NOT Home for the Holidays

I really enjoy holidays and the activities that come along with them. Especially the Christmas holiday season.
                                                                                                                                                                                       Making gingerbread houses

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!”
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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Consistency in Parenting

Disciplining children is not an easy task. Ask any mom around!

And disciplining street children is definitely not any easier. In fact, most days it feels like an almost impossible task. It’s what my days consist so much of right now though. I find myself saying multiple times a day wash your plate, time to brush your teeth, hand me your rugby, stop fighting, only one person shower at a time.

From the outside looking in disciplining the kids seems easy when I’m asking someone to brush their teeth or even wash their plate after eating.
The hard one however, is when I see the bag full of rugby held up to their nose as they inhale a horrible substance into their body. That’s the discipline that gets me every time. No matter how much I see it happen I still don’t know exactly how to react. Do I get angry because they promised they wouldn’t do it anymore but here we are yet again? Do I let it break my heart because they are truly addicted to a drug at 12 years old? Do I force them to give it to me knowing they will just find more as soon as I leave? Do I walk away and ignore it so they won’t get mad at me? Do I try and explain AGAIN how it is bad for their body?

I don’t have the answer.
But here’s what I always remember…growing up I always heard people asking my mom for parenting advise.

How do I get my child to behave?
How do I let my child know when I mean business?
How do I keep my kid from breaking our house rules?

And with every parenting question I heard I always heard the same answer from my mom…consistency!

Most days I keep consistency in the forefront of my mind. I remember breaking an addiction isn’t going to happen for all of these kids overnight but I just need to be consist with disciplining them for their rugby. Most days it’s sufficient. But some days I wonder when the consistency will pay off. When they will decide for themselves they want to quit using this drug. When the discipline will be worth it.

And that I really don’t know…
But it’s bringing me to a new dependence on God. A place in my life where I know I don’t have the answers. A time when I don’t have the appropriate response. BUT a spot where I can admit to Jesus I have no clue what I’m doing. A time when I can say I need help and wisdom and answers I have never needed before.

I never expected through disciplining our kids God would discipline me.
I did not anticipate him disciplining me in my prayer life this way.
But that is exactly what is happening every day. And it’s exactly what I need!

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Protection on the Streets

Growing up you have people looking out for you, people protecting you. It might be your parents. Or an older sibling. Or maybe even a really good friend.

And just about always that protector is someone older than you.

Our kids don’t always have this type of protection. Some of them don’t have parents to protect them. Some of them just fight with their siblings. They need protection from the men who buy them glue to sniff & get high. They need protection from the fights that happen on the streets. And sometimes they need protection from each other.
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It wasn’t an extravagant day. We had all just been sitting around in Divisoria playing. The kids had made wolverine claws out of paper so we chased each other around the trees fighting. Everyone was laughing & had a smile on their face. Some were lying on the ground pretending to be dead from the paper claw attacks. Others were hiding behind a tree waiting to sneak attack the enemy.
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In the midst of all of the fun & laughter I looked over to see two kids very upset with each other. The yelling & slapping escalated until one of the boys was ready to throw a rock at the other.

As someone who wants to protects these boys from any harm I knew we had to first pry the rock out of his hands and then make sure he didn’t try to fight the other boy.

The rock was finally pried out of his hands and he was held tightly in an embrace.

But that wasn’t good enough.

After a long time of sitting calmly & assuming he wasn’t so upset anymore he got up and walked over to a tree. Beside the tree was a massive stone. He was still so angry & again ready to throw the massive stone & hurt the other boy.

I knew this had escalated to a point where he was either going to hurt the other boy, damage a car, or hurt himself. I snuck around behind a car and grabbed him in a tight embrace. We sat on a bench for a long time with him between my arms and legs. It was definitely a struggle to continue holding him but I knew for the protection of both boys I had to continue.

As time passed he eventually calmed down and got to a point of not wanting to fight anymore.

