I write this stunted knowing that neither pictures or words or emotions displayed while showing and telling can justify the glory in it all. The timing of my trip to the Philippines made for a good fresh start: I left in the beginning of a new year, traveling to a new place, pursuing a new adventure. I knew I was only somewhat prepared to leave behind the tangible side of my miracles of a mother and father and siblings that have me taken back everyday by the beauty of a family and unity, my friends and mentors that motivate me and teach me by encouragement and accountability and wisdom, and the simple comfort found by being at home and in the environment and culture I grew up being accustomed to.
My story began long before January of this year, but as far back as I can remember my heart has been sold to the world and its people and their stories. Going to Manila was the natural following of a dream, for I have always recognized this as my calling. Through twenty years of molding and preparing in good times and in times I wished weren't happening, the Lord has unveiled to me His faithfulness. I cannot escape or go low enough to not feel swept away by His covenant with me. For the past three months I have lived among my deepest dreams coming true.
I lived among thirty broken but healing children, rescued from abandonment, neglect, abuse. I lived among several adults who have dedicated their lives to give these children hope and love and teach these children that their hope and love is real. I lived among all of these beautiful children and adults in a home that sits among a vast community; a vast community of absolute poverty as far as eyes reveal. Up the road, down the path, over the broken wall, through the goats, sits a building among the same community. This building stands as both a church and a school, offering hope and fellowship and unity and future. One ministry, one home, one building, one community.
There is one body, and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. And somewhere, somehow along the way, in His way, my near future resides among this all, as part of my story, my song. The outcome is humanly beyond my dreams, beyond my imagination, beyond my comprehension. Sheer wonder and splendor. Glory.
I leave Manila in just a few days…such an odd reality. There are many mixed emotions about my coming home, just as there are when any chapter of life closes in quicker than anticipated. Knowing of the newness that is soon to begin only adds to the range of emotions. I remember returning to the United States after two weeks in Roatan, Honduras a few years ago. I had to look twice at streetlights because I was not used to seeing them. Instead of counting sheep to lull me to sleep, I play "What Will Be Weird To See" at night. With myself.
(You may notice, I quickly added "What Will Be Weird Not To See" and really quickly added "What Will Be Weird To Eat/Not Eat" to my game.)
A neighborhood of houses. A normal, nice, structured house with a yard and much space between where the house next door begins…and how far across the street the house on the other side sits.
Empty, quiet streets, during the day and during the night. And not knowing my neighbors. No one is going to scream my name the moment I step outside my house! No high fives, no hugs, no escorts to wherever I'm going no matter how far.
Rules on the road. Lanes that are used and respecting the personal bubbles of the cars ahead and beside your own. Hearing a honking horn and remembering that it means the honker feels disrespected or angry, not 'watch out, coming through…fast!' No constant battling of truly, truly ridiculous traffic. No Jeepneys.
The mixture of ethnicities in America and blending in. Being able to talk to the people around me, confident they understand me. I probably will accidentally, but not having to pronounce every letter of every word I speak. All together, knowing and understanding the main language spoken around me.
No cockroaches! Or knowing something can be done if there is a cockroach: call Adam's Pest Control. And not having to accept them as realities of life indoors and outdoors. Harsh, harsh realities. Seeing squirrels. Seeing dogs on leashes, healthy dogs. No Sunday afternoon neighborhood gatherings in the street to watch cockfights.
Bread with dinner. Not having rice with every meal. Spaghetti sauce with meat instead of Vienna sausage and with no sugar added in. No Mangos…or amazing, fresh fruit in general. Hot chocolate, I hear there are 12 inches of newly fallen snow waiting for me. Bagels. Panera Bread. Cheese. The first home-cooked dinner in the kitchen of my home with my family. Going out to coffee.
So many more…and so much will still surprise me. April 3, 2008 is quickly approaching: the day I leave behind my first encounter with the Philippines. I don't know why, but I naturally question what to write and naturally filter a lot of what should probably be written. I haven't exactly pinpointed how to communicate the intense combination of all that goes on inside my heart and all that goes on in the world around me…at every single moment, always. Follow? It's okay to answer, 'no'. I'll try to explain. My dear mother told me nicely that I didn't give enough update. I believe her words with understanding. I've known this for a while. This is both my excuse and my raw honesty.
The Lord has given me a love for this place and these people, I can't give that glory to anything or anyone but Him. I had to redefine so many things for myself in order to endure, and with not much holding back on the part of my Teacher. I am so humbled whenever I remember, and I pray I am constantly reminded, this covenant so personal. The confidence I find in it can endure anything.
I have countless stories to tell, both of my heart and of the world. I find myself stunted just thinking about it, as I did when I sat down to write this. I experienced so much for the first time in a place I came to by myself for such a period of time. But in just a few short days, when I come home and see the faces of the people that I know have loved me and supported me while I've been here, I expect, and as a warning you can also expect me, to flow: maybe in words, maybe in tears…probably in both at times. More stories are to be told, more pictures are to be shown, more tears are expected to be shed.
I have clung and continue to cling to two truths that both define my trip in hindsight and that I pray will define my life henceforth: the Lord is my best friend and His grace is sufficient. It becomes all that I can do to be stunted in Him and His ways in hearts and in the world. Glory, glory, glory…everywhere in everything. I want to dance to the song of my story alongside you dancing to the song of your story. It becomes all that I can do.