Saturday, November 29, 2014

David In The Philippines - Highlights From Month #10 (November)

Managed to get one more photo in with this little guy before he left this morning to begin life with his adoptive family in Finland. This is the sixth international adoption we've had at Ruel this year, from five different countries - US, Canada, Spain, Ireland and Finland. We'll miss you Little Mr A! (Nov 1st)

At Ruel we've been blessed with a visit from Sarah Tibben for the last few days. Sarah currently works at another orphanage called Rehoboth, and decided to come down and check us out. I have to admit I've never thought of the song "Open, Shut Them" as wildly entertaining but as you can see from the picture, Little Miss R certainly did ) (Nov 2nd)
I know all kids love to be first, and Ruel kids are no different. No matter how much I try and discourage it, the race from upstairs to the schoolroom in the mornings often results in tears, grumpiness and someone falling over. Yesterday we tried to take a goodbye picture with Ate Sarah, and as soon as the button was pressed they raced to be first into the tricycle (Nov 3rd)
Such an amazing example of kids giving to kids! I want to thank Linda Soegiarto who is the mum of one of my students from 2013, as well as the crew from Melbourne Praise Centre, for their generosity in raising funds and gifts for Ruel Foundation. Closed-toed shoes are something we never seem to have enough of, and there sure are lots of them in that photo! God's love in action (Nov 8th)
Here's me with the Ruel kids enjoying our brand new Bamboo House! It was paid for by some of the proceeds of the Fun Run (Nov 13th)
Hanging out at the mall for Miss R's 11th birthday with our new friend Ate Bridget. Video games and blue PowerAde, what could be better? (Nov 18th)
Look who's back at Ruel after his cleft lip surgery! (thanks Melissa for fundraising). Man, this guy has just grabbed my heart and won't let go (Nov 21st)
Today was my last Sunday at United Evangelical Church (UEC). I am thankful for the way God has used me in this place; first facilitating a positive partnership between them and Ruel Foundation, and also providing the funds for this basketball court and paved surface. I know the kids will have lots of fun. I have also sponsored a child from their Compassion Project (PH268), so I will have a good reason to go back and visit (Nov 23rd)
Definitely one for the cuteness files. Little Miss J, S and R enjoying a tricycle ride and McDonalds treat. Thanks for your help Ate Gladz and Ate Charmzz. (Nov 26th)

So, this year I've completed 78 blogs for the Ruel Foundation and I'm currently figuring out how to get to 100 in the few weeks I've got left. This is one of my more creative efforts. A series of events and a couple of perfectly timed photos resulted in a funny "children's storybook" blog I've entitled "The Mysterious Saga of the Disappearing Balloons." Enjoy! (Nov 4th)    
You know you're living in a developing country when there's a nationally televised campaign, complete with models and celebrities, promoting handwashing. It's a different world. (Nov 15th)

One of my favourite things to do at Ruel is to go upstairs and spend time with the bubs. I generally escape unscathed but today was...messy, with about three different types of body fluids and I was coughed on a few times. I tip my hat to the caregivers who do it day-in and day-out for 8-hour shifts (Nov 15th)

I've just returned from a little ferry trip to the Bureau of Immigration in Batangas. Because I've been here longer than six months I had to fill out a few more forms and get fingerprinted (which has stained and left me with purple thumbs) before I can leave the country next week. You know, bureaucracy or "red tape." How amusing it was, then, to see a sign on the window that began "In accordance with the Anti Red-Tape Act 2007..." Well they're doing a great job of enforcing that. I also had a 60p ($1.50) pizza for lunch that possibly tasted just as good as the cardboard box it came in. I say "possibly" because I've never tried cardboard, so I wouldn't know. My final week here includes last trips to church and soccer, individual assessments for all the schoolkids and taking the kids out for a treat in four separate groups: the older kids voted to go to the mall to play some games, and I'll be taking the toddlers to McDonalds for some yummy stuff. (Nov 20th).

