It is funny (and kind of sad) to think back to late March of 2020. We were making plans to lockdown CSC for a couple of weeks, maybe even a month, to keep out this new virus called COVID-19. At Cebu Children of Hope School (CCHS) we were just starting our 4th quarter so a couple of the teachers volunteered to be locked in for those few weeks to help the kids continue with their school year at the shelter. Just a small detour, right?
We are now coming up to our 300th day in lockdown. I guess it is lasting a little longer than I first expected.
This past Monday we started our 3rd quarter at CCHS. All the teachers (pictured below) have been living and working at the shelter for several months, enabling us to have as normal of a school year as we can. I continue to be thankful for all the CCHS teachers as they put the needs of the CSC kids first.
Years from now when our kids will think back to this time, they will not talk of fear or anxiety but of all the people who moved into the shelter, of having school in their living room, and of God's goodness through keeping them safe.
Thank you for your prayers and support of CSC during this challenging time! Enjoy these pictures from our first day of 3rd quarter!
We hear quite a bit about the front liners who are among the heroes of the pandemic. They care for people who are sick with the virus, do testing and put themselves at risk for the sake of the public. They will get the first round of the vaccine and that's how it should be. It seems to me that there are some other heroes who have come through for us during the past year. I'm thinking of companies like Amazon who have delivered millions of packages during the pandemic, allowing people to stay home and still get the things they need. Just in household alone we have bought masks, medical equipment, medicine, software, hardware, books, Christmas decorations, kitchenwares and tools on-line. These companies have helped slow the spread of the virus buy allowing people to stay home and avoid contact at stores.
In Cebu we also have different kinds of heroes who have made major contributions towards keeping our children well. First there are the CSC front liners, the child care workers, social workers, teachers and house parents who have been locked in at CSC for nine months. They have shown amazing perseverance, personal sacrifice and dedication to the kids. We owe them a big debt of gratitude and we will always remember their contributions to CSC during our most difficult days.
Next in line for appreciation are our leaders, who have been working hard in difficult situations to insure that food, medicine and personpower are there for the children. You wouldn't believe the planning, foresight and flexibility needed and the number of Zoom meetings required to keep things running smoothly.
But there are other, more unsung heroes, people whose names we don't even know but who have helped, in their own ways, to keep our kids healthy and happy. I'm thinking of the drivers and delivery people who have brought food and medicine up to CSC throughout this pandemic. Some bring sacks of rice, fish, dry goods, meat and milk from our various suppliers around Cebu City. And our CSC drivers had to bring children to the hospital emergency room late at night or get workers home or to work, dealing with changing government policies on quarantine passes, and unpredictable road closings and police checkpoints.
Through this whole time our new Field Director, Roberto Atienza, has been at the helm, navagating CSC's ship through the choppy waters of this time of crisis, monitoring government policies, leading twice weekly staff meetings, seeing that lines of communication are open and functioning well, helping keep morale as high as possible, attending to the spiritual needs of the CSC community and keeping in touch with our stateside leaders.
The contributions of all these people have resulted in our kids never missing a meal, having all the medicine and medical care they needed and being able to continue with their schooling. But most of all, these efforts have helped keep our kids safe. Not a single case of covid has touched our kids or workers! Thank you Lord, and all the people who have given their time, talent and sweat for the sake of these precious kids.
Happy New Year, and welcome to 2021!
I hope you had a meaningful Christmas filled with opportunities to pause and reflect on the many blessings in your life. It already seems that Christmas and the weeks of Advent are a distant memory. Don't get me wrong, I was there, present for all of it, and had amazing times with our family of eight that included giving and receiving gifts, eating lots of delicious food, playing games, watching some of our favorite holiday classics and taking part in a very special tradition: attending the candlelit Christmas Eve service at our church, this year live-streamed on YouTube.
It is good for us to take a break and reflect on the past, especially at a time like this, the beginning of a new year. It is good for our health and an essential component for anyone who wants to make the most of their lives. I would argue that many of us do not spend nearly enough time reflecting on the past. The importance of doing so will help us immensely. I think we have all heard the quote that says, "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it." History repeating itself has long been seen as a negative, though I'm certain we could all find elements of history that are worth repeating.
