earlier. As our playing continued, our attention was drawn back to the other side of the bridge when we heard small voices yelling, "Kuya, kuya". This is a term of respect for an older brother or friend. I saw the three kids that I gave the merienda to earlier plus about four others. I returned to the their side of the bridge and gave them more stickos. By the end of the day, there were about a dozen little faces staring at us from between the rails of the bridge and calling, "Kuya, kuya." A few parents came out to see what the commotion was all about. One mother named Charlie came out, smiled and waved. She heard that I had given out a few bibles and asked if she could have one. I told her that I would love to give her one and would bring it next time I visit. With about 15 or 16 families living around and under this bridge, I see the potential for a bible study and some great ministry among them. I can't wait to see what the Lord will do. Click here to read more.

Another Day in my Adventures with Robert

Even though thirty minutes had passed after visiting my friends on the bridge, my throat was still sore. The effects of the fumes from the exhaust pipes of the passing cars had taken its toll on me. It's no surprise to me that Robert has asthma. I'm only there for about four hours a week; Robert lives there, spending all of his sleeping and waking hours next to that road. I just bought him a few more boxes of medicine for his asthma, but this reality should serve to remind me that I must get a local church involved with ministering to him because I will only live in this area for about one more year.

During a previous visit with Robert I learned that he likes to play the game chess. I picked up a small set and we have played during our last two times together and he has beaten me six out of six games. I would never have guessed that a guy who has only finished about three grades of elementary school could be so good at chess. Its not that I'm a horrible player; Robert is good! He is a smart man. I also picked up a couple of plastic stools so I can sit and chat with him.

Knowing that Robert's place has no running water or electricity, I asked him where he went to the bathroom. Laughing, he pointed to where I was sitting and various places around me for number one, and he said that they do number two on pieces of paper and then throw it into the river. That explained the smell, but I learned years ago that the Philippines is a land of many smells.

This was yet another educational and enjoyable time with my friend Robert. Click here to read more.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

My Friends Visit Our Home

Sunday came and the smell of sinigang filled our house. We were ready for Robert and Lito's visit. When I arrived at the bridge where they live to pick them up, Robert was dressed and ready to go. He called down for Lito to join us, who felt awkward and declined at first. I urged him, "Please come join us, we would love to have you over." He accepted and we all climbed into my van (actually, Robert literally did just that, he had to climb in because his legs don't work). Once I started the van, Robert was startled as the airconditioner kicked in. Concerned for him I said, "I can turn that off" to which he replied, "No" because he liked it. I'm sure that he rarely rides in any kind of auto mobile or feels refrigerated air on his face. As we were driving, Lito was thanking me for getting the medicine for his brother and he told me that he believed God was using me to help them.

As we drove into my subdivision (housing track) I could see the amazement in their faces. Even the smallest house in my neighborhood is huge compared to the little shelters they had made for themselves. After we pulled up into my garage Lito helped me close the gate while Robert climbed down out of the van and dragged himself into my house. I wonder what they were thinking as they came into my house for the first time. My place is like a mansion compared to their improvised little shelters. I pulled up some chairs for them so we could all talk. I was anxious to have my wife Jessica ask them some questions that I wasn't able to because of my lack of Tagalog speaking abilities. She was born in the Philippines and knows a lot more Tagalog than I do. I was wondering why Robert can't use crutches. I tried to ask him that and he said he couldn't, but I did not understand him when he explained why.

As the conversation continued with Robert and Lito, we learned that Robert can play the guitar. I didn't know what to expect, but I brought mine out and let him play. I was pleasantly surprised at how well he could play the guitar and sing. After eating Robert's favorite dish together for lunch I put on a DVD for us to watch. Robert, Lito, and I watched The Passion of Christ together. It was very quite after that movie, which I think is a normal repsonse to it. While driving them home I asked them, "What did you guys think of the movie?" Robert said, "Jesus sure suffered a lot for us!" I agreed with him and then I asked them if they knew why. The did not, so I explained, "Kasi maraming Kasalanan tayo (because we have many sins)." They both agreed with the fact that we all have a lot of sins. I told them that I would get them bigger bibles than the small Tagalog New Testament that I had already given them.

We had a nice time together, getting to know each other better. This was the day that I began to share with them why God had brought me to the Philppines and why He was using me to help them. This was our fourth meeting. Click here to read more.