Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Missions at home

Ever since I found out I'd be coming home to the States, I've been asking myself how to reconcile my two lives into one. How can I enjoy my visit home and at the same time not forget my missionary vocation? How can I continue saying yes to Jesus each day?

This afternoon on my way to church, I drove past a young man and woman on the side of the road holding a cardboard sign begging for aid. My heart leapt in my chest. Ordinarily, perhaps before missions, I would have passed by feeling a little sorry for them and, in all honesty, judging them.

What had they done to get themselves into this situation? Why does he have so many tattoos? Why is she wearing revealing clothing?

But today Jesus nudged my heart and I saw them - their downcast spirits, their pained faces. I saw myself in them because I, too, was in need of grace. I was actually on my way to church to receive the sacrament of reconciliation, to ask God for forgiveness for the innumerable times I have offended Him.

And I realized how ridiculous, how hateful it is when I allow myself to judge my brothers and sisters to determine if they are worthy of receiving my help.


"For there is no distinction; since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus." (Rom 3:23, emphasis mine)

I knew I still had to make it to confession but prayed they would be waiting there when I returned. An hour later I pulled into a nearby shopping center and looked for them on the sidewalk, but they were gone. Disappointed yet sure God had a plan, I hopped back in the car and was about to drive away when I spotted them sitting by a storefront.

Their names are Mike and Morgan, and they are homeless. He's applying for jobs, she's selling handicrafts, but lately it hasn't been enough to scrape by. Their little girl is living with a relative until they can get on their feet; they dream of making a better life for her.

Mike gratefully accepted my offer to buy them some  groceries, so we went shopping together. I walked alongside the cart as he picked out various meats and ziploc bags, to freeze the meat in smaller portions for the coming weeks.

He's a praying man, he says. Every day he tosses their shoes under the bed so they have to get down on their knees to reach them; in doing so, they find themselves in the perfect position for prayer.

I've never been homeless, but I told Mike that I, too, have at times found myself in tremendous need of the Lord's mercy, and that He has always been there for me. He smiled slightly. "It's like us. Today we were wondering how we were gonna get by...and then you came."

You don't have to move to the Philippines to be a missionary. Jesus will put people right in your path and prompt you to love them and serve them as He would. You just have to listen.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Back in the USA

It's true! After spending the last 18 months in the Philippines, I'm finally home! I'm looking forward to a time of rest and renewal before being sent back out on mission in January 2017.

Most of my time stateside will be spent at our mission base in Abbeville, Louisiana. The directors of FMC have asked me to be part of the formation team that will help lead this year's intake training for our new missionaries. The training runs from September to mid-December, three weeks of which will be spent at our base in Mexico to give the trainees an idea of what to expect in their future mission life. 

I'm so blessed to be part of the formation team because, after almost three years in foreign missions, the Lord has taught me a great deal about perseverance and hope in the midst of suffering. The day-to-day life of a missionary is vastly different than what one might expect, and I hope to bring a spirit of encouragement and understanding to my soon-to-be missionary brothers and sisters.

Although I'm currently at home, my mission team will continue our ministry in Camiguin for the rest of the year. If you are currently giving to my mission fund, please keep donating! I will be transferring the funds to my teammates for our ongoing alms needs until I return to the mission field myself. This year with your help, we are sponsoring:
  • 24 students in college - $724/month
  • 23 students in high school - $134/month
  • 1 twice-weekly dialysis patient - $537/month
  • 2 children with cerebral palsy and their disabled parents - $255/month
  • 1 Filipino family interning with our community as they discern missions - $358/month
  • Countless medical patients who come to our door each day - sometimes over $2,000/month
This is incredible! God's work is being carried out in a real way through the hands of His missionaries and through the generosity of so many benefactors! Thank you for supporting me in my missionary vocation. Thank you for saying "yes" to Christ's invitation to serve the poorest, weakest members of His Body.

Saying goodbye to some of my favorite students!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The untold story

Eighteen months ago, I wrote a story about my neighbor Desiree and the redeeming power of God's love....and never posted it. But my forgetfulness turned into the Lord's perfect timing because, during the past year and a half, the story has continued to unfold and has now come full circle!