But I left there drained. Worried about what happens when I’m not there. Knowing these kids need more protection than a few hours a day when I am around.

And if it wasn’t for the next day I might still be stuck in this mindset.

But the next day the roles were completely reversed. I was no longer the protector. I was the one being protected.

As everyone was playing a game I noticed one of our kids off to the side so I went to sit with her. She wasn’t happy but she didn’t want to talk about what was wrong. So we just sat there.
Until another boy came up and began messing with me. She immediately told the boy to stop & to leave. As he continued screaming she yelled for someone else to tell him to leave me alone. He left for a few minutes but as soon as he came back she again told him to stop and kept whispering in my ear that he was high & she just wanted him to leave me alone.

I had gone over to her to see what was wrong with her and instead she wanted to take care of me.

I realized that’s just how life is. Some days people need you to protect them. They need to be taken care of. They need to be embraced with love so they won’t hurt themselves.

And then other days you need to be the one embraced. You need to be forced to sit still & talk about what is wrong.

I think it’s a beautiful picture of how we need each other. How we need to be both a protector & be protected.

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The Roller Coaster of Life

I feel like I am a person who loves a good adventure. Hike to a waterfall, give surfing a try, go on a sporadic road trip, hop on the motorcycle and see where we wind up, crawl & climb through a cave, go snorkeling or scuba diving, jump in a raft & navigate down the rapids, repel down the side of a mountain. I am game for all of these things.

However, there is one adventure I am not a fan of, rollercoasters. The suspense, the free falling, the hanging in mid-air waiting for your stomach to drop feeling…I don’t want to be a part of any of it!
This is exactly how life feels right now.

I knew when I told God yes, when I said I was willing to commit my life to these street kids here in the Philippines that every day wouldn’t be easy. I knew I would face challenges. I knew I wouldn’t have all the answers. I knew I would have to rely on God more than ever before in my life.

But knowing these things ahead of time doesn’t make the day to day life any easier.

I never know when I come home at night and lay my head down if I will feel a peace and at ease with our kids or if I will question everything we are doing.

Some days I live on a high where I can see the light. Where I can see the kids beginning to open up their lives to us. Nights where I feel like soon they will want to give up the life they have on the streets for a family who loves them. Days when I believe they have seen a glimpse of who Jesus is and one day soon they will want to know more.

And then there are other nights where I think instead of making any progress at all we have taken three steps back. Nights where I feel we are just an enabler for these kids. Times when I think the kids will always be addicted to sniffing rugby and nothing will ever be worth it to them to quit. Days when I believe they see no value or hope in themselves or their future.
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I don’t know what the pattern is. I don’t know when I wake up if that night will be the peak of the rollercoaster or if I will come home with the pain in the pit of my stomach as we are about to free fall.

The truth of our ministry is there are good nights & there are bad nights. And we never know which it will be for the night until we go out to spend time with our kids.

The possibility is high that it will be a night like Tuesday night where we went out and found four of our kids. Having not seen them over the weekend I was eager & ready to play. They were on quite the other end of the spectrum. That night they wanted nothing to do with me. I greeted them with a cheerful “Hi” & my hand raised for a high five. I got nothing. No smile. No hey. No high five. I tried small talk and still got nothing. Matter of fact instead of small talk they just decided to move to the other side of the park away from me. Later on that night a couple of them were sitting on the bench so I tried to sit with them and talk. As soon as I went to sit down they got up and went to a different bench. They were angry. No one was smiling. No one was getting along. They were arguing over everything. They were picking on a girl who can only see out of one eye.
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That night was definitely a defeated night. A night I came home answerless as to how to help these kids. A night where I laid there wondering if they would ever see just how much I love them & want to see them walking in their own Christ-filled identity.

And then you have last night. 24 hours later. Where things seemed to have done a complete 180. A night where we walked up to the kids & they were excited to see us. They began talking right away. Excitement was in their voices over our upcoming weekend activities. They wanted to hang out with us. They didn’t beg for food but waited until we asked to tell us they were hungry. They taught us a new game. That sat and just laughed. They were kids.

