Nov 19, 2011

Out of the Box

"'I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. '" Matthew 17:20

So in my previous post, I wrote that it wasn't necessarily my last. I left it open so that five months later, while working the early shift at the WWU girls' dorm front desk, I could pick things up and write again. And after spending the last hour reading through my past posts, I figured I needed to write a new one.

It's 34 F here. I'm going to be driving home for Thanksgiving in a couple hours, over the snowy Snoqualmie Pass. My new computer is filled with reports and assignments for my fall quarter classes. I haven't eaten rice in over a week. I haven't seen the ocean since Manila.

Things are different now. But I guess that's obvious.

In looking back and re-imagining my days as a student missionary, it doesn't seem to fit into my life's timeline. Well, not completely. It does in the sense that I felt like I hardly knew anyone upon returning to Walla Walla. It seems perfectly obvious when I tell people I'm "technically a sophomore." But when I read my own words about being in the experience, see the pictures of people and places that I loved, it another life. It's like I was progressing along on my timeline, and then I was whisked away to another timeline completely, and after zooming to the end of that line, I was dropped back into the first timeline.

--Life----Life----Life---/                                                         /---Life----Life----Life--
                                           SM Life---SM Life---SM Life

It's so strange. Like a complex dream.

So have I missed the Philippines? Yes, of course. Do I ache for it? Sometimes, randomly, infrequently. It's hard to allow myself the ability to think about it, although I find I talk about my experience a lot. But I don't usually catch myself replaying the walk through Subec or conjuring the picture of the sky before sunrise. It will hit me at odd times. Like in class.

My favorite class this quarter has been Introduction to Faith and Ministry, the introductory course for students pursuing a career in pastoral, chaplaincy, or missiological ministry (oh, yeah, I'm doing that now). One day in class we talked about caring for people, since we will be primarily working with people in our ministries. As the lecture/discussion continued, my mind was drawn away, back to the houses of friends in distant barangay. They were my people, and here I had no idea of how they were doing. There in class we were talking about aspects of listening to, praying for, processing life with people. We were talking about it. I wanted to be doing it! I missed my people.

I was just reading my previous blog about movement. To recap, I talked about how by praying and committing your every step to God, He tends to show you where you ought to go, what words to say, what actions to take. All you really have to do is start moving and let Him guide you along.

I don't feel like I'm moving. Or if I am, it's very slow movement. Maybe it has something to do with my days having to be so planned. I don't feel as great a need of dependence on God to direct my every step. Ouch. That hurts to admit. But that shouldn't be the case.

People often talk about "putting God in a box," having a limited view of who God is or what God can do. I've had conversations on such matters and how having such a perspective on God can limit His work in one's life. But I think another great danger is putting yourself in a box, too. If we were created by a boxless, limitless, God, and if He is the guiding force of our lives, doesn't that mean that through Him, in a way, we are limitless too? Before you take me for a heretic, remember that Jesus Himself said that by God's will, we as humans can move mountains. I don't know about you, but I don't usually consider "mountain moving" as one of my areas of expertise. But that's just the point: it's God who does it through us, not we ourselves. Because God is limitless, His work within and through us is limitless too.

But I feel limited. Limited by my status, by my schedule, by my location, by my now seeming lack of knowledge. In returning to America, I've put myself in a box. And if I'm in a box, that means the work God wants to do through me is placed in that box, too. And if we're both in a box, there's not going to be a lot of movement going on.

And here I want to serve and minister and do things beyond imagining for God and His people. But as long as I view myself as being constricted and surrounded on all sides, I will be just that. Limited. Motionless.

So consider this a day of breaking free. I choose to live limitless. I choose to weave a life directed by a limitless God, no matter the current circumstances. And as I step out of my box, I have the freedom to move, the freedom to be directed into the great--truly great--unknown. No matter what timeline I'm on or where I am on it, I will keep moving and praying and working and thanking God for the beautiful sights along the way.

I choose to keep going.

Jun 7, 2011

Who Am I and Where Am I Going?

Two Important Questions to Ask in Life

"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well." Psalm 139:14
So as I’ve been writing these catch-up blogs explaining my life over the last several months, I’ve been here at my Auburn home. I haven’t been working, I haven’t been taking classes—I’ve just been…here.

