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I suppose a year without updates has been a good tip-off that something had changed. The Lord led us to move to America to be closer to family and build a second career that would provide for our children, and with my new job at Rackspace in San Antonio, TX that has come to pass. This new career has been a blessing and is going amazingly well. I arrived on the job looking a bit lost in April 2012, and set myself to learn as quickly as I could. In barely a year I'm now enjoying handling difficult escalations and training the new hires. Much of the personal growth I encountered on the missions field has been helpful here, and it's clear that God had a pretty great plan all along.

Cathy has been able to stay at home with the kids, and thankfully we do know some Filipino families in the area and have been able to find a great little Vinyard church to join. We get to visit my Grandfather's ranch up in the Hill Country from time to time, and Roldan has enjoyed riding horses with him. Baby Eli was walking at about 10 months and is now starting to talk at a year and a half.

While we haven't had a chance to return to the Philippines since our arrival, we do try to stay connected to our friends who are still serving and living there. This first year has taken up much of our attention simply becoming established in America, but the Philippines will always be in our hearts, and as we find opportunity for further ministry here and there in the future, I'll probably use this page to reflect that. While it probably won't be updated much otherwise, there are still nice pictures and memories that I intend to keep online, and of course it is now running on a Rackspace Cloud Server (with a Cloud Database backend) so I shouldn't have any trouble keeping it going. Thanks for checking back, and may the Lord bless you!
Since the moment we got word that I had been hired for my new job in Texas, we've been working on sorting out all the details of our move, and there's still a checklist of things to get done. Many have been solved, including the trip to Manila to get Elijah's passport and the document that will serve as his American birth certificate. What looms over us now is the need to buy the actual plane tickets for all of us to fly over to NY. After that, we'll drive down to TX with the van we've been donated, and some things that are still at Mom and Dad's house - other than that we'll pretty much be starting over. The problem we face at this moment though is that we should fly by the end of the month, as I actually start my first day of work April 9th. Now that Roldan is old enough to require his own plane ticket the total cost of airfare is quite high, and it will keep going up. If we don't buy our tickets within a week or so, we may have a serious problem. Fortunately, we do have a lot of the costs raised, and more if we manage to sell our car soon, but even then we're not quite there. I hope you'll join us in prayer for this as we seek out God's answer, either through additional donations or the ability to borrow, or through a good deal on the tickets. Of course, with this stuff weighing on our minds, I've still got plenty to do at HFTN, as we have a team from Canada visiting and taking care of teams is one of my most important responsibilities. With that and the plane tickets, and of course hunting for an apartment in San Antonio, it's hard not to feel like we're in several places at once - but God is omnipresent and He is and will continue to sustain us.
This is my first update of the new year, so it seems like I should explain why. Our ministry hasn't been interrupted at HFTN, or in the computer lab project at Oasis. At least, not yet. At the beginning of January I got an email from the company (Rackspace Hosting) I was hoping to eventually work at in San Antonio, which as you probably know is where we have been planning to move in about a year. They had a job they wanted to interview me for, so I figured I'd hold off and post once I knew what the results were, just in case. Well, the process was a bit more involved than I had expected, and after 5 interviews, I've been hired. It might not have been expected to happen so soon, but Cathy and I have peace that this is God's timing, and considering that I don't have a degree and this job is in the very technical field of Linux system administration, I wouldn't be offended if you called it a miracle. I've been studying in my spare time to take this from a hobby to a career, but to see it happen is pretty neat. So now we have a few months of crazed preparations, and a lot of new challenges to pray for. Rackspace wants me to get there by the end of March, if possible. I've sent emails to the supporters I had addresses on hand for, but I still need the addresses for some of you, so please email me if you haven't gotten the letter yet. Until I leave Davao I am still actively working in missions, and I have a lot of things to do in preparation, not to mention expensive airfare, so we hope you'll keep us in prayer. Our God is amazing and his plans can sure be surprising! We have all the more reason to trust that he can meet all of our needs as we follow Him.
Well, Christmas decorations have already been up for a while over here, but for us November has its own holiday, Thanksgiving. It's great to set aside an entire holiday to thank the Lord for all His blessings and provision, and we have a great deal of new blessings to be thankful for. Our meal ended up being interrupted, though, as God wasn't done blessing us for the day yet, and Elijah Andres Emmons was born at 9:26 PM. At 9 pounds, 4 ounces and 21.5 inches long, he was a pretty big Thanksgiving baby. We are very thankful for everyone who has been praying for us, especially for the safe delivery of our son, who was born without complications at the Mercy Maternity Center - much more comfortable and several orders of magnitude less expensive than the hospital. Mercy is another ministry operating in Davao that is accomplishing great things for the Lord, and our HFTN base is actually the building they ran their clinic in before they moved into their nice big place down the road a bit. So now Roldan has a little brother, and I think he's looking forward to him being big enough to play with, but for now Cathy and I have a lot on our hands with an infant and a ridiculously energetic toddler to manage. Our house is inundated with cute. Also, used diapers. And of course we couldn't be happier. This is the start of a beautiful December. Of course, it isn't Christmas break yet, and there's plenty of ministry to attend to, but it's hard not to feel like we've already unwrapped a present :).

Note: As of June we have a new support letter that outlines our ministry, and need to get it into people's hands, so if you can think of someone you'd be willing to give it to, it would be quite a help to us. The letter can be downloaded here.
October has been a month of God reassuring us we are in the right place, as we have faithfully continued in the ministry we felt called to labor in. One thing we have waited for a long time to see was the provision of a car, to keep our growing family safe (none of the local forms of public transportation have seat belts, let alone child seats), enable more ministry in places outside the immediate city area, and bring down our weekly transportation expenses. Now that we've been able to get a used Kia sedan, and I've gotten over the initial terrors of learning to drive all over again in a place where the rules are, ahem, slightly different, I look forward to driving up to the mountains sometime and visiting some of the villages I have not seen in a while, although of course I'd still have to walk the last few kilometers :). In the meantime, it has already been a great blessing and even enabled us to visit some of Cathy's relatives we don't see very often. Cathy is of course still busy being pregnant, and we are due pretty soon, which will probably shake things up again for us more than we realize. I'm busy too, of course, because we are preparing for a team coming from early next year and have to have plans set so we won't get derailed over Christmas break. Now one of my best friends at Oasis is back from furlough, we have been brainstorming for ways to connect the computer lab and the youth ministry over there and make sure the lab is functioning as more than just a nice resource, but really lets us mentor the kids that come in. And with October coming to a close already, while the Philippines does have its own interesting version of Halloween (involving setting up tents and camping directly on top of the graves of relatives, sometimes), our prayer and focus is that God would use us and the new ways He's equipped us to reap a harvest for Him here in the poorer areas of Davao City.

Note: As of June we have a new support letter that outlines our ministry, and need to get it into people's hands, so if you can think of someone you'd be willing to give it to, it would be quite a help to us. The letter can be downloaded here.
If you've been following my site, you might have noticed I've been working on improving and adding a few things to it. When I made the first version of it in 2003, preparing to start full-time missions, I knew a little HTML but making a blog would have been beyond consideration, and they weren't a common thing then anyway. Now, though, in order to make it easy to share these posts on social networks and join the discussion, the individual articles I post now have their own blog-style view and can be commented on, and there are +1 and like buttons too. I've also updated the Tsunami journal I made after my early 2005 trip to Banda Aceh, mainly to improve readability. Anyway, I know adding social networking features may not seem like a big deal, but if you see something on here you'd like to share, feel free - for a missionary, getting the word out is vital to having more prayer support, and sponsorship too. I have been wanting to get the progress bar at the top of this site to 100% and then start a new one for a car, but it doesn't look like that is going to happen - because we're already at 100% for a car! This is great news for us as rising transportation costs have hindered our involvement in some forms of ministry for a while now, and we have some close friends to thank for making it happen. Our ministry in Agdao is going well; I now have elementary-level students studying at the lab as well as high school and college. Cathy is very pregnant and due in less than 2 months, which is probably going to keep things interesting around the house. We're studying weather and climate in our Friday morning Science classes at the feeding program, so last week we were talking about low and high pressure areas and how storms develop, looked at a map, and saw a big one was about to develop in the northern Philippines. Having seen the destruction it is causing Manila right now, I really wish in predicting we had a way to prevent it as well, but one thing we can definitely do is pray for the many people affected up there.

