Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Blog Post I Never [Ever] Thought I'd Be Writing

It's been hard to blog about the Philippines. I haven't really fully reflected on my trip because I haven't fully said goodbye-for-now to the Philippines yet. 

You see, right now feels like a little bit of limbo time in Canada smack in the middle of a summer spent in the Philippines. 

Because when I left, another plane ticket to Manila was already booked for me. 

I'm going back again.

That first trip to the Philippines was not planned.

This second one was even less planned.

I got confirmation of this just over a month ago, while I was still in the Philippines: I leave on August 19th for 10 days with a small, 5-person team from Compassion Canada to do some filming on the field for a youth group curriculum about what the Bible says about poverty, justice and what our role as Christians can and should be in the midst of our broken world.

You could say I'm excited. ;) 

I'm also in absolute awe of how God works. Because I once was going to spend those same 10 days in an entirely different country called Guatemala and the night that phone call came saying the trip had been cancelled - that was a sad one. 

But then I never would've been available for this. And there have been many other mountains moved to put me right here, preparing to go and I couldn't be more excited or more at peace about how this summer has turned out, because all I've seen so far is my God doing great things, and I know He doesn't plan to stop anytime soon. :)

And so, for the second time this summer, could I humbly ask a favour of you? Will you pray us there? Thank you so. very. much. Here are a few things you could pray for:

:: Safety & Logistics - Pray for safe flights, smooth customs checks, safety while travelling in-country, well-behaved technology, for the weather to be kind to us, and not too many tests of our flexibility itinerary/schedule-wise. ;)

:: Health - Pray that our vaccines hold up, for protection from any travellers' sicknesses and energy as we battle jet-lag. Personally, I'm fighting a bit of a cough right now, and being on-camera requires a strong voice, so I'm praying that it goes away and stays away.

:: Compassion Philippines - The Compassion Philippines staff does the day-in-day-out grunt work of facilitating Compassion's outstanding wholistic child development programs in the field, and I know they appreciate our prayers at any time, but especially when hosting a Canadian film crew on top of it all! You can pray in general for their programs as well as the staff that will be hosting us while in the Philippines.

:: Open Eyes - Pray that our team would really have open eyes and hearts to see the stories that God wants us to tell, the lives He wishes to use to touch us and vice versa, and that we would have the courage to fully have our hearts broken for the things that break His heart, so that we may fully experience and somehow relate through film the joy of the wholeness that He brings.

:: Kingdom Impact - Most importantly, please pray that God would just simply do His thing in and through us. May we accomplish valuable Kingdom work by His power and may we simply be vessels for the stories He wants told, the lives He wants touched and the work He wants done.

Here it goes... Philippines, Take Two. :)

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Dear Filipino Church

I'm home. Have been for 2-weeks, actually! And I'll apologize now for the lack of posts from our trip! But I'm here now with this reflection & some photos...

Dear Filipino Church -

With your sweltering hot chapels and their futile electric fans hoping to provide some reprieve, and your benches or floors or plastic chairs jam-packed with vibrant souls.

Worshipping with you was the highlight of my trip. 

Thank you.

You kept thanking us when we visited. For partnering with you through Compassion International to release children in your community from poverty in Jesus' name.

But thank you.

Because it's just grace that God lets us partner in your work of freeing children from poverty.

And truth is, through this partnership - you've helped free us from our own poverty. 

I know it might be hard to understand - this world is just terribly, horribly hard to understand sometimes - but in our First World, we are impoverished in terrible ways.

What makes it worse is that this First World poverty is masked behind "good" things - wealth, comfort, luxury, success.

You see -  that joy, that authenticity, that hope that you worship with is something that is few and far between here in the First World. You sing like you actually mean the words on your lips. 