And as I’ve been sitting around I’ve found myself thinking about the future and reflecting about the past. Sometimes my thoughts are joyful, sometimes mournful. Sometimes they’re full of  fear, sometimes frustration, sometimes peace, sometimes weariness, and sometimes awe. And oftentimes I toss myself on the couch, click the remote, and try to keep my brain from thinking and my heart from feeling. I’m ashamed to say I try to escape much more than I’d like.

So here in my possibly-final-though-I’m-not-going-to-officially-call-it-that blog, I thought I’d just toss out some of my thoughts to get them out in the open and be honest about what’s going on in my life.

I regret a lot of things about this last year. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve LOVED this year and I've gotten to experience so many amazing things. But there’s plenty that happened or didn’t happen that I wish I could change. I’ve never really been like that before. Regretful, I mean. It’s sort of a new phenomenon for me and I’m not quite sure how to handle it. Perhaps it’s because of that six-month timeline.

From about the second week that I arrived in the Philippines, I started to think about that last day I was going to have in the Philippines, and I knew it was going to be at my doorstep in the blink of an eye. The whole time I was there, I felt like I was racing the clock, trying to get in as much living as I could there. I knew that time, that place, that experience wasn’t something I could get back—I had to make the absolute most of it. But, as frequently happens, I set my hopes and wants a mite high, and so here I am, sitting on the other side of that segment in my timeline, knowing that that time is gone forever, still filled with unmet hopes and wants.

I wanted to see Evelyn get baptized. I wanted better relationships with my fellow SMs. I wanted to sit inside the giant shell and watch the stars turn into the sunrise. I wanted to ride a carabao. I wanted to become better friends with the guy AYs. I wanted to complete the one remaining study in my fundamental beliefs Bible study with Carina. I wanted to see Anuplig falls. I wanted to snorkel in Blue Lagoon one last time. I wanted to pray in Ilokano. I wanted to see where Nieves was staying. I wanted to walk down to the Bangi windmills.

Ugh, I sound so whiny. But it’s true.

I guess it’s really hitting me because I keep looking at my experience there as a once in a lifetime opportunity. And yes, in a way it was. But when I wiggle my perspective a bit, I can see that it wasn’t necessarily a one-time thing. Who’s to say I won’t live and work in Pagudpud again? Who’s to say I won’t have other similar experiences in other places? I certainly have no authority to say such a thing!

Truth be told, I am very seriously considering entering cross-cultural ministry full time once I graduate.

But even if I don’t, even if I stick around America for the rest of my life, it doesn’t mean I have to forever be mopey and wistful about a brief period of my young adult life. (And yes, I would consider myself to have fallen into the mopey and wistful category this last month) Life is for LIVING!

As I was in the process of leaving Pagudpud, it felt like this was one of the last chapters of my life on earth. I don’t know why, but it felt like I’d go back home, stick around a couple months, and then I’d reach “the end.” But that’s not how life is shaping up at all. It took me a while after I got back to the states, but eventually the complete reality dawned on me that I need to keep going—that I’ve got classes to take, jobs to find, bills to pay. All those little details are alive and well and need some attention, and it wouldn’t be wise for me to pretend they don’t exist and instead sit around waiting for the end of the world. Maybe Jesus is fixing to return next Thursday, but I have to prepare for next Friday in case we’re all still here then and my account doesn't balance. I’ve got to keep going on with life and figuring out what that means exactly. Pagudpud was a stepping stone, not the end of the line. And where and how I step next is up to my Father and I.

A while ago I wrote about my Filipino alter ego. I loved being that person. But she’s not still across the sea; she’s sitting right here, typing this blog, hiding, perhaps, inside a weary and apathetic exterior. So what’s the difference between Pagudpud Katelyn and Auburn Katelyn? Choice. Pagudpud Katelyn could have just as easily chosen to be weary and apathetic, just as easily as Auburn Katelyn. And get this.

Auburn Katelyn can choose to be just as bold, friendly, and adventurous as Pagudpud Katelyn.

Yes, life in America brings about different nuances to which adjustments need to be made. But the core of how my life experiences shape up depends on how I choose to be.

I choose to let Pagudpud Katelyn live on, growing more and more into the even more amazing Katelyn I was originally created to be. That’s who I want to be. That’s who I am.

Wherever I go from here, that's who I am.

