Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Three Months In The Philippines...

So...three months in the Philippines?

It's been an incredible time, I can't believe how much has happened. There have been massive challenges and relationship issues, but ultimately God has put some amazing people in my life with whom I am developing friendships and this convinces me during the times of doubt that I am truly in the right place, doing some good stuff for His glory.

Here's a summary:

As my role has panned out so far, I am here primarily as teacher and "promoter", using the blog, Facebook page and Youtube channel to increase the profile of Ruel by providing engaging pictures and stories of our daily life, so that supporters know what life is like here. It is humbling to realise that as a result of my advocacy hundreds of new people, particularly in Australia, have come to learn about and support the work of this amazing orphanage. God's heart is for the people who have much to love and support the people who don't, and that is exactly what is happening.

I have also just taken over the petty cash role, and will potentially be doing the finances using MYOB. This is a role that I am excited about, as working with money and numbers is a skill that I have been given, but never really got to use in an employment capacity. I know it is an important job, so I pray for wisdom and integrity in doing it.

I have been able to facilitate a link or partnership between Ruel and United Evangelical Church in nearby Lalud. I found it on my third day in the country when I was looking for a Compassion partner church and it has been such a blessing for many people. The kids of Ruel now go there every Sunday and they LOVE it. As they are involved with Compassion International, the kids program is high quality and engaging. The church has a real heart for children. I have also been able to bring some of the foreign volunteers at Ruel to the church, and the group from YWAM were able to lead a mid-week service during Holy Week. Some of the young people from the church have also come to visit Ruel and formed connections with the kids.

You may or may not know this, but in order to come here I gave up pretty much everything in a material sense, and I am currently living off my savings. It's called a leap of faith. In terms of my finances, I have probably spent more than I anticipated so far, but I know it all belongs to God anyway, and He always provides. I am comfortable that the heart behind every financial decision I have made is that it can have a positive impact and blessing on others.

- I was able to provide the church with three new guitars, and I am teaching the guitar to children from the Compassion Project at UEC.
- I have paid for one of our kids Mr F to attend a soccer clinic every morning during April and May. The coach of the Oriental Mindoro soccer club sees some potential in him and actually asked if he could be enrolled. How could I say no? (I have also coached a couple of sessions. Well, I am NOT a soccer guy!)
- I will be providing funds for the UEC church to build a basketball court on their premises, and hopefully I can be involved in doing some coaching. It's all about giving the kids from the church and the community something constructive, physical and engaging to do.
- I have bought a motorbike from a Ruel volunteer who has just left, and I will be paying a bit extra to attach a sidecar. This is partly for my perceived safety and increased confidence, and also with a view to being able to take the kids places, rather than always having to pay for a tricycle. It will also make it easier to run errands such as getting groceries.
- I also still have two Compassion sponsored children who I have not been able to find a sponsor for, so I am currently financially supporting them at half cost. If you are interested, please click here, and then let me know.

Please understand I am not saying the above things to show off or boast, but to show what God is using me to do in the lives of others PURELY because I have committed and devoted myself to serving Him. Everything I have and everything I am belongs to God, and be assured that if He can use me, He can use anyone!


As an aside, if you would like to financially contribute to either God's work at Ruel or to me personally, please let me know
.

I wake up every day knowing that above everything else I'm doing here, God has given me the role of "father" to these kids. I don't always appreciate this fact, but sometimes the significance of it hits me and it just causes whatever little trivial problem was bothering me to fade away

Part of my job at Ruel has been as the unofficial photographer, and I've taken hundreds of photos of other people, so please excuse a tiny bit of self-indulgence on my part for this blog, as I get on the other side of the lens. I'll let the pictures tell the story.
With Mr W and Miss N in the school room
 
With Mr J just before he left to be with his Forever Family in April. 
With new arrival Baby Girl J, 3 months old
With my wacky schoolkids
Loving our new soccer balls, sent from Australia by my friend Fiona Piccinato
Merienda time!
With 3 year old Mr R on his birthday
With Miss R aka "Dora" (her haircut used to resemble the cartoon character)
Stopping for a rest on one of our walks
With Little Miss R. She's a munchkin.
Craziness with Super-Spiderman
The wonder of a selfie
With the soccer-man, Mr F. I've been blessed to be able to pay for him to attend a summer soccer clinic, and I've suddenly transformed into a proud "soccer dad". The kid's got some skills.
 
