Saturday, May 27, 2017

Remembering Louie

This time is the only time you have to love. I realize that now because of Louie.

When I met him, I thought he was just another boy: dirty, not the most lovable. Louie and his sister Fe had cerebral palsy, and while Fe was sweet and loved to laugh, Louie was rather stoic. He wouldn't talk or smile at us. I remember holding Louie and just comparing him to his sister, wondering why he was the way he was. Now looking back, I’m grateful for who Louie was -- who God made Louie to be -- and seeing how Louie’s uniqueness blessed me in so many ways. 

Something about missions makes you a little stiff towards death. When I heard this spring that Louie had passed away, I immediately began thinking about the practicals - the money his family would need for the viewing and the funeral, and the people who would volunteer to clean the family’s house before the traditional in-home wake could take place. 

But when the Lord gave me the time and the grace to mourn his death, I realized that what came flooding back to my memory were all of my own imperfections, the imperfect ways that I had loved Louie.

I can remember the first time we took him with his whole family in tow to the hospital, and multiple family members were admitted for their terrible health. Louie had some complicated form of pneumonia and asthma, or perhaps it was bronchitis; maybe we’ll never really know. He had to be hospitalized for a few days, nebulized, and put on antibiotics. I can remember how I held him to feed him, supported his head, and spooned little bits of food into his mouth. After his discharge, I remember mixing drops of medicine into Pediasure so that he could consume it.

I recall his birthday - it was his fourteenth - and the first birthday party he ever had was a gathering of the missionaries, our friends, and our students...anyone who had helped care for him since the time that we had come to know him. It was a joyful gathering.

I remember with sadness how in recent months I saw a picture posted online of Fe and Louie and knew without a doubt that they were declining, that the state of their hygiene, their health, and their nutrition was poor, but that there was nothing I could do. Since no missionaries were living in Camiguin during that season, we depended solely on our local friends there to help -- and they did a phenomenal job -- but the task of caring full-time for Louie and his family was more than any one person or family could handle.

I know theologically that Louie is happier now. I know that he is with the Lord, dancing and singing in a way that he never could here on earth, and I’m happy for him. But there’s a deep sadness welling up in me, too, because I’ll never see Louie again this side of heaven, and somehow that really hurts. It hurts that I didn’t love him better, that it was my own pride that wanted to care for him, to be a “good” missionary caring for a disabled child. It hurts that I allowed my human blinders and judgments to view him as somehow less lovable than his sister.

But mostly, I’m grateful. I’m grateful for the time that I had with him and for the grace that God gave me to mourn his passing. I’m grateful for the many people who donated to support him and his family throughout the past year and a half. We love you, Louie, and we’ll miss you.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Two Weeks in the Philippines: part 2

Since I traveled all the way to the Philippines this March for a short-term mission (read part 1 here), I of course had to make a side trip to my beloved Camiguin! My old teammate Genevieve and I made a two-day visit to the island together. We still sponsor 15 students in college, plus one young man in seminary, and I was eager to catch up with them!

Some of our students attend school on the far side of the island and could not come home to meet with us, so we surprised them at school! We enjoyed not only hearing their updates about college but also sharing with them stories of what God has recently been doing in our lives -- about His great faithfulness and personal love for us!

Treating Elza and Cielon to ice cream.
It was a quick trip, so God made sure to put people in our path that He wanted us to see! Our friend Nardo, who experienced a powerful conversion during the past two years through his friendship with the missionaries, happened to be walking by and spotted us in a cafe! We were so happy to reconnect with him.

That evening, we hosted a dinner for all of our college students. It was beautiful to feel "back at home" once again, to sing praise and pray with them, and to rejoice in how much they've grown and how far they have come. They were just juniors in high school when we first met, and now they've completed their second year of college!

Some of our best students hamming it up! I promise they're actually hard workers. ;)
One of my favorite stops on the trip was a visit to Father Joe and Gogoy, his right-hand man. Father served the people of Sagay, Camiguin, for nine years and holds a dear place in their hearts -- and in mine as well. I was so grateful that the Lord gave us the opportunity to see him again!

Reuniting with old friends!
Finally, a highlight of my trip to the Philippines was serving alongside my fellow FMC missionaries, these incredible Filipino families who have given up everything to preach the Gospel, both in foreign lands and in their hometowns. We currently have two full-time missionary families and two "intern" families still discerning their call. You can read more about these families here and here!

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Two Weeks in the Philippines: part 1

Although I'm currently serving full-time at FMC's mission base in Louisiana, I still have the incredible opportunity to travel on short-term trips to our mission posts around the world! This March, I helped lead a group of Benedictine College students on a medical mission trip to Malaybalay, Philippines.

Filipino and American missionaries serving the Lord together!
Each day was packed with prayer and service. On the first day we visited the city jail, celebrated Mass with the inmates, and provided them with medical checkups. We dispensed medicine, vitamins, toiletries, and rosaries. Finally, we prayed over each inmate -- their most common prayer request was for freedom! Many of the men and women there have grown close to the Lord during their time in jail, particularly through the witness of the missionaries who lead a weekly Bible study for them.

Sorting medicine at the pharmacy station.
Another day we held an outdoor clinic for residents of a nearby village. It rained on and off the whole afternoon, but the nursing students were awesome and kept working even though they were getting wet!

Translating the local Visayan dialect for the English-speaking students.
One of my favorite outings was a visit to the home of Nanay Ludi. Nanay (meaning "mother") is a sweet elderly woman who lives outside the city. Our missionaries have grown to know and love her and her husband over the past few years, and lately she has been suffering with chronic head pain, so we brought a nurse (one of our mission trip participants) to her house!

Beautiful scenery on the way there -- I brought my ukulele!
Nanay is the quintessential example of the simple faith that I have found time and time again among the Filipino poor. It is simple in the sense that she just trusts completely in Jesus. She knows that no one else can provide for her needs, her health, or her happiness like He can.

Nanay showing us "where it hurts."
What always amazes me is that it is precisely this simple faith which Jesus desires....and when we believe that God can work miracles and ask Him in faith, He does!! After Nanay's checkup, we laid hands on her and prayed for a relief from the pain, and that the Lord would heal any emotional or spiritual wounds as well. We prayed for God to cast out any spirits of unforgiveness, anger, or hurt.

Overjoyed at the gift of a beautiful rosary.
And Jesus healed her!!!! Nanay reported feeling a weight lifted from her, and in that moment the pain that had plagued her for months decreased dramatically! She was filled with joy to proclaim God's goodness and His healing hand. Praise You, Jesus!

I am so grateful for your faithful support that allows me to continue serving these people, both on trips like this one and through my daily work at our stateside missions office. I invite you to consider coming on a mission trip yourself! God wants to work in miraculous ways in your own heart and in the hearts of those you will meet and serve. Read more about our short-term trips here!

May our faith grow ever deeper as we seek to know Him more!