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.