May 29, 2011

Making Memories

 "He has made everything beautiful in its time..." Ecclesiastes 3:11

Aaron stoking our last bon fire
It was our last Sunday all together as a group. Kim was going to be leaving the next day, and the goodbyes would start. I felt like I'd poured my soul into this place, these people this life. And soon it would all be gone.

Pastor Marc and the AY had planned a bon fire for us on the beach. So after darkness had fallen and the stars had come out, our whole group of SMs and AYs grabbed firewood and wandered down the road to the beach. Once the fire was going, we gathered into a circle and we all went around and spoke.

"Filipinos, you know, aren't like Americans," Pastor Marc said. "We're not very good at expressing ourselves, not as good as you are." But they expressed their thanks quite well, I thought. They told us how we'd helped them and thanked us for our sacrifices. "We will remember you always," one friend said. "You're worth remembering."

"It's hard to say goodbye," Kristel said, "but time is saying you need to go." And we all knew she was right.

After we finished our bon fire time, we decided to wander back to the pavilion to eat snacks and just hang out with one another. I stood to go after many had already left, and as I turned my back to the beach I saw Carina waiting for me. We walked and talked and were a little sad together. As we neared the church again, she asked me what we were going to do the rest of the night. I shrugged. "Just talk and eat. Maybe play some games. You're coming over right?"

"No," she said in that tone I'd learned to never take seriously.

"Apay?" I looked at her with a smirk and asked why.

"We shouldn't make any more happy memories, Katelyn. That way we'll have less to look back on and be sad about."

I laughed and said, "So should we just get into a fight so we don't talk the rest of the time?"

"Yes!" She said with a smile.

She came, of course, and we all enjoyed the evening together. But I understood her words and her concern. The more attached you get to a place or person, the harder it is to part.

Wonderful Friends!

But I like to flip it the other way around: the more painful or sad it is to leave, that means there has been a greater connection. And the greater the connection, well, the more there is to be happy about. No matter how we feel when we come to the end of something good, there's comfort in knowing that it was just that--good.

We can give a sigh of contentment at the memory of its beauty.

May 22, 2011

"No, It's Okay!"

"Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?" Matthew 7:9

I don't like discussing money.

During our stay in Pagudpud, several of the student missionaries decided to help some members of the AY go back to college. I too planned to help two of my friends return to their studies, which had been halted due to finances. However, before they could be enrolled, both girls had to complete some forms and requirements. This led to several long and costly bus rides to Laoag where the school was located.

One day I decided it would probably be wise for me to check out their school. By this point Kristel had been cleared to return, but Carina had still not been completely accepted. So the three of us caught an early bus to Laoag with the intent of a tour and an attempt at setting Carina's readmittance in stone.

The Girls' College

And so began my frustrating experience with the college. For various absence and beaurocratic-related reasons, we were required to make that trip four times. Each bus ride ate up two hours and 60 pesos per person, one way. Round trip cost about $3 each, which may not sound like much for America, but for the Philippines it was a decent expense. Of course there was no way I was going to force this expense on the very girls I was hoping to help. But I met an issue.

The week before our first trip, I was checking in with Carina.
"So it's okay if we go Tuesday? Oh and don't worry about the bus fare."
"Katelyn, I can pay for it."
"No, it's okay, I got it."
"No, it's okay, it's okay!"
"I guess we'll cross this bridge when we get to it."

On Tuesday, when the man came to collect our bus money, I quickly jumped to my wallet before my friend could stop me. She didn't say anything and she made no move to stop me, but I could feel a tension in the air.

When we got off the bus, we hailed a trike and told the driver where we wanted to go. After a quick ride, we arrived at the school. I stepped out and looked around at the campus. "Manu, manong?" I heard behind me. "24." I turned and opened my wallet to pay the 24 pesos, but my eyes caught Carina swiftly slip the man some money. I smiled to myself, and we walked inside.

The same thing happened again for lunch. Before I could pay for the pansit, my two friends had already covered it. "Come on!" I laughed, still feeling that awkward sensation that always seems to accompany matters of money. I really wished they would just let me pay for things and leave it at that.

Over the next several trips, Carina kept slipping in whenever she could to pay the numerous little expenses. At first I kept trying to argue with her. Still, each time I thanked her.

