I will never look at things the same way after this trip. The people here are so gracious and kind. So free with their laughter and smiles. There’s an innocence to the way they
look at life and find the good in the middle of a hard, poor, hot situation. The children have completely stolen my heart, especially a little girl named Heart who has been interpreting for me what the children are saying in their native language, Tagalog. She tutored me on several Tagalog words this evening, helping me to spell them correctly. Words for I love you, tree, people, money. She is six.
A few of the other special children are Ijon, TJ, Jared, Byron, and Jayra. There is no pretentiousness or jealousy here. Except maybe with the smallest of the children. Ijon took the blow-up ball today and tried to hide so he could play with it alone. They don’t have them and it was quite a treat.
Our day began at 8 AM this morning. We had our first preaching service with Matthew this morning. He was riveting.
After that we broke into divided sessions, and I was blessed to work with the preschoolers. With the help of an interpreter, a young woman named Zierrna, we talked for a short while about how it is important to obey your parents. But then we colored. You wouldn’t believe how 3 boxes of crayons and some blank puzzles brought joy to these children. And don’t even get me started on the stickers. I gave them one each and little Ijon (he is 3) came to me and said, “I love you. I love you so much.” Then he puckered up and gave me a huge kiss on the cheek and the best hug I’ve had in a few days. I don’t see how anyone could come to this place and not love these children.
The family camp is being held at the Bagasbas Elementary School grounds. There is no playground. No indoor running water. There are a couple hand pumps where all the water comes from and is carried in buckets inside to be cooked with and for use in the toilet to flush. The toilet is quite an adventure for us ladies. There is no seat. It is only about a foot tall. It doesn’t flush. And there is no toilet paper. Thank goodness Jenny warned us and we brought some Cottenelle wipes (which go in the trash not down the toilet, by the way).
After divided session we heard Sean Watson preach. It was a wonderful message.
Then we ate lunch, prepared by Jalen. I am threatening to kidnap her and bring her home with me. She’s not made a single thing that wasn’t absolutely delicious. And we had a special treat today: mango, milk, and ice blended into a wonderfully cold drink. I think they did this for us special because they knew how ridiculously hot and sweaty we were! They brought us back to our hotel for “siesta” and afterward we went to the “park,” which is a very large open-air, roofed basketball court, for a game between the USA men and the Filipino pastors. I have not laughed so much or so hard in a very long while. What amazing sportsmanship, athletic ability, and talent these men have. Pastor Chow is 60 and played the entire game in the muggy, smoky, hot air. Our poor guys were pooped afterward and it has been the great joke to tease one another about who won and who lost.
I am praying along with Pastor Avel and Sean about trying to do something at the basketball court for the children who came in droves to see the white men playing the locals. They are not attending the family camp and it would be amazing to be able to witness to them somehow.
After the game we returned to the school for another amazing meal. We tried something
called jack fruit, which was more like a vegetable. It wasn’t bad, but maybe not my favorite thing we’ve had so far. This was followed by another round of preaching by Pastor Abel Agravante. It is so interesting to hear a message in both English and Tagalog. We have learned that when we have no idea what they are saying we smile and nod and laugh along with them.
We had songs and Tracey, Daryl, Matthew, and I sang one. I am so far outside my comfort zone, I can’t even see it anymore, and it is a wonderful thing. I have been asked to sing solo tomorrow. Yikes!
The last preaching of the night was by Bill again. I can’t tell you how much his message inspired and moved me. They all have. I am growing as a Christian and learning things about myself. God is showing me areas that need improvement and impressing me to break the rest of the walls within me.
The people here know how to support a preacher during a sermon. It is so powerful and exciting. Many, many children and their families came to pray after this service.
It’s rained off and on today, light, pleasant rains that sound so beautiful dropping through the coconut trees. But on the way home it poured and the members of our team that were on trikes were rather soaked. I was fortunate to ride in Pastor Avel’s car where it was dry and cool!
The children don’t want anything from us other than to stand or sit near us, especially Tracey and I, to hold our hand and to ask us how old we are, where my husband is, and about our children. They don’t care that we’ve sweated through our clothes and are so sticky we could trap flies. They hug us and hold our hands and love on us. And they are smart, already learning English alongside their Tagalog in preschool.
The last event of the night was the talent show. The children begged us all to stay and
they made us judges, of course. There were solo, group, and puppet show contests. Everyone here is so supportive and fun loving. When someone hit a wrong key, they laughed and clapped and then encouraged their friend to keep going. It’s not like in America where we get offended because someone laughed. Or where the children make fun of their peers. I’ve not seen any of that since I’ve been here. I feel like when I come home, I’m going to always compare life there to here. These people have a real sense of family and community. And it’s truly a beautiful thing.
All right I’ve eaten about a pound of peanut M&Ms while typing this and our day begins early in the morning again. So goodnight! I am disappointed I’ve not been able to share these as I write them each day, but the Lord knows what He’s doing and I will have so much fun sorting through them and posting pictures along with these words when I get home . . . after I sleep for about a week straight!