Saturday, March 28, 2009

Kendra's thoughts

Disclaimer: This is very long...but only because this has been the first time in three weeks that I have found the words to come close to describing this place.

I love words. They base the career path that I hope to pursue one day, teaching English and literature. When I can’t find words to explain or describe something, I immediately get frustrated and walk all around Webster’s dictionary & thesaurus to try and find them. With that said, I’ve been at a loss for words for close to a month while in the Philippines.

I’ve had to explore a completely new avenue that I’ve never been comfortable with and MENTALLY define my feelings and emotions. I’ve bottled them in for three weeks. Sometimes they were too heavy, so they would spill over into tears. Other times I would just have to take pictures and hope that I could edit them the right way to enhance the right color to execute the right message. 

But the longer I kept silent, the longer I accumulated the only word to describe where I’ve been; and that word is “home.”

For years I would retreat within myself to a place I imagined in the mountains where the cliffs were cloaked in rich green and would reach all the way to the clouds with a constant cool breeze blowing. This place has a name: Baguio, Philippines.

Other times I would retreat deep into the heart of a city where you could be eclectic with your own pattern, but fall into the rhythm of a fast-pace community. Ironically, I found this place too: Manila, Philippines.

Often when I would get discouraged I would retreat down a dirt road that goes for days; with trees hanging over the top acting as a canopy, and beautiful fields with random villages in between. Yes, I found that this place has a name as well: Iloilo, Philippines.

But finally, in my perfect and “unrealistic” world, I would close my eyes and pretend that there was a place on this earth where you almost felt like you were in Heaven because the presence of God lived there. Where love and selflessness overpowered hurt and bitterness; where giving was a way of life, no matter the cost or consequence. The other places that I imagined in my head did not seem as impossible to find as this place…but I found it. It’s a village called Handumanan; in the city of Bacolod, Philippines.

They say that home is where the heart is. If that is true, then my heart has been eternally ripped in half, never for me to obtain it again. Half resides in Louisiana, and the other half has been spread endlessly across a country full of smiling faces and a love for the life they’ve been given. 

I’ve made life-long friends and connected with them in a very special way that I’ve never connected with any other human before. I’ve found that some things like love, laughter and strength are universal. We’ve laughed, we’ve sang, we’ve cried, we’ve joked, we’ve eaten (some things very questionable), we’ve danced, we’ve seen God in a new way, and we’ve united. 

I found out that I have some family over here that I didn’t know existed. Do you want to know their names? Pastor Tom, his wife JiJi, and their children Genesis, Jezrel, Jireh, and Genrev. They are the pastors of the church in Handumanan…I will frame the pictures that I have with them and hang them in my room. If I ever hear that a hair on their head has been harmed, I will hunt the source down and inflict much pain on them…after all, that’s what family is for.

They all love to comment on how white my skin is (I guess that’s universal too). They laugh and point to my cheeks and say, “Rose! Rose!” then cover their mouths to contain the laughter. I looked at Kori and said, “Hey I guess white is the new tan over here.” Look for that quote on one of my shirts at camp.

The ultimate conversation starter here is a simple smile. The next best thing is learning their language and talking to them. In English they smile and say, “Good morning ma’am.” The biggest joy I get is to grin back, nod and say, “Magandang umaga!” (meaning good morning) They giggle, probably because I’ve butchered the phrase, and wave as I walk away. These people have tapped into LIVING in true joy by ridding themselves of the “stuff” that we call necessities. 

These are just a few thoughts that I’ve managed to put into words as I make my way back to Manila to board a plane to come home. I am so ready to see all of you…and hug my family…and eat, well ANYTHING ☺. I’m ready to worship with you again, to laugh and carry on like we do so often. But when I have that distant look in my eye, it’s not because I’m “bored” with conversation or in a foul mood. It’s only because I’m homesick. It’s only because I want all of you to be able to play tag with Jezrel and Genrev, to hug Genesis and Jireh, and to sing all of the songs with the kids and musicians. 

I know that one day my heart will be warmed with the sight of them again. But deep down, my heart will always long for that place called Heaven where I won’t have to travel over 9,000 miles to see them.

I’ll be back Pastora Rita, Ara-Rose, and Aaron. I’m so glad we were there to see your blind eyes opened miraculously. 

