Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Back from the Philippines! Update and Photos

Hello Everyone,

Here is a recap of our trip to the Philippines. It has taken me so long to do this, because I’m having a hard time putting it into words. Expression through words isn’t my gift (that’s why I take pictures). This most likely will not be day-by-day, just in a random order as it comes to my mind. I’ll do my best to include as much as possible with out boring you, hope it makes a bit of sense…

It was amazing! A wonderful eye opening experience. Here we have the poor all around, but for some reason it so much more impacting in other countries (at least to me anyway). Here we have the means to get people off the streets, but it just doesn’t happen…there many don’t have any opportunity, yet their seems to be a peace and happiness that surround them. Some of these people may be poor to our standards but they are richer than I will ever be, that blows my mind.

I fell in love with it. The country, the beauty of my surroundings, the welcoming attitudes, people, the food and Mango shakes. I’ve had the opportunity to travel before, but never have I experienced and welcome like this. After only a few hours these people became like family that I haven’t seen in a while. There were no boundaries, just open arms and lots of love.

We traveled from San Francisco to Taipei to Manila stayed there for four days went to Dumaguete for two days then to Bacolod for a day. Each place is beautiful in its own ways. From city life to beach town. Most of our travel from place to place was by planes, but from Dumaguete to Bacolod it was by bus. A five and a half hour trip in a non air-conditioned bus. I actually preferred this to the ac. We had the windows down enjoying the scenes and smells (good and bad).

The Romans it talks about mutual encouragement, and that would sum up this purpose for this trip. We were there to do/help what ever it is that they needed, although I feel like I got more out of it than I gave. One of our first days in Manila we went with Pastor Lito (Pastor of CC Manila) and a few of the member of the church to paint the brick walls (back yard area) for the children at the DSW (Department of Social Welfare). These children are there due to abuse and neglect until they can locate other family members or adoptive parents to take them.

Before going we were told no pictures were allowed because many of these children have on going court cases. We got there, painted the back wall and left wall white and had so much extra we did all that walls we could. On the back wall some of the team members drew a Noah’s Ark theme , the rest of us scrubbed the ground to get the paint drippings off, played with the children and after the sketch was done we all pitched in to bring it color and life. Half of us left in the first van to head back to the church for lunch, but as we were getting ready to leave they asked us to come back and take a picture with the children! In only a matter of hours they trusted us. To walk back in and see the painting and the children’s faces as they came out was priceless.

We visited three churches: Calvary Chapel Manila, Calvary Chapel Dumaguete and Calvary Chapel Bacolod (Calvary Chapel Children’s Home). All of them amazing in their own ways, and also very different. CCM is smaller, a narrow room with now windows, amazing people. As we sat their for their mid week service all the kids were in the back two rows singing their best during worship and I had tears in my eyes. I just stood there listening to them and thought (I know several others thought similar things), “I wonder if this is what heaven will sound like with all the voices echoing like this”. It was beautiful. We spent the most time at CC Manila and I just love those people so much (sure I’ve said that a few times already). I kept asking for the recipes for all the food they were cooking for us, so one night they decided to show us how to make of them. We learned to make turon, a desert that was amazing. I can’t even explain what it felt like to be there cooking with them. It reminded me of growing up, with my grandmother teaching me how to cook. It was great and I’m sure something I will never forget.

CC Dumaguete felt like we were back in the states. It was large, awesome people and the worship again was great. When you looked up there is a huge dove on the ceiling. We didn’t have a service at CC Bacolod but it also is a Children’s Home and currently they have about 140 children. There is a school there also. These children are amazing. They all have chores and help one another, I didn’t see any signs of frustration or aggravation of having so many siblings, just pure love for one another. They put on a performance for us, it was awesome. They all had matching outfits (that they made!), sang and danced, it was great. Everyone of them were involved in one way or another.

In total we visited three "orphanages", all of them broke my heart in a different way. I do hope and pray to be able to adopt one day, I don't know from where, but being there just hit home really hard for me. The people that work there are amazing and have huge hearts. I could only hope for that.

We went to the American Cemetery in Manila one day. Talk about a breathtaking humbling experience. I will be the first to admit I know little to nothing about history, but I was in awe. To see all of those names and crosses blew me away. As we walked threw and looked at them all I noticed some familiar names…two that stuck out. Two of which may be on my mom’s side of the family, and both were from MA.