Terrorising the local mall after church

Every couple of days I take all the schoolkids to Mr F's soccer, and it's a treat to get an ice cream.

Not sure whether it's the Essendon shirt or the beard that Baby S is not impressed with. She really does love me though.

More selfie hilarity with Little Mr R

"I can't believe it!" 

This kid has captured my heart. Mr B is almost four but is the size of a two year old. He has a cleft palate deformity, and communicates only with squeals and squeaks. Cutest thing I've ever seen. I will miss him when he goes.


"Yo Homie"

How many little heads can we fit into a selfie?


Both Mr B and Little Miss R are currently having an operation to fix their cleft palate problems.

Enjoying some time at a resort at a place called Lantunyang

At Anahaw Beach

A very multicultural dinner table. This was the night Miss J's Forever Family arrived from California. Australia, New Zealand, Finland, Philippines and the US were represented.  

With Rachel, a volunteer from the US. She was here for three weeks and just made the place better with her caring and personality. We also talked for about 90 minutes on the first night she came, which for me is some kind of record.

Compassion Pics:
Coach David's guitar class, starting with 16 kids. The numbers have decreased somewhat, but hopefully after vacation they will pick up again.




United Evangelical Church, Lalud (UECPCOM)

Paying attention to the Pastor (!)

UEC just had their 28th anniversary, with visiting speaker Pastor Erickson from their sister church Sampaloc Bible Christian Community in Manila. I felt rather special being invited to have lunch with them out the back :)


I love how they have small groups straight after church. This allowed me to get to know many people, where I might not have otherwise.

The Ruel kids love going to UEC, they have been welcomed with open arms.

 
With an amazing family - Five godly men, all serving and making a difference in many people's lives. I am their "adopted brother" and son.

Enjoying a snack :)
Miscellaneous
 
We might "make children smile" at Ruel, but certainly not with that face.

Enjoying some tubig (one of my few Tagalog words)

My new ride (need to practise lots)

Swimming at Lantunyang

My first time trying the wonderful dessert Halo-halo

I love birthday cake as much as the next guy

My first time driving in the Philippines. We survived unscathed

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Coach David Guitar Class at PH268

18 months ago I visited Compassion Project BR-110 in Brazil, where I met a formerly sponsored young guy named John who was teaching a guitar class. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would be doing the same thing.

As well as my professional work as a teacher, I have taught private music lessons in guitar and keyboard for several years. At one school I taught at, I also had 18 music students after school on a Tuesday and Thursday!

This week I began teaching guitar to 15 eager students at Compassion Project PH-268 in the Philippines. I was also able to bless the Project by buying three new guitars from a local music shop.

I cannot express how privileged I feel to be able to assist at this Project. I was accepted and welcomed straight away. Even though there is a language barrier, I've been told that my mere presence makes a positive difference to many of the kids.

Smiling at them, giving them high fives as they go past, serving their lunch, providing balls and card games for them to use in their free play time and now to share the musical knowledge and passion God has given me through teaching them guitar. All very simple things, but they add up to make a big difference. It is very humbling.

There is also a possibility I may be able to coach some basketball in the future (another passion of mine), when the church gets their court built. Just another way we can get kids engaged in meaningful activities, keeping them active and using their gifts and abilities.

While Compassion prefers their volunteers and teachers to be native to the country of the Project, I am simply there to help, to fill a need. I am not trying to take the place over or telling them how to run things. If they found a Filipino to do any of the things I have been doing, I would step aside. I am just there to serve in any way I can.

I would hope that having a passionate advocate like me working in a Project on an ongoing basis would be a positive thing. I have been able to raise awareness about the Project and their needs, take photos of letter day and remind sponsors of the importance of letter writing.

I am confident that my involvement in the Project is God-orchestrated, firstly because out of all the 7107 islands in the Philippines and all the places I could have ended up, there was a Project a mere 3km from the orphanage I was working at, and then the story of how I found the place (read it here if you haven't already) is just so unlikely and improbable.

Here are some pictures of our first guitar lesson: