Thursday, December 27, 2007

I'm 27...and still not grown up.

Greetings! Thank you all for all the wonderful birthday wishes! My birthday was great and I have been so blessed by the HUGE mass of encouragements and witty messages....thank you.

Like Tim stated in the last post....Christmas was amazing this year....hard at times, but God was so faithful.

But it hit me a bit differently. Although I could definitely relate to the feelings and experiences Tim was sharing about...I felt somewhat challenged by Christmas this year. I realized half way through Christmas day that I had not even heard, read or seen any "advent play", read the Christmas story....that is, the birth of Jesus....NOT Santa or the movie "A Christmas Story"....I hadn't even cracked open my Bible in almost a week. I didn't see any mangers or baby Jesus reminders....I didn't even think much or ponder the powerful birth of the Messiah.

Even though I sang every Christmas carol known to man....EVERY ONE of them at least 10 times in the last month, I didn't really ever thank God for giving me His Son....I never thanked Him for the sacrifice....for the miracle of the star....for the courageous example of Mary....or the faithful humility of the shepherds.....I didn't even give notice to the glory sung out by the angels or the sacrificial blessing of the magi....nope....didn't even go there....I enjoyed the peacefulness of God's greatest gift and His lavish provision and faithfulness without ever giving thanks for His Son on His Son's birthday. What a loser. I so enjoyed the Christmas movies and the 'nice' messages they shared, but even they didn't give thanks for the Son of God.

I was so pulverized by the love of Jesus the day after Christmas, my birthday. I had so many people wish me a happy day and received countless text messages from friends encouraging me on my "special day"....and I felt pretty convicted. I didn't even text my most special friend on His birthday.....not that I could....but you get the idea. Mmmm.

But I'll tell you what the Lord showed remember my continuity....MJ? She's the one who was thinking about becoming a Jehovah's Witness.....baptized into the church this Christmas.....well, the prayers must have worked! She came in for prenatals on my birthday and had said that her birthday is the 27th of December so we should have a party in prenatals!

I laughed and said, "Sure! I'll bake a cake!" She was so excited about that, but I think she might've thought I was joking because when she came into prenatals, I had cupcakes and a candle lit and a present...ready for action....she was STUNNED and overwhelmed! I even had my fellow midwives sing "Happy Birthday" to her....she started to cry! I laughed so hard...she really didn't think I would follow through. It was check out the pics....that's my dear MJ, due in March. I just love her.....

And I asked her if she ended up getting baptized in tot he Jehu church and she said, "no...I thought about what you said about knowing Jesus better before making any BIG decisions....I think I need to wait." I was thrilled. And blessed. Jesus answered my prayers....and then I offered to take her to church with me sometime....she LOVED that idea and we talked a but more about Jesus...His faithfulness....His goodness.

As I walked home on my birthday....feeling so guilty for wishing MJ a happy birthday with cake, presents and candles and not at all wishing my precious Savior a Happy Birthday and a thank you....I felt Him whisper, "Whatever you did to the least of these, you did unto ME." And I cried.

I felt forgiven. And He lavishly poured out His loving kindness on me again.

Thanks for all the comments again and please continue to pray for us...things are heating up with Tim trying to finish water filters, me trying to finish homework and birth room shifts....and life happening everyday! May the Lord give you all a peaceful and joyful New Year and may He lavishly cover you with His love.
Be blessed.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

So This Is Christmas

It's 10pm on Christmas day. As you can imagine, this Christmas has been like none of the 28 Christmases that came before it. Before I expand on that thought, let me first explain that I have quite enjoyed myself. Sure, it has been different and devoid of most Christmas traditions; but it has come with a sense of peace and joy that I haven't experienced at this time of year for a long time now.

Yesterday was Christmas Eve (Happy Birthday Joshua and Grace). Bethany and I had a nice quiet day around the house, but it wasn't without adventure. By adventure, I of course mean a cockroach invasion. Pardon the hyperbole, but the nasty creatures from the place of eternal punishment did appear in numbers. They suddenly appeared out on the porch, from where we could not determine. After a great deal of stomping and spraying of toxic death we were victorious. In the end, I believe we swept up seven of the evil creatures.