We stayed at New Tribes Missions in Manila (www.ntm.org) These people were wonderful to let us stay with them. I had a few opportunities to talk with them about their experiences so far and also to meet other missionaries that are stationed or have been stationed in the Philippines. Check out their site and what they are all about when you have a chance.

Seeing as we weren’t staying at the church we got picked up and dropped off by members of the church, but one day we got to ride in Jeepneys! Jeepneys are a main form of transportation in the Philippines. They were originally made from US military jeeps left over from World War II and are well known for their flamboyant decoration and crowded seating. They have also become a symbol of Philippine culture.

We were complete outsiders, definitely the minority, but I felt at home. Never really thought about being an outside much. I enjoyed getting to walk around and see life from out side of a moving car. I think every place we went I uttered the words “I could live here”.

The driving and traffic reminded me quite a bit of China. Very dysfunctional and unorganized yet organized at the same time.

In one day we saw metro Manila, the “Beverly Hills” section with Polo Clubs and all and then we saw where the “squatters” lived. Its amazing the difference and how just a turn at the next set of lights can bring you into a whole new world and way of life.

I met so many wonderful people, saw unforgettable things and learned a lot in a short time. I hope this and my photos gives you a bit of insight to my trip and experience. Again, its been hard to put it into words, but thank you all very much for your prayers, support and encouragement. I wasn’t ready to leave and I’m looking forward to going back in the future.

For more photos please visit: Philippines Photos


Monday, January 08, 2007

Flights, Birthday, Christmas, Death, New Year...

A lot has happened since my last post...I'll do my best to include it all.

In the last post I mentioned that my Grandfather had suffered from a heart attack and wasn't doing well. I flew home in November, because we thought we were going to lose him. He came around though. He was moving along (not at a fast speed, but slight improvements). I had a week to spend as much time with him as I could, just hanging out in the hospital. He couldn't move or even talk, but it didn't matter that much. The last time I saw him before heading home, I got a kiss and told him I would be back at Christmas, he kept saying no, he finally came around and said yes.

I flew home for Christmas and saw him on Christmas morning for a couple of hours. I told him that I would see him in two days, my dad and I would come back to visit him. To all of our surprise, the day after Christmas he was rushed back to the hospital from his rehab. All five of his daughters, his three oldest grandchildren (well four), and my father were at the hospital that night. He had the chance to say good bye to all of us and give us kisses one last time. Around 10:30 that night he went to be with Jesus. It was quick and peaceful, and a blessing. I wasn't prepared, but I know he is in a much better place, and I couldn't ask for anything better for him. I miss you...

I had a crazy flight home for Christmas. The guy next to me was unbelievable...to the point of almost having to land the plane and get him off. Spent the first day and nigh at Becky and Mikes (always a good time, but never long enough). Spent the day with Becky in Boston...our favorite thing to do! Got to go to Johnny Cupcakes! And of course hot pot in China Town! Yum Yum.

Got to spend time with my family (more than expected, but it was really good!). I even got a day to hang out with my dad. We fly to Nantucket for lunch and then hung out there and the cape for a few hours just taking photos. We even got to go to the Cape Cod Board Walk and see our board (see photo above)! I got to spend Christmas morning with my mom, which I haven't done in many years. I had a ton of time to spend with my sister, brother in law and my awesome newphew. No matter how much time I have it never seems like enough!

For my birthday I got a lot of cool things...dvd's, itunes gift cards, a turtle named Aslan (which still hasn't arrived!!) and best of all a photograph from one of my favorite photographers, Scott Harrison. Thanks to my awesome and wonderful sister (brother in law and newphew...of course). She gave me an envelope with some e-mails in it, I didn't even have to read the first line, all I saw was "Hello Scott," and I started to cry. Its amazing, She is amazing for thinking of this, and he is an amazing photographer and person for letting me have a print of his.

Couldn't of asked for a better birthday.

What did I do for New Year's Eve after a long emotion filled week home...I slept! Oh yes went to bed at 9:30 (I had to wake up at 5:00 to leave for the airport to head back West).

Now, I'm getting ready for my trip to the Philippines!! I leave on the 14th for 9 days. I'll be sure to post some stories/thoughts when I return along with photos.

Hope this sums everything up! For more photos check out my flickr site

A new magazine to check out: NEED Magazine