It's not that we don't. We try. We really do. We earnestly try to seek God and mean what we say and we have our moments but I think it's because we don't really know what it all really means and so the result is a very somber, sad, what-can-God-do-for-me worship. We have a cushy faith; we're comfortably secure in our wealth and blinded by our options and sometimes God is just one of those options. And I'm so guilty of this far too often.

So your radical joy, your earnest authenticity, your absolute, world-shaking hope - that was the most beautiful thing to me.  

In you, I saw an absolute dependency on God and one another as the Body of Christ, a life-giving, what-can-God-do-through-me culture, a joyful, hopeful worship.

Is everything good in your life? Absolutely not. Far, far, far from.

But He is good and that is enough for you.

In the face of heart-breaking brokenness, your answer always and simply is Jesus.

The beauty of that is what I thank you for.

It's saved me from a poverty so deeply rooted in the First World culture, that escape is slim and falling back into it is so. very. terrifyingly. easy.

So dear Filipino Church, you are beautiful.

You were a taste of heaven on earth and my response to all your Thank-Yous is Thank YOU.

And I wish my letter could end there. Yet there's a whole other side to you that I haven't addressed yet, Filipino Church.

Dear Filipino Church -

With your suffocating air conditioners aiming to recreate the Canadian winter and your thousands of cushy seats or pews.

Worshipping with you was one of the hardest things I had to do throughout my 3 weeks in the Philippines.

The last thing I needed after worshipping with your country's poorest churches was to run into you. Yet I'm oddly glad I did.

As heart-wrenching as it was, every girl needs a hard look in the mirror sometimes.

And as I sang with you with tears threatening their way down my cheeks at the injustice of this all, my heart broke for you and it broke for me and it broke for the whole First World Church, and Filipino Church, tell me - why are we so easily satisfied?

Why do you and I settle for flashy lights and checklist faith when joy - heaven on earth - is found just outside our doors amongst the poor?

Tell me why we're ok with this cruise control faith. Tell me why we spend millions of dollars on studies and buildings and excursions and workshops and all of it in attempt to get closer to God when He said it right there in Isaiah 58, to the Israelites -

Yes. You seem eager to find Me but here is where you'll find me: Amongst the hungry. The down-and-out. The poor. The weary.

If you have the choice between glitz and show for God or simply spending yourself on behalf of the hungry - choose the latter

And yet I understand, Filipino Church. I do. I get it.

It's easier. Checklist faith is far easier. Sunday service - check. Morning devo - check. Midweek Bible Study - check. Bedtime prayers - check. Tithe - check. Repeat.

When you haven't seen the other side of yourself, Filipino Church, you might be tempted to believe the enemy's lie that this. is. all.

And I'm here to tell you that this is not all. I've been to the other side, and I'm running back to proclaim it -

There's more! There is. I know you can't see it yet but just trust me - no, trust Him when He says that if you just let go of what you're so desperately holding on to from your First World life He will place something even greater in that unclenched, empty hand of yours.

I dare you to do this. It will be bold. It will be scary and terrifying and somedays you won't want this. It will require a lot of faith. But it will be worth it.

Because you know what, Filipino Church North American Church First World Church?

Let's be done with settling for a cruise control faith. Let's be done with being ok with a flashy lights, checklist faith.

And let's take this bold, Isaiah 58 style faith head-on.

Dear Fellow First World Christian via A Mom on a Mission [My Mama! :)]
A Letter to the North American Chruch: Because It Is Time via A Holy Experience

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The People Behind the Stats

Hello from the Philippines! It has been a whirlwind and I've just been trying to take it all in through the jet lag. :)

I'm reminded of how absolutely beautiful and absolutely despairing this country is all at once - and oh how it has a story to be told and people to be loved.

I'm at least two posts behind on the blogging (let's be honest - since this post is going up several days since I wrote it, I'm way farther behind than that), but here's an attempt to catch up and somehow articulate just a miniscule part of this country's story.

