I have a paper snowflake under the plastic blotter on my desk. It doesn't mean anything to anyone else except me and one other person. That other person made the snowflake and many others for me just for fun. I keep the snowflake there as a reminder. A reminder of a special young lady who is thoughtful (hence, the snowflake), sensitive, eager, positive, hard-working, and loving. She is also a bit shy and unsure of herself. She needs reassurance at times. And she's twin and so am I, so she is cool because twins are cool. The snowflake is also a reminder of God's power and hope.
This young lady came to the shelter a number of years ago scared, broken and naive. She needed a lot of love. During her years at CSC, she felt more safe and loved. She soaked up learning at school even though some things were very difficult. She learned English faster than most other children who live at the shelter. And she gradually became more confident in herself, eventually being able to get up in front of her peers and teachers to sing and perform. We thought it was nothing short of miraculous.
This lovely young lady left the shelter with her new, loving family awhile ago. I hadn't seen her since until last night at the annual banquet. We talked for a few minutes before the banquet started. Then during a light-hearted part of the program when some of the adopted kids got up and did a little dance routine to a song, there she was dancing along with her siblings and the other kids. In front of 650+ people! Of course, nobody noticed anything unusual about that girl at the end of the line. But, I knew. Here was that scared, little girl transformed into a beautiful, blossoming young woman in front of a crowd of many people. Now, that was even more miraculous. God's hand at work among us.
The other day we celebrated graduation at Children of Hope School. In addition to the 10 graduates who received their diplomas from the elementary and pre-school departments, every student got a special award. It was such a great day and lots of tears were shed, many of them by the woman sitting next to me - Marlys. Knowing the stories of each child, it is very emotional to think of the circumstances that brought them to CSC and the many things that they had to overcome to be walking across that stage to accept an award. One little boy has only been with us for a couple months. His twin brother died just before he came to live with us. The smile on his face walking across the stage told us that he is on the way to emotional recovery. Another boy had recently been abandoned. He woke up alone one morning. Now, just a few weeks later he was getting an award for doing good work in school. Another had been living in an orphanage where the director was abusive and had ended up living alone on the streets for a year. Now he was getting a medal from his teacher for being Best in Writing and Most Attentive! An 11 year-old girl who had been badly burned in a tragic fire in her home was also being awarded. Her smile lit up the whole stage! Children who had never been able to attend school before coming to live at CSC were being recognized for their achievement, hard work and positive behavior in school.
Children of Hope School is a place where every student is honored, encouraged and given a chance. For some it is a first chance at school. For others it is a place of second chances. And last week it was a place for getting an award and the satisfaction that comes from being appreciated. Every student has something they are best at. And, like the plaque near the door says, "We don't care where you come from, but we care about where you are going."
Holy Week is a big deal in the Philippines. On Good Friday thousands of people hiked and drove up our road for the Stations of the Cross, an annual trek that seemingly attracts more people every year. Getting up the narrow road with jeepneys, cars, buses, pedestrians and thousands of motorcycles is an incredible experience, to say the least. An experienced person like myself should know better than to try, but there I was, moving at a snail's pace up the hill with cars coming at me with only inches to spare on the side.
About half way up the hill were a group of Protestant zealots with their microphones, speakers and tracts. There were probably a dozen in their group, and they were literally screaming invectives at the people walking by. Their message was clear: "You people going up the hill are all going to hell. You are blasphemers and idolators. Here, come get our printouts and read the Truth." The speakers were so loud I had to cover my ears as the traffic left me right in front of these "soul winners" for about 10 minutes.
I don't think much in the way of soul winning was happening up there on that hill. I remember thinking that the people walking past the screamers were showing a lot of restraint by not taking out their speakers! The whole spectacle made me think about what it means to be a peacemaker. Are different theological beliefs and religious practices so monumental that they compel us to shout, point and condemn? And if the offenders don't respond immediately do we just turn up the volume? Would the screamers' time perhaps have been better spent praying for those they felt were wrong or by offering a cool drink to them in Jesus' name?
As I see the loss of humility in our world today, in our rhetoric about the things that are important to us, and in the shouting match that has become the norm for public discourse in America and the Philippines, I think of Jesus hanging on that tree in humility. And strength. Never was his message stronger nor his cause more powerful than when he humbly took on the sins of the world in his pain and agony.
I pray for humble hearts for all of us at CSC as we seek to do his will.
Life at CSC is not all roses. Just like other ministries, we have our ups and downs but we rise above all our challenges and rest in peace that our God is bigger than those challenges.
For those of you who do not know my background, I am a licensed Physical Therapist and have been doing the job of a PT until recently when the need of a staff in the Child Development department was urgent. I was moved in this department in July of last year and started my missionary role at the same time.
I tell you, the 9 months in this department was not easy. It is an everyday challenge. I was trained to deal with people who come to me in search of healing for physical ailments and challenges they might have. I am trained and experienced in giving that healing and seeing progress in the every rehabilitation I have with my patient.
But Child Development department is more than healing physical ailments. It is mentoring the children, attending to the behavioral problems our children have, making sure the houses run smoothly, guiding and supporting our child care workers and houseparents and lots and lots of meeting with the other departments. Though I am not trained and well experienced in this department, I am in awe everyday of God's grace and provision to me and to CSC.
Managing people is a hard task. We are created with different personalities, temperaments and ideals. It is amazing though that in all of that, we find a best friend, a match, a partner that would understand our weakness and strength. Here are at CSC, we have a hundred and plus employee; local and foreign.
The other day I was wondering, even with the differences of our views and culture, why are we effective? Why has CSC grown into a much larger orphanage? Why are we great at what we are doing?
The three houses at the shelter recently had each of their house meetings. The houses do this four times a year to discuss concerns, updates and give reminders. While I was sitting in one, the answers to my questions were right in front of me. Our workers are very passionate in what they do. They have a heart for the children and for the ministry. They love their jobs. And CSC has become their ministry.
In the era of technologies, gadgets and social media people are becoming more and more discontented; wanting what they don't have that others have. CSC is very blessed with committed and loyal workers. We have workers who have been at CSC even before I was born and still doing what they have been doing in the past 30 years. Our workers are content, not because they don't want change or progress but because they fill each other's weaknesses and strengths. They are the hands and feet of CSC.
We've been at this ministry for a long time - almost 38 years. We've taken in many babies over the years, some of them newborns, some just a few hours old. This guy was four days old when we got him. It is awe inspiring to take responsibility for such a tiny, vulnerable little one. We accept that responsibility for several reasons. First, its what we do. We provide a home to the homeless, and that includes all ages of kids fr0m all different situations in life, like this little guy whose birth mom just couldn't provide for his needs. Second, we say "yes" to this boy because we have confidence in our child care staff and our nurses. They are experienced, loving and dedicated. We know that they will give him the best care possible. If he needs medical interventions we will provide that - medicines, doctors visits, hospitalization, surgery, whatever might be needed.
In spite of years of experience taking in newborns, we continue to be humbled by what it means to open our home to such a tiny little guy who is totally dependent on us. Your prayers and financial gifts give us the confidence to do it. Thank you.