I’ll see you again Pastor Jess & Elsie….J-Jay cook Kevin some good food. ;)

DuDong, keep drivin like a pro- you’re the man. 

Pastor Tom and JiJi, you’ll be the first to know when I find that “gang(gong).” 

Dave Cu & Pastor Sam, ya’ll sure know how to have church.

Jubilee, keep Journey well fed with Jollibee- good luck with college.

Ian my lifesaver, my caramel hazelnut frappucino guru at Starbucks- I’ll be back.

Mallory's, we're beyond blessed with your KINship. Never give up.

To my people- my girls, my boys, my kids, the people closest to my heart: Remember what Mom said, “It’s not goodbye. Don’t say goodbye…’s only farewell for a little while.” 

Friday, March 27, 2009

Baguio -- A Great Finale

It is with a lot of mixed feelings that we are nearing the end of our mission here in the Philippines.

It has been an incredible trip.  We've seen miracles, witnessed love in its purest form, and found that joy lives abundantly in a very organic form here.  We've experienced incredible power and strength, and then felt emotionally empty and drained to our core.

We've cried.  We've laughed.  We've been very quiet at times...  We've loved every minute, while feeling huge waves of homesickness wash over us out of the blue.

We don't want to leave.  But we can't wait to get home.

Our final stop on our trip was here in Baguio, the beautiful mountain city north of Manila.  What a great ending to such a great trip!

God and the Banez family met us here.  

We have discovered yet another huge center of salvation that is making incredible advances in the Kingdom.

Bro. and Sis. Banez pastor a church of almost 600 people.  

During their pastorate over the past 20 years, they have pioneered 26 daughter works in the area.  They have had a Bible School here since 1994.  It was not in session this past year due to the fact that they have embarked on an incredible expansion program at their facility.  The church is built into the side of the mountain...the only way to expand is to go up...and they are doing exactly that!  When the project is completed, the church will seat 700, there will be dorm facilities and classrooms for the Bible school, new Sunday School rooms and a parsonage area.

God met us today as we stood beside a pile of wet concrete in the middle of a torrential downpour underneath tarps that were barely holding back the water.  His Presence confirmed the fact that this area will continue to be an even greater beacon for evangelism, discipleship, and spreading the gospel to the entire region.

We were humbled to have been among that circle.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


This is Mark.

Mark was selling newspapers on our bus in Manila before we departed for Baguio.  He is in the 6th grade.  He goes to school from 6 a.m. until noon, then sells newspapers at the bus station in the afternoons.  

He had no shoes.  Brenda bought a newspaper and gave him some candy.

He had the sweetest smile--was a bit shy, but stood looking at the bus and waving at us until we were out of sight.

I have a boy in the 6th grade, also.

Bradyn didn't ask to be born into a home where he would always have love, and food, and God.

Mark didn't ask to be born into his environment, either.

The first thing I'm going to do when I get off the plane in Alexandria is hug my boy for DAYS.

Then we're going to talk about Luke 12:48.

For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required
Luke 12:48

Monday, March 23, 2009

Overheard while Eavesdropping:

ME: So.  This has been a great trip, hasn't it

MYSELF: Yes.  Yes, it has.  The trip of a lifetime, actually.  I've seen things on this trip I have always prayed to experience, but didn't know if it would happen.

ME: Yes, I agree.  So why are you a bit lonely?

MYSELF: Lonely?  Me?  I'm not lonely!

ME: Yes, you are.  Seems to me you might be homesick?

MYSELF: Who me?  I'm having an incredible time!  How in the world could I be homesick?  Besides that, I'm told that many people are following this blog, so I know I have people with me in spirit.

ME: Well, that may be true.  But nobody is commenting on this blog so you have no way of knowing whether they are with you in spirit or not.

MYSELF: Well, thanks for throwing that in.  Maybe they will take the hint....????

ME: Seems to me you may be missing your family.

MYSELF: Well....I think they are probably doing quite well without me.  They sound like they are doing quite well without me...

ME: Well, I don't think that has anything to do with you missing them.

MYSELF: No, it probably doesn't.  Does it say anywhere in the Word where Paul was lonely on his missionary journeys?

ME: I'm not sure.  But you aren't Paul.  