Friday - one week ago today - we had the incredible opportunity to visit our newest sponsor child, John, and his family. John is from the same Compassion Child Development Centre as Jamson, who I wrote about before leaving for the Philippines, and we were able to meet him too and bring along a gift from his new sponsors! And can I just say those two are absolutely. adorable.

Let me tell you this - it really does happen like Compassion Int'l says it does. Every last bit of it. When you're tempted to err on the side of cynical, when you're tempted to believe those nasty things on the internet that people write about Compassion, when you're tempted to use skepticism as an excuse to say "NO" to a soul peering out of the window in the blue envelope, take my word for it:

It's real. It happens. It changes lives.

If you remember one thing from this post, take this: Compassion Int'l's Child Sponsorship program works and it works well. 

It allows people, individuals, souls, to stop being stats and start simply being, dreaming, loving.

Probably the most valuable thing I take from visiting Compassion's field is the way it reminds me that as much as I can regurgitate stats while advocating back home - poverty isn't about stats.

Poverty is about people. Real people. Image bearers of the Most High. People created with a divine purpose.

People like you and me. They love. They dream. They wipe their feet at the door, kiss their family hello. They're proud of their kids. They cry, they get angry, they laugh, they feel deeply. They ride the heights of hope and joy and the pits of hopelessness and despair.

My favourite photo from our visit with John is this one, of him and his teacher from the Compassion CDC sitting on the floor of his home as his parents look on:

Those are the real, beautiful faces behind those enormous stats. Two parents smiling wide at their animated son.

And I refuse to think of that beautiful family as a stat.

They're part of our family and the heights of their hopes and the depths of their sorrows and the reverence of their prayers are just like ours. They are ours.

And the sorrow I currently share with that family? It's the fact that the parents of the little boy pictured with John here are nowhere to be found:

His name is Lester. John's cousin, the son of John's mother's brother. John's best friend.

And the prayer I share with them? That this great kid would find a sponsor.

I was going to ask you to sponsor this absolutely awesome kid. He's shy, thoughtful and cute, and just looking for some hope.

Turns out, he was sponsored just a couple weeks before we left - not yet enough time for word to reach him.

And I can just imagine the joy that will be felt when he hears. :)

However, I am still going to ask you to sponsor a child. While I may not have met them, there are so many kids, with dreams and sorrows and hopes and joys and pain. And they need someone to believe in them. To love them. To tell them that they are loved infinitely by their Creator.

Sponsoring a child with Compassion gives children access to education, healthcare, nutrition and puts them in an environment where they are nurtured with the love of Christ and championed as more than just a stat. 

Because as we spent the day with John, Jamson and Lester, as we played tag, gave gifts, took pictures, ate ice cream and took them on their first escalator ride, one thing was absolutely sure, amongst the turmoil of their unstable worlds -

The adorable faces I looked into, the tiny hands I held, the energetic boys I laughed with - they are not stats. 

They're lives.

Waiting to be changed by someone like you.

Sponsor a child from the Philippines

Monday, June 2, 2014

Being the Gift

19 days.

Not that I'm counting down or anything.

So here's the deal.

Last month, the whole fam volunteered at the Steven Curtis Chapman concert, where 85 children were sponsored through Compassion Canada (woohoo!!).

the view from behind the compassion table.

So, so many little souls waiting on that table for an unsuspecting concert-goer to change both their lives.

Amongst those little faces was this very very very adorable little boy:

Jamson Dela Calzada
three-years-old going on four
how. cute. are. those. shoes.

Jamson from the Philippines - where we will be in 19 days. 

I assured some first-time advocates that there would be no way this heart-stealing little boy would stay unsponsored through the night, let alone the rest of Steven Curtis Chapman's tour.

Yet - here his unsponsored child pack sits on my desk. After travelling the entire country, here he sits in a blue envelope with "The Difference is Jesus" stamped across the bottom and two tiny windows into his God-dreamed life.

