Monday, December 29, 2008

God's great gifts...

Greetings! We pray your Christmas was full of joy and peace as you celebrated the birth of our precious Jesus! 

In the Phils, Christmas is a very big deal...despite the humidity and the intense heat from the rays of the very bright sun, Christmas is celebrated with snowmen, sleighs, and of course, the winter nativity scene complete with snow banks and a very swaddled Jesus. I'm not sure what the climate was like in Bethlehem during the birth of Jesus, but I can almost guarantee that the shepherds were not watching their flocks by night on snowshoes and sleighs. 

We were blessed to have Tim's brother over Christmas this year and he played the "spoiling uncle" by purchasing two beautiful sundresses and copious amounts of stuffed animals for our Lady Bird. Promise seemed quite happy to stick whatever part of the stuffed monsters she could into her mouth. The pictures tell it all. Tim and I decided not to give her any presents this year as we knew she probably wouldn't remember not receiving any from her parents and she has been oh so spoiled already without our contribution. :) In addition to the gift-giving going on, the four of us had homemade eggnog (Promise had to get it through me!) and watched the traditional Christmas films on the computer...."A Christmas Story" (we all contributed to the script the portions memorized...."RALPH-EEEE" and "Frageeelay.....must be Italian....", "no, honey, I think that says, 'Fragile'") and then there was the "Charlie Brown Christmas Special", "Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol" and my favorite, "It's a Wonderful Life". Christmas morning began with Tim, Promise and Me reading the REAL Christmas story of Jesus' birth from both the book of Matthew and of Luke. This was followed by German Pancakes and coffee with Jeff and then too many sweets...and visiting our friends, Jenn and Joe. It was a peaceful day and we ended it with "A Child's Christmas in Wales". 

This week has been the first week in over a year that I haven't had assignments, shift work, clinic, or constant baby checks to attend's the first year where tim and I actually made a conscious effort to slooow down, enjoy Promise's first Christmas, and just relax in the presence of good company. What a gift. 

And now with the new year approaching, the stress level is beginning to rise once more. I am headed into a month of class 5 days a week, shift two times a week and large quantities of homework. Tim is headed into countless planning  meetings for the water filter project. We're so thankful for the busy schedule as it means there's good progress happening, but we're also very overwhelmed. But we expect the Lord to be faithful as He has always been in the passed. 

I also have three continuity patients due in January followed by three more in February and March. My patients are amazing and I sooo look forward to meeting their new additions. 

Thank you all for the many Birthday wishes and prayers for the new year! We'll post again very soon as Tim has much to share!

Be blessed! 

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Maligayang Pasko!!

Greetings! And Maligayang Pasko (Merry Christmas) to all!

As Tim shared, we are anxiously awaiting the arrival of his brother, Jeff! It's exciting to have a piece of our family here for Christmas!

This week was absolutely crazy on my end. While Tim tied up the water filter business for Christmas, I was doing prenatal exams, catching babies, and writing an exam. I worked a shift on Thursday for a dear friend of mine from Mercy. She's headed home for good on Tuesday...we're praying she'll be back, but for now, she's heading out West. So Thursday was my very first 8-hour shift in the birth room. I had been working 4-hour shifts to help ease back in and to make sure Tim and Promise were able to cope without me. 

Upon endorsements, I was handed a labor. Jackie Lou was laboring like a pro in bed number 4. All vital signs were normal, though her labor with her very first baby was approaching day number 3! She was tired, but by 4:08 pm, she was wanting to push. Fully dilated, though with a slightly swollen cervical lip, Jackie began to push....she moved from the bed to the birth stool, to hands and knees, to standing and finally to the antipolo (a cool birth stool thing). My supervisor, May, and my peers, Naomi and Julie came in to help. Jackie continued to push with her bana behind her, Julie bracing her left leg back,  me bracing her right, Ate May with both hands inside Jackie's pwerta trying to get the baby's head passed the pubic bone, and Naomi charting....we were getting tired, so just imagine Jackie! She pushed for 2 1/2 grueling hours with us manipulating her body in strange contorted positions to help this baby come and at 6:29 pm, little John Carlos was born sporting the umbilical cord around his neck and thick meconium staining.....but he was breathing. Jackie was incredible. And I could totally relate to her laboring for soooo very long. Though Jackie needed antibiotics afterwards to avoid infection and an IV for exhaustion, she is healing great. However, John Carlos has been having some lung trouble as a result of aspirating meconium, so please be praying for this little guy. He is sooo beautiful. One of the most beautiful babies I have ever seen...despite the giant caput on his cranium!

The shift was a LOOONNNGGG one and I thought my boobs were going to explode, but alas, I made it home in time to feed the wee one, give her a bath, rock her to sleep and place her in her crib. Ahhhh.

On to Friday...I did a prenatal on my continuity, Cherry Mae, and then took an exam on fetal complications...didn't feel too hot about my performance on the exam. Ouch. Then Tim, Promise, and I headed to the orange house (where the other student midwives live) for an ice cream treat provided to us from Tiffany, a former student! Tiffany is a wonderful lady and gave us midwives $40 for ice cream! So 20 of us sat down to some Christmas cheer and 4 different flavors of ice cream! A package from my momma arrived and we were able to open it at the orange was full of special treats like chocolate and coffee, Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol, and as you can see from the hilarious pic above...a special Christmas suit for Promise. Yes, Promise loves Christmas about as much as her daddy. :)

Saturday came and I headed, once again, to the clinic for my 2 pm shift. Having completed all my work, I walked to the clinic arriving at 1:30 pm....just early enough to be handed another labor! Jes, a fellow midwife, was coaching Cristie as she was pushing her baby out, but didn't want to stay too long after shift change, so she passed on catching the baby, so I quickly donned some gloves and headed into bed number 3. Cristie had only been pushing a few minutes. This was her second baby and she made the whole process look like it was as easy as brushing your teeth. Cristie and I chatted between her contractions and her mother sitting beside her filled me in on her family. Jes informed me on the patient's labor progress and any pertinent details and by 1:45 pm, Vince was born with his hand on his head and once again, the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck. He was vigorous and healthy with a strong cry. Cristie only bled 350 cc and was sutured for a 2nd degree tear from Vince's hand bashing her perineum. She was up and walking around in less than an hour and is doing fantastic. The easiest birth I've seen or been a part of in a very long time!

I was able to head home around 6 pm to pick up Promise and Tim and head to Toti's church for some Christmas glee. Tired, but grateful, the week has come to a close and tomorrow I am on duty for prenatals followed by a full week of vacation! HALLELUJAH!! So Christmas is here and watching babies be born makes me think of Mary, the mother of she must have labored on the long journey to Bethlehem, how unsanitary and lonely the delivery must have been without a midwife, doula or even anesthesia. :) How scared Joseph must have been supporting Mary as she endured such pain with hopeful anticipation of her Savior. How strange it must have been to hold the tiny baby at her breast knowing that it was really the Son of desire to give her child all the best and precious things, but could only give Him a manger bed....Who was there to encourage her to breastfeed often, wash with guava-leaf juice daily to avoid infection, and to continue eating protein foods to stimulate healing?? How lonely. 

Just a thought.

So that's my week at a glance.
Be blessed!

Saturday, December 20, 2008


This will be like the John 11:35 of blogging:

My brother Jeff is coming for a visit. He arrives at 3am tonight/tomorrow morning. I'm super excited.