Let this be an encouragement to you to set aside some time right at the start of this year to give thanks for the many blessings God has brought our way and also take time to reflect on the trials we faced as well and remember that even in those times, God was still faithful.
Be careful, though, that your looking back does not become a distraction or pitfall for what lies ahead. We all know that looking in the rearview mirror will take our eyes off the road and distract us from what lied ahead. Rather than looking back and getting stuck in the past, remember that God has a better plan for us. Philippians 3:13-14 says, "...But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." God is calling us forward—He has much for us to do!
God's Goodness to CSC in 2020
I joined the CSC staff this past August. More than half the year was already complete. The global pandemic was making a resurgence. In the Philippines, our children and staff had been on lockdown for five months already. There was hope that by the end of September things would "open up" and people would be able to resume some normalcy in their lives. That didn't happen and the lockdown continued. The most amazing news to share in and through all of this was that not one of our residents or staff contracted the virus. And, as an added blessing, regular illnesses were nearly nonexistent as well, and for that we are thankful to God.
As we passed Thanksgiving and were heading for the Christmas holiday season, we knew so much about this year's celebration would need to change. Plans were being made for how Christmas celebrations would take place in the context of all the new rules and regulations. Of course, here I was in the U.S. as a long-distance observer. Technology has become such as blessing for us this year, and I was able to attend nearly all the Christmas celebrations and staff meetings by Zoom. With the time difference, though, that meant me staying up until 1AM or waking at 3AM and 4AM to participate.
There's not much that could match my excitement for my first CSC Christmas as an employee of this amazing ministry. Suffice it to say, however, the children at the shelter were quite a bit more excited to see Santa arrive by cart to distribute all the wrapped gifts to each and every child. Beyond the gifts, there was singing, sharing the Christmas story or Jesus' birth and a feast that left my mouth watering.
Here stateside, we also had an amazing Christmas celebration as we were so honored to receive all the gifts from our faithful supporters who care so much to see this ministry for homeless Filipino children continue. We were literally shaking our heads at the generous and heartfelt response of all those who identify with the Mission and Ministry of CSC and cheerfully support.
Looking Forward: Opportunities in 2021
Reflecting on the past year has me thinking about CSC's mission statement. I asked our CSC board members last September which parts of the mission statement they identified with or appreciated most. As you might imagine, there were a variety of answers. Several of the board members have been on the board for a long time, while others are relatively new to the board, one member joining in June or 2020. I understand and resonate with their perspective. It makes sense to me that they would have different answers or perspectives. God has made us all unique, after all, and He draws us to different things based on how He made us.
What keeps me focused in my role as president of this ministry is the beginning part of our mission statement that says, "We exist to glorify God...." For 42 years this is ultimately what CSC has been about. Everything we do is dependent on that beginning part of our mission statement. Our glorifying God is the lens by which all other things aspects of this statement and the work of the ministry are viewed. And as we continue to glorify Him, He continues to show us just how much He cares for us all—children and staff—and provides for our every need.
One of the things our Field Director, Roberto, and I discuss on our weekly Zoom calls is the progress being made to admit new children to the shelter. CSC is set apart from other shelters or orphanages by our aspect on placement services and adoption. There are other places right there in Cebu City that provide care for homeless children, but their focus is primarily on long-term residential care. As children are placed through adoption, opportunities for new children to be a part of the CSC family present themselves. Our staff in Cebu are working diligently on both placements and new admissions, but the pandemic and government restrictions have made this effort challenging in 2020. It is our hope that 2021 will see more children being welcomed into the loving arms of CSC and that more children will be place for adoption. Please pray with us to that end.
Dear Lord, as we begin a new year, let us not become overwhelmed and anxious about the unknown and what the new year will bring our way. Help us to remember that you will never leave us or forsake us and that you want nothing more than to give your children the best gifts possible. Help us to remember—to reflect on the past—in a way that honors you and gives thanks for all you've done for us. Let us consider first and most what you would want us to do in the months ahead, to see where you are already at work, and then join you in what you have already planned for us to do. In the name of Jesus, the Christ, Amen.
It is my honor to be able to write periodically for our CSC blog. It is my hope that these words and the words from all those who share from time to time will draw you in to a deeper walk with the Lord and help you see things from different points of view. While we hope to tell you more about Children's Shelter of Cebu, we also want to share a bit about those who do the work. Learn more about CSC at https://cebushelter.org.
The Holy Bible. English Standard Version. Retrieved from:
The Human Memory. (2020, November 25). Long-Term Memory. Retrieved from:
Yocco, Victor S. (2018, January 5). Dwelling On The Past: The Importance Of Self Reflection (Part 2). Retrieved from:
Its easy to keep traditions going when circumstances remain the same. But during a pandemic its a lot harder. Such is the case with the Christmas traditions at CSC. In a normal year we would have lots of different activities for the kids. We have been having a school musical program for as many years as we've had a school. We have had Junel's Box, a program for our kids to give from their own allowance money to help out a poor family in the community with food and hygiene items, for about 20 years. We have a progressive dinner, gift giving with Santa, a fancy Christmas dinner and a manger scene with live manger animals. This year, although it is not possible to hold all these activities, I am so happy to see that our staff in Cebu is trying hard to present as many of these as possible for our kids. Hard as it is to maintain a feeling or normalcy during these days, they are showing creative minds and loving hearts towards them. I am so proud of our staff for all they do and have done throughout the quarantine. Not only have they kept our kids and themselves from getting the virus, they have worked tirelessly to offer educational, recreational and social activities that have kept moralle high within the CSC compound.
I am far away from CSC these days, and it is especially hard at Christmas time. I have always said that there is no better place to be in the whole world than CSC at Christmas. This can be attested to by many folks who went to Cebu to visit us in December and celebrated our Saviour's birth with us. They were all recruited to help with the cookie baking, gift wrapping and story telling. Some were asked to play Santa or one of his helpers. I remember one year we had a visiting couple who were Asians and we recruited them to be Mary and Joseph in our pageant only to find out later that they were Buddhists. One year the live manger scene created some issues when one of the sheep went berserk and wrapped his rope around one of the shepherds (Uncle Patrick's) legs while bleeting to high heaven. All of these contributed to the fun of Christmas at CSC.
How i mjiss it, the kids and the whole CSC family in Cebu. Thanks to all who support his ministry. You are putting tools in the hands of our very capable, hard working and creative staff under the excellent leadership of Field Director Roberto Atienza. God bless you and CSC.
The calendar tells us that this is the week of Christmas, the "most wonderful time of the year" as the song goes. This year, though, something feels a bit off. We are still shy of twelve months of complete disruption from the pandemic that has hit our globe, which means that we can all remember what it was like last year at this time. Some would call that time last year "normal" compared to what we are experiencing today. We had no idea what was about to hit us. Unprecedented is a word that is used a lot these days, though I admit that I try to shy away from that word altogether. I sometimes find it hard to believe that we are nearing the end of 2020, when it feels like the time from March until now has been like a never-ending cycle of reliving the same day over and over again, or some variation thereof.
There are some things about this Christmas season, however, regardless of the pandemic, that make me wonder what month it is. For one, there is no snow on the ground. Maybe it's going to be a brown Christmas. Though the temperatures are cold enough to flood the rink up the street from our house, the quality of ice is still debatable, as my children would say. The temperature has been unseasonably warm for Minnesota. We had a 40-degree day recently. Mind you, as the years go by, I rather enjoy warmer weather and shorter winters. But let's put all that aside for now. What I really want to do right now is have us center our thoughts on the things that never change.
Morning, Evening, Repeat
I began my job as president of CSC this past August. Already four months have gone by and with it so many full and fulfilling days of work for this amazing ministry. I love my job! It seems, though, that with each passing year, and as I get older, the days get shorter. Why is that? Just so you know, it is not just me and it is not just you. There is a lot of science behind why "time speeds up" as you age. While we all know that there are still 24 hours in a day and seven days in a week, it can seem that the weeks and months just "fly" by. I've heard that the more years you live, the less one year (or one day) is as a total of all the years you have lived. Makes sense to me.
