Wednesday, May 28, 2014

David In The Philippines - Highlights From The Month of May

Four months in the Philippines represents quite a milestone for me. It is the longest I've been outside of Australia. My previous record was three-and-a-half months doing a summer camp in the US in 2004.

If you're on my email list or you've seen my Facebook page then some of this might be "old news" to you. It's been a very rewarding time here so far, but also one with many struggles and challenges in regards to adjusting to the culture and relating to others.

On a staff outing to a local resort. I spent much of the time watching out for two-inch-long ants and little jumping spiders 
I got my Philippines drivers license! Because I already have an Australian license, all that was involved was a blood pressure check, fill out a form, pay some money (less than $20) and I was done. I have already completed a few journeys around the place in the big Ruel van.  

We were privileged to have Ruel CEO David Cowie stay with us for a few days. It caused much confusion and amusement to the kids having two "Kuya David's" around the place.

Add this to the "I never thought I'd do it" list - I am a junior soccer coach! I've been taking a few of the kids along to soccer training the last few weeks, I took a couple of sessions and then got asked if I could coach an 8-and-under team at an upcoming tournament. I've had experience coaching Under 8s in basketball, so it's not a big stretch for me.
In the pre-tournament chaos, we tried to take a "team photo". Three of these kids weren't even in my team

Soccer lads after training

This is Laura and Henriikka from Finland. They spent a month with us after being in Vietnam and Cambodia, and it was great having them around the place.

 This is Baby K, one of the new arrivals at Ruel. He is four months old, very tiny and quite sick. I really enjoy popping into the Malnourish Centre and spending time with the littlest ones. Yesterday I held Baby K and started singing to him. Twinkle Twinkle and Humpty Dumpty went down okay, but I noticed a huge change in his demeanour when I started singing about Jesus. I sang "One Way", "My Redeemer Lives" and "Open the Eyes of My Heart". He looked into my face, his eyes grew as big as saucers and he started giving off massive smiles. It was incredible to watch. God is at work in this place, friends.
This is Baby M. He is now one month old, and was given to Ruel by his family at four days old, since they were just unable to provide for him. My 19-month-old niece doesn't have the mop of hair he does.  

This is Baby Girl D. She is two months old and her mother is very sick. She hadn't had any milk for two weeks when she was brought to us. Here we are just having a little chat
I have taken over the petty cash and banking responsibilities. My first time in a bank I had a 90 minute wait and really felt like doing a Mr Bean ticket-swap, but their were no wheelchair-bound suckers to take advantage of.

It was great having a group of guys from YWAM stay with us for three weeks. One of them, Mikko from Finland, is a keen soccer player, and he was able to show his skills a few times while he was here. Thanks to my friend Dom from church for organising it.

On Ate Danielle's last night with us, we all sat down together and watched the movie "Frozen" (the things we do for our kids!). I have to be honest and say I can't stand the movie or any of the songs which are sung incessantly at this place, and was not won over


Mr R is the son of the Ruel director, and for his tenth birthday I took him out to watch Spiderman and eat a delicious dessert called halo-halo.
This is Ruel's oldest resident Miss P, and she just turned 11. Miss P is an incredibly loving, responsible and helpful girl. I bought her a watch for her birthday. There was no mucking around, she chose the first pink one she saw.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Someone Loves Wendy

I wanted to share with you a story I've been captivated with ever since I read it. It's essence is fictional, but in all honesty it could be the story of thousands of children anywhere in the world. This is the story of Wendy, and her journey from hopeless failure to Compassion sponsored child. It was written by Emily from  the blog "An Ounce of Compassion", and reproduced on the Compassion Blog on October 30, 2012 Enjoy.

I know I will never be wanted; something deep down inside, tells me so. Each time the cold eyes of my papa chisel at my heart, I know I am nothing but shame to him. I am desperate, oh so desperate for his approval, the love that he forever withholds from me. It shatters my heart into a million tiny pieces that no one can put back into place. He is ashamed of my weakness. I try to be strong. I struggle to pull the tears back, but they so easily rebel. I cannot do better and I know I am a failure.

