Thursday, April 30, 2009

Kensie, College Students, Cupcakes, and Missions

Kensie has never been to the Philippines yet she is making an impact over here already. In fact, she has never left the United States, but has ambition, goals and dreams that will carry her wherever she wants to go.

We honor you Kensie for your heart for missions! We were so moved by what you have recently done that we are copying the link from your blog so that others can see what people can do, if they just give it a try.

Kensie wants to improve the girl's dorm at the ACTS bible school campus and is doing so with fund raisers, her own funds and by getting others involved. What an inspiration you are!!

Check out her blog!

Tondo Young Person at Home- Day After Youth Camp

Matt Maddix and Travis Worthington were in the Philippines preaching the North Western Luzon Youth Camp, where they had over 200 receive the Holy Ghost for the first time. It was a legitimate blowout.
They had street marches, and all the stuff normally associated with Matt's ministry. Of course, they have been invited back, only this time they think they will be ready for him.

We all went back to Manila Friday night and so when the camps were over, that Saturday we picked up Travis and Matt from their hotel and was going to offer them a bite to eat, and another plan. A plan we were sure Matt would go for.

"We can go to eat at Chili's or California Pizza Kitchen, or something else." Matt had at first said he was hungry, but the idea of having a mysterious option seemed to intrigue him.

"What is the other plan?"

I told him that Brenda and I would like to return to one of our favorite places in the city, Tondo, near Smokey Mountain, one of the most infamous concentrations of abject poverty in all of Asia. We have found these to be some of the most engaging, industrious, and resourceful people in the country. And we are determined to help as many of them as we can.

Matt jumped at the idea of going into this area and immediately lost his appetite for food. "This is much bigger here!" I have heard people say Tondo is dangerous for people like us, but then we have also heard that the people in Tondo who may wish us harm are kept in check by the decent and moral leaders of that ragamuffin community. The real word is that in Filipino culture, a guest is to be fed, protected and entertained before the other members of the house.

We ran into this articulate, intelligent young person, who let us know that he had attended our youth camp two days ago. Someone had gone into this very depressed area and invited him and then had paid his expenses. I don't know who did it, but I pray that God blesses that generous soul beyond measure.
Listen to the song he sings, then listen to the song next to the previous blog.

Party Time at NCR Youth Camp

If you ever get a chance you have GOT to attend one of these youth camps!! Volleyball, basketball, badminton, campfires... but what everyone really comes for is to have church... and do they ever have church!

Thursday night the service began at 6:30 and the video below was taken over 4 hours later and, as you can see, they were still going strong.

Filipinos love to sing and worship. They would have done this all night except the guitar player broke 3 strings, the drummer could hardly raise his right foot, and the singers looked like they had just climbed out of a swimming pool.

I just love being in a place where there are NO excuses...

Hot? So what?

Tired? We can rest tomorrow!

Watch this little "taste" of what it was like at the Metro Manila (NCR) Youth Camp 2009.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

An Example of Gratitude

Sis. Jiji, Genesis, Jirah Jean, Jesrel, and Genrev Jemina

Gratitude comes from the word "grace" and is one of the most appealing words ever. True gratitude is hard to find, in this age of entitlement.

Tears come to my eyes every time I read these letters, so I thought I would let you read them.

(A little background)

Last year sometime, Brenda and I were privileged to visit the village of Handumanan near Bacolod on the island of Negros in the Philippines.

Handumanan is a place with very little in the way of material blessings and comforts, yet it has a high concentration of gracious people. Handumanan might very well be one of the last places you would look for anything beautiful... and yet, there it is like a single rose pushing up out of a barren landscape of hopelessness. A people with boundless hope, wonderful personalities, and grace... loads of grace.

Handumanan is populated by about 20,000 people that the government relocated from the provincial hub of Bacolod because many of them were living on the streets. The roads end almost as soon as you enter the village and yet it sprawls in every direction, a densely populated city without any of the things we associate with a city. No lighted signs, no grocery stores, no stop signs, no parks, no open spaces, no sidewalks, well, no roads really, just paths... and yet, a million smiles.

Mother's Day we will be in Handumanan for their Anniversary Service and will say more about the church later.

So, back to the letters. As I said, we had been able to visit this village and our hearts were stolen by so many, but especially the pastor's four children. Brenda had given each one of them a little over $10 each. The letters they gave Brenda when she returned to their village last month were the perfect picture of gratitude. The children are from about 6 to 12 years old.

