Thursday, May 5, 2011

Part Two: Destination Africa!!!!!!

Wow, I have so much to say, but so little time ha I still need to pack and I leave tomorrow at 8:30 AM..

Let me start off by saying that God has been working His love all in and around my life, and I am continually blessed by His mercy and grace. I am so full of gratitude for everything that has been happening.

Before I talk about Africa stuff, I've been meaning to share this little story/perspective on prayer/God ha..

He is like this: So He sees us roll over and slam our alarm clock in the morning and thinks to Himself "Alright, so excited for Erin (you) to wake up, I have so much to show her, I'm so excited to love on her today.." We keep snoozing...God thinks, "Alright, I'll just let her sleep a little longer, I know she's tired, but I'm just so stoked to start today with her and let her know how much I love her!!" We hit the snooze yet again and God thinks, "Ah Erin come on! I miss you! Wake up and enjoy this day I've created for you!! There is so much in store for you!" We eventually roll over, realize we are a few minutes late already and rush up to wash our face and brush our teeth. God thinks, "Goodmorning my beautiful child!! I am here for you whenever you are ready!" We eat breakfast, slump about how tired we are and wish that we didn't have to work today. We MAY say a little prayer of thanks for our bowl of cereal and scarf it down. "You are SO welcome Erin!! I have blessed you with this food so that you may choose to go out and fufill my will for you! I will bring you strength and grace for everything you will go through, just listen to me, my sweet child and I will provide!"...etc.

Most of our days totally go like this, and I can imagine God up there, just loving on us every single second, and we only choose to talk to Him, or listen for very little time...just a little something to think about and to encourage prayers :)

On to my next journey...This awesome team I am going with is about 20ish Americans (including a few dairy famers from Wiscaaansin ha) and are all super pumped and ready to serve the Lord. I am so excited for fellowship within missionary work. We will be going to so many places including a Mother Theresa HIV orphanage, a leper colony, Katie Davis' Amazima ministry in Uganda, a boys prison and so many other orphanages. The trip is only 2 weeks so I will be back on the 18th of May.

Your prayers are so greatly appreciated, I am learning how truly powerful it can be. I won't have a phone/computer, but if I get a chance to use the guest house's computer, I'll try to update you all. Otherwise, I will keep a journal religiously so I can post everything after :)

So so sooooo excited. I can't put it into words.

Precious and glorious Father,
I am so humbled to be your servant and so joyful to serve You in this way. Lead me, guide me, protect me and the whole team and prepare our hearts for everything we are to encounter. Send your Holy Spirit as our guide Father, as  You have shown me, the best guide I could ever imagine. 

I love you so much. Bless all those who I meet and open their hearts and minds to be ready for all of Your love.


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Two weeks home...

April 8
So I tried to post a week ago and wrote this big long thing and my computer didn't post OR save it, so I've been boycotting blogspot haha...

First off, I just have to say how great it has been to share stories and insights with all my family and friends. I feel like I've spending most of my time just meeting up with people and catching up and TELLING. I obviously love sharing :) so it has been great. Although, I can tell you that some people are wonderful and jsut get it, and have a heart for everything I tell them, while some are indifferent and go on worrying about their own petty problems, neglecting the thought of people actually starving to death. And I have to tell myself, "Fine, Erin, we are all called to our own way of serving and glorifying God"...ahhh..

I ran into this absolutely RAD lady who has a funky, exotic little jewelry shop in Solana Beach who had some great insights. She too was a world traveler (I think she was my fairy godmother), she has been ALL over the world- South to North Africa, Morocco, India, Afghanistan, all of Europe, Nepal and on and on...Her store consists of very curious, yet gorgeous artifacts and souveniers from her travels. She was telling Emily P and I that, no matter how much you talk or share, any experience will only be your OWN experience and you can't give it to anyone else. As much as we can try or tell of the deepest feelings we have had, we can never really share the whole experience.

I've become more content in that advice, knowing that I can give you every single dirty detail you want, and I love to, but I will still always have my own inner, deepest experiences. God has individual experiences for each of us to jump through, personalized for our own hearts and minds and souls. He knows every hair on our head, just as He knows exactly what we need to go through to learn and grow.  He is so darn smart!

Last weekend I got to go on a retreat with the amazing people of Revival bible study/fellowship group. Led by one of the very influencial couples to my relationship, Scott and Kaitlyn Cheo brought about 15 of us up to Lake Arrowhead for a weekend to be led truly by the Spirit. As I look back on the weekend as a whole, I don't feel like we DID anything super crazy, but realized so much. The "theme" or focus of the weekend was the Spirit, and listening to Him and letting Him guide our every move. Not until that weekend, did I realize how truly present the Spirit is, and the adversary spirit, in our every day lives.

Obviously on my trip to the Philippines, I felt SO led by the Spirit of God, and really let Him take over me. It has been hard to hang on to that because back home, I have my daily routines and habits and tend to do my own thing. It is a struggle for all of us.

April  14
It is so funny how we (especially Americans) are so oblivious to the spiritual warfare around us. Like I was saying I was on this super spiritual high, and right when we set in to being comfortable with our relationship with Christ, we fall. We can never be less dependent on Him, we always need Him.

This past weekend was full of ups and some very downs. Gosh, it just makes me think of how stupid we can be sometimes for thinking we got it, no matter how great our relationship or walk is. Praise be to God for His endless mercy. Prayer and fellowship has been so soothing to my soul. Everyone who I have been seeing, I am just so grateful for all the wonderful people He has placed in my life. Everyone who has been a true friend, who has taught me something, who has brought me closer to God. So thankful.


Precious Lord, 
I ask your awesome blessings on my sweet cousin Meggan in Ethiopia. You have filled her heart, and she is truly seeking you and living to serve you. If it be your will, make her walk there to be smooth and full of your Spirit. Bring peace to her and Tim's hearts as they become a bigger family with the two girls. I lift their family up to you Lord, that you will shed a mantel of love and peace over them. 

Thank you for my family Lord. I am so thankful to have fellowship with Kevin and John and Bridget and my parents. Thank you for the Chadwicks.

Help me stay focused on you Lord. There are so many distractions, and I can only be focused with Your powerful hand. Send me whatever it is I need to keep serving you. I am here, I am Yours.

I love you,

Revival Retreat 2011
Precious girls, always in my heart <3

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Update 6? Continuing the Stories...

Sorry for taking so long to sit back down and write, although I have still been avidly writing in journals or on random pieces of paper ha. I am home now, got home 3 nights ago and am still adjusting to the time. It feels great to be home, but let me tell you it is NOT the same. I think the Holy Spirit packed itself into my carry-on and cam back with me stronger than ever. I am constantly overwhelmed by Him and His apparent presence in my life. I definitely underestimated how much I had grown and received while I was abroad. It is so beautiful. I also underestimated how "integrated" my life had become and how He is present in every corner of it. All of those prayers concluding my updates like "flood me" and "overwhelm me" or "let me encounter you" or "reveal yourself to me" are HAPPENING!!!! Maybe He always has been encountering me here, and I was just never listening or sensitive enough to realize it. Do you think that is true for yourself?

Before I get in to the last days of the Philippines, I HAVE to share this story. It is very personal and I did some discerning before I decided to share it with the whole world wide web. This happened last night, March 29th around midnight...

So Cameron had come up for the night to watch the movie The Fighter, and we had just been hanging out with my fam and eating tons of my mom's cooking. It is a school night of course, so everyone went to bed and Cameron and I were left to our movie. If you have seen The Fighter, you know that is is a very compelling, heart wrenching movie (not a movie to be easily distracted from) and yet I was so distracted. Since I've been back, as you can imagine, I am so excited to spend time with my boyfriend. I feel like a crazy person in a way that I can't get enough of him. I just want to give him all of my attention and affection etc. So during the movie, I started getting a little hot and heavy and not like he wasn't into it, but I was definitely the one pushing it.

I kind of slowed down and continued watching the movie but was still so far off and distracted. Cam was intent on the film and I got the most overwhelming, flooding sensation of guilt and hurt and just like a "it-hurts-my-tummy" bad feeling. I just started crying. It was silent at first, and then as Cameron started noticing it got worse until I was pretty much sobbing like a baby in his arms. For lack of better words, (sorry) I felt so shitty. I felt SO BAD. WHAT WAS I DOING?!