The coldness of solitude creeps into my bones as the echoes of laughter reach my ears. There is no room for me to partake in the laughter of my fellow school mates. I am too ashamed to make friends.  I know they must despise me: a motherless creature, who fails before the eyes of both my teacher and Papa. As Teacher gathers her students back to the classroom, I slowly follow behind.

Nearing the doorway, my heartbeat nearly comes to a halt. I can barely take in a breath. My exam is today. Will I even pass into the next grade? Surely my Papa will be disappointed with me if I fail him again. He cannot waste his meagre income on such a slow animal.

Each minute of the exam seems to stretch longer, as I scribble down answers. I strive to pull the facts from my brain.  I struggle to comprehend. As my dull pencil gets shorter and shorter, the pink rubber eraser becomes worn with frequent use. Fear grips my heart and twists it relentlessly.  My breaths are quick and short. My head is dizzy. My hardened brown feet kick the legs of the desk  monotonously. A pestering fly teases me cruelly. The hot air chokes my attention. And yet all I can think about is Papa.

Papa, working hard on the farm to feed me and keep me in school; day after day, fighting the unyielding clay.  If only he knew how I loved him so dearly, how very hard I try to please him.  If only I had worked a little harder after school, it wouldn’t have been my fault.

I wouldn’t have killed my dear sweet Mama, if only I had done more.  She was too weak to work, but I hadn’t known. How wicked I was to have stayed in school while Mama, suffering with cancer, labored at the farm. If only I had known how much pain she was experiencing, I would have worked harder. I would have exerted all of my eight-year-old strength, so that she could rest.  I helped the best I knew how, but it wasn’t enough.

How can I expect Papa to forgive me, when I cannot forgive myself?

All at once, my thoughts fly back to the exam.  The dryness in my throat makes it hard to swallow.  With a minute left, I scratch out my name at the top of the paper and hand it in.

The walk home today is more painful than the hunger growing in my stomach.  Fear whirls in my mind and each dusty step fills my heart with more dread.  Approaching the stench of our small farm, I hear a pleading voice from behind the tarp. Whipping in the wind, it seals out very little sound. I know that my Abuela is speaking with Papa in the house. Her smooth words advocate for me.

This will be good for Wendy, my son. Surely you can see that? Do not let your hardened heart stand in the way of her best interest.”

Her best interest? Have I not labored to keep her off the streets? She is a lazy child, who does not deserve to go to school. I cannot allow her to attend a church program,” his firm voice bellows above the loud flapping of the tarp.
I will not back down Juan,” comes the quiet reply of my grandmother.  Her weak voice trembles with earnest, and I yearn to be held in her arms.  “Wendy must be registered tomorrow for the Child Development Center.  I believe that God has sent this opportunity to us.”

Papa does not respond. His silence scares me. I creep closer, but terror prevents me from entering the small room where they converse.

Finally his strong voice speaks.

If it gets her out of my sight,” he retorts, “you can take her tomorrow, but God has sent us nothing.  He has only taken from me and my family.”

Suddenly, the tarp flies back sharply, and Papa storms past.  After observing me angrily, he disappears behind the rusty shed.

Taking Abuela’s wrinkled hand, I step into a long line of waiting people. The children stare blankly at the splintered floor of our tiny church. Pastor Jose greets the crowd kindly.

I tug Abuela’s sleeve gently, fearing that she will become irritated with me. She turns her head and I can read the sympathy in her eyes.

Why are we here, with all of these people?” I ask imploringly. She nods with patience and I wait for her response.

I am going to register you with the Compassion project here at Pastor Jose’s church,” her words come slow. “This will help you greatly, my child.” I want to believe her, but I am also puzzled. I know of a young girl in my school who attends the project once a week. She talks about her sponsor and shares about the activities and games she plays at the Center. She says because of her sponsor, her family is now able to buy groceries and provide her a uniform. And still, I do not know what to expect.

We talk with several people and answer many questions. Then I am whisked away with a number of other children and each of our pictures are taken. I have never seen a camera before, although I have always wondered what they look like. Something that is able to capture the image of a person, must be truly magnificent. I stare at it wonderingly, as lights flash three times.  It is almost a sort of magic I assume.

