Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 - A year of service and grace

This year has been filled to the brim with blessings and miracles as we have seen the hand of GOD at work in our mission! We were able to minister to the physical and spiritual needs of countless Filipinos. With the help of many generous donors, we gave over $28,000 in medical funding, academic scholarships, housing and school renovations, food, and other material needs.

Medical needs - over $12,800
We provided everything from bandages and blood tests to surgeries and hospital stays for 40 people! Some of the more involved cases included:
Jezreel - high school boy with a fractured arm
Ana - teenage girl who attempted suicide
Jane - nine-year-old with a fractured skull
Jeffrey - two-year-old hospitalized for dehydration
Patti - new mom who needed a c-section
Biwan - young mother with late-stage cancer
Pelita - young mother with tuberculosis and arthritis
Samuel - middle-aged man with lung cancer
Kristine - middle-aged woman with weekly dialysis treatments

Jeffrey and his mom Jona during his stay in the hospital.
Education - $3,440
Provided partial and full scholarships for 14 college students and 13 high schoolers.
Taught three subjects in Holy Rosary H.S.
Tutored 15 high school students in English or religion subjects.

Romero and his family - we sponsor his older daughter and son's tuition.
Housing - $3,500
Built two new houses.
Repaired two houses.
Provided one cement floor and one nipa roof.

A beautiful new house for a family in great need.
School renovation - $8,600
Provided new flooring, paint, and ceiling fans to improve Holy Rosary H.S.
Sponsored partial salaries and uniforms for teachers.

Food - ??
Finally, we have no estimate of how much funding we used to feed the hungry people of Sagay. Multiple cups of rice given daily to beggars at the door, countless meals shared with children at our table, and many bags of food given away to whole families.

Aside from all this material support, we tried to fulfill our most important work of preaching the Gospel and bringing Christ to all people! We led Bible studies, organized retreats, and mentored young people to help them grow in their Catholic Faith. Many of our students learned for the first time how to read a Bible, and others began to develop a personal relationship with God through daily prayer. How good is the Lord, to use us as His hands and feet!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Having a home

Tonight I watched The Hobbit for the first time. In one scene, Bilbo has mysteriously disappeared, and his companions assume that he has run away and returned to his town of Bag End to escape potential dangers and hardships. To everyone's surprise, he soon appears again and explains:

"I often think of Bag End. I miss my books and my armchair and my garden. See, that's where I belong. That's home. And that's why I came back... 'cause you don't have one. A home."

Hearing this, I felt a lump begin to rise in my throat and tears fill my eyes. I've been in the U.S. for just two short weeks, and the days have flown by. I've never been more grateful for little comforts and simple joys -- the familiarity of home.

Every once in a while I remember that my time here is limited; in less than one month I return to the Philippines for another year on mission serving on the island of Camiguin. And there is some part of me that fears this reality because it means leaving once again my beloved home.

But when I heard Bilbo's words, they reminded me of why I do want to return. For those who have no real "home" due to a broken family, who were abandoned by one or both parents at an early age and have had to grow up alone. For those whose homes are empty structures because they cannot afford bedding or a proper bathroom. For those whose homes are lacking the joy of the Gospel, the pure delight that it is to know Christ.

Because in the end, we are not missionaries to build an earthly kingdom, but a heavenly one. We are pilgrims on a journey, traveling toward our heavenly home. Like St. Paul explains, "We know that if our earthly dwelling, a tent, should be destroyed, we have a building from God, a dwelling not made with hands, eternal in heaven." (2 Cor 5:1)

Jesus, help me to be ready to leave everything behind at the moment You call. May I be filled with a holy indifference that will allow me to surrender my home and my family so that I can serve those who have no place to call home.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Prayers of the poor

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus heals a blind man. In our mind’s eye, the scene is picturesque - the man and Jesus meet and have an unexplainable encounter that is both human and divine. We are touched by Jesus’ care and concern for this man’s suffering and great need.

Now picture this:
I am walking home, caught up in my thoughts, unaware even of the street beneath my feet. My mind is flooded with situations that must be tended to -- the physical, spiritual, emotional, and financial needs of all the people we serve. Out of the corner of my eye, I spot Rosalinda approaching. She is only in her 50s, but poverty has run its course on her body, and she appears to be a much older woman. An outsider may rightly label her a beggar, for she repeatedly comes to our mission house to beg for her daily bread.