Note: I've written a new support letter that outlines our ministry, and need to get it into people's hands, so if you can think of someone you'd be willing to give it to, it would be quite a help to us. The letter can be downloaded here.
It's Saturday, the day to kick back and relax after a busy week, right? For me, not exactly. Saturdays have become the busiest day of the week for me, and today is no exception - I left the house at 7 this morning, and will get back around 10 pm. The main reason for this is that the computer lab is only useful to students if they have time available to go, and the best day for that is Saturday when they aren't at school. Lately I've been pleased to watch the students adapt to a good studying environment and working quietly on their research and projects. At night, though, after the lab closes at 6, I go over to our Saturday night worship service at HFTN. Tonight will be particularly interesting since it is my turn to preach again. I'm by no means a pastor or someone who would consider preaching to be among their gifts, but I do like how our church is set up to encourage us to step out of the routine we feel safe in and be a part of sharing God's Word. It teaches us to rely on the Holy Spirit in a way that using the talents He's given us wouldn't. Whether at Bible studies, our morning devotions at HFTN, or our small church, I've found that while the intention is to help other people grow, sharing the Word is necessary for us to grow in Christ and not something to shy away from.

Note: I've written a new support letter that outlines our ministry, and need to get it into people's hands, so if you can think of someone you'd be willing to give it to, it would be quite a help to us. The letter can be downloaded here.
While I continue to enjoy leading Bible studies and teaching my science class, the biggest project I have right now is the computer lab at Oasis, and it is coming along nicely. In fact, I've opened it up for Oasis' sponsored students to use during special study hours while we work on fundraising for the additional computers. I'm also developing a nice bit of software to manage the lab easily, which is important as this is something I want to continue to bless people once I've left the Philippines. While that's challenged me to learn some new programming skills, by far the biggest challenge has been a spiritual one: in the first couple of days we've had study hours, it's been very clear that these kids come from very difficult backgrounds, and being able to build communication with them leading to their mentoring and spiritual growth will require a lot more than clever software. I will have to run this lab on my knees in prayer.

Note: I've written a new support letter that outlines our ministry, and need to get it into people's hands, so if you can think of someone you'd be willing to give it to, it would be quite a help to us. The letter can be downloaded here.
As I write, I'm installing educational software on the computers in our computer lab. At the current rate of progress I might have students using them by next Saturday, or earlier. The past two weeks have been pretty eventful, and included our 5th wedding anniversary, as well as a lot of different kinds of ministry opportunities. For example, Cathy and I were able to get together with our friends from church and cook meals that we brought to the evacuees that lost their homes in the recent flood. We are planning to do it again Monday. I've also enjoyed leading devotion and preaching in our Saturday night worship service. I've started teaching a 6th grade level Science class at HFTN on Fridays as part of our tutorial ministry, and I also joined some of the guys from our church in rebuilding the house of a widow in a Muslim area that was hit by the flood. My muscles are still sore from hauling sacks of gravel and pouring concrete, but it was great to be out doing some good old manual labor to show the love of Jesus.

