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For most people, getting on a plane to Cebu City, Philippines is a glamorous occasion. It’s exciting to see a place on your itinerary that many people have never heard of…a place that’s exotic, tropical and far away.

Mitch and Ruth Ohlendorf are on their way to Cebu as I write, but I doubt glamorous is a word they’d use to describe their departure. Their year of home assignment in Minnesota, USA has come to an end. They packed up their lives (again), left two beloved sons behind at college and returned to a ministry that moves quickly and requires incredible flexibility, diligence and commitment.

Mitch and Ruth leaving Minnesota is another sacrifice in a long list of sacrifices they’ve made for the homeless children of Cebu. They’re not jet setting off to see a far-off world for a couple weeks. They’re returning to their call. They are the hands and feet of so many who care about orphans. Mitch is our Cebu Executive Director and Ruth is Outreach Director.

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Here's a glimpse into their call to CSC via a short interview:

How did it first hit you, "I want to work for CSC?"

Mitch: When I was in Cebu the first summer on a short-term mission trip. I was in a group of seven that wasn’t working for the shelter, but we were based there with social time at the shelter. I knew that first summer, at least by the end, that God was calling me to this work. I didn’t have a moment where I fell to my knees or saw a blinding light. It was a progression that happened as a result of the whole experience.

Ruth: I grew up not wanting to work with “snotty kids!” But then I saw these big Americans working with and hugging the most malnourished in our community. Here are these handsome men and beautiful women coming to our country and doing this hard work. This changed my attitude towards the children, and I couldn’t help falling in love with them. You could see the physical difference in the children after they came to the shelter.

Looking back at this point, what are some highlights of your time at CSC?

Mitch: Certainly the development of our facilities. It’s a highlight to work hard with those who made it possible through giving. Of course, it’s thrilling when very large sibling groups or children with special needs are placed for adoption. Those children who had equal opportunity at CSC, but less of a chance at adoption due to various circumstances. Being part of that process. Any day spent doing things with the kids is a highlight for me.

Ruth: Looking back the first heartbreak I had was when a girl named Arlie left for adoption. When I started working full time at CSC she was one of the kids who would go around with me in the village. When she left I could hear her calling to me and that was really sad, and I really missed her. When Arlie returned to Cebu a few years ago that was so exciting. Since she left in 1983 I didn’t know if I’d ever see her again. When we said goodbye back then we never knew if we’d see a child again. Now, kids come back, but that wasn’t always a given. Being able to see them and knowing how they are now is a highlight.

When was a time it really struck you you’d changed a child's life?

Mitch: Any time that I do the matching work for a child. It’s a very burdensome, weighty time knowing I have the responsibility of choosing a family for a child--a family for the rest of their lives. It also hits us when we see children at home after they’re adopted. Seeing the ways they’ve been blessed and even challenges they’ve gone through, seeing them continue in the Christian values that they learned while at CSC, especially as they start their own families. It’s important to see the cycle of abuse, crisis and trauma being broken. Sometimes you see what the kids have come from and wonder how they can break out of that, but many have. A boy named Mark having a hole in his heart and seeing him rescued from that and having the life he has now. A girl like Anna. She would be dead if CSC hadn’t stepped in. She and her sister both had sepsis, she survived but her sister didn’t. Everything we do each day, whether major like placing children for adoption, or spending 5 minutes giving special attention is changing their lives.

Ruth: Roselyn and Julieto, two of our Teen Home residents. I encouraged Roselyn to think about going back to school after it became clear she had just settled on being a beautician. She want back to high school and now she’s in college and almost graduating. Julieto saw this and wanted to do the same thing. Roselyn became an example and now Julieto is graduating from high school. We have outreach kids (children who were returned to their birth family) who have graduated from college. With CSC’s help, they’re able to make this happen. 

What does it mean to you to be called?

Mitch: To do what you would not otherwise want or feel equipped to do. I think if you didn’t feel called you wouldn’t be in the ministry as long as we have. There are many encouraging things, but there are also many discouraging and difficult things. Being called is about persevering.

Ruth: Hard to see kids make the same mistakes others have made. Instead of learning, they repeat them. But if you’re not there for them, they don’t have any other family. You are their family. I think that’s what calling is really about at CSC.

What would you tell a young person who is interested in a career in missions?

