Thursday, January 29, 2009

Ups and Downs

Most of us are old enough that we are, for the most part, beyond the years of riding roller coasters. But think back, if you will, to the last time you were on such a ride. Do you remember that bizarre paradox of glee and nausea? As you stumbled from the car, head swimming, you wondered why a reasonable person would line up for an hour for the briefest of thrills. Last week was one big roller coaster ride.

Many of you are aware of Saturday's events, but you may not have heard about the days that preceded it. On Tuesday afternoon, I received a text message from Matt, the director of the midwifery school. He had been in a meeting with the board members of an American foundation that had expressed an interest in helping to fund Mercy Maternity Clinic. As Matt was telling them about the school community, he mentioned our clean water project. They told him they would like to know more about our project, so he gave them my phone number. Shortly after Matt told me of their interest, I received a message from the foundation, requesting a meeting.

Although the meeting was completely unexpected, Wednesday morning was not a great challenge to me, as I am accustomed to making presentations about our project on a weekly basis to various NGOs. Usually I am looking for a partnership to help us reach a new community, but the content of this presentation was generally the same. Long story short, the presentation went fine, but I suspected that my philosophy was a little too post-modern for them (we can talk about that another time). Regardless, I left my sustainability plan with them, in the off chance that I hadn't completely offended them with my straightforward, abrupt style.

Late Thursday afternoon, I was practicing with the worship team when I received a phone call, requesting my presence at the hotel to meet with the board members one last time. I met them shortly after eight and quickly learned that they had read my business proposal and wanted to provide me with the requested funds, including the cost of a large flatbed truck! Needless to say, I was very pleased.

But wait! There's more!

As our discussion progressed, they told me about another presentation they had heard earlier in the day. Another organization was requesting funds for a community wide water distribution system. The board had interrupted the presentation and informed the group that the bio-sand water filter would better fit the community's needs. Instead of building a water tower, the board has decided to purchase 260 filters from Impact Nations!

So that was my week...almost.

Remember the old wooden roller coasters? After the thrill of the big drop, there is the obligatory sharp turn, during which your seatmate slams against your hips and shoulders, forcing your ribcage into the side of the car. You barely had time to enjoy the reduced gravity of the decline before you were left to wonder if you had punctured a lung. That was my Saturday.

Our friend Lisa is visiting for a week from Vancouver. We had planned to take Lisa and a number of Bethany's classmates to Hagimit Falls on Samal Island. Despite questionable weather, we followed through with our plans and found ourselves swimming in the river by early afternoon. Shortly after our arrival, however, the weather took a turn, and we were soon scrambling to protect our belongings in the midst of a considerable rain storm. Thankfully, another family had strung up a tarp in the trees, and invited Bethany to seek shelter with Promise.

I stored my camera in the diaper bag under the tarp with Bethany, but our backpack was tucked beneath an embankment with the rest of the group's bags. Many of us then went for a hike in the rain to explore some waterfalls and a cave a few minutes down the river. As we departed, somebody wondered aloud if our bags would be safe in our absence. Some big Canadian dork replied, "I'm sure they'll be fine". Dork.

Of course, you know the rest of the story. We explored the river for over an hour, had a great time, and upon our return began to retrieve the bags from the hiding place. I waited for mine to appear, but to no avail. Only one bag was missing, and it belonged to Bethany and I. Someone had absconded with our wallets, our cell phones, Bethany's breast pump, and my keys. Super.

It was nearly dark when we finally drove away from the park. We had to send for a mechanic, who showed us how to start the car without any keys. The barangay captain had been notified of the theft, and the police came to file a report. I was feeling annoyed with the whole reporting process because I knew that it couldn't possibly lead to the retrieval of our belongings. Dork.

Saturday night was a difficult one. All I could think about was that my entire business was on my phone. All of my contacts; my entire network. Toti and I had a scheduled meeting for Sunday afternoon with one of our sales associates, and I had no way of contacting him to arrange a meeting place. I was feeling embarrassed and foolish.

But wait, there's more!

Joe spent a couple of hours with me Saturday evening, encouraging me and helping me change the lock on our front door—any thief with half a brain would recognize that white dude's house keys + white dude's wallet w/address = sweet opportunity to steal computers and cameras and stuff.