For probably an hour or so, I didn't understand this feeling I was having or why and Cameron just comforted me and patiently asked me questions trying to get out whatever was melting my insides. His phone buzzed across the room on the kitchen counter, he ignored it and just kind of kissed my forehead. All this time I was sputtering and trying to grasp this intensity that was in me. I questioned my body for a sudden increase of hormones, but knew that that wasn't really it either.

Cameron scooped me up and sat me on the counter. He opened his phone and we both read a text from our sweet friend Scott. It was a verse from Philippians (I don't remember which one) and honestly the only part I remember was "Press onward." At this point I kind of cried again, and then busted up laughing with Cameron. I didn't get "it" even then, all I knew was that it was GOD that was really trying to speak to my heart. And here I was, so caught up in lusting after my lover that He had to bat my heart like a pinata until I realized how HE was feeling about the situation.

We sat back down on the couch and it was then that I started to comprehend. "I think He's mad at me..." Cameron was like, "Babe, who is mad at you??" (Ha poor guy, so confused lol) And I could only point UP. How funny I didn't even say the word "God" I was almost too ashamed to say it. I just cried again and said something like, "I'm so sorry...I feel SO bad..." God was telling me, "Um hello, even in the midst of all I have done for You in the past month, you have forgotten me in a second?" It wasn't even that I had forgotten Him, but that I just turned my back on Him so simply, in a moment of reverting back to habitual sin.

Long story short, even in the midst of all this spirit of my trip and amazing experiences of God, I fell back into sin. Just as I felt in Malibay how God burdened my heart with pain that He felt for his abandoned children, so He burdened my heart with the "bad feeling" or hurt He feels when I sin. It was horrible. At the same time, He showed his generous mercy and encouragement through a simple verse from our friend and from my Dad.

Again this morning, Cameron and I got a text from my Dad. 1 Peter 3.

 "1 Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, 2 when they see the purity and reverence of your lives3 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. 4 Rather, it sight5 For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands, 6 like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.
 7 Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers."

Again, so simply put into my life, but with such great meaning to me. My Dad had no idea about all this, but whatever compelled him to share that, got straight to the core of me.

I guess I just had to share, that even in a feeling of the top of the world, we are prone to sin, because we are human. I am so sorry, for something that might seem petty to the world, but was so heavy in God's heart.

I hope that me sharing my deepest feelings and conviction and forgiveness that God will reveal to you the same in Your life.


Back to stories from the PI :) I think I left of with right before working at Hospicio De San Jose. I'm pretty sure I captured the first day of the party and the special needs kids and bathing/clothing some of the orphans...Here are some reflections on day 3:

Wednesday I was with the 6 -18 monthers. Same group as Tuesday but combined with the 1-2 year olds. I pretty much stayed in that little playroom the WHOLE time. There were more kids so I was even a little more occupied than the previous day, picking up crying babies, wiping snotty noses, distracting jealous babies who weren't being held, singing and playing, and bouncing the cranky ones to sleep. It reminded me how truly NEEDY kids are in general. The literally NEED attention, they NEED comfort, they NEED love to grow.

This is a little disturbing but must be shared, as I'm sure it happens at many orphanages around the world too. This one little boy, Nino, who was probably closer to two than one years old, was so cute and a little chunky and had a full-of-life personality. When he was being played with, he was great. He was happy, he was laughing and smiling, he was even loving back. I had been carrying him on my hip and my muscles were ready to put him down. I set him on his tummy and picked up a different kid. Nino started banging his forehead on the non-matted floor repeatedly. I was in shock but immediately put the other kid down and picked him up again. He was wailing crying but literally as SOON as he was in my arms again, he was fine. One of the nurses gave me a reassuring look, as I'm sure my face was petrified at what just happened, and said, "Ya, we have to be careful wit heem, he throws bad tantrums." Um, okay yah, a bad tantrum...WHAT??? This kid is suffering from serious emotional/behavior problems! I have never known a regular tantrum to include self-mutilation, especially from a two year old!!

Maybe these types of actions are more common then I think, but regardless, it was such a horrible thing to witness. And you know what? There were multiple times throughout the day when OTHER kids would do the same- hit there heads on the ground, on the wall, hit their on heads, etc. By telling you all this, I don't mean to disrespect the staff in any way- they are so loving and do all they can to love on and protect the kids. Its just impossible to watch 25 kids all at once. We would usually get to the tantrums in a few seconds, but still, those kinds of actions are SO damaging to the child, physically and emotionally.

It is these kinds of things that make me realize how many kids out there are suffering from lack of just LOVE. They are starving for attention, affection and affirmation. It makes me want to ship the whole orphanage over here and distribute them to each family in the church. Isn't it our responsibility as Christians to care for the orphans? How many times in Scripture have we read to "care for the poor and the orphaned" but never thought twice about it? I am sorry to kind of preach at you through this, I was just so like- wanted-to-do-something-about-it. I can finally relate to why Katie in Uganda just abandoned her own life to mother and love on the orphans there.

On a lighter note, I fully enjoyed lovin' on the kids. They were so receptive and so beautiful. He was in every single one of them. AAAnnnddd if an of you ever go to Hospicio, ask for Sister Socorro- they are very welcoming of any help they can get.


Thursday, March 22nd I got to the scenically gorgeous Batangas, which is about 3 hours south of Manila on the east coast of the Philippines, touching the China Sea. I went with Richard and his Tita Chel, so great and car-rides filled with great conversation :) Here is my reflection...

"The Lord knows my heart best and He knew from the beginning that 21 days was the perfect amount of time here. I saw the city the province, the rich, the poor, the malls, ate all the food, got stuck in traffic, went to my parent's place in Subic, lived with nuns, worked at several orphanages, went to the beach and HE WAS PRESENT THE WHOLE TIME- if we choose to notice Him, He is always present.

I got my dream of a shell covered beach today, I am fascinated with the artistic brilliance and detail in each shell. I marveled at His creation and in the sunset. It was a perfect sunset and I couldn't get enough. i stared for a while watching "God's light" shine through the clouds and pile up reflection on the water. Then it turned a hot-pink orange sun to only light pink and purple clouds.

It's time to come home.

Thank you my sweet Lord for loving me so much and giving me such a beautiful and full journey. I will surely pass on all I have learned and the love you have shared with me. Amen."


Like I said, I am so happy to be home, and so happy to be with family. So happy to talk, share, reflect and pray. I enjoy being alone and feel such a calmness and peace in just enjoying simple time. I feel like this is the tip of the iceberg. God has only revealed the smallest amount of Himself to me and it is so unimaginably powerful. His love is indescribable. I am madly in love.

My Great Creator, Savior and Spirit,
You are worth every second of pain, of uncontrollable laughter, of every tear, of every bold moment, of every fear, of every sacrifice and so much more. You inspire me through the life of Your son and free me with Your spirit. I am so joyful in You. I am so at peace with You.

Lord, thank you for being so merciful in times of failing. Only Your love could be so forgiving and so understanding of our simple human minds and souls. Give me strength to be God conscience every breath of my day and to speak of Your name any opportunity I have. Give me courage to not sugar-coat things, and speak only of the Truth. Help me to be a true sister in Christ and to ignite those around me. Help me to be a role model. Lord, all of these things are only possible through You. You are so mighty and so Holy and I praise you for how truly magnificent You are. 

I ask that you be with my sister. I feel called to be closer to her and only through You are those deep relationships possible.

I love you with my whole being and I am your handmaiden wherever in the world I am, at any moment. 


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Update 6- More Culture and bathing orphans

So Saturday after Richard picked me up, I went to his house to hang with his Ate Jackie and little brother Duke (ha little). We sang some mad karaoke in the attic, let me just say that Ate and I killed it singing "Love Story" by Taylor Swift. She is my new big sis, doing my nails and letting me borrow a dress for the Debut.

So Uncle Pat's priest friend Fr. Cecilio Moraga has all of his family here in the outskirts of Manila (I wrote about them earlier) and his niece Rkei had her big 18th birthday debut. A debut is kind of like a Filipino quinceniera for 18 year olds, like a coming into womanhood thing. It was this grand, extravagant production of traditional ceremonies including dancing with 18 roses (guy friends), 18 treasures (receiving 18 gifts from her 18closest friends), 18 producers (18 people who helped fund her party), and 18 candles (18 wishes from 18 friends/relatives). Rkei was gorgeous in her dresses and was the Queen of the night, even among the other "queens" on stage haha...I have lots of stories :) It was cool to experience a totally different aspect of Filipino culture AND to hang out with the Moraga fam again.