MYSELF: No, I'm not Paul.  He didn't have Terry or Bradyn or Mom or Kenny and Kim or Nan.  Or Roxy and Maddie.  I don't think he would have traveled so much if they would have been in his life.

ME: Okay, I'll be back.  Gotta make a phone call......

Aaron's Drums

Aaron is the son of Brother Art and Sister Rita.

Just had to share the picture of the Aaron's drum set that he made.

The silver one is made from a barrel and painted.  The gold one is made from a bucket and painted.  The snare and tom are real.  The cymbals are on stands made of bamboo.

We Love Aaron!

Ladies Conference - Western Vasayas District

They came from all over.

They rode in on motorcycles.  They rode by boat, then took the jeepneys.  They walked. 

They brought their clothes, their food, and their bedding.  

And hunger.  For fellowship, for God, for the Word.

They expected about 200.  Before it was over, there were over 400 each night.  Men would stay near the back to protect the women, and some would be in the upper risers.  Regardless of whether they were ladies attending, men protecting, or children wandering, they were all worshippers.

The level of the worship was buoyant...lifting you up as it was raised to the

Wednesday night was about "Anointing."

Thursday night was about "Worship."

The two must be present for us to be in the Presence.  They immediately latched on to the concept, and oh my!  The atmosphere became electric!  

We passed out bottles of anointing oil on Wednesday which they immediately began using on each other.  The next day, they wanted copies of the "sermon"..(but I'm NOT a preacher! ha!) and, since there is no tape ministry, they asked for my notes and made copies for every lady!  Nine pages!  (I didn't know that's why they wanted them....I would have condensed them.)

Friday night was such a sweet time.  They are givers...the thanks, the love, the's all part of who they are and everything they do.  It's like a big party in someone's living room...except it's church.

Then, after the laughter, the greetings, and the gifts, it was time for the Word.  

Kendra greeted the congregation, then gave them something she received from the Lord several weeks ago.  She talked about what happened when the anointing and true worship was present, then asked for all who needed healing to come to one side and all who knew someone who needed healing to go to the other.  She thought a few would come and we would pray, then I would speak.

Every single person in the room came forward to one side or another!  It wasn't loud or exuberant...just calmly walking forward, lifting their hands, and immediately responding to the Spirit.  For about 45 minutes they stayed that way. Some prayed with others, but most just worshiped and prayed by themselves.

Needless to say, I only spoke a couple of sentences at the end!  :-) 

Sister Elsie Valenzuela, the leader of the conference, said she could hear women in their dialect saying "I'm healed! I'm healed!"  Two ladies testified of healing from immediately after the service, and the other the next morning. (See the blog post "Sister Rita".)

After the service, most returned to the upper levels, packed up their bedding (they had been sleeping on the concrete floor), their clothes which were hanging over the railings, their cooking utensils and set out to wait on their transportation.  Over 200 women were from another island and had to wait for jeepneys to go back and forth to get them all to the boat.  The boat finally left at 2 a.m. and reports were that they sang, and prayed, and testified all the way back.  When they docked, many had to travel several more hours to get home, but none were complaining...

Why don't we see miracle services such as this in the United States?

Maybe because we don't sleep on concrete floors.  Or maintain joy in spite of intense heat.  Or sacrifice food and rest and sleep in order to get to a meeting where we are knowing that God will move.

Maybe because we only want God to be our Santa Claus instead of our King.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Sister Rita

We visited Sister Rita and Brother Art this past Tuesday.

They are about a 2 1/2 - 3 hour drive up into the mountains from Iloilo City.  They have mountains on one side and the South China Sea about 100 yards down the path on the other.

LOVE their church.  I could have stayed there all have to walk down a path quite a way from the road to get to the collection of houses and the church.  The church is on the left and Danny's house is on the right.

The pictures below do not capture it well, but it will at least give you an idea...

Sister Rita is quite skilled in reflexology and massage.  She insisted on massaging my feet and did so for about an hour.  Amazing stuff -- amazing woman.

But here is the deal.  Sister Rita has been diagnosed with a disease in her retinas and is going blind.  She's fine in her surroundings, but at the Ladies conference this week, it was quite evident that she could not see her way.  Her husband must lead her.  