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Impact Nations - Philippines

Hey folks. I'm sorry we haven't blogged much lately. Ironically, I last wrote to you to say that I have trouble finding material to write about. Since then, a whole lot has happened, and I've been too busy to tell you about it. I sat down to blog twice in the last week, but only wrote two paragraphs each time before being interrupted. Let's hope the third time's the charm.

Actually, today's post has already been written. I recently received an email from somebody interested in starting their own water project. They asked me the following questions:

What is a typical day like for your organization? Is it more managerial, physical, traveling? Or a little of everything? Do you get your hands 'dirty' building clean water stations?

As I was responding, it occurred to me that you might be interested to read my reply:

I manage a staff of 3 full time employees and one part time employee. In fact, perhaps 'manage' isn't the right word for my role. I'm kind of the visionary, and the face of the organization. Because of my wife's schedule and our new baby, I only work part time; perhaps 30 hours a week.

So a typical day in our organization is as follows:

We have 2 full time (Jun and Boyet) and one part time staff (Marlon) that build 8 bio-sand water filters six days a week. We have 8 steel molds, each of which can form one concrete filter in an 18 hour period. These staff members are also responsible to prepare the filters for delivery. The filters need to be checked for leaks, and patched if necessary; they need a wooden lid and a diffuser plate; and each filter is accompanied by a bag of prepared sand that will serve as the filtration medium. We have a 2000 square foot shop where the men work on these tasks.

The third full time employee is my assistant director, Toti Ambulo. Part of Toti's job is to manage the work done in the shop, making sure that everything is moving ahead smoothly. Another part of his job is purchasing the materials needed to build the filters. He is also on the road regularly, traveling to various communities to introduce the filter technology. He is often training volunteers to install the filters so that we can be as efficient as possible—we have around 40 volunteers working all over Mindanao.

Toti is currently concentrating his efforts on marketing. We are beginning to sell filters for a premium price in communities that can afford it. We then take those profits and use them to build water filters for the poor. Toti is also trying to market the filters to local governments, both at the barangay and the municipal level. As you can imagine, Toti is a very busy guy. He is often traveling for hours during the day in order to do demonstrations. Some of Toti's job description is similar to mine, as we are both always engaged in networking.

I serve as the director of the Philippines branch of Impact Nations, which is a fancy way of saying that I have a lighter workload. My typical day is spent setting up new initiatives for Toti. I am regularly meeting with the directors of other NGOs to introduce the filter technology and to set up a partnership agreement. From there, we will make plans to go into their targeted communities, where Toti will begin to train people to implement the bio-sand water filters. As we build relationships with these organizations, they become excited about the possibilities and soon they are asking for large amounts of filters on a monthly basis. Each week we have large trucks come to our shop from organizations or governments around Mindanao. A truck may pick up anywhere from 10 to 40 filters at a time. Toti coordinates those shipments, ensuring that we always have enough stock.

Toti and I cross paths several times throughout the week, but we have a regularly scheduled meeting every Saturday morning. He submits the week's receipts, we discuss the accomplishments of the week, and we set an agenda for the following week. He and I often spend this time brainstorming on how to best approach a particular challenge.

These days, a big part of my job is planning for the future. We are beginning to see massive demand for our product. Who doesn't want safe drinking water? I'm doing my best to put together a plan to handle the tidal wave of demand that is coming. This means writing contracts to ensure we don't get ripped off by corrupt governments.

As the demand grows, we need to spread out the workload. We are trying to open several other manufacturing sites (both big and small) in numerous locations around Mindanao. I'm drafting contracts and organizational structure that will ensure that all of the manufacturers are adhering to strict quality standards. Some of these manufacturing sites will be managed by other NGOs, while others will be run by entrepreneurs who wish to start their own small business. I am really excited about the micro-enterprise opportunities that we are looking at, but it's important for us to set up the structure now, so that we can keep a handle on all of the small businesses we wish to start in '09. Quality control is imperative.

I'm also responsible for the basic admin. I liaison with our head office in Vancouver, informing them of our progress, communicating with our donors, and planning for the future. I send weekly expense reports to the Vancouver office, and keep the financial records in order here in Davao. The Bureau of Internal Revenue has a whole bunch of hoops for us to jump through, so it's my job to make sure that we're following all the rules. We are registered with the SEC as a non-stock corporation, which means there are a number of other regulations to be concerned about. As a foreigner, I don't know enough about the red tape, so I have a lawyer, an accountant, and a book keeper that help me to stay on friendly terms with all the government departments that seek to make my life complicated.

You asked if I get my hands dirty. Sadly, I find myself spending less and less time in the field. I haven't built a filter in about nine months. I don't think I've even installed one since the summer. The reality is that, though I am the one that trained our staff, they have since built a thousand filters. They have installed hundreds of those filters themselves. They are now the experts, while I have become the slow guy that gets in the way. If I was to get my hands dirty, it would be for my amusement alone.

It also has a lot to do with my personal schedule. When Bethany and I came to the Philippines, our purpose was to see her complete the two year midwifery training program. It remains our top priority to see her complete that mission. When we added a baby to the family, it certainly complicated matters as far as scheduling is concerned. So I limit the number of hours I work each week to ensure that Bethany is successful in her endeavors. She, in turn, remains flexible so that I am still able to get my work done, though it does mean less time out in the field. But that's okay! To everything there is a season, and right now I am in a season of building the frameworks of our organization. As my daughter grows older, and as Bethany completes her studies, I'm sure there will be more time for me to be in the field.


Friday, December 12, 2008

Krizte Cielo, DOB: 12/11/08

Greetings! Tim is out today meeting with some VIPs regarding the water project. He's about 7 hours away from here...and so I am home working hard on this crazy assignment on fetal assessment and complications while entertaining a wee Lady Bird. I think she misses her daddy....the jolly jumper, jungle gym, and my constant silly-face-making are just not cutting it.

As I write, she has started to doze. Maybe we'll have 15 minutes together?

So, back in the birth room, things are hopping. Yesterday's day shift started prematurely for me. Shift starts at 6 am, but the wee one woke me up around 3:30 am wanting to eat while I wanted to sleep. So I got up, fed her, changed her and she decided not to go back to sleep but rather flail her arms and legs around in glee. What to do? I got up, got dressed for work, pumped the boobs and headed to the hour early.

They didn't seem to mind my presence...I just started working and when endorsements came along, I was given a labor. Teresa had only been at Mercy for an hour or so. She was in active labor, but this was her first pregnancy, so I was banking on it being a long shift. At 5 cm, she was clearly tired and in quite a bit of pain. Her precious mother was right beside her and was so fantastic catering to her every need and whim. She had already thrown up twice, so I was monitoring her hydration status very closely. She wanted to sleep....

I checked her every 20-30 minutes. Everything was normal and healthy. Her pulse was borderline, but her baseline was high, so it was nothing to worry about. She progressed quickly and was BEGGING to push around 7:45 am. She looked quite ready to go....Thankfully I had just pumped so I knew my boobs wouldn't explode mid-delivery...seriously, I have nightmares about that occurring in the birth room!

As Teresa began to push, her amniotic sac burst spewing thick meconium stained fluid everywhere. Not a good sign. But heart tones were still good, so we continued knowing that we would need to deep suction with the suction catheter as soon as the baby arrived. 

She pushed for 45 minutes....the baby's head came down slowly and with each contraction, it would come and then retract back deep inside after a contraction. This is fairly normal, but Jenn, my assist, noticed that the heart tones were beginning to drop. I noticed that this paralleled the visibility of the head with heart tones returning to normal levels upon retraction. Not a good sign. The baby wasn't getting enough oxygen. I stimulated the baby's head in order to make her take deeper breaths and Teresa continued to more urgently.

