Our trip to the Philippines was good. God had his way, and we believe we made a tangible impact during our time there. And, it was also hard. Holding both of these truths and finding a way to share them with you, has proven challenging for me personally. (And part of the reason it has taken so long to write this.) 🙂
First the good… Throughout the two trainings in Bagio and Cebu, were equipped a couple of hundred people representing over 30 government, NGO, and faith-based organizations. We were inspired by how mobilized and ready to take action the people were.
In Cebu, trainees formed a coalition on the spot in order to organize their efforts! Within a week, they secured a location for their support groups and began doing outreach throughout Cebu and surrounding cities. They were like racehorses, itching to get out the gate and ready to run.
We also had the opportunity to walk alongside the people in Bagio as they engaged in groundbreaking outreach to the red light district where we reached women working in at least 20 Karaoke Bars, which operate as brothels. We also brought gifts to the women working in the largest strip club in the city.
During the outreach, we invited the women to an art therapy workshop we were hosting. The next day, about a dozen women showed up for the workshop! Together, we shared our stories and our pain, our hopes and our dreams. It was precious.
After the workshop, a meeting with the Mayor of Bagio proved to be a cross-cultural lesson in etiquette for me. After spending an hour asking him questions about his beautiful city and exploring issues of sexual exploitation and trafficking. The Mayor politely entertained our questions and I walked away feeling like we had a productive, enlightening conversation. I later learned from our hosts that it is considered rude to ask an authority figure questions, especially if you happen to be a woman. I was 2 for 2 on that one!
My sweet baby girl, Johnny was such a trooper throughout the trip! She helped set up for trainings, kept up with our wild itinerary, and found moments to love and serve people along the way. My favorite was when she saw two young girls begging and stopped to give them some bubbles to play with. Then, she asked for all the coins in our pockets to give to them.
When we went back to our room, she couldn’t stop thinking about the girls. She had been given some spending money for souvenirs and decided to give it ALL away to them. She also noticed that their clothes were tattered and one of them didn’t have pants to wear. She decided to give them a dress (she really loves) along with another full outfit from her suitcase. I am so proud of my generous little girl!
As I said, the trip was good, but it was also hard.
I arrived in the Philippines carrying a child, full of hope and expectation for my growing family. I was assured by more than one doctor that my summer travel schedule and pace of life was safe for the baby. “Women give birth to healthy babies in war zones. You will be fine”, one doctor said.
While on the trip, a diligently protective nature arose in my husband, seeing his wife, carrying his child, in a foreign place. Heavy luggage and mosquitos became mortal enemies that he was determined to keep me from. This was both endearing, and well… let’s just say the “I-can-do-this-by-myself-I-don’t-need-help-from-anyone” part of me, wrestled with this.
Things like diesel fuel and 6-hour bus rides where your seat is next to the bus porta-potty, which smells like it hasn’t been emptied in three months, are rough when you are battling morning sickness (which should be called all-day sickness, by the way). Forget food cravings. Forget finding Haagen Daz. And if the people you are dining with order fish heads for the table, so be it.
Not to mention the time the airline cancelled our flight and put us on a new one 4 hours later. They failed to mention we would be arriving at a different island than our 1st flight was scheduled for. The team used a grand total of 10 different modes of transportation to make it to our final destination! After taking a taxi, tricycle (yep), private car, shuttle, plane, van, boat, open air jeep taxi and walking a half a mile in the dirt and sand with 11 suitcases, 3 backpacks and a couple of duffle bags, we finally made it to our original destination.
Ugh. Thank you for letting me share.
Those are just the silly, surface things. Beyond this, there was a Spiritual atmosphere on our trip that was so heavy, it was palpable. Seeing children being sold for sex is always heavy and horrific. I supposed the opposition and heaviness we felt matched what we were up against.
I would love to tell you that we breezed through each day, walking in unity, His joy our strength, laughing all the way: Ha Ha Ha!
We did however, push through, dig in, stay honest and have the hard conversations that needed to be had along the way.
And then, as some of you know, soon after returning home from the Philippines, we lost our baby.
Multiple doctors have assured me that the miscarriage was not connected to our trip, but it was still a hard experience to come home to. Johnny, Chris and I are trusting God through the grieving and the healing, and are in a good place now. But it was hard.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I still struggle with the belief/hope that as long as I am following God, things should go smoothly. It’s sort of laughable that I still think this and am caught off guard when there are bumps in the road.
The truth is, there will always be bumps in the road. There will always be tough seasons and hard things. Loving Jesus doesn’t make me immune to the troubles of this world. In fact, the hard places are often the very places He calls us to step into so that we can bring His love, light, grace and freedom.
Each time I raise my hand and say, “Here I am, send me”, I should remember that what follows might be hard. But it will also be good.
A HUGE THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO SUPPORTED OUR TRIP!!!!
WE COULDN’T HAVE DONE IT WITHOUT YOU!