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.

Click here for the next article

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.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

We aren't the only ones expecting a new baby

I’ve written several times about Robert and his brother Lito who live under a bridge. Well I recently learned that Lito (pictured above) has a girlfriend and that they are expecting a baby. In case you forgot, Lito lives under a 3X10 piece of corrugated sheet metal that is held up by a small wooden frame (probably about the size of a closet in your average American home).

They have no electricity, running water, or bathroom (called a CR in the Philippines) and they enjoy the constant flow of fumes from the exhaust pipes of the passing cars just above them. It was hard enough for Lito to take care of himself and his handicap younger brother (34), but now he has a girlfriend/wife and soon a baby to take care of. According to Robert, Lito is making less than 500 Pecos or $10 a week.

When Lito and Robert told me about the baby I smiled and probably said something like, “WOW, how many months is she? How is she doing? Is she getting sick?” I just couldn’t get myself to say congratulations. I love kids. As a matter of fact, my wife Jessica and I are expecting our fifth child any day now. But in Lito's case, first, they are not legally married. Second, I suspect that the pregnancy was not planned. And third, not only do they have a challenging life just struggling to survive, but now a little one will have to join them in their struggle. At the same time, I have to remind myself that whenever a new baby comes into the world, there is no such thing as an accident. God is never caught by surprise. He is in control and His plan is proceeding perfectly and on schedule. I pray that this little one will someday worship and glorify God and that the Lord will somehow them and and me by allowing me to have some small part in that.

I have given a lot of thought about being poor and rich during the last few years and I started asking myself this question, “What’s so wrong with being poor?” Of course nobody wants to be poor, but it’s not inherently evil. Many groups show us video clips, pictures, and brochures of sad looking poor children. They tug at our heart strings and cause us to thank God for all that we have. I am personally moved and involved with helping the poor, but not because I pity them. On the contrary, there is a lot to envy about them. They have a keen sense of the frailty of life and the control God has over it. This knowledge makes many of them very open to the good news that Jesus forgives sins and has a new home in Heaven for those who trust in Him alone. I also see the poor having fun together with family and friends without the use of expensive toys or things. With no more than a few sticks, marbles, or just a little imagination, the kids have hours of fun. What is even more amazing is that they can do it without a Playstation or computer. I also see strong family and community bonds among them as they watch out and care for each other as best they can. If you think about it, being rich has many pitfalls as well. The bible says that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter heaven. I have seen many rich people who seem to be slaves to their businesses and possessions.

All that being said, this new little one of Lito’s that is coming into the world may have to deal with many obstacles, but will also has the opportunity to be a child or God. If he or she does become His, then all the hardships of this life will have been worth it and are not even worthy to be pitied or complained about in light of what God has waiting.

Right now, I am trying to get Lito a job. God seems to be opening the door for Lito to drive a pedicab in our neighborhood. Our friend Mang Bert told us about an opening.

Lito would work six days a week and make about 300 Pecos a day ($6). This would be about $140 a month, which is more than triple what he makes now. He will have to rent the bike for about 45 Pecos a day (just under a dollar). If it works out, he can eventually buy his own bike for about 7,000 Pecos ($140). Jessica and I are helping to get Lito started by covering the costs of his paper work, bus fare, uniforms, and dues. Please pray that this job will work out because it will really bless Lito, His girlfriend, their new baby, and Robert. So far Lito has not appeared to be receptive to the gospel like Robert has been. Also pray that his heart would soften and that God would give him saving faith. We have begun a bible study under the bridge with a local church ministering to the 15 families that also live under that bridge. CLICK HERE to learn about the bible study that God started!