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.