These are the nights I am able to come home with the peace in my heart knowing God IS going to do an incredible work in each & every one of their lives.

Here’s to finding out what night tonight will be….here’s to the roller coaster…

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What Do Miracles Look Like?

I admitted recently that my prayers sounded selfish and desperate but in actuality it was just me believing if I asked God for big things then big results were possible. If I asked him for miracles he would respond with miracles.

And boy did he ever respond!

September was wonderful yet challenging all at the same time. I officially moved to the city where our ministry is located. I was able to begin to see what life here looks like helping our street kids.
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But I was also faced with the challenges that came along with that. Hearing the children ask for food because they haven’t had anything to eat all day. Seeing the kids high and out of control. Knowing these kids have no hope and no dreams for a future that is possible for them.

And one of the biggest challenges…the kids not responding how we hoped they would.

We began renting a room for the children to have a safe place to hang out instead of the streets. A place where they could come and receive a meal for the day. A place where soon they will receive education.

But in renting this room magic didn’t just happen. There weren’t instant results over night.

The last week of September we barely saw the kids.

One day we saw three kids. So we told them to meet us the next day at the center at a certain time. No one showed.

The day after that we found one kid. Again we told him the same things. And again the next day he was a no show.

We searched every where for our kids. But we couldn’t seem to consistently find them.

For months we have been praying for men to come help with our ministry since the majority of our kids are boys and they react better with men.

God faithfully answered that prayer and coming into October we knew we had a team of guys coming to help us for the month.
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But as a ministry team we were worried the guys wouldn’t have enough to do. We were worried the kids wouldn’t be around for the men to form relationships with the kids.

So as a team we began to pray and brainstorm ideas for this team. Ways to best utilize them. We also knew we had a few construction projects we wanted the men to complete.

So our goal was to have the men complete the construction projects the first week. This gave us time to try and find our kids more consistently and introduce them to the team of men on a day to day basis.

It was a great plan but at the same time we knew there was a lot of work to be done.

We knew we just had to plan things out and ultimately trust in God’s planning and timing.

So October rolled around and the team arrived. We picked them up super early at the airport and told them we would see them at lunchtime for orientation.

During orientation our goal was to be very straightforward with the team. We wanted them to understand we are a new ministry and we need their help in forming relationships with our kids to create a desire in them to want to come to our center instead of the streets.

We didn’t know how the month would play out but we just prayed God would use this team to breakthrough to our kids.

As we were sitting there explaining all of these things to the team, three of our kids just showed up at our center!
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This may read as a simple, ordinary sentence to you. But I can assure you it is far from that.

The kids just showed up without any prodding or asking from us. We didn’t have to go searching around the city. We didn’t have to bribe them with a meal to come to the center. They were there on their own!

That night we came home exhausted and drained from our first full day with the team. But I found myself standing in the kitchen yelling,
“God didn’t send an angel with a sack of rice to the center, but man that sure was such a miracle when the kids showed up!”
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God’s timing was so perfect as he brought the kids to meet the guys. Exactly as it was being explained who our kids are and how we wanted the team to impact these kids lives.

This day and the days that have followed have been nothing short of miracles from God. And I am confident he has been pouring out miracles left and right because I asked. Because we asked. Because you asked.

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If you were a fly on the wall & had been listening to my prayers lately you would probably sit there wondering just how selfish a person can be. You would think I was only focused on asking God for things. You would assume I only wanted God to give and that I didn’t care anything about being thankful or appreciative of all he has blessed me with.

It’s true. Lately I feel like I have only been asking God for provision. Asking for provision from Him is what’s on my heart. It’s what’s on my mind. And it’s what comes out of my mouth.

Provision for our boys.

Provision for their safety and hungry bellies and hearts that need Jesus.

Provision for me personally.

Provision as I humbly ask people to partner with me both financially and prayerfully.

