September 17, 2012

I kissed…

 …a blowfish.  And it bit me.  Yep!  Inside my upper lip.  I screamed 50 feet under.  There was a flap of skin, etc., etc., it turns out those buggers have sharp little teeth!

All of us fellows are friends with a scuba instructor that takes us out sometimes for a really reasonable price, we are soooo fortunate.  He’s seen hundreds of sea turtles but he still gets super excited to see another, we have a great time!  I’ve been able to go on a couple dives so far, here are pics of my first. I’ve been a diver for about 12 years now but the diving here is better than any I’ve done before. There is such a variety of plant life, the colors are vibrant and the coral healthy, it’s been a privilege to see.  Just when you think you’ve seen it all, you dive down to a whole new world full of God’s amazing creativity.  Like us, I guess God just get’s a kick out of making things beautiful! Under the sea:) is truely one of the most peaceful and unbelieveable places I’ve ever been…you should go sometime! 

Now I just have to find some pesos and time to get to Apo Island where they say it’s not just some of the best diving in The Philippines but in the World! I hope there is a night dive in my future too, have always wanted to do one of those…so erie and exciting!

P.S. Find Nemo!…

August 31, 2012

Fanning the flame…

Those of you that know me well won’t be surprised that I have made it part of my mission to entertain and inspire newly rescued clients when they are first brought to the processing center immediately after their rescue.  I’ve been called “the social butterfly” on occasion:)  and socializing with these young women has been my privilege!

 For a couple days the girls are interviewed, affidavits are created and their cases are built before inquest where their case is presented to the city prosecutor (who in turn decides to move forward or dismiss the case).  During this time they are filled with a number of emotions and questions.  My hope is that this time will be pleasant and go by faster by keeping them busy but most of all I hope they will feel loved and cared for. Beyond that, I want them to be inspired.

 Most of these girls have given up on hopes and dreams.  While they are in our care we have a beautiful opportunity to show we love them and most importantly share with them the love of God.  Not all of those rescued will be placed in shelters and with some our communication will be limited but God goes with them even when we don’t.  However, most of these young women don’t know how to recognize Him or call out to Him when He really is the only hope to their desperate circumstances.  Circumstances I will never fully understand looking in from the outside where I sit without sexual abuse, violence and poverty stripping me of my dignity and self-worth.

 The most precious times I have experienced here so far have been with these girls.  Reading to them, playing cards with them (I taught them my fav, Spoons!  They love it!), discussing inspirational movies with them, listening to their stories and praying over and with them.  I’ve brought in a collection of inspirational movies and books, thanks to the contributions of my mom and Mac.  I believe small encounters with Truth can make a significant impact in peoples lives whether it’s through movies, books, or conversations. I am honored when a client picks up one of the Christ centered books I have brought in, like Proverbs for Women” and asks me to read it out loud.  After reading to one of the girls for a while she rolled over and propped her chin on her hands, looked up and said “Thank you Jaime for caring for us, for listening to our stories and being a friend.  I hope God gives you more blessings for volunteering and you are able to help many more girls.  Before I was scared and angry and now I feel much better.  You don’t feel like a stranger, you feel like a friend, like you care for us, thank you.” If that doesn’t make the effort in being here worth it, I’m not sure what will!

 BTW, some of the movies I have watched with the girls have included “Courageous,” “Letters from God,” and the “Blind Side.”  I recommend them if you are looking for some movies with to watch as a family that don’t just entertain but challenge us to live our lives with purpose. 

 The books I leave with the girls that they have picked up to read (despite how challenging it is to read in English) include my all-time favorite, “Redeeming Love” by Francine Rivers (It’s amazing, kind of makes you blush but such a beautiful love story!) and also “League of Dangerous Women” by Mary Frances Bowley.

 “League of Dangerous Women” is made up of vignettes of ladies that were at the end of their will to survive. With lives buried in prostitution, drugs, abuse, etc. they are so hardened they would be the last you would expect to surrender to Christ.  But rather than submitting to death they have a small but significant encounter with Truth and start to rebuild their lives centered on Christ.

 I noticed that every time I went into the room the girls are kept someone new was reading the book.  I asked if they were passing it around.  One of the sassy girls, just a little spitfire, said they were.  So I asked which vignette she had read, she said “I read the whole book last night, but it’s Christi’s story I like the most, it’s our story.”  I looked to see what story all the girls were gravitating towards; it was the one about Christi’s uncle raping her as a young girl.  A story I know most of these girls can relate to in one way or another.  It breaks my heart to know how much they relate to Christi but I pray that they would also relate to the end of her story, where God brings healing to the deep wounds and a life of fulfillment from the flicker of flame still protected inside. A flame that needs just a little fanning to ignite hope.  God, use me as that fan, if that’s all I do. 