Tonight we had a brown-out (it's like a black-out in Australia, but only for a short time). When the power came on and I was settling into my drinkies and TV watching, three young people knocked at the gate. I went out, they handed me an envelope and started singing. I listened for about a minute before I noticed their glances; they were just too polite to mention "You're supposed to give us money." I finally got the hint, popped a couple of notes in the envelope and resumed my entertainment. Silly foreigner (Nov 22nd)

Man, the To-Do list for my last three days just keeps getting bigger: school assessments and reports, cleaning (lots), laundry, haircut, photos, bank, lawyer, junk shop, kids outings. Fortunately I managed to get through most of my packing today, and offloaded a few kgs by giving some of my clothes, books and meds to Ruel. (Nov 23rd)

A productive morning. I got my (5) school reports done, closed my bank account with no forms or paperwork, got 41p at the junk shop and scored my last $1.25 haircut with my favourite ladyman. I was also waiting patiently to turn left at a busy intersection and got yelled at repeatedly by a policeman to "GO!" even though there was lots of oncoming traffic. Think I should try that in Australia and see what happens? (Nov 25th)

"Go Into All The World" Is Now Available! Here's How To Buy It

Hi everyone,

Yesterday I arrived back in Australia from the Philippines and found a little box waiting for me. It was the first print run of 30 copies of my new book "Go Into All The World."

Here's how you can buy it.

Firstly, through one of these three links:
Ark House Press
Koorong Bookstore
Word Bookstore

If you would like to buy the book from me directly, here's what you can do.

If you live in Victoria:
Price: $20 (in person)
           $22 inc. postage: cheque, money order, electronic bank transfer (email me for bank details)

If you live in other states of Australia:
Price: $23 inc. postage
Cheque, money order, electronic bank transfer (email me for bank details)

If you live in New Zealand or Asia :
Price: NZ$32.50 inc. postage
          US$27 (or equivalent Asian currency)
Cheque, money order, electronic bank transfer (email me for bank details)

If you live in North America, South America, Africa or Europe:
Price: US$30 inc. postage
Cheque, money order, electronic bank transfer (email me for bank details)

The price is higher than I would have liked it, but unfortunately postage prices are quite high.

My postal address is:
32 Latham Street,
Werribee, Victoria,

My email address is:

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Go Into All The World - Reflections of a First-Time Author (Updated)

"Go Into All The World" Updates:
* Two-and-a-bit weeks in I've managed to sell 22 copies of the book, with many more to come once I figure out how to convert it into an eBook (apologies to US friends for the delay).
* 23 bloggers and so far 5 magazines/publications have agreed to give it a review and help me get it out there.
* I managed to get seven days of teaching work at a Christian school as soon as I came back from the Philippines, and was able to share some of the book's stories with the students. As a result, some of the kids bought the book and who knows what seeds of generosity God has planted in their hearts. I LOVE what I do! 
* Thanks to my publisher Ark House Press, I have a TV appearance scheduled for late February in Sydney, on a show called "Impact TV" by Wesley Mission. The show is aired on channel 9 and the Australian Christian Channel in Australia, as well as the US and UK.
* I have an official book launch scheduled for February 15th (Victoria only at this stage) which will feature a 40-minute video I have created with some of the stories I've experienced, illustrating the impact of sponsors, Compassion and the church.


So, I’ve written a book. And it’s quite a story too. A story of generosity and sacrifice; one man giving of himself to help children and families in poverty. I have variously been called a 'saint' and an 'angel,' and at times it was tempting to believe it.

It would have been quite easy to turn this story into a warm-fuzzy, feel-good humanitarian triumph. I could have put myself up as a poster-boy for human compassion and good deeds. I'm sure that taking that angle would have resulted in more readers, more exposure and promotion, more pats on the back and kind words. Everyone loves a good 'faith-in-humanity-restored' tale.

But I couldn’t do that. Not when I know the truth. The truth that the past eight years I’ve spent sponsoring, advocating and travelling to 12 countries with Compassion International is not about me at all. It’s all about God. The only reason I’ve devoted my life to sponsoring, advocating for and visiting these children and families is because God loves me and I want to share God’s love with them, pure and simple. No other reason makes sense to me.

I haven't always had this perspective, I'm ashamed to admit. Pride, self-righteousness and jealousy have been my companions at times along the way. I have watched on enviously as Compassion bloggers and celebrities get taken on trips and promoted and praised, while I fork out thousands of dollars to visit my sponsored kids around the world in obscurity. Deep down I longed to be recognized and noticed. "I'm doing so much more than they are..." would be my indignant, bitter attitude. We Christians have a little cliché that we like to use, that we're doing it for the "Audience of One." This certainly wasn't always the case for me.

Thankfully God has mended my attitude and perspective, and I've been able to genuinely surrender the book (and whatever opportunities arise) to Him.

So, why did I invest a four-figure amount of money in this book, even when I was living off my savings in the Philippines? What do I have to gain? I have a message to share with people which I believe is urgent and important, and I will do whatever I can to get it out there. That’s all.