After my time with Joe, I went upstairs feeling a bit better. As I went to my computer to check my email one last time before bed, I was unknowingly approaching the tunnel on this ridiculous roller coaster. Unfortunately, I forgot to check the height restrictions for this stupid ride...Dork.

Have you guessed it? Yes! A complete and total collapse of my operating system! At first, my computer wouldn't stay running for more than a couple minutes at a time before crashing. But soon it wouldn't restart at all. I was suddenly in possession of a very expensive paper weight. I was already completely exhausted when this revolting development presented itself, and I did not have the mental or emotional capacity to deal with it.

There was no point in panicking, but crawling into bed without a scheduled return to civilization had a certain appeal. Now aware that calamity awaited me at each passing minute, I was quick to hit the sack. Indeed, I slept in my clothes that night, fearing the dire consequences of another waking moment.

Sunday morning passed without incident. I had to leave early because my friends from Impact Nations were due to arrive on the 11:55am flight. Except that the flight was actually scheduled to arrive at 12:55. Except that I had the date completely wrong, and Steve and Doug weren't coming to town until the following day. Awesome.

But wait, there's more!

While waiting at the airport with Toti, slowly succumbing to the fact that I am indeed a dork, I received a phone call from Bethany. Apparently the barangay captain from Hagimit Falls had called to say that our bag had been found. Toti and I—now certain that our friends were not going to emerge from the airport—hopped in the truck and headed for the ferry.

An hour and a half later, I sat outside the barangay captain's house and inspected our bag while at least 30 of the locals watched with intense interest. I was relieved to find that my keys, my wallet (minus the cash), and my phone were still inside. Bethany's wallet remained, though her phone seems to have departed for the great hereafter. We were told that a group of five boys had found our backpack discarded in a bush while playing near the river. Aware that they very well could have been the ones who stole it, I nevertheless presented each of them with a P100 reward.

That night I dealt with my computer, which, it may surprise you to know, did not involve a sledge hammer or a dropkick. (For those of you who are currently searching for the precise words you will use to craft a subtle, but sarcastic and mean-spirited dig at this Macintosh user, let me just say this: because of the geniuses at Apple who designed Time Machine, within a few short hours, and with only a few clicks of the mouse, I was able to completely restore my computer to the state it was in before it crashed.)

On Monday morning I wandered away from the roller coaster, checking to make sure my body was still in tact, with a vague sense of wooziness and wonderment. The Lord is good, all the time. But next time, I'm leaving my wallet at home.

Here are a few quick snapshots from Saturday. Not many pics that day because I was keeping my camera dry.
Promise happily waited for the ferry.

Bethany managed the hike to the falls with Promise in tow.

We all waited while the nice man got our car started without the key.


pasivirta said...

I love your truck.

and that is a great story.

BUT WAIT! There's more!

I wish I was having adventures like this with you guys.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful adventure! I love how God keeps your rollercoaster ride from getting boring. Deep drops and sharp curves are what makes the ride worth while. Keep your eyes open, your arms raised and scream if you must, but enjoy the ride! So excited about the water project! Keep up the awesome work...and you're not really a "dork".

Anonymous said...

What a weekend and what a rollercoaster! The man who started your truck with no key is better than BCAA!
Who would have ever imagined the adventure you both would be on?
Love the stories!

Love you three, Kate

But did you get the breast pump back?

Heather said...

Hey dork. You're NOT a dork.

And God is Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay Cool! :)

Love you guys,


P.S. Are you growing a little girl or a weed?! She's getting SO big! :)

Anonymous said...

I've never liked roller coasters! Just reading your story made me feel sick. I'm so glad God is in charge of the ride. We're in Singapore, on our way home; we'll talk soon. Love you, Mum

unklrbrt said...

WOW! What a ride.

I see lots of answers to prayers in your story!

Hang on!

Really missing you. and I have the same wish as Paso - wish we were there sharing the adventure with you.

Missing you three an awful lot.



Anonymous said...

Wow that's quite a story. And quite a ride! I love roller coasters but i'm always glad to get off in one piece!!! While I was ready your post, this verse popped into my head. "So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, and what is unseen is eternal." 2 Cor. 4:18
Love Nicole

Shannon said...

Tim, you are an AMAZING writer :) You captured, seemingly effortlessly, the ups and downs of missionary life!