Family in the Philippines

I have been trying to think of words to best describe a once in a lifetime experience but I think I will always come up short. I do not think there are words to best describe my emotions as my parents and brother traveled across the world to come visit me here in the Philippines.

The days leading up to their arrival were filled with excitement and talk about how much someone must love you to travel so far for a visit. The whole drive to the airport and waiting for them to step through those doors I stood there with an anxious heart.

But as they walked through the doors and the warm embraces were shared all other emotions disappeared and I just felt at home. Funny how I was a million miles away from my old physical home yet having them here made me feel right back at home.

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The two weeks they were here were filled with excitement, adventures, and greatness. But above all I will always remember the blessings and love that came from their visit. I was so blessed!

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I was able to give them a glimpse of what my life looks like here. I was able to take them on Philippine adventures-the beach, zip lining and caving, to the church I always attend & to spend time with the kids-both in the school setting and for fun little shenanigans.

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But as I remember the big things we did together as a family I will also remember the tiny moments just as much. The night where we decided to start playing cards at 10:00 at night because there were only a few nights left together.

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The afternoon it rained very hard and I got the car stuck in the mud and then we waited for rescue to pull us out.

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The countless trips we made to hardware stores to buy parts for dad to help turn our new house into a home. The mornings we got to wake up and just sit on the couch drinking coffee together. The day we got to spend Father’s Day just roaming around together.

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The time we went to a tea shop to sit in air conditioning to escape the blazing heat and Ryan lost his phone, only for it to be returned less than an hour later. The morning I woke up to my mom on her hands and knees scrubbing the floors and my dad fixing the washing machine. The night we all sat on the ledge by the ocean watching the sun set.

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The afternoon we spent shopping for a kitchen table so we did not have to sit on the couch & floor to eat dinner.

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The morning we went out on a boat just like we have done many times before on the lake.

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Their journey across the ocean is filled with moments I will truly cherish forever. Hopefully soon you will get to hear their version of their trip.

Mom, Dad & Ryan-I am so thankful you love me enough to travel across the ocean for us to create these moments together!

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Sponsorship Come to Life

Months ago we decided as a ministry we wanted as many people involved in the lives of our kids as possible. One of the best ways we could think of for people in America to be involved in directly impacting a kid’s life was through a child sponsorship program.

Child sponsorship is very important to us and we want our kids to feel like they have people all over the world praying for them and pulling for them.

This program is very special to our kids because they have direct contact with a family in America. They write letters back and forth to each other. They are able to explain more about their lives to each other, both the differences and the similarities. They begin to form a relationship with a family in America.

Our oldest boy, Jomarie, has been sponsored for quite some time now. His sponsors write to him very frequently. He in turn writes back to them very frequently too.

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A couple of weeks ago something incredible happened though. A couple of weeks ago those letters turned into real life as Jomarie’s sponsor and her daughter came to visit him here in Cagayan!

They love him just like they love their own children. They believe in him and his future. They endlessly pray for him and for God’s love to be revealed to him.

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I have never seen Jomarie so happy in his life. He was treated special, because he IS special. He was able to do extra fun activities with his sponsor. He was able to share his life with someone from America and let them experience firsthand what his life is like.

In those few days he knew exactly how special he was, both to us and his sponsor. He believed in a future for himself. He wanted to share with others about his life and where he is now. He was LOVED.

I am confident through his sponsor and their love for him Jomarie knows there are people who believe in him, who want to see him succeed, who care about his future. He knows he is part of a family.

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You can have this same unforgettable relationship with one of our children as well.

If you are interested in becoming a child sponsor to help provide a better future for our kids please contact me at melafoy@gmail.com.

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The Long Road

I get asked the question a lot how long I plan to live in the Philippines. I always give the same answer, “Forever. Life is here. I would not have learned a whole new language to leave in just a couple of years.”

I always really mean that. I would not have invested so much time and struggle in learning a new language if I did not plan to use it for many, many years.

But there is always more to it than just investing my time in learning a new language. I have invested my life in the lives of our kids.

Thanks to the simple amazement of a few of our kids I have realized just how long that road of investment is though.

