Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Nothing Short of a Miracle

Dear friends and family,

Most of us go through life without witnessing any obvious signs or dramatic miracles of God. We rely on faith and the accounts of others. Skeptics understandably have a hard time believing in God without any direct, personal experience of a miracle. One of Jesus's own friends Thomas refused to believe anyone could physically come back to life after death. Three days after Jesus's public execution an ecstatic group was claiming he was actually alive. This weekend, you'll see those people again being particularly vocal about these claims. To Thomas they were all fanatics who were clearly not thinking rationally. Unless Thomas could meet Jesus personally and physically touch his wounds, there was no proof to believe such an outrageous claim. But Thomas did eventually get the chance to see Jesus again and to feel his healed wounds. "Have you believed because you have seen me?" asked Jesus. "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed" (John 20:29).

For me, faith is enough. God blesses those who rely on faith in the face of a world of skepticism. I used to pray many times for a miracle because I wanted proof of God's existence. Did God want me to rely on my faith instead? Did He disapprove of the motive behind such requests? Either way, the creator of the universe has purposes much larger and wiser than I can comprehend. These days, if I ask for a miracle it's not because I want proof of God's existence. I've already seen God in the more subtle miracles of transformed lives and expressions of selfless love. If I ask God for a miracle it is because somebody needs help beyond what I or anyone could do for them through our limited human means.

Recently my girlfriend Jamielyn and I were distressed to find out that her mother Ellen had a potentially malignant tumour in her intestine. After several tests, including ultrasound and CT scans, doctors from various hospitals all told us she would need an operation to remove the large lump. Even undergoing these tests was a leap of faith as Ellen has no health coverage, and expenses in general are very tight for the family. She also needed to be hospitalized for many days. We were seeking help and finding ways to face the situation. Prayer was one of them.

Ellen & I at Christmas - before she got sick
Before going ahead with any major operation, the surgeon requested a colonoscopy and biopsy to determine where exactly to operate and just how threatening the lump was. After the colonoscopy, the surgeon approached Jamielyn and made an outrageous claim. Using the very words "this is impossible" he struggled to explain how the lump had disappeared. It was completely gone. Despite previous tests that showed a large and measurable lump, the doctors now couldn't even find the smallest cyst anywhere in her intestines. Another ultrasound was consistent with the colonoscopy showing that the lump was now gone. The surgeon used the words "baka malakas siya sa Diyos" meaning perhaps she has a special privilege with God. I couldn't be more thankful that by the grace of God alone this strong, wise, and faithful woman is healthy again.

Everyday we pray for family and friends with serious illnesses. I can't explain why so few people experience a miracle while others don't. My heart goes out to anyone who's lost someone dear to them. I too have lost friends and relatives to illnesses, and it never seems fair. One piece of wisdom that I had been holding onto while Ellen was sick was imparted to me by my friend Toph. He shared this verse, "Should we take only good things from God and not trouble?" (Job 2:1). No matter what, we always have reasons to be thankful, to have faith, and to believe that there is a purpose and a time for all things - even trouble. And we can always pray for miracles, because although we cannot predict when, there is still a time for God's incomprehensible power to confound doctors, scholars, and skeptics. I can truly say that I've witnessed it first hand. Miracles like what happened to Ellen are unbelievable. Would I even believe it if I didn't see it? "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."


In other news, we recently held our annual Family Day for families of the clients in our street children's programs. We enjoyed bonding with one another at a beautiful resort in Los Banos, Laguna.

Excited kids, parents, and workers (including missionary Karin Jose from England) in the bus we rented. We are also thankful for an additional mini-bus that we used for free courtesy of the local government.
We gathered the mothers for a time of sharing and counseling
The fathers also had their own time to bond
I recruited some of the youth in our ALS program to help me lead games and songs with children ages 2-6 
Ate Cecile taught a lesson for kids ages 7-11
Erika holds up a picture she drew of her "Pamilya" ("Family")
Gabby takes charge of the youth
Nothing beats the heat of Manila like escaping to the province for a swim
I played lifeguard for the afternoon helping the children who don't know how to swim
J.M. is a rambunctious youngster who has come a long way through our programs. When I first came to the Philippines he was addicted to sniffing solvents on the street even at such a young age.
Pastor John gets silly with the kids from SLC - our preschool at IT Tender.
Also, Pastor John, Karin (from England), and I travelled to the Quezon Province to assist our ministry partners at Batang Matinik run a Hygiene Day. The host Ate Marlyn taught the parents about proper hygeine, and each child was given a kit with a towel, toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, and shampoo.

I'm clipping the boys nails
Teaching the proper toothbrushing techniques
We are also very proud to announce that five of the out-of-school youth we have been tutoring over the last year just passed their high school equivalency exam! Congratulations to our 5 ALS (Alternative Learning System) learners who are now high school graduates: Jan Marinie D. Abcede, Alfred O. Almendras, Manilyn A. Bornia, Jannen R. Cada, and Virgilio P. Basiwa. God bless you for your hard work and brighter future.

I was also a proud "stand-in" parent at the college graduation of Jamielyn's younger sister Janna. In a few weeks we will have a graduation ceremony at IT Tender for the children and youth in our various educational programs (particularly the passers of the high school equivalency exam!).
Besides all of this, I have been very busy for our new SMART Kids program. I visited the community and surveyed a number of families with children ages 1-3 who are fitted for our program. I will be conducting further interviews and determining which parents are most in need of a program like SMART Kids. Some of the parents I surveyed are unemployed, single mothers who are really struggling to meet the needs of their children. Others are young teens interested in our ALS program  for out-of-school youth. They could receive tutoring at our drop-in center while their children are well-looked after in SMART Kids.

I'm also now taking on some of the workload of our team leader Pastor John as I start to visit our partner churches each month. IT Tender partners with churches who are in need of leadership training and of feeding programs for their community. We provide the food for free through our partner organizations Ontario Christian Gleaners and Feed My Starving Children in Minnesota. Last Sunday I went to a church in Cavite where I taught the church workers a leadership training on accountability. Teaching in Tagalog for over an hour wasn't easy, but I think they understood the most important points. I hope!

Thanks again for taking the time to read my blog. You are a blessing. Have a great Easter weekend!


Kids from our programs enjoy a snack on the street to cool down

1 comment:

  1. Wow, that is MINDBLOWING, especially interesting that the miracle happens close to Easter. Things like that can galvanize your conviction even further on your mission. Looks like so many other exciting things are happening over there too!
    Happy for you bro!