She looks like poverty - blackening teeth, unsteady feet, sunken eyes. She smells like poverty. She speaks her poverty.

“Ma’am, I’m hungry, ma’am. Give me the rice.”

How many times I have heard these same words from her. I try to offer a little smile, but she keeps on:

“Ma’am, I have no food. My rice, ma’am. No coffee. My husband, no work.”

Was it any different for Jesus on the road to Jericho, confronted by a blind man?

“He shouted, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!’ The people walking in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent, but he kept calling out all the more, ‘Son of David, have pity on me!’”

Jesus, in His unending compassion, pauses and addresses him. “‘What do you want Me to do for you?’ He replied, ‘Lord, please let me see.’”

The requests of the poor are rarely extravagant or wrapped in palatable euphemisms or disguised in pretty paper. They are raw and brutally honest. Their need is real.

Rosalinda and I make our way together to the corner store. I hand her the bag of rice and offer to pray with her for her family. But as I begin the prayer, her words tumble out over mine, and I stop to listen.

“Lord, thank You, Lord. Please help my family. Help my children. Help my husband find a work. Thank You, Lord.”

Her words are real - there is no guile, no pretension in them as she humbles herself before me and before her God. I know now what prayer is meant to be.

Our friend, Lola Dory, in a chapel her grandparents built.
Just as with the blind man who, upon receiving his sight, gave glory to God, Rosalinda gives glory to her Father in heaven, to the One Who provides for all her needs. I, too, give glory to God, thanking Him for teaching me all of this through His littlest ones.

Monday, November 17, 2014

A baby on Alvarez Street

Ever since we arrived here in Sagay, our neighbors have shown us the greatest friendship and hospitality and helped us to feel at home. We love being able to bless them in return for their kindness.

Last month our friends Patty and Jun Jun were expecting their first baby but were nervous about potential birth complications. We invited them to join us in a nightly novena to St. Gerard, and on day 4 of the novena the baby arrived!

Patty and Jun Jun are such a loving couple and wonderful first-time parents. It's very common here for a couple to live together and even raise a family without ever getting married. Please pray that we can encourage Patty and Jun to get married sacramentally in the Church.

Patty delivered the baby by c-section on October 12. Everyone wanted to know, "What will you name the baby?" One neighbor insisted on "Alexa" as a tribute to my teammate Alex. Jun suggested "Maria Teresa." I was curious to find out the saint of the day and - to my great surprise - discovered that October 12 is the feast of Blessed Maria Teresa Fasce! Now if that's not the Holy Spirit...

Welcome to the world, Maria Teresa Alexa!
My team was able to sponsor the entire hospital stay, as well as provide trips back and forth to the hospital on the opposite side of the island. Last week, we helped both mom and baby return to the hospital for check-ups. They are doing well, although the baby is now taking medicine for bronchitis. Prayers please!

An awkward neighborhood family photo was of course required to commemorate the occasion.
It's wonderful how a new baby brings everyone together! We can't wait for Maria Teresa Alexa to be baptized when we return to Camiguin after Christmas.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Island fever

As you may have heard, I was admitted to the hospital recently with dengue fever, a mosquito-transmitted virus that is responsible for many deaths, particularly among small children, here in the Philippines. After I had been sick in bed for four days, Father Joe insisted on taking me to the hospital -- thank God for priests like him who truly live out their role as "father"! I was admitted for five additional days until my platelet count returned to normal.

Having best friends as your teammates makes a hospital stay more bearable!
It seems the mosquitoes have been making their rounds here in Sagay. Since I was released, there have been at least four more cases of dengue in our town. We sponsored medical expenses for two teenage brothers as well as a little boy who had contracted the virus - all three have since been discharged, praise God! Please pray for our friend Cha Cha's cousin, who is still fighting the virus and whose platelet count is dangerously low.

Just traditional hospital fare....rice, a fried fish, veggies with coconut milk, and tropical fruit cocktail.
God bless you and keep you always in His loving care!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Tough love

"My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor lose courage when you are punished by him. For the Lord disciplines him whom He loves, and chastises every son whom He receives. He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness. For the moment, all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it." ~Hebrews 12:5-6, 10-11

Receiving a tearful hug from my students.
These are 36 of my favorite students - the entire "Our Lady of Fatima" 4th year class section - who came to our house escorted by their principal to beg forgiveness for having cheated on their exams. There is, as our priest Fr. Joe explains it, a "culture of cheating" here in the Philippines at every academic level, with which I am now very familiar after one year of teaching in a high school. (I do not say this to condemn or accuse, but rather from my and others' experiences.) Cheating is expected and oftentimes openly permitted by instructors.

