Thursday, March 08, 2007

Beauty of Banaue

As we work here in the Philippines, we are constantly amazed at the beauty of God's creation. The Philippine Islands are full of God's creativity, glory, beauty, and magnificence. We were so delighted to have the once in a life time opportunity to take a trip up to the Banaue Rice Terraces, in Banaue Philippines.
The occasion for going was sad, as it was our despadida (going away party) for Harvey & Joan Helm. They wanted to see the Terraces before they went back home to the States. We were all excited and ready to take in the beauty with them, this being their final hoora.
It was a long drive from Manila to Banaue, but it was well worth it! We arrived in Banaue one evening, and just a little too late to see the Terraces. As we looked out the window of our hotel, we were anything but disappointed in not seeing the mountains. We could not take our eyes of the gorgeous sunset the Lord had painted before us. Lindsey always says, "Look at God's watercolor for today." What an amazing watercolor it was. No painter or brush could have captured what those bright orange skies were singing - the praises and wonders of the Lord our God!
As the sun sank out of sight it seemed to be giving all its effort to glorify God in its last laboring minutes of it's course. We all watched speechless as it set behind a mountain, and left only rays of God's glory remaining in the sky. The colors and His glory seemed to burst forth into the dusky night sky from behind the mountain. The sun set and the beautiful colors faded into the night, and the clear, bright stars took their place, it now being their turn to shout forth God's praises. The stars seemed, clearer, closer, and bigger than they had ever appeared before against the backdrop of the lightless mountains. As the stars took their place we were reminded, the Artist was and will remain the same yesterday, today, and forever! We were all thrilled to know that the next day we would witness even more of the Artist's work.

We woke the next morning, ate hurriedly, and jumped in the van to behold Banaue. We circled and wound around several mountains, and emptied out on top of a canyon that overlooked mountain upon mountain, layers upon layers of terraces! It was breath taking, almost too much to absorb at one time! Lindsey's trigger finger on her camera never stopped clicking. We were in awe and amazed at the beauty, the detail, the presicion, as it all seemed to go on forever. As we peered into the distance it just kept going. Each terrace, etched into God's earth so precisely, so carefully. Some layers flourished with rice, while some floated with water, and others over flowed with lush greenery. It was amazing, and it got better the further we went. We drove for hours upon hours, the whole time Deborah saying, "Oh! Oh! Look at that! Oh! Oh! Look at this!" We were all overwhelmed and captivated by the beauty of God's creation! We all felt privileged to behold one of the 'wonders of His world.' It was an unforgettable journey, and an impressive view of His majesty. God's beauty crashed into our hearts as we took it in with our eyes; like wave upon wave of wonder that we could not absorb all at once. Our hearts, like a sponge, seemed to swell with joy, awe, and adoration as we soaked in the beauty of Banaue. After all we knew the amazing Creator who's words brought it all into existence! Praise the Lord that He reveals Himself to us; wooing our hearts toward Him and His love, through his creation! He truly is a great and glorious God, worthy of all of our praise!

A Camechile Christmas

On December 19 a Christmas party was held at Holiness in Jesus Christian Church in San Pedro, Philippines. This church has an amazing and thriving outreach to a squatter village just near them. The squatter village is called Camechile. The outreach targets children and their mothers, in hopes to bring the Gospel of Christ into their homes. There is a continuing Bible study & feeding program that the Church invests in to do word and deed ministry. All 230+ chldren from Camechile were gathered around ready to begin the festivities for their Christmas party. The mothers were separated, sitting inside the church, listening to the sermon and watching the puppet show. The puppet show was performed by youth from a sister MTW church, Grace Covenant Church in Lipa. The kids were all gathered outside and began with singing songs to the Lord. What an amazing, joyful sound it was to hear 230+ children singing praise songs to our God! After singing there were fun and games to entertain them. They began with a water balloon toss, then balloon pop, and followed by a creative Filipino game. The kids were singing, laughing, and enjoying every moment. After the games, the children were settled into listening to the Bible lesson. Lindsey taught the kids as Pastor Christopher Sablay translated it into Tagalog. The kids learned about the true meaning of Christmas, which is found in John 1:9-12. The kids were suprisingly attentive, they listened, and even answered questions... yet all the while waiting patiently to receive their Christmas gifts. After the lesson was finished they filed into the Church sanctuary one by one, where they then enjoyed the puppet show that had been performed earlier for their mothers. They enjoyed the wonderful performance, which captured their attention and held it off of the gifts that were being prepared. :o)
After the performance the children were waiting with baited breath. Each child's name was called, and they came to the front one by one to receive their gifts. MTW Philippines had graciously put together small gift bags for each child. Just enough to make each child feel important, loved, and cared about. The gift bags included: peanuts, raisins, candy, a banana, marbles, crayons, a color sheet, also a little truck or watch game. As each little one received their gifts their faces were aglow with excitement and joy! As we walked outside with them we found them all ripping into their gift bags and digging out all the food. Our hearts went from sheer joy to broken sadness as we watched each child desperately and quickly eat all their food from their bags. It was if they hadn't eaten in so long, and were not assured of their next meal. Once again we were reminded of the reason we are here, to preach Jesus, the Bread of Life, to the hungry in Spirit, and to feed those who are physically hungry.

God's grace continues to sustain them as well as our hearts, as we continue to reach out to them with the love of the Lord. The Camechile outreach continues every Thursday and Saturday. The children and mothers feast, as the Word is taught and their hunger pains eased. Our prayer for their daily lives is that the pull of the world, Santa Claus, hunger pains, sickness, and death will not drown out the true reason and purpose for life, which is only to enjoy God and glorify Him forever. That is why we continue to minister and press on in the work here. Please pray with us for the Camechile families. Pray that they will seek God's face and peace in their daily lives, which are anything but easy. Pray that the teaching the children and mothers receive will also penetrate into their homes, drawing fathers and families alike into the Kingdom. Pray that God's Word will not return unto Him void, and will penetrate their hearts with His love, and hope for an eternity with Him!