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Mitch: It’s a chance, along with many challenges, to live a life filled with incredible blessing and reward and joy. You’ll have done something that’s changed a lot of lives.

Ruth: You’ve heard the phrase you receive more than you give. CSC is very much that place. You can never give more than you receive. There are times you don’t feel good, and going to the shelter makes your day. The kids are excited to see you. They just make you smile.

Well, Mitch and Ruth Ohlendorf make us smile. We are thankful they followed God to his work for them at CSC.

 

Embracing Hope

Jun. 10, 2024By: Teacher Lyrah Ann

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The Cebu Children of Hope School recently marked a significant milestone with its annual Moving Up Ceremony and Recognition Rites. This celebration symbolized the incredible resilience of its students in overcoming extraordinary challenges. The event commenced with a processional and an uplifting opening prayer, setting a tone of gratitude and hope that resonated throughout the ceremony.

The Field Director's welcoming address underscored the importance of this milestone in the students' educational journey, prompting a moment of reflection on how far these young minds had come. Emotions rose as the Principal recognized the candidates for completion, celebrating their hard work and dedication. It was a moment of joy for the students and everyone who had supported them along the way. The ceremony also recognized non-completers, honoring their efforts and progress. This segment highlighted the school's commitment to helping every student on their path.

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One of the ceremony's highlights was the guest speech by the Executive Director of Phase Two Cebu Group. In it, he emphasized the transformative power of education and the value of perseverance. Another standout moment was the gratitude speech by a Grade Six student. Her words were a touching reminder of the impact of community and support:

"When I arrived, everyone was a stranger to me, and making new friends was challenging. I questioned whether I'd ever find someone to help me until a group of people stepped in to offer their support and encouragement, bringing joy, peace, and kindness into my life. Without these people, I would never have realized my dreams.
You've all been like guiding stars, leading me toward my goals with your teachings, encouragement, and big hearts. Your presence here has made perseverance and consistency possible. Above all, I thank God for placing me in this special place. I surrender all my doubts to Him and am grateful for His forgiveness through His
son, Jesus Christ."

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Her heartfelt words touched everyone present, emphasizing the significant impact of the community's support. The celebration continued with awards for the completers, celebrating their exceptional achievements. The Kindergarten and Grade Six Completers performed their completion songs, adding a joyful and celebratory atmosphere to the event.

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As the ceremony concluded, it marked both an end and a new beginning for these resilient students. It was a day filled with laughter, tears, and deep camaraderie. It was a day to celebrate their journey and eagerly anticipate the bright futures that lie ahead.

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Edible Happiness

May. 24, 2024By: Home Life Team

Ever wonder how we prepare meals for 20 children in one house daily? Our long-time cook, Auntie Helen, prepares a delicious and healthy lunch for our children in Cherne Home. Our cooks enjoy seeing our children join the empty plate club, which means the food is delicious, and the children are satisfied! Here is a snippet of lunch preparation in Cherne Home.

"The Bow and the Arrow"

May. 9, 2024By: Counseling Department

Children are explorers. Curiosity often leads them to peek Screenshot_2024-05-09_at_5.21.37PMinside the doorknob's key hole; enthralls them to touch a squealing kettle; and ferry their feet into places where they are not allowed to be. Often, boundaries are broken.

Children are expressive. Emotions often steer their ship as they navigate their social world. They jump, giggle, grin, and laugh when happy. A frown, a downturned face, and a shoulder-drop paint their sadness. Talking back, kicking the wall, shutting down, spitting, throwing things, and crying are the easiest cards to pull out when they are angry. Often, adults' patience is challenged.

Children, most of the time, do not listen, nor take heed of instructions and reminders; they have a loose grip of morality that even memory verses fall short of reminding them to be good. But this does not mean we stop teaching them to be kind. This is to remind us that children are fallible and that they do not have the skill sets to fully self-manage; even adults have difficulty regulating themselves, too. And children who misbehave a lot are often painted with a different color palette, viewed as a problematic child.