Note: I've written a new support letter that outlines our ministry, and need to get it into people's hands, so if you can think of someone you'd be willing to give it to, it would be quite a help to us. The letter can be downloaded here.
So, my site has been down for more than a week, and I was happy to know that someone noticed. Now that that's resolved, I can get back to these updates. I have had an interesting month. One of the neat things that happened is that the president of Hope For The Nations International visited us from Canada for a time of staff training and spiritual encouragement. He's a really nice guy and we don't see him much since HFTN operates so many children's homes and bases throughout Africa and Asia. The founder of our base in Davao also came with him and stayed a while to follow up with individual staff and it was really nice to reminisce about the early days of our ministry; many of our current staff and leaders were teenagers that found a relationship with Jesus through the Bible study he started at House of Jubilee back when it was a maternity clinic. God has been restoring our excitement through this, but I also have new reasons to be excited, as I am now in the process of preparing the study center to open. We have a digital projector already for classes, and a budget that should get us 4 new computers, and we will continue to raise funds until we have a full set of 12 to 15. Once the initial 4 are up and ready to use, we'll open the lab for sponsored students to study on, probably in the next two weeks. It's great to see something coming together after having a vision to do it for so long. Cathy and I are also hoping to do some more fundraising this summer, as we have not met our goals yet but aren't very far from doing so. I've written a new support letter that outlines our ministry, and need to get it into people's hands, so if you can think of someone you'd be willing to give it to, it would be quite a help to us. The letter can be downloaded here.
Ok, I'm back up to speed now. Since last update, I had jumped straight into preparing for the team, and they arrived on May 17th. This of course, being a Euroclass team, was a group of teenagers from Denmark who were very well-prepared for their outreach, although since they had already been to the Faroe Islands and Thailand before arriving in Davao, they were pretty tired. Still, they got right into our feeding program and enjoyed the time sharing God's love with the kids, doing dramas and dances and the like. They also did an open-air event at a local basketball court, contributed to 2 church services on Sunday, and mobilized for a very early street feeding run. Since they were about halfway through their outreach, they also took a break here and joined a Filipino Martial Arts practice, spent time at the beach and went white-water rafting, after which they were clearly energized again for the next part of their trip, in Manila. After they left on the 28th, though, exhaustion caught up to me, and I was stuck in bed with a fever. I also celebrated my 30th birthday, memorable partly because I had overexerted myself at the martial arts practice and messed up my foot, and was walking with a cane. Anyway, my month has been quite a rollercoaster ride, but God has been good in protecting us the whole time, for example when the world's most poisonous reptile (the Banded Sea Krait) swam up less than a meter from Roldan and I at the beach. Roldan's 3rd birthday was June 1st, and now that I'm feeling better and the crazy stuff is past, I'm ready to look ahead to making plans for that study center, and hopefully, more work with the tribes as well.
As usual, things start to really get moving when we have a team coming. Not just team stuff, either - it seems just when I'm busiest, lots of other opportunities and open doors pop up. This year is no exception, as lots of exciting stuff has been happening just in the last few weeks. As Cathy and I have both had responsibilities at HFTN, we have been dividing the week and I have been getting used to doing some of my work at home with Roldan in my lap. Cathy has to step back from her work, though, with the baby on the way, so this is a good time for some new projects. I've had a good meeting with friends in Kalayag, a locally-run ministry doing amazing work among the tribes, and it looks like they have lots of things I could be doing and an open invitation to get as involved as I can. Of course, without a car, that can't be very often for now, but I'd like to go once a week - they are about an hour's travel from our part of Davao. They have the resources to build a computer lab, which could be interesting. And speaking of computer labs, I met with the leader of an educational ministry I used to teach web development classes at, and offered to help get their defunct computer lab up and running again as well. We got to talking about my vision for a study center, and much to my surprise, he and the board of his ministry have decided to ask me to not only help with their lab, but make it my own and open my study center there! Even better, they have already acquired some donated machines to start with and modest funding to buy a few new ones, plus a projector. In other words, while I was looking for a place I could use to build a study center, now one has pretty much been given to me - within walking distance of HFTN, too. I can continue in HFTN in mornings and go over to Oasis (where the new lab is) in the afternoon and minister to students through providing resources and tutorial help, with the hopes that it leads to opportunities to talk to them about Jesus. And of course this all means that although I'm excited for the team's arrival and outreach in the coming weeks, it's too bad they are coming right when I could be preparing to open the study center right as a new school year and semester starts. This is really getting interesting now and it is clear that God had all of this in mind all along.
Sometimes it is surprising how quickly the year goes by. Euroclass will be here soon enough in May to add some excitement to our lives, but I wouldn't say things have been uneventful. In our last Admin meeting we were thanking God for several new sponsors for children in our program, and we are well underway in getting the new livelihood / fair trade project started. Materials have started to arrive and we are carefully considering who will be the first to hire to do the sewing, as they need to have experience and be able to help train others later on. My quarter of teaching the teens Sunday school class at ANCF is over, and while I really enjoyed it, it was also nice to stick around for the full church service again too. Meanwhile, for Cathy and I, our normal duties continue and we need to continue to draw on the Lord for strength and not get burnt out. Recently when I had the opportunity to lead devotion, I happened to do a search on the word 'approve' while looking for a specific verