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.” 


  1. Kendra,
    You are quite adept at revealing your inner soul in words. Thank you for being so transparent, for allowing those of us who were not able to go with you to live this vicariously.
    As much of an impact as they made on you, I know you made on them as well. I am sure they will never forget the girl with the Million Dollar smile and the spirit of pure gold.

  2. What a gift with words! Thank for letting us feel the heartbeat of a place so far away. Jeff is right... you are the girl with the Million Dollar smile and we are just a little selfishly (ok a LOT selfishly) thankful that we have it back now.

  3. Wow!! You put into words what I (and most missionaries) feel! So glad you were able to experience this. And I agree with the the comment of Jeff...I am sure you had a great impact on those you met as well. I can say that with assurance because you impacted me with your smile and the quick way you opened your heart up to us.

    I think my favorite line is: "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 can certainly identify with this - as I have people dear to my heart scattered all over the world. What a day that will be...gathered around the throne together with those from all over the world...worshipping HIM for eternity!

    Love you, girl!!! Keep smiling! And keep opening your heart up to what the Master has in store for you.