I'm just an Average Joe. I’m not a paid employee or official spokesperson for Compassion. All views and opinions in the book are my own, but they are based on what I have seen, witnessed and experienced in eight years of sponsoring and visiting the developing world. I'm not doing it for any sort of bonuses or brownie points. My involvement with Compassion through sponsoring and travelling has cost me a whole lot more than I have gained, materially speaking.

This is the bottom line for me:
I want people to know that God is real and He is at work in this world through the impact the Church and Compassion are having on millions of children in 26 countries around the world.
I want people to know that they can make a tangible, eternal difference in other people’s lives by partnering with Compassion in sponsorship. I can comfortably hold myself up as an example of that truth, since through my life of generosity and sacrifice I am shining the light of Jesus’ love.

Sponsorship is not just a 'nice thing' we do, and it should never be so limited. I want people to understand that when a child is supported by Compassion and the church, and loved and encouraged by a sponsor, it results in genuine life change and transformation. Sponsored kids are growing up to become doctors, dentists, nurses, lawyers, pastors, teachers and even senators and government leaders! Changing their communities and countries, all because someone showed them the love of Jesus. It is real, and I want to show that through countless examples in this book, so other people will get involved.

I have no doubt that the blatant and pervasive “God-emphasis” that drenches every part of this story will turn some potential readers off. That’s disappointing, but it’s their loss.
I cannot compromise and claim any glory or recognition that rightfully belongs to God.
I cannot deny that which has revealed itself to be true to me (thanks to Whispering Danny for that little gem).
I cannot deny that in all my travels going deep into the brokenness, poverty, darkness and danger of the developing world, the only evidence of joy, peace and hope for the future I witnessed was within the walls of the churches where Compassion was showing children the love of Jesus. It was the only place they were being taught that they had a purpose and their lives have value. I could not pretend that had anything to do with me, even if I’d wanted to.

I still haven't pinpointed a specific target audience for the book. Obviously it's mainly aimed at Christians, but I hope that people who do not share my worldview will still pick up this book and have a read.
Maybe I’ll be an example of a Christian that they’ve never seen before and as a result they will do some seeking.
Maybe through these stories they’ll come face-to-face with a God they’ve never met before, or even meet Him for the first time.
Maybe they’ll somehow manage to ignore the God stuff altogether but be inspired to help others and live generous lives.

I believe that the stories in this book will touch hearts and minds. As far as ‘when’ and ‘how,’ I know it is out of my hands, but I rest in the fact it is in the hands of One much greater than I am, and I know He will use it. So, while I don’t have a slick, fancy PR machine over several social media platforms giving me maximum exposure, access to speaking engagements and media interviews etc., I know that by dedicating it to God, the One who it’s all about in the first place, the right people will see it, enjoy it and share it. There’s a definite peace that comes with that knowledge.

Despite experiencing a fair number of hiccups that come with being a 'nobody' working with a small independent publisher, I have enjoyed the writing process, as well as having the freedom to write what I want. I even managed to slip a couple of Homer Simpson quotes in there! I am thankful for the God-given ability to 'spin a story' using the written word and I guess the ultimate rush for a writer is when they hear from their readers "I felt like I was there!" I hope you feel that after reading 'Go Into All The World.'

I must warn you that in some ways, this book is not an easy read. The stories that I tell are all real. They are not fabricated or embellished in any way. They are often raw and confronting. They reveal the depth of brokenness, darkness and mess in this world. On the flipside, the genuine hope, change and transformation that God brings through the work of Compassion and that I've witnessed personally is just as real, and it is magnificent. I believe you will be changed in some way after reading this book, and I hope you are moved to positive action.

In the end, this eight-year journey of sponsorship, impacting lives and travels into the developing world is just one small chapter in God’s eternal epic tale, and it’s a privilege for me to be the 'supporting actor' He has chosen to headline this particular scene.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

David In The Philippines: October = Trips, Big Decisions, Books, Compassion Family, Fun Runs and Adoptions!

October was a huge month at Ruel Foundation, which included two international adoptions and several operations.

The month actually started with my birthday - I turned 33 on October 1st. I chose to spend my "birthday week" this year visiting three of the Filipino kids I formerly sponsored with Compassion. They all have new sponsors now, so it was great to be able to visit on their behalf and God did some amazing stuff. So the highlight reel this month includes a few Compassion stories, as well as Ruel stories.

The book keeps plodding along. It has been on the verge of being ready for a while but I have sent it back a couple of times due to being a 'grammar nazi' and wanting to get it exactly right. It has cost me a bit more money and time, but I know the final product will be worth waiting for. The latest I have been told is "close of business Monday" (two days from now).

If you haven't already, please check out the Go Into All the World Facebook page or the book's page on the Ark House Press website here.

