Monday, July 23, 2012

I Get By with a Little Help from My Friends

Dear friends and family,

Our community here in the Philippines was truly blessed when my childhood friend Nathaniel Hill came to visit us last week. His time was limited, so we decided to forgo all the typical tourist activities in favour of taking "Mr. Coffey's Whirlwind Tour of Programs for the Urban Poor". Nathaniel assisted with a lesson at Educare (our preschool for street kids), he learned all about our IT Tender Center (a drop-in center for street youth and kids), he experienced worship at our small community church, and he brought his own very big smile and personal brand of humour right into the streets and homes of many of our clients and the families we're reaching out to. Through our photos, I hope you can somehow vicariously share in the joy and even some of the pain that Nate felt as he witnessed the love, faith, and hardships of a community in the slums.

As we arrive in Zanzibar Street, the kids are so excited to meet Nate.
In the Philippines, he is a very gigantic and very White child-magnet.
I've watched these kids growing up over the last few years.
I love them in heaps, and I love to share their joy with others.
Tin Tin teaches a phonics lesson in Educare.
Shelley prepares for the SAT's ...the "Shapes and Alphabet Test".
Teacher Tin tests phonics recognition and letter differentiation.
One evening Nathaniel, Tin Tin, and I were walking from our church to the bus that would take Nate and I back to my apartment. As we walked alongside a bustling highway, three children came running up to greet us shouting "Kuya John! Ate Tin!" (in English "Big Brother John! Big Sister Tin"). I often stop to chat with thirteen-year-old Angelica and her younger siblings and friends in the street. Day and night these kids are selling flowers to make a living. The "sampaguita" is the national flower of the Philippines and is commonly sold by child vendors to drivers in traffic to hang from their rear-view mirrors. We chatted for a while in Tagalog with the kids and translated our conversation for Nathaniel. When he found out that Angelica was celebrating her birthday that very day, he decided that he wanted to generously bless Angelica and her friends. So Nate, Tin, and I went to a nearby restaurant called Mang Inasal and brought back a few meals for the kids, including plenty of ice cream for dessert. Angelica was delighted to enjoy a delicious meal and ice cream on her thirteenth birthday. She was also excited to bring food back to her relatives in the street to share it with them. I know she will never forget the compassion she experienced on her birthday, and each time I see her she's already asking where Nathaniel is and when he might come back to visit again.

Angelica (far left) celebrates her thirteenth birthday with
the abundant generosity from a new Canadian friend.
Nate visits the Custodio family (from left to right: Lerma,
Mackie, and my Goddaughter Micah). Mackie built their
humble home with his own two hands using wood and nails.
Nate also drops by Raymond's place and is shocked to see
how many Filipinos usually live together in one small room -
a room which Nate can't even stand up all the way in.
Thanks again for following along with me here in the Philippines! May you be blessed and challenged by what you've seen and read, and may God be with you and your families throughout your own joys and struggles at work, at school, and at home.

Take care!


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