In previous lessons on the Ten Commandments, I explained to my students that cheating is both stealing and lying (commandments #7 and 8). It would be far easier for me to simply adopt the cultural norm and permit their habit of cheating to continue, but the Lord disciplines him whom He loves, and I love my students too much to allow them to remain in sin. What a powerful experience it was for this class to voice their sincerest apologies, and how happy I was to have the chance to forgive them and affirm them for their desire to change.

I pray that even my small witness will have a long-lasting impact on these students and that the sometimes painful process of disciplining those whom I love might someday yield in them the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

What is a life worth?

Today marks day three of me being sick in bed with the flu. Although my fever is gone, I am too tired and weak to sit up or stand for more than a few minutes at a time. With so many hours spent lying in bed, I've had ample time to think, which is somewhat of a luxury considering my typical habit of running from one activity to the next with few moments for resting in between.

I've been thinking about a woman I met and financially supported here in the Philippines. Her name was Christine and she had a chronic health condition that required her to receive dialysis treatments twice a week. She had already been sick for a long time when I met her, and her condition frequently vacillated from better to worse because she could not afford to maintain a regular schedule of dialysis.

I was told that the full treatment necessary for Christine to maintain her maximum level of health would cost many hundreds of dollars per month. At first, I remember balking at the figure; would it really make sense to donate all that money just to keep one woman alive, when the same money could instead be used to provide for dozens of others in need? I knew theoretically, according to my Catholic Faith and pro-life upbringing, that this very sick woman's life was just as precious to God as the life of anyone else, but it was hard for me to accept that fact when faced with this very real situation. God is so merciful - Jesus softened my heart and also provided more than enough funding from my benefactors to make Christine's monthly treatments possible.

Christine passed away this month. Our missionary community mourned her passing, as many other missionaries had also gotten to know her and given her medical support over the years. She was a holy woman who knew well how to suffer for the glory of God.

As I lie here in bed, I have to ask myself, what is one person's life worth? What am I worth as a missionary if I cannot even get up to answer the door when a neighbor comes asking for help?

I have no theologically lofty answer to this question, except that answer which I have repeated innumerable times to my high school students. We are, each of us, made in the image and likeness of God. All of our worth is found in our identity as sons and daughters of God -- there is NOTHING we must do or accomplish in order to earn it.

Yes, in a business venture, supporting one person rather than one dozen might be considered illogical. But Christ Jesus is not a businessman. He is a passionate Lover Whose heart bleeds for His people. And that is why He asked me to support Christine, so that I might learn from her what each of us is worth in the eyes of our Maker.

"A woman came with an alabaster jar of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the jar and poured it over His head. But there were some who said to themselves indignantly, 'Why was the ointment thus wasted? For this ointment might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and given to the poor.' And they reproached her. But Jesus said, 'Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you will, you can do good to them; but you will not always have me.'" ~Mark 14:3-7

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Saying thank you

This Sunday I visited the house of John Michael, one of my former students. He is now attending a public high school, but his family cannot afford his transportation and other fees, so my team is sponsoring his education expenses. Every other week we visit his home in the mountain to give him his two weeks’ allowance of 100 pesos (about $2.50). In addition to delivering his allowance, we also like to bless the family with an array of small gifts, such as rice and beans, tuna or canned beef loaf, wooden crosses for everyone, or perhaps a coloring book and crayons for the children to share.

I always look forward to visiting John Michael’s family! We drive a motorcycle up the mountain until the road gets too rocky, and then we walk a short distance to his house, where we are greeted by one or two or three little boys running around in their yard. They live in a small house raised a few feet off the ground, with bamboo slats for floors and walls. There are seven children in all, and John Michael at 15 is the oldest.