Provision for our team.

Provision for guidance and direction as we try to figure out our daily steps with the boys.

Provision for our ministry.

Provision as we plan & hosts teams who will help with our center & our boys.

But I’m asking for all of this provision, not because I am selfish, but because I know this provision IS possible.

I know HE can provide the monthly supporters I need. I know HE can provide the sack of rice we need to feed the boys for the month. I know HE can provide the materials to build the walls in our center. I know HE can provide protection for our boys. I know HE can!

And when I’m asking for this provision I know I am not asking to ears that are not listening. I am fully confident these things are possible through God. Jehovah Jireh, my provider!

So I ask!

And I cling to His word telling me how he delights in giving good gifts to His children. To me! 

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”- Matthew 7:11

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Where is His Shirt?

Giving someone the shirt off your back

Such a famous quote. However, yesterday I witnessed the literal meaning of this quote.

Feeding the boys and spending a little time with them is the highlight of my days right now. I never know what will happen while we are hanging out. I never know what will be said. But I know there will always be laughs.

The majority of our ten kids spend their time during the day working on the street parking cars and washing them while the car owner shops. They try to make a little money to buy juice & snacks or to be able to use the public bathroom.
As we drove up to the boys yesterday four of them were hard at work washing a car. I could see the suds all over the car. The water droplets were splattered everywhere. I could tell they had been washing for quite some time and would be finished soon. I was just standing around making small talk with them while they continued working when I saw one of the older boys go over and literally take the shirt off of one of the younger boys back. At first glance I thought the older boy was being a bully or trying to start a fight. But then I realized the younger boy willingly gave his shirt up. He gladly let the boy take his shirt off.

I continued just watching and saw the older boy begin to use the shirt as his drying cloth for the car. He used the shirt to wipe the whole car down until it was dry & completely rid of the splattered water droplets.

I was laughing lots by this point. We had gone from what I thought would be a fight over a shirt to a very comical, yet thought-provoking situation.

These boys aren’t always perfectly behaved. Sometimes they fight with each other. Sometimes they say dirty things. Sometimes they sniff glue to get high.
But they are there for each other.

They are willing to give each other the shirt off of their own back. Even if just to dry a car to make a few pesos.

I wonder how many of us would let someone use our shirt to dry a car!

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Under Qualified

Every day as I spend time with our kids I am realizing more and more just how under qualified I am to be doing what I am.

I don’t have a business degree to know how to open a ministry center.
I am not a mother of five, or even one, who is experienced in raising children.
I did not study social work or psychology in school to help these kids talk through their problems and issues in life.
I am not a huge manly man who can protect these kids.

The more I think about all of these ways I am under qualified the more I realize I should be scared to death. Or worried I won’t do something right. Or overwhelmed by all there is to do. Or intimidated because I don’t have all the answers.

Yet every night when I come home I can’t help but smile at my time spent with the kids. I can’t help but laugh as I replay the faces the kids made that day. I can’t help but chuckle at how a kid just decided to break out in dance moves. I can’t help but giggle at how the smallest kid out there tried to stop traffic to park a car.
I smile & laugh not because I have it all figured out, but because God has given me this complete peace that I am not the one in control. I can’t do this alone. We can’t do this on our own. I have to fully depend and trust him for every decision I make, or we make as a team.

It’s not always an easy thing. It’s not always easy to walk away from the kids knowing they will sleep on the street. It’s not always easy knowing they won’t have another meal until we return the next day.

But it’s so worth it to trust that God has this!

Not me. Not our team.
But my Father, their Father!
I am way under qualified to live the life I am living but I cling to the cheesy quote I hear often:
“God doesn’t call the equipped. He equips the called!”

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God’s Reminder To Stay Focused

This past week God has reminded me more and more why he called me specifically to not only the Philippines but to Cagayan to intentionally help street children. And although the reminder hasn’t come without seeing harsh realities it’s been really comforting and reassuring for my heart.