Sunday, I also got to participate in some culture- the Baptism of Richard's closest cousin's daughter. Baby Jahzara is a total gem, and her dad is one of the funniest people I've met. It was very special to be a part of the ceremony and then meet the whole Caruyan fam.

After church, we went to Richard's Lola's house and I met all the cousins and titos and titas and of course Lola. They were SO welcoming and made me feel like part of the fam. I had the best pancit EVER. If you ever come to Manila, I'll hook you up with the good stuff from her ha. Tito Gilbert and I were speaking Spanish and he was just throwin in these one-liners about Filipinos, Americans and other stuff, all with a total straight face. I love big families, and I was stoked to get to share the love AND FOOD with this one :)

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday this week are all being spent at El Hospicio. Monday was with the Special Needs kids in the Rendu dorm. Ah, heart was broken yet Meggan says, God is burdening me with the things that burden His.

I got there around 8 and spent the first few hours at a party with the kids and some students from Adamson University. We were paired up with one kid each, and my friend for the day was Claire. Claire is a 16 year old wonder with Downs syndrome. She reminded me so much of the kids back at good old VCHS Lifeskills class. She was a little hesitant with me at first, but never uncooperative. She really opened up when the music came on and we danced over and over to Shakira's "Africa". She would randomly and abruptly stop dancing and come put her arm around my waist and her head against my armpit ha. We would just chill there until she decided to dance again.

There was another sweet kid (I can't remember his name :() who had a pretty severe cleft palette. He didn't talk at all to me; I think he realized that I didn't speak the same language as him, but he kept checking in on me. He would raise his eyebrows and give me a thumbs up as to ask, "You doin alright?" Ha, I got a couple high fives in there too.

After their naps, I got to help bathe and dress some of the younger special needs girls. One little angel, Celeste, who is a staff favorite ha, is so adorable and walks up a storm in her braced legs and half-crossed eyes. The other staff was probably watching me like, okay, "who's this white chick?" while I was trying to simultaneously hold up, wash and scrub this 75 lb girl. I was busy having revelations of my own.

I was thinking, okay, I am LITERALLY bathing God's orphans right now. I am LITERALLY clothing the helpless and helping feed His children who cannot feed themselves. I was so touched at these simple ten minutes. It was beautiful.

Today, I was in the Holy Angels dorm, with the 6 mos. to 1 year olds. This was a totally different experience and witness than the special needs. At the same time, they are equally absolutely dependent on the caretakers.

Many of these babies have been abandoned, some are at Hospicio as a temporary shelter until their families can support them again. There are seven 6-12 mos and probably 20 12-24 mos. We fed them, let them hang in the sunshine for a bit, went to the playroom or "development" as they call it, changed diapers, put them down for a nap, fed them, repeat haha.

Most of the time is spent in the playroom, which is a small living-room size and is just a matted floor with toys. There were 5 nurses/caretakers including me who would rotate diaper changing and breaks. They whole time there is at least one tot clinging to you, if not, sometimes 3. They all just want to be held. They want attention. They want love. They DO NOT want you to leave them. They don't want to be abandoned.

One little boy, who is pretty small/young was seriously gripping my shirt and squeezing his tiny legs to me when I would try to put him in the crib. I couldn't do it ha. I just stood there and held him and rubbed his back- I couldn't leave him.

If you have never been to an orphanage, I challenge you to volunteer- even if its just for a day. It will make you appreciate family and being so loved every single day. It will probably make you want to adopt :)

Tomorrow I'll be there as well, with the same babies to love on. Thursday I'll spend my last day enjoying the Philippine beach in Batangas! I'm so excited to see the beach!! I miss it! Then I come home Friday night...I have many pics still but seem to have lost my cord of course so I'll put them up when I can.

Love you all.

Lord of All,
You are so glorious and wonderful, You are the Father of all of us. You are Father of rich and poor, of the families and of the orphans. You have made all of us to care for each other because You are in every single one of us. Help us all to see You in everyone we meet, regardless of status, race or situation.

My God, You really have put heaviness on my heart through all my experiences here. I cannot imagine what we put You through and I am truly sorry for all the times I have burdened Your heart. You are only deserving of love and praise. 

Keep revealing yourself to me Lord, I can't get enough of You. Show me Your will every single day, I am listening.

I love you so much. Amen.

Update 5 cont.- A little taste of Malibay

This was from one of my journal entries while I was staying in the "slum" area in Malibay, just to let your mind try and capture the feel of it...

"As soon as  you walk out of the Sister's gate, a woft of pollution, diesel, dirt and garbage fills your mouth and lungs. You immediately feel like you must wash your hands. You walk a bit down the street and pass a Sari Sari store full of little packets of shampoo, soap and candies, among other small items. This may be your only wiff of something delightful.

You walk over a bridge, and down below is murky, gray-brown liquid with trash and pollution lining either side. You pass a mother and child napping on a piece of cardboard. Above each side of the 12 foot wide river, are square sized walls of random wood, tin, cardboard or a wall of laundry. The walls stack up to four or five squares, sometimes with an occasional bogenvilla or green tropical plants breaking up the drag. There are thin alleys or walkways between a few horizontal rows of squares, also lined with laundry. There are women squatting over tubs of water either bathing a smaller child or- doing laundry. It is making me cherish a washing machine and dryer! If you are white and colored eyed, everyone will smile and say "Halo" or any other English they know. Sometimes I will get a "Good afternoon Seester".

If you walk through the market, there are sidewalk vendors and street carts full of raw, whole fish, squid, "baboy" or pork, pig feet, mangos, bananas, papaya, guava, pineapple, and of course RICE! The side carts will me like moveable cooktops with pots of boiling oil and kabobs of chicken or pork or other mystery meat. There will be mini stores of old, need-to-be-updated electronics, where the sisters say they can fix anything. There are shoemakers, watch fixers and rows and rows of "slippers" or flip-flops. There are tables of garage sale type clothes for only 50 pesos, about $1.

This whole time, you will be dodging small children, stray dogs, fighting cocks and an occasional pedi-cab. Thousands, a sea of foreign faces, dark brown eyes, dark hair, dark skin and occasional pearly white teeth.

If you go to the nursery, kids will run up and grab your hand to "mano" or have you bless them (especially if you are wearing a long skirt). The ones who know English will say, "Wat is yoor name?" and if they see your camera, will play coy or ask you to take a picture of them while they pose sweetly. They will of course want to see the picture.

On your walk back, you will feel itchy, maybe as if little creatures are landing on your skin. You will grow a pleasant sweat mustache and sticky armpits. You will cough and frown at a Jeepney's exhaust pipe, puffing thick black diesel smoke. You will try to breathe shallow so you don't inhale any more polluted air then you need to. You will most likely trip over a broken cement rock or an uneven crack in the street. You may get followed by a drunk man who relentlessly asks your name and where you are from.

You will pass even more stares and smiles. You will find joy when a child you've met in class runs up to you and grabs our hand with a smirky grin. You will find joy watching a pedi-cab driver swerve back and forth while his little brother slides across the seat and giggles. You will find joy in watching a young mother nurture and fan her baby. You will find joy in a toddler's eyes when he reaches on his tip-toes up to the sari counter to but a candy. You will find joy in the sisters yipping and chatting like little hens to eachother in their "Finding Nemo" New Zealand (and English) accents. You will find joy in the whole community at mass, devout, focused, and present, on their knees in front of Jesus.

I have found sorrow here too. I have found much joy as well. Life is beautiful, even in the messy Barangay 180. Life is simple and beautiful." - March 16, 2011


Here is another excerpt you may find interesting...hope I don't offend anyone, I am honestly just letting you straight into my mind ha..

"So I kind of take back what I said about being in an uncomfortable place. I am very comfortable here. It is lovely and home-y. Just because there is no comfy red couch, simple decor, just a bar of soap in the shower, no hot water, and a slender bed and a simple electric fan in the bedroom- I am still comfortable.

I think I was more afraid to NOT be in luxury or what I am used to. A simple life doesn't mean no comfort! It jsut makes me realize that those things like air-con, 300 TV channels, wonderful smelling shampoo, conditioner, leave in conditioner etc, or beautiful decor are so unnecessary. Gorgeous homes are nice and make us feel comforted, but to live more simply, once we have gotten used to it, is JUST as comfortable. The small pains and wants that we feel, we can easily lay at His feet. I'm sure we would stop noticing that there were no gorgeous, expensive art on our walls, or that the coffee table was made of cheap wood from a thrift store etc.

How the sisters live is beautiful. Tonight at dinner, we talked about how luxurious some churches are, or Bishop's homes etc, while our brothers and sisters are living on pavement and cardboard boxes. Those who do have "homes" are about the size of a walk-in closet that we might have. God would probably rather us share our financial blessings with our neighbor, rather than multi-million dollar churches, chapels or statues. Those funds could be providing livelihoods for His children!

I know that some of you have already realized this, or just thought about it, and we have most likely blamed the "church" or "church authorities". I, Erin Murphy with my half-baked honest thoughts, feel like it is US the people who brought the materialism to the Church. For example, Catholics: just like Amelda Marcus of the Philippines, if we heard that THE POPE was coming to our city, wouldn't we jump in to prepare a place for him? A place of impression and beauty and honor for him? Amelda built this place called "Coconut Palace" for the Pope and spent a ridiculous amount of money. The Pope came to the Philippines and declined!

I am not sure of the ranks of heirarchy or what exactly goes on in decision-making in the Church, but in Pope John Paul II's take is pretty clear through the Counsel of Vatican II. Some Christian Americans have embraced this idea of living more simply and really, truly imitating Christ. But at the same time, some Christians believe so strongly in the fault of corruption from the Church that they choose to not be "religious" at all. They may not even claim a "church", only "Followers of Christ", and adhering to the Word. There is beauty in adhering to the word and like I said, truly seeking to imitate and follow Christ, but there is also beauty in the Church.

I am finding here, a newfound beauty in Catholicism among the Filipino community, even amidst the obvious flaws of the Church. These people have such GREAT faith in Jesus and act on that love by clinging tightly to the Church. Praying the rosary often, having tons of statues and always crossing themselves may be a bit superstitious, but it is how the people show their love and appreciation of God and admiration of the Saints. The Saints are not godly by any means, but examples of human holiness and true imitators of Christ, that God gave us as role models. I have to cringe when I see people kissing their rosary or touching the crucifix as if it has healing powers or watching a parade of a statue of a saint- but the intention of the people is not to put those material things before God or to worship them. They are material vessels to cling to and for their humanly minds to grasp, while praising God. They believe that touching the statue of the "Black Nazarene" saint will heal their sick child- God will. That is just their way of showing it.

I don't know, we are all different and God has willed individual paths to Him for each one of His children. I'm not going to start kissing any statues but I guess being here, around a very traditional, faith filled culture has opened my eyes a but to why and how their total dependence and belief in God is so beautiful."- March 15, 2011

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Update 5...New Brothers and Sisters to Love

I wish I could bring you all to where I have been. There is no way that my words could bring you the feelings that flooded me. I don't even know where to start...I guess where I left off..

Tuesday rolled around and my good old pare Richard drove me to the Little Sister's house in Malibay. I was kindly welcomed by Sister Margaret and showed my guestroom etc. and then sat down for lunch with the 4 wonderful ladies. That afternoon I went down to the ELC (Early Learning Center) with Marian who helps out with most of the ELC business.

It was the kinder class, the "older" kids, and let me tell you, I was blown away at what the wonderful teachers have taught these kids. I was blessed to visit at the end of the school year (they graduate this Friday) so I got to see them all at their peaks of this grade. They were learning Phonetics, sounds like "ch", "sh", "th" (which was one of the harder sounds for them) etc. They were learning science: about force and motion. The were learning math: subtracting and adding, counting, matching and more. They were learning history: the history of their country and the religions that inhabit the country. They were writing English for all subjects while learning the definitions. I was blown away. These kids who grew up here had learned so much in their 5 years of life, and some even spoke Taglish/Englishs to me- definitely enough to communicate and know that my name is Erin and I am American :)

They were also practicing a song and dance for their kinder-graduation to the Elementary school. They wanted to impress me so badly with all of these skills, especially because I was smiling so much and affirming that they did "A good job!" They would sing so loud or try SO so hard to dance their little hearts out. There were 3 little kids who couldn't speak English except for a few words, but would draw on their mini chalk boards a "flower" and then pull my hand and show me and I would say "Wow! a flower! Good job!" and they would grin and run off to draw a house or an ice cream haha, they were adorable.

The ones behind all these wonderful skills are the teachers/mothers who have learned those Montessory methods of teaching, and a few younger teachers who actually have a credential. The kids are so incredibly bright and look forward to coming to ELC EVERYDAY. They love it.

Marian and I came back for a delicious dinner, which was little more home-y since they are all foreigners too! We chatted and chatted over dinner and the Sisters exchanged stories of families and "who was doing what" and how well they were doing, or in some cases how bad things were going. I mostly listened, but sitting at those 4 nights of dinner just made me realize how much these women CARE so much for the people they serve. It was checking in with this mother or seeing this father at the market, or how well this other child did in class. They have made Barangay 180 their family and let me tell you, everyone in the barangay loves them too.

I felt like a celebrity, not because everyone was staring at the new white chick, but because I was with "Sister" and was greeted around every corner and every vendor or pedi-cab. "Hello Seester" rang through all the alleys and walkways, it made me feel very safe. Even if a person doesn't really know exactly what the sisters are doing for their community, it doesn't matter- they still realize that they are a PART of it. They are welcomed. Everyone is smiling. And this is where they live...

It is so overwhelming. I feel emotionally exhausted. But, while I was there, there was never a moment that I fell exhaustion or desperation among the people. The few that I talked to with Margaret all had this sense of "Bahala na" or "well that's the way it is" kind of thing. I most of these people just grew up the same way and never get out and so they don't even really realize what kind of state they are living in. They are kind of numb to it. I would love to scoop them up onto a plane and fly to gorgeous San Diego and to my house and feed them and give them a proper bed. That's where it gets so hard. That little daydream of mine will never come true. 

I even think like, okay Erin, your 1000 pesos given to a kid trying to buy rice for his family or donated clothes is not going to help out their LIVES you know? But if you think about it, maybe those clothes will be the ones they wear to an interview and actually get a professional job instead of a pedi-cab driver. Or maybe that bag of rice will last the family another two weeks, where otherwise, their two year old would go hungry until they could find some spare pesos from begging. Idk...just half-baked-Erin point is that no matter what WE think our charity will aid the people, it is the fact that we are giving to serve God, and He will take care of the rest. HE is the one who provides and who saves, not us. That is why I have found so much comfort in Him when I feel like I want to just cry my eyes out.

I hung out at the library too, during the week which actually has about 4000 books! They have all been donated of course by sponsors, mostly those in England or New Zealand from friends of the nuns. The only downfall is that most of the kids are still learning to read English and can't exactly hop right in to Harry Potter. The kiddos are especially in need of early learning books and even more in need of Tagalog books. (I sense a book drive coming on ey?) But remember Reader Rabbit or the books that have pages like "The horse lives in the barn. He is a brown horse."? They need those so they can get the comprehension down. Most can phonetically sound out the English but don't understand it. But even that, impresses me very much.

My favorite day of all this week was Saturday where the special needs kids meet and its kind of a playdate/support group for the moms type thing. You would not believe how much joy these kids have. It is also SO ESSENTIAL that the moms meet and talk and realize that they're not the only ones and exchange ideas/medical advice etc. 

One kid, Yuan has CP and was the biggest wiggle worm you will ever see. He is so bright, and so crafty in the way he literally rolls around, using his feet to push and maneuver his body to be mobile. His mom would lift up the probably 75 lb boy and set him up on the mini slide and he would kick kick his legs to go down with an ear to ear smile. When he was on the floor, he  would put together legos with his feet, use them to open doors and just roll around ha, I'll put up a video of him later...

Then there was Rulaine, a wide-eyed, smiley thing of sunshine in leg braces. I don't really know what she "had" but she can't really sit up or walk on her own. I grabbed this little Cinderella hang puppet and was clapping and nodding her head and Rulaine would throw her head back and smile smile smile. She also enjoyed when I played some Discovery from my iPhone and put it to her ear. 

And then there was Julian. My new little playmate. Ah I had so much fun with this guy. He was CP as well, and pretty mentally disabled as well. He was a drooler :) He LOVED the music so much! We listened and danced to Bob Marley, Discovery and some BEP's. Then I stood him up with is muscles clenching and contracting as I put his arms over my shoulders (I was on my knees) and uncrossed his rigidly straight legs. I was holding onto his middle, the way you would a little 1-2 year old. I would lean with him leeefffftt then riiiiiiiiggghhtt and then wiggle him back in the middle. He just opened his big mouth all wide and smiled with his head tilted back. Then I sat him down after a few times (he was so heavy and tall) and he told his mom "again" in Tagalog haha. So precious. Needless to say, we did it again and again until we had to leave. 

