From Auntie Sandy's Retirement Party in Minnesota
Here are a couple of tributes from Auntie Sandy's retirement party in Minnesota on September 11.
Why are we here tonight? That is my assigned topic as we get the program going tonight.
I want to paint two pictures for you tonight. Both represent endearing images for me for the ministry of CSC.
One is a cross stitch with a group of owls on a tree branch with these words stitched above them: “There’s always room for one more.” We have made that kind of a motto at CSC over the years. Although we have limits of space, manpower and budget, we always try to be open to making room for another child who needs us badly. This might be a malnourished child found in the street who might not survive another day without the lifegiving care of CSC, or an abused child badly needing the protection of a shelter. There is room for one more. Sandy’s heart is like that. It has an almost unlimited capacity to love more children. And when she loves you, that means that she remembers you, your personal information, your eventual adoptive parents, your accomplishments, everything. We are here tonight because of Sandy’s amazing heart, which has always inspired us at CSC to scoot over a little and let another child in.
Another image that I have in my mind is a staircase. It is the staircase that leads up to Sandy’s office above the garage near the Cherne Home in Banawa. The stairs go up the side of the building and constitute a pretty good climb, especially for little ones. Hundreds and hundreds of children have made that fairly steep climb up to see Auntie Sandy. For some it was to have regularly scheduled counseling, or just to say hi and see if there might be a treat. It was worth the climb. But for many, climbing those stairs meant that the climber was in big trouble. If the house parents sent a child or children to see Sandy in her office, it was usually because of something fairly major that needed her attention. None of these kids hurried up the stairs. They knew that Auntie Sandy would be disappointed in them, that there would be repercussions for their behavior. Being in “big trouble” was never fun, and the stair leading up to her office certainly seemed long and steep.
The person waiting at the top of the stairs was always loving and fair, and, when necessary, firm. She was and is a symbol for what CSC is about. We not only have room on our branch for many kids, but we strive to do our best to provide loving, compassionate care for all of them. That involves meeting their emotional and spiritual needs, but also, it means having rules and expectations. It means that we love them enough to discipline them, even when that is far from being fun. It means that, sometimes, they need to walk up that seemingly long flight of steps to see Auntie Sandy. Away from the other kids. Away from any other distractions. Just one on one with Sandy, and her loving heart. We are here tonight because for the past years Auntie Sandy was at the top of those stairs, doing her very best to encourage, instruct, love, correct, inspire, befriend and, yes, discipline and introduce them to the One who would enter their hearts and change their lives for eternity.
Cebu City is very much a Roman Catholic city.
Our Lady of the Sacred Heart and the Sacred Heart of Jesus are two of the most popular parishes in our city. In Banawa there is a parish that sort of combines these two, and is known as the The Alliance of Two Hearts Parish. If you have ever visited Cebu and CSC you have almost certainly driven by that church on your way between the CSC office and the Shelter in Banawa. With no disrespect to that parish, and without ascribing divinity where it is not merited, I would respectfully submit that CSC has, for the past 35 years, been the Alliance of Two Hearts: The heart of our Lord Jesus, whose perfect love is at the center of everything we do at CSC, and that finite, fallible but unfailing heart of Auntie Sandy that beats in such an inspiring way for the kids of CSC.
Bless you Auntie Sandy.
In 1962 Sandy and her family moved to this community, and started attending this church. My father was the pastor at the time so that is how we met and became close friends immediately. At that time Constance Evangelical Free was a small country church, located on the corner across the street.
Sandy and I were extremely active and often whispered and giggled during the service. My dad would stop right in the middle of the sermon to tell us to be quiet or move to the front pew. Our naughty behavior helped us to understand some of the rambunctious children that we would eventually care for at CSC.
We went to everything at church; Sunday school, Vacation Bible school, the youth group, and Camp Shamineau for retreats and summer camp. We went to some of the same schools and graduated from Anoka High school in the early 70’s. Sandy and I took several trips around the US and to the Canary Islands. We never dreamed in those days that we would be called by the Lord to be missionaries on the other side of the world.
When we were children playing together in Constance years ago who would have thought that we would spend 36 years side by side taking care of precious children in the Philippines?
Working with Sandy has been a tremendous blessing, even in difficult times. We have had the privilege of working with many wonderful Filipinos that the Lord has called to be partners with us. Sandy was the Child Care Director and worked closely with all of our house parents and counselors, and trained our child care workers. Hundreds of children have been touched by her efforts and her dedication, and will never forget her unconditional love for them, including our daughters.
Sandy has always gone the extra mile to do what needed to be done, even if she worked 12 to 18 hour days, or more. It was a joy to travel around the island of Cebu with Sandy to visit children who were referred to CSC, and we spent countless hours taking care of sick children in the hospital or in our infirmary. In addition to being Auntie Sandy to all of the kids at CSC she also fulfills that role to adopted children here in the United States.
What a blessing that the Swanson family moved to Constance more than 50 years ago, and I’m so thankful that our friendship has lasted all these years. I can’t believe that the time has come for Sandy to retire, and I simply cannot imagine being in Cebu without her. One thing that will never change is our love and respect for her, and all of the wonderful memories will be in our hearts and minds for the rest of our lives. We give God all the praise and glory for using Sandy for the many years that she served at CSC.
We love you, dear friend.