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.