Then there was Cyris. Cyris is a 10 month old who has a fused skull. You know how babies are born with a few plates of skull floating around so their brains can grow? Well Cyris' skull is preventing his brain from developing fully and damaging it thte longer he prolongs any kind of medical help. This disease (I'm not sure of the name) is genetic, and for the whole 10 months of his life, the mother thought that it was because she had done something wrong during her pregnancy. She found out on Saturday that that was not the case at all (through a translater but from Sister Margaret) and lots of tears were shed from that huge release of guilt. I gave some money to Margaret and Richard did too so that we can get Cyris into the hospital asap (he has never been) and get going on the surgery. 

These are the types of things that need some serious funding, otherwise, frankly, some of these kids will just die at a very young age when, with medical help, they could live full lives.
Beautiful Ruvegen (from Update 3 i think)
Stephen and his mom Risa and Lola
Yuan :)
sweet Julian
baby Cyris and his gorgeous momma

You guys, I have a million ideas racing around my head of things we can do- as friends, as a community or church or whatever ha. I know that when I get home, it will be impossible for me to not become completely consumed in helping these people. 

I have much more to catch you up on but, for now, I gotta go to bed for my big day at El Hospicio tomorrow! I'll keep you posted and hopefully write again tomorrow night :)

Gracious and perfect Lord,
You have opened my eyes to see a whole different perspective of your children. My heart is still so swollen for them and I am so excited to do anything I can to make a difference- even if it is only one starfish. 

Lord help me to expose this totally different way of life to those of us who have been so blessed. Let us all appreciate every single bit of what we have, for we truly are living in luxury. Guide us to help our brothers and sisters and make us an army of love and compassion to serve You.

Thank you for my pare Richard. You brought us together to experience so many things and I am so grateful to share in Your love with my brother.

Lord, bless all of those back home who have been praying and thinking about this journey of mine. You know how deeply appreciative I am.

Send me Your spirit for patience in the last 5 days here, to soak up every second, regardless of how much I miss home and how much I miss Cameron. This is Your time, and I lay it all at Your feet. I lay it down.

Bring it on.

I love you, Amen.

Monday, March 14, 2011

(Not keeping track of days ha) Update #4

So for all of you that have traveled abroad (Miss Petros and Angrea) I very much sympathize with you for having Montezuma's revenge. Traveler's diarrhea is so gross.

I spent most of Friday resting instead of going to Mall of Asia, but Richard convinced me to still go visit El Hospicio de San Jose at my 3 o'clock appointment. We got very lost and finally got there around 4. Hospicio is a little gem on an island in a river in the heart of Manila and you can only get there by the Ayala bridge (which there are a million bridges in Manila). Once you are on Ayala bridge, you must slow waaaay down to find the tiny driveway to the island. 

We were greeted by Sister Socorro and guided on a tour by a wonderful lady named Anne. So Hospicio is one of the most well known orphanages in Manila and houses orphans of all ages and 90 elderly people as well. They have several different "sections" or programs of care- one for infants, which they have 18 newborn to about 9 months (I think), babies, around 25 from 9-18 mos., toddlers 25 2-4 year olds, countless 5-18 year olds, the 90 elderly, and then about 25 children with special needs ranging from probably ages 4-25 and then one 43 year old. So, they house and care for MANY lives. 

I could go on and on about what exactly they are doing with each group, but needless to say, all of the "patients" and kids are very well cared for and very loved. There are many volunteers, medical volunteers and even medical students working there. They all take shifts with the kids/elderly that need constant care.

Here are a few that stood out to me:
I had the honor of meeting Marie (I think, I couldn't really understand her) who is 99 years old! She is beautiful. I gave her "Mano" which is a sign of respect where you put their hand to your own forehead and she clapped her hands once and said "Wow! You are good!" Haha She also told me that she would love me to come visit her. She was talking mostly in Tagalog but I didn't care. I could listen to her spunky little voice all day long.

Every single one of the toddlers was adorable. All wide-eyed and their visitors and desperately wanting attention. Hospicio is a very well kept place with many loving volunteers, but still, if this was an orphanage in the states we would probably call it "short staffed". There was a small bedroom-sized room with half walls and then half glass on top so you could see the kids, but there were about twenty just sitting in there with one TV on. They seemed pretty content and it was clean but they were still starving for attention. Meggan and Maria- I can't imagine what it feels like to actually get to take one home!! :)

Then in the Special Needs section/dorms there were 8 teen-adult boys, all severely disabled. It was very loud, very overwhelming and there was one "Cuya" or older brother as they call it, trying to shower and dress the boys. If you have ever been around severe cases like these, you will know that it is a very hard task to take care of 8 very dependent adult bodies ha. One boy was rolling on the floor yelling/laughing, one was sitting cross-legged on the bed pushing his hands on his ears and then letting them off, and just kind of looking around the room.

Then there was one boy with special needs who I don't know what exactly was his disability but he was a drooler and I said hello and he shook my hand for a solid minute or so ha. He just smiled and tried to focus on me, just staring and drooling, and shaking my hand. I loved him.

What breaks my heart is that most of these children can't be adopted. This is their life.

Then was the night that I thought Manila was going to get Tsunami-ed. So, SO many prayers to the people of Japan and devastating that something so unpreventable could take so many lives. Maybe this is one of Gods wake up calls...

Then Saturday I got to visit the Orphanage of St. Vincent De Pual, also in the heart of Manila. Sister Nieva Manzano is the 'Mother" of the kids who are all ages 6-18. She is one of those people who you look at, and have to put your hand over your heart and smile because she is so darn precious.

I walked in on a huge Birthday party for "Cuya" (big brother) Beau who is one of the sponsors of the orphanage, so it was all organized and they had an MC conducting games and songs and the whole celebration. I actually had a great time and jumped right in playing with the kids. The girls who were all like 10-16 ALL wanted to be my new best friend- holding my hand, sitting on my lap, playing with my hair, just hanging all over me. They all had very good English so it was great to get to communicate with them. They are so full of life and spirit, I felt like a little girl again.

They gave me a great tour of the facilities after the bday bash, and I made them take turns having piggy-back rides. They're bedroom/s is one huge room with 20 beds and then locker-type dressers for their individual stuff. But honestly, they were just all sisters and best friends. They are growing up together, coping with their lifestyle of being orphans in with the best possible outlooks on life. They are so bright. They were all teaching me Tagalog and I was teaching them Espanol! They absolutely loved my iPhone and all the pictures (especially the ones of my boooyyyyyyfriiiieeend woooooo!!) Ha, they were all giggly and immediately started teasing.

I was honestly so sad when I had to leave. I wanted to hang out and have a slumber party. Sister Nieva gave me a gorgeous Rosary as a souvenir and I got to take some pictures on my phone with all the girlies.

This is one of the places that I would LOVE to send clothes and fun things for the girls. Letters, flip-flops, costume jewelry, craft supplies...I could go on and on, and the girls (AND BOYS!) would be SO STOKED and I know that everything would go to great use and be totally appreciated. So much love there :)

So from the orphanage, I got picked up by Virginia and her husband Larry. Virginia is the sister of Fr. Cecilio, who is friends with my Uncle Godfather Fr. Pat! Fr. Cecilio is the one who helped me coordinate my stay here, so I was so happy to meet this family and see where he grew up. Macukawayan (I think ha) is the name of the town which means "bamboo". I quickly learned that Larry was quite the jokester- always trying to make me laugh. Virginia is one of those Filipinas who looks absolutely young and gorgeous regardless of age. We drove into the "Moraga Compound" which is their own little neighborhood of all family. Virginia is one of ELEVEN kids and all but 3 live in the compound with their own families.

I got out and saw their gorgeous homes and all the cousins playing basketball and preparing for one cousin's Debut, which is like a Quincinera for 18 year old Filipinas. I got to do Kareoke, a Filipino favorite, to "My Girl" and listen to Larry singe "Beautiful girl" to me, ha it twas great. They piled a ton of noodles on my plate and Pizza Hut pizza. Then I got to meet the WHOLE family and take tons of pictures with them, so Fr. Cecilio, I can really say I met your whole fam! They were full of generosity and hospitality :)

After that, I was treated to a night out with Richard, his brother Duke, 20, his sister Jackie, 22 and her two friends. We went to the coolest club in Manila called Republiq, also owned by the Chinese guy who owns a few clubs in Vegas. The music was a little House-y for me, but I had a great time living the local nightlife.

