Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Back Home!

After about 24 hours of travel time, most of the TLC mission team has returned safely.  Cindy, Rachel, and Linda stayed behind for a day in Davao to see a few sites from when they grew up as missionary kids in the area.  They'll also be going to Hong Kong and plan to return towards the end of next week.  Thanks to everyone involved in organizing and implementing this mission project, God did great things and made awesome connections for future ministry!  We'll be back!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Weekend - Baguio/Manila

On Friday we jumped aboard a bus which took us from Manila to Baguio.  It was quite the experience for those of us from the U.S.  We may have spent more time on the wrong side of the road than the right side as we passed jeepneys and pedicabs, with oncoming traffic just missing us as we swerved back in.  It was great!  While Manila is at sea-level, Baguio is up in the mountains.  The road up winds with some tight twists and turns, but it's incredibly beautiful passing rice fields and mountain vistas.

Pastor Abel and Dionelle were waiting to pick us up from the bus terminal, and drove us to the AJ Pension House, where we'll stay for the next couple days.  

At 7:00, we met up at the Lutheran Theological Seminary, where the seminary students had prepared an awesome Filipino meal for us.  There are six total students, four of which are on vicarage, and two (Dionelle and Jestoni) are on-site taking classes in their second year of five.  There are currently 98 congregations in the LCP, with only 30 pastors available to serve.  Many take on multiple parishes, but there's an obvious need for pastors - a concern that the seminary and LCP are praying God guides them through.  Upon graduation, the average pastor in the Philippines earns 65-80 US dollars a month.  That's not enough to support an entire family, so one of Sean Harlow's major jobs here is to promote grassroots microfinancing, where pastors and their families can take out a $500 loan to start up a small business by which to support their families.  What incredible faith these men have.  They have such passion and joy for the Gospel that shows in all they do.

Saturday was spent seeing some of the sights in Baguio, touring the seminary, and sitting down with Pastor James, the president of the LCP for a dinner that his wife prepared for us.  He's such a generous and caring man, and we were humbled to spend some time with him.

Main Seminary building
 Jestoni, Dionelle, Pastor Abel
At President James' house (in the red shirt)

Sunday morning was spent worshiping at St. Stephen Lutheran Church.  It was such a powerful and moving church service.  They welcomed us graciously and we felt right at home.

Monday's plans are to sneak in some last minute souvenier shopping, as well as head back to CCS for a few hours in the afternoon.  Then at 4:30 Tuesday morning we're off to the airport for the flight home!  I'd continue to update the blog up until that point, but my international power converter just popped loudly and started I'm done charging my computer until I return back to the U.S.  I'll put up some more pictures upon return.  Thank you all for keeping this team in your prayers, and for blessing us with your thoughts.  The Lutheran Church in the Philippines has incredibly strong leadership, and a wonderful mission field.  The harvest is ripe and God's going to do great things here.  From Trinity Lutheran Church to all of you in the Philippines, God's greatest blessings!  You've been so kind and shared so much love with us these past 11 days.  What a life changing experience, and know that as we leave we leave behind a small part of our hearts with you.  Salamat Po!  Thank you very much!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Thursday - CCS

Today was our last day to knock out some of our projects at CCS.  We finished up the swing for Ate Beth (the director), finished the front door, did some trim work upstairs, and painted the entire fence and driveway gate a dark "Baguio Green".  It looked really slick and made the place much more welcoming and "homey" feeling.  

We also finished up our children's program with the story of Jesus.  We used colors to talk about the entire story from sin, the cross, forgiveness, baptism, growth, and heaven.  The kids really locked in on the message.  Alice taught them John 14:6, "Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me,' and they all pretty much had it nailed down by the time we left.  It was a great way to end our time with the ministry of CCS.

As we said our goodbyes, we each have a feeling in our hearts that this shouldn't be the end of our relationship.  God's going to guide us with specifics, and we'll be in prayer about what Trinity Lutheran Church and CCS will partner together with in the future.  When we left today, we drove through town to Rizal Park.  We did a quick walk-thru, and ended up at the Harbor View Restaurant on Manila Bay to cap off our time in Manila.

Our night was spent talking ministry and getting to know some great people here in Asia: LCMS World Mission facilitator for human care in Asia, Michelle Cagnin; LCMS Business Manager in Asia, Ed Strohschein; Lutheran Hour Ministries International Ministries Division Director Emeritus, Walt Winters, two missionaries from Cambodia, our missionary from the Philippines, Sean Harlow, and the rest of our team.  What a great night overlooking the sunset of Manila Bay, talking missions in Asia!!! 

Tomorrow morning we're jumping aboard a bus north from Manila to Baguio.  We'll be spending time at the seminary for the Lutheran Church of the Philippines, and getting to know the synodical president.  As of now, we're not certain to have internet access, so this blog might not be updated until Sunday morning.  If we can though, you'll still get daily updates!  Blessings on your day, it's all about Jesus!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Wednesday - CCS

Today was day three at CCS, and we were back at the same projects: a rusted out swing, main fence along the property, porch work, and one of the upstairs toddler rooms.

After lunch we toured the Business Office of the Lutheran Church in the Philippines, and the old Lutheran Hour Ministries building across the street.