Friday night's service was a healing service.  We didn't plan for it to be that way -- it just happened.  The women gathered at the front for about an hour receiving prayer and anointing from each other...Sister Elsie (the Superintendent's wife) said she heard people everywhere in their dialect saying, "I'm healed, I'm healed!"

Today, before leaving for the airport, we went by the Valenzuela's church to visit and see their church and Sister Rita and Brother Art were there.  They were waiting until the heat abated before going home on their motorcycle.  We visited and then Sister Rita said, "M'am Melani, the process has started.  I woke up this morning and could see!" She was walking around without her husband's assistance (even offering to help me down the stairs!!!) and took a picture of me on her cell phone and said, "See?  I can see this picture of you!"  Her vision is still blurry, but she says it has been consistently improving.

I've often prayed to be a part of something like that, and am still amazed by what we experienced.  I'm humbled.  I'm repentant, because I don't deserve it.

We often ask why we don't see such things in the United States.  

I'm wondering if it's because we would never be willing to sleep for 3 nights on a concrete floor, and wash our clothes out and hang them over the rails of the top balcony, and stay to wait for a ride to the boat until 2 a.m., then sing all the way to the boat because we were just happy to be with the people of God in the presence of God.  

I'm wondering if it's because we could do all this in 90 degree heat with no air conditioning, no money, and no transportation.  

I'm wondering if it's because we just look at God like a genie in a bottle--we really want His magic tricks, but aren't quite willing to give up our pride and our stuff and our comfort.

I'm wondering if it's because it's easy to give our money for His cause--but it's quite another thing to give ourselves.

I'm just wondering...

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A visit with Danny

After visiting with Pastor Art and his wife, Rita, at their beautiful bamboo church, they asked if we would pray for Danny before we left.  We said, "Of course" and they led us across the path to Danny's house.

His family was out in front.  A couple of them attend church, but Danny doesn't.

Danny had just come from the hospital with heat stroke.  We walked into the front room of the house which was basically empty...they all carry their chairs to the outside during the day to get more air...and Danny was lying on a blanket on the concrete floor in the front room.  No air, no fan....just lying there.  So weak, he could only whisper.  I asked his name and he said, "Danny."  I asked if he believed that Jesus could make him feel better and he nodded.  So, somebody handed me some oil and we all began praying.

(You can watch this video on youtube.  Search for "A Visit with Danny".)

Many gathered around, but only our small group and the pastor and wife prayed.  The rest watched carefully.  Danny moved his lips, but I couldn't catch what he was saying.  At the end of it all, I squeezed Danny's hand and said, "In Jesus name."  He whispered, "In Jesus Name."  That's what he had been saying.  Then, he said it one more time, a little bit stronger, "In Jesus Name."

We left.  Last night at the Conference, his pastor's wife told me he was feeling much better, was up and around, and he and his family was thanking Jesus for touching him.  

We have too many options, you know?  When Jesus is the only option, there is no doubt about who to thank when the situation gets better.

I love going to the interior places....Jesus lives very close in there.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


My village.

A little presumptuous of me to think of it as such--but I do.

One of the loudest messages I've ever heard from God was when I drove away from the village for the first time in 2006 and heard Him say we were to partner with it.  To see what God has done in just 3 short years just overwhelms me.

This visit was just as powerful as my last ones have been.  

When we drove up on Sunday morning, the people were already singing.  But there was still a crowd by the door waiting for us...touching us...smiling...crying..."Welcome back, m'am!"...."We love you, m'am!"..."Praise the LORD! m'am!".  Kendra started crying the minute she walked through the door and doesn't remember much for about 15 totally understand...

The presence of the Lord was incredibly rich there this past Sunday.  A weeping spirit...a thankful spirit...thanking HIm for His goodness...

Pastor Tom and Sister JiJi and their staff are entrenched in our hearts.  When God connects, it's just connected. I love the way God does that.

I love the children of Handumanan.  They are absolutely just as powerful in prayer as the adults.  When they sing, heaven comes down.  I also love how this church allows their children to minister in such a powerful way.  They sing, they play, they are in front, they worship...oh my.  It's amazing and powerful and there is no doubt in my mind that many, many of them are going to be powerful ministers in just a few short years.

Kendra greeted the congregation...and I was much more moved than they were.  smile.  My kid, ya know?  She exhorted them to remain strong as people who are called by His NAME...and His Presence confirmed her exhortation.

My subject was "All You Need is in His Presence."  And His Presence was so powerful there, until it felt as if it was pushing me--lifting me up--it was so easy to say what needed to be said.

Prayer following the speaking lasted for about an hour.  Every single person in the building was weeping and travailing and interceding and rejoicing in His presence.  

You can watch the video of this baptism on youtube.  Go to and search for "Baptism in Bacolod".

Then....the gifts....the baptism of the brand-new couple in the barrell outside...the tour of the improvements which have been made since our last visit...fellowship together around the small table in the tiny schoolroom with homemade casting....there were people standing--the back wall of the sanctuary needs to be knocked out to enlarge the church so more can fit...laughter...sharing details of our lives and our families...

My last words:  "I am no longer a guest here, but family.  Good-by for now...I'll be back."

And I will.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

No Words

I know that I am supposed to be tracking our journey here so that those back home can keep up with us.  

But I find that, once again, I don't really have the words to describe what this place does to me.

It strips away the face, the mask, the covering--and exposes the selfishness, the stinginess, and the truly non-loving inner core of me.

We arrived in the city and got checked in to our hotel, then left to go "greet" some pastors and saints of area churches.

When we arrived at the first one, the pastor and his wife had been waiting for several hours.  Their "saints" were about 10-12 young people of the most primitive, poverty-stricken area you can imagine.  Their "church" is an empty shell...a cinder-block box which has the beginning shape of a church, but no roof, no doors, no floor.  They were so happy as they told me of how they had lost their previous church building, but were holding services in 2 locations and were running about 90-100 in each location.  They want this building so that they can bring everybody together.  It will cost about $2000 to finish it.  The boys, in their early teens and younger, are helping the pastor to lay the cinderblock and dig out the floor.  We stood in the dark and prayed over the property, the pastor, the children.  We left with them thanking us profusely for taking the time to visit their burden.

The second church stripped away more of our mask.

It was well after dark when our vehicle bounced to a stop and the pastor's wife was at the door before we could even turn it off.  There were several of their family and church members who began clapping and singing as we made our way up the rocky path to the church.  Inside was a half-wall, with bamboo posts on the top half.  The lame man you see in the picture has built all the top half with the bamboo.  It was spotless, the curtains on the back cinderblock wall blowing in the balmy evening breeze.

The kids sang, we played with the little puppy, we talked about the future of the church and how it is growing....we visited the pastor's dwelling which is attached.  The sign that the pastor's young son had made hung on the door:  "Time Belongs to God."  Aaah.

The pastor's wife wept and said, "Thank you so much for coming.  We have never had a missionary visit us before.  You don't know what it means just to know you care for us."

We then went back in and prayed.  The tears were flowing profusely.  It costs $2 for a lady to register for the Women's conference this coming week.  When we asked if there were any who could not afford to go, the pastor's wife said that probably about 10 of them would have gone, but could not pay the fee.  When we gave money for them all, it was overwhelming.  

$2.  Per lady.  For 3 days.  

The third church.  Not much mask left.

Again, cinderblock walls on the bottom half, bamboo on the top.  A concrete table outside for coffee on Sunday mornings.  A church member works at a sound shop, so there was a sound system (in the open-air church!) with drums and a guitar.  The pastor's wife had prepared a solo to sing...we sat on the chairs and laughed and they told us of how God had been so very good to them.  

The pulpit is is a tree root hewn out of the ground by one of the men who had gather to greet us.  They sanded and polished it, put a base and a desk on top, and a beautiful piece of furniture graces the church when you come around the wall they have erected by the door to create a "foyer."  

Five ladies from that church are going to the conference now that would not have gone before.


The fourth church blew our minds.

The young pastor and his wife have been married for 3 months.  The roof is primitive, their tiny 2 rooms joins the sanctuary....think a one car carport, with an attached storage room.  That is the church and the house.  

They met us with about 20 of their saints...all brand-new.  The church was started 8 months ago and already they have about 60-70 on Sundays--street people!  These are the trike and jeepney drivers (taxi-like transportation).  These are the street vendors and the poor.  Yet, they are growing rapidly and somehow are supporting the pastor and his new wife.  They met us with a guitar singing, "We are happy people, yes we are!"   Then, "I'm Coming Back to the Heart of Worship" and "Thanks, Thanks, I Give you Thanks"....

