Saturday, June 28, 2014

Happy Birthday Lydia... Filipino-style


Celebrating birthdays are very special. It is even more special to see someone so humble about giving up their birthday to help others. Lydia was blown away when she woke to hear the sweet, sweet lulls of our fellow workers at the children's home singing to her, from the other side of her door. They woke up extra early (4:30 AM) to sing praise songs to her, ending in Happy Birthday. Her face was priceless! Even though she was unable to spend her birthday with family at home, the Filipinos weren't about to leave her hanging. It is a gift she will always remember & cherish. 

Thank you Lord for nationals you put in our lives to remind us we are part of a larger family.

A book within the Book

Right after meeting with L, we met three other guys, whom we named John, David and Mark. I talked one on one with John for a good bit and discovered that he knew the Story of JC, and believed it was good advice to follow so one could become a better person. I asked him what he thought about the after life. He said that he hoped to become good enough to get into Heaven. I explained to him that it was actually impossible to be good enough to get into Heaven, and that JC was the only way. 

I told him that there's a Book within the Book that bears the same name as the one we'd given him (he was completely thrilled with his new name). He got really excited. I told him that I could give him a copy of the Book in his local language as well as English. He was
thrilled and responded, "Yes, I want to learn more about this Book's stories." I told him to start reading the book of John and I would answer any questions he had about it. He was flabbergasted that I'd be willing to help him understand.


Please be asking the Father to continue to open his heart and eyes, and that the Spirit will guide me as I try to help him understand.

-I

Daily life pics from Mindanao Nannies


Eating durian

A fruit we were warned about- durian. You know that saying that curiosity almost killed the cat...well, it almost happened.

We have set quite a few challenges for ourselves to keep things interesting. This one is pretty funny. Sometimes while visiting places away from the children's home we have to find a place to brush our teeth. (Example: random corn field.)

Although many Nehemiah Teams live in rural situations... that is not the case with us. This is a picture of our first "real" rough sleeping. Bamboo floors straw walls and mosquito nets. A experience that will last a life time.

Village M

I am so selfish. I dream, in some aspect, of having the "American Dream." I dream of having the "fairytale life" and of "happily ever after" when those across the world are walking miles to find water, living off of a portion of food that would only last us a couple of days in the US, and living in concrete houses with thatch roofs that would be the equivalent to my dorm room at school. They are literally fighting for survival while I am living with plenty.

Village M is exactly what I mean when I speak of "those people." They used to live in the streets, until they were graciously given plots of land for homes. They struggle daily and on some, you can see their bones clearly from underneath their dark skin. Even the Pastor we traveled with, Pastor W, wonders how they stay alive off of the little food they are given. We arrived, not knowing what to expect from this place. We were told what to expect, but the reality still was more than I could imagine. Culture shock. 100% Culture Shock. 

All those people I had always heard about and seen commercials for on TV, they were real. But you know what is cool? The Lord loves them just the same as He does me. He is just as crazy about them as He was about Moses and Abraham. He protects them everyday from the harm that the devil tries to throw at them. Through the lack of water, food, the dangers of animals, and the high crime rate, HE PROTECTS THEM! He loves them. 

They have even begun to pick up trades like sewing and sell eggs for income. The ministry team from a local church goes in each week and loves on these people. They have a worship service each week. They teach them about Jesus Christ. The Christ who loves them, protects them, died for them. The Christ who can give them so much more than food and water. These people love like no one else. They welcomed us in like we belonged there. I immediately fell in love with these people. They were joyful and did not complain about what they had and what they didn't. They worked hard for what they had and the people of the church worked hard to give them what they need. What am I doing for them? God give me a love for these people and a boldness to tell them about who you are. Use me with them. Help me to love them and want to get to know them. Build in me a Kingdom Passion!

I am so thankful for the time that we get to spend serving these people. Every one of them! It can become discouraging at times for all of the team, but we have to remember that God is our encouragement! 

-Emily

Rewriting My Normal

How does one attempt to explain something that is simply indescribable? That is the problem I am facing as I am attempting to write down just a little piece of what God has revealed to my heart while here in Africa. Though I came on this trip with the mindset that we would be coming to help the nationals here, it is really them who have helped me. God has used their impact on my life to teach me so many things already.

In John, Jesus tell us that He has come so that we may have life and have it to the full. (John 10:10) Africans sure know how to embrace that verse. Everyone is so friendly and full of life & joy. Though they have every reason to get down and be upset as a result of the physical conditions they live in, they choose to embrace life and all its simple beauty. Living as Christ intended for us to and enjoying it on a daily basis. Greeting strangers as family, dancing, clapping, and lifting their hands all to worship the Savior of the world. Children who have been abandoned loving unconditionally, are just some of the norms here that are making me reconsider my idea of a normal life. Choosing to trade a mundane life where highs and lows are defined by circumstances for a life where every moment is cherished, every second is treated as sacred, and every day is seen with all the beauty it was designed to hold.