"Thanks for covering the trike." We were loading back onto the bus to go back to Pagudpud. Carina was in front of me and said with a laugh, "That was the last of my allowance."

Carina and Kristel
"Wow. Thank you!" I said again. I sat down in my seat, floored.

She spent all her money for these trips, for our transportation and food. She'd paid for me. What kind of a sponsor was I?

I felt awed with her consideration while at the same time slightly upset at her for not letting me take care of things. But on that ride back, a thought started forming in my mind until I was hit with a realization.

Had I seriously been so insensitive?

No one likes to feel helpless, like you have nothing to contribute. Part of the maturation process involves taking care and reponsibility of oneself. To be able to provide for oneself and not be dependant on others is something most people strive for. To take that away isn't an act of bruising an ego--it's dehumanizing. And this whole time I'd been attempting just that, trying to convince someone to relinquish her own self-sufficiency. I'd been trying to give her something of mine while taking away something of hers which was much more valuable. What sort of aspiring psychologist was I?!

I had to go into Laoag one final time with just Carina and I. This time I kept my eye out better, waiting for cues. When she wanted to pay, I let my friend pay, and when she couldn't, she let me.

And when it was all said and done, I thanked her sincerely for her sacrifice, humbled with a lesson learned.

May 18, 2011

A Time for Everything

"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:

a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot, 
a time to kill and a time to heal, 
a time to tear down and a time to build, 
a time to weep and a time to laugh, 
a time to mourn and a time to dance, 
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, 
a time to embrace and a time to refrain, 
a time to search and a time to give up, 
a time to keep and a time to throw away, 
a time to tear and a time to mend, 
a time to be silent and a time to speak, 
a time to love and a time to hate, 
a time for war and a time for peace."
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 

I woke up at my usual time, grabbed my Bible, and slipped out the door. Dave and Zernan were sleeping in the common area and a step onto the balcony showed that it was raining. So I decided to head downstairs where I pulled up a chair to one of the tables and set down my things. It was going to be an early morning for all of us, but I needed to get time with God before we caught the 7:00am bus.

We were heading into Laoag to visit a hospital patient. Her name was Chita, and she was also the mother of one of the AY, Cliff. Chita had had breast cancer for years, but had never gotten treatment for it. The last few weeks things had been going from bad to worse and now she was in the hospital with severe pain. We were going to pray with her and the family, sing songs, and simply be as supportive as we could be.

"Good morning." Pastor Marc walked up and sat down beside me. He leaned back in his chair and stretched--he looked tired.

"Cliff was calling and texting me all night," he told me. "She's not doing well. I guided him through praying with her and the last time he called I could hear everyone singing. The last time he texted me, he said they were coming home to Gaoa."

"When was that?"
"So we'll go straight to Gaoa at 7:00?"
"Are we still going?"
"Well, we're all planning on it. I think it would be good." It seemed like there was greater need than ever to go see Chita. We knew there wasn't much time left.

When everyone else had gotten up and had come together for our morning worship, I told them what had been happening through the night. We all solemnly agreed that we needed to go to Cliff's home, soon. So we went about grabbing breakfast and brushing our teeth, all in a dark sort of urgency. I darted through the rain to the church to check if Pastor Marc was ready. I met him as he was walking out the church door. As he walked passed me he said quietly, "Cliff texted again: 'she's gone.'"

I closed my eyes and stood frozen, my heart sinking as tears filled my eyes. She's gone.

Our hurried efforts were too late. She's gone.

I walked slowly back to the pavilion, not caring about how wet I was getting. I sat on a table and let my eyes stare straight ahead as tears slipped down my cheeks. Pastor Marc sat quietly in a chair and informed the other SMs as they appeared. She's gone.

We took trikes to the bus stop at Mawini and waited for an eastbound bus to pass. We waited and waited under our shelter as the rain poured down around us. No one said a word the whole time. We just sat and stood in silence, watching and thinking.

Tears continued to fall from my eyes as I turned my gaze towards the rice fields. Big white birds like egrets were wandering through the crops, the dark sky a significant contrast behind them. They're so majestic and beautiful birds, but on that day they just seemed--mournful.

I watched one take to the sky, and was filled with grief for the world.

And there's nothing you can do and there's nothing you can say that makes these things okay. Sometimes you just need to feel the pain because it's time to feel it.