Screenshot_2024-05-09_at_5.21.51PMAt CSC, children do not only go through these developmental obstacles. They are also bringing with them their adverse experiences. For some children, this baggage magnifies their difficulty to self-regulate. Without a proper lens, dealing with these children might be quite challenging. As adults, the common response is to control these behaviors but with the aid of Trauma Informed Care, houseparents, caregivers, and other staff have a better understanding of the underlying factors of such behaviors. Rather than seeking control, comfort is offered. Rather than spending time preaching the rules and whatnots, cultivating a relationship is the focus. Rather than seeing the child as problematic, the child is seen as a work in progress, still growing to reach his/her full potential, and to give the child a chance to lead a more meaningful life. Through Trauma Informed Care, we are always reminded with how Khalil Gibran viewed how children should be guided. In his poem, he said:

"...You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
 For they have their own thoughts.
 You may house their bodies but not their souls,
 For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
 You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
 For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
 You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
 The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
 Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
 For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable."
Khalil Gibran, excerpt from On Children

One Light Tube At a Time

May. 6, 2024By: Mark Leop

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Within the borders of the shelter, the facilities maintenance team plays an essential role in ensuring the physical environment reflects the warmth and love that these children deserve. Our tasks extend far beyond fixing leaky faucets or repairing broken doors; we are entrusted with the responsibility of sustaining an atmosphere where hope can grow.

The team's recent activity was replacing the dim, outdated lighting fixtures with vibrant, energy-efficient tube lights that transformed the ambiance of the homes. Where once there was gloom, now a radiant glow spreads throughout the corners, giving a sense of joy.

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For the children, the newfound brightness serves as a symbol of hope, a reminder that even in the darkest of times, there are those who care enough to bring light into their lives. The simple joy of being able to read a book without straining their eyes is a blessing that many take for granted.

Seeing the smiles of the children motivates us to undertake more works and activities that not only improve the physical environment but also uplift the spirits of those who call this place home, one light tube at a time.

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Easter Celebration at CCHS: A Joyful Time of Togetherness and Introspection

Apr. 22, 2024By: Teacher Mae

At Cebu Children of Hope School, Easter isn't just about chocolate and colorful eggs – it's a time for friendly
competition, laughter, and unforgettable memories. This year's Easter celebration was no exception, as
students, teachers, and staff came together for a day filled with thrilling games and challenges that brought out
the competitive spirit in everyone.

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Dancing and Singing Songs:
Easter songs sounded in the big room as students gathered for a special assembly to start the day off. We sang songs that spoke of hope, resurrection, and renewal, which filled our hearts with the spirit of the occasion. The environment was infused with energy as students and teachers performed lively dances with an Easter theme, showcasing their inventiveness and enthusiasm after the upbeat music. 

Discovering the Significance of Easter:
It was essential to pause among the celebrations and consider Easter's more profound meaning.
Students learned about Easter's biblical and historical background through lively discussions and
interactive video presentations. Easter tells the account of Jesus' resurrection, which helps people
appreciate and value our holiday more deeply.

Easter Arts and Crafts:
Creativity was blooming as students engaged in various Easter-themed crafts and activities. Each activity allowed self-expression and artistic exploration, from coloring eggs to designing eggs. These hands-on experiences not only sparked imagination but also encouraged students to feel fulfilled.

Egg Blowing Contest:
The Egg Blowing Contest followed, where competitors tested their lung capacity in a match of breath and skill. Competitors tried to blow their eggs across a marked finish line using only a hollowed-out egg and unwavering resolve. Cheers broke out as the eggs raced through the floor, driven only by the competitors' breath. Everyone was on the edge of their seats throughout the entertaining and exciting Egg Blowing Contest.

Walking Eggs Contest:
It was the Walking Egg Contest, which tested participants' balance, coordination, and willpower. Using spoons held in their mouths, participants carefully balanced eggs as they made their way through an obstacle course. The contestants' constant fear of losing their precious cargo made the competition much more suspenseful. As competitors crossed the finish line with their eggs remarkably intact despite the odds, the crowd cheered them on.

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Prize or Challenge:
Inside each egg, an enjoyable task or a treasured prize awaits everyone, heightening the celebration's mystery and excitement. Rewards might be anything from candies to tiny trinkets. On the other hand, challenge activities allow kids to work on tasks that promote creativity, confidence, and collaboration.

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As the time began to end on another memorable Easter celebration at CCHS, laughter echoed through the air and smiles lit up the faces of all who participated. Through games and challenges that tested skill and spirit, we came together as a school community to celebrate the joy and camaraderie that define this particular time of year. As we reflect on the day's festivities, let us carry the spirit of Easter with us – a spirit of fun, friendship, and boundless enthusiasm.

Happy Easter from all of us at Cebu Children of Hope School!