Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Catching Up

Like everyone else, we have been experiencing a busy November and December. I just wanted to catch all our family and friends up on some of the latest.

On November 30, our son Christian had his 14th birthday. He had several of his friends over to celebrate (he wanted to have more over, but unfortunately our budget, van, and house could only handles so many). They started the celebration by going straight from school to an out-door paintball field, where they proceeded to pulverize each other as 5-year old Tyler watched from a distance.

I did my best to take pictures without getting shot up myself. Overall, the damages were little and most came out unscathed.

After the war games we went back to our place and had dinner, cake and ice cream, followed by a night of watching movies and playing playstation. The following day all the boys went to their school (Faith Academy) and hung out at the school bazaar (like a mini carnival).

All of our classes at the Expositor's Academy went on break after December 11 and we had a class party at our home with our students from the Manila area.
It was a joy to share a great time of food, fellowship and worship of God together outside of the classroom. I can say from experience that pastor's really know how to party.

The party ended with the giving of gifts. We gave each student a copy of an MP3 with selected sessions from past Shepherd's Conferences at Grace Community Church, and for our students who just completed the class on Bible study methods and rules of interpretation, we gave a copy of the MacArthur Study Bible (provided by gracious supporters from Grace Church).

Another significant event that we experienced was just a few days before Christmas. We had a nice visit from a small team from Grace Community Church. Pastor Rodney Anderson and his wife Glenna, Pastor Kelly Wright with his wife Vanessa along with Larry and Lauren Brown spent about four days with us.
In addition to great fellowship, we had the joy of sharing about our training ministry with them and our ministry among our friends living under Manalo Bridge. We started off by going to a local grocery store where we bought enough food to feed about 25 families for several days and a small toy for all the kids (about 40 of them).

From the market we proceeded to the bridge where we followed up the weekly teaching of the Word of God with showing them the love of Christ by meeting some of the physical needs.
I was blessed to see the team's eagerness to not only see our ministry, but also how they served with joy and without hesitation.

We thank the Lord for another satisfying month in which we could serve Him by enjoying Him through making Him known to others. We were also reminded again of God's grace of sending His Son into the World to save us by taking our penalty for sin by dying on the cross in our place and the place of everyone who surrenders their lives to Him.

Monday, November 30, 2009

A new name for our training ministry

Our training center has a new name. We have been going by The Master's Academy International, but that is actually the name of the association that we are a part of. We are joined by 14 other training ministries, all with various names, but all are a part of the TMAI association. So what is our official name? Well, unofficially our name is The Expositor's Academy. The reason I say unofficially is because our paper work is still in progress, but we hope to have everything completed by the end of this year or early next year. Our web-site is also in the works and I will announce it as soon as it is finished.
Currently, we have three classes running, 1) Preaching 1, 2) Old Testament Survey, and 3) Biblical Interpretation. A few more weeks and our classes will take a break till 2010. We will have a Christmas party at my house to celebrate a good year of teaching and preaching. Our students are progressing well and it is exciting to see them grow. Pray that God will continue to use me to impact their lives for the kingdom and that they will continue grow as His servants.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

On the lighter side; The joys of family

It was somewhere between midnight and six a.m. when light spilled into our dark room from the hallway. Our two little girls had once again made their almost nightly pilgrimage into our room, long after mommy had already read them a story and they had already fallen asleep in their own beds. At some point, they snuck into our room and climbed into our bed . . . and it wasn't long before Isabella proceeded to alternate putting her feet on my head or into my ribs. You may wonder why anyone would tolerate this for even a minute. I know how American culture generally deals with this situation. Even before our babies are born, we often paint their rooms (some call it the nursery) and follow the trend of putting the baby in it's own room as soon as possible. Many feel that this is healthier for the children as they don't become overly dependent on mom and dad, while also giving parents a little time and privacy together. I guess this is where Jessica and I are more Filipino. We purposely bought a king sized bed years ago because we decided that we love having our kids with us and find that instead of making our kids overly dependent on us, it builds a stronger sense of connection and comfort between us and our kids. Some who read this might be looking back at the days when their own kids were little and would give anything to sneak backwards in time to enjoy snuggling with their little ones who are now grown up and long past those years. We intend to savor every moment of that as long as we can. We are not worried about not having "mommy and daddy time". I think after having five kids, one can see that we somehow manage to carve out our time together.
Our girls are now 7 and 3, and we can already sense their growing independence and know that the days of their sneaking into our room are not far from being over.

It seems like it was just yesterday when we would hear the train of sliding pajama'd feet from down the hall getting louder and louder as our first two sons would shuffle across the wood floors of the hallway, sneak into our room and jump in our bed.

Those days of little jammies and blankies are long gone as our 16 and 13 year old sons are in their own rooms and are quite independent as they stay after school for sports, to join study groups, or go and hang out with their friends from time to time. Yet, they are still comfortable to come in our room and chat with us and plop in our bed to watch a movie together or spend some family time reading a book.

I don't want to leave out our third son Tyler, who although is also growing up fast, still joins his two sisters in sneaking into our bed from time to time.
I bet my mom would give just about anything to spend a little time with her two little boys again if she could somehow go back in time. We're not in a hurry to end these precious times, I don't care what that Dr. Spock guy says, and who is he anyways?