 Song “In the Girl There’s a Room” by: Sara Groves

In the girl there’s a room
In the room there’s a table
On the table there’s a candle
and it won’t burn out

In the woman there’s a song
In the song there is hope
in the hope revolution

In the boy there’s a voice
in the voice there’s a calling
In the call there’s a promise
and it won’t quiet down

In the man there’s a vision
in the vision is a road
it’s the road to his freedom

Oh, Tell me what you know
About God and the world and the human soul
How so much can go wrong
and still there are songs

In the man the man there’s a plan
in the plan is his future
and the future’s for his child
and he won’t slow down

In the girl there’s a faith
and the faith there’s a prayer
in the prayer there’s a promise…

In the boy is a dream
in the dream he is standing
and he stands without falling
and he won’t back down

in the woman there’s a picture
in the picture is a girl
in the girl there’s a room…

Tell me what you know
About God and the world and the human soul
How so much can be wrong
and still there are songs

In their hearts and souls
an unstoppable refrain
Hope stand in defiance
In the girl there’s a room
In the room there’s a table
On the table there’s a candle
and it won’t burn out
it won’t burn out

June 17, 2012

There are some things in the Philippines I might never get used to…

…like public belching, spitting taxi drivers, unashamed sexpats, and unprotected children on motor bikes (aka hubble-hubbles).  Isn’t this crazy!  There are some cultural norms that this American girl has a hard time wrapping her head around!

May 9, 2012

Beauty for Ashes

The ocean is to my left, banana trees are to my right, both beautiful but not near as magnificent as the precious song being sung behind me. “He gives beauty for ashes…” they sing as we make the bumpy ride back to the city.  We are on our way to a recognition ceremony for the four trafficking survivors that have committed their weekend and beyond that, their year, to encourage others rescued as peer mentors.

The weekend of leadership training and excitement has taken its toll as they drift off one by one.  They rest behind me, safe, sound, and secure but eagerly anticipating the relationships they will soon cultivate with other young women that, like them, were once exploited and are now cared for.  All weekend the mentors have been studying their purpose found in Isaiah 61:3, “…to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.  They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” This verse reflects the transformation they have gone through over the recent years of hard work, courage, and support.  A transformation they are now ready to aid other young women in achieving.

If ever I’ve witnessed God’s delight I’ve seen it in the back of this van, with the ocean to my left and banana trees to my right.

Full Song Lyrics : Beauty For Ashes, By Crystal Lewis
He gives beauty for ashes
Strength for fear
Gladness for mourning
Peace for despair

When sorrow seems to surround you
When suffering hangs heavy oer your head
Know that tomorrow brings
Wholeness and healing
God knows your need
Just believe what He said

He gives beauty for ashes
Strength for fear
Gladness for mourning
Peace for despair

When what you’ve done keeps you from moving on
When fear wants to make itself at home in your heart
Know that forgiveness brings
Wholeness and healing
God knows your need
Just believe what He said

He gives beauty for ashes
Strength for fear
Gladness for mourning
Peace for despair

I once was lost but God has found me
Though I was bound Ive been set free
I’ve been made righteous in His sight
A display of His splendor all can see

He gives beauty for ashes
Strength for fear
Gladness for mourning
Peace for despair

April 7, 2012

In The Philippines and finally ready to tell you about it!

Green mangos, fat sexpats, lotsa rice, loud lizards, naked children, hidden falls, more rice, gentle whalesharks…these are just a few of Philippines’ details.  Details I have encountered so far during my time here.

I have stepped into a number of new “cultures” during the first two months of my journey so far.  The culture of the Filipinos, the culture of the city, the culture of the impoverished, the culture of the office (this is so new to me!) and a new culture of community.  It’s been a lot to adjust to, to say the least!  Although I expect acclimation to continue throughout my entire year here, I have started to find my normal.  And I’m finally ready for a bit of “show and tell!” Thank you for your prayers and patience during my settling in period.

They say the beginning is a good place to start…oh well, maybe next time.  There are many things I plan on sharing with you from the beginning of my journey, these snippets will come, but today I am going to set the tone for the remainder of this blog.  The glimpses you will get into my experience here will be RaNDoM.  Random pieces of my joy, burdens, blessings, observations, and ponderings.

Let’s start with a picture introduction of the people and settings of The Philippines!  Enjoy!

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