A Cambridge University study from March 2019 posits that perception and physics have a lot to do with why we feel time is speeding up. The study explains that "clock time" is not the same as the time perceived by the human mind. "The 'mind time' is a sequence of images, i.e. reflections of nature that are fed by stimuli from sensory organs" (Bejan, 2019). It goes on to talk about the difference in those who are well rested versus those who are overtired. We are much more likely to watch time pass us by when we are tired and worn. Conversely, the person who is at rest is likely to experience a slowness of time and may feel more at peace. I have to admit that I have more times of time moving quickly than times at rest.
So what can we do to remedy this state of being? Try reading Psalm 63, as follows. Take some time to really "drink" these words in. Use this and other Psalms, even other scriptures, to get your mind and soul in a position of rest in order to slow down your processing time.
A psalm of David. When he was in the Desert of Judah.
1 You, God, are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you,
my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
where there is no water.
2 I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory.
3 Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.
4 I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands.
5 I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods;
with singing lips my mouth will praise you.
6 On my bed I remember you;
I think of you through the watches of the night.
7 Because you are my help,
I sing in the shadow of your wings.
8 I cling to you;
your right hand upholds me.
9 Those who want to kill me will be destroyed;
they will go down to the depths of the earth.
10 They will be given over to the sword
and become food for jackals.
11 But the king will rejoice in God;
all who swear by God will glory in him,
while the mouths of liars will be silenced. (The Holy Bible, NIV)
Childlike Curiosity for Cebu
Part of what motivates and drives me is a curiosity to discover new things, or new ways of doing old things. Just last night I was looking at maps of Cebu, Philippines and some of the neighboring islands. I was imagining the property that is Children's Shelter of Cebu, the three residences, the infirmary, Children of Hope School. I imagined seeing the children and staff outside, walking the grounds, playing, sitting, and also those who were inside the buildings. I imagined myself in that setting as well, soaking in the heat and humidity like I had done when I was in Cebu last, many years ago. I just can't wait to hop a plane and go over there again.
Part of the curiosity I have has to do with my vision for the future, especially as it relates to CSC. I am mindful of a Christ-centered ministry that has been around for nearly 42 years and am also aware of my own place in the ministry, as a former board member and now as president. I feel a stirring and calling from God that He has more for us to do in Cebu, much more. 2021 is just around the corner and I am so excited for what next year will bring. I am grateful for a leadership team in Cebu who are so capable of doing what is required of them in order to provide the best care possible for all of the children. I am grateful for all those who partner with CSC to make it possible for this care to happen, both financially and through prayer.
Lamentations 3:22-23 are two verses that most of us could sing or hum the tune to.
22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness. (The Holy Bible, ESV)
When I think about faithfulness, I often think about who is the one being faithful and what they character qualities are. On a human level, I understand quickly that our ability to be faithful and unfaithful can change in a matter of seconds. That is because we are a flawed humanity full of faults. God on the other hand is the only one who can be consistently faithful, and He promises His faithfulness each and every day. Even in the hardest of days (or years, like 2020), His faithfulness can be seen everywhere. I should say that those who know God and who choose to seek Him can see His faithfulness everywhere. God remains the same, never changing. As Hebrews 13:8 says of God's only son, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever" (The Holy Bible, ESV).
I find it so reassuring that God is the one thing that never changes. And even more than that, the Bible tells us that He was present before everything was formed. He is the beginning AND the end. Psalm 90:2 says, "Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God" (The Holy Bible, ESV). He will be there to guide CSC through whatever the next year brings.
Dear Lord, we praise you for all the many blessings of this year. Thank you for your faithfulness. Remind us of the importance to slow down and to rest in you, and draw us to your Holy Word for that rest. Help us remember that you are the same yesterday and today and forever. Please show us the way to go in 2021 and may everything we do be done in a way that brings you glory. In the name of Jesus, the Christ, Amen.
It is my honor to be able to write periodically for our CSC blog. It is my hope that these words and the words from all those who share from time to time will draw you in to a deeper walk with the Lord and help you see things from different points of view. While we hope to tell you more about Children's Shelter of Cebu, we also want to share a bit about those who do the work.
Bejan, A. (2019, March 18). Why the days seem shorter as we get older. Retrieved from:
The Holy Bible. New International Version. Retrieved from:
The Holy Bible. English Standard Version. Retrieved from: