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.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Toti Ambulo

While at a coffee shop yesterday, Bethany got into a conversation with another missionary. When Bethany began to tell the woman about my job with the water filters, she received a response that is all too common in this country. It is a warning that is just as likely to come from the nationals as it is from the foreigners: "Be careful, Filipinos are not to be trusted." Our friend Chris, who drives us around town on his motorcycle, is diligent to remind us of this on a weekly basis. He even warns us not to trust him, and that he would rip us off if given the chance.

Bethany responded to this woman's warning by telling her that I've got a great Filipino man working with me. The missionary was not convinced, and began to regale my wife with her cautionary tales. It seems she's been battling broken trust in this country for 15 years, and she has completely given up on finding an honest Filipino.

Well, to that I say Baloney. (I assure you I am using stronger language in my mind, but as we all know, abstaining from curse words is the highest of Christian values.) Honestly, each time I am warned not to trust the Filipinos, my heart breaks. Talk about a self-fulfilling prophesy. If they know that they can't earn your trust, then why bother trying?

Now, I'm not naive. I'm aware that there are plenty of people who will take full advantage of me if given the opportunity. I've only been in the Philippines for 15 months and I've encountered my fair share of would-be crooks. But I refuse to believe that there is a complete and utter lack of honorable men and women in this republic that declares itself "The only Christian nation in Asia".

I offer you exhibit A: my friend and colleague, Toti Ambulo. Toti has been working with me for 8 months now. I hired him the week we returned from our furlough in February. Since then, he and I have worked together to build a pretty effective little ministry—we've served an estimated 10,000 people. I cannot claim any credit for this accomplishment. I couldn't have done any of it without Toti. Time and again, he has proved himself to be a compassionate man, a hard worker, a lover of Jesus, and a dear friend.

Toti lives with his wife and four children, in a simple house here in the city. He is a worship leader at his church and a visionary for his country. Not satisfied with just bringing clean water to people, he approached me recently asking if we could start a feeding program for the poor. I gave him the go ahead, and he's planning it right now. In fact, he's busy this month trying to make the water filter project fully self-sustaining so we can redirect the funds to the feeding program.

Ironically, Toti is the one who looks out for crooks for me. On several occasions he has pulled me aside to warn me that "something just doesn't feel right" about the individual we are working with. And yet, I have never once heard Toti make the declaration that his countryman are not to be trusted. Toti is also quick to challenge me in my faith, and at times has chided me for not being bold with the gospel.

I truly believe that the Holy Spirit directed me to Toti. I will never forget the conversation I had with Joe last January, when we expressed to one another that we felt the Lord had put Toti in my path to help me realize my vision for bringing safe drinking water to the people of Mindanao.

Today is Toti's birthday. He is 40 years old, which means he seems ancient to a young pup like me. I may be his "boss", but in reality, I'm just here to keep casting vision and help him raise the money to make it happen. Eventually, Bethany and I will pack up and move on to another country to start all over again. But Toti will remain as the new director of Impact Nations - Philippines, and I'm confident that he will see our vision through to completion. In the meantime, I will continue to enjoy the privilege of working with a true friend.

I thought it might be nice for you to get to know Toti a bit, so I've put together a brief video using some of the footage that Greg recorded during his visit a couple weeks ago. This is my very first attempt at editing video, so forgive the jerky transitions. My thanks to Greg Meeres for the use of his footage. And please don't show this to Coldplay, Bruce Cockburn, or U2, because I don't want a lawsuit. So without further ado, meet my friend Toti:

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Back to work!

Greetings! After mom and dad's incredible visit, heading back to work was a bit tough and yet, it is so nice to get back to some kind of routine even if Promise makes a new one everyday!

Pictured above are two of my continuities. The first is the lovely Cathy. She is having her third baby and is quite an amazing mom. Despite some rough bouts with anemia and UTIs, she is getting healthier by the day and her baby is growing so well! Her little one is due in early December.

Then there's Ana...she is also on baby number 3 and at age 35, she is hoping this baby will be her last. However, she really wants a baby girl as she has two boys at home. She is doing fantastic and has an electric personality! Her baby is due in late January.

I am so grateful for these ladies...each one has an unbelievable story and has endured hardships I can only imagine. They keep a smile on their faces and wait with joyful expectation for their baby's arrival....without fear. It's inspiring.

In addition to these awesome ladies, I have a few more expecting and I will post pictures as I take 'em. Just the thought of returning to the birth room gets me excited. It's been over 2 months since I was able to work a full birth room shift. But prenatals keep me busy and Promise is always demanding attention....which I love. 

Tim has taken some new pics of our Lady Bird and I will have him post them soon. For now, just a short post and Tim will write the next. Thank you for all your comments and prayers....especially while mom and dad were here! It was another fulfillment of God's promises to have them here in our home in the Phils. God is so faithful and He takes delight in the joy of His children. Having my parents here was pure joy!

Be blessed.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

"Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets....."

One more entry from my wonderful parents. We have been so very blessed to have them here these passed two weeks and hate to see them go.....and now, one final message from mom.

You are probably wondering why the title is yet another reference to a song. Some of you may remember it from the movie ‘Damn Yankees’. I loved that movie, but I suppose it dates me. But then, I am old. Old enough to be a “Lola”. That is the Filipino term for grandma. I rather like it.. “Lola Con”. I sang that song a lot after learning that word for grandma. Whatever grandma wants, grandma gets. Then it hit me. I truly have been given everything I have desired, and more. I am tremendously blessed!

Every need, yea, every desire for this trip has been granted. From getting the time off from work..(thank you, Dr. Hoff) to getting the shoes I wanted for hiking (at a very good price) to the finances for the air fare, to getting great seats on the plane, to having air conditioning in our room, to spending quality time with my daughter and grand-daughter, to going on an outreach with my son-in-law....and the list goes on and on. God’s presence and favor has been marvelous.

I am grateful for a son-in-law who is doing such a wonderful job of bringing clean water to the people in remote areas who have so little, and wasn’t nervous about bringing his whimpy mother-in-law along on an outreach. He believed I would enjoy sweating and bugs and carabao poo and meeting the Filipina women, and I did. I am proud of my daughter who has a heart for the poor women of this country who need help with their babies while learning and enjoying being a new mom herself. She is an awesome mom and a courageous woman of God. I love watching her bless the women in the clinic with her kind words and tender way of communicating. She gifts each woman after their prenatal visit with a boiled egg, knowing that they probably came to the clinic that day hungry. Bethany has adapted so well to the culture here and I am convinced that she is in the center of God’s will.

Tomorrow morning we leave the Philippines to return home. I am glad we had the privilege of visiting another part of the world and experiencing life as the kids know it. Challenging and exciting and even dangerous at times, it’s what God has called them to. The Bible says children are a blessing from the Lord. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full. I am not a man nor do I have a quiver, but I am a “Lola” and I am indeed blessed!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Movie Time

My friend Greg was here filming some Impact Nations promotional stuff this weekend. There was lots going on, so I thought I would tell the story with pictures rather than words.

We spent Friday in the shop. I introduced our project to the camera. Meanwhile Jun built filters behind me.
Across the street from the shop, I interviewed Glen about his work of installing filters in the Muslim provinces. I wore Greg's hat so as to keep my skull from bursting into flames. We had to do several takes because the neighborhood roosters kept interrupting. Glen did a great job of telling us how he uses the water filters to gain access to Muslim villages and build relationships with people who might otherwise have nothing to do with him.
Glen showed up with a dump truck that he had borrowed from one of the municipal governments in his area. We were able to load 38 filters inside. Another truck also left with 10 filters.

On Saturday we were in a remote community called Cabantian. Toti spent lots of time on camera explaining the delivery process, and he was great. Here he is preparing to film his introduction.I was so pleased that Connie was able to join us. She got a good glimpse into what I do, and she got a taste of rural life in the Philippines.
We hiked about 7km, with carabao (Filipino water buffalo, not caribou, the giant deer from Canada) carrying the filters and our tools through sloppy mud and several rivers.
Families draw their water from a shallow hole in the riverbank.This is the same river that the carabao poop in.Toti and I spoke to the gathering crowd, explaining that the water can make them sick, and how the filter can help.In addition to delivering three filters, we were able to visit three homes that have been using their filters for a couple of months. This one was being guarded by a ferocious beast.The rest are just some portraits and snapshots that I took on Saturday.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

It’s a Small World After All...

Well, we have a treat for you today. For the first time in the history of this journal, we have a guest blogger; nay, we have two guest bloggers. They say that you never get a second chance at a first impression. It has been 15 months since we arrived and shared our first impressions of the Philippines with you, so Bethany and I thought it would be fun if a fresh perspective was presented on these pages. So without further ado, I give you Jim and Connie's first impressions of the place we call home, complete with pictures from Connie's camera.

Connie-Small seats on the plane, small cars, small tri-c-cabs (weird little carts motored by a small motorcycle) and small people, but friendly and happy-to-oblige people. Seems Jim and I must be unusual because we get stared at everywhere we go. I’m not sure if it’s because we are white, big and totally clueless, but I think so. The best, smallest thing we’ve encountered here, however, has been a certain little redhead named Promise. She doesn’t care what we look like. She accepts me just like I am, as long as I have that bottle with momma’s milk ready. Promise Grace is adorable and it will be so hard to leave her behind when it’s time to go. It will be hard to leave Bethany and Tim too, but at least I have a better understanding now of what they are all about and how important it is that they do it. There is such a need for clean water here and the poor are in desperate need, too. On Monday, I had the privilege of joining Bethany in class at the clinic. Meeting all the students and instructors was really great. They all seem to be such caring women who really want to do a good job, and are. Of course, I am especially proud of Bethany and her special way with the Filipina women. I can tell they really respect and appreciate her.
For you regular blog readers, you probably saw the pictures of the children hanging on Jim at church on Sunday. Jim has always been a kid-magnet, but this was ridiculous! We had a great time experiencing worship with these very expressive and open people. I love how uninhibited they are to express their gratitude and love to God. Very humbling. We have so much in America and complain so often when things aren’t just the way we want. I felt ashamed of myself and asked God to remind me when I get home to be more grateful and content with the blessings He’s lavished on me.
I am looking forward to going with Tim on Saturday to deliver a water system to a family in the mountains. I will be able to see up-close and personal the process from beginning to end and maybe, Lord willing, be a blessing to someone in this part of the world. That’s my prayer.

Jim-Greetings from the other side of the world! Connie and I are really enjoying our brand new grand-daughter Promise Grace. Her parents are nice, too. Tim and Bethany are doing an awesome job here. Yesterday I visited the water filter production operation. Toti is doing a super job producing filters and building the facility at the same time. I am amazed at how hard he and his employees work to keep up with the need for more water filters. Tim is an excellent manager and visionary.

Sunday we visited Tim and Bethany’s church where Tim led worship and Bethany was a big hit with her first visit with Promise. I love the people here. They are so friendly and welcoming. As Tim drives through the city, I am alarmed at the fast pace and harrowing driving skills of these people! Horns are the most important part of the vehicle and are used frequently. After being a passenger for a number of days, the only thing I should have remembered to bring was a package of Depends! I have not gotten used to money differences yet. Paying over a thousand (peso’s) for anything raises my blood pressure. There are so many reasons why Tim and Bethany are such a great team and why Impact Nations is such a vital part of their life. The needs here are so great but the opportunities for ministry are everywhere.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Call Ernie Jenkins

Promise is sleeping, so I've sneaked away to write a few words. Bethany's parents arrived on Friday evening, and it is fantastic to see them. We've been having a great visit and they have already blessed us richly. I'm learning that grandparents play a vital role in family life: they take your baby off your hands for a couple of hours so you can get a Sunday afternoon nap.

Mom and Dad Mc showed up with a big surprise. They carried a massive suitcase full of baby clothes across the Pacific. Bethany and I sat amazed as they pulled out one outfit after another from a seemingly magic piece of luggage. Some of the gifts came from family members and family friends. Others came from people that we don't even know. You might have been one of them. We are learning that there are many faithful readers of this journal that we have never met, nor heard from. Perhaps we've never met you, but you have blessed us beyond words. Thank you so much for your thoughtful gifts. We won't have to buy Promise any clothing for at least a year (even longer if we can find a way to stunt her growth).

It was a great privilege to have Jim and Connie at our church this morning. It was also Promise's first church service. Between the cute little baby, the return of Bethany after a six week absence, and the arrival of new white people, we were a very popular group this morning. The children seemed especially taken with Jim, as they gathered around to hang on his neck and poke his belly.

I've just returned from a bit of excitement. An hour ago, Matt—the director of Bethany's school—called me, and shouted into the phone "Get to the clinic right away!" Prior to the phone call, we had been listening with interest as a chorus of fire engines continued to gather somewhere in the distance. As soon as I got Matt's call, it suddenly occurred to me that the cacophony was coming from somewhere very close to the clinic. Bethany and I left Promise with the grandparents and immediately jumped in the car to go investigate and help if need be. As we approached the area, we were confronted with an entire fleet of emergency vehicles. We parked a couple of blocks from the clinic—we couldn't get any closer—and jogged the rest of the way. As we rounded the corner it became clear that neither the clinic nor the dorms were in danger. The fire fighters had successfully contained a large house fire that at one point had threatened to devastate the entire block.

This was a classic example of a communication breakdown. In the confusion, Matt had received a message that the neighborhood was on fire. He was naturally alarmed and called me, no doubt envisioning a massive evacuation of patients, equipment, and vital documents. As I arrived at the scene, Joe was also making his way to the clinic, having been supplied with a slight variation on the big news. Poor Joe had been told that the girl's dorms were on fire. He expressed confusion as he approached the property and saw all of the girls standing only a few meters from their front door. He quickly concluded that his informant had a limited understanding of the situation.

While it was sobering to see the aftermath of the fire, to my knowledge nobody was hurt in the incident. The clinic lost power, so most of the patients were moved to Jenn and Joe's house, though I don't know much more than that. The girls are without power for now, but considering their house is still standing, I think they are taking it all in stride. It was certainly an exciting evening, but everything should be back to normal by the morning. Sadly the same cannot be said for the poor family that lost their home tonight.

As per usual, my word count is getting out of hand. We will try to write again later this week to tell you how our visit is progressing. Having learned about all of our silent (but generous) readers, I'm feeling a greater responsibility to update this blog regularly. Let me once again say thank you to all who have given gifts since Promise's arrival (McClellans, Stewarts, VanAndels, Cleverleys, and all the others who are too numerous to count).

I'll leave you with a few pics of the grandparents, and Bethany and Promise sitting among the loot. I took a poll earlier today, and the consensus is that Promise is indeed very cute.

One last thing, and answer honestly: How many of you are still dwelling on the whole "sneaked" versus "snuck" thing from the first sentence?