It amazed us what all they were able to do with the money and we were touched by their words of grace back to us. I don't think I need to say any more, the letters speak for them selves.

(If you click on the pictures they will enlarge.)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Breakthrough Youth Camp

The Vice President of the UPC Philippines, Art Martinez, said, "This year's youth camp was a breakthrough camp!"

204 received the Holy Ghost during the last night and, for a Manila District, (NCR) that is the most ever.

Tim Rutledge was the night speaker, and he did something no one had ever done here.

He called the pastor's kids to the front at the conclusion of his message, and had the audience move toward the middle of the auditorium.

Rutledge then had the pastor's kids begin to march around the audience of young people. He told them to be silent, just like Joshua and the Children of Israel when they marched around Jericho. The first few rounds, they were able to contain themselves, but as the 4th time around came, the trembling, silent storm began to build. It was all they could do to keep silent.

When the pastor's kids rounded the 7th turn, the young people erupted in a focused voice of praise to break the chains of bondage. It was thunderous!

Pastor's kids getting in line to march.

The Filipino youth look forward to these times getting together rejoicing, and encouraging one another. They don't waste a single moment and it seems like EVERYONE comes with one main purpose, WORSHIP!!

Pastors C. Ompad and A. Martinez, invited those who had not received the Holy Ghost yet, to come to the front. Chairs were put in the altar in a very organized fashion and soon more than 200 young people were seated in these chairs.
In the very center of the altar area one girl began to act in a strange manner. Kori came to me and pointed her out to me and instantly I knew she was possessed.
Brenda and Pastor Ompad are two very stubborn people and it was a good thing because this girl had some very stubborn spirits.

The close proximity of bodies, the tropical climate and the tension, caused this to be a long 25 minutes. She was a small girl but she was incredibly strong. It took almost 10 people to hold her down so she would not hurt herself or others near her. At one point, she collided heads with Brenda, and Brenda just hung on, determined to see it through.
Pastor Ompad was talking to the spirits and he knew when one would leave. He did not stop until he saw the last one leave. He said, "That last devil was a stubborn devil." There were three of them.

These two young guys are pastor's sons, and they moved through the people in chairs like they had been doing this their whole lives.

After the service is always picture time. You have never seen so many smiles. Maybe that is one reason why Filipinos are loved in almost any culture. They just are fun to be around.

The service ended at about 11:30, they sang and danced for a solid two hours after the service was over! How they did it... I have no idea, we were worn out.
But we were loving it.

Party with the ACTS kids

When we were instructors here back in the late '90s the ACTS bible school compound was quite a lively place. It still is, but back then there were about 10, very energetic, (although well behaved) children that ran from the top of this place to the other.

Back in those days you could always hear the sound of children playing... and so we invited them back for a party, and the noises are the same, laughter, friendly competition, and just general liveliness from happy people.

To make the party even better, the Rios kids joined us. The Rios family is a major blessing to the work of God in the Philippines and has been like family to us for many years.

8 Large Pan pizzas, hot wings, a bucket of KFC with all kinds of dessert... then a Wii tournament to follow. Little David had limited experience with the Wii, but he and Brenda gave everyone a run for their money.

We need more food!! Thought I had enough... but they were hungry... typical young people.

Missing Morgan though. Wish he was here.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Jordan's thoughts

Well I never thought I would be writing in a blog. I never thought I would be living in another country. I never thought that I would get the chance to travel and just help churches and encourage them by just smiling. I never thought I could have something to say to a youth group. My whole way of thinking has been taking a beating the last 2 months. My little box of comfort has been smashed and burnt. The Philippines has given so much to me, much more than my family could ever give to them. Bro. Tim said it right at camp, “America needs Filipino missionaries!” God has chosen these people for something special in the last days.

Pastor Terry preached a message maybe 2 years ago about worship and I haven’t been able to forget it. This last week I found what he was trying to show us. About 1,300 campers worshipping God every night in a university gym with no air conditioning and focusing on God alone. Freedom filled the place and worship exploded! The last night of camp we sang for over 2 hours at the END of service. The kids didn’t want to leave, so we kept on going until almost 11:30; They would have still been singing and jumping there if we didn’t stop playing. I’m pretty sure that God was happy that night with His CHOSEN.

I love love love my friends here. They have believed in me, loved me, laughed with me/at me, and accepted me. I will always love Alexandria, LA but the Philippines will always be in my heart.

Maybe my other entries will make more sense, I hope, but that is my heart right now!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Missions Project at ACTS Bible School

When we talk to people about missionary work we always hear, "Oooh, I would love to do some kind of missions work!" Then, as you get talking to them you realize they really don't think they will ever have an opportunity to personally being involved.

They usually end up saying, "I will just help you go, 'cause I can't."

That is NOT true! This blog is for anyone who ever said, "I would love to do some kind of missions work" but only thought it to be a distant dream.

Announcing: A hands on missions project that ANYONE can find a part in! (It is not just about your money, it is about you being PERSONALLY present.)

The best money in missions is the investment in national leaders. With that in mind we would like to introduce you to the Apostolic Center for Theological Studies, the flagship Apostolic school of the Philippines.

The ACTS Bible School in Manila, on the C. P. Kilgore Memorial Complex, has been called "The most important facility in Asia." Though that statement may be debatable, what is not debatable is that this institution has been steadily producing quality ministers of the gospel for over two decades. Graduates from this school are now pastoring all over the world, not just in the Philippines.

James Kilgore is now the president of this fine institution and has contributed immeasurably to its present condition.

Brother Kilgore has given almost all he has for this school. Last week he spoke at the graduation service and told the audience, "I go home broke and happy. I go home broke and you also go home happy." And they laughed.

It is true. "Pappa K", as he is affectionately called here, has given, and given, and given, until there was nothing else to give.

So, that gives the rest of us an opportunity.

Kensie's Korner

Kensie is a college student in Ruston, Louisiana, who has already jumped at the opportunity to make a difference in this school. She is a close family friend who surprised us with a cash offering last month, "I want this to go to something in the girl's dorm. I want them to have something nice, something that I would also want as a college student."

Kensie, we have been talking to the staff there, and we have a proposal. (At least a start to what you want to do.)

The picture below is a private veranda off of the girl's dorm. It is on the second floor and is totally shaded by a large mango tree most of the afternoon.

How about we buy some outdoor tables and chairs so that the female students can have a beautiful place to study, or to just visit with each other? The dormitory is so hot that some students sleep outside because they are stifling in the unventilated confines of the dorm.

(View from "Kensie's Korner")

Kensie's Korner is still in the planning stages, and everyone is thrilled with some of the possibilities.

So, while the girls have a nice view and a pleasant place to retreat to... this is just the beginning.

There is one window in the girl's dorm and one ventilation fan. The problem is, the fan does not bring in fresh air because there is a wall on the other side of the fan. The humid and stifling climate is oppressive even when ventilated, however, when it is closed up, this place is almost unbearable. Because of this, mold and mildew is a constant problem.

We need ideas, and someone to sponsor the solution so these young women can have a place to sleep with at the very least, some fresh air.

(The "Fan to Nowhere!")

Here is where the girl's hang dry their clothes and the roof is an old metal structure that leaks badly in the rain.

Jordan was amazed that 30 - 35 girls lived in this very small, and sadly inadequate space. There are many more that would like to come to this school, yet can not afford to commute to school daily and then live off campus. We need more space.

Brenda, along with Nellie Gallemit (Dean of Women) explore some possibilities. Presently, the girls have no shelving, no lockers, no shoe racks, and do the best they can to organize their clothes in piles. They manage without complaint, but from our way of thinking, we just don't see how they can get by. We wouldn't last in these conditions one day, much less one year.

It would be so easy to put shelves and build an organizer system in their "laundry" room.

The two racks, (Pictures above and below) behind us, are where up to 35 girls to hang their clothes. The only way this works is that most of these girls don't have a whole lot in the way of material things.

There are two toilets and both need to be replaced. There are some real plumbing issues that need to be worked out. Also, there is no door, only a piece of fabric hanging over the opening. A door would be most appreciated.

There are two of these showers in the whole dorm.

This is the ONLY mirror in the girl's dorm. That they all look so neat, and all together, and have such a great attitude is a miracle that happens every single day.

The sink above and the area below is where the girls wash their clothes and brush their teeth...

Did you catch that? They wash all of their clothes by hand, in these sinks, while using them for the normal uses of a vanity.

The small shelf above serves as the only place they can store their toiletries.

The white bunks to the left are only plywood beds. Last year Melani, Brenda, Andrea and Becky put up the money to buy foam cushions for the girls to sleep on. Before that, they were sleeping on hard plywood.

We are pictured with Nellie Gallimet, Dean of Women

A student washing clothes.

Brenda is with a long time friend, Carmen Martinez. She is given the nearly impossible task of feeding the students on less than .50 per day. That's fifty cents!

There was a time when the students were asked to fast Saturday and Sunday, not for spiritual reasons, but because the budget wasn't there to feed them the whole week.
It is not uncommon for a 20 year old student to have a heart attack, or other serious illness, during exam week because they just do not have enough nutrition in their diets to sustain them.
Thankfully, "Pappa K" has done so much to help in these areas. However, there is a limit to what he can do. So there is an opportunity for others to step in.
Can you see why missions work is so rewarding? It is sooo easy for us to make a MAJOR difference in some one's life over here.
You can too.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Experience with 120 Inner City Kids

(There are 2 videos to the right)

This was a day of 120 Cinderellas, and we didn't truly realize this fact until later. We have never posted this many pictures on one blog and I think you will understand why when you see them.

This story takes a heart wrenching twist at the end, so be sure to read all the way through.

It is said that Manila has almost 1,000,000 kids that roam the streets on any given day. Many of them malnourished and far to many orphaned. So we found out that a church in the inner city had a vision to reach out to these children and we asked if we could participate.

The church is in the densely populated area of Manila called Tondo. Pastor Nomer Trinidad and his wife Sonia have a special burden for these children. When we walked into their neat, and air conditioned church, we could hear the children singing upstairs in the sanctuary.

Their voices were strong and beautiful. In fact, we were amazed that these were "street kids" and not the normal Sunday School crowd, by the way they sang.

Sister Sonia Trinidad, the pastor's wife, has a real gift for leading children and we were amazed at how orderly and behaved the children were.

After all, these were "street kids" weren't they?

They all had name badges so that when the church bus goes into the neighborhood not just any kids can get on and score a free meal.

I spoke for just a few moments and used the story of David and Goliath.
To illustrate the story, our son Jordan, who seems like a giant to these kids, played the part of Goliath. A small, little guy named Anson, played the part of David. (Remember Anson, he comes back into the story later.)

These children are faithful, they come every single Saturday.

They are taught things like, honesty, self esteem, personal hygiene.

In fact, one of the lessons they teach them is how to brush their teeth. This is a new concept to these kids who live on the street.

They are taught practical, as well as biblical principles.

(We are hoping to be able to come back and give each one of these kids a tooth brush and some toothpaste.)

After I spoke, Sister Sonia invited the children to pray, and did they ever pray! It just flowed from them like water from a spring.

No one was disorderly, the Children's Staff didn't have to spend their time coercing, or corralling, they just went into a place of brokenness.
Little hands raised, and eyes welling with tears... they prayed.
They prayed for a good while, and we tried to touch every one of them.
We asked if there were any sick among them and several came to the front and we anointed them with oil.
We prayed for God's protection over everyone of them too.

Then it was announced that "Brother Jeff, Sister Brenda, Jordan and Kori, have sponsored a meal for ALL of you." The kids were overjoyed.
They were getting a hot meal, a full meal today! (Morgan you are in on this too).

So, while the very efficient and organized staff was getting the meals served, the kids sat orderly, awaiting their turn with patience. I guess being familiar with hunger teaches them that, because they didn't even begin to resemble some kids I have seen in America when they wanted something.

The staff brought out plates to the smallest children, and the bigger kids formed a line and picked theirs up from the ladies at the front.The Tondo church is divided into four ladies groups and they take turns each Sunday staffing the children's ministry. No one gets weary with well doing this way. Even the smallest children ate the entire meal. I mean, they cleaned their plates!

Jordan made friends with so many and was used by God today. Exposure to things like this a few times is the cure for the common teenager!

Anson, (above) the little guy who played David in our illustration.
Pastor Nomer said that most of these children wore clothes that came from the dump. Their parent's made their meager living from rummaging through trash.

Tim Rutledge was able to join us for this deal. Tim and his wife Kim have felt that they need to adopt a child from somewhere in Asia.
He had traveled 26 hours from Alexandria to Manila, arriving last night, but when he heard what we were going today he said, "Shoot yeah I'm going!"

A Staff member with a child.
This little girl (below) stole our hearts... ok, they all did, but she was just so cute, like a china doll.
After they had eaten each child received a few pieces of candy and immedialtyl began to trade
Picture time!!!!!
When Sister Sonia announced that it was picture time, these kids came out of their chairs. They had been so calm, and organized until now, and then happy bedlam ensued.
Kori was joyfully mobbed and was loving every minute of it.This little girl grabbed her and would not let go.

Any of you that know Tim knew exactly where he would be.
The little girls seemed to gravitate to him.
They were all competing for attention.

Tim and Kim are personally sponsoring the next three dinners for these kids. He gave Pastor Nomer the money on the spot.

The combination of a full stomach, a touch from God, and a whole lot of love from people caused these children to light up like the sun, moon and stars.

If you want to have a lift to your day... no your month... no your life... get in on something like this! These kids will change your life!

This one, like so many, was cute and had loads of personality.

Then, it was time to go home. They didn't want to go, and we didn't want them to leave. It felt like OUR kids were going, and we didn't know where.

They boarded the church bus with smiles, cheers, and "Thank you!" shouted out the bus windows.

They reached for Tim out the window and with misty eyes, Tim reached for them.
We watched them go and everyone of us said, "I want to see where they live."
We had been told they were "squatter" kids and that they lived in poverty, but we had no idea what we were about to find.
We waited until the bus was out of sight and then followed them.

As we drove our driver pointed to a hulking mountain in the middle of these concrete government housing units and said, "That is Smokey Mountain."
A chill went down my spine. The infamous Smokey Mountain! The place where the first saints of Manila were won from back in the early '70s. It was the Manila dump for many years. So many years that a "mountain" had risen from the years of trash.
Thousands had built shanties on this mountain until there were "cities" all across this smoking, pile of rotting debris. Fidel Ramos, when he was president of the Philippines, closed it down as it had become an iconic symbol of third world poverty in the Philippines.
He had built all these concrete apartment buildings and moved the population of the shanty towns into them.We watched as the children disappeared into the cavernous, dark opening of one of the monuments to poverty.
"Our" children, the children we had just held, prayed with, fed, become friends with, laughed with...
How was it even possible that "our" children could be running into one of these terrifying places?
After they disappeared I went into the building, hoping to catch a glimpse of one of them, but they were gone. In their place was a scene from my nightmares.
There were no lights visible anywhere. Clothes were hanging all throughout the spacious inner court. Children were everywhere, as were adults. Some were taking baths in buckets, some were cooking on fires, some were in groups talking.
They all stopped to watch me when I walked in. I didn't feel threatened, even though this area is known for its high crime.
I just felt so out of place. I had shoes on. It was obvious that I had eaten well, perhaps too well.
I put my camera up to take a picture, then I stopped. I was in their home, uninvited. This was not a zoo! I put the camera down and said a silent prayer for them instead.

We left that place and drove by a part of Smokey Mountain. It's ragged cliff face was visible from the road, and you could see the layers of the the filth of ages.
Strata's of waste, generations of people living on waste, a legacy of outcast.
No wonder the Trinidad's teach these children self esteem.
We didn't go far when our driver, a church man, said, this is where some more of those children live.
I took pictures here because I was out in the open. Children were everywhere you looked.

And here we found Anson.
He had played the part of David, and now my words echoed in my ears, "You can beat any giant. God wants to be your partner." Things to that effect.
But now we were staring at Anson's giant face to face, things seemed a little different now. It isn't just up to God, it is also MY responsibility too!

We fed him once. That is great. But what about shoes?
He doesn't have any.
What about a tooth brush?
He probably doesn't have one of those either.
What about clothes that DIDN'T COME FROM THE DUMP?
I remembered Anson when he came up to quote his memory verse. That was great, but I am compelled to go beyond the words of the bible and actually BE the bible.
We are going back to Anson's world and we are going to invite anyone else that wants to come also.
It is easy to be a missionary. You can be one for a week. Don't think you can?

Can you help feed a child? Can you give a pat on the head? Can you gather clothes from your church, box them up and send them over? Can you take your family vacation to a place like Anson's world just once, instead of Mickey Mouses'?This is not just a thing to feel good, this is bible... remember that thing about doing stuff for the least of these? If you think this is for you, please let us know. There is so much that can be done, with so little.

Our family spent about $100 of our personal money today and it was one of the greatest experiences of our entire lives. Can Mickey beat that?