Monday, December 28, 2015

Christmas joy!

December marked my first Advent and Christmas in the Philippines! Our biggest project this month by far was our Christmas campaign.

Thanks to our generous benefactors, we were able to raise money to provide 30 families with complete care packages of toiletries, food items, etc. We also sponsored 100 smaller care packages that our priest Father Joe distributed to homes throughout Sagay. It sounds simple, but for the recipients it was a tremendous and unexpected blessing.

Buying everything from spaghetti sauce to shampoo -- in bulk!
When we visited families' homes on December 23 and 24, several were already preparing what would be their Christmas meal, which consisted solely of kamotes - a starchy, native potato. Kamotes grow plentifully in the mountains, and are the most common food option when a family is too poor to afford vegetables, fish, or even rice. One man explained that he eats just kamotes for every meal, aside from an occasional banana. Sometimes he and his children eat nothing at all.

One mother shouted joyfully when she saw we had brought her a bag of rice. Imagine her surprise when we revealed the additional spaghetti, canned meats, and packs of soup!

A few of our sponsored college students holding boxes of groceries.
The most amazing part of the Christmas project was getting to bring Christ into the homes we visited. We asked the families to join us in a brief Bible study, and they were very glad to do so. We read the prophet Isaiah's foretelling of the coming Messiah, the Prince of Peace, and Zechariah's prophecy of the light that would soon illumine our world's darkness with the birth of Christ.

Jerome and Lilay, our good friends who assisted us in the home visits.
What good news of great joy for us to announce to these families! Poverty, broken relationships, unforgiveness among friends and neighbors -- all of these Jesus came to restore, heal, and save. And we can be the principal witnesses of this salvation!

Thank you to all those who gave so generously to our Christmas campaign! Stay tuned...I'll be posting stories of individual families we visited to show you the joy that they received this Christmas.
"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and his name will be called 'Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.'" - Isaiah 9:6

Friday, December 4, 2015

Happy (belated) Thanksgiving!

This November marked my first Thanksgiving in the Philippines! Last year at this time I was 30,000 feet in the air, on my way home for Christmas, so my "turkey dinner" was a little more like mystery meat on a plastic tray. But this year we celebrated in true American style!

My teammate Genevieve and I island-hopped to visit our missionary community in Malaybalay. Sammy and Lindsey Romero are fantastic missionaries and good friends, and we had a blast preparing the Thanksgiving meal together with their three adorable children.

The kids and I had fun making handprint turkeys. What are you thankful for?
Ovens are not readily available in the Philippines -- at least, not among the poor -- but the Romeros were recently blessed with a crockpot and a toaster oven, which made it possible for us to cook many of our favorite holiday dishes. Lindsey baked delicious pies, substituting kalabasa (native squash) for pumpkin, and the turkey that Sammy slaughtered in the backyard graced the center of our Thanksgiving spread.

Typical Thanksgiving pose, peeling potatoes with a dishtowel over my shoulder.
Of course, we had plenty of leftovers and were more than happy to share our Thanksgiving treats with Filipino friends, for whom "American-style" food is quite a novelty.

I pray you had a blessed Thanksgiving with your loved ones. May we carry the spirit of thankfulness into our day-to-day lives, always remembering the goodness of God and what He has done for us!