Friday, October 02, 2009

Time to Clean Up The Mud


This week, I was scheduled to teach at a conference on the island of Mindoro. Getting there would mean a 3 hour drive followed by a 1 to 2 hour boat ride, so I decided to postpone my Monday morning departure until I felt sure it was safe. Besides, I didn't really want to leave Jess and the kids while the house still had no power and our van was still stranded. The weather on Monday actually turned out to be pretty good, so by the afternoon we were able to pick up our van. Then power came back on late that evening, so Tuesday morning, after I had gotten confirmation of safe travel from Pastor Leo Ordiales (who headed out on Monday as scheduled), I made the trip. I will write about that trip later, but for now, please visit a link to an article Jess wrote about what she and the big boys had been up to while I was gone.

Click here.

Monday, September 28, 2009

A months worth of rain in six hours

I can still see the faces of our friends from the bridge as they huddled in the dark under a tarp, trying to keep the rain off of them. They were now on higher ground between the rail of the bridge and the hollow block wall of their neighbor. They had carried out as many of their possessions from their homes and piled them up under the tarp before the floodwaters swept away five of their homes and submerged the rest. Sleeping in my own bed and being in our house reminds me of God's kindness, but I can't help but feel a sense of guilt to know that so many others have no bed and are sleeping on the wet ground.

Getting home wasn't easy. It all started on Saturday morning when we left for Christian's volleyball game. It was only drizzling at the time and there didn't seem to be any reason for concern. By the time Christian's games were over the rain was coming down in sheets and were driven by winds. We got texts that traffic was heavy and that the varsity volleyball team was stuck on the road and didn't even make it to their game. We decided to wait it out at the mall across the street till the traffic died down. Our last communication with our other four kids in the early afternoon was that they were all at home safe, but that our power went out. Anxious to get home to our kids, we set out at about 4 p.m. to drive home - I was thinking to get home while there was still light. We were amazed at how clear the roads were. I figured a lot of people were just staying home because of the heavy rains. Well that didn't last long. We hit a wall of traffic and moved very slowly for about an hour, only traveling about a mile till they opened up the opposite side of the street. We joined hundreds of cars driving on the other side of the street and quickly moved down the road to some short cuts that I often like to use. Leaving that mess behind, we tried taking another way home, but when I saw lots of cars piled up on that road we tried an alternate route. Since that took us near Manalo Bridge we decided to take a detour and check in on our friends there.


After the typhoon

To our surprise, I saw that all their homes were either gone or under water. We had been texting back and forth with them earlier and knew that those in the lower houses moved to higher ground to stay with their neighbors, but I didn't expect to see everything covered in water. The river which was usually about 25 feet below the bridge was getting close to the level of the road on the bridge. I walked up the street looking for our friends and I found them under the tarp. Everyone was safe. Around 20 adults stayed behind while the rest of them, along with about 40 children, went to a local covered basketball court to wait out the storm.

My first thought was to pile all of them into my van and take them to our house, but they were worried about leaving their things and we still didn't know if we could even make it to our house or not. We decided that if we could make it to our place, we would leave a few of them behind to watch their things, but then take the rest - especially the kids. But first, Jessica, Christian and I would go ahead of them to make sure that we could get through. I gave them all the cash I had so that they could all buy some food and candles. Then we drove down the road for about a mile only to find the road covered in water.

I drove till the water was about knee deep and then turned around (much to the relief of Jessica). We tried four other ways which were also flooded out in front of thousands of stranded cars. One of them near the Marikina River was flooded about two stories high. We returned to the bridge and told them that we couldn't make it home and then began to look for a place for us to sleep. By the time we arrived at a familiar missionary guest house, the first leg of our adventure lasted about six hours.

Early the next morning, we attempted to make it home again. The news report on the radio said that we got a months worth of rain in 6 hours. However, by this time, a lot of the flood waters had gone down and we were moving along pretty good, but once we hit the main road going to our place the traffic began again. We weren't the only ones trying to get back home
We inched along for more than three hours, in which we traveled for only about one mile. Part of the problem was that there were a lot of abandoned cars scattered all over the road. We had to drive around them and the thousands of people who were walking on the streets.
Finally, we could go no further because the water got too deep so we pulled out. We found some high ground, parked our van, and decided to walk the rest of the way home. I'm guessing that we were about 5 miles from home and we didn't know if the roads were passable, but we were determined to get to rest of our family.
After that first step in to ankle high water we were no longer timid. We started dredging along like everyone else. The water soon turned to calf, then knee high and then waist high (higher for Jess) :). I couldn't help thinking about Israel's exodus from Egypt as we joined thousands of people who were determined to get home.
When we got to the top of the road, past the flooded portions we found some enterprising tricycles (motor cycles with side cars) waiting for passengers. We were happy to find a ride the other four or so miles to our house. We came home to some little ones who were happy to see mom and dad. Even without power, we were happy to be able to enter a home that was still standing.

Someone made an interesting observation about one of the above pictures of our friends at the bridge while they were under a tarp. Their homes were flooded or destroyed, most of their meager possessions were lost, they were soaked, hungry and did not know what was going to happen; and yet, they were smiling. The woman smiling is a long time attender of one of our bible studies and I would like to think that she is smiling because she now knows that having Jesus, plus nothing, means that she has everything . . . and that even if she did have everything in the world, they would mean nothing without Jesus. Pray for the millions who have been affected by this. For those who are still stranded, those who have lost loved ones, and those who have lost their possessions. More importantly, pray that these hard times would be the beginnings of the best of times for many who respond to God's voice in all of this, see His hand of Grace and see His people showing the love of Christ. Pray also that the saints in the Philippines will boldly proclaim the good news that Jesus Christ wants to save those who don't know Him from their sins in this world so that they can live with Him in the next world, which will never have floods, pain, suffering or death.