Later, we were dismayed to discover that our mongo beans were infested with baby cockroaches. Admittedly we had become so excited about our first victory over these awful creatures from the place of eternal punishment that it didn't occur to us that they would mount a second attack. After a few brief moments of despondence, we rallied the troops and dealt with our enemy for a second and final time, though the mongo beans were a casualty of war. There are rumors of the roaches gathering in the bunny food, but for now they do not pose an immediate threat.

Other than the cockroach incident, nothing much happened yesterday. It was wonderful. Bethany and I slept in and then spent much of the day sitting around and enjoying one another's company. We found a Christmas radio station from London and laughed and danced to classic carols and silly British Christmas rock songs. I downloaded Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol and A Charlie Brown Christmas for us to watch. In the evening we visited our frequent haunt, Jenn and Joe's house. After the children went to bed, Bethany and Jenn stuffed the kid's stockings. Then we played cards and laughed together until much too late.

This morning I awoke to Bethany jumping on the bed shouting "Merry Christmas!!!" and announcing that it was time to open presents (some things never change). I told her that there would be no presents until I had my coffee. She obliged with coffee and french toast in bed. I love my wife. For obvious reasons, we decided to keep the gift purchases to a minimum this year. We bought a few small things for one another, mostly fun food items that don't usually find their way into our monthly grocery budget.

We spent the rest of the day with Jenn and Joe and the kids. We made a trip to the mall and put together some small gift packages for the hobble-hobble (motorbike) drivers that work on the corner. I had a wonderfully simple day. I felt like I was ten years old again. I read a Hardy Boys book (one of my Christmas gifts), and played a silly computer game with the kids. After a dinner of delicious hamburgers (turkey is hard to come by here), we put on a movie for the kids. I had downloaded A Christmas Story for us to watch, but all of us adults had forgotten how much foul language is woven like a tapestry throughout that otherwise delightful film so we turned it off and watched the rest after the children had gone to bed.

And then the Dylan Thomas? And then the Dylan Thomas. After our card game had concluded, we retired to Jenn and Joe's living room and turned out the lights. Many of you know this, but I will inform those who are unaware. Stewart family tradition dictates that each Christmas conclude with a recital of A Child's Christmas In Wales, by none other than Dylan Thomas himself. Mr. Thomas is alas no long whinnying with us, but a recording of his narration is easy enough to come by.

This may have been a rather unorthodox Christmas, but capping it off with Dylan Thomas still seemed fitting. As Bethany and I walked home and I reflected on my feelings while trying to ignore the pervasive smell of raw sewage, I realized that this was the most peaceful Christmas I've had in a while. I know why too. Christmas usually stresses me out. All the rushing around to find Christmas presents is stressful. As a worship leader, there are usually extra church services to be worried about, and carols are either too difficult to play, with a different chord for each syllable, or too simple to play, leaving me bored and frustrated. This year, we didn't do any Christmas shopping, and I wasn't responsible to lead a single carol.

I miss my family though. I miss sitting with my brothers and my Dad, playing games and discussing hockey and Canadian politics. I miss my Mom and her wonderful Christmas dinners. I miss being scolded for eating too many appetizers. I miss my sisters in law and their beautiful children. I miss my McClellan family too. I miss watching old Christmas movies on the Hallmark channel and playing games around the dining room table. I miss teasing people for their strange "day after Christmas" shopping habits.

I don't feel alone though. Bethany is my best friend and Jenn and Joe have become very dear to us. It helped to get a phone call from my family too. Today was different than it ever has been, and certainly different than what I'd always thought it should be. But it was peaceful, and maybe that's all that matters.

