Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The birth of ANOTHER Goddaughter, and other new beginnings...

Dear family and friends,

School is back in session! There's no "snooze button" when your alarm is a rooster and a pack of barking stray dogs. So I wake up early, toss my books into my backpack, then I catch a "jeepney" and a light rail train to my morning class. These days I'm feeling much more settled into my dorm and into my everyday routines here in the Philippines. Learning Tagalog is my first priority right now, so I spend a lot of time conversing with shopkeepers in the markets, getting to know the street children in the community, and tackling my daily homework assignments. Studying at language school four-days-a-week is hardly a chore as my teachers have truly become good friends of mine (...I attended the same school twice-a-week during my internship here in 2010). The school is called "His Name SALT" (Shem Adonai Language Team), and it's specifically designed for missionaries. In fact, most of my teachers are pastors, and they support their families primarily through their income from teaching Tagalog. While my lessons are typically one-on-one with a different teacher each day (on a rotation), we also enjoy the occasional group class or field trip in which we explore the history and culture of the Philippines. Speaking of experiencing the culture, just a few days after I arrived in the country I was a guest at my teacher Decai's wedding! There's just so much going on here each day, I sometimes forget to include even such major events in my blog.

Hanging out with the staff at school (left-to-right: teachers Jeff,
Mark, Romy, a White guy, Nenette, Decai; absent is teacher Joei)

My humble abode at St. Andrew's Seminary Dorm
where I'm only renting a room but also occasionally attending
prayer meetings and fellowship with the seminary students.

Privacy isn't a necessity for most Filipinos, including in dormitory showers.

Toilet seats and toilet paper aren't a necessity either.
That's what squatting and scoops are for! ...just don't ask...

Moving on. Yeppers, another Goddaughter of mine just entered into the world! While my first three Godchildren are all pure Filipino and from various families I've befriended here (one of which you saw in my last blog entry - Yanarah Micah), my newest Godchild is actually a Filipino-Canadian. Her father is my good friend from home Brett Ostrander (the youngest son of the director of International Teams Canada - Neil Ostrander). I was in Brett & Grace's wedding party the last time I was here in the Philippines. Their first child, Isabella Yvonne Gantia Ostrander, was born just two days ago. I rushed from my Tagalog school in Quezon City to get to Bicutan (a two-hour commute by bus, jeepney, and finally a motorcycle with a sidecar) and then I spent the afternoon at the hospital. I was able to keep Brett company (even the husband isn't allowed in the delivery room) and I stayed to meet my beautiful newborn Goddaughter. Right after delivering the baby, Grace was sent to a recovery room while Isabella was bathed and placed near a window where together Brett and I could see her for the first time just minutes after she was born. I'm not quite sure when I became such a sap, but in that moment I shed a few tears just witnessing God's stunning work and His amazing little gift to our community.

Isabella Yvonne Gantia Ostrander - a beloved little miracle.

Born at 3:43 pm on November 29, 2011, she's healthy and weighs 2.5 kg.

And there's even more to be thankful for... Just yesterday our church held a baptism service at a swimming pool out in the rural province of Laguna (south-east of Manila). We baptized fifteen of our members in one day! They each shared their testimony, then they were baptized as a symbol or picture of what has happened in their life through experiencing the grace of God and emerging from their old life with hope and faith in a better future. The newest members to our church are always comforted knowing they never have to walk through difficult times on their own - but they have a loving church that genuinely looks out for them and an even more loving Father and God. After the baptisms, we shared a barbecue lunch and an afternoon of swimming and relaxing by the pool. Since most of the families in our church are squatters living in shanties on the street, the entire day was really a huge and unforgettable blessing. In addition to the baptisms, I will cherish the bonding time I spent with the kids at the pool. I spent most of the afternoon teaching swimming lessons to our daycare students and to my Filipino Goddaughter Micah. We really felt like one big family. And that's what community is all about!

Fifteen young adults tell their emotional testimonies before being baptized.

 Through tears, Marisa shares how the church brought her
into knowing God and provided a safe haven for her children,
Jet-Jet and Adrian, who are students in our educational daycare.

Young leaders Mackie (left) and Raymond (right) baptize the youth.

Pastor Joshua (left) and Nico (right) also lend a hand.

Thanks again for following along with my experiences in the Philippines. My team and I always need your prayers here - and we appreciate them so much. I will blog again in the next few weeks after the Christmas parties for children in various urban and rural poor communities.

Take care!


1 comment:

  1. Thanks for all the details and insight in the kind of life it's like for you over there! It's interesting! Peace-O