If you are a blogger or know someone with a blog, I would like to offer you a copy of the PDF (when I receive it), in return for a review or a simple blog post advertising the book. The publishing package I received did not include promotion, so I'm pretty much on my own in that regard. It doesn't matter what size your audience is and you don't have to be a "Compassion blogger" specifically. I just need help getting it out there. If this interests you, please let me know.

In other news, I will be going back to Australia at Christmas and won't be returning to Ruel Foundation in 2015. I wasn't planning on revealing it this early, but it was announced on the Facebook page by someone at the NZ office, so I just went with it.

I will go into more detail in a later blog post, but the main reason for my return is that I haven't been able to fully let go of Compassion sponsorship and advocacy. It still has my heart in a big way, and I believe it is still God's purpose for me.

I have actually got an early start on rebuilding my Compassion family and through a variety of circumstances I have been reconnected with six of my previously sponsored kids. I am still a volunteer at Ruel and potentially won't be earning an income until February but God has provided for me to still be able to commence sponsoring.

This is my current Compassion family:
Top row - Sehila (Bolivia); Antonio (Nicaragua); Josefa (Guatemala)
Bottom - Ana Alice (Brazil); Danna (Mexico); Larissa (Brazil)

Without further ado, here are the highlights from the month of October:

And thus endeth another incredible birthday, the fourth one in the last six years I have spent visiting my Compassion kids. Today I visited precious 14-year-old Princess Joy and her family. She has six siblings, aged 5 to 25, and God's giant handprints of blessing and provision are all over this family, despite their humble circumstances. In a community with very few opportunities, they have a relative who owns the gas station and the farm where the parents and older brothers... both live and work! We ate spaghetti (her favourite), ice cream, went to the beach and bought groceries in a mall they had only ever window-shopped at. I was also able to buy Princess her very first cellphone (may have been a mistake?) Devoting my life to giving to others is incredibly fulfilling, and for me there is no price tag you can put on it. At the end of my life I may not have much to my name materially, but through the sacrifices I have made I know I have helped create memories and experiences for many people and planted the seed of God’s love in many hearts. (October 1)

As a symbol of how valuable she is to me and especially to God, I made the decision to give Princess Joy the teddy bear I've had since I was born, creatively named "Yellow Ted." It was not an easy decision and I almost had second thoughts, but it was an act of joyful sacrifice and with her three younger siblings I know Yellow Ted has found a good home. (October 2)

I'm sitting in my hotel room in Manila reflecting on an incredible week that only God could have put together. In the Good Word, it says "People who are generous will prosper. Those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed." (Proverbs 11:25). This week I sacrificed a lot of "first-world" type things to go and visit three of my former Compassion kids in the Philippines. In return, I was the recipient of such lavish and extraordinary hospitality and generosity. People looking after me, taking me places and just taking time to be with me. Overall the verdict is the same: Compassion is a God-inspired ministry, transforming the lives of children, families and communities, and I strongly recommend people in the developed world get involved Thanks to everyone I came in contact with this past week, you made it a time I will never forget. (October 2)

I'm finally back at Ruel after an amazing nine days. Princess Joy is part of a family of 13 (including her brother's wives and kids). They live in a very basic shelter, which was knocked down in the typhoon, and make money by getting the stuff out of coconuts, called copra, and selling it. So I am really drinking a snack of sacrifice - it's their livelihood! That is hard to get my head around, but I accepted the gift gratefully, and it was delish! (October 3)

Took the kids to soccer in the tricycle this morning. It felt a little bit weird being in the drivers seat again after nine days of being a passenger in planes, ferries, buses, jeepneys, trucks, tricycles, motorbikes, taxis and vans! (October 4)

This has become one of my favourite photos, simply for the joy that is displayed, and my heart bursts every time I think about it You've probably never thought of supermarket shopping as an exciting adventure, but it certainly was on this day, their first time ever. Being the hands and feet of Jesus, providing for those who need it, is an amazing privilege. (October 5)

Happy first birthday to this little Ruel munchkin! Baby J has been with us since May and will be having his cleft lip/palate operation very soon thanks to the fundraising of one of our short term volunteers. His smile is the best! (October 7)

Earlier this year during my first earthquake in the Phils I was on my computer and didn't even notice it. Had the second one just then and woah! It was only about four seconds and fairly gentle, but it didn't go unnoticed, that's for sure. Heart is pounding. (October 7)