The next day was Sunday, and I got to sleep in!! I seriously just rested all day, read some Word and got to call my man and the fam back home.

Cameron told me to read John 3, and verse 30 stood out to me and exactly how I want to live out the rest of my life:

"He must increase, but I must decrease."

Can you imagine what life would be like if we really lived that out? The less we filled our lives with earthly things things and things and made room for MORE HIM. As Taber and Charles would say, there would be a huge dub-step drop inserted here ____________!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! haha, but I mean, how simply and beautifully put by our good brother John. HE MUST INCREASE, BUT I MUST DECREASE. It is so simple, and so powerful to me. Less me, less distraction, less empty stuff, less selfish- more Word, more prayer, more community, more relationship, more HIM. Easier said than done, it is a struggle every single day, but it is my goal.

A goal that is rather high, but hey, like Michaelangelo said, " The greater danger for most of us, is not that we aim too high and miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it."

Chew on that huh? :)

Then I went to mass with Lola and got to marvel at the beauty of a faith-filled and engaged community of Christ coming together to celebrate our life saved by His death. It is so powerful to- in the midst of language and culture barriers- be saying the same prayer with 200 other people. The "Our Father" has gained a much greater appreciation in the mind of Erin Murphy.

After mass, Tita took me to buy a new camera, which is why I can now put up PICTURES for you all!! :) (Just so you know, some of the orphanages don't allow pictures so I snuck a few, but they're only on my phone)

Today, Monday, was probably one of my most favorite days here in the Philippines. Lola and her friend Sister Palma, along with Ernie our trusted chouffer, went to Tagatay. Tagatay is another jewel of the Philippines, a town nestles in luscious mountains and above a huge lake and volcano. It was even greener than Subic Bay, if that is possible, and the weather was nice and cooler and breezy.

Sister took us to an orphanage called The Chosen Ones, which houses many children and children with disabilities of all ages. It is a gorgeous institution of structure and organization and care. A nice woman toured us around the "village" where they have classrooms, housing, physical therapy facilities and pool, indoor basketball court and a small piece of land for growing coffee! The older special needs kids help grow, harvest and roast the coffee beans and sell it locally. The caretakers are all PTs, nurses and well trained "ates and cuyas" or elder sisters and brothers. I was so impressed at the well kept playground and how smoothly everything was run. It seemed like kids are adopted often there, mostly because the orphanage works closely with the DSWA (Department of Social Welfare and Development) so that the children can be adopted more easily. At the same time, it was very structured and very different than the other orphanages I have been to here. Regardless of my obvious slight distaste, but inspiration in organization, ALL of the children were of course adorable. When I met the special needs kids, a few ran up to me and one immediately grabbed my arms and wrapped them around his chest with his back to me. All he probably wanted was affection and to be loved on, but to me, it was more- he put my right hand right over his pounding heart. He had that pumping, loving, desperate human heart, just like mine. I could've stood there forever.

The next place we went was the Bahay San Jose, a project of House with No Steps. It isn't really an orphanage, but a home ran by a mother who houses 10 severely mentally and physically disabled adults. Mama Luds, Lourdes Brual, is the mother of Maloa who has cerebral palsy and is about 35 years old. Mama Luds and another mother of a special needs daughter help care for these glowing souls. They have a simple home donated by the Knights of Columbus (ironic that they helped sponsor my trip ha) and really just kind of hang out. They eat breakfast, go in the sun, watch TV, do minor activities, get cleaned etc.

Mama Luds is a very humble and happy person. She was so excited to have visitors and so were the "kids" as she calls them. Mama has no medical background, just what she has learned by being the parent of her special needs daughter. Everything she does is just out of pure love. She has very little funding and has to pay out of pocket as well. When the kids get sick she must take them to the hospital which is of course very expensive (another future donation for sure).

Here are the two kids who were very responsive to me:
Phil John, who I'm sure has a million medical problems but was very alert and kind of hyperactive. He is wheelchair-bound but was wiggling all over and making lots of noise when he saw visitors. He was laughing so hard! I said hello and touched his hand and he was just so excited haha, he loved being talked to.

Then there was Yolanda, who was actually kind of quiet at first. She had this attitude of "oh-whatever-you-won't-pay-attention-to-me-anyway" until I asked her if I could sit down. Honestly, it was one of those moments where I wanted to interact with her, but didn't know the extent of her disabilities or how responsive she would be. I asked her what her name was and she let out a big yawn-sounding noise, like she was trying SO hard to say YOH-LLAANDAA! Sometimes we judge the ability of a person by their looks, when really, we have no idea what is going on in their minds. I said "Oh, nice to meet you...(a little awkward pause as we both looked around) have a beautiful smile." She gave me the widest smile she could, teeth and all, until her mouth would not stretch any wider. I said, "Wow, you understand English?" and she let out a yawn-like noise again. I felt like even though she wasn't speaking any language that I knew, we were communicating perfectly. Then the Black Eyed Peas song The Time came the radio, and I tested her dance skills :) "Do you like to dance?" That woman raised her arms up and tried to do the invisible microphone, yawning her noise and moving to music with me. I danced with her and she got even MORE into it. It was a great moment. Lola brought her little Chihuahua Loco and one of the other girls was petting him. I asked her if she liked dogs, of course she said yes, so I asked big or small? (using my hands to help communicate) and she threw her arms out big, and I said me too! (esp. because our last dog was a Mastiff ha). I just loved this girl, and I know that there is such an intelligent mind in there and wonder what really goes on in there. I can definitely say that regardless of her condition, she was very happy and very loved.

Lola couldn't stay for long, but it was a blessing to be able to meet the family and witness that truthfully, all you need is LOVE.

We had a gorgeous lunch over gorgeous views and a gorgeous drive home. I put up pictures on facebook, but they are only a sliver of the beauty here.

My dearest friends and family- I am so thankful for all of your prayers, seriously, I believe it is the reason why I am being so moved over here. But, this week, for the next 5 days starting tomorrow, I will be staying with the Little Sisters of the Assumption (Sister Anne and Margaret) in Malibay, Pasay City. It is a bleeding little community of people living in total poverty. I'm nervous ha. I'm scared and intimidated. I know that I will be safe, but I just know that I am throwing myself into a very non-comfort environment. I will have a bed and shower and kitchen in the nun's house, but Manila is a very dirty, polluted place...mosquitos, illness, etc. and I guess what I'm saying is..

Keep the prayers comin!! :) I am very excited too, I just don't really know what to expect ha, and I feel like a little Valley Center girl walking into the "ghetto" you know? And I can never prepare myself for the things I will see. The nuns encourage pictures for the exposure of human life and rights to those who have NO IDEA what its like. Its a different kind of poverty than our "ghetto" or "Projects" or bums on the street.

I won't have a computer so I'll journal everything and then put it up on Sunday.

Sorry this is incredibly long, but I am so touched that everyone is keeping up. My mom sends encouraging words all the time and stories that all of you are reading and praying :) I love you all.


Heavenly Father,
Prepare my heart in ways that I cannot explain. Armor me with your spirit and Word and soften my heart even more so that I may help ANY brother or sister no matter how sick or disturbed I may feel. Bless the Sisters with endurance, that they may always do the work of Your Son. Thank you for sending me the best of tour-guides and all the living saints that I have been walking with. They are wonderful examples of how we all can be holy and turn our lives completely over to You. Help us all to decrease, so that you may increase. 

I pray for all of the sick and mentally and physically challenged. Lord, if it is your will, save them from the confines of their disabilities, only if it is Your will. If not, my God, send them angels for peace and contentment for the rest of their lives.

I pray for Aunt Kate and my old man on their birthdays and thank you for such a great, strong family. I am so blessed. 

Thank you for everyone who has helped me get here, right here, at this point in my spiritual journey.

Give me patience to focus on You, even when I am missing my love so much.


Pics and Filipino Art :)

Sister Palma, Lola and Me in Tagatay
On Mahogany old house!
Crazy Quiapo church/market
The House with No Steps family
Bayanihan "Working together for a common good"
Artwork of Joey Valasco
"...and I will make you Fishers of Men."