The baby's head was coming, but it was a slow process and her perineum was just too tight...the baby's heart tones continued to drop, so we became a bit more encouraging to Teresa to push with all her might to get her baby out. She was doing so great.

The baby's head began to crown, with my supervisor and Jenn close by, the baby's head came out, white as a ghost stained with meconium and a very tight umbilical cord wrapped around her wonder she was having trouble breathing! Teresa gave a good strong push and we got the baby unravelled from the noose of the umbilical cord and Jenn proceeded to deep suction while I tended to Teresa's excessive bleeding. She was beginning to hemorrhage.

We needed to transport the baby, as this tiny new baby girl was just not breathing too well. She cried a shrill, weak cry and was so limp. Jes, my fellow midwife prepared to transport the baby while my supervisor, Ate Susan, Jenn, and me began to handle Teresa's bleeding. IV inserted, fundal massage followed by placenta out, more blood, and trailing membranes. Portions of the amniotic sac were still stuck inside. This can add to the bleeding. After my supervisor went inside her uterus to get any placental fragments out, it was decided that we needed to transport her, too. Manual exploration of the uterus is extremely painful and without anesthesia, it can be almost impossible for the patient to endure it. Besides the retained placenta portions, Teresa was sporting a 3rd degree tear. We quickly transported her praying that she would not endure much more pain and that she would heal properly.

The rest of the shift was filled with baby checks and newborn screenings. 

After my shift, I headed to DMC to check on Teresa...She was quietly resting in the crowded postpartum area. She had a slight fever, but looked well. She had been poked and prodded, but she was sutured and on the mend. She named her baby girl Krizte at the request of her father. I was able to pass on some beautiful baby clothes many of you gave me at which Teresa got teary-eyed and excited. She had only seen her baby once, but was determined to get to the third floor to breastfeed her as soon as she was mobile. What a trooper! She said that Krizte was breathing better but would have to be on antibiotics for some time due to aspirating the meconium. We prayed for a safe and complete recovery and she promised to text me when she got out of the hospital.

I came home feeling so grateful for my healthy Promise and my intact perineum and uterus...sorry to be so frank, but for those of you that understand this junk, I know you are thinking the same thing! 

Sooo, that was my third birth shift back....nothing like severe complications to get you back into the swing of things! I was so grateful for my supervisor, Jenn, and Jes...they ran around like chickens to ensure the safety of my patient and her baby. Well, back to the homework....

Thanks for your prayers and encouragements!
Be blessed! 
PS. I've no pictures as Tim took the camera far, far away. Next post, I promise. :)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Icy Clutches of Writer's Block

This is the first draft of what will become a brief bit of prose about nothing in particular. You see, I've lost my muse; an event which ranks amongst the top three lousy things that can happen to a person (along with having your wallet stolen and being stuck in an elevator with a chatty tobacconist).

That last sentence took me four and a half minutes to write. When one has their muse, the sentences roll out like discounts at a General Motors dealership. Without such inspiration, it can take a lifetime to eek out a single clause, leaving you underwhelmed and disappointed upon its arrival, wondering if it was worth the wait—not unlike an OJ Simpson conviction.

Perhaps I lack things to write about. When we first began to address you as missionaries, life was new and exciting. Every day was a fresh adventure. The culture was accosting us from every side, leaving us tickled and bemused. Each week, it seemed, I was off in some new area of Mindanao, living life to the full. Many a time I was left with the challenge of telling you about my day in 1500 words or less. There was so much to say. I could tell you of my treks through rivers, or my tours of federal prisons. I could even dazzle you with tales of woe upon returning from the grocery store. Somehow Bethany and I managed to write 79 blog entries in our first six months here. If you look at the side bar to your right you will see that we have yet to reach that mark in the year since.

Alas, I fear my life has become a bore. No, not a bore, but certainly familiar. I have little time for mountainous journeys or 14 hour inter-provincial bus rides. What am I to write? Shall I regale you with the wonders of a soiled nappy? Perhaps you would like to hear of my 2 hours on the phone this morning? I could paint you a vivid picture of our daily 4am feeding. Dare I risk revealing that life as a missionary can, at times, appear no different from that of the North American suburbanite? Will my audience think less of me when they discover that I spend most of my days, not with the poor, but in board rooms and coffee shops, or at home with a 3 month old baby and a 17 inch notebook computer?

Am I getting things done? Certainly. Am I accomplishing my goals? It would appear so. But surely people expect more. This is supposed to be life on the edge. We're those crazy kids who sold all their possessions and crossed an ocean to bless the poor. Shouldn't we be living in a grass hut at the edge of the jungle somewhere? Instead, you get coffee induced ramblings about a business meeting. There go my hopes for a book deal...

Please understand me. I do not mean to say that having a baby has left me stuck in the city. On the contrary. Bethany has done a masterful job of organizing her homework schedule so that there is time for me to be out and about. What has changed is the way I spend that time. I am currently laying the groundwork for a major expansion of the water project. This requires me to meet with various NGOs and community developers, as we begin to partner together to reach a much larger segment of the Filipino population. I have seen my role change from being a hands-on filter installation guy, to being a big picture guy. I love the big picture and I'm really excited about where we're going, but some days I have a craving for more.

Part of my difficulty is that I'm wired to be creative. My hobbies include music, writing and photography. For some reason I have allowed my creative juices to run dry. I still play on the worship team at church, and I dutifully run for my camera every time Promise is being cute—I'm glad the days of film are behind us, or I'd be putting Mr. Fuji's grand kids through college—but when was the last time I sat and banged on my guitar just for fun? It's been months since I went out on a photo hunt, which is one of my favorite ways to pass the time.

God brought me here to bless the poor, and somehow my current activities are doing just that.
But He also designed me to enjoy Him and worship Him through artistic expression. Perhaps part of my longing for abundant life will be satisfied in a recrudescence of that expression. Often times, I feel closest to God when I am blessing the poor, or when I'm taking a photograph. My current to-do-list may appear lengthy and mildly innocuous, but I could probably find more time for creative things, and I probably should find more time to be with the poor.

Ecclesiastes 3 says there is a season for everything. I guess this is the season for soiled nappies and business meetings. I recognize that I'm still in the opening pages of the wonderful story that God has written for my life, and I truly do enjoy the hours that I spend holding my beautiful Promise. But I won't lie to you, there are days that I am sorely tempted to flip ahead a few chapters to see what kind of mischief He's going to get me into next.

I leave you with a few pics of Birdie on the Jolly Jumper, on loan from Chad and Naomi. It turns out it is very difficult to focus the lens when she is jumping up and down.


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

No Starbucks. :(

As Tim mentioned last post, he DID have a cup of Starbucks coffee and enjoyed it immensely. Some of you asked if they finally opened a Starbucks in Davao....There are few times here when a cup of Starbucks appears by some miraculous act of love from God. Alas, there is no Starbucks in Davao...or on Mindanao...or anywhere in the Philippines except for Manila (the northernmost island) where the citizens can actually afford the stuff. Therefore, smart globetrotters who make it to Manila graciously snag a pound or two of the most coveted coffee beans and share them with us poor, deprived Nestle instant coffee drinkers. Starbucks is a luxury and a hot commodity. *Sigh*

Yes, there are certainly more important things in life than good coffee, but if you're feeling sad as you drink your Gingerbread Latte, Espresso, Peppermint Mocha or Ethiopia Sidamo Bold cup of joe, we welcome your pity and would love a pound! :)  
Enjoy your coffee!
PS. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DADDY! You are now, officially, a senior citizen! Discounts, discounts, discounts!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Counting Chickens

Here that sound? It's the sound of eloquence and orderly thought going down the toilet. I’m in the middle of a pretty serious coffee buzz, so this ain't gonna be pretty; lots of run-on sentences and stuff like that. Grammar will just have to take a back seat to my post-good-meeting, highly caffeinated state.

I'm having a weird day. Very up and down. Right now I'm up. A few hours ago I was down. A few hours before that I was up. I'd better write this before the caffeine wears off, or I'll be down again. And nobody wants to hear from Timmy when he's down. Am I bipolar?

This morning Toti and I had a great meeting with Glen, our guy who works with the Muslims. He's doing awesome, and we are in early talks about getting him started with his own manufacturing center so that he can get Bio-Sand Water Filters to people without having to drive 4 hours each way to pick up the filters in Davao. Glen is one of my heroes, so anytime I get to spend time with him, I'm a happy camper.

When I got home I had an email waiting for me that I hadn't expected. It was from Rinel, the man that we have been wanting to hire as our Government Liaison. Rinel is an absolute whiz at dealing with various levels of government, so I've been eager to get him working for us, securing contracts with municipalities. He's already been doing a bit of freelance work for us, and tomorrow morning he's got a meeting with a Mayor to finalize a large order of BioSand Water Filters.

Anyway, Rinel's contract with the agency he works with is ending at the end of the month. It sounds like they just unexpectedly offered him another contract for '09. Rinel does some awesome work as a community development kind of guy, so he will be well used for the Kingdom whether he works for us or them. I guess it's just a bit of healthy competition. And in reality, if he continues to work for the other agency, part of his new mandate will be to partner with Impact to start a new manufacturing site in Butuan. So it's not all bad.

It's a bit complicated, but my initial reaction was one of disappointment. You'll remember that last time I wrote to you, I spoke of my fancy new sustainability plan. Much of that plan hinged on Rinel's amazing ability to convince politicians to spend money on community projects like Bio-Sand Water Filters. The plan is that we will get wealthier, less corrupt governments in northeastern Mindanao to buy filters at a premium price so that we can provide free filters for the poor Muslim families in central Mindanao. We can still carry out this plan, but without Rinel working full time selling to governments, things will require a bit more work.

Okay, so that covers the first up and the first down. Now for my current up. No, it's not just the coffee (it was Starbucks!). It's more about where I got the coffee. I just got back from a great meeting. I don't even know who I was meeting with. A guy named Vic. I realized after I left that he had given me his 'business' business card, not his 'charity' business card, so I don't even know what his ministry is called. I'm sure he told me, but nobody has ever accused me of being a good listener. Or having a good memory. That was an incomplete sentence.

Vic works with a group of Catholics that are somehow involved with Couples for Christ, who are somehow working together to build new communities for squatters. Squatters are a phenomenon that I'm sure are not unique to the Philippines, but I wasn't really aware of such people until I arrived in Davao. In Vancouver, squatters are just angry hippies that protest by pitching tents in public parks just to get on the evening news. Or something like that. Here in Davao, impoverished people have built actual homes on land that they don't have a right to occupy.

I think Vic and his pals (a bit of Googling informs me that they are called Gawad Kalinga) build homes for people that have been squatting in slums. The people are then 'relocated' to the new homes that they can legally claim as their own. Or something like that. It's not that I wasn't listening to Vic, but his accent proved too much for me at times. I got the gist of it though. They are kind of like Habitat for Humanity, but more local. They get their funding from the West.

So, Vic's problem is that their relocation communities are almost always located in an area with contaminated water. That's where Impact Nations comes in. We can fix his problem with our BioSand Water Filters. Vic says that they already have 1000 homes in the Davao area, and many many more around Mindanao. They have plans to build many more relocation communities too.

So in our initial meeting today, we discussed two options. We're going to work together to start several small businesses for members of the existing communities. Entrepreneurs will be given the opportunity to buy the filters from Impact, then sell the Bio-Sand Water Filters for a small profit. Eventually, as these proprietors build their business, they will be given the opportunity to expand, becoming a manufacturer, thus increasing their profitability. This also removes the burden from Impact, so that we can switch our manufacturing attention to new communities.

The second option would apply to the new communities that GK has yet to build. In this case, they would build the price of a filter into the cost of new home. This money would come from donors in the West. The awesome part about this is that the additional cost of a mere $30 would be negligible to a potential donor, yet the impact would be huge. Not only would the new residents have access to safe water, but the cost that Impact charges would be enough to provide another family with a BioSand Water Filter in the Muslim provinces.

(Wondering why I keep saying 'BioSand Water Filters'? Uncle Bob suggested I use the phrase more often so that we get more hits from Google searches. I think it's a good idea. Sometimes people use the hyphen, sometimes they don't, so I'm just covering my bases by using both).

So, in summation (I have no idea if any of this is making sense, and I'm dreading the proof-reading process), this morning I was happy because we were talking about a new manufacturing center in central Mindanao, and I was dreaming of big government contracts in northern Mindanao. This afternoon I was bummed because I had been caught counting my chickens before they hatched, though it is probably silly to be feeling blue about that whole thing, because in the end we still get to partner with Rinel, and we're gonna have a manufacturing site in Butuan.

Now I find myself gleefully counting chickens again, albeit different chickens. I really needn't worry because my God is faithful and He just keeps throwing eggs at me, and though I may end up with egg on my face sometimes, I know that lots of them will hatch. This metaphor is getting away from me.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Jonnel Ken...DOB 11/24/08

Greetings! Thank you all for the comments on last post! I have an exciting (well, exciting to ME!) update on Cathy, my continuity from a while back!

Tim and I were having a leisurely evening basking in the joys of infant-dom feeding the wee Lady Bird around 9:30 pm when I got a text from Cathy. "Ma'am B, in labor na...I come to Mercy now." That sent me into the fastest change into scrubs ever known to man, the quick feeding instructions for Tim were laid out and I was off to meet Cathy in labor.

She arrived at 10 pm and was NOT smiling. Contractions were coming every 2 minutes and were lasting a good 90 seconds. This baby was coming soon. :) She didn't feel the urge to push, yet, but she was certainly wanting to moan and grunt a bit. Her bana, Arnel, came in looking like a deer in headlights....he had done this two times before,  but it seemed as though it was the first time again. He sat quietly next to her as I took her vital signs and did an internal exam.

All normal, baby was happy and ready to come, and momma was 7-8 cm dilated with a VERY stretchy cervix. She was progressing I waited for a contraction, I could feel her cervix dilate to 10 cm leading up to the contraction, then back down to 8 cm after the contraction...we'd be meeting her baby soon!

We prayed and I made her drink some water...she was not too pleased with me about sooner did she have a drink that her bag of waters burst with a giant POP! Thankfully I had gloves on and announced to my assistant, Jenn...."SROM" She came in just as I sat down to start delivering the baby's head....But Cathy was pushing fast...the baby's head came down so fast, I had to yell at Cathy..."Hinay, Hinay!!!!" Slow down! I had to hit her leg and Jenn grabbed her face, "SLOWLY OR YOU'LL TEAR!" She stopped pushing a bit and breathed her baby's head was a tight space....the shoulders weren't coming....the baby's head was turning a deep purple and the shoulders were just refusing to come out! YIKES!