And you know what - not only will we be in the same country and city as this boy in less than a month - we will be standing right where that photo was taken, in fact.

Because you see, our latest sponsored child, John, is from the exact same Compassion centre.

the newest addition to our family - john.

Can I tell you one more thing that makes this all too good? We will be standing there within 2 days of Jamson's birthday.

Two. days.

Can you imagine the birthday gift *YOU* could be?

And so what brings this whole story together, right here, is you.

After this little boy has travelled across Canada, bumping into me at a concert, he has made it right back here to my desk less than a month before I'll stand on the ground at his church within 2 days of his birthday. One final, God-dreamed moment wraps this all together - 

This one.

This moment where I ask you: Will you sponsor Jamson?

And oh my goodness - how you'll see that Jamson and his family will become a gift right back to you.

Would you? Please? Sponsor Jamson. I don't know if that adorable grin can get any bigger, but if it can I'm sure it will. Message me. Tweet me. Comment here. I promise, this will change your life because when Jesus is involved - it's never anything short of life-changing. We'll be sure to get a package to this little boy for you when we head over in 19 days. :)

***UPDATE 06/04/14: This little boy is spoken for! God is great like that. If you could see the grins in this house right now... :) 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Going Back!

There were a whirlwind couple of weeks in there during the end of March and beginning of April where my summer was shaped, re-shaped and re-shaped again.

At one point, it involved a month in Guatemala on a missions trip. Without anyone I knew.

That might've also meant seeing our sweet Esperanza face-to-face.

Oh, how sweet that would've been.

But - that wasn't God's plan for this summer.

God's plan for this summer is back here:

That's right. The whole fam is going back to the Philippines. In thirty-three days. Thirty-three days that I'm sure will feel extremely incredibly agonizingly long.


We'll be face-to-face with Rechelle - this friend and sister who has inspired me, taught me, loved me so much through letters for the past three years.

We'll meet Florianlyn again. See her family. Visit the church. Play on the beach.

We'll see the building that Eucharisteo built. The one that sweet Floianlyn wrote to us about, asking if we'd be there at it's opening and dedication. 

And we had to write back - no, sweet girl, we won't be there.

But now - I can hardly wait because in thirty-three days, we will be there.

I so wish we were allowed to write Florianlyn to tell her, but even if we were, we'd probably beat the letter there - it's that close! {And anyways, I wouldn't put her through the agony of ticking down the oh-so-slow days along with me. ;)}

For some reason time is ticking so so so slowly... June 21st, come faster! If someone could explain to me why Wednesday feels like it should be Friday and 3rd period feels like it should be 4th, that'd be fantastic.

My calendar on the wall that keeps me sane during exam and ISU time counts down to one, sunshine-circled day.

No matter how I count it down - 33 days, 3 essays & 4 exams, 4 week & 5 days, 1 month & 2 days - it can't come fast enough. 

Now in the meantime, could I ask a favour of you? Would you pray us there? Safe flights, open hearts, enough faith to let our amazing God do his amazing things. I can't say it enough - thank you.

I could squeal it from the mountains - this girl is going back! :)

Friday, April 25, 2014

In Loving Memory of Ankong Papa...

The blog silence ends to honour the memory of my beloved grandfather Ankong Papa...

On the evening after celebrating Christ's victory over death, we received word from half a planet away: After a life well-lived, Ankong Papa had taken his final breaths here on earth and stepped into the everlasting arms of Jesus. 

And what we had just celebrated over the weekend - this story of an empty grave - waits to be put into practice. Because believe it - the Resurrection means that this news is not supposed to be sad, but part of our Heavenly Father's perfect plan. 

But of course, this side of eternity, it's so hard to understand, to grapple with the fact that we won't see Ankong Papa the next time we visit the Philippines, that there will be no new pictures, no more phone calls or Facetime, no birthday cards that somehow get mailed so they arrive exactly on the day.

And so this week is full of tears and grief, as we try our hardest to cry less and celebrate the life of our dearly loved father and grandfather.

Many girls remember their grandfather for many different things. I've spent most of my life half a world away from my grandfather, and growing up, I often thought I had few memories with him.

Yet as of late, and as I scanned photo after photo after photo this week, I've realized how thankful I should be for the many fond memories of Ankong Papa that I will have to cherish.

One of our last photos together, during our most recent trip to the Philippines.

I will always remember my grandfather for the man whose courage and determination is the reason for so much of who I am.

I'll remember an avid basketball fan.

I'll remember the little kid he was, deep down inside:

Looking back on pictures made me realize what a great smile Ankong Papa had. :)

I'll remember the screaming-loud phone calls my dad had with him because of the combination of terrible long distance and Ankong's hearing problems. ;)

I'll remember him as pretty much the only reason why I understand Chinese.

I'll remember our language-barriered conversations. 'Cause it should work since I understand Chinese and he understands English, but somehow that theory never worked in practice. Ha. [And so I'm so very thankful that the next time we talk, we'll speak the same language. :)]

I'll remember his crazy sharp memory.

I'll remember him by birthday cards I've kept from when I turned 7 and 8 [because, as I just found out as my dad, aunts and uncles are sorting through some of his things, I inherited my pack-rat-ness from Ankong Papa. ;)] and my Chinese name [which I should really learn how to write!].

I'll remember Ankong Papa's quiet simplicity and steady peacefulness.

All in all, I'll simply remember my grandpa who I loved dearly and I already miss very much. It's odd to think that he won't be in his house next time we visit, or that I won't have to mail him my grad photo next year.

But I know that while he'll be dearly missed, one of Jesus' greatest gifts to us was that I won't have to miss Ankong Papa forever. 

And so - I am deeply thankful.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

I Am Effie {Reflections on The Hunger Games: Catching Fire}

Saw The Hunger Games: Catching Fire over the Christmas Break and loved. it. Hoping it's better late then never for some reflection. Because this line from Effie? Man, did it kill me.


The tears welled up in her eyes and the heart-wrenching words escaped her lips.

"I am so sorry."

Effie the soiled veteran of the Capitol. She breaks.

I am Effie.

I spend my life working with some of society's most oppressed and impoverished.

Then, dressed in my expensive and extravagant clothes, I go back to my big, warm, safe house, eat a disgustingly big meal and fall asleep in my big, warm, safe bed.

And Effie, she's about to send her beloved victors back into the arena - back to the injustice she saved them from.

Back to the injustice millions face each day.

And she realizes something awful, terrible, horrible. This is all her fault.

Her addiction to the Capitol - the luxury, the extravagance, the everyday comfort - has fuelled a train of injustice until that train has barrelled right into her heart and broken her. 

The wealth that she probably didn't even choose to be saturated in, the wealth that she has learned to love so dearly, and the system called the Hunger Games that she believes in, heart and soul - this has fed the suffering and injustice of millions for years. and years. and years.

Seventy-five, to be exact.

It's here, in the midst of these awful, unfair, Quarter Quell 75th Games, that she realizes the horrible truth. This is all. her. fault.

And, with tears welling in her eyes - she is so sorry.

She is devastated, crushed, mortified.

Because while she wants to help her victors - while she is so sorry - she can't fathom giving up the Capitol. 

She is so sorry.

I am Effie.

I am so sorry.

Yet each day, I fuel the Capitol.

While I want to fight injustice, to love the least of these, sometimes I want the Capitol more. I can't fathom giving it up.

And, with tears welling in my eyes - I am so sorry.

Sitting in that theatre, each of Effie's mortified words to Katniss shoot straight into my heart, emphatically piercing my soul -

"I am so sorry."

That train, barreling right into my heart and breaking me.

I am Effie. The soiled veteran of the Capitol.

She breaks. 

And the only hope is that it is for the better.
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