In the spring of 2015, Desiree wrote us a letter begging for our help. There was a legal dispute over the land on which her family's house was built, and she was almost paralyzed with fear over the possible outcome.

Can you imagine the anger and sorrow that you might experience upon learning that your home could be demolished in the coming weeks or months and knowing that you are powerless to stop it? How could Desiree, married with five children living at home, possibly be hopeful in such an impossible situation?

Talking with Desiree at home.
When we visited Desiree's home to talk, cry, and pray together, she told us that every evening the whole family would gather to pray the Rosary for a miracle, and every night she would awake at 3am to pray it again on her own. Still, it was as though a dark cloud hung over her; she felt trapped under the weight of this burden that she carried day in and day out.

Together, Desiree, her children, and my mission team knelt on her bare cement floor and pleaded with the Lord to miraculously provide a solution, for His will to be done. Desiree wept as we asked Jesus to cast all evil spirits of doubt, despair, and anxiety out of the house and out of their hearts, and to instead strengthen their faith and fill them with joy and hope in Him.

Reading the Bible together.
When we left, although the situation itself was unchanged, our spirits were lifted. The following week when we visited again, Desiree greeted us at the door with a big smile on her face. "My neighbors ask me, 'What happened to you? Is your problem all gone?' But I tell them no, nothing has happened. It's because of the Lord."

"When you came," she explained, "I had been feeling this heaviness on my heart for several weeks. But when you prayed with me, God was here. I felt the Holy Spirit come over me, and since then I am not worried anymore. From day to day, I just trust in the Lord! Maybe we will lose the house. Okay, then we'll all sleep outside. But God will take care of us."

Desiree with her oldest and youngest children.
We couldn't believe our eyes and ears -- Desiree's heart was transformed through prayer! Jesus had truly worked a miracle, although not the one we might have expected. 

We could have gone to court on her behalf...
We could have given her money for the family's material needs...
We could have looked for a new home...

But all of these were secondary. Our real work as missionaries is to announce Christ's victory over the powers of darkness in this world, and what a gift it is to see His truth reigning in the hearts of those we serve!

Now, a year and a half later, Desiree and her family are living in a new house that we built for them. Her husband, whose own personal struggles had isolated him from their family for several years, is working to restore their relationship. Their two oldest children are part of our college sponsorship program, thriving in school and eagerly growing as young disciples, evangelizing their peers on and off campus.
Desiree and her son at his high school graduation.
The transforming power of God's grace in the lives of people like Desiree increases my zeal for the mission and helps me to persevere in times of trial. I am always blessed to share miracle stories of the Lord's faithfulness with everyone back home, all of you whose prayers and donations make this mission possible. Thank you!!

Their new home!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Louie and Fe: Our God saves!!

Many of you have seen pictures and read stories about Louie and Fe, the darling brother and sister with cerebral palsy living here in Sagay. We first met them last year -- an entire family existing in squalor due to extreme poverty and multiple mental and physical handicaps.

Let me tell you, there is NO POSSIBLE WAY we could save this family! Yes, we could give them food and medicine, but we all knew that was just putting a bandaid on a gaping wound. This family needed a SAVIOR, and in a big way!

Four adults and two children lived in this shack with no running water and no electricity.

This May, their father Irenao, already unable to walk, suffered a stroke and lost complete use of his right arm and leg. During his hospitalization, their mother, mentally handicapped and partially blind, attempted to care for them, but the results were distressing. Louie and Fe began visibly regressing.

We tried hiring a friend to provide daily home care....

We considered searching for a orphanage or institution that accommodate the whole family...

We wanted a long-term solution to ensure that the children and their parents would be provided for, especially considering that someday there may not be missionaries here to care for them. Seeing that we were powerless, our prayer came from a place of real need: "God, save Your people!"


My friends, our God is a real God who does real things for real people in the real world! And just when we began to lose hope, Jesus came and brought His light to the darkness of this family's plight.