I asked Cathy to push with all her might while I manipulated the shoulders into popping out from under her pubic bone...slowly the anterior shoulder popped out followed by the posterior..then Cathy stopped pushing...the end of the baby's body was still stuck inside her...we laughed a bit and said, "Cathy, one more push, your baby is ALMOST out." She gave a quick push and out came the rest of her new baby. I summoned her bana over to take a look at the baby to find out the sex...he said, "Ah..lalake."...A boy. 

Jonnel Ken, this new precious boy with a slightly square head came out with a full head of hair. We needed to administer oxygen as he was a bit purple still, but his cry was music to our ears. Cathy pushed her placenta out with little bleeding and managed to wash and go to the bathroom without any dizziness or problems. She's such a strong lady!

I got her situated in the postpartum area, got Jonnel bathed and clothed, gave immunizations, prayed again and said, "Goodnight, see you on Wednesday for your baby check!" Then I lumbered on home at 2:30 am, thankful to head to my bed....OR NOT!

I opened our LOUD fortress gate door and started climbing our endless stairs to hear from an angry husband, "OH THANK GOD YOU'RE HOME" followed by a loud shriek and scream from a small certain baby girl. I started to go a little faster up the stairs....Tim shared that little Lady Bird had been screaming since the time I'd left (9:45 pm) until now (2:30 am) and refused to be comforted...he was tired, frustrated and ready to be DONE. He said, "Just PLEASE, take her."

I quickly ripped off my dirty scrubs, hopped into a cold shower, slipped on some PJs and grabbed the Bird...she stopped crying, but was WIDE awake. Tim collapsed into bed and so, the Lady Bird and I had a slumber party in the guest room without slumbering until about 5:30 am when she finally fell asleep on my chest. I was ZONKED. She woke up again at 8 am for a feed and that was my cue to get ready to go to a meeting at the clinic with my director. With 2 hours of sleep under my belt, I felt like I could probably make it until noon, but then, it was OVER. 

Had the meeting, took Promise with me for her immunizations, and FINALLY at 2:30 pm, I got a 2 hour nap. Ahhh...sweet sleep! Thankfully, Promise slept those two hours, too....only to be roused to get in a feed and head to Doctor Estrella's place for another immunization. Poor baby. But she is up to date on her immunizations. :) She's almost 12 pounds now, too! All is well.

I am headed into another birth shift on Friday and have a new assignment due on December's a long one, but not as bad as the last. Tim is out today making purchases for the water project...things are going well in that neck of the woods. Here are two pics of Cathy and little Jonnel with me and Promise...

Thank you for all your prayers and encouragements, we feel so supported. Keep praying, it's working!
Many blessings!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

As 'Promised'....

Greetings! So as I shared in last post, I commissioned Tim to catch his daughter smiling...and it should be noted she was smiling AT ME! So here's our Lady Bird at almost 3 months old!

Promise turns three months on Monday! To celebrate I am going to eat a piece of chocolate. Tim and I really know how to PARTAY!

In other news, Cathy, my continuity, has not delivered, yet, though her contractions are getting a bit more painful.

I finished that 80-page assignment and with some font changes, picture shrinkage and extended margins, I actually got it down to 59 pages to save paper and ink! I dunno if it can be read, but it's DONE! Praise God. And I have one whole day to spare before it's due!

I nearly got a job this week! Of course, I can't "work" for money here in the Phils because I am not Filipino, but the thought of working was actually pretty refreshing! You see, a patient of mine from way back in November of 2007 delivered a baby girl named Angel. Angel and her mama, Christine, have visited me in the clinic several times since then and last week, Angel turned the most celebrated age in the Phils....the BIG 1. Yes, the first Birthday is the biggest, most expensive Birthday of them fact, instead of baby showers, they have a crazy bash for the first anniversary of the baby's birth! Apparently we westerners have it so backwards.

Anyway, she texted me saying she wasn't going to have a party because she didn't have any money. I told her that she didn't need money for a party, just someone brings a cake and another brings some pancit (the Filipino Birthday spaghetti only thicker noodles and with veggies instead of sauce...umm, maybe not like spaghetti at all...). I told her if she would cook pancit, I would bake her a cake! She was ecstatic and she asked if I could bake her a chocolate cake....a MINT chocolate cake...oky doky.

So I baked a two-layer MINT chocolate cake with MINT chocolate fudge frosting and topped it with a Happy Birthday sign. She met me at the clinic to pick it up. I didn't hear anything for a few days, so I had hoped I hadn't poisoned her or offended her with my western cake-making skills...or lack thereof.

Then I got a strange text..."How much you charge for cake for Christmas?...My neighbors want many orders." Ha ha ha, I had to laugh. What a compliment! And a great idea for a ministry! Alas, I have a TINY oven that only cooks one round cake pan at a time and I am sure I would find trouble baking copious amounts of cake between assignments, clinic duty, breastfeeding and cooking for the fam! But hey, I thought it was fun. Christine was serious and somewhat disappointed when I answered with, "I will give you the recipe...tell your neighbors to bake their own!" Of course with a smile. So that's my silly little story for today....I am feeling a bit giddy and higher than a kite after completing this insane assignment, so please forgive me. :)

Tim says the water project has now delivered over 800 filters and with two new molds being built, the weekly filter manufacturing will increase from 36 to 48 filters! That's 2 more filters being made per day and Tim is feeling giddy at the thought of reaching their goal of 1,000 filters delivered in 2008. He is working with Toti on some ideas on how to get the project to be self-sustaining by next year. Exciting.

This week, Tim wrote up a great proposal aimed to reach full sustainability by February. With just $30,000. Canadian, the water project would no longer be relying on donations from the West. In fact, it will likely be profitable in 2009....all profits will be reinvested to grow the project further to other places on Mindanao. If you know of any benefactors or business men who would be interested in helping to reach this goal, you can download the proposal here. Small donations are welcome, too...every little bit helps!

So that's the news here...tomorrow I have prenatals and will be checking in on my dear continuities. Then I have an exam on maternal complications! Keep us in your prayers! Thanks for all the comments and encouragements. Be blessed.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Miles and miles of brown smiles....

Greetings! I just wanted to give you an update on my patient, Cherry. She is currently smiling. :) 
Remember her due date by ultrasound was November 1? Well, I'd been feeling funny about her fundal height (size of belly) and the fact that she wasn't having any labor "42 weeks" she wasn't even having any Braxton Hicks contractions! She came in for induction on Friday, but I felt like the Holy Spirit said "wait" and I couldn't shake the fact that something was not quite right....

I went back to her ultrasound ....yup...November 1, 2008 was her due date. I had already taken the ultrasound to two supervisors just to make sure everything was clear and I wasn't missing anything....but I still felt very reluctant to induce her. It's a good thing, too, because after showing the ultrasound results and Cherry's current prenatal information to another supervisor, a very big discrepancy was found! Apparently the new due date did not match a few small tidbits of info on the amount of amniotic fluid and the general size of the baby, so Ate Susan (my supervisor) called the ultrasound lab and had a very long, loud conversation with them. Though I didn't understand the speedy Visayan Ate was speaking, I picked up on a few words that brought me a LOT of joy...and a lot of joy for Cherry, too! "Discrepancy" and "mistake" were among the few words. :)

So after a long conversation with my supervisor, we sent Cherry back to the ultrasound lab for another ultrasound. Fortunately, they had her name and visit in their computer database and realized that the printout we received had been copied wrong! Her due date was NOT November 1, but January 11!!! Talk about a VERY BIG difference! She texted me with the happy news and thanked Ate and me over and over again for taking the time to check things out rather than try to induce her into labor! BOY, we were so glad we didn't! She would have been deathly premature! 