It's 1:30am and I'm sitting in the close and holy darkness, enjoying a special Christmas beverage, because it's only once a year. I just finished watching It's a Wonderful Life. It made me cry, which felt nice. It also left me wanting to make a bigger impact in my universe, like George Bailey. In a few days I will be delivering a water filter to a young man who hopes to start a small business providing filters to the families in his community. Each family in his area spends approximately 1200 pesos each month on clean water. If we could get them a filter, we would save them that expense, essentially providing them with an additional 1200 pesos a month. Maybe that's George Bailey like. I don't know.

I'm going to sleep. It's Bethany's birthday tomorrow but she's working, so I'll be getting up early. Then it's off to Joe's backyard to get back to work on water filters.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Kapui Kaayo!

Yes, that means: "Very tired." And THAT I am. Thanks for all the comments, everyone! Tim and I are blessed 'kaayo' with the encouragement and prayers!

Tim is feverishly working on water of late, the make-shift roof in the Germain backyard is finished and shielding him from rain, wind, sun and snow....okay, maybe not snow. But it IS Christmas and you never know if there'll be a Christmas miracle....maybe even snow. NOT.

The very first picture posted above is me with....guess who....??? Remember Precious, my dear first catch?? Well, 7 weeks later and she is FAT KAAYO! This is good. It's hard to believe that this little 8 lb 14 oz. goober now weighs over 12 lbs! Even the Filipina midwives asked her if she was "supplementing her breastmilk" with something like salisbury steak and potatoes maybe!?

It was a blessing and a joy to see Precious again. She is very special to me.

Then the last pic posted is of Mary Joy and her new little lady, Mia Alyssa. I was blessed with the opportunity to deliver her Monday night at 2:19 am after many hours of pushing, poking and prodding. Poor Mary Joy labored all day and all night for her girl. Mia is her first pregnancy, first child and she was not well-prepared for the shock her body was to endure in labor.

Ate Elai was my supervisor on shift and she was an incredible blessing. Ate Elai is a peaceful supervisor....but has a great sense of humor and while a skillful midwife, is by far the best teacher I have ever had. Really. I am so blessed to have her as a teacher. She challenges her students to try everything, but gently instructs as she goes. She never assumes, but always encourages. I leave the birth room shifts smiling and feeling more confident than before because I have learned so much!

But this birth was one that left me soooo tired, but full of new knowledge. It required Ate Elai and I to don sterile gloves and apply so much pressure to the top of Mary Joy's birth canal and to the bottom....WE were opening her up for the baby to pass! I kid you was arms were shaking from the force and after what seemed like forever, the baby's head began to crown.....and then.....Ssstttrrreeeeetttcchhhhhh......a GIGANTIC tear tore through Mary Joy and Ate Elai got to spend a while suturing at 3 am! But the baby was healthy and Mary Joy did an amazing job persevering through the intense pain.

In addition to the crazy births of late.....I just got another A on my last assignment and head into the exam pray for me! :) Then I start the next assignment to hopefully finish before January 10th so Tim and I can head to Canada without having to fear the mass quantities of homework! ARGH!

Thank you for all your prayers and encouragements....We pray your Christmas is merry and full of the peace of God!
PS. We are trying to get our Christmas Newsletter finished and sent to invade your e-mail inboxes....if you do not wish to acquire one, let us know!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Timmybomb: Super Saint!

Thanks for all your comments! I know you don't always have anything specific to say in response to our blog, but it's nice to get a sample of who's reading from time to time.

A couple days ago I mentioned that we were able to give away our old fridge. I learned yesterday that it had a bigger impact than we imagined. We gave the fridge to Jenn and Joe's helper, Elsa. Elsa lives in a poor community near the beach. I could tell you some super spiritual version of this story, and talk about how the Lord suddenly spoke to me and told me to give her the fridge. I could tell you that, but it would be a lie.

It went down like this: I was trying to figure out how to get rid of this stupid appliance that I no longer wanted. I asked Joe if he could ask his helper where I might be able to sell it for a few pesos. When he talked to her about it, she expressed an interest in buying it. I went to Joe's house for lunch that day and she asked me about buying it, and how much I would charge her for it. If you can believe it, I actually spent a minute thinking about that! What a schmuck...I considered taking money from this poor woman.