Our missionary community met together with the family's extended relatives who live on the other side of the island. They are a loving network of aunts, uncles, and cousins who had agreed to care for Irenao until he recovered. But our main purpose of meeting with them carried much more weight.

We asked if they would be willing to take in Louie, Fe, and their parents: to clean, feed, and care for each of them. For life.

After those last words fell from our lips, we waited, scanning their faces to see how they might respond. They themselves are poor, living in a small home on the side of a mountain, but we could see the love they had for one another and the generosity they had already extended to Irenao.

If you were in their place, what would have been your response?

How often Our Lord asks a simple favor of me, a little sacrifice, and I refuse Him. Not wanting to submit myself to unnecessary discomfort or inconvenience, I turn away or leave the task to someone else.

I am being honest when I say that I still have so much to learn from the poor. Because my friends, after just a moment of discussion and all-around nods of approval, this family said yes!!! Yes to opening their home to these four souls in need. Yes to the coming decades of service. Yes to the dirty work, the heavy lifting, the smelly tasks.

They said yes to love.

Smiles all around! Fe and Louie with their dad in their new home.
Praising the Lord during our meeting with the family!
God, in His goodness, had planned this from the beginning. All we had to do was to pray and seek out His will, and He did the rest!

We are still praising God for this miracle, and now I must beg for your help. We are committed to continue our financial support for their daily needs: four hungry mouths to feed, diapers, and transportation to physical therapy cost about $65 per week, or $260 per month.

Please, please consider donating monthly to provide for this family!! They so desperately need your support and your prayers! Our Lord Jesus has such a special love for them, and I believe that you too will receive great blessings from Him for your generosity on their behalf.

You can donate to my mission fund at -- just write "Louie and Fe" in the comments box.

For more on this story, you can read my teammate Melissa's post here.

How great is our GOD!!

Monday, May 30, 2016

A tribute to Father

This is an important week for our Church! This Sunday was the feast of Corpus Christi, the Body and Blood of Jesus, and this Friday we celebrate the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This is also an important week for Father Joe, our priest, spiritual father, and mission partner here in Sagay.

In April 1989, in southern Maryland, I was born. Just a few weeks later, Fr. Joe was visiting parishes in New Jersey giving mission appeals and planning to continue on to Rome. But he never made it to Rome because he suddenly became very sick and had a series of seizures. After five days with no improvement, his host family convinced him to go to the hospital. 

Baptizing dozens of babies at a chapel Mass. Father has a deep love for the sacraments.
In Father's words, the doctor briefly examined him and then commanded the hospital staff to "get that man admitted immediately! He has two days to live!" A large mass on Father's brain made an emergency operation necessary but with little hope for success -- Father was told his chances were 50/50 and that, even if he survived, there was a great possibility that he would be left in a vegetative state.

On the eve of Corpus Christi, Fr. Joe lay awake in his hospital bed anticipating the operation that would begin the next morning. It was his first and only visit to the States, and considering the possible outcomes, he requested that his bishop in the Philippines have his body sent home for burial if he did not survive.

In his early priesthood, celebrating with a young couple after their wedding Mass.
Miraculously, the operation was 100% successful! And five days later on the feast of the Sacred Heart, his bandages were removed and doctors cleared him for discharge -- a miraculously quick recovery!!

Today, 27 years later, Fr. Joe frequently reflects on his life and how God has led him through every trial he has faced, not the least of which being his operation. This anniversary week is always a reminiscent time for him, but this year in particular because it is also the closing of a chapter in his priestly life. After nine years of faithful, tireless service to the people of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary parish in Sagay, Father is being transferred to the coastal town of Balingoan located on the mainland, less than a mile from the port. This Friday he will cross the ferry and report to his new assignment, beginning a new chapter in his life just as he did on that same day so many years ago.

A common sight: Father hiking mountains to visit the sick or in search of water sources.
God has been so good to Father Joe -- and so very good to me for allowing me to serve under his shepherding care. I have learned from Father that we can each only do so much - no one person can do everything - but that our job as Christians is never completed. That when we are unsure if some undertaking is possible, we must simply go on and trust that the Lord will take care of it.