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Day 5-6..."The Change"

So most of you told me that I would "change" when going on this trip. Well yesterday was THE CHANGE.

I finally got to meet Sister Anne Becher who I had been in touch with for about 6 months in the states. It was quite the trip getting was in Pasay City but Ernie and I got very lost and had to drive through many tiny alleys to finally realize we had directions to the wrong church. I finally found the Little Sisters of the Assumption, their modest home nestled into the "ghetto" as I would call it of the Malibay community of Pasay City in Manila. Sister Margaret greeted me at the gate and I had no idea what I was getting into.

She was so excited to meet me and wanted to show me all of kingdom come, but we started at the nursery. The LSA (Little Sisters of the Assumption, which is the order of nuns) mission is to literally live with the poor and sick and care for them. These amazing Sisters (4 of them) have started several programs for the Barangay 180 (neighborhood of about a block that is the home to probably hundreds of "squatter" Filipinos). When Sister Anne first arrived 10 years ago, she went around asking the families what services they could help with. They responded with education, livelihood, catechism and medical care.

That is just what these Sisters do. They have created a pre-public school education for these precious kids, who otherwise would be very behind in their learning skills. LSA has a Mommy and Me type class for babies, a nursery for 2-3 year olds, a preschool class and a kinder class. These are managed by the Sisters themselves, but taught by other Moms of the Barangay. The Sisters have taught the Moms methods of Montessory to teach simple math, English and other necessary skills for school. When the kids reach public schools, they are expected to already know English and so without the Sisters, they would be floundering. Also, because the Moms are teaching, they are paid mild wages (because that's all the programs can afford) but the Moms are more than thankful to be paid at all, and also get a chance to spend time and teach their own children. By the time the kids "graduate" kindergarten, the goal is that they can speak and read and start to be able to write English.

Sister Margaret has also started a program for special needs kids. There is a heavy stigma within most Filipino's for these children. This may be a little TMI for a blog, but I feel like this is so important that you all MUST know. If a mother bears a child with special needs, she is thought to either have a demon or have a failed abortion. Families who have these kids mostly keep them cooped up in the tiny house for fear of judgement and don't have money to pay for medical needs. Sister Margaret created a support group that meets once a week and now has 25 families participating! They also have a local doctor who volunteers to come once a week to tend to the kids. I had the blessing of meeting a few of these are my experiences...

First I met glowing Ruvegen, I'll call her Gen :) She is around 4-5ish and has cerebral palsy, and also and an imperforate anus. She just had surgery on her legs so she recently started walking!! She has cute little converse boots and one brace and was running all over the small library when I met her. She ran up and said hi to sister and I, and hugged my leg. She had the biggest smile I have ever seen on a child. She will be hopefully treated soon for her anal problem.

Then Sister M walked me around the neighborhood where the homes were as small as minivans and very dirty. Sister knocked on one door so I could meet one boy (I forgot his name, so I'll call him Jack ha). Jack has CP as well and is has a pretty deformed little body for a 2-3 year old. His shins are about the size of a sausage. I know I am being so blunt, but I just want you all to know the EXTREME condition of these souls. The mother was a bit apprehensive with me being there, but I was with her dear Sister so she let me come in. I'm not sure what was going on medically with Jack, but I didn't have to know- I could just SEE.

Then there was Jobe. Jobe we saw on the street near the feeding area, which is sponsored by the LSA. He was sitting on the dirty street and I actually kind of tripped over him. I didn't realize how he was until he started dragging his body, scooting backwards and I noticed his shoe-less feel and larger head. He wobbily stood up and side stepped to the other side of the street. He is older, maybe late teens or early twenties. Sister explained that she found out his mother recently commit suicide and his father passed away so he is completely abandoned and homeless and HELPLESS in the streets. He must find food somehow and some neighbors have showered him every now and then but the LSA are currently looking for a home for him. After hearing this, I looked to Jobe crying, and he too had a huge missing-toothed smile.

And that is the Filipino way. Every single "squatter" that I have seen is a smiling, God-fearing person, regardless of their poverty. It is so inspiring. I can't even believe it.

After seeing all this, I was waiting for Ernie to come pick me up. Sister let me sit in the chapel next door and I cried for an hour. What could I possible do to make this lifestyle any better for all these THOUSANDS even millions of people?? If I could, I would bulldoze every squatter house and build them mansions and fill their fridges and clothe them all. I saw FAMILIES living on a bridge, toddlers running around naked carelessly, and nearly getting hit by Jeepneys and pedi-cabs. It broke my heart into a million pieces. My heart is beat up from the things I've seen and is swollen into my chest. I knew I was called here to help, but HOW? What can I do for my poor brothers and sisters? Sure, I can buy them a meal and clothes, but it will not bring them out of poverty- that is up to the LORD. So what is my place in all this? What is OUR place in all this?

Sister M told me this story, after knowing that I wished I could snap my fingers and end world poverty ha...
"So a man was walking down the beach where thousands and thousand of starfish has washed up on the shore. For miles they were washed up. He walked along, scooping up the starfish and throwing them into the ocean. Then a man came up to him and said, 'What are you doing? Don't you know that there are SO many starfish and you will not make any difference?' He reached down and threw one starfish into the ocean and replied, 'I have made a difference.'"

I am slowly dicerning and learning about what I can do...It is all in God's hands who "comes out of poverty". Maybe giving that hot meal, or bag of clothes to them, will make them beg the question "Why?" which will then lead them to Christ even more, and HE will be the one who changes lives.

...I don't know, to tell you what exactly is on my heart- I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I AM DOING lol. I just know that somehow, I can help these poverty stricken people.

This is how I know...
Today Richard and I went to the Riverbank, a small mall near Merch's house. I got a funny Filipino shirt for my Johnny boy and were about to leave when a little boy came up with his hand out. I'm not a fan of just giving money, so I gave him my crackers and a piece of gum. Richard translated and told me that he said he wants food. I grabbed his arm and pulled him inside a McDonald's-like restaurant we were outside of. I told the little boy to pick whatever he wanted. He got a plate of spaghetti with chicken and a Coke. I told him to sit down and Richard and I sat with him while he ate his meal. Richard translated as I asked the boy a million questions.

His name is Michael Angelo (funny ha, he had no idea who Michaelangelo was) and is ten years old. He has eight children in his family, and his parents sent him out to beg because they could not provide him with any. He was barefoot and covered in dirt. I asked him when was the last time he had a real meal like this, and he said "NEVER". He walked over an hour BAREFOOT and alone to get to the mall where he asks for money. I asked him if he had a girlfriend and he smirked and said there is a girl who likes him, but she is rich. I asked if I could get him anything else and he said his family needs rice to eat. Richard and I took him into the mall, which BY THE WAY, they wouldn't let Michael into because he was a street kid, but they let him in because he was with us.

I suddenly felt so protective of Michael, and walked confidently with my hand grazing and guiding his back as people stared. We went to the grocery store and got a 5 kilo bag of rice and some flip-flops and a few canned goods. We looked for a Jeepney but there was none, so we bought him a cab ride to go back home. And there was Michael :)

I have no idea what will happen to that little boy, or if he has any idea how much he touched my swollen heart, or if he will ever understand WHY Richard and I did what we did. I do not tell you all this to show you what "good things" I am doing or so that you are "proud". I just want you all to know what it is like. Michael was my first starfish- a starfish with a full belly for once.

I am planning to stay with the LSA for a week next week and have several appointments with other nuns and orphanages this weekend. I am very excited to see what God has in store. I am constantly praying and asking what it is that I can do to serve him to the best of my ability. What is my God-given talent? What can I do to improve the lives of these precious brothers and sisters?

I ask you all to continue your prayers, they are moving mountains over here :)

My Lord and Saviour,
You are the God of the rich and the poor. Surely I have seen, the poor, precious Filipinos I am with. You have shown me your love and power through their lives, and I am so grateful. I pray that I can learn tot depend on you so heavily and these people do. I pray that we who are so blessed can depend on you as they do. I pray that you answer my bleeding heart Lord, because I will do all that I can to serve you through serving my brothers and sisters here. I am listening Lord, although it is impossible to quiet my rapid mind. If you could send me a neon flashing sign of what to do, that would be great. If not, well, I am here, listening and searching for Your will.

Thank you for Gen, Jack, Jobe and Michael. They are your children, just as I am your child, and I pray that you will send them guardian angels to guide and guard them in their struggles.