Anyway, after being an idiot for a moment, I suddenly came to my senses. I told her "Merry Christmas, we will give you the fridge." I'm such a saint...sometimes I even amaze myself. Joe and I threw the fridge in the back of the truck (I love my truck) and delivered it to her house that afternoon. She seemed very very happy to receive it, and her husband seemed to be pretty pleased too, though with his limited English all he could say was "Merry Christmas". I was just as happy to be rid of the thing as they were to receive it.

And now for the rest of the story. Elsa's husband (I think his name is Dodong) was one of Mordegai's patients. Many years ago he got a terrible infection in his toe that spread up his leg. Eventually Mordegai had to amputate Dodong's leg. Since then, he has sunken into depression and turned to drinking. It is my understanding that he is very difficult to live with. When Joe and I dropped off the fridge on Thursday, Joe commented that he had never seen Dodong in such a good mood.

When Elsa came to work on Friday, she kept telling Joe how blessed she was by the fridge. Joe says she was almost crying about it. Joe couldn't figure out what the big deal was, but Elsa soon explained her elation. Dodong has decided he is going to make ice in the freezer and sell it. He is very excited about the possibility of having his own small business.

As Joe related this to me later, I again demonstrated my incredible ability to miss the point. I immediately began crunching the numbers. Could you really make enough income with ice sales in a poor community to offset the cost of the electricity and your time? I'm such a putz. It's got nothing to do with how viable such a business idea is. The point is this: Dodong has a new-found purpose. He has an idea he's excited about. He's going to spend his days making and selling ice.

The Lord used our old refrigerator with broken shelves to bring hope to a family. It's rather humbling when I think about it. Bethany and I are so blessed to be used in God's big plan. Even if we don't realize our role at the time.

I don't have a photo of the fridge delivery, so I'll include a pic of Bethany's most recent delivery, her eighth. This is Kyla. Weighing in at 8lb 4oz, she's a chunk. She was sucking her thumb so much in the womb that she got blisters on her thumb. She was sucking her thumb again as soon as she got the chance after the delivery. Despite the momma having a serious urinary tract infection and a host of other issues, she delivered her healthy baby at Mercy under Bethany's care. She's enjoying putting into practice everything she is learning and just finished her last assignment for 2007! She is excited to have a slight break in the paperwork....the exam is on Thursday, so you can be praying for her.

Many blessings to you all this Christmas season!


Thursday, December 13, 2007

Just Stuff...

We haven't written much lately. That probably bugs you. It makes me feel a bit uncomfortable...or is that indigestion? No matter. To be truthful, I don't feel as though we have much to tell you. It's not that nothing is happening, but there hasn't been much out of the ordinary. Perhaps we're actually beginning to get into a routine.

Uncle Bob and Aunt Sylvia left the country on Monday. We had a great visit with them. Because we have a car now we were able to do a couple of tourist things that we hadn't tried yet. I mentioned last week that we went to Samal island to see the waterfalls and the fishing village. We also visited the eagle sanctuary that is a bit over an hour north of Davao City. The eagles were cool, but I especially liked the crocodile and the monkeys.

It was such a blessing to be with Uncle Bob and Aunt Sylvia for such a long visit. Having them around made me feel a bit closer to home. The poured into us lots and they were a great encouragement. I spent a couple of days with them in Manila before they left. We checked on the water project and I got my final lesson on filter installation.

While Uncle Bob was here, we built a filter in Joe's backyard. Chad and Joe and I are hoping to build three more this month. Joe and I were out buying supplies today for planned improvements to our backyard assembly plant. Tomorrow, Chad and Joe and I will be building a small roof above our work space so that we can have some protection from the hot sun and the rain, both of which can effect the quality of the concrete filter. We hope to build two filters next week.