That, in matters of mercy and service to the poor, it's better to act first and ask questions later, to not worry whether your finances and resources will suffice but to just give and give until there is nothing left.

Blessing a ferry before its first voyage. Fr. Joe's own father was a marine mechanic.
I have learned that a little humor can lighten the heaviest of life's burdens and that there's nothing a cold bottle of coke cannot fix. That the Lord affords us all sufferings for our good, and that sometimes He even allows us to "suffer comfortably." That, while we may not always see God's hand at work in our lives, when we look back we will realize that He was there all along.

Repairing a family's home after it was destroyed by a fallen coconut tree.
I love you, Father! Your new flock will be forever blessed to have you as their shepherd! I pray that the Holy Spirit will raise up many more holy priests willing to lay down their very lives every day for their people and their poor.

Sunday, May 29, 2016


Here are a few pictures from the busy month of May!

Baby Ariel was born with a hole in his heart. We met him in January when he was just one month old; he was thin with grayish skin and rarely made a sound -- clearly a sick little baby! After two trips to a cardio-pediatrician on the mainland and four months of daily medicine, the hole has begun to close. Ariel is thriving and getting chubbier every day. Thank You, Jesus!

On the right is Onel, a young man from Malaybalay who attended our mission trip this April. Last week he accompanied us on a home visit to Michael, our friend suffering from PAN, a rare disease of the blood vessels. Although Onel himself has received little formal education and has great difficulty reading, he zealously shared a Scripture passage with Michael's family and spoke to them about repentance and the mercy of God. Evidence of what the Holy Spirit can do in a heart that is ready to receive Him! 

These are our dear friends Lilay and Jerome Siapo! Until now, they and their five children have shared a small, crowded house with their extended family. With the help of Fr. Joe's maintenance team and YOUR generous donations, they now have a home of their own. (This picture was taken after Fr. Joe blessed their new house.) Please pray for the Siapo family as they work alongside us in this mission. Jerome gave up his job this year so they can serve full-time as FMC interns while they discern whether the Lord is calling them to become missionaries!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

New kicks for a cool kid

Pure joy!! Who knew simple pair of sneakers could light up a kid's face like this? Id Krism is one of our most dedicated, hardworking college students. Last week he excitedly told me that he was joining a summer basketball league, but his daily footwear consists of a pair of plastic flip flops and the dress shoes he wears to school. Today we found this pair of basketball shoes in a box of donations from the States. They're perfect fit!

Thank you to everyone who has donated to our mission! I wish you could meet Id Krism and all our friends here to see the joy in their faces. They truly feel loved by your support!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Why I'm [still] a missionary

It’s 10:48pm and I just finished rinsing the last of the lice shampoo out of my hair. It’s just a preventative measure this time, but I’m being a little extra careful because a few weeks ago at this time of night I was picking dozens of little eggs off my scalp. Lovely, I know.

I have lice on my mind because earlier today I spent hours with a young girl in fourth grade who has a good number of these little buggers all over her head, but that fact is easy to forget when you catch sight of her adorable smile and inquisitive brown eyes. Her name is Jessa.

We first met Jessa this morning up in a mountain village after attending the community’s annual fiesta Mass. My mission partner Melissa called me over to inspect this little girl’s legs. Her left leg is strangely bent and will not straighten; she walks gingerly with a painful limp. She has two large wounds, one on the outside and the other on the inside of her leg. What happened?

Jessa and her grandfather explained to us that they are only visiting in Camiguin for a few days and tomorrow will return to their home on the mainland. Five days ago at home, Jessa was leading a work horse, pulling it by its rope, when the rock she was standing on slipped and she fell, badly injuring her leg. She suspects it is broken, but they have no money to see the doctor. Jessa and her grandfather both embody the attitude I have seen countless times here among the poor -- “We’ll get along somehow. We’ll make it work.” And I understand why; what other choice do they have?

But WE have a choice. We offered them a ride to the hospital, where the pediatrician requested an X-ray for Jessa’s leg. The nurse cleaned her wounds and Melissa purchased antibiotics as well as some soap and shampoo; Jessa appeared as though she had not bathed in a very long time.

“What is your religion?” I asked her. “Are you Catholic? Do you know Jesus Christ?”

“Yes,” she smiled broadly. And so I told her, as I try to do with each of our patients, “Jesus loves you.”

Somehow in Visayan the words come across even more beautifully - “Nahigugma si Hesus kanimo.”

Jessa desperately needs someone to remind her of that fact daily. Her parents are separated, and she lives with her elderly grandfather and one sibling. She clearly has no one to teach her to bathe, no one to pick the lice out of her hair, no one to dress her wounds, and no one to bring her to a health clinic where she could be treated.

During our car ride home, I caught Jessa repeatedly stealing glances my direction, then smiling and shyly looking away. I knew why. Here was a girl encountering love freely given, possibly the only time she has experienced that kind of love from anyone other than her grandfather. I gently rubbed her back and wished for more time to get to know her.

Usually we see our medical cases all the way through, from admittance to discharge, from initial checkup to final followup. But with Jessa it is different because she and her grandfather will leave Camiguin tomorrow and we’ll likely never see them again. They have no cell phone number, no form of contact.

We can only pray that they take our advice with to bring Jessa’s X-ray to the government hospital, where she can receive medical assistance free of charge. If her leg is not fixed now, she may be crippled for the rest of her life.

Job 24:12 says that "the soul of the wounded cries for help." In this case, I think God did not want our help so much to treat the wounded body as the wounded heart. To let a little girl know she is loved, cared for, valued. To let her grandfather know that there are still people trying to live the Christian life to its fullest, to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

Yes, Jesus, that is why I became a missionary. To love others as myself out of love for You!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Missions: Glorious, not glamorous

Missions is really hard.

I write this at the risk of stating the obvious because there still exists a false idea that missions is one thrilling adventure after another, hiking mountains to preach the name of Jesus to unconverted tribes all while wearing dri-fit clothing, drinking from coconuts, and singing praise songs.

Has that happened in my life? Yes. Does that accurately describe my day-to-day life? Not even close.

The founders of Family Missions Company are famous for saying that while mission life isn’t glamorous, it is glorious. This is true.

There is nothing glamorous about the stench of human waste in an overcrowded hospital ward, bedsores that refuse to heal after months of intensive treatment, and medical bills so high that you sincerely begin to wonder if God will again work a miracle and provide the funds to pay for it all.

Update: Two days later, Michael is still in a very hot, open-air transient ward
waiting for a hospital room to become available.
Yet how glorious to stand at the bedside of a dying child and know that, if Jesus soon calls him home, at least you had the opportunity to pray with him and to comfort his mother.

How glorious to be present when a stranger passes away in a neighboring cot -- to bring the love of our Almighty God to his family now drenched in grief by the loss of their father.

How glorious to assure parents who have lost all hope that God wants to provide for them, that they need not worry about the costs which they could never afford and rather focus on helping their child to heal.

I need to remember “glorious, not glamorous” on days like today. We began the day at 1:45am, transferring 21-year-old Michael (read his story here) in an ambulance across islands to a second hospital and then to a third, trying to find him the right doctor to treat his lupus and severe infections. All throughout the day we prayed and prayed for miracles, for our funds to stretch far enough to cover the bills, for an available room in the hospital, etc.

About 4pm this afternoon we had a new visitor at our house, a man whose 1-year-old girl has just been hospitalized for pneumonia, dehydration, fever, seizures, and possible brain damage. In my human weakness, I don’t want to take on this case. It means repeating the process of transferring another patient to the mainland all over again tomorrow. It means another teammate might have to accompany this family each step of the way to ensure they are receiving proper care and have their needs met. It means more expensive bills that we may not be able to pay if we do not receive enough donations.

But our God! For Him, these mountains are nothing - they melt like wax before Him. Our God is unconcerned with official diagnoses and dollar figures. Our God, using us as His instruments, wants to heal His children physically but even more so spiritually.

Thank you for becoming a part of this mission. Thank you for storming heaven with your prayers! Please help us to continue the work God has called us to do by donating to my mission fund, We need your help!! We are so grateful for every donation you make.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Mentored into mission

This week we brought 22 young adults from Camiguin on a mission trip to Malaybalay City! For them, it was a unique opportunity to experience the life of a missionary, to bring Jesus' love and mercy to their brothers and sisters who, not unlike them, are in great physical and spiritual need.

Home visit in Isla Bonita accompanied by three of our college students (on the left).
For us, it was the fulfillment of a dream and countless prayers. One year ago, when we launched our college ministry, we hoped that it would be much more than just financial sponsorship. We mentored the students throughout the year, watching as each one began to develop a deeper relationship with Jesus through prayer and Bible reading. We hoped to raise them up to be missionaries in their own right, teaching them to preach the Gospel and serve the needy just as every Christian is called to do by virtue of his baptism.

Students singing praise and worship songs at a Bible study.
This week, I was supremely blessed to witness these same students with whom I have journeyed over the past year doing exactly that: boldly preaching God's Word, sharing their testimonies in homes and on the streets, visiting the imprisoned and the sick, bringing food to the hungry and hope to the despairing.

For me, this mission trip was a confirmation from the Lord that our work here has made an impact. Through our witness and years of service, God is raising up more laborers for His harvest!

An enormous thank you to everyone who has donated to our college sponsorship program or to this mission trip -- the students pray for you daily!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

"Rise and walk"

This is our newest patient, Michael. He is 21 years old and was just diagnosed with lupus. He has been hospitalized for the past month because of persisting infections all over his body due to his compromised immune system. Michael's family is very poor and certainly cannot afford his medications, which cost up to $85 per vial.

When I first met Michael in the hospital, I thought he was surely dying. He was covered with open wounds and rashes, and he couldn't sit up without support or feed himself. We purchased a lot of medicine as well as an electric fan to keep him cool in his isolation room. He is now slightly improved. His parents are very devoted to caring for him, but their faces reveal both exhaustion and worry for their oldest son.

Michael receives daily visits from the physical therapist to help him practice standing and walking. Lying in bed for the past month has caused a large bed sore to form on his backside, and he cannot leave the hospital until it heals. We hope to transfer Michael to the mainland to be treated by a rheumatologist, who will be able to prescribe daily maintenance medication for his lupus.

As a missionary frequently encountering serious illnesses, I realize how little I can do, and simultaneously how much Christ wants to do through me. Michael is generally rather nonresponsive, at least to me, a stranger and a foreigner. The most alert and interactive I have ever seen him was the day we read to him from Scripture the story of Jesus healing a paralytic.

"Jesus said to him, 'Rise, take up your pallet, and walk.' And at once the man was healed, and he took up his pallet and walked." -John 5:8-9

We believe in miracles! And we trust that Michael, too, will experience Jesus' healing touch, so that he may rise and walk again.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Be healed!

This morning I read the Gospel account of the woman with a twelve-year hemorrhage who was healed when she touched Jesus' cloak. I sighed internally, wishing that I could see such signs and wonders in my own life, and then I caught myself. How often has Jesus performed miracles in my midst, and how easily I forget them!

Last week I accompanied a 30-year-old woman named Emilie and her husband to the gyno-oncologist. Prior testing revealed a cyst-like mass, possibly cancerous, in addition to a UTI. We had not yet arrived at the hospital, and I was already mentally calculating how much an operation and a hospital stay would cost. Did we catch it early enough, or would Emilie experience tremendous suffering and eventually leave behind her husband and four young children, as has happened with other patients we have met "too late"?

Before her first appointment with the specialist, Emilie was quite nervous, so we prayed for a spirit of peace and trust in God and for a miraculous healing.

"I see nothing," the doctor explained, "but sometimes it's too high in the cervix to see. She'll need an ultrasound." A second consultation with another doctor after the ultrasound revealed...nothing!

"Why did you come to me if your symptoms are only that of a UTI?" The gyno-oncologist raised her voice at Emilie, clearly misunderstanding and sounding slightly annoyed.

"You see, Doc," I fumbled, "we were told she had a cyst. But the Lord has healed her!!"