As soon as we reach the door, John Michael’s parents appear and welcome us in. They are still happily married (a blessing in this culture of broken families) and participate in the Catholic apostolate “Couples for Christ.” Each time we arrive with the agreed-upon allowance along with the unexpected treats, John Michael’s father gets choked up and looks as though he is about to cry. “Ma’am, thank you, ma’am.” He gathers the little ones and whichever neighbor children happen to be present, enjoining them to sit quietly at our feet on the floor of the little room. He then surprises us with gifts in return - bananas or lanzones or rambutan from their fruit trees. How generous are the hearts of those truly in need! Charity doesn’t always feel good, but in this case we are blessed with the opportunity to provide for a family, to see the wide eyes of the children, to see the deep gratitude on the faces and in the voices of their parents.

It is just getting dark when it’s time for us to leave. John Michael is headed to the evening Mass, so we offer him a ride on the back of the motorcycle -- otherwise he would be walking nearly two miles to get to the church. When we drop him off at the church doors, he stands beside the motorcycle for a few moments, unsure of what to say. 

“Thank you.” 

“You’re very welcome,” we reply easily. “See you soon!” 

John Michael turns toward the church, and we are just about to drive off when he pauses, gazing back at us as though something were still left unsaid. I dismount from the motorcycle and walk a few paces to where he is waiting quietly. 

“Yes, John Michael? What is it?”

“Ma’am? Thank you. Always.”

My heart softens as I see the maturity in this young man and an understanding beyond his years. “Well, salamat sa Diyos, thanks be to God. Ang Diyos gihatag kanamo daghan, daghan mga regalo. God has given us many, many gifts. We are so happy we can share them with you.”

“Yes, ma’am,” he acknowledges as a smile breaks across his face. I give him a reassuring pat on the shoulder and we part ways.

Every other Sunday I get to bring hope to this family. In return, I receive such great rewards that I do not even deserve, for I am only the hands and feet that deliver the love of Christ. Thank you for your part in this mission. Thank you for providing what is necessary so families like this one can have food to eat, clothes to wear, and the chance for a proper education.

Now I understand John Michael’s hesitancy to use words far too inadequate to express his gratitude. So I will say simply, humbly as he did, “Thank you. Always.”

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Street games

These photos were too precious not to post! One sunny morning I met these girls playing beside our house. Most children here don't own real toys, and I figured this little company of friends would appreciate the simplicity of a pink jumprope to share. What I didn't know was that they were already jumping masters!

And what girl doesn't like to color? I brought a Bible book and some crayons out to the pavement, and we enjoyed coloring pictures together and reading the story of Jonah and the whale.

It was just a simple thing -- one hour of my day spent playing with elementary school children -- but their joy and eagerness brightened my spirits and taught me once again to look beyond myself to see Christ in the faces of those around me.

Below is one of my favorite prayers, written by John Henry Cardinal Newman and frequently prayed by Mother Teresa. It reminds me to invite Christ into every part of my day and to be His witness in every situation, even if that just means sharing smiles with the little girls in my neighborhood.

Dear Jesus, help me to spread Your fragrance everywhere I go.
Flood my soul with Your spirit and life. 
Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly
That my life may only be a radiance of Yours.

Shine through me, and be so in me 
That every soul I come in contact with
May feel Your presence in my soul. 
Let them look up and see no longer me, but only Jesus!

Stay with me, and then I shall begin to shine as You shine,
So to shine as to be a light to others;
The light, O Jesus, will be all from You; none of it will be mine; 
It will be you, shining on others through me.

Let me thus praise You the way You love best, by shining on those around me. 
Let me preach You without preaching, not by words but by my example, 
By the catching force of the sympathetic influence of what I do,
The evident fullness of the love my heart bears to You. Amen.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Loving the poor

When all of your clothing fits in a drawer and a half, it can be tempting to think that you’ve done enough to be in solidarity with the poor. But then a woman selling candles for 2 pesos outside the cathedral asks for your skirt - she has only one and must wear it every week to Mass - and you realize that you are still among the wealthy.

The home of Lolo and Lola, parishioners at Holy Rosary Church. They live up the mountain just a few blocks from my house.
Waking up after a night of typhoon-like rain, you find soaked floors and a leaking roof in nearly every room of your house and consider how long you will have to wait until the roof can be replaced. Later that morning you visit the home of your good friends and discover that the storm flooded their house, washing their dogs and much of their clothing away down the river. The children’s underwear and school uniforms - which they cannot afford to replace - are all gone. They have had no breakfast because there is no money in the house, so you buy them rice and fish for lunch - only to discover that they have no way of cooking it because their firewood is soaked from the rain. How long has it been since the children have eaten a complete meal? Since the baby has had enough milk? And then you feel wretched and painfully rich because not a day passes that your needs, indeed even many of your unnecessary desires, are not satisfied.