It isn't like the Africans have a secret formula for a better, more optimistic life; no this life can be lived by anyone whose ultimate hope is in the Lord. They simply look at each new day as a gift from God and embrace the trials, hardships, time of joy, and everyday situations as a blessing from Him.

We were told after introducing ourselves at church on Sunday that we talk so fast and just get in a hurry for everything. I believe that is so true and a source to one of our greatest problems in American. We are always in a hurry! Always rushing to do something we let our busyness and packed schedules come in the way of the enjoyment of life and all its beauty and fulfillment. We have a joke about whether someone we are meeting here is on 'normal time' or 'African time.' 'African time' is usually later than scheduled, but that's just okay here. If you are late, it isn't the end of the world. It just all comes down to priorities. When not missing your favorite TV show takes priority over cultivating and developing your relationships with family and friends or sleeping in is more important than your precious alone time with God, there's a problem.

I'm so glad that God is rewriting my idea of normal.Yes, I will take my lesson from my African brothers and sisters in Christ to heart & start living a life to the fullest; not being blinded by the depressing troubles life brings, but being captivated by the beauty of each moment. Truly embracing Psalm 46:10 and being still knowing He is God. With God's strength and guidance we can all truly embrace the life He so desperately wants each of us to have. 

I ask for the continued prayers for our team unity and that we would given many many opportunities to share the gospel and boldly proclaim His name wherever we go. Most importantly keep the precious people we are loving on in your prayers. May hearts be opened and lives changed through Him.

-Breanna

Encourage one another...



We were able to attend a small Bible study held in the back of a shop. The hearts these people had for the Lord was touching. They opened the stage for the birthday girl to preach the sermon and they also taught us a few new songs. Pray that we will be an encouragement to this group of believers.

We love our mothers!

We love our mothers! All around the world there are mothers trying their best to give their best to their children. It is no different here in the Philippines. A big part of the ministry we are doing here is working with the mothers of the community.
52 women gather together with us three times a week to learn basic nutrition for both mother and child. They also learn basic home keeping skills. These beautiful women are so eager to learn and I love their enthusiasm! They show such strength everyday. They smile and laugh all the time and are such a joy to be around. Not only are they willing to learn, they are also willing to do! Three days a week they join the team at 5am to go jogging. I can hear them outside my window ready to go before I'm even out of bed. If there was anything that could get me out of bed that early, it would be the motivation of these ladies.

They laughed and smiled the whole time we were jogging up and down this beautiful mountain. While I was ready to give up on a steep hill, the lady next to me said the first English words she had said to me since we met, "I'll beat you." and we raced from there! The ladies cheer each other on and are so encouraging to each other - laughing the whole time. We lead them in relays, playing basketball, and stretching.

They are interested in our lives. Where we come from, how old we are, schooling, etc. They ask many questions! This is a great opportunity for us! It opens the door to share our lives and what God has done in them. They listened intently last week while Erin shared her testimony.

We are so excited to share the love of Jesus with these ladies and pray for their hearts to be opened to the Gospel. I praise God for the precious moments we spend with these precious mothers.

Pathways

"This is what the Lord says, 'Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it'."   -Jeremiah 6:16

On this mountain there are many paths. Some made of grass and others made of dirt. It would be easy to get lost or turned around if you don't know the way. Today we were challenged with the task of going house to house, taking blood pressures, and sharing the Word of God. 

How could we be effective when we do not know the way?
How could we know where the houses were without someone showing us? 

We needed a navigator. Someone who knew the way. We found this in our dear friend who lives next door. This sweet lady sacrifices her days to hike up and down these paths with us, showing us the way. Because of her we have been able to care for many people. Something we would never have accomplished on our own. 

This got me thinking of a verse in Romans that says, "How then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?" (Romans 10:14-15). Just as we needed someone to show us the way, these people do too. I pray we can have the same servants heart as our dear friend had while hiking those paths today when we go out with the help of the Holy Spirit to show the way to Jesus.

Friday, June 27, 2014

When it Gets Hard

It would make sense that by now I could have easily memorized the street of Loi Kroh like the back of my hand. I know every sidewalk that ends and another starts anew. I know where to watch my step because of construction or where to keep my balance because it’s a thin walkway separating two sidewalks. I know that I am never far from a 7/11 and that there will always seem to be a dog following us, although it never seems to be the same one. I know where each of the beggars hangs out most nights and the names of each massage parlor, bar, or spa I have visited.

But for some reason, each time we go, walking the street of Loi Kroh gets harder and harder. 
And I think to some capacity that is a good thing. 

The first night we prayer-walked, I almost felt numb. My teammates were all vocal about feeling so many emotions when we met back up together, and I sat there just kind of confused. I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know what to feel. 
 
We have a list going to pray for everyone we meet, talk to, befriend, and share the Gospel with, and by now, the faces are so familiar. There are the ladies at Y&Y Kristi and I teach Bible stories and English to each week; there is O at M’s Bar I keep going to visit, hoping and praying she will seek salvation; there is Na and Ni, two women at a massage parlor Gee and I shared Creation to Christ with last week—Na being only 16 and having the most beautiful smile I have ever seen, and I find myself praying she would know TRUE joy; There is K, the Burmese beggar missing one leg, who Kristi and I got to share with just a few days ago but wants nothing to do with Christianity because he never saw true love from the Christians around him; there is Ya, who our translator Aoy introduced me to two nights ago and I got to share my testimony and the Gospel with, but the only thing stopping her from following Jesus is her thinking she has to earn merit for her deceased and strongly Buddhist father. 
 
And two nights ago I think the weight of darkness finally hit me. Not that I didn’t see it before, but that night…I felt it. 

I found myself wanting to just run down Loi Kroh screaming the Gospel to those who have not heard. I wanted so desperately for every single woman to know God, to stop selling herself. I wanted every single man to hear the Good News, to stop getting drunk on alcohol and purchasing human beings, and to be the man God has called him to be. I wanted to grab every beggar by the hand and lead him to The Father. 

But after talking to Ya, sharing with her that with Jesus, she doesn’t have to earn anything, her only response was to reassure me that every religion is good and of her completely steadfast and never-changing worship of Buddha. 

I felt defeated.

After coming back to our apartment that night, I tossed and turned all night thinking of all the lost people. The weight of hundreds of lost souls seemed to be bearing on me, and Satan just kept repeating, “lost” over and over again. 

It was one of the hardest things I have ever experienced, but I think that it kickstarted something in my heart that was truly needed.  

I can no longer look the lost one in the face and not feel something. I can’t see these people right before me and not do something. I can’t rest knowing that these people I have come to love with my whole heart, these people who are now so familiar, don’t know the one true God.  

I knew before that there are 6,000 unreached people groups. I knew before that these people are destined to die if someone doesn’t come and tell them. I knew before that so many people worship false religions and unknown gods. I knew before that thousands were selling themselves as if they are some item in a store to be bought. I knew before.

But now it’s personal. 

Pray for each person I mentioned, along with the other women my teammates have met and shared the Gospel with. 
Continue to pray for S and N, for their eyes to be opened—they seem to be persons of peace and are continually hanging out with us. 

-Ashley

A new brother!

The Father is at work. Today (Tuesday) our two male team members sat with one of our local guy friends, L, and talked with him. He's been going through a very rough time. We shared with him how JC loves him and wants to help him figure things out, and how He has a perfect plan for L. He needed to hear that, because things aren't going his way. L didn't seem to believe that someone out there could love him like this. Then he finally seemed to get it. As we sat there, heads bowed, L became a Believer. He exclaimed that he could not wait to tell his friends what kind of change he had experienced.

Please be praying for L, that we will be able to disciple him well, and that he will have the strength to carry on despite resistance to his new found Belief.

Hillside



We were welcomed with open arms this past weekend. They introduced us to many new things and encouraged us so much. In the US your first initial thought of someone staring is that they are being rude, but that is definitely not the case here. Throughout the sermon the children, whom probably have not seen many Americans, were snapping pictures constantly. They were treating us like celebrities. When they camera came out both young and old jumped up for a picture.  Pray for the continued growth of the believers in this local church.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Living Life While Loving Others

We have been living in the city for three weeks now, and some days it seems we are tourists wandering around aimlessly, with no goal.  Fortunately, God has provided many opportunities for interaction with other believers that are also living in the city, as well as many non- believers, including our new friends:








Though it does not look like (and it definitely doesn't feel like) hard work, we are working to meet our goals.  This summer, we are seeking to do four things:

1) Understand the gospel in light of the cultural context
2) Grow in our own personal relationship with Christ
3) Edify the local workers and believers
4) Develop relationships with the locals that will last far beyond this summer, with the goal to see them in heaven for eternity at Jesus' feet

We are simply here to live life while loving others.

This is not to say it has been easy or simple. There has been a fair share of culture shock and things we have had to come to terms with, but God has been teaching us.  There were three other Americans that were working with us for the first two weeks, but they left several days ago.  It has been an adjustment to learn to get along without them, but God has provided more short term American teams from several different organizations for us to work with for the rest of our time here.

