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Sunday, 17 May 2015

Working with His Hands for the Philippines!

Working with His Hands for the Philippines

We met our hosts Jamie and Merilee at the Manila airport as they arrived from the USA two hours after us. At midnight we set out for our first stop Calistan several hours away to the north. At 5 a.m. in the morning we arrived to a warm welcome from the Pastor and his family. They had set up mattresses for us to sleep on in their tiny home and Elva and I fell into a much needed deep sleep for a couple of hours. We were meant to wake for their early morning church service but they let us sleep through and woke us later to a cooked breakfast of omelette, hot dogs ,bread and rice.
 
Next we had to learn the routine of getting the details and measurements of the children in the sponsor program and the details of the new children joining the program. The children sat quietly waiting their turn, then watched as the rest of their friends were measured eating their lollipop Jamie gave them at the end of their turn. The Pastors home was simple but beautiful, around his home were masses of intricate bonsai plants. They were warm and gentle people who made us very welcome and comfortable. We left the pastor with some of the sound cards and readers which the children loved and then we were on our way again to the mountain and Baguio.

The scenery to Baguio was stunning, sheer cliffs raising hundreds of feet into the air, with little cottages balance precariously on the edges of the road and cliff edges, thick forests of pine trees and then the cool humid air of Baguio.

The routine of each day was much the same we would go to a little church community and measure and photo the children in the sponsorship program. The children were delightful even though they spoke only a little English they were friendly and wanted you to play with them. When we met our sponsor children in the various communities they were so friendly and caring and often their family also came to meet us. One child was away at camp and once a sibling discovered her sponsors friend was there he contacted her. Within half an hour she arrived to meet us. She was delightful such a sweet, humble and gentle girl who was delighted that her sponsor had sent her a little gift. Shortly after this her mother and grandmother arrived then an aunt and cousins, all chatting and sharing their world with us and asking about our world. They all waited for the hour or more it took to register the children to have time with us again before we left and blessed us with a lovely family photo to take back to her sponsor. Every community loved the cards and readers we left with them even the pastors joined the children in making them work.

The thing that stood out to me most was the kindness of the communities and how clean the children were. With the exception of only a couple of children they were all clean, their clothes were spotless and their hair clean brushed and tidy.  For us this is not extraordinary but when you consider most of these children living tiny tin sheds no bigger than a double bed and only a few have the luxury of a cement block house of the same size, they don’t have running water or electricity. There is no bathroom, the lucky ones have a toilet (but no flushing you just pour some water from a bucket in it after using) no showers or baths just a basin of water and a container to pour it over themselves. There are no washing machines, you have to boil water to get hot water and hand wash everything. Mostly their homes only have windows that are holes in the walls if they have any, they cook over a wood fire or gas bottle. Many have some electricity but it is unreliable and can go out for a couple of days. We lost electricity for 2 days when we first arrived.

Their kindness and generosity was overwhelming at times, here were these lovely people who had nothing by our standards yet they would each day prepare us a feast of delicious food for lunch and I am sure they would have used all their food for the next week to prepare it. Often the community would share the meal with us, but we would be served first and they would eat what was left over. We were treated like royalty, they met our every need from cool drinks, to umbrellas to keep the sun off us to chairs and a hand to help down steep slopes or getting off jeepy’s.


We had one day when we didn't have children to register and on that day the Americans were going to the tourist craft market but we weren't going to be able to go because that was the day we were going to meet our Compassion children. Our American hosts kindly found time at the end of a day to take us to the market so we didn't miss out. It was quite an experience with stalls in every direction selling everything from food to souvenirs and clothes. Dotted throughout the rabbit warren of stalls were police officers keeping an eye on what was going on and keeping tourists safe.

We were well cared for by our Filipino hosts who organised and protected us throughout the mission. We were with them at all times and only went is safe areas. Even when we visited the churches in the slums we had our own transport and several Filipinos for protection. The only evidence we saw of the danger was the police presence in several places, we saw a policeman with a machine gun in the mall standing watching and another in La Trinidad standing in a market area. Although I believe there was danger and violence in Baguio we were unaware of it due to the care of our American and Filipino hosts.  We always felt safe and enjoyed every minute of our stay.