Their house is composed of one room, half for cooking and the other half for living, eating, and sleeping.

Poverty is an uncomfortable topic. We don’t want to face the hard truth -- that our Christian brothers and sisters are living under conditions that we would never allow our own blood relatives to suffer. We want to believe it’s acceptable for us to live in whatever manner we choose, as long as we’re also in some way providing for the needs of others.  Even as a missionary committed to pursuing Gospel poverty, I still face this internal battle; I continually find myself trying to justify the average American lifestyle.

I’m sometimes told that this notion of Gospel poverty -- striving to live in rough equality with the poor -- is too radical.  Certainly Jesus isn’t asking all of us to embrace such an extreme call.......or is He?

Jesus tells the rich young man, “If you would be perfect, go, sell all you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come follow me.” And John the Baptist says, "He who has two coats, let him share with him who has none."

The parish maintenance team is building them a new, more livable house on a nearby plot of land. These men work hard for very little pay, but always with smiles on their faces because they labor for the kingdom of God.
If foreign missions has taught me anything, it’s that there will always be someone in greater need than me. Perhaps it is true that I only own two pairs of shorts, but there is still someone - and in many cases someone passing through my very neighborhood - who has none. My roof may be leaking, but how can I repair it in good conscience and yet do nothing to help the family with a flooded house? How can I claim to be loving my brother if I see his needs but do so little to help him?

With your help, we were able to donate $700 to the building of their new home. Thank you for your generous support!
Two years ago I read a book entitled Happy Are You Poor, which challenged me to reexamine my understanding of Christian charity. The author, Fr. Thomas Dubay, outlines concretely and reasonably the motives and means for living out Gospel poverty, whether your vocation is to the priesthood, marriage, or religious life. God used this book in my life as a motivator ultimately inspiring me to become a missionary to serve the poor and to live among them, as they are truly my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

A quiet time

Sweet success! Genevieve and me at the peak of Mt. Hibok-Hibok, on a rare day of skipping classes at the suggestion of Fr. Joe, the school director. Who says Catholic school teachers are boring??
And all creation will worship Him! Praising the glory of God while cooling off in a crater lake near the top of the mountain. Did I mention Mt. Hibok Hibok is an active volcano? :)
Dear readers, I promise I’m still here! My teammates and I agree that there are definite seasons in our ministry -- a season of working with the street children, a season of fiestas, a season of hosting meals for visitors, a season of hospital visits, and now a season of teaching and tutoring. It’s never a question for us as to who God wants us to serve in any given season because He very clearly brings people in and out of our lives according to His perfect timing.

In this time of ministering to the students at Holy Rosary High School, our lives are just as chaotic as always, although our daily experiences are seemingly less thrilling than before. (Well, I don’t know about you, but I’ve never defined grading 600 English and religion exams to be an exciting task.) But any lack of excitement is balanced out by the fact that, as a teacher, I don’t have to go searching for opportunities to preach the Gospel. I have 348 eager (and sometimes not-so-eager haha) young people sitting and listening to me for hours each day, five days a week! What a gift God has given me in this dual calling to be both full-time missionary and full-time high school teacher!

A few pictures for you:
Some members from both of our 7th grade classes, Our Lady of the Holy Rosary and Our Lady of Lourdes, along with three of our fellow teachers.
We arrived home one Saturday afternoon to find a cohort of our 7th graders gardening in our yard! It was “Coastal Clean-up Day,” and the principal had assigned them to plant lanzones trees at the missionaries’ cottage. Unfortunately, the trees won’t be fully grown to bear fruit for another 20-25 years, but who knows? The Lord has surprised me plenty of times thus far -- maybe someday I’ll be back on Camiguin picking juicy lanzones from these very trees!
Devorah Dave waters a newly-planted lanzones tree. Behind her is our plot of fast-growing, 2-foot-long string beans!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Quick pics

Sorry I've been MIA for several weeks! Between typhoon rainstorms and a crazy teaching schedule, there hasn't been much opportunity for blogging. Here's some pictures to catch you up to date!

