Sunday, March 28, 2010

We're Taking This Show on the Road

Hi family and friends!

Thanks again for checking in on me! I pray that you're doing well. In my last post, I mentioned some exciting events that were taking place in March. The 3-day summer camp for our street youth from Alabang and Sucat was a great success, and I know the youth won't soon forget the abundance of food, fun, and inspiring messages they enjoyed. Unfortunately, I was only able to enjoy the testimonies of the youth after they returned, because a foot infection kept me from going to the camp. Not to worry though - the infection is already completely healed. Also, in having no choice but to stay at home, I was forced to actually take a rest and accomplish some planning for my other ministries. It's fairly easy to contract infections in the very polluted and dirty areas that we're reaching out to, but I'll be taking every necessary precaution in the future to avoid infection.

On Saturday March, 20th, I was the guest speaker at a youth concert in Cavite City (not far from Manila). Even though my Tagalog leaves much to be desired, I shared some of the messsage in Tagalog. However, I brought along my friend Che Che to translate from English the more difficult parts of the message. I am continually amazed by the unexpected things I've been asked to do, the places I've been able to go, and the opportunities God presents me with each day...all of these began simply with stepping out in faith (despite a lack of experience!) and being open to the places and the people that I might serve. I am thankful to have met so many youth from numerous churches and cities at the concert. In the message, I encouraged the youth with regards to such topics as peer pressure and influence. I know that many of the youth here are not only susceptible to countless mixed-messages in the media, but they also face such real and prevalent influences as gang violence, substance abuse, and rape.

Pinching myself to see if I'm dreaming, or if I'm really standing
before of a multitude of youth at a concert in the Philippines.

Just this last Thursday, on March 25th, we threw a huge celebration for the students in our small but very inspired daycare/school. Ten students graduated from the first year of our program, and we couldn't be more proud of them...neither could the community and the family members of the students who attended the ceremony. The celebration included games, a song and dance number from the students, a message from Pastor Joshua (my team leader), plenty of food (spaghetti, fried chicken, and cake), and the giving of the certificates and awards. Each student received some sort of award - whether it was for the "most helpful" or the "most positive". Since our students vary widely in age and ability, there were no direct comparisons made with regards to academics. All of our students made great strides in the last few months both socially and academically, and I'm at a loss for words when I attempt to express my joy in witnessing their growth and accomplishments.

Some of our students (in their finest outfits!) proudly show off their certificates.

The students perform a special number for their parents.

So much delicious food!

The main teachers - Toph (on my left), Tin Tin (on my right), and I - have
become very close with the daycare students. We'll miss seeing them each day!

Now you're probably wondering what I'll be up to for the next while in the absence of daycare during the Filipino summer holiday (April and May). The reason why we can't run our daycare throughout the summer is because our team will be travelling around Metro Manila and even to some rural areas to run a DVBS (Daily Vacation Bible School) program for the kids - sort of like a summer camp program, but we'll be bringing it directly to the community. From next week until mid-May, we'll be travelling to a different place almost every week on trips lasting between 3-5 days each. I'm actually most excited for our first destination - the rural tribe in Kanawan. If that name sounds at all familiar, it's because we threw our first Christmas party in December for the kids there, and I still cherish many incredible memories of bonding with the Kanawan kids.

There's one last thing I want to mention and really thank God for. The children's ministry that we run every Thursday in an extremely impoverished community in Sucat has experienced lots of new provisions this month! Thanks to a partnership with two other humanitarian organizations ("Action International" and "Feed My Starving Children"), we've been given enough food and vitamins to feed the children three days a week (every Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday) for at least the next 6 months. We'll be monitoring the weight and nutrition of the children each week as they improve in health, thanks in part to the nutrious meal and the vitamins we are giving them. Last Thursday, over 80 street children came out! Each child was fed.

Thanks for reading! Take care and keep the pananampalataya ("faith" - in Tagalog).

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