The work on His Hands for the Philippines is certainly making a difference to the lives of the children who are sponsored. Without the sponsorship these children from very poor families could not afford to go to school. They could not buy the uniforms and stationary that are mandatory to be able to attend, nor could they pay the levees and fees for various compulsory activities required during the year. Ten dollars a month wouldn't even buy a family one meal in Australia yet in the Philippines it goes a long way. The families are so grateful for our help and glad their children will be able to go to school and have a better future. I met many college students who have been able to complete their education due to being sponsored and are now going to university because they are still sponsored.(just $20 a month) Their families are so proud of these children and they are working very hard to do their best for their sponsor and their families. There seemed to be many children doing accountancy and teaching among the college children I recorded.













As we recorded the children’s updated information we also often heard the stories of their families and their situations. So many of these children had one or both parents working away and they were living with grandparents or relatives. We met one grandmother who was looking after her 7 grandchildren ranging in age from about 12 to 2 years old. Another little girls father was a miner and away mining most of the time, she had an older sister who worked in another city but their mother died in December so now she live with her 7 year old sister fully responsible for both of them. She is only 14. As I watched her with the other children in the church she had such a gentle kind heart, with her little sister close beside her she was the one helping the younger children to write their letters to their sponsor even though at the time she didn't have a sponsor. She has now as by God’s grace one of my children left the program giving me the perfect opportunity to sponsor this precious child.


I also found when I was taking their details that many of the children wanted to be doctors, nurse, teachers and policemen in the younger age group. The older children seemed to be doing very well at school often in the top 10 of their class and many excelling in mathematics and English. These children don’t take their sponsorship for granted they all want to do well to please their sponsor. Although these children don’t write very often to sponsors there is no doubt that sponsorship is having a very positive influence on their lives and they appreciate what sponsors are doing for them. They love receiving letters and cherish them, rereading them and know they are loved by someone across the sea.

The days we spent with His Hands for the Philippines will always remain with me, a wonderful experience with beautiful people and caring thoughtful Pastors. Our American hosts took great care of every detail with fellowship and humor
 we had so much fun in amidst the work we were doing, every day was full of new experiences to take in our stride and Jamie gave us great grace in our differences and made every day a pleasure taking into account our needs and different culture. I think we all learned a little more about each others countries both the similarities and the differences. I am so glad I took the leap in faith and headed to a far away country, way out of my comfort zone as I have learned so much and been totally blessed by the experience and wonderful people I met. Actually meeting the children I sponsor in person, talking with them and sharing some time with them was the most amazing blessing to me. It is one thing to write to a child and receive letters but it is a totally awesome experience to meet them and their families.



Thursday, 14 May 2015

Manila byNight

Manila by Night
Path down the valley to a house

Early on Sunday morning Tristan took me to the Sydney International Airport to take my flight to the Philippines with my friend Elva. Elva arrived a few minutes before me and we went through the paperwork and checks to leave the country. As we waited the weather turned to storm clouds and rain. Flights from Brisbane and Melbourne being delayed by bad weather but not our flight.

We were only delayed by 10 minutes before we set off on our 8 hour flight to Manila. Due to a mess up with our boarding pass we ended up sitting in different parts of the plane. I had an isle seat which was perfect for my wrecked knee to be able to move. Elva had a window seat so she could watch as we passed over Australia, New Guinea and Indonesia. The flight seemed to pass quite quickly despite my technology not working with meals and chatting with a Filipino family from the south that were in the same row as me.
Crazy bus ride

We arrived in Manila on time, found our luggage and went to wait in terminal one for our American friends. The terminal was empty, baron not a shop or refreshment in sight and within no time we were almost the only ones there except cleaning staff and a few officials. Two hours to fill in sitting on a seat at almost midnight Australian time. A couple more planes arrived but still nothing really happening and we thought this very strange for an International Airport. About 20 minutes before the Americans were due to arrive Elva went to look at the only flight screen behind a barricade to see if their plane was on time only to find no Emirate flight listed. We found an official that said the Emirate flights came into terminal 3, miles away. No we couldn't walk it would be too far, yes we could go by taxi if we could find one. It wasn't looking good with only 20 minutes to be there. Then another worker came along, she said we could catch a shuttle bus free just outside the terminal. Great so we rushed out there.

