How's the weather at home? Here in Manila, it's only getting hotter! The hot season has arrived earlier than usual, and the country's been suffering from a drought. I truly cannot recall the last time we had any precipitation - it feels like it's been months! Temperatures have been in the 30's (Celsius), although with the humidity it feels like the 40's...but many are saying "just wait, it'll get much hotter."
Recently, my good friend and roommate from university came to visit and help out, and I was so encouraged by his support! John Lee stayed for one week, and he assisted us in bringing several street children from Alabang to the "Museo Pambata" (Children's Museum) for a day. The kids (along with myself...the biggest kid) had an incredible time. They experienced many things they never get to experience from their life on the streets. The museum offers countless exhibits on science, health, history and culture. My fondest memory is of the kids learning Native Filipino dances from a world-renowned Filipino dance troupe. After leaving the museum, we provided a picnic lunch for the kids in Manila's famous Rizal Park (named after their national hero Jose Rizal). I know the street children will never forget this rare and special experience. Everytime I see them at our Nightlife ministry, they beam as they show me the souvenir bracelets we bought them from the museum.
The daycare/school run by Toph, Tin Tin, and myself continues to be a blessing not only in our community, but in my life as well. I'm learning daily lessons in leadership, humility, and compassion. Sometimes my "efficiency-oriented" mindset as a Westerner conflicts with the more relaxed and relationship-oriented mindset of Filipino culture, and I need to humbly adapt my priorities. While I might base the success of our daycare on how much the children are learning, I notice that Toph and Tin Tin are already reveling in the strong relationships we've built with the children and the great lengths we've come in providing them for the first time with a safe and warm environment. Another aspect of Filipino culture, at least in urban society, is the importance of graduations and celebrating accomplishments. After just about any course, seminar, or program, there is a graduation ceremony and a certificate for each participant. The certificate is promptly and proudly hung amongst many others in that person's living room. Therefore, in accordance with tradition, we'll be having a graduation ceremony even for our daycare kids are the end of the school year. All the mother's will be invited that morning (...many of our children either don't have fathers, or their fathers have work in the day), and we'll have a celebration with certificates, awards, and a big lunch. Please pray for the preparations for the ceremony, which will occur on March 25th. After that, our students will enjoy a 2-month summer holiday, although our other weekly programs for them will still resume. This holiday will give us time to plan, re-organize, and enhance our daycare/school for the following school year. We will also be traveling around and doing several DVBS's (Daily Vacation Bible Schools) in various squatter communities throughout the summer holiday (April-May). This allows us to reach out and to bring provisions to children outside of our immediate community as well.
Toph (left) first envisioned the daycare so kids could learn
and play in a safe environment away from the streets.
and play in a safe environment away from the streets.
In other news, we had some new street kids at our Nightlife ministry in Alabang. I was moved by how desperately they craved attention. They gave tight hugs and much affection when I showed any kindness. As I was eating, they would continually ask if they could get me more water or take away my dishes when I was finished. Sometimes, the roles of who's actually serving who get blurred when genuine compassion and kindness guides the interaction. On a more humorous note, I have a brief story about our new kids. The street children always love it when I pick them up high in the air, and I often have more than one child on my shoulders or in my arms. The children shout "Ako din! Ako din!" (which means "Me too!") when they see me picking someone up. When I get far too exhausted to carry the children anymore, sometimes I'll shout "Ako din! Ako din!", and the kids will all laugh as I jokingly try to climb onto their shoulders. However, the new kids at Nightlife were so brave that they decided to rally together and actually pick me up. Around each leg, about five children attached their arms, and together they lifted me into the air! I don't think I stopped laughing for about ten minutes.
Finally, I want to mention a few other prayer requests. Next week, we're taking 25 street youth from Sucat and Alabang to a summer camp for three days. I'm excited to be one of the camp counselors. Also, pray for me as I prepare for a youth conference on March 20th in Cavite City. I spent a week in November helping organize a feeding program for the street children there, and the community has asked me to return as the guest speaker at a youth concert. And finally, pray for my friends Brett and Grace in preparing for their wedding on March 13th! Brett has come such a long way as a missionary and a pastor serving in the Philippines, and I'm overjoyed that he's found such a compassionate and loving partner with the same priorities he has in serving others. Take care, and thank you again for your prayers!