There's a time for everything. And this time won't last much longer.

May 6, 2011

Under the Kubo Kubo Hut

"Winter warmth and light and a shady place in summer:
He's ever over me."

It was a beautiful day for a boat race.

We all ended up at the beach that morning. Kim was leaving soon and was working on saying his goodbyes, so I went with him to visit Uncle Elias. As we walked up to his front porch, his daughter-in-law came outside and told us he had already gone to his kubo kubo hut. We thanked her and walked passed the house, onto the beach. Sure enough, there he was, under the kubo kubo hut.

It's that classic hut. Usually made from bamboo or coconut palms, you can find them all over the Philippines, or at least all over Pagudpud. They're open air with benches or low platforms inside. Their purpose? Shade. And that's one thing Kim and I were happy to step into that morning.

"Hello Uncle Elias!" We shook his hand and sat next to him on the creaking platform. His eyes brightened behind his lopsided glasses and he turned to start speaking to us in his slurred Tagalog. Elias has had several debilitating strokes. The last one happened about two years ago, and at the time it had left him nearly paralyzed. But he had recovered tremendously since then, having a lot greater range of motion. He still used a walker to slowly get places, and he couldn't quite articulate all the way, but again--major improvement.

Kim listened intently. He speaks Tagalog fairly fluently, and so while Elias's first language is the local Ilocano dialect, he also speaks Tagalog so that the two of them can communicate. Kim, as always, was kind enough to translate for me.

"He says the boat races haven't started yet, but this is the best spot to see them. The finish line is right out here." He pointed down the beach to the water nearby. I looked around the sandy shoreline: lots of people had come out to watch. Down next to the water Emily and Aaron were playing volleyball with some friends. Rainey was walking Pastor Marc's dog with another friend. Heather was splashing in the waves with a group of the neighborhood kids. The sun was high and hot, and a small cool breeze swept along, bringing a little relief.

We watched in silence for a little while, hoping to see the long, pontooned fishing boats start cutting through the water. I leaned back, drinking in the whole scene. It was so beautiful. So peaceful. So wonderful. I looked at Uncle Elias. This was what he did all day, everyday. He walked from his house to the beach and he sat under his kubo kubo hut and watched paradise sighing around him. What a life.

We talked some more, about us leaving, about Dr. Mitz coming back in September, about the future. "I'm ready to die. There's no point to living any longer," Uncle Elias stated at one point. He's said this before and it's always bothered me. When people talk about death here, it's usually said as a joke, a laugh, even if they're actually serious. They talk about it so lightly and it always stirs me up inside. "I can't walk," he said.

"You can walk," I remind him for the hundredth time. "It's still walking even if you use a walker. And soon I'm sure you won't even need that." He doesn't seem to hear me. "I used to be able to walk..." He's said this so much, and the scene was so beautiful. I wondered what this paradise looked like through his eyes.

We were quiet again. I shifted myself and scanned the beach again, letting out a sigh. We choose how we see life. I thought about how soon I would think back on this beach as a memory, trying to recall each little detail about it's magnificence. When something's always there, sometimes it begins to seem mundane, ordinary. I'd let this scene become ordinary throughout my 6 months. But it was nice to sit and drink it in again.

The forests of home are pretty ordinary. But lately I've been drinking them in again, too.

Beauty is everywhere, all around us. God has painted tapestries for us wherever we go, hoping that we'll open our eyes to see the wonders He's made. He's made life beautiful, too, if we choose to see its beauty,

and I think that's what makes the difference.

May 4, 2011


"Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity." 1 Timothy 4:12

I'm home now. Been  home for several days. Life is sort of a haze right now, but reality is starting to sink in. I can't believe it's been over a week since I left Pagudpud. Part of me feels like it was just yesterday, but part of me feels like it was a lifetime ago. And I guess in a way it was a lifetime ago: I've passed into a whole different life since then. But I remain the same person.

I hope.

Perhaps I'll explore that more another day, another entry.

I had my 20th birthday in the Philippines. It was Easter Sunday and also our last Sunday in Pagudpud. When I woke up at 5, I decided to change my venue of morning worship. I walked down to the beach, the stars still shining above but the light of dawn brightening up the horizon. I sat on the sand and watched the boats push off into the sea. I had brought my journal, and as the sky lightened up, I flipped it open to the first page, the entry I had written during the outgoing SM retreat last May. I read through it, and one line caught my attention:

"God, I don't feel comfortable to lead, to be regarded as an adult."

I laughed as I read it. I had felt like an adult my whole time there. Turning 20 sounded too young--I felt so much older. I had experienced too much to just be 20: the things I had been asked to do, the things I had witnessed, the stories I had heard, the people I had met, the words I had said, the decisions I'd had to make, and the actions that had come so naturally over time--they did not belong in the life of someone my biological age. When people asked my age, they were usually surprised. But then they would say, "Still young!"

And I would agree. That number that used to sound so big as a child felt so small now, so young. It felt even younger than me.

One night I was talking with a dear friend of mine. At the time I was 19 and she was 21. She was thanking me for the kindness I had shown her. "You've been more of a help to me than even my relatives." I smiled at that and asked, "Well, can you consider me like one of your relatives?"

She looked at me with a serious expression on her face. "You're more than a relative, Katelyn."

"Then what am I?"

"A sister."

A lump formed in my throat as she looked away and said, "I always wanted an older sister." I laughed. "But I'm younger than you." She assured me that I was too mature to be considered her younger sister. I found that amusing.

I think people are ageless when they're working for God. I've certainly felt ageless. And if you think about it, that kind of makes sense. If we get our guidance and direction, our very words even, from a timeless God, doesn't that kind of make us--timeless too? If we're truly partnering ourselves with God, we relinquish our youthful fears and gain wisdom beyond our years. I find it quite amazing, quite fascinating, and quite perplexing.

And it makes me wonder how old I'll feel next year.

Apr 9, 2011

Where Did She Go...?


You may have noticed that it's been over two months since my last post. There are a couple reasons for that.

1. I have had an adequately jam-packed schedule since February. In the last several weeks, I've frequently marveled how on earth I managed to take the laid back, easy going, slow lifestyle of the Philippines and turned it into a life almost as busy as college. But somehow I managed it. Thusly, hardly any time to write.

2. Perhaps a slightly more inhibiting obstacle is that I no longer have a computer. On February 15, my laptop was stolen. It seems like so long ago now. It's a longish story, one I don't feel like writing this moment, but suffice it to say that I don't quite have the freedom of computer use as I once enjoyed. (Though my fellow SMs have been extremely gracious to me in lending me their own laptops when I need to use one.)

But despite lost laptops and an unusual excess of busyness, life is still grand! Though I've been exhausted, I've found that the things I fill my day with fit me so wonderfully. I absolutely love preparing and giving Bible studies and sermons, visiting and praying with people, and just taking care day to day chores. They're simple things, really. And although they can be time consuming, I don't know what else I would prefer to do with my time.

This will most likely be my last post from the Philippines. I just wanted to let anyone who happens to take an interest in my blog know why I haven't been writing. When I get back to America, I hope to elaborate a bit more on what's been happening during this last part of my time here.

When I get back to America...that's three weeks from today. It keeps hitting me in waves, everyday. Yesterday we were on an AY retreat in Adams. It was sort of our last hurrah all together, since Kim is leaving next week. We closed out the weekend praying together, and it was definitely bitter-sweet.

For now, just know that I've been happy and honored to be here. I am going to miss this place

Feb 3, 2011

Let's Get Moving!

“For, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ 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? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’” Romans 10:13-15