We found the shuttle bus and waited, and waited, and waited until a few minutes before we needed to be there the bus took off. We sped across the tarmac in-between planes on the tarmac, past planes with passengers disembarking(we did stop to let them cross). At times we were so close to the planes on the tarmac we could have put our hand out the window and touched them. We went from one terminal to the next at top speed dodging anything in our path to finally the last stop terminal 3 and almost on time as our American friends were just coming through security. Next trick was to find our American travelling companions as they had asked us to meet them at the baggage department and we were locked out in the arrivals area. A helpful policeman came to our rescue.
Typical house we passed

By now it was well after midnight and we still hadn't eaten since lunch was served late due to turbulence. The Filipinos who were our hosts eventually found us and we were on our way to Calistan about 2-3 hours drive away. Manila by night was not well lit but from what I saw it was a very different country from anything I had seen before. Wide cement highways edged by houses some in good condition but much of it was broken ruins either destroyed and crumbling or with people living in the midst of it with light shining out of their broken homes. Many looked like they had been victims of the typhoons with plastic, cardboard and pieces of wood replacing what would have once been walls. As we drove north I was amazed at all the little road side stores consisting of a table and a shelf set up outside homes with various good for sale ranging from food to cans of soft drink or hand made goods. They were open all night as we passed at about 3 a.m. and still people sat waiting for a sale. We stopped for a quick snack at a chicken place similar to KFC with a McDonald's also near. Coke and McDonald's were everywhere. We passed many dark streets with people milling around, there was a brothel at one point with large blow up figures and scantly dressed girls. This was at about 4 a.m. but about 200 meters down the road were two little girls sitting on the pavement beautifully dressed sitting by a child size table and chairs with an empty bowl in front of them. They would have been about 4 and 7 years old. One was asleep slumped on the table the other just sitting. I felt so sorry for them what sort of short life will they have?

We drove into the night bumping along thee road changing sides regularly to avoid traffic and roadwork's that was marked by men with flags for signs or pot of burning something with the flames being the warning. We passed community after community all with little stalls still working and lights in homes that were no more than rubble and tin.

We reached Calisitan about 5 a.m. as the sun was rising. The family there had prepared 2 little rooms for us to sleep in with foam mattresses on the floor. Elva and i fell into a deep sleep for a couple of hours as we hadn't slept on the bus there. Jamie and Marilee rested but didn't sleep. We were woken to the news that they had prepared us a meal of rice, bread, hot dogs, omelette and coke. 
Children waiting


After our meal we went up to the church, a small 3 sided building with a beautiful carved pulpit and lectern made bu one of the family. The children were quietly waiting to be measured and photographed. They watched and joked as their friends were photographed and then disappeared as we finished. They were quite shy around us and didn't say much.  


Rice on the road
Once the measuring was completed we headed off for the mountains to Baguio with the ministers wife and little one year old daughter joining us. By daylight we could see much more of the countryside and the communities as we passed. There were miles of rice fields and often rice spread on the roads to dry with something placed on the road-at each end of the spread rice to warn you not to drive on it. Once the rice had been harvested skinny cows graze on the stumps left above the ground.
Pastors beautiful garden
the mountains

Slowly the farm lands gave way to forests which reminded me of the Mt Field forests but as we got higher it also looked very different. The mountain ranges were stunning stark with huge caverns and rocks screed slopes hundreds of meters long. Nestled among these rugged slopes were little dwellings carved into the cliff faces or hanging precariously over the edges. Some dwellings were on the other side of the valley and these were reached by three wires suspended across the valley hundreds of feet below was a narrow river. The occupants of these houses carry everything needed across these wires, I can't imagine how they did it, their balance and skill must be amazing as this was the only access to their houses.



Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Carla's Story

Carla Yolani Story - My First Sponsor Child
It was 1980 my first job and my first pay packet.
 For years I had thought about, planned and looked forward to being able to sponsor a child. I had heard a lot about World Vision and had a childhood interest in South America so with excitement once my pay had been banked I went to find a little girl to sponsor.


1980 Carla age 2
So many children, I would have loved to sponsor them all! Then a little face with huge eyes brown stole my heart. She was so tiny and frail but such a dear little girl I knew she was the one.

She was from a remote village north east of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, South America. She was the youngest of several children living with her Mum and Dad who were rural workers. 


Carla age 4
I began to write to her occasionally and enjoyed finding little things I could squeeze into an envelope to send to her. Although she was too small to write and her family didn't write either her project worker Blanca Herrera started writing to me on her behalf. Blanca wrote great letters full of detail about how Carla was getting on and about her community. As time went by she wrote separate letters to me about her life and family too, a friendship formed across the miles and I learned a lot from her.

When World Vision started working with this community Carla and her family were living under a cardboard box and plastic sheeting. With assistance from World Vision they were given a one room house which seems not enough to us but for her family it was a dream come true. At age 7 Carla still hadn't started school and Blanca told me her family didn't value education and wouldn't be sending her at all or if they did she would be much older. My heart sank as I truly believe the best way out of poverty is to have a good education and once finished you have more choices and opportunities. Over the next year I wrote about the things my class was doing here hoping to inspire her and her family to send her to  school. Finally at age 8 she went to school although spasmodically I think. During these years two more siblings were born and her Dad often had to leave the family to find work.

 When Carla was about 10 her letters suddenly stopped, there was no contact from Carla or Blanca although Carla herself had never sent a letter of her own. After about 6 months I asked World Vision to send out a field question to find out what had happened to Carla and Blanca.
Carla  age 6

The news I got back shocked me and bought the reality of the third world right to my door.

Carla's father had gone to Tegucigalpa a month before Christmas to buy gifts for his family, but had never returned. On Christmas eve he was found dead tossed into a ditch beside the road half way between their village and the capital. He had been robbed of the presents he was carrying for his family and murdered, his family had been robbed of their father and husband. It was the beginning of a sad time for Carla and I don't think she ever really recovered from his death. 

The photo here was taken some time after her father dies and as you can see the shy sparkle in her eyes has gone. Ever photo that followed held the same pain and sorrow.
Carla age 10

Life got slowly more difficult for Carla, her mother took a new partner who was unkind to Carla and had no time for her. Then her mother had 4 more children to her new partner and her older brothers left home to work in the capital. She was often left to care for the younger children.

Her letters got shorter and less detailed, she was so sad, life was tough. Her photos made me want to cry but all I could do for her was pray. When she was 13 her letters stopped again and by this time Blanca was no longer the project worker so the details were unclear. After several months I asked Wold Vision to sent another message to find out how she was.

Carla age 13
The letter came back within the month, Carla had run away to Tegucigalpa  to join her brothers. Her mother didn't know where she was and her brothers hadn't contacted her to say she was with them. World Vision made some enquirers from their Tegucigalpa office but they couldn't find any details of where she was or if she was ok. So sadly I don't know what happened to her and can only hope and pray she was safe and not lured into the night life and drugs as her only way to support herself. All these years later I still think of her and pray for her wondering if she is still alive or if she has her own family now. The photo of her in the orange dress is the last photo I have of her, the one of her in the blue dress in my favorite.




Another Carla came into my life last week!

Last week I was blessed with another Carla to get to know and write to through Compassion Australia. This young lady is 17 and in her final years of school. She is from Bolivia, high in the mountains southwest of El Alto. She has completed her primary schooling and is making steady progress in high school. I look forward to hearing her hopes and dreams and knowing that with Compassion's
 help and Gods love she has a very good chance of living her dream and escaping the perils of poverty helping both her family and community.


Saturday, 7 March 2015

Easter Packets for my Children

Front of card
 Easter 2015

This year Easter has seemed to come very quickly and despite my good intentions of starting to make things for my children straight after Christmas I can only hope they will make it in time as they were posted at the end of February.

Each year after Easter I make a collection of any paper crafts, cards or paper Easter ideas that go on sale in the stores and put this collection away for the following year.

Inside card
This year I decided to make each child a special Easter card. On the front I cut out an egg shape from black card and pressed this onto adhesive clear book covering contact. Using the black card scraps I placed a cross onto the adhesive. Once this was in place I used tiny bits of tissue paper to fill inside the egg shape. I then cut away the excess adhesive leaving about 1 cm out from the egg. This is how I stuck the egg to the card. I turned the egg over reveling the cross with the tissue paper behind it and stuck it to the center of the card. The card is a colored manila folder cut in half, I find this much cheaper than buying card stock.

Photos edited on Pizap
Using the oval from inside the egg from the front I created a tomb which I cut through the center so that it will open. Inside is written the bible verse " He is not here, he has risen, just as he said" Matthew 28:6. This I printed up on the computer and placed it in an oval shape so it was easy to cut out to fit the tomb shape. I just added some grass with texta around the tomb.

Using "Pizap" I created a photo for each child using their current photos as many of them are new since last year.

puzzles and crosswords
I also added to their packages stickers, coloring pages, mazes and crosswords. For the English speaking children it is easy to find many resources on home schooling sites, book stores and printerest. Calvary.com also prints bible studies in both English and Spanish which are geared to primary school children. The printerest web site has a wealth of ideas and sites to find resources free of charge.

For the older children who don't speak English I sent book marks, complicated mazes and make "word finds" using the goggle translator to convert English words into their language hoping that the single words will make sense when they get them. For the older English speaking children in India, Philippines, Kenya etc I have sent Bible studies and booklets from local Christian book shops.
stickers and craft bits

for my English speakers
With their package I also sent them a letter as follows:

I send you Luke 10:27 "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind" as that is how He loves us. With Easter approaching, and probably with you by the time this letter reaches you, we are reminded of Gods great love for us, He gave His only son who dies for us to save us from our sins and connect us with God our heavenly father. 
The gifts from God are these: freedom, life, hope, new direction, transformation, and intimacy with God. If the cross was the end of the story, we would have no hope. But the cross isn't the end. Jesus didn't escape from death; he conquered it and opened the way to heaven for all who will believe. The truth of this moment, is stunning. It means Jesus really is who he claimed to be, we are really as lost as he said we are, and He really is the only way for us to have intimately and spiritually connect with God again.


The Bible tells us that God will meet all our needs. He feeds the birds of the air and clothes the grass with the splendor of lilies. How much more, then, will He care for us, who are made in His image? Our only concern is to obey the heavenly Father and leave the consequences to Him. We will rejoice at Easter as Jesus rose from the dead opening a new way for us to know and communicate with God. Giving us forgiveness for our sins if we call out to him as the thief on the other cross did. Jesus said God would make a home for us in heaven when our earthly life was over to live with Him for eternity for those that believe. 


May you find the renewal of hope, health, love and the spirit of God. Happy Easter to you and your precious family.







Saturday, 28 February 2015

Philippines Adventure -Part 1

Have you woken in the morning knowing something is in the air? Something different, a challenge in the wind! This started as one of those days.

 I am blessed with many Compassion children whom I write to and sponsor and also I sponsor several little girls in the Philippines through "His Hands for the Philippines" a group based in the USA.

As a child I had dreamed of being a missionary working with children in the third world. Life took its twists and turns and it never happened, instead I have gone along the traditional track of marriage, children and a teaching career.  

With my first pay packet from my first teaching job I sponsored Carla who we had the privilege of knowing for 13 years before she ran away to the capital to join her brother and was gone from our lives but not our prayers.
Baguio City

Five years ago I discovered Compassion and was drawn to a little girl in Ecuador and a year later a little girl in Bolivia. As I began to read the work of Compassion and the lives these children endure I wanted to do more. I wanted to sponsor them all. I discovered the correspondence program and my ministry began with just a few precious children I would write to. As the years pass so my number of children I correspond with has grown including many parts of the world. These are no ordinary kids, they have a strong faith, hope in the toughest environments, and love that can only be matched with Gods love for his people. I am sure they bless me more with their wonderful letters than I bless them.
La Trinidad 

Two years ago I discovered "His Hands for the Philippines", (HH4P)a small group who help the poorest children with all they need to attend school. It is not a holistic approach like Compassion but children who would be denied education because of no money for levees, uniforms or books as given theses needs, the gift of education and a hope for a better life. As a teacher this appealed to me and I sponsored several children for a tiny fee. 