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Yesterday as Leah & I were with three of our kids we saw a long, uphill, open road. I did not think twice about the road. The kids however all began to scream and shout about how long and pretty the road was. It wasn’t a special road. It didn’t lead to an incredible place like Disney World or Paris. It was just super long without tons of traffic disrupting the view.

The kids were in awe. So of course we did exactly what anyone would do in the middle of the road. We stopped and all took pictures! We laughed and joked about the road and how it was so long and then carried on with our day.

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Last night as I looked back at the pictures from earlier in the day I couldn’t get the thought of the long road out of my head. For me the long road stood for so much more.

It stands for the whole journey I am on with the kids. The times where I feel discouraged because it is hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel of addiction. The moments where I am upset a kid did not come to school two days in a row. The proud moments when one of the quieter boys answers a math question first. The moments of joy when the kids have a full belly after three plates of rice. The times my heart breaks when a boy becomes upset and thinks drugs is the only way to handle his emotions.

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I am confident that one day I will see the reward of the investment. One day these kids will be in homes with families that love them and provide for them.

It’s a long and windy road, but it’s exactly where I want to be.

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You can be a part of this journey down the long road too! You can become a child sponsor for one of our kids and begin investing in their life. If you are interested in this please contact me at melafoy@gmail.com.

 

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He Loves Me

This morning as I was getting ready in the dark with no electricity I had music shuffling randomly from my phone. I wasn’t really paying much attention to the music because instead I was trying to strategically hang the headlamp so I could see without using my hands to hold the light. But as a song came on I caught myself saying the words along with the musician.

“The Lord says there is nothing that you can do that would make Him love you more. There is also nothing you can do that will make Him love you less. He loves you because He loves you because He loves you because He loves you…”

I chanted along with the words “Because he loves you” probably five times before I stood there in amazement at what I was really saying.

He loves me because he loves me because he loves me because he loves me…

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It isn’t a love that I earn. It isn’t a love that I strive for. It isn’t a love I have to work to receive. It isn’t a love that is contingent on me.

It is a love that is constant. It is a love that is unchanging. It is a love that is unlike any other love. It is the best love there ever is or ever will be. It is a love that can not be put into words.

Some of the sweetest moments in life for me are not when I sit still and listen for God to reveal himself in big ways, but instead in the little moments when he sweetly and gently speaks in the most unexpected ways and times. It’s in the moments where I am walking through life and he reminds me of just exactly who he is. The moments where his whispers his love for me.

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He loves me because he loves me because he loves me because he loves me.

Maybe you need the same sweet reminder this morning that I needed, he loves you because he loves you because he loves you because he loves you!

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The Tough One

I don’t have a favorite. I love all of my kids the same.

You know you have heard this infamous line from parents before. They claim all of their kids are equal and loved the same. I have even heard teachers say this about the students in their class before. So maybe it’s always been true. Maybe other people have this whole not showing favoritism thing mastered.

I, on the other hand, am nowhere close to mastering this! Some kids are just easier for me to love and handle than others. Some kids are just more playful and respectful.

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And along that same line some kids are just hard. They just want to do their own thing. They don’t want to follow rules or answer to an authority figure. They don’t enjoy life or the people around them. There is no happiness or laughter in their lives.

From day one I pegged one of our boys as the “tough kid”. A kid who never smiled. A boy who wanted to talk to no one. The guy who I had no clue how to reach.

I tried talking to him about simple things. I tried asking questions. I tried joking. I tried just simply playing without talking at all. I always walked away thinking the same thing, “Will he ever be happy?”

There was a time where I wanted so bad to just see him smile. To see him have a conversation with a friend that didn’t involve yelling or being angry. I wanted there to be a moment in life where I could feel like I had reached him.

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But I had run out of ideas. I just decided if he didn’t want to play and have fun that was his choice. If he didn’t want to come to school, that again, was his choice. If he wanted to continue his life in misery there was nothing I could do to help him. I decided until he was ready to come around and decide for himself he wanted to change there was nothing more I could do.

Being with the kids every day it’s hard to notice changes all the time. Sometimes I don’t realize the huge strides our kids are making. Because things are happening slowly and not overnight, there are times I fail to recognize the daily improvements.

But with the “tough kid” things were different. Over the course of three days God just blew my mind with how much he has changed since I met him in September.

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The boy who never smiled was laughing and talking.

The kid who hated coming to school came to school every day for two weeks in a row.

The child who fights over washing his own plate after lunch offered to wash my plate.

The boy who was too cool to have fun wanted to take selfies.

All of these things seem miniscule to most but for me we had reached a milestone! I had begun to think his hard exterior would never be broken down. Changes didn’t happen as fast as I wanted them to with the “tough kid” but God knew he just needed extra time.

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He needed extra time to soften the “tough kid’s” heart. But he also needed time to teach me a lesson. Because he knew if changes happened overnight in the lives of the hard kids then this life would seem easy and I would begin to think I could change these kids on my own power. When instead God continues to show me how dependent I have to be on him to change the lives of these kids. It is not by my power or strength but by his and his alone that the lives of these kids are changing.

And it doesn’t stop there. Just because things were wonderful for a couple of weeks with the “tough kid” doesn’t mean we have reached the end. Instead it means things are finally beginning. Please pray he continues wanting to come to school. Pray he continues to find himself smiling and having fun. Pray he can just be a kid and play. Pray his heart continues to soften.

 

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Finding Beauty

Last night I laid out on a blanket in the middle of an empty soccer field staring up into the sky and all that was around me. As I kept looking around and gazing upwards all I could notice was beauty.

I found beauty in the millions of stars. Some were bright, some fading. Some were large, others miniscule.
I saw beauty in the trees…the way they curved and reflected with the smallest bit of light shining around them.
I noticed beauty in the few clouds hanging low in the sky.
I heard beauty in the sound of the crickets chirping all around.
There was beauty in the peacefulness of just being.

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In those hours of just lying flat on my back and looking up I didn’t want to miss any of the beauty God had laid out for my eyes to behold. I didn’t want to overlook even the tiniest details. So I laid there just soaking it in and smiling.

But along with that smile came a feeling of guilt. In these precious moments I saw so much beauty. But this same beauty is there for me to see all the time, unfortunately I just don’t always open my eyes to see it.

Every day God lays out beauty to behold. Some days it looks different. Some days I have to intentionally search for it. But no matter how different it may look from day to day it’s always there, because that’s who he is- the creator of all things beautiful.

I can see it in the smile of a little boy as he reads a word correctly.

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There is beauty when one of the boys decides to be nice and help clean up after school even though it isn’t his day to clean. I see beauty in the laughter of two sisters as they play Connect Four with each other. There is beauty and pride on the face a boy as he changes clothes for church and knows how sharp and clean he looks.

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Beauty is the sound of a child screaming out from the shower because he needs more shampoo. There is beauty when a child asks me for seconds at lunch to completely fill his little belly.

It took a night full of peacefulness and stargazing for me to realize how much of God’s creation and beauty I have been missing out on lately. But I’m thankful for the reminder of the beauty he surrounds me with every day!

What beauty do you need to open your eyes to today?

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I Have a Black Brother

My dad is an incredible man. Always has been. Always will be.

He has taught me so many lessons in life. One of the lessons I am most thankful to have learned from him is how blessed we are as a family, which in turn means we should bless others. Blessed to be a blessing as people say.

As a kid I used to tell people that I wasn’t the oldest sibling in my family and I had a black brother. People that knew my family well were really confused. They knew I had a younger American brother but that was it so I always had to explain myself. Before I was born my dad had a little boy. A boy that lived in Kenya. A boy he had never met. A boy he had only seen pictures of and received letters from.

A boy that was supported through Compassion International.

I think this is where my love for letters in the mail came from. I used to LOVE getting letters from my brother in Kenya. And of course whenever we received a letter that meant I got to write him back.

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We would talk about the weather and holidays and family and corn. He would always update us on his progress in school. I would always dream of going to visit him one day. Those letters were really special to me.

And my dad is the one who made it all possible. He is the one who chose to support this little boy through school. He provided food and an education and a family for him. He was a blessing to this brother of mine.

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I know the impact supporting a child can have on both the giver and receiver’s family because now, I get to be on the other side of things. I get to find families who want to support our kids. People who want to help our children receive an education. Families who want to begin a relationship with our kids.

This morning I am super thankful to be on this side of things. I am blessed to be here with these kids.  And I am HUMBLED to ask if you are ready to begin this same type of relationship with one of our kids.

If you and your family want to be personally involved in the lives of our kids I truly can’t think of a better way than to sponsor a child.

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To begin your sponsorship email me at melafoy@gmail.com to receive all of the details and information you need. Know the investment you are making today is one that will live on from generation to generation. From this earth to heaven. 

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A Life Hardened by the Streets

Recently I’ve felt my heart breaking little by little every day. I have seen firsthand the effects that living on the streets has on a child’s life. And it sucks.

A couple of months ago I met a boy who was smart, sweet and fun. He enjoyed life and those around him. He had one of the sweetest smiles around. He enjoyed helping out and cleaning up. He was playful. His laugh was contagious.

He had not been enrolled in school for a little while and had just become a street child. He wasn’t addicted to rugby but was still living on the streets. In an attempt to keep him from missing out on an education and try to get him back off the streets as soon as possible we brought him into our group of kids.
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He began attending school every day. He hung out with us at night in Divisoria. He started coming to church with us on Sundays. He was full of joy and laughter.

But over the past few months I have slowly seen a transformation. An ugly transformation.
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I have seen a young boy go from walking into school freely giving out hugs to a kid who walks in and sits down by himself.

I have seen a boy who used to never spend time with other kids who did rugby turn into a child with rugby on the back of his shirt.

I have watched a kid change from wanting to play with others nicely to a boy who argues alot.

I have seen a child full of smiles and laughter transform into a boy who sits alone in anger.
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I have watched how the streets hardens a life. I have seen how a young boy full of life and laughter can so easily be transformed into someone who shuts down and becomes angry so quickly. I have seen how the streets turns a loving child into someone who has to defend and fend for themselves, causing them to lose trust in others who truly care about them.

As I have watched these things slowly happen I have wanted so much more. I want to just be able to bring him home with me after school so I can know the influence he is around. I want him to know he can trust people and he doesn’t have to build up these walls and become hard. I want him to just be able to be a child who laughs and plays and loves freely.

Right now, because I can’t give him these things, I ask for you to pray with me. Pray he will see there are other options in life than just living on the streets. Pray he will want more for himself. Pray he will trust us and know we want good for him. Pray he will not become addicted to rugby. Pray he will begin to laugh and smile and love again. Pray he will play as kids should play. Pray.

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Crazy Christmas

There are three very specific days my family celebrates Christmas all together. The Sunday before Christmas is always spent with my mom’s whole side of the family, including her uncles and their kids. I spend Christmas Eve with my dad’s family and Christmas day is spent with my mom’s family. Needless to say celebrating Christmas with my family gets a little crazy! Kids are running around playing hide and go seek inside. Some silly aunt gives all the kids silly string to shoot at each other. There are nerf gun wars. Someone gets a new board game that has to be played. Desserts are the rave of the meal. Bets are made on who will jump in the pool. There is laughter exceeding laughter everywhere you look around.
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And I LOVE it all!

I assumed not celebrating Christmas at home would mean all of those crazy things would be taken away and Christmas would be super calm.

Boy was I wrong!

In the Philippines, Christmas is welcomed in at midnight on Christmas Eve by celebrating with family and shooting fireworks. Right before midnight on Christmas Eve we drove to Divisoria in search of fireworks. As we walked up to an empty Divisoria expecting a brightly lit up sky, we were greeted instead by shouts of “Merry Christmas” and the best hugs from our kids.

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On a typical night in Divisoria there are hundreds of people just hanging out. On Christmas Eve all of those people were in their homes celebrating with their families, while our kids were the only ones around, celebrating Christmas with the only family they know-each other.

After hugs and shouts were exchanged the talk began of shooting fireworks. So for the next little bit we all stood in Divisoria playing with fireworks and welcoming in Christmas together.