You know what’s scary? Venturing into the unknown.
But do you know what’s really exhilarating? Venturing into the unknown with God.
Last week I traveled there with Him quite a lot, specifically and especially on Monday through Thursday. Those were awesome days. Here’s how they went.
After packing my daypack with my Bible, notebook, water bottle, and wallet, I would walk across the street to the large house with the big garden. “Carina?” She would instantly appear around the corner, her bag over her shoulder, a smile on her lips. Then came the walk to the trike. The first couple steps were always in silence. But conversation and laughter soon followed. At the town center, Carina would wave a trike driver over to us. “To Subec,” was all we had to say as we climbed inside the cozy sidecar.
It's such a pretty place
Those seven minutes to Subec were always scary ones. Not because of the ride—I’ve long since gotten used to drives in the Philippines. But in those seven minutes, I would think about what was to come during the next several hours. I would think about the few people I knew in the barangay of Subec, the little English they spoke, and the long stretch of time we had to fill.
You see, the week before, I had felt a strong, passionate desire to minister in Subec. I’d been there on several occasions and had made acquaintanceships, but I really wanted to get to know people there, to pray with them, and to connect with them. I didn’t fully understand it, to be honest: I just really wanted to go. Since there was going to be a medical mission there soon (it happened yesterday), I had a lead-in tidbit of information to open up a way for more conversation.
There seemed to be only one problem with me going to Subec everyday: who would go with me? The other girl SMs’ parents were here and they would want to be spending time with them. Kim, Justin, and Aaron had other projects they wanted to work on, and I really couldn’t go by myself. But, God had a fantastic answer to that. Recently, I’ve been getting to know one of the AY (Adventist Youth) girls in particular. Carina is kind of quiet, and it has taken me the longest time to get to know her, but we’ve been growing closer these last couple weeks. One evening while I was still uncertain how I would be able to go to Subec, I was having a conversation with Carina about dreams and goals. As we were talking, she mentioned that she loved visiting and meeting people, saying that she would even like to spend time as a missionary. I was so ecstatic to hear here say that! I encouraged her not to give up on her long-term dream of being trained as a missionary, and then I asked her if she’d like to go with me to Subec. “Of course!” she replied.
So my trips to Subec grew a second purpose: to get Carina involved in the mission life. Awesome!
Being with Carina was great. But everyday, I would spend that seven-minute trike ride wondering what was going to happen. Were we just going to wander around all day? Would we actually meet with people? Would they want to talk to us? What would we say? My desire to take the area by storm for God always seemed just beyond reach during the journey.
Then we would stop, get out of the trike, ask “manu?” (“how much?”), pay 50 pesos, and watch the trike drive away. There was always a moment where Carina would look at me and ask, either with words or just with her eyes, “Where do we go from here?”
 “Let’s pray.” That’s what made the difference, I think. Before going anywhere, we wanted to make sure that God took us somewhere. After asking God to guide our way, I always felt better—and for good reason. After praying, it seemed like opportunity leapt out at us. Our days were all filled with people, prayer, and the Word of God.
There are so many kids in Subec!

The second day, I forgot to have us pray before setting out down the road. We had a long conversation with a couple of men who’d already had a drink or two (one hit on Carina in Ilocano—afterward I insisted that if that happened again she needed to tell me so we could leave). There was a woman I remembered visiting with a group of people in November, and I wanted to find her. So after talking to the men, we went in search of her house. But I had no idea what her name was or where she lived. After wandering down the road, looking up and down the sides of the street for a familiar sign, a realization hit me. “Carina, we didn’t pray!” Immediately we bowed our heads and devoted our day’s work to God. In particular, we asked Him to help us find the woman’s house. Once done praying, we set out again.
We wandered and wandered, going down to the end of the pavement, stepping off down trails of mud. But after about 20 minutes or so of searching, I finally spotted the trail. We traversed the mud, waded across the river, climbed up a hill, asked a neighbor for help (“What’s the name?” “…we don’t know…”), until finally, by God’s grace alone, we miraculously found the house. I praised God as we sat down and began talking with the woman. We ended up having a short Bible study together. Then we just talked and ended in prayer. As we walked away, Carina and I both rejoiced that God had led us to her successfully.

Two missionaries going wherever
they're led: even across condemned bridges

Once, as we were trying to cross a rickety old bridge, we commented to each other how working in Subec made us feel like real, hard-core missionaries, going out into the wild to find people to meet. Several steps and a couple loud, ominous creaks later, Carina said, “If I die on this bridge, I will die happy.” We both laughed. Who was on the other side of the bridge? A couple young women who wanted to study the Bible. Now we’ll be crossing that bridge every week.
Around 4 or 5 we would walk back to the highway and hire a trike. Two days we went and visited an extra house along the way before going back to the church. But once we arrived in the middle of the road with the church to our left and her home to our right, before departing from one another’s company, we would stop and pray together again, thanking God for a safe and fruitful day of working for His kingdom.
Our week in Subec was an absolutely amazing experience for me. It was incredible to see where God led us each day. It was clear that He had certain people He wanted us to meet, and at times I could even sense words He wanted us to speak. There are so many possibilities and opportunities available to us while working for the kingdom of Heaven. There is so much we can do, so much God wants to do through us. But until we move, nothing will happen. Carina and I were clueless as to what God had in store for us from day to day. But that didn’t matter. What mattered was that we packed our Bibles into our bags, packed ourselves into the trike, and packed our day with prayers for guidance. God took care of the rest.
If we don’t move, there is no gain—not for ourselves and not for others. It’s not until we choose to move for God that things start to happen. If we truly want the whole world to know about God’s good news of salvation, we simply need to start moving and praying. God tends to do the rest.
So let's get moving! I for one would like to see where God will take us.

