Monday, July 24, 2006

Philippines Thanks

Dear Friends and Family,

I wanted to thank you so much for praying for us during our trip to the Philippines. The trip went very well. I’ll try to give both high level and lower level details to give a good picture of the trip.

Our trip began on June 23rd when we left Kansas City to fly to Minneapolis. It was then on to Tokyo, followed by Manila and finally the island of Cebu. Not counting layovers, our total flight time was roughly 16 hours. The time difference over there is 13 hours. So when it’s 8 pm here, it is 9 am there. The Philippines are located around 5 degrees North of the equator and as a result the sun comes up around 5:30 am and goes down around 6 pm. Temperatures generally hover in the 80s and 90s. Several mornings while we were there, we got up to see the sun rise over the ocean. It was very beautiful and provided a nice backdrop for a quiet time.

The food there is fairly tasty. Rice is a staple at every meal. They also had chicken, beef, pork, and fish. Native fruit there is mangos, pineapples, papaya, and bananas. All of the fruit was of a excellent quality due to the proximity of where it is grown. In the Philippines they have something called marienda in the morning and afternoon at which you have an in between meals snack. It’s important to pace yourself or you’ll finish the day quite full. They do have some American style restaurants there such as KFC, McDonalds, Pizza Hut, and Star Bucks.

A few words in the native language (Tagalog) of the Philippines are: Magandag Umaya Po- good morning; Mabuhay (Welcome); and Salamot po (Thank you). Many people there know English and the majority of signs are in English so it doesn’t present much of an issue if you are unfamiliar with the language. In regards to cell phones, they use text messaging a great deal but limited voice calls due to the cost difference.

The Filipino people love music and dancing. You frequently will see people doing karaoke in the mall. During our stay, one evening, we got to see traditional Filipino dancing, a very neat experience.

The currency in the Philippines is the peso. An exchange of 53 pesos per 1 dollar is the going rate. We had the opportunity to interact with local merchants and it was fun bargaining with them. There is a striking dichotomy of poverty vs. wealth. As you drive along the rode, you will see a large number of shacks put up on the side of the road then immediately next to them will be a large house with a clearly more prosperous family. There really is not a middle class. This difference was especially apparent one day when we went to a basilica (like a cathedral) and many poor people were outside selling water or candles. Immediately afterwards, we went to a local mall. This was an enormous mall (around 4 floors) with many, many shops. The people here were clearly well off in striking comparison with those at the basilica.

Catholicism is the primary religion within the Philippines and can present a challenge when trying to talk with people about Christ. They have been raised in this system and do not see a need for any change. There is a great deal of worship of Mary. Many icons and statues were throughout the basilica with people praying to and touching them. They call people who are traditional Protestants “born again believers.”

The basic premise for our trip was to lead a camp for a group of middle and high school students. All of their parents are “employees” of “the company.” This terminology is used due to where some of them are located and security surrounding them. It was a conference for the “employees” and their families during which they broke into adult, youth, and children’s groups. Useful classes, worship, as well as just general filling back up, relaxing and enjoying themselves were the main focus. A group from Springfield, MO led the children’s group and one from Southern Seminary in Kentucky led worship for the adults. In total, there were around 200 people there. The “employees” were primarily based in either the Philippines or Korea.

Specifically, we led the youth through some material entitled “Life Hurts, God Heals.” It is designed as a study which helps them to walk through various hurts and issues in their lives. We usually had a larger group session where our speaker presented some information and possibly showed a video illustrating the principals and possibly a game or two. We then broke off into smaller groups to discuss the material in greater detail. I led a group of middle school guys along with one other person from my team. At first it was more difficult to get them talking, but as the week progressed we were able to dig down a bit and talk about some good things.

A couple fun games that we played with the kids included a fish and eggs game and something I titled “Water Monkeys.” The fish and eggs game is played by taking three eggs and placing them in pantyhose on top of a person’s head with him or her blindfolded. They are then given a fish and their objective is to attempt to smash the other person’s eggs with the fish. This can be fairly hilarious to watch. Water Monkeys is a basic game of keep the ball up in the air while in the pool. The monkey part comes in when the ball is dropped and it must be determined who the responsible party is. People usually present a candidate which is followed by whooping and hollering like monkeys while splashing the water and jumping up and down. (quite entertaining)

One of our tasks also included leading worship for them. We had a full band which played at night and our worship leader usually played a few songs during the day sessions. This trip was different for me in the sense that I have usually been the worship leader but this time played more of a supporting role. God definitely used the experience as a means for humility in allowing Him to use me in the way He wanted to versus what I thought I might be doing.

God also taught me dependence on my group. Prior to the trip, we each shared about “masks” that we tend to put on in order to present a front to the world. I told about a mask of independence and not wanting to depend on other people. This was definitely changed during the trip due to some fairly intense sickness towards the end during which I had to rely on my team for help. Our team seemed to work fairly well together and complemented various strengths and weaknesses.

I highly recommend anyone praying about and considering going on some type of mission trip. In Matthew 28 19-20 Jesus tells us “go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Thank you once again for your prayers; they were heard and known. Please continue to pray for those permanently stationed there; prayer is very powerful and effective as they’ve seen time and again.
His child,


For pictures please visit the following link:
As a side note, I will be going to London, England beginning August 3rd to work for six months.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Miscellaneous Updates

The haiku recently posted on this very blog was awarded runner up status in the Hipster Haiku contest. Not all that illustrious since 200 others received the same status but still kinda cool since there were 800+ poems entered.

I've been digging the new Todd Agnew cd "Reflection of Something." He has a great way of going deep and cutting to the quick in his songs. I really like how he uses many references to scripture and in Isaiah 6, basically sings scripture. I'm also a fan of his usage of and allusions to hymns. Hymns are in the hizouse.

As of August 3rd, 2006, I will be traveling to London, England to work for 6 months. I'm very excited for the opportunity to go over there and experience that culture as well as having a spring board into seeing Europe.

I returned from the Philippines on July 5th. Still trying to get completely over jet lag. More updates to follow.

I've decided that I will never be fully operating at optimum unless I am consistently spending time in prayer and Bible reading. Not that this is a new realization, just a further confirmation. Those times really keep me in tune with the master conductor. Life makes much better music when checking back with Him on a regular basis.
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