Please pray:
--for the hearts of our friends to be open to the Truth
--for the locals we will encounter and the conversations we have to be spiritually guided
--for the direction of our team for the next five weeks as we seek to build relationships

It Happened on Tuesday

A few weeks ago our team had the opportunity to partner with a group who minister to street kids in Zimbabwe. They spend time building relationships with these homeless boys and strive to get them off the streets. The first time we met these boys our hearts immediately hurt for them. They had no home, no food, no love, and no God. 

After spending time with them we longed to have the opportunity to invest in & build relationships with these boys. I wanted to have more time to show them the love of Christ and more opportunities to share the gospel with them. Even though it was not in our schedule to see them again, it WAS in God's plan for us. After several plans fell though and others were moved around, we now have the opportunity to spend time with them more times this summer, and much to our enjoyment Tuesday was one of those days.

Tuesday afternoon we met up with the boys and several of our friends from a local church and played a game of soccer. A very uneven match of girls vs. boys (AKA Americans vs. Zimbabweans). Even though we played soccer with them just like the last time we saw them, Tuesday was much different.

A few weeks ago I tried to share the gospel and let all of the boys know why we were there because I thought it would be the last time I would see them. On Tuesday, God showed me the importance of building relationships. These boys do not have consistency in their lives. They move from street corner to street corner begging, hoping they receive enough money to feed themselves. They have no parents, no school, no church. The sidewalks are their home and the beggars are their family. By coming back and partnering with a preexisting street kids ministry, God is using us to show them the love of Christ. 

By the end of the day I could really see how we had bonded with them. We were horsing around and being loud just as any group of kids would do. Tuesday, God showed me that big, extravagant things do not have to happen to glorify God. Accepting the rejected and loving the abandoned is what God calls us to. These boys had been told the Gospel, therefore by spending time and building relationships with these boys we are glorifying God, and that is enough.

Please pray for these boys. Pray that they will see Christ through us. Pray that they will understand that God wants them as they are, who they are. 

-Lindsey

Winning Souls!

This week has been an exciting one! Our team had the chance to join a medical mission on a nearby island. We were able to help bring dental care, physical therapy, and medicine to some remote islands without access to, or the the resources for, these types of health care. We were also able to share the Gospel with some children during the mission!

Back in our locations in Camarines Norte, many are committing their lives to Christ and publicly demonstrating their decision through baptism! One of our teams has baptized three people this past week and one of our teams will be baptizing at least three more this weekend! Praise God!!!


One of the three who were baptized this week, 
celebrating and demonstrating her joy!


 One of our two teams with a few of our Bible study friends. Three of these women have decided that they want to be baptized this weekend!

Prayer Requests:
  • health and recovery for both teams from any sickness 
  • that those who have been and will be baptized continue to pursue Christ after we leave 
  • fellowship and empowerment for the beginnings of churches in our locations 
  • softened hearts to the truth of God's Word

Interest in the Story

The girls on our team have continued building the relationships they've made with a trio of girls who are very interested in the Story. We have also spent more time with D, a believer who is the result of the team that was here last year. It's always good to be able to encourage him, as he has only one friend who is a fellow Brother. 

I also met a young nice guy and was able to talk with Him. He found the Story somewhat weird, and when I asked him about his views on an afterlife, he shook his head, sadly and said "Many people say many different things about life after death, but for me...I think there is only this one life." I wanted to tell him how wrong he was and somehow convince him that he is in eternal danger, but I had already told him the Truth. "Convincing" him is not part of my job. Unfortunately, he returned to his home province for summer break the following day, making a follow-up meeting impossible. Please join me in asking the Father to tug on this guy's heart and show him his desperate need for a Savior.

Pray for us to be shining examples of our Model, even when it's hard and we're tired,
hungry and frustrated.

Bible Study Growth


Our Bible studies are slowly beginning to grow. God is showing us all more and more how to lead. Stepping away from our comfort zones and seeing the effects of our obedience.

Pray for the continued growth of those we are studying with.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Local Brothers & Sisters

We spent another day roaming around on the backs of 5 motorbikes, driven by 5 of our local friends. Driving here is a whole different world. Several of our team members were under the impression that they were being granted the blessing of going to meet the Savior a lot sooner than expected! 

Our friends took us to the "pottery village" in the suburbs of our city. There we went to a place where they let us try our hands at creating some pottery, local style. With one hand you spin the wheel that the clay sits on, while you use the other hand to shape it as it spins. It's safe to say that none of us were experts.

During the course of the day, we discovered that our friends all attend the same church. They seem to be genuine believers. This was very exciting news!

Pray for our local Brothers and Sisters to feel strengthened and encouraged.