So now, Cherry is resting easy, her bana has since come back to her and she is motivated now more than ever to follow the instructions and advice of her midwife. And I am so thankful. 

My other continuity, Cathy, is due December 5 and is technically full term any day, she could pop. Please keep her in your prayers...that her labor would be quick and her delivery safe and her baby healthy! (And please pray that I have wisdom in managing her care!)

Meanwhile, the Lady Bird had one more 7-hours-without-waking-sleep last night and we're hoping that it will become a habit, though her daytime sleeping habits may indicate otherwise. She's is such a joy and is becoming quite the talker, though, like her dad, she is choosy who she talks to! She doesn't flash her grin for just anyone, either! Her little flirty half  smile makes me laugh and melts her daddy. It's amazing how quickly you begin to think how you'd ever survived without her! She has graduated to a bigger basin for her baths, as daddy dropped and broke the last one. She still loves her baths, constantly splashing and practicing, what looks like, the butterfly. She fights to sit up now and refuses to lay down...always wanting to stand up. I think she'll be walking before crawling...crawling is for sissies. 

As for Tim, he is out talking water with new contacts almost daily now. Things are moving faster and faster. It's awesome. He will give you another update soon.

For me, I am still pumping out this 80-page homework assignment on maternal complications, though I am reaching my daily homework goal and still finding time to eat Promise a bit and watch her discover her world. However, my neck and back have been reacting to the long hours in front of the computer and my herniated disk has returned. BUT, this too shall pass and God was faithful before, so I am certain He will be faithful once again.

We covet your prayers. Thanks for blessed.
PS. Sorry for the lack of pictures. I will commission Tim to take some for the next post! Stay tuned!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Random Smattering of Anecdotes and Observations

A quick update on what be goin' down:

Last night Promise slept for a record 7.5 hours! It was the most uninterrupted sleep that Bethany and I have had in two and a half months. Lady Bird has been sleeping an inordinate amount of time lately, and she is often fussy when awake. She's sucking on her hand a lot too. Bethany thinks she's teasing. Oh, no scratch that, I've misunderstood. Teething. Yes, that makes more sense. Perhaps she's teething. I don't know anything about infants, but it strikes me as a little early for either teasing or teething. But what do I know. She is still fantastically cute.

As Bethany eluded to in her last post, I was away from her for a little while. I had to spend a night in a city called Prosperidad. It's a cool name for a town, but there is little to distinguish it from it's neighbors that bear less promising monikers. I was somehow hoodwinked into preaching for a Thanksgiving celebration at a little church in a barangay called San Jose. I'm not really a thanksgiving kind of a guy. Bethany pointed out to me this week that I am rarely heard brandishing words such as please and thank you. So perhaps there is some kind of tragic irony in having to prepare a pair of sermons on the topic of thanksgiving.

Thankfully, I don't know the way to San Jose. This left me with an excellent reason for inviting my friend Toti along with me, who knows this island like the back of his hand. Toti and I had a great time together. We shared a warped and worn mattress and stayed up late, engaged in discussions of our families, our past, and our dreams and aspirations—if Toti could have any job in the world, he would be a pilot for a commercial airline. As we lay on that antithesis of the pocket coil, blanketed by the sweet sounds of an indefatigable live band that fancied itself as the second coming of Guns 'N Roses, I was suddenly aware that our discourse was not on the subject of work and was left with little choice but to be impressed with myself. I think Toti was impressed too. Apparently I talk about work too much.

The preaching went fine, but I couldn't help but wonder what the point was. I don't preach on a regular basis, and I am particularly unskilled at preparing a sermon. This left me fretting over my computer for several days. Add to that two days in Prosperidad doing my impression of a guy with good manners, I missed a lot of time from work. Not to mention having to be away from my family (I missed them so much) and leaving Bethany to take time away from her homework to tend to the baby. What's the point? I'd rather save some lives with a water filter than preach. To be really honest, the idea that somebody might have been blessed by my sermon doesn't even matter to me. I need something more tangible than that. Dysentery is tangible. A water filter is tangible. That is my world. If I have to preach, let me preach in that world. Does that make sense, or do I just sound like a total snob? Perhaps I am being too honest.

Bethany is making excellent progress with her homework assignment. She was worried that she would not finish in time, but if she continues to have days as fruitful as the last three, then I am confident that she will have no trouble keeping up with her class.

The truck had a disagreement with a jeepney on the weekend. Toti was driving, but he's okay. I wasn't involved. The jeepney came out the victor, while our truck is looking a little dejected. We'll be getting an estimate for the repairs this week. I'm hoping that the cost will be manageable. Our funds have gotten dangerously low for the water project. While I was busy preparing a sermon on keeping our eyes fixed on God's promises instead of our problems, I was given the news that I only had $500 left in the budget. Don't you love God's sense of irony? Sigh. Another $3000 came in on the weekend, so we're good for another month. And I've got faith that more will come in soon. Apparently I'm acting on that faith because I'm busy ordering more steel molds, which will increase our monthly budget considerably.

On Saturday morning, Toti and I went to a subdivision on the edge of town. We were meeting with one of our contacts who lives there. She had complained that the water that comes from her tap is safe to drink, but stains all of her laundry brown, and leaves her rice looking rather dirty. We sold her a filter, and if it solves her problem (it will) she's got three neighbors who want one too. It's looking like we could have a huge potential market for our filters, and they can afford to pay a premium price. If we play our cards right, we could very quickly build up a business in the area that would fully subsidize our work with the Muslims.

There have been a lot of power outages in our neighborhood of late. Major pain in the posterior. Why do they call them "brownouts"? It can get mighty warm in our apartment at high noon without any fans. Bethany gets annoyed because she can't get much homework done without the internet.

You may be aware of my aversion to Christmas. I want you to know that Bethany and I spent an evening together this week decorating the house for this most treasured holiday. Having reached the third -ber month, I could not deny Bethany this pleasure any longer. We had a nice evening drinking homemade eggnog (which made me miss Canada), listening to Christmas carols (which made me miss August), and enjoying the warm glow if the twinkling tree.

I met with the welder today. It looks like he can start building two more steel molds for me on Monday. That will put us up to eight molds at our Davao center, meaning that we will be making 208 filters each month. Plus, we are working diligently to get that Butuan manufacturing center started with at least two molds, and perhaps three. Also, I met with a colleague today who would like to build two molds and start an independent operation about 4 hours west of here. By the end of 2008 there could be 13 steel molds in total, which means a lot of filters.

Well, that's all I have to say about that.

That be one cute baby.Slums at the edge of a pond near Prosperidad.
Promise observed the Christmas cheer from the couch.Bethany is feeling jolly.
Oh, the merriment.Christmas is a plastic shrub and a glass ball.

Friday, November 7, 2008

there's no use crying over over-boiled eggs

Greetings. No exclamation point after that 'greeting'. Sorry. In the midst of feeding Promise, trying to do homework, transferring money to Tim on his way north of Davao, and trying to maintain sanity, I boiled the eggs for my prenatal patients for over an hour. Perfectly good eggs gone to sad. Kinda feel like a retard, but what's worse is the unpleasant smell. :) However, I made egg salad out of them and while they may give me uncomfortable unforgettable gas, they don't taste too bad. I wouldn't feed it to a friend, though.