Christmas came a bit early for Bethany and I. The shelves in our little old fridge broke. The fridge is very small and has a habit of filling with frost (the fridge part, not the freezer!). So with a bit of Christmas help from our dear Auntie Syl, we purchased a new fridge. An-An, our Filipina friend who buys our produce for us on Saturdays is very happy for the extra space. We got another appliance for an early Christmas present too. Mum and Dad got us a microwave! This is very good news for the silly man who is without his wife a few times a week and has to find something to eat. Most Stewart men are more comfortable with the word "reheat" rather than the word "cook".

The addition of two new appliances and a truck have left us wondering if we're getting too comfortable. I don't think so, but it's an interesting discussion. I think it's important that we use these comforts to bless the people around us. For instance, today Joe and I delivered the old fridge to a very poor home. They were very blessed by the early Christmas present.

Also, one of the reasons that we need a larger fridge is that we're regularly hosting guests here at our apartment. Tomorrow Lois' parents arrive for about a week. Next month, while we are in North America, there will be a large team of Oregonians using our house as a home base for a couple of weeks. In our absence, they will be using the truck for some medical outreaches. I'm sad that I won't be in town to join them, but Bethany and I were very excited that there was some way for us to help.

I've just thought of something else I can write about, so I'll post something in a couple of days. But we need you to comment. Otherwise we don't know if you're reading. And if nobody is reading this, why am I writing this? Perhaps it's just a good grammar exercise.

I leave you with a couple of photos from our trip to the Philippine Eagle Center. The eagles were neat to look at, but because they're behind a chain link cage, they don't make for great photos. The monkey's were fun though. I'm using a new program for editing my photos and it still needs some tweaking. Upon uploading, the colours have come out all weird and the pics are a bit dark. Sorry about that.


Sunday, December 9, 2007

Looks can be deceiving!

Greetings! Tim is still in Manila, but should return today, so I will have him write a gargantuan post this evening. :)

Pictured above is Jine and baby Karl Sheina. She was endorsed to me by Heather, another midwife at Mercy, when I came for day shift on Friday morning. I was warned that she may be a transport as she is only 18, it's her first baby, and she had been there ALL night laboring.

So Jine spent the day with me.....laboring quietly. Then around 9 am, she looked significantly different....she was visibly in pain, writhing, and getting a little annoyed with all my checks. I called her bana (husband) in and was shocked to see a 48 year-old man with a giant smile. Yup, this 18 year-old had a 48 year-old husband...except he wasn't really her husband....he was her boyfriend, but they wanna get married in the new year....

Needless to say, I was mildly concerned about the situation as I didn't know the status of their's pretty rare to have such an age gap and sometimes it indicates possible abuse....but then he walked into her cubicle.....

Her eyes lit up and he rushed to her side. He was AMAZING....he coached her through her long labor and when she said she couldn't do it anymore, he was the one who reassured her how strong she is and what a beautiful baby they will have. And when she was at her very last wit....he was there to stroke her face and squeeze her hand. I was blessed.

And then as the baby started to crown, I was certain this primipara was going to tear, but she followed all our directions and once again, her boyfriend joined in the coaching and she pushed out the littlest, most beautiful baby girl...without tearing. :) The two of them burst into tears and thanked the Lord (they're Catholic) for their baby. I was so humbled by them.

Despite losing a lot of blood, Jine is doing great and enjoying motherhood. So young, but well-supported. Her bana has even offered to stay home with her until she feels confident enough for him to go back to work. That seldom happens! I was so humbled and convicted that my first look at this couple made me so suspicious and to see this well-supported couple was a pleasant surprise.

Here is Jine, one day after having her precious daughter. And pictured below is Karl Shaina's very first baby picture. :)

God is faithful. The crazy part about this shift is that between four midwives, we had 7-9 patients, three transports, 4 births, and plenty of newborn checks.....whoa. It was so totally crazy. I was sweating buckets and we ended up having to call one more midwife in to help.....and yet, everything got done....crash course in midwifery, though!

Be blessed.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

"The most wonderful time of the year?"

