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!