Perhaps my saddened mood is because I am missing my family. As Promise begins her first holiday season, I am homesick, lonely, and too busy to be so. More than this, I am rather discouraged. I am fighting another battle with culture fatigue. Tim fights it more often than I do, but this particular culture point has got me itching to go home....

Remember Cherry? My continuity still hasn't delivered and I am supposed to see her tomorrow (hence what the eggs were for). I gave her money for a urine analysis, which she has not performed, yet, and though I questioned whether to give her money for the taxi fare and UA, I felt as though her safety and the care of the baby were more important than trying to keep my distance from her. You see, here in the Phils, if you're white and you give money for ANY reason, you become an automatic target saying, "PLEASE, take advantage of me!"

I have come into contact with this before with patients (even to those I hadn't given anything!) and those who said they were my "friend", but I was hoping that Cherry would remove my growing cynicism....I had hoped that by providing exactly what she needed for a safe delivery, that it would encourage her to follow my instructions and take better care of herself and her baby. Alas, all it seemed to do, once again, was to create a relationship where I am the giver and she is the taker. And so she is entitled to any wealth I have because I am a white missionary and I have all the money in the world....for this white midwife, money grows on trees, right?

Can you feel my sarcasm? Yes, I have more than she the grace of God's provision...not by my ability to generate or steal wealth. Yes, this time Cherry needed money and promised to pay me back in one year when her sister returns from Hong Kong. Gosh. Sometimes the plea for money is laced with flowery language saying how much I am needed. Other times it is full of manipulating sob stories that may or may not be true (often they are not). Tim usually plays my compass and keeps me from draining the bank account and giving it over to them. However, what confuses me is why not go to a family member or friend..? Why go to the white midwife volunteering in a clinic that you've known for only a month?

Please don't misunderstand me. I am not a Scrooge and though Tim and I are frugal, we are very generous with our finances. We love to give and wish we had MORE money to give.... We are just very choosy on how and to whom we give. After all, it really isn't our money we're's YOURS!

This situation comes after two weeks of apparent stealing at the clinic. Yes, despite our charitable presence in the community, our white midwives of the orange house next to the clinic were the victims of a break-and-enter theft....again. It is assumed that because we are white, if something is stolen from us, we have unlimited money to repurchase the item so that it can be stolen again and again....however, most of the ladies I know are on very tight budgets.

Giving my time, energy, advice, possessions, what little money we have and the better parts of my mind doesn't seem to be good enough....they need more or ALL my's never good makes it really hard to feel as though I am making a difference or being a blessing. I guess that's where I have to relinquish my desires and expectations to the Lord...again. I guess that's why it's so important to stay listening to the Holy Spirit to make sure I am being a good steward of the resources He has given me.

But I have to really sucks to be taken advantage feel like the only reason someone wants to be around you or texts you is because they want money...that flattery and a good sob story will generate all the income they want. And that if you don't provide, you're just a selfish, rich white lady who buys expensive perfume and spends all day in a salon....or so it just so happens that my last haircut cost me $3. And it looks like it, too.

Unfortunately, these events have created a cynicism that has built a wall up in me so that I don't allow any Filipina too close...I hesitate to invite them to my house for fear they will see how God has blessed me and assume I have unlimited wealth (the truth is, all that we have has been given to us!).

Now I know there are Filipinos out there that are different... Just a few posts ago, we talked about our trustworthy companion, Toti....he's great! But unfortunately, people like him are hard to find. I feel like such a turd for having these feelings and needing to protect myself....thanks for reading my struggle and rant....I know this season will pass

"Oh, Lord, give me grace and forgive me what You see...."

Be blessed.
PS. Here are the latest Lady Bird pics and me with my trusty sling...I never do anything without it! (Thanks Laura!)

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Procrastination, My Old Friend

Why do today what you can do tomorrow? This philosophy has plagued me for most of my life. Procrastination and I are blood brothers. I'm not sure when we made our pact, but I don't remember a time when we weren't on speaking terms. Throughout my existence I have repeatedly found myself at the bottom of a pit that Procrastination helped me dig.

I was often grounded as a child because I had failed to complete major assignments on time. In fact, there were times that I had not even started the assignment by the time the due date had rolled around. My customers were reportedly unhappy with me when I found time to watch my afternoon cartoons before delivering the evening newspaper. Cleaning my room was always a mystery; even though I was stuck in my bedroom with nothing to do but clean, I would somehow find a way to delay the inevitable.

Isn't it funny how we always expect to shed our character flaws each time our lives take a major turn? When I started university, I swore that I would become a better student. Silly me. I dropped out in the middle of my second year (unavoidable when one adopts the attitude of Why go to class today when I could go to class next week?). When I moved into my own apartment, I was determined to clean on a regular basis. But, alas, Why do dishes today when I could do them tomorrow? Somewhere in a Vancouver landfill, the mold is still clinging steadfast to my first set of kitchenware. Surely marriage is an excellent opportunity to improve one's self. And yet, even as I type, I notice several articles of dirty clothing littering the floor on my side of the bed.

So when I moved to the Philippines, I was once again confronted with my weakness. Would this be the moment in history when I would finally start acting like an adult, and end my tumultuous relationship with Procrastination? Well, yes and no. I believe that I have taken major strides to distance myself, and Procrastination and I are more like acquaintances now, rather than the best of friends. Oh sure, he still comes calling on a regular basis, but I'm much less likely to answer.

What has led to this breakthrough? Procrastination has always had the potential to annoy my teachers, my parents, or my spouse. Apparently their exasperation was never enough to motivate me to get the job done in a timely fashion. But things are different now. People are counting on me. Not to sound too dramatic, but lives hang in the balance.

Last week in our newsletter, I mentioned a village that has been transformed by our bio-sand water filters. This community has watched as several children die every year from diarrhea, a direct result of their contaminated water source. There are now 42 families that are sharing 4 bio sand water filters. The community health worker has reported that there has not been a single case of diarrhea since the filters were installed. What if I had procrastinated, and waited an extra month before getting around to delivering the filters? Would another child have died?

The stakes are just too high. Now, I'm not telling you that I'm totally cured. It is still a daily struggle. There are always things competing for my attention. Tasks that are perfectly legitimate, yet not high priority, may find themselves cutting in line and reaching completion before their time—right now I'm supposed to be working on a budget proposal, but I felt like writing words instead of numbers so the budget has been rudely delayed. And yet, when push comes to shove, I'm getting the job done.

I recently met with one of my contacts here in town who told me that his organization would like to begin manufacturing filters in Butuan, a city in the north eastern corner of Mindanao. He informed me that he had a man who wanted to make filters his full-time job. Immediately after that meeting, Procrastination came by for a visit. I had a choice. Was I going to once again welcome in my old friend, or was I going to tell him to take a long walk off a short pier? By the grace of God, I was able to resist the temptation to come home and watch television or some such nonsense. Instead, I spent the rest of that afternoon (when I wasn't caring for Promise—family always comes first) making phone calls and sending emails and text messages, making arrangements to visit Butuan and get things started.

We made our trip to Butuan on Saturday. The trip takes about five hours when carrying three filters. We left at 4am so that we would be in Butuan for our 9 o'clock meeting, so we were able to enjoy the sunrise along the way. We spent about four hours with our old friend Rinel, who had received training from us earlier this year. He is so excited about working with us, and I can tell that he is truly committed to making this new endeavor a success. I was able to make a presentation to a group of church leaders who are now very excited about the possibility of providing safe water to the remote communities where they are planting churches. Rinel worked with Toti and I to demonstrate the bio sand water filter to a large group of pastors and parishioners. After lunch, we were back on the road and arrived in Davao just after dinner. Yes, it was a long way to go for a meeting (similar to driving from Vancouver to Portland), but it was certainly worth it.

I'll let you know how things develop. We are still in the planning stage, and we need to find some funding to get Rinel a couple of steel molds to make the filters. But it sounds like the Lord has provided a team of welders that will be able to provide some free labor, so that's very exciting. My hope is that by December we will have a two man operation in Butuan that will be able to provide a couple of filters a day to an area that has been too far away for us to reach. They will be a micro enterprise operation, so it should be fully self-sustaining.

I was in another meeting last week with a local organization called Tricom that works with tribal people in the province of South Cotabato. It would have been easy to treat the meeting as a simple introduction, and leave feeling thankful for the new contact. After all, I'm plenty busy with this stuff in Butuan. But again, I felt the intense urgency of the need. We were able to make plans, and Toti will be visiting one of their communities next week, bringing filters with him. We will be in another of their communities later this month, and we are already talking about starting several small businesses to help with distribution. We are also in talks with one of the local governments that Tricom works with, hoping to secure their support.

Why am I telling you all this? I'm afraid it sounds like I'm patting myself on the back. I assure you that is not my intention. I guess I just wanted to encourage you. Each and every one of us has at least one major character flaw that has plagued us for years. I'm not sure what yours is, but I want to tell you that you can beat it. When God gives you an assignment, and you suddenly find yourself with purpose and vision, there is an abundance of grace to overcome your issues and just get the job done. You still must make the choice daily to flee from temptation, but it's definitely getting easier for me. After all, Why do tomorrow what I could do today?


Friday, October 31, 2008

Puuullllleeeeeaaasssee Pray! Thanks!

Greetings! As Tim shared last post, I just finished the crash course on Anat and Phys and now it's on to "Maternal Complications". Here I sit with Promise nestled in my lap smiling through her "happy dreams"....she does that. Or maybe she's just pooping again. She does that, too. 

She's smiling a ton now and even has attempted to giggle with her mouth wide open, grinning from ear to ear with two giant dimples, her giggles sound more like a poor gasp for air than a laugh....but I am so proud of her. With her in the sling, we made soup, put laundry on the line and even did one question on my homework until she became disinterested and mildly upset....

But the reason I am writing is not to talk more about our Lady Bird (Tim does enough of that!), but to talk about my dear patient, Cherry. The pic above is Mercy Clinic...I don't think that I've ever posted a pic of where I work! So here you back to Cherry.

She's lovely and at only 18, she is just about to enter into motherhood for the first time. 

Eight weeks ago, I asked her to get an ultrasound to find out how far along she was because her fundal height and size of baby seemed very large for her January due date. She said she would get one as soon as she got the money for one....she estimated it would be about a week. So I scheduled her for the following week so that we could go over the ultrasound results together. She never came.
I texted.
No answer.
I texted again.
She said she couldn't come for another prenatal because she was getting married the following week!
GREAT!!! I was so excited. So I scheduled a new time for her prenatal so that we did not interfere on her wedding plans....she never came.
Then I got a text this passed Thursday...."Ma'am!", she says, "My due date is November 1 and my bana left me."
Shocked and concerned, I begged her to come to the clinic as soon as possible, but she was an hour outside of the city without a centavo (that's a penny) to her name. 
We chatted via text for over two hours devising a plan to get her to Mercy or to have me come to her, she was very reluctant with that. So I offered to pay her taxi fare to the clinic if she would just come now. She finally agreed and arrived at 7 pm at the clinic. She looked significantly more pregnant and tired, too.

The next hour consisted of hearing her side of the story in broken English, eating some food that Ate Christina made for us, and going over her ultrasound results. Sure enough, baby boy to be born around November 1. Her bana assumed that it was not his child because she told him she was due in January and though she says she has never been with another man, he canceled the wedding and left her to fend for her and her coming baby boy. And her family lives almost 5 hours away! I was &$%%#$, if you can imagine. Go ahead and fill in the blank.

We spent a while on her prenatal exam, complete with urine analysis. The results were not good. She had protein in her urine. A sign of preeclampsia. We tested again, just to make sure. Yup. Protein. Her baby's vital signs were good and though her pulse was elevated, she seemed to be doing okay despite the horrible turn of events in her life. Just one month ago, she was provided for, healthy, getting married and having a, without money, no husband and the possibility of complications...she is not unlike many women here. My heart broke for her.

We prayed for her bana and talked about her options, what delivery will be like and what she envisions her baby's birthday to include. I was even able to give her a few newborn outfits (Thank you to all you guys who donated baby clothes!) to lighten the mood. She LOVED them and got a bit misty-eyed at the sight of the tiny onesies with froggies on them with matching socks. She giggled at my explanation of the breast pads and repeatedly thanked me for helping her to get excited for the arrival of her little boy instead of dwelling on her loss.

I paid for her taxi fare home and a urine analysis to be taken sometime this week and asked her to meet me the following Friday for follow-up. While I am hopeful this situation will change for Cherry, I know all too well that it is so prevalent here...with little accountability and responsibility, her bana may leave her to raise this child alone. Eeerrrrrggghhh! But I will not stop praying and I will not stop encouraging her to press on knowing that God is her source and He values and loves her. 

So, perhaps her baby boy will be born this week!  I will keep you posted. Please pray for Cherry.
Be blessed.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

We've Got Our Hands Full

Sorry we haven't blogged in a while. I think it's been over a week. I hope you haven't been suffering from withdrawal. Life has been very busy here. Actually, I'm not sure if that is true. Life has seemed very busy these days. My workload is beginning to resemble what it was this summer before Promise was born. I'm very happy to be busy and some good stuff is happening (more on that later), but everything seems to take longer when you've got an infant in your arms.

We finally finished our newsletter this week (click here if you didn't receive a copy by email, and be sure to let us know that you'd like to be on our email list). I had started writing it three or four weeks ago, but got distracted with other things. Writing a two page newsletter is tricky when you've got your hands full. Even simple emails are tricky. I am often having to resort to the old one finger, hunt-and-peck method of typing, while I attempt to balance Promise on my lap and hold her bottle in her mouth with one hand.

Bethany and I have done our best to share the baby duties, so that we can both get our work done. Bethany has been a huge help even though she is in the middle of a crash course on anatomy, so she's often either in class or busy with homework. My phone has been ringing off the hook, and my email account is a hub of activity.

Just to keep things interesting, the Jehovah's Witnesses keep showing up at the door. It seems their doing a big PR push in our neighborhood. Unfortunately, they failed to coordinate their efforts, so every couple of days a different group of people tries to convert me with the same silly magazine. I haven't been converted yet. I think they're operating under the assumption that I will relent and join their church just so they'll stop ringing my doorbell.

It's funny, we spend so much time trying to get Promise to go to sleep; but once she's sleeping, I really miss her. She is just so cute. I've always been annoyed at parents who go on and on about how cute their kid is. I'm astonished to discover that I am not immune to this perplexing behavior. So if I'm annoying you by always talking about my cute kid, you can feel free to tell me to stuff it, but I'm not likely to listen.

You all have the newsletter to read, and I've got emails to write and meetings to prep. So I think I will finish this for now. I'll catch up with you in a few days and tell you what I've been up to. Here's a few of photos of my little Lady Bird. Oh brother, I sound like such a dork.