As the academic year of 2022-2023 draws to a close. I can't help but be in awe of how God worked and moved. Time flew by, sometimes gently and other times tumultuously, and just like that, the school year will soon be encapsulated within its boundaries. I find myself reminiscing about the days, weeks, and months - the school year brimming with new, anticipated, and unexpected challenges. Our experiences have encompassed formal and informal conversations, experiencing tears and laughter, navigating the pressures of academics and personal growth, and finding moments of pure joy while held steadfastly by God's unwavering grace, which carried our high school students through.
As I prepare to welcome a new wave of high school students, I peer into this future with this reflection on the past. What kind of ride will it be this time? How will it all turn out? Undoubtedly, obstacles will be present, and indeed the road will be rough, but will we have the courage to face and overcome them?
As I muse on these things, I'm reminded of how far we have come when I look at our high school students. They have graduated despite all they have gone through. It wasn't a smooth ride, but the fact that they have made it here only attests to God's goodness, even in times of doubt and difficulties. Despite the hurdles and challenges, they have managed to push through by God's grace. Now, six junior high school students, two senior high school students, and two ALS students stand on the precipice, ready to take another leap over the fence of doubts and fears as they venture into new realms of growth, challenges, demands, and experiences. Equipped with their learnings, carrying a teachable heart, and holding on to His promises to take care of them, they are ready to take another leap and begin a new chapter, comforted by the knowledge that support will accompany them.
Now that they are ripe for new challenges, I can only be inspired by the students I lead. It's going to be tough ahead, but God is greater, and He is faithful. Through Him, we shall all boldly leap into the next chapter.
As we bid farewell to the school year 2022 - 2023, I can only be proud of my students and be thankful to God for them. Through their hard work, they persevered. They ran the race while glancing at their sides and cheering each other on to keep doing the hard work; offering help and support to each other along the way. As they step into the future known by God, let us remind them that they are loved and have a calling. Together let's brace for what is coming, and by God's strength, I know that we all can embrace another year with anticipation and trust in the God who calls us to leap in faith.
They said that time heals. True. However, time alone could not do all the stitches. Most of the children here in CSC have a myriad of wounds to heal from their past. A wound on their knees would only take a week to heal but a wound made when no one helped them to get up would take years, a hundred of CSC outings, and relationships. Some have spent most of their childhood here. And that's a lot of time yet most of them are still haunted by the ghosts of their past— the phantom of neglect, rejection, abandonment, and the monstrous impact of separation from their significant others. Time is not enough.
I've been working with these children for three years and I've witnessed how these ghosts have influenced their behaviors and perspective of their own selves and their lives. Despite these, I've also observed how the love and care provided by the houseparents, aunties (caregivers), and other staff in CSC have greatly lessened the grip of these ghosts in their lives. Because of this, children have retaken the cape of their childhood. Trust has sprouted again and has blossomed into friendship and family. It is truly magical to witness how a child trusts an adult again. A positive and healthy relationship is, for me, the greatest healing the child could have. In counseling, we highly value relationships as this always precedes any counseling techniques. Although it has always been a challenge gaining the children's trust, art has paved the way for us, counselors, to see and hear their stories. It has been a great tool for us to deal with resistant children in counseling. Art allows the child to express himself/herself in ways he/she is most comfortable to. It allows the child to "reflect their inner worlds, depicting various feelings" (Malchiodi, 1998). Art helps the children share their stories to us in a non-threatening way. It allows the child to have full control of their creation. Painting, drawing, music, and photography are the usual art modalities chosen by the boys.
The pictures above are just some of the ways to utilize art in helping children become aware of the ghosts of their past. Some, especially the older ones, have slowly faced their past in a more positive and hopeful way. I am hoping that the time they spend here in CSC would help them see the collateral beauty in pain.
They said that time heals. True. It is true but time is not enough to do all the stitches. Instead, time allows our crushed spirit to get up; to acknowledge pain and becomes familiar to it; to understand that our pain has an ending; to have relationships blossom; to ignite a new dream; to see that all along God has been stirring the wheel. And time helps the children to better understand that "all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28, NKJV).
Most of us, if not all, have been taught by our parents or guardians to say "I Love You." Though we might not know what that means at a very young age, as it's hard to fathom what love is when you're three years old. But over time, with experience, we understand what it means.
Our homes at CSC are not only a place of refuge for the children we serve but also a place of love.
Most of our caregivers have been working with us for more than a decade. And in that time, some of them have formed a special bond with the children they care for. Likewise, our children have found a safe place with their caregivers. They have learned what it feels to be valued and loved.
One particular 6-year-old boy recently knew that his Auntie (his caregiver) lost her husband years ago. That meant his Auntie no longer had her loved one with her. And because he loved his Auntie, he offered to be her husband. For sure the little boy is unaware of what it meant. But for him, it was an innocent and genuine act of love. The scenario was cute and funny, but it tugged the hearts of our caregivers.
The children at CSC come with different stories and different abilities but we love them all the same. And that speaks heavily to the children as they also see sameness and no difference in one another.
A new child joining the CSC family is welcomed with so much love. The same way a child is hugged with so much love by his friends before he leaves and joins his forever family. Love remains even after a child leaves the shelter. It remains no matter how near or far the distance is. Love continues in the heart of a resident as he spreads his wings into the community and in the heart of a child as he starts forever with a family. Still love continues in the hearts of parents who welcomed a new member of the family.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7, 13 NIV "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres...And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."
CCHS is back on track. After the "storms" that made us clasp our hands and bend our knees in prayers, the Lord has been gracious and faithful to His children.
Our water pump was replaced with a new one so we can have flowing water in all of our faucets. Thanks to Uncle Jerry and his men who made this possible.
Our supplier of drinking water also delivered in the afternoon. This same day we quarantined twenty-three workers at CCHS.
Our power from the grid was reconnected. We had been using our generator in the evenings for lights, fans, and charging our laptops and cellphones.
And soon, our internet will be restored. We are finally back to teaching children at the shelter. We praise the Lord for preserving our lives and sustaining us through the "storms".
With this journey we are grateful for those who prayed for us and to those who supported us in many ways. You made a lot of things possible on this side of the globe. You have allowed us to make a difference in the lives of the children in the shelter.
Lamentations 3:22-23 (English Standard Version)
"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end;they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness."
Praise the Lord!
The first thing that we repaired after the typhoon was power lines so we could use generators. Then we worked to fix the broken main pipe that supplied water to both Cherne home and Eicher home, including the wash house. Next was the power lines that will receive VECO power. The clearing was not so hard because we were able to use a small chainsaw for the smaller branches and trunks. But for the big ones like the one that falls to Cherne home we need to hire someone with a big chainsaw and knows how to do it so as not to add additional damage to the building. One of the challenges is, it's hard to find one because they are occupied in their neighborhood itself. With scarcity of materials, prices become more expensive. Another challenge was communication. It was very hard to contact people to get materials with no internet and electricity without the generators. Drinking water was another problem but we are thankful to God CSC has its own deep well and gensets.
We will continue to repair the shelter and support our friends and family through this time. All glory and honor to God because he is the source of all those strength, wisdom, resources and dedicated supporters to continue the work of the CSC ministry.