Monday, June 30, 2008

Back at home

I feel that in the midst of recapping our trip I must also keep up with what's going on at home. A few things that have happened...
  • Austin went to his first movie with 'just the guys'. Taylor Fick, Spencer and Chris accompanied him to Iron Man. He's growing up too fast.

  • Meridian Dairy Days. It happened to be the weekend after we got home so I wasn't feeling great but we managed to take the kids to the carnival and the parade. They had fun riding a few rides and Austin even got Rob to ride a 'big' one with him. I would've been all over it if I was feeling well. The parade was good but looong. It was worth it though. We scored chocolate milk, frozen yogurt and 28 cheese sticks. We were just sitting there and they kept dropping handfuls in our laps. Good thing the kids like cheese.

  • I was having a hankering for homemade ice cream. I bought all the stuff and when I got the ice cream maker out I realized that finding a small motor, being clueless as to what it goes to and throwing it away is not always the smartest thing. No ice cream maker means no ice cream. Unless you have parents with an old crank ice cream maker. Last Thursday we all went over and made vanilla ice cream. It brought back memories of Grandma June making ice cream when I was little. We used Grandma Fitch's recipe and it was like heaven in a bowl.

Vanilla Ice Cream

2 eggs 1c. sugar 1/8 tsp. salt 2c. cream 3c. milk 1 Tbs vanilla(preferably Mexican)

Beat eggs until light. Add salt and sugar and beat together. Add milk, cream and vanilla and beat till mixed. Pour in ice cream freezer and mix til hard. Enjoy. Makes 2 qt.

  • I went with my mom to a quilt show at The Grove. I know it sounds lame but they had some really cool stuff. Right off the bat I found a birthday quilt that was done in the yummiest browns and pinks. I fell in love with it. Mom bought the kit so I can make it for Emily for her birthday in December. When I was in bed that night I was thinking that it would be fun to make one for each of the kids to put on their beds on their birthdays and then when they leave home they can take it and use it in their families. Sooo that means I have six weeks to get an entire quilt made for Tay. Yikes.

  • Swimming and smores at Jim and Theresa's. I love summer!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Days 5 & 6

June 11 & 12
The beach. What an experience. We were told it would be a 4 1/2-5 hour drive to get there. Goody. About halfway there we were handed brochures to a resort. It was beautiful. White sandy beaches, clear blue water. It looked amazing. We couldn't believe that we were actually going to such a nice place. Chrisanna asked if I thought it really looked like that to which I replied "it has to if that's what it looks like in the brochure". Fast forward another hour or so and we pull up to Crystal Beach Resort. And we had a wake up call. Either we just got played or they actually handed the brochures back so we could fan ourselves because it was 92 degrees on the bus.
We walk off the bus and after only a couple minutes we are taken to our room for the night. That's's a hut. A very native woven walls, thatched roof, up on stilts hut. Home sweet home for the next 24 hours. It comes complete with a dining area, outdoor cooking area and a water pump. This is going to be fun.
Next to our hut is our bathroom. Suffice it to say we did a lot of squatting on this trip.

Across the way is the indoor shower...

And the outdoor showers.
This is Kenny. The first Filipino to really talk to us. He was the sweetest thing and ended up being one of my favorite people there.

We were still trying to take this all in so we headed down to the beach to see the beautiful water.
Our first steps in the South China Sea.

Soon it was time for lunch. Rice, a pork chop and various unidentifiable vegetables. I was game though. I was willing to at least try it. I managed to eat a couple potatoes and a couple green beans but the other veggies were scaring me. I ate a little bit of the pork chop. I already saw that the chops still had the piggies fat layer attached to them but what I found out later was that in addition to the fat layer was the skin and some piggy back hair. Thankfully I didn't look close enough to it to notice. Sometimes blind eating is better.


A little goofing around by the toilets.

Unfortunately there are no shots of the girls in the water. We spent most of the afternoon soaking because it was 150 degrees out.

Here is the boys hut. The only thing I can say is at least we were lucky enough to have walls. They did not. They had a roof that came down about 2 1/2 feet above the floor of the room. That was it. They didn't even have beds. They had their choice of a woven mat on the tile floor or on a bench. Decisions, decisions.

Rob and Kris chose the floor.

After a long day we went back to the beach to enjoy the sunset. It really was gorgeous.

And we couldn't forget jumping pictures.

Kris had a little trouble.

And since jumping pics are so fun why don't we try cartwheels pictures.

OK. Bad idea. We didn't get a single one. They were all butt shots and who wants to see that.

We were so worn out by the end of the day. Keith, Chrisanna, Kris, Darryl, Rob and I were hanging out in the boys room. We were all beat and about asleep when we were reminded that the celebration service would begin in ten minutes.
Right. The service.

It was to celebrate the camps that wrapped up just a few weeks before. They have over 57,000 in attendance and over 20,000 people saved. It's a huge thing to be celebrating but it's hard to get excited when we weren't there. And when it was all Tagalog all the time. Greg had translators sit by us so we could understand what was going on but it was still hard to pay attention. It was also hard not to laugh at Kris and Darryl because they were both falling asleep while their translator was talking. Did I say it had been a long day?

The service finally ended and it was time to get ready for bed. Brushing teeth at our pump.

Crawling into bed. Our bed was a bamboo frame with a mattress about one inch thick so it was like sleeping on a cloud. It also didn't come with any blankets. None. Thankfully we brought ours just in case but no one else had them. Most people curled up with their beach towels. And take a good look a the 1-1/2 inch spaces between our floor boards that allow any and all sorts of creatures in at night.

We may look alright but this is how we felt.
A new day dawned and we made it through the night fine. We spent most of the day on the beach and counted down the hours til we could head home and take a shower. It may look mild but we sweat like pigs here. It was no cooler than being in the city.
2:00 came and we finally got to go back to the hotel. The bus ride to the camp only took three hours. The bus ride home took five. Gotta love that traffic.
I do have to say, though, that the Philippines are beautiful once you get out of the city.
Instead of going back to the hotel we decided on dinner first. What's 18 sweaty, unshowered Americans in an Italian restaurant. We ate at Fazoli's and if you've never had it you must find a town with one and go. Yum-o. We are cleaning at the church tomorrow so after a long overdue shower and a good scrubbing we were off to bed.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Day 4

June 10

Today is my birthday. Rob, Kris, Keith and Darryl came up and sang me a stunning rendition of Happy Birthday. A regular barbershop quartet. Rob also greeted me with chocolate cake and a white chocolate mocha from Starbucks. Yum!

From here we were able to go to Greg's office and call home. Taylor had left for Kids Kamp that day and I wanted to hear how he did. My mom said he cried a little and had a pathetic look on his face as they were driving off but other than that did OK. Since Austin and Taylor were gone we only got to talk to Emily and my mom and dad. Even though it wasn't everyone it was good to hear their voices. Around 10:00 we left for the feeding center.

This feeding center is run by CBC. They feed about 35 children a day. Without this center most would not eat anything all day. If that isn't bad enough a lot of them are told to only eat a portion of it so they can take the rest home.

I'm not sure what they were eating. It was rice with some sort of meat and I think potatoes.
Some were so little that they needed help eating and drinking.

After all the kids had finished eating we were taken on a short tour of the area where these children live. It was poverty at its worst. Tiny little alley ways between the houses wind down to the river. It is a maze that would be easy to get lost in had we not had a good guide. All of these 'houses' are built out of whatever they can find and are thrown together. Because they are by the river all of the lower houses are on stilts.

As far as you can see either direction down river there are houses. It is the saddest sight you could ever see. Thousands of families living like this.

This river is in the top three most polluted rivers in Asia. It is one polluted, nasty river. Even so it is able to produce a crop called Kang Kong. It is a leafy green vegetable that is high in calcium and a small amount will feed a large family. It's amazing how God provides for his people.

I don't know why but I love this picture. Out of all I took on this trip this one is my favorite.

One thing that I never got over was all of the kids that were unsupervised and walking along the busy roads. And it wasn't just here, it was everywhere. Kids as young as two that miraculously never run in the road and managed to stay unhurt. At least while we were around.

Across the road and down about 50 yards from the feeding center is another church plant out of CBC. In the short time it has been up and running it has over 350 people attending three weekend services. Amazing! They also started a preschool that is doing well. Greg is such a great business man. He has lived there long enough to know how the government works. I was wondering why they would start a church so close to the feeding center where they are also starting a church he gave two main reasons.
#1 Because all of the houses by the river are built on government land they will eventually be torn down and the government will relocate everyone and give them a piece of land on the outskirts of the city. The feeding center/church is on the river side so when thousands of people are ripped from their homes so will the church and feeding center that has been in their community helping them. The government will give the church land and without even knowing it help plant a new church.
#2 Due to some reason I didn't figure out Greg said that people on one side of the street rarely, if ever, cross to the other side. That is why having a church on both sides of the road is important. If only on one side everyone on the other would never take the opportunity to enter.

We held our second community rally tonight and Satan provided much opposition. When we got to the barangay hall they had double booked it and there was a basketball game going on. We weren't about to get on that court. We were finally given the OK to use the area outside the court for our rally.

We, again, split up into groups and passed out fliers inviting everyone to come. Filipinos love Americans so because of that they were excited to come see what was going on. I don't know if there were more people at this rally or if it just looked like that due to a smaller space but it was packed. We had just a few minutes to get ready to do our drama. We weren't at all ready when they started the music. We were scrambling around trying to make it look good when the power went out. The music stopped and while they regrouped and got the music going again we regrouped too with all of our props and were ready when it was showtime.

Clear vision also did their drama and right in the middle of it the power went out again and they couldn't finish it. Tough Guys got up to do their demonstration and, as expected, the power went out again. Something good must be getting ready to happen because things just kept going wrong. Even with all of those things the gospel was still given and many people heard and accepted Christ as their savior.

In the end that is what we were there for. The dramas are good, so are the karate demonstrations but our main goal was to provide people a chance to hear the gospel and we did that. After the program was done all of the kids starting asking for our autographs. They were going crazy trying to get every ones signature. It was a mad house but one we had to soon exit to go to dinner. After McDonald's we went back to the hotel to pack for our beach adventure.

Some things I have noticed about the Philippines so far...
*there is police and security presence everywhere. every store we enter, every place we go.
*the police are often times accompanied by a metal detector. if a metal detector is not present then that means you have to open your bag for a search and you get a mini pat down before entering.
*driving lanes are more like guidelines.
*you can order fried chicken and spaghetti at any fast food restaurant including Wendy's, KFC and McDonald's where it is called McSpaghetti.
*the entire country is loud. the music is deafening.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Day 3

June 9

We got to sleep in today. The first time in may days. Today we were taking the train to see The Church of the Black Nazarene. Because we were a big group they brought some of the men from the tough guys(martial arts) ministry to escort us down there. The first train we got on was packed. They warned us against being nice and said if it's time to get on the train you best be gettin on or you'll get left. Not something that I wanted to experience so as soon as the doors opened I was pushing and shoving. We ended up taking two trains to get there.

We got off the train and this was our first sight. The market that we would have to walk through to get to the church. We go the "keep your purse in front of you and hold on to all valuables" talk again and we were off.

It's a little frustrating trying to show what Manila was like in pictures. In this one it looks like a nice market. Let me assure you it wasn't. The filth and the smells mixed together were terrible. The people, they were just everywhere. And nothing says tourist like being a large group that are much lighter skinned than everyone else. We actually had a guy following us from the train station, through the market and to the church. Thankfully we had the tough guys with us. Vincent watched him for a few minutes and finally talked to him and told him to leave.
Here is the church of the black Nazarene. There are said to be three churches in manila that have the most power and this is one of them. People will come here and spend all day praying to and touching the idols that are set up around the church.

There are various merchants around the church that sell candles and idols as well as palm and tarot card readers. Witchcraft and voodoo is nothing new, however, the priests from the church will come out and bless these evil things and after you buy something, an idol or even a black candle to put a curse on someone, you can take it to the priest and they will bless it again. It's no wonder this world is so lost.

We walked around the back of the church where there are four idols, three of Jesus and one of Mary. There were a few people praying so earnestly. And to what? A man made image that can do nothing for them. It is heart breaking to watch.
It is a little hard to see in this picture but if you look close you can see that Jesus hand and face are lighter color. That is from all the people touching him and praying to him. They believe if you touch the idol your prayers are more likely to be answered.

The inside of the church.

Directly across from Jesus is this statue of Mary. You only have to look at the picture to see how desperate this man is and he is praying to something that can give him nothing.

Back outside the church we were told we get to ride trikes back to the train station. These trikes held seven people each. Eight if you include the driver.

We had six people hanging on the outside of ours and one inside. There were four of us on one seat trying to hold on. Because we were in the market we didn't go as fast as they go on the open road but let me assure you these guys are nuts!

We made it back safely and ate lunch at the mall. Chrisanna and I decided to head to the market and see what we could find. We didn't have a lot of time but we stretched it to the last possible second. We both bought a 'LeSportsac' purse and because we took so long deciding and bartering we ended up having to run halfway back to the hotel. We were supposed to leave to do our first community rally and even though the bus was there no one was on it so we had just enough time to use the bathroom and throw some more deodorant on. A much needed thing in this climate.

The rallies are held at covered outdoor basketball courts called barangay halls. We set out with one of the Filipino team members (ours was Pastor Lito) to hand out fliers and invite people to come. We stayed out for half an hour then he needed to get back to help out. As soon as we were back people started coming. They seemed to be mostly children up to about 13 or 14 years old. They love having their pictures taken so they can see it on the camera so I spent probably 45 minutes taking pictures of kids. That's a lot of pictures.

The rallies usually include a dance by their hip hop ministry (they are only slightly better than the BABC dancers. ha!), a demonstration by the tough guys ministry (in the picture he is chopping through four large chunks of ice) a drama and a short message.
An excerpt from my journal--"I have no idea how many people accepted Christ but many heard of him and what He can do in their lives. That alone was worth coming all of this way for."
Even in the few days we have been here the team from Greg's church has been such a blessing to me. They work their tails off and never complain. They see the big picture. They know that their service every night brings new people into the kingdom. All their hard work is worth it. And one day in heaven they will be greatly rewarded. And they will deserve it.
Dinner was Yellow Cab pizza. I was exhausted and had only enough energy to walk around the mall a little then go back to the hotel and watch people swim. It was a good day.