Jan 21, 2011

The Ping Pong Gospel

"Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might..." Ecclesiastes 9:10

I realized the other day that I have not written in my blog since last year.  So for those of you who are wondering, yes, I am still alive; yes, I am healthy; yes, I am back in Pagudpud; yes, I am still having a wonderful time!
Today was a marvelous day, despite the rain that is pouring outside right now. Before my trip back to America, I met an Adventist woman who has not come to church in years. Maralin is a private practice nurse and a good friend of Norman, another friend of mine who introduced us. Today was my second day to talk with Maralin, and it ended up with the same result as last time: me feeling absolutely overjoyed with life! I LOVE talking with her! She has such a carefree, happy attitude, but at the same time she is so thoughtful about life. She has a heart of service and a passion for God. She doesn’t wallow in the problems of life, but she takes a stand against them and does her best to work for good. So today we talked, discussed a portion of Ephesians, and prayed together. When I said I had to go, she apologized for not having something to give me to eat. I told her, “No, you have already given me something—conversation. I love conversations with you!” To that she replied, “I like your face!” and we both laughed. Filipino humor is becoming more humorous to me…
This afternoon, Kim, Pastor Marc, and I went to see Uncle Mario, the man who will be receiving his prosthetic leg which was made in the states. He was SO HAPPY!! He won’t be receiving it until Monday or so, when Emily’s dad (who is visiting) will be able to fit it for him. Pastor Marc said he doubts that Mario will be able to sleep until then. Uncle Mario told me eagerly that when we leave, we need to leave him a picture of us with our signatures. That way he will have a tangible way to remember us. “I pray always for you and your schooling,” he told us, gesturing his folded hands toward Heaven. “You are a gift to me.” Yeah, I was pretty stoked with life after talking to such joyful and marvelous people today.
In other news, we have several new ministries. First, as was expected, Dr. and Mrs. Mitzelfelt arrived with me last week. Since then, our clinics have grown significantly. We now have them three times a week with a lot more people. The medical SMs have had a lot more to do, and so many more people are being helped now.
Another ministry that debuted last Saturday night was our Ping Pong ministry. While I was gone, Aaron crafted a ping pong table. He painted it green and everything. Saturday nights, we’ve been having all the AY from the region come over for games or movies or food or a combination of it all. This Saturday, the seven of us SMs, seven AY, Pastor Marc, and Uncle Ely had a ping pong night. It was really fun! Since then, we’ve been playing some every day. But besides having lots of fun and improving our hand-eye coordination, we’re using the table to reach out to others. There’s a young man our age who is newly baptized. He works in the market and is unable to come to church. I saw him in the market on Monday, told him about our table, and invited him to come play that night. I was a little uncertain about whether or not he would come. But there he was at 7:30, ready to play! He hasn’t been able to come to any church functions since I’ve been here. Now…we’ll just see what happens.
Construction has been going on the hospital again. There are about five local workers who are here every weekday to work. Kim and Aaron try to talk with them when they work together, but sometimes it’s been hard for them to connect. Now, though, instead of heading home right away after work, the workers stay and play ping pong with the guys. It’s been a great way for them to start connecting more—by having fun and enjoying one another’s company. Making friends.
Whether we are talking in a Bible study, giving computer lessons (I’m teaching a friend of mine here), or playing ping pong, we’re all taking part in ministry: a ministry of friendship, of influence, and above all, of love. I think that’s what true missionaries are all about. No matter if we live in the States or abroad, we can be missionaries to the world by demonstrating God’s love in all that we do. I think that’s what we’ve been called to do. We’ve been called to live a life where all of our actions are for the purpose of glorifying God and passing on His message to His people. And God can use anything to reach people.

Even ping pong.