Here in the Philippines, our loved ones include the 1,500 kids that our team brought gifts and joy to from Dec 1-11. Every year we host Christmas parties in various rural and urban poor communities. We pack multiple vans with presents, hygiene materials, and volunteers, then we travel several hours in all directions from Manila to spread the compassion of the one who was born on Christmas day. At the end of the day, it's not even about the parties. The greatest gift of the season is not a new toy, a new shirt, or a banquet of delicious food. Some of the most joyful people this season, whether rich or poor, are those that recognize the original significance... That Christmas is all about God coming to live amongst us. When Christ was born people called him Immanuel - meaning "God with us." We admire the humility of Christ who spent most of his time on earth with the downtrodden, the sick, the fatherless, and the widows. We can only hope to imitate his compassion.
This season of traveling and running our Christmas parties is equally exhausting and rewarding. I want you to also share in the rewards of blessing these children. Please enjoy these joyful photos and know that I'm so grateful for all of your support that made it possible for me to be a helping hand in this. I also want to thank the team from Sunrise Community Church who came all the way from Sacramento, California just to volunteer for the parties. Many of them are elders in their 70's and 80's, and their high spirits and energy truly inspired me.
|My most anticipated Christmas party was the one held in the remote, mountainous village of Kanawan.|
|Rice from their fields are laid out in the hot sun to dry.|
|We held our Christmas party in their recently built church.|
|All the kids line up in eager anticipation of the party...some clothed, some not.|
|This boy loves to play with his collection of spiders that he keeps in a matchbox.|
|Tin Tin & I lead some opening songs and dances.|
|Inspired by our love for the TV game show Minute To Win It, Tin Tin prepared some simple, fun games.|
|Even the mothers in the community got in on the fun in the game "Face the Cookie."|
|David Crosson (right) from Sunrise Community Church in California shows how it's done.|
|Ate Loida (also on the California team) returns to her native Country to serve the poor.|
|Playing with one of the new toys from his Christmas bag|
|Before we returned to Manila, the children in Kanawan taught us their native dances.|
Last Thursday, my team leader Pastor John Basiwa asked me to give the message at the Christmas party for our Nightlife Ministry. This ministry reaches out to street children in the most extreme cases - children who typically sleep in the street and don't have a home because they're either abandoned or runaways. Our drop-in center was packed that night, and we all enjoyed games, songs, gifts, and food. I enjoyed the challenge of sharing the story of Christ and meaning of Christmas in straight Tagalog, and the kids were delighted to share their own stories with a foreigner who could understand their language. We partied until almost 1 am (...which is normal for these kids, as they sleep during the day and scavenge or wander at night). My favourite part of the party was witnessing the youth from our ALS program running the show and even performing a special Christmas song for the kids. Each of these youth are in our tutoring program and are hoping to pass the high school equivalency exam that they recently wrote.
|The theme of my message was "Hesu-Kristo, higit pa sa regalo", meaning "Jesus Christ, more than gifts"|
Thank you so much for keeping up with me here! May you be blessed this Christmas as you spend time with family and meditate on what Christmas means to you. And may you also find opportunities to be a blessing to someone who may not have a family to be with or who may not have much hope this time of year. God bless you!