For a Filipino celebration day, our 4th year students performed a mini-drama of the Good Samaritan.

Here are a few of my 7th graders doing a traditional Filipino folk dance. So much talent in one school!
Let's ride! Giving our friend Gigi a lift back to her home in the mountain.
Our friend Jona invited us to her brother's home for a fiesta. Don't we look like part of the family?
There were so many little cousins having so much fun together!
I can't imagine a more beautiful life or more wonderful teammates! I love you guys!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

All things to all men

What might you expect to find in the job description of a missionary? Daily prayer, teaching and preaching, feeding the hungry... But I've discovered in the last eight months that there's no end to what the Lord might ask you to do for Him.

This July we visited our missionary friends, Lindsey and Sammy Romero, in Malaybalay City. One night around 10pm, Lindsey received a call from our friend Flora that a woman in the nearby village of Isla Bonita had gone into labor and was about to give birth to twins.

"You wanna come?" Lindsey asked me as she hurriedly threw together a makeshift birthing kit including a few towels and blankets.

"Uhhh...yeah! I mean, what else would I be doing right now?" I stuttered, realizing that this would be the first time I'd ever assisted at a birth.

We rushed to the car and Sammy drove the three of us to Isla. It was dark but thankfully he'd brought a little flashlight to guide the way as we stumbled along the muddy path and down a slippery staircase. We reached the woman's home and entered; a few men were waiting nervously in the main room and we breathed a quick "Good evening - maayong gabii!" to them as we headed to the smaller back room. Inside we found Flora and a few neighbors tending to the mother, a woman in her late 30s. I couldn't believe my eyes - the babies had already been born and were lying there, unclothed on the bed.

"I did it!" Flora announced to us, still in disbelief herself. "It was my first time!"

Indeed, Flora had delivered not only one but two tiny babies, a boy and a girl. Lindsey began asking the mother a few questions, but she wouldn't respond. "She hasn't delivered the placenta yet," Flora explained. Only later did we learn that this is a traditional belief, that the mother should not speak until both the baby and the placenta have been delivered.

After the delivery was complete, we began preparing to take the babies to a birthing center or lying-in clinic, as they call it here.

"Do you have alcohol, or scissors, or any kind of clamp so we can cut the cord?" Lindsey asked. I hadn't even considered that both babies were still connected to the placenta and this to each other, making it difficult to transport them anywhere.

"Wala." They had nothing prepared, no medical supplies available for this home birth. I couldn't help but think of how different it would have been in the States, with every possible precaution taken into consideration months in advance, sparing no expense. But this is the reality of the poor.

Flora later that night with one of the babies she helped to deliver.
We swiftly yet very carefully wrapped the twins in blankets to retain their body heat. The placenta was placed in a cellophane bag, and huddling close together, Lindsey and Flora carried the bundled babies to the door. I held the flashlight and an umbrella to shelter our little posse from the rain as we began the trek back to the car.

It was more treacherous now, walking up the muddy slope, and I didn't want to breathe for fear I'd slip and cause the others to fall as well. Whispering prayers for safety, we finally reached the car and Sammy drove us to the clinic. It was about 10:30 when we arrived, and we called "ayo!" as we approached the door. Two female medical assistants appeared and, upon seeing the two little bundles in our arms, promptly informed us, "We're not authorized to take care of twins."

"Well, they're already born," Lindsey politely but firmly insisted as we marched on through the door, taking off our shoes as is the custom here. Walking barefoot through the clinic, we followed the assistants through a maze of doors to a back room sparsely furnished with two or three beds, a few stools, and a countertop table that held a large scale. One of the women directed Lindsey to lay the babies down on the table, and just as she was about to do so a large cockroach skittered out from behind the scale and across the tabletop.

Ughhhhhh! I groaned inwardly (audibly?) and caught Lindsey's gaze. Many realities of daily life here are still somewhat shocking to me, as I have grown up accustomed to American standards and ways of thinking. But now our only choice is to make do with what we have.

“The umbilical cords still haven’t been cut,” Lindsey explained. “Do you have clamps?”

“Just one,” the assistant admitted as she searched fruitlessly through the medical cabinet for another. Sammy headed off to the 24-hour pharmacy to purchase another, and the assistant found a small pair of medical scissors to temporarily serve as a clamp for the other twin until he returned.