You are all powerful and only you, my God can save lives, not I. But I am your tool, for whatever purpose I can serve you. I love you so much Lord and am so thankful for all these beautiful souls I have encountered. I am forever changed.

Give me patience because I am missing Cameron SO much.
I love you.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Day 3-4...Visiting the Homeland

So if you thought the last post was long, sit down for this one ;)

So yesterday, Monday, I had breakfast again (as I probably will every day that I stay at the Ignacio's) with Lola and Tita and Ernie, who is Tita Merch's cousin and the family driver. I got to call Cameron and both parents which was very cool and then went to Rosary and Mass at the Chapel next door with Lola.

Honestly, (sorry Uncle Pat) I don't remember the last time that I've prayed the rosary so hard. I was kind of like meditating in the repetitive prayer and just asking Mary to intercede for some more guidance for me. For all the non-Catholics, I'm just gonna throw in that I pray to Mary to intercede, just as you all are interceding for me :) Anyway, then there was Mass and the Homily definitely spoke to my heart. The priest was talking about not living an empty religious life, but to actually LIVE out your faith, in whatever way God gifted you to live it out.

I am learning more about Lola (Merch's mom) which means Grandma in Tagalog, and she is a great example of someone who lives out her faith. Her whole life is devoted to the Lord by helping serve in her congregation. At St. Stephen's in Valley Center, I would say she is the ultimate steward ha. Years ago, she pushed in her community and felt God was telling her to build a new church in their neighborhood of Loyola Heights. She started painting out of melted recycled crayons and a eye shaped cut out aluminum can as her brush. She paints mostly flowers which have a very Realist feel. She raised enough money on her own to start building the church and has since become a very well known elder in her town. Since I have been here, she has had lunch with different priests, nuns and other high status Filipinos, who come to her for advice.

I guess I am telling you all this because this woman is so inspiring to me. She has dedicated her whole life to the Lord, in her own specific way. It stands out to me because I am searching for MY way to serve him. What is YOUR way?


After mass, I went to Greenhills with Ernie, which is an even HUGER mall than the first and bought my first pair of freshwater pearl earrings for only 150 pesos which is about $5.00!!! WHAT?! Ha, I also learned that Filipino men aren't as fun to shop with as my bartering Tita Merch haha...

On the way back, stuck in traffic of course, I got to talk to Ernie. God seemed to bring himself up in conversation and Ernie started talking about his walk with the Lord. Long story short, he was cradle Catholic, but not until he mete his bride did he really get to personally know and love God. His wife Veron was diagnosed with Lupos, cancer of the liver, and told that she was going to die. Her wish was to marry and so Ernie asked her hand in marriage. All of their family and friends prayed and prayed and now, after many years, Veron and Ernie have 3 daughters, all in college and Veron dedicated her life to being a Catechist at the local Elementary school. Because her cancer is coming back, she must quit her job and have more rest. Love and prayers for Veron's health, but many thanks and praise to the Lord who answers prayers and sustains life.

Then last night, I got the chance to accompany Merch to an exclusive Art Exhibit in Makati (the La Jolla or Banker Hill of Manila) of her dear friend Mrs. Dans. She is being considered to be a Philippine National Artist, which is the highest honor an artist can receive as a Filipino. Needless to say, she is a VERY talented woman. If you have seen Eat Pray Love, like Julia Roberts marveled at the beauty of Rome, I got to marvel at some of the most beautiful artwork I have ever seen. Mrs. Dans is a precious little Filipina Realist who uses many different mediums, but my favorite was her watercolor of calado, which is a hand embroidered lace handkerchief. Google Araceli Limcaco Dans and check out her art :)


Today I woke up by a knock on my door and Merch told me I had a visitor! My friend Richard from the plane over here surprised me and came to take me to Subic Bay, as I had told him I was born there. He was so sweet to drive me a whole 2 hours up to Subic, but it was kind of a weird deal since the Ignacio family doesn't know him. Tita was very protective, and gave him an interrogation, which reminded me of something a Father would do to a boy taking his daughter on a date. Tita was very classy about it, and I am so grateful for her care. Lola was the one who was still skeptical haha...anyway, I headed off with Richard and we ate at my first abroad Starbucks! Let me tell you, it was exactly the same except they have even MORE pastries! Delicious and much needed caffeine boost.

We got talking about everything as we drove past the most beautiful Kelly green rice fields and little NepaEy-reen?" (ha) "Do you believe in fate?" In the the back of my mind, I kind of dreaded what was coming, because our easy friendship seemed too good to be true. I said yes, I believe that God has a plan for us already...? and here was what he said:

"I really think that it was God's fate that brought us together. You know, this is the first time being back home since me and my ex broke up, and so if I wasn't with you, I would be sitting at home doing nothing. When I found out you were doing missionary work on the plane, I thought, wow, I want to spend my time doing something good like that. Sunday, when you called, I was so excited. My mom said it was the first time she saw me smile since i had been back. (I think he is sad being back and not with his gf) I am so excited to hang out with you and go help people who need it." (Hope I got all that right Richard haha)

Behind my aviator glasses were tears welling up. I was so flattered and so thankful that God made us cross paths. No matter what Lola says, ha, I know that Richard and I have many future adventures to come. The Lord definitely put us in each other's lives for a reason and I am very excited to see what that is.

On to Beautiful Subic Bay, I was SO excited to see the sign for it, I could not believe I was there. I had always thought about what it was like, and Mom and Dad- you guys did not do it justice! Ha, you guys, it is so green, so luscious, so clean and has so much richness. We drove past the airport that my Dad probably did a thousand landings and take-offs, and after asking several times for directions, we found my old house in Bayani village off of Mango Dr. Honestly, I wasn't sure exactly which one was my parents, but Richard and I took enough pictures to ensure we got it ha. We just sat at the bus stop at the top of the street and soaked in the little history that I had there. It was such an awesome feeling- like an overwhelming presence, and a marveling, retrospective aspect of God's creation. (That was a jumble of words ha but that's the best I can do) It was a beautiful moment for little Erin Murphy the Filipina :)

We then drove up to Cubi which is a little hill above the actual bay and had lunch and got fat and walked down to where we thought the Cubi "O" club was. (Dad, I think they must've either torn it down or built over it) We did find the exact viewpoint that my Dad described which was also breathtaking. rich green surrounding that blue bay, and I could only imagine the memories my parents had had there. Then Lola called all worried so we had to head back to get back "before dark" ha. Needless to say, it was only 3:30 but too late because it took almost 5 HOURS to get home!!! Worst part of Manila is the traffic and careless Jeepney drivers. We finally got home and everyone was relieved, except Richard who felt so horrible for getting me home so late, even though there was nothing we could do about it. Lola and Tita still love you Richard! :)


So! There are my past two days! I guess what I learned, or "got out of it" was the intricate stories that God has woven through these wonderful people. He really does write straight with crooked lines, Ellen :) and Uncle Brian- I have seen Jesus in almost EVERYONES eyes that I've come in contact with!! ha, I am in tears right now, just thinking about how amazing God works, in SO many different ways. It is just up to us to accept Him and accept his will upon us. He us just so obviously present here, His spirit overwhelms me. I am so so thankful to be here- I feel like the Grinch, my heart is growing so big and full, its about to pop out of me!

You guys, this is just so beautiful. I can't even tell you how He is moving me, and those around me. I am so in love with Him and all He has created.


My awesome Father-
You have created such a handsome and detailed universe, your Glory shines through all living things. I can only imagine what heaven must be like since there are earthly things so beautiful that I could just stare and marvel for hours. Thank you so much for these wonderful people you have put in my life.

Lord I ask your blessings for Lola Remy Ignacio. She is a true handmaiden of the Lord and I thank you for her as an example of stewardship. For Ernie and Veron, that Veron will fufill your will for her here on earth, and to be with her family in good times and bad. For Araceli Limcaco Dans, that she continues to glorify you with her talents in the rest of her years. For my new friend Richard, that you light his path and guide him closer to you. Flood his heart with your spirit, as you have mine, and help me to be his a good sister in Christ. For my wonderful Tita Merch, that you may bless her for her never-ending generosity and love. For everyone back home that is reading this, that you may speak to them in whatever way they need to hear. 

Lord you are the Holiest of holies and the Almighty Father of all. I praise you so hard and with all my might for your love and mercy. I am so grateful for everything in this life. I ask you to be further present in me and guide me on my trip to Malibay to be with the Sisters tomorrow. I love you.