On that same campus is Gloria Dei Lutheran Church and School (yeah I know I talked about it a few days ago, but it was more in depth today).  We walked around and met some of the 83 students on site and the principal.  Tuition is roughly $500 per year per student, including books.  They don't have the best technology, but they're still getting a wonderful Christian education.  God bless them and what they've been doing for 41 years!

When we got back to CCS, we presented the staff and kids with a couple baptismal gowns that Alice Anderson had made.  They were beautiful and painstakingly made with love.  The Lutheran Church in the Philippines has a special partnership with CCS, and they often baptize the orphans, so we hope these gifts to be a blessing.  While we gave them away, we read through Ephesians 1:3-8, and talked about how each of us was lost and without hope before God.  We were adopted (v.5) through our baptisms into God's family, when He chose us, and saved us from sin and death.  What an awesome picture of God our Father adopting we sat in an orphanage!

Then we had a birthday cake for Rachel (Happy 13th!), and moved outdoors to hang out with the street kids.  Today we talked about David and Goliath, and how God uses us even if we don't feel worthy or strong enough.  Big thanks to Tom Anderson for playing Goliath and falling from a 3 foot ledge onto the ground when little David took a shot at him.

Then it was back to the Hospice to eat some dinner.  This time we had some local foods, and a great Mexican dinner made by our missionary Sean Harlow.

Devotion tonight dove into John 13:5-17 and how we have a God who's very nature is that of a servant.  Jesus constantly took it upon Himself to serve and love, despite being the eternal God.  We can serve, because God first served us.  Matthew 25:40 reminded us that whenever we show the love to others that we have in our hearts, we're ultimately showing that love to Jesus.  What an awesome blessing!  Great day, great memories.  Tonight marks our halfway point of the trip.  Everyone is in great spirits and happy to be here.  It's a reality check and God keeps working wonders.  Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Tuesday - CCS

Awesome day!  We headed out from the SIL again around 8:30 this morning, and jumped right into some of the ongoing projects at CCS.  Today was primarily spent painting the main entrance, part of the retaining wall down the driveway, taking down their old rusty swingset (held up with rope from the tree above it), and scraping off old paint from one of their main fences.  While much of our team worked on these, many of us still managed to get upstairs in the orphanage to play with the kiddos.  

While painting today, I (Pastor James) looked over the front wall onto the street below.  I had to do a double take, because something seemed to be off.  There was a gentleman standing inside of a box.  I later asked our local missionary, Sean, what the deal was, and sure enough, there are random stations set up throughout Manila that act as restrooms.  There's a 5-gallon bucket and 4-foot walls to hide you.

We also worked again with the street kids, this time talking about Daniel and the Lions Den.  We sang a few songs, colored some more sheets, passed out some Jesus Bracelets, and played basketball with them.  They've been great kids to get to know, and you can tell the impact that CCS has had on their lives and their faith.

Meet JJ.  He's eight years old and lives at the orphanage as the only child that's not a toddler or baby.  He's partially blind and deaf.  When he sees us, he runs to us and leaps in the air expecting to be caught by whoever's lucky enough to be chosen by him.  He's got so much love in his heart and it's impossible not to love the little guy right back.

Around lunchtime today, a Lutheran pastor and his family visited from Sweden.  Nine years ago they adopted a little one-year old boy named Harold from CCS, and they came back to reunite and recap the last few years.  Now think about that - you wouldn't actually expect a family to come back to the orphanage just for a friendly visit.  But truthfully, that's the kind of ministry that CCS is running.  They really do care for these kids, reflecting Jesus and loving with all their heart.  It was really cool to see!

When we were done working for the day, we had to find a ride home.  In Manila, each vehicle can only be used for 6 days of the week in order to reduce smog in the air.  They randomize its day off, and our van isn't allowed to drive on Tuesdays.  So our driver, Bong, negotiated a Jeepney to veer off its normal route and take us back to the SIL.  We jumped in, and the guy took off like he had just robbed a bank.  He veered, dodged, and tossed us Americans around in the back seats, all the while "Time After Time" by Cyndi Lauper was blowing through the numerous subwoofers under our seats.  At stop lights, random guys would jump in the back with us and Mary and Sean would have to kick them out because we weren't on the Jeepney's route anymore.  It was crazy!

Once we got back to the SIL, we relaxed a bit and ordered in some Pizza Hut.  Ed Strohschein, LCMS Business Manager in Asia was visiting from Hong Kong, and he stopped by to join us for dinner.

For devotions this evening, we talked about Psalm 103:1-16.  Each of us really is like a flower in this life that blooms for just a brief time, and then we fade away.  Flowers never grow beautiful for their own sake.  They're planted, grow, bloom, and express beauty solely for the purpose and by the encouragement of the Gardener.  Each of us needs to realize what we're living for, and what sort of beauty we're trying to show.  Is it lasting beauty, or beauty that fades like a flower?  We also talked through Psalm 63:1-5.  The context there is King David fleeing for his life from his son, Absalom.  David finds himself in a dry desert.  He's hungry, thirsty, and his life has been drained out of him.  But in spite of all this, he still praises God.  He knows that even though he's hungry, thirsty, and tired, that God is still the God who always provides him with what he really needs in life.  Our team is tired today.  But as flowers we know where we've been planted in life, and we can praise God throughout whatever physical hardship, because we bloom for the glory of the Gardener.  Blessings on your Tuesday!