The doctor seemed to consider that for just a moment before turning to write a prescription for the minor infection, but for Emilie something had changed.

"And she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease" -Mark 5:29

Perhaps only she, who had been battling the what-ifs, the worries, and the fear of the unknown could truly experience the depth of peace and freedom that comes from the healing hand of Jesus. Praised be God, now and forever!

Sunday, February 28, 2016

The family that prays together

Look at this happy face -- there's no better feeling than being cleared for discharge! Little Francisco was hospitalized for five days for his broken femur, and I was so excited to capture one of his rare, hard-won smiles on camera! His dad, Raul, spoiled him with a little pack of hair gel to celebrate the occasion.

Thrilled to finally be going home!!
Last November, Raul left his family behind in Camiguin, trying to find work on the nearby island of Bohol, but when he heard that his son had been in a serious accident, he rushed home immediately. I was slightly nervous to meet this man who, his wife had informed me, drank, smoke, and had done little to provide for his family for the past few months. I wondered, will he even know how to care for this injured little boy who winces at the lightest touch or pressure put on his leg?

I shouldn't have worried. Raul is a tender, loving father who was attentive to Francisco's every need. Look closely and you can see his smile in this picture! Even his wife Mel was shocked at the difference she witnessed in her husband.

Francisco together with both of his parents.
On Sunday morning, I came early to the hospital to find Raul sitting at Francisco's bedside, reading a laminated card that read, 'Prayer before receiving communion.' Quite surprised, I asked him, "Do you want to go to Mass downstairs in the chapel?" 

"No, my wife is there, so I have to stay here to watch over Francisco."

"Ako lang," I insisted. "I already attended Mass this morning, so I'll watch him if you want to go."

"Okay!" he readily agreed and got up from his chair. My surprise was outmatched by Mel's when I spoke with her afterwards. "I was there praying in the chapel, and I looked up and saw him next to me! I didn't expect that! And he was really praying!"

Mel explained that it had been a long time since Raul had attended Mass at all, and she especially couldn't believe his fervor as he prayed for their son's healing.

Maybe that is why God allowed this to happen to Francisco, we mused together. To restore the family. To bring Raul back home and back to the Lord.

Above all, I am grateful that Raul and Mel recognize that it is not the Americanos, not the missionaries, not anything we have done, but rather Jesus Christ Who is responsible for Francisco's quick recovery. It is our Father in heaven Who provides each day for the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of His children. Thank You, Lord Jesus, for working yet another miracle in the lives of the people we are so blessed to serve!

Friday, February 5, 2016

Nahulog sa kapayas!

[Translation: "He fell out of a papaya tree!"

This little boy and his parents have reason to celebrate tonight! Six-year-old Francisco fractured his femur two days ago when he fell out of a papaya tree. His family had no other food to eat with their rice, so he was climbing their tree to pick some of the fruit when the accident happened.

My first ambulance ride! Francisco didn't complain once during the five-hour journey from Camiguin to the mainland, including the one-hour ferry crossing.

Praise Jesus, we were able to secure two packs of blood for transfusion before and after the surgery (Blood is hard to come by here, and you typically must provide your own donors. One of our friends generously offered to be a donor for Francisco.)

Francisco successfully underwent surgery this morning, receiving stainless steel implants that will be removed in one year. He is doing well and should be discharged on Sunday.

I loved having the opportunity to be a missionary witness in the hospital, praying the Rosary, reading the Bible, and speaking about the Lord's goodness both with Francisco's parents and with the other patients in the ward.

Indeed, how good is the Lord to entrust us with the care of His precious children! Please pray that this experience of God's merciful love will draw Francisco's family into a closer relationship with one another and with the Lord!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Rex: Becoming a man of God

[Part 2 of our Christmas campaign]

We were only too happy to bring Rex and his family a Christmas care package! Rex is a phenomenal young man who we are sponsoring in college and whose life has been dramatically changed this year by Jesus Christ.