I never cease to be amazed at the generosity of the poor. This gift was given to me by John Dave's family. It is a glass cube and inside is a model of a big tree and a wooden house. It proved a slight headache carrying it on buses and planes, but it was given with such love and sacrifice. The good thing is generosity works both ways. The back wall of the family's house was knocked down by a typhoon and it's where all four kids sleep. As John Dave's sponsors, my parents are investigating how they can help. *Insert huge smile here* (October 8)

Hanging out with Ruel's newest resident, 3 month-old Baby Girl C. So tiny! (October 9)

As a ridiculously un-artistic person, I really appreciate the effort that goes into things like this. Humbling (October 10)

While I was in Davao, I was blessed to catch up with these two new friends, Daniel and Marlene McColloch Bray. They are involved with a ministry called 'Hope Created' and Dan works at a local school. We connected through Marlene's blog. She wrote a piece called "20 Things No One Told You About Moving Overseas" (thanks for sharing Erika) and the timing of it was incredible, as I had just started feeling the effects of culture shock back in August. It was great to spend a few hours with them, learn about what they're doing and talk to fellow missionaries who can relate to my situation (October 11)

So, the Masipit Rooster Choir must be going for some sort of World Record for the longest continual synchronized crowing. 12.30am to 5.30am is a pretty good effort. I always thought sleep was overrated anyway. On the plus side, I'll take roosters crowing over dogs barking any day! (October 12)

Compassion just sent me this photo from my visit with John Dave in Canlaon City. He had been subdued with a persistent toothache early on and I was afraid it would affect our day or cut it short. While visiting their house I prayed for healing in the name of Jesus, who I know to be real. I watched him carefully for the rest of the day, and there were no signs of any problems. You might call it magic, superstition, BS or any other number of things, but I know what I believe and I know what happened on this day was amazing (and nothing to do with me). God is a healer. (October 13)

I received a "thank you" letter from Princess Joy after my visit two weeks ago. One thing stood out. Her favourite part of the whole day (even better than getting her very own cellphone!) was going to the beach. We were there for maybe 10 minutes, standing in the shallows and just talking, but it was the most memorable part of the day for her. It's an important reminder to me that children find such simple moments so special and valuable, and to be able to provide her with that experience was priceless (October 13)

John Dave's surname is Fajardo. When I visited, he asked me what my last name was, then promptly declared his new name to be "John Dave Fa-Chalmers." Funny kid (October 14)

We recently had the fifth international adoption at Ruel Foundation this year. They are always amazing to witness and be part of. Little Mr M will be living in Ireland with his new mummy, daddy and older sister (October 15)

Today at Ruel Foundation we celebrate LIFE! Baby Boy M was brought to us back in April at just four days old. We had a team from YWAM here at the time, and they were given the privilege of naming him. Have a look at him now as a big six-month-old (October 18)

Thanks for your prayers and concern for Mr L. Unfortunately he died, he was just too sick. At least he was surrounded by love in his final days. Please continue to pray for his family and the Ruel staff. It's a privilege to care for these little ones. (October 19)

The Ruel kids focused and engaged like I've never seen them! The poor turtle showed us his swimming prowess, but was going nowhere in a hurry (October 24)

We have a HUGE week coming up at Ruel. Sunday is our 5K Fun Run to celebrate our Foundation Day. On Monday Little Mr I and Baby J (left) are in Manila for their operations and later in the week Little Mr A meets his Forever Family who are coming from Finland! Phew! (October 24)

Well, the first ever Ruel Foundation 5K Fun Run is complete, and it was a successful morning. I was given the job of photographer, and snapped away happily with my trusty Samsung Galaxy III. This is me with the crew from United Evangelical Church, who unfortunately turned up 10 minutes after the other runners had taken off. Better late than never! UEC has been a real blessing to the kids of Ruel Foundation (October 26)

Today I took six adults in my tricycle and at the end of the journey I found I had a flat tyre. Fortunately "vulcanisers" are very common (sometimes just a guy by the side of the road with a pump and some tools) so I was back on the road in 5 minutes. The cost? 20 pesos (50 cents). Swish! (October 26)

In school this morning we were talking about believing in God. One of the boys declared "Yep, I believe in God. I believe in God and Kuya David." I'll take that (October 28)

This is me with my little shadow, Miss M. Apparently four hours in the morning with me is not enough and she hunts me down several times in the arvo as well. Ah, to be wanted...(October 30)

*I go upstairs after trimming my beard*
Ruel kid: "You've had a haircut!"
Right you are, kiddo
(October 31)

The month ended with another international adoption. Little Mr A met his new mummy, daddy, grandmother and brother and they travelled to Finland to begin their new life together.