Mid last year I was invited to join HH4P on their next mission trip to the Philippines. The old voices of my childhood said this is your chance to visit the mission fields! So after much thought and prayer I asked my friend if she would like to come with me and visit the children and help with the program HH4P were running. She has a very adventurous spirit and is a seasoned traveler so was happy to join me on this adventure.
Alfha

It seems a long time since we first mooted the idea but this last week it is beginning to become real. Air tickets purchased, accommodation, food and travel paid for, immunizations and passport done. The adventure is about to begin!
Micah

WHAT WILL WE DO WHILE WE ARE THERE? That is a good question, we know with HH4P we will visit many remote and rural communities outside Baguio City where we will be based. We will be measuring and filling in the children in the sponsorship program forms and updating their photos with HH4P. We will spend one day with Compassion meeting at least 2 of my children who are in Baguio City and La Trinidad. We will visit their student centers, then their homes and meet their families. After that we will go out to lunch together and visit some fun theme/tourist park for some free time to enjoy together. 

That is all we really know so far, it is all an adventure and I would think a steep learning curve, living alongside a very different culture. It will be a wonderful experience to meet the children I

have been writing to for several years, to hear their voices and carry a conversation that is nor broken by several months of letters coming and going.

We leave on the first of May and I will endeavor to send updates if we have internet access. In the mean time please keep us in your prayers that we will be safe and keep healthy until we return.



Friday, 24 October 2014

Christmas is coming - time to get collecting!!!!

Christmas 2014 for my Compassion Children

With October well on the way it is time to send off Christmas things to my Compassion children around the world. My children range in age from 3 years old to 20 years old. They come from 23 countries around the world and speak many languages with the majority speaking Spanish.

I tend to start collecting throughout the year little things which I com across in shops and on the net. I find mazes, word puzzles, paper decorations and general ideas on the web. Our Christian book shops here and on line are a great source of stickers, book marks and little books for those that speak English. The Oriental Trading Company have great  range of paper things to send but for Australians it is very expensive postage to get them to our country. Word.com.au sell some of the items from Oriental trading at a better price than importing them.


Paper tree decorations I made
 
Each year I try to make some little thing for each child. This year I used pre cut Christmas shapes which I decorated with a punch heart and silver pen.


For the middle age group

For the middle age group of children I found some Christmas bells to make from paper on the Cannon web site. A star decoration, mazes, colouring pages, stickers and their photo with a Christmas blessing and photos of my family around them. Stickers from oriental trading and a letter.








For the younger children

The younger children are always the easier with so many options for them. This collection is made from stickers, paper Christmas heart decoration from Cannon, puzzles, dot to dot, mazes, fold out Christmas tree, colour and make your own Christmas scene, jigsaw, book mark, photo Christmas card, and a letter.





For the older children
The older children are always the hardest to find things for, especially for those who don't speak English. Cannon has Christmas decorations which are quite difficult but have good diagrams on how to make them without being able to read the instructions. Difficult mazes, photos, paper decorations made here and a letter are on their way to these children.
For the very little ones in preschool  or younger
 




The tiny ones are the easiest of all with so many Christian home school sites with a huge range of early education activities linked to Christmas, these include matching activities, early number, drawing and cutting skills, jigsaws and puzzles. To this I added stickers, colouring in sheets, picture books of the Christmas story and the child's photo in Christmas message and letter. 

For my older English speaking child I added a devotion, study guides, sermon extracts, book marks, cross words and word finds etc. in English which were based on the Christmas story and Christian celebrations of Jesus birth.

Hope this gives some ideas for others and that sponsors will take a few moments and write to their sponsor child. If you don't have time to collect things for your chid then just a card with a short message and a few stickers will bring untold joy to a child, them just knowing their sponsor is thinking of them and has taken the time to write to them is a blessing we can not measure but know it makes a great difference to a child far away.

God bless your Christmas preparations, may this season be a blessed one for you and your family.

Janelle