Not long after arriving in the Philippines I was overwhelmed by the vast number of people needing help. Whether it was a job, food, a place to sleep, a family, clean clothes, etc. Everywhere I turned people were in need. There were people begging on multiple street corners. There were people asking for money at the most random of places. And for a while I struggled with how I can focus on helping just street children when the need is great for so many others as well.
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Journeying through that was tough but God continually reminded me he has a specific target group he wants me to help. He isn’t asking me to save the whole world. Just one child at a time.

Months later here I am completely ok with all of this. If I see someone begging and have a banana or granola bar I will give it to them. But if I have no food on me I have to be ok with talking to that person without tangibly giving them anything.

The other day was a little different however.

As I sat at the stop light it wasn’t a mom with a baby on her hip begging for money. It wasn’t an older man who wanted something to eat. It was kids. Not one. Not two. Not even three. But a whole group of them. Four kids standing at my window on my left. And a group of about 10 kids sitting on the ground to my right. When I say kids I don’t even mean boys and girls who are old enough to cross the street by themselves. I am talking little girls and boys about three to seven years old. And all they wanted was money and food. Someone to help them. Someone to show them they are loved.


In that moment I didn’t have enough money to pay for them to go to school. I couldn’t throw them in the backseat of the car and take them to a house where they could live and grow up being loved and taken care of. I couldn’t even give all of them a nice, fancy meal.

But I cling to the hope that one day I will be able to.

Right now I know God is calling us to start small and learn the ins and outs of what we are doing. To invest in our group of ten kids. To form lasting relationships with them. To show them the heights and depths of God’s love for them.

And as they learn and grow for themselves then God will call us to begin fresh with a new group of kids.

With every day that passes I know work is being done to invest in these children. And to work on building a community where each and every child living on the streets is cared for, loved and known by their Father!

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A Year Long Answered Prayer

A year ago I received an email from a friend desperately asking me to pray for a little girl.
A little girl who was very sick.
A little girl who was spending her days lying in my friend’s arms because she had no strength to do anything else.
A little girl with HIV. 
A little girl who wasn’t allowed to go to school because she had HIV.

I read the email and my heart was sad. I knew from the words I was reading this was a big deal. I knew my friend would not be asking me to pray if this girl wasn’t very sick. I also knew my role in this situation.

I wasn’t there. My presence would not be known. There was nothing I could physically do.

And my friend knew that. She wasn’t asking me to physically bring her medicine. She wasn’t asking me to physically nurse this girl back to health.

She was simply asking for me to pray. To pray for God’s healing presence to consume the situation.

So I did exactly what was asked of me. I prayed for this little girl. By name, I asked for God to physically heal her body. I didn’t know this girl. I didn’t know her life or daily struggles. But I knew she needed the power of God to intervene in her life.

For days I prayed. Some days multiple times a day.
This past month I had the absolute privilege of spending my days with this same little girl. We played games together. We did homework together. We were simply just friends.

But every time we hung out I couldn’t help but think of the first time I learned the name of this little girl. The first time I went to Jesus and asked for healing for this little girl. The days I spent praying for someone I didn’t even know. And then I would be reminded of what a blessing it was to see God’s answer to prayer right in front of my face.

That little girl was no longer lying in someone’s arms. She was alive. Running and playing and being silly. She was even able to go to school!
As I think about how amazing it was to be able to meet this girl a year after I began praying for her I can’t help but be reminded of God’s goodness. To be reminded of his sovereignty in all situations. To be reminded that God truly does delight in hearing from me and answering when I ask him for things.

I was also reminded of just how dependent we are on each other. In asking for prayer. And in praying for others.

This morning I encourage you to remember a time someone asked you to pray about something. They humbly asked because they need your intercession. Are you fulfilling your promise to them?

Or maybe you are the one who needs to ask a friend for prayer. Do you know the importance of having others pray for you? Are you humble enough to ask for someone to intercede on your behalf?

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