Abuela takes me home. I am very tired. Next week I will come to the project and meet my teacher. I want to be happy, but the truth haunts me. I know she will soon discover that I am a failure. I wonder if I must take many exams at the Project?

I have attended the project for many weeks. A new light is burning in my heart. At the project, we learn fascinating Bible stories and I am making new friends. I still don’t have a sponsor, but the teacher has prayed that one will come soon! I am very happy.

I have passed the third year of primary school. I had hoped that this would make Papa glad, however most days he is silent. He will not speak to me, but I talk to him. I tell him all about the joy I have found at the project.

Papa, today my teacher, Marie, taught us how God sent His Son Jesus all the way to this earth, just so He could die to save us from our sins. Do you think He did that for me too?” I beam with excitement. But Papa does not reply. My heart sinks with a heavy burden. I return to scrubbing his shirts. The soap stings my cut hands, so I quickly dip them into the cloudy water. Suddenly he speaks, but his words cut me like a knife.

So is my daughter too stupid of a girl to deserve a sponsor? I knew no one would want you. It has been four months now, and no one has chosen you.” He turns to leave the room. I lower my head to hide the tears that stain my face and drip into the bucket of laundry.

I didn’t think of it much before, but now, each day without a sponsor seems to pierce me deeper and deeper. One by one the other children in the Center find a sponsor, but I am left alone. I am too much of a failure for anyone to want me.

The rainy season soaks the world around me. Wet mud puddles stain my clothes, as I follow my grandmother to the church service. My mind begs to silently slip into the back pew, but Abuela steadily presses toward the front. I gaze upward at the wooden cross which hangs majestically from one of the supporting beams.  My step becomes lighter, and I sit on the front pew, beside my beloved Abuela. Her faithful eyes rest on Pastor Jose, who is opening his Bible and preparing to speak. I listen intently.

Jesus loves you all so much. In fact, there is nothing you can do that is bad enough to remove His love. He is forever knocking at the door of your heart. He truly desires a relationship with you,” Pastor Jose paused and gave his flock of sheep a genuine smile of love. He wanted so much to lead them on the right path. If only they would listen to his cries of sincerity. ”He wants to come into your hurting heart and fill it with His love. Please let Him in. Please don’t keep Him waiting outside any longer.”

My heart slowly fills with hope as I hear the wonderful words of Pastor Jose. I never knew that Jesus would want someone like me. How could one so perfect, love a child as horrible as I?  The question is rolling over and over in my head. But as I ponder this almost impossible statement, a feeling of love is beginning to surround me. I am beginning to realize that Jesus really does love me, even if no one else does.

I shyly rise from my seat and creep up to the Pastor after service.

Will you help me let Him in?” I stammer.

His smile pierces my hopeless heart. ”I would be more than happy to help you.”

Pastor Jose kneels beside me and leads me in a prayer filled with compassion. God’s love pours in and washes away the sorrow. I am full of peace and joy. Maybe one day my papa will feel this peace as well.

The days pass by and I eagerly count each one. I am longing for the day when my sponsor will find me. At the project, Marie pulls me aside when it is time for the children to return to their homes.

I have a gift for you,” her voice dances with happiness. I take the small box she places in front of me. Inside is a beautiful black Bible, all my own. I have never held a Bible before, so I touch its smooth cover reverently.

The soft paper feels so soothing between my rough fingertips. This Bible is a precious jewel to me; my only possession. Its treasured words will lead me closer to Him, the one friend I have. The One who gave salvation to a failure.

And now,” she continues. ”I have some very special news for you, my little Wendy.” Marie pauses and places her warm hand on my stooped shoulders. ”Someone has decided to sponsor you!”

I take in a quick breath of thick air, my brown eyes fixed on the tiny letters of my Spanish Bible. At first, I do not look up into Marie’s smiling face. But as her words sink in, gratefulness overflows the tiny cup of my heart. My brimming eyes turn upward.

They want me? I whisper with a cracked voice unlike my own. Marie nods.

They love me. I breathe.