Greetings! This is Jelly....she just got married....she is due in February and she is my dear continuity. Unfortunately, I may not be able to attend her birth as Tim and I have the amazing opportunity to take our furlough 7 months early! Instead of trying to go back to Canada in August, the Lord has provided a means to come in mid-January until mid-February! Tim will be in his best friend's wedding and I will get to see my Dad, who is currently recovering from back surgery. God's timing is so gracious. :)

Please pray for Jelly. And please pray for my Dad.

My other continuity (whose pic I will post later...) is named MJ (Mary Jean). She is HILARIOUS! This is her first pregnancy and she is so excited to finally be pregnant. She's only 23, but most of her friends have babies already, so this pregnancy is very special. She works as a high school math teacher and her husband, I mentioned in a previous post, works for Jack and Jill snack company....the company that makes me my Milky Knots...the most wonderful Filipino delicacy in the world! Tee hee.....or least in the Philippines.....anyways....
These are Milky Knots....white chocolate, milk chocolate and strawberry....Mom, Dad, I am bringing you some! :)

Moving on, MJ (my continuity) brought me 6 bags of the stuff yesterday in prenatals....I was SO blessed....I had to share them with Bob and Sylvia and all the Filipinos. Good times.
But as MJ and I talked (she knows a fair bit of English) I discovered that she is at a turning point in her life. She is debating whether to be baptized into the Jehovah's Witness church. She said that she had tried Mormonism and Catholicism, but figured that Jehus were the next step. I listened. She paused and then asked..."What do you think, Ma'am Bethany?"

What an opportunity, I thought! Way cool! But then the Lord began to speak. I just told her that the biggest difference between all those religions she has tried was their thoughts on Jesus and who HE is. She agreed. I told her that I believed that Jesus was the Son of God, but also God Himself. She giggled and shook her head a bit. She said, "That's where they differ." Exactly.

So I asked her if she believed in the Holy Spirit. She exuberantly said yes, so I asked her if she would be willing to pray and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal who Jesus REALLY is, so that she would know the truth...whatever that is. :) She agreed and we prayed. I asked her if she was really wanting to seek the truth and know Christ....she passionately said I prayed again that the Holy Spirit would show her Christ in a very special way this week and that she would know Him in His complete character. THEN (because it's Christmastime...duh!) I asked her what she was doing for Christmas....and she said, "nothing, because the JW church doesn't celebrate."

Then I asked if she ever celebrates HER birthday....and she said, "no, but I celebrate my birth anniversary...." I laughed soooooo hard...she did, too, as we pondered the irony. She asked when my birthday was and I happened to look on the calendar and realized that my birthday would be the next time I would see her for prenatal exams! Then she told me HER birthday was the day AFTER mine! So, on December 26th, MJ and I are having cake at prenatal exams....she wanted chocolate AND vanilla that's my contribution....she's bringing the Milky Knots!

I just love her joy and enthusiasm for life...and for learning and searching for God. Powerful.

Please pray for MJ and for me...that I would reflect who Christ really is. Whew.

In other news, Uncle Bob and Tim have been working with Chad and Joe building the first of many water filters! The first one broke and they are trying round two. People are getting excited about the idea of clean water for every home throughout Mindanao and Tim is learning so much from Uncle Bob.

Unfortunately, my schedule has not slowed down in order to hang with Auntie Syl, but I am setting as much time apart as possible to be with my dear friend....and she has been SUCH a blessing to me! She made me a Christmas scrub top with material from Christina (thanks, mum!) and is now making some scrub pants! She's helped ease the busyness of the days by keeping house and serving wherever possible....what a blessing and a joy she is!

Please pray for Tim and Uncle Bob, Syl, too.

I will have Tim post pics of the filter soon. He is pretty busy these days and will head to Manila again this weekend to finish up the work begun there. Then it's exams, homework, birth shifts, baby checks, classes, and prenatals for me.

Thank you for all your prayers.....and encouragements...please continue to comment, too!
The truck is working out WONDERFULLY for transporting water filtration supplies and Tim plans on getting into the mountains again next week to visit Ate Beth and Ate Merlyn with Joe. Many blessings to you all and enjoy this crazy and wonderful Christmas-time. :)