Some of my fondest firework memories are standing in my yard on New Year’s Eve watching fireworks with friends gathered around as one or two people shoot fireworks at a time.

This was NOTHING like that!

Each kid was holding the weirdest assortment of fireworks. Snakes, fountains, sparklers, airplanes, roman candles, firecrackers all just waiting to be lit. But the fireworks didn’t stay in their hands for long. Before I knew it everything was being lit at once. Things flying in the air. Things crawling on the ground. Sparks all around. Everyone was laughing while at the same time looking around to make sure nothing was flying towards them. It was wonderful!

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As we finished shooting fireworks and telling the kids goodnight I couldn’t help but laugh at the whole night. All around the world kids were tucked in bed early at night by their parents in expectation for morning when they would wake up to Santas goodies all around from his visit the night before. Our kids were standing in the middle of the road shooting fireworks and being completely silly until early hours of the morning. As we talked about it on the way home my heart became more and more excited for the Christmases to come when our kids will have those parents to tuck them into bed, not just on Christmas Eve, but every night!

As if Christmas couldn’t get any crazier we planned a Christmas celebration with just us and the kids at the center on Christmas day. All week long I was the most excited for these few hours on Christmas day! We planned a traditional Filipino meal complete with noodles, hotdogs with marshmallows and fruit salad. We picked out a new outfit for each kid. We made sure each kid had a Santa hat (our version of a stocking) full of goodies.

While driving over to the center I was full of excitement. I couldn’t wait to just spend Christmas with our kids. I wanted to give them their new outfits right away. I wanted to sit and play with the play dough that was in their Santa hats.
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But all of that would have been way to boring. Instead we laughed and danced and sang. Spontaneously and ridiculously. Without any cares in the world. We belted out Christmas songs at the top of our lungs. There was laughter. There was smiling. There was craziness.

But above all there was love.

It didn’t matter that their only gifts all Christmas were a new outfit and a Santa hat full of goodies. It didn’t matter that for dinner we only had noodles instead of lechon (rotisserie pig).
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It just mattered that we were together. We were there to love each other, to hug each other, to laugh with each other. We were celebrating Christmas together. We were a family!

Merry Christmas from my new family to yours! May all of your days be as crazy as my Christmas celebrations!

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NOT Home for the Holidays

I really enjoy holidays and the activities that come along with them. Especially the Christmas holiday season.
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Driving around looking at Christmas lights                                                                                                                                                                         Tacky Christmas sweater parties                                                                                                                                                                                              Dirty Santa                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Spending lots of time with family & friends                                                                                                                                                                                  Baking Christmas goodies & treats                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Decorating the house and putting up the Christmas tree
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Even as I sit here making this list I can’t help but smile at the fun memories I have made doing these Christmas activities in the past. But as I think about how fun the Christmas season can be it makes me sad to not be sharing in these activities with my friends & family this year.

It makes me miss being home to grocery shop & bake sweets with my mom. It makes me miss planning the best outfit of the year for a tacky Christmas party with friends. It makes me miss not picking out matching pajamas for my family to wear on Christmas Eve.

I would be lying if I said missing out on my family Christmas didn’t make me sad.

But at the same time as sad as I am about being away from home for Christmas, I think about the reason I am not there. I think about the things I get to do instead. I think about the new traditions I get to start.
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I picture the face of every single one of our sixteen kids. I picture the smiles on their faces when they get to sit down and color before school. I think about how clean & sharp they look showered and dressed for church. I think about the laughter I hear as kids are able to just be kids. I think about the loving hugs I get and give every day.

I think about the countless number of times Beboy has joked with me about stealing shampoo and we both just laugh. I think about the afternoon Neil John was mad at many of us yet let me sit and talk with him and told me he would come back to school the next day. I picture the way Angie comes walking up to me crying and falling into my arms, followed by her looking up at me and saying, “joking!”
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I imagine the incredible futures that await each and every one of these kids. I imagine the day these kids realize just how much Jesus loves them and they decide to begin that relationship with Him.

And this, all of this makes being away from home for the Christmas season worth it!

Merry Christmas from my family to yours! 
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