On a recent afternoon, Rex dropped by our cottage. As we chatted on the porch steps, he pointed out a group of boys walking by, clearly the “tough guys” of the neighborhood, with whom Rex is well-acquainted. Although these days, his free time is occupied by prayer and Scripture reading (he’s currently reading through the book of Isaiah), it was not long ago that he could be found on the streets late at night, drinking, smoking, and getting in fights with the other boys. Noting the guys passing by, he said, “They’re still living like that because they don’t understand. But after they experience something, they will change.”

“What is it that they need to experience?” I asked him. “What caused you to change your life?”

Visiting Rex (white shirt) and his brother Ricky for Christmas.
Rex became serious and answered, “Three things, ma’am. First, I knew my dad wouldn’t change if I did not change.” After Rex’s mother abandoned the family # years ago, his father developed an alcohol problem. Throughout high school, Rex worked to provide food for his father and little brothers, and eventually chose to leave his delinquent lifestyle to be a good example to his father.

“Second, because I wanted to finish high school and go to college. And third...” and here he paused, choosing his words with great care, “because the missionaries came. Because of you.”

I could say nothing in response -- speechless because, by the grace of God, I knew it to be true. I recall Rex in my senior English class last year, clearly a young man wanting to be good but caught in a sinful lifestyle. I remember the tough love that we showed him, and how our words did not fall on deaf ears.

Rex has a heart of service - he daily volunteers to bring medicine to Louie and Fe.
Today, Rex speaks about what Jesus has done in his life and how, at 16, he is a changed man. He is learning the power of forgiveness as he seeks to forgive both his mother, who left him in childhood, and his old friends who have hurt him. He speaks with conviction because he knows from experience that there is no better life than this -- to walk humbly with Christ.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Children of mercy

[Part 1 of our Christmas campaign]

Louie is a 13-year-old boy. His sister Fe is 10. For their entire lives they have lain next to each other on the bamboo floor of their home, unable to walk, talk, or feed themselves.

Both Louie and Fe have cerebral palsy. We met their family several months ago and, in all honesty, were overwhelmed by their tremendous need.

Their father Irenao is physically disabled and unable to walk but a few steps with great difficulty. His wife is mentally disabled and cannot care for her family. The grandmother is elderly and has been living with tuberculosis for several years. Louie and Fe’s older sister Leah is 15 years old and attends school -- she is in 6th grade.

We visited their family as part of our Christmas campaign, hoping to provide both spiritual and material support. They survive primarily on potatoes that grow on their land. Irenao spends each day harvesting and preparing the potatoes, while the women take turns walking a long distance to fetch water for cooking and cleaning. Louie and Fe lie motionless except for occasionally waving their arms or legs; their limbs have become very rigid and almost locked in place, as they have no access to proper care, therapy or medicine.

Lilay and Jerome Siapo ministering to Irenao and his wife.
When we arrived on December 24, they were preparing for a big day. The Sunday after Christmas, at their town’s fiesta, the parents planned to be married in the Catholic Church and to have Louie and Fe baptized! Our friends and ministry partners, Jerome and Lilay Siapo, excitedly agreed to handle all the preparations, getting proper clothing for each of them and even a small wedding gift - bowls, plates, and drinking cups as they had none in their home.

The week after Christmas, we brought the entire family to the hospital for checkups. Louie was admitted for a few days for pneumonia, and Fe received an assortment of medicines for bronchitis and asthma.

My mom (!) helping me to give Fe her medicine.
Despite the severity of their condition, Louie and Fe have quickly won the hearts of everyone in our company helping to care for them. We introduced our sponsored college students to the family, and they immediately offered to help out in any way possible! Our team of caregivers continues to grow as Lilay, Jerome, and several students assist us in visiting the family’s home three times each day to feed and bathe the children and administer their medicine.

Our awesome college students helping to give Louis and Fe their night dose of meds.
The students have remarked that, although they themselves are poor, this family lives in much greater poverty. I am inspired by these young people’s eagerness to serve those in need, to have mercy and compassion on the poor and suffering. It seems only appropriate that this year, which Pope Francis has deemed the Jubilee of Mercy, we would bring the mercy of our Heavenly Father to His sons and daughters, and in particular to this very special son and daughter - to Louie and Fe.