Masks are shredded at this point.  What's left to keep a mask together after that?

What do you do with this sort of thing?  

Finish out your visit, fly back home, and glue your mask back together?  

Put blinders on as you go about your day and try to insulate yourself from the incessant neediness in your world that drains you?

I don't have the answer of what one does....but I know there is no glue left for the mask.

What would you do?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Friday in Manila at ACTS

After a restful night's sleep (not so much for my traveling companions--I told them they shouldn't have taken that nap!) we were downstairs at 10:00 a.m. for the hour's ride through Manila's back roads to the Bible School.  It was Manila at it's finest.  Snarled traffic, jeepneys, trikes, open meat on the sidewalks and people everywhere.  I don't think Kendra said one word during the entire ride except to utter "Thank you, Jesus!" a few times when we narrowly escaped hitting or getting hit.  It's great!

We arrived at the school about 5 minutes before the chapel service started.  It was great to see this group of students again.  We were here in July, 2008 right after this school year began, and now we are here at the end right before graduation. The spirit is the same.  

After incredible worship, Pastor Sam spoke on "What You Have in Your Hand is Enough" using the story of the miracle of the feeding of the 5000.  He did an incredible job and the altar service at the end was extremely powerful.

We are so very blessed.  Not because of what we have or where we live or material things, but because we are children of God.  Our lives and the lives of the students and staff of ACTS are polar opposites in culture and custom---but our connection is immediate.  

Because we are all children of the same God.

Because we all have the same innate desire within us to serve the same God.

Because our ultimate destination is the same place.

It never ceases to amaze me how language, lifestyles, and cultures can be so vastly different, yet there is immediate connection when the Spirit is present.

Heaven is beyond our imagination, isn't it?   

Thursday, March 12, 2009

We've Arrived!

After 26 hours travel with 20 of that spent in the air, we have arrived!

The picture above is of me, Kendra, and Brenda Mallory at the Alexandria airport waiting to leave.  We would never post one here of how we looked when we arrived. :-)

Pastor Art and Sister Linda Martinez met us at the airport and delivered us safely to our hotel where we finally stretched out (for the first time in 2 nights.)  It was wonderful.

Today has been spent simply trying to get our "Philippine legs."  We have shopped for gifts for people we will see here, bought a few groceries (Kendra was mesmerized by the grocery cart--pic coming), and simply just sat and stared blankly.  

We are in Makati--the central part of Manila--and it is beautiful.  Each time I come here, I see how this city is becoming more and more westernized.  The grocery store was a real eye opener.  So much of the food was western junk food!  (However, there WAS the fresh seafood aisle--pic coming later.)  

It reminds me once more of how we are becoming so universally alike, especially in the larger cities around the world.  Starbucks, McDonalds, Bubba Gumps, Chili's, Hard Rock Cafe...Kate Spade, Louis Vuitton, Crabtree and cards, wireless computer access, electronic everything everywhere...

it's great for travelers who love convenience, but it also makes me a bit sad that so much individual national culture is being erased as the entire world slowly evolves into one global community.

The rest of today and tonight will be spent recuperating.  

Tomorrow we plan to be in the chapel service of ACTS Bible School.  

If Kendra ever wakes up, she's going to write a few of her observations here as well....:-)


Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Preparing to leave on a trip is always the worst part of the whole thing.  Running here, there, cooking food to freeze so the ones left behind won't eat junk food, paying bills ahead, washing clothes, cleaning out the refrigerator (why is that?), making 15 trips to Target, loving on the dogs, writing cards for The Boy to open each day while I'm gone...

But it's all done now.  We're packed and ready...suitcases are by the door...the kitchen is's time.

20 days halfway around the world...Kendra and I leaving Terry and Bradyn behind...anxiously anticipating the forever memories to be made and the promise of life change in the presence of God...

For those who are praying and keeping up with us, we are forever indebted and grateful to you.  We will be sharing some of our adventures and our news here.

So...farewell until we land in Manila on Wednesday.  

sigh.  I forgot to get dog food.