Riding in the car with twins just hours old.
“You want to hold one?” Lindsey asked. Of course I did! I stepped outside the room to wash my hands. The sink had only a tub of dish soap beside it. Well, soap is soap, right? Finally, I had the opportunity to pause amongst the craziness of it all and consider the baby in my arms, the simultaneous fragility and resilience of human life.

The rest of the night went smoothly. Sammy drove us, twins-in-arms, to the hospital where their mother was already waiting. We found her lying on a piece of cardboard atop a freestanding cot in the middle of a large, multi-purpose ward. The nurses rechecked the twins and then returned them to their mother. Our work was done.

I never thought becoming a missionary would entail such adventures as this one. But as St. Paul explains, "I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some." Being all things to all men means I never know what role I might have to fill on any given day -- teacher, tutor, friend, nurse, counselor, translator, cook, cleaner. Missions doesn't require me to do grand or amazing feats; rather, it is my joyful duty just to say yes to whatever Jesus asks of me. And the rewards I receive for saying yes to this life far surpass the sacrifices I have to make. Like St. Paul, "I do it all for the sake of the Gospel, that I may share in its blessings."

May God bless you, now and forever!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Guest post: Biwan's story

This post was written by my team leader, Alex! It really touched my heart so I wanted to share it with all of you. You can donate to this cause either through Alex's fund page -- see link at the bottom -- or directly to my fund. Just write "For Biwan" in the comments section. You can also check out Alex's complete blog at

This is Ana-biwan. Biwan is this sweet little 34 year old (and I say little because next to me she looks like a small child) that I had the pleasure of meeting a couple of months ago. She loves ice cream and volleyball and she's a quiet introvert (yeahhh introverts unite!). She lives in a town called Magsaysay in a tiny little bamboo hut with her husband Danny, who is a 4th grade teacher at the local elementary school, and her three children: Arvie (8), Ian Dave (7), and Rafyl Ava (5). 

    Sadly, Biwan has been diagnosed with lymphoma cancer. She has a softball-sized tumor on the side of her neck that has been growing for the last year because she could not afford to go to the doctor. I have taken her to see a specialist and we have started the process of treatment. She has received blood work and CT scans. And we are now just waiting on the results. After next week we will talk to the doctor about starting chemotherapy. So far, thanks to our benefactors, we have been able to pay the $700 bill for the tests, but we currently cannot afford to pay for the chemotherapy. The chemotherapy will cost somewhere between $4,000-$5,000 depending on how many sessions she will need. 

   I know that it is hard to give your money to someone that you don't know but I know and love her! I really want her to be around to watch her kids grow up. Please pray about donating to Biwan! Donating or not - Please please please pray for her and her family and that the Lord would heal her and provide financially for her! 

If you would like to donate you can go to my page at

Thank you, thank you, thank you! This is a beautiful young Catholic family that really needs your prayers and support. God bless you for your generosity!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Packages are the best!

Last week we received two packages from home - one from my awesome parents and another from the wonderful Filipino prayer group at my church in Maryland!

It felt like Christmas!! Dozens of shoes and peanut butter jars, curtains and towels, children's puzzles and toys, books and art supplies, and even cassocks and surplices for altar servers.

We love being able to bless our friends and neighbors with special treats from the States, or as they say, "imported from America." :)

Thanks, Mom and Dad! Thank you to the Joy in the Spirit community!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Update on Jane

Remember Jane Delopere? (click here to read the original story!) In 2012, after a serious accident, she had multiple surgeries on her skull followed by two years of healing. This summer we accompanied her back to the hospital for a follow-up appointment with her surgeon to determine the next step for her recovery.

It was wonderful to see how Jane had warmed up to us! The first time we met her she was very shy and didn't want to have her picture taken, but this time we met the real Jane -- a happy, active, sweet little girl.

Jane and a few of her cousins
The surgeon told us that Jane's recovery is complete and that she needs no more surgeries! God is so good! Jane's parents Elma and Renati are beyond grateful. Elma is pregnant with their fourth child (due next month), and we could see the stress and weight of her concern literally lift from her face when we assured her that we would find a way to pay off Jane's hospital debt. Thank you to those who have already donated -- we are still in need of more funding for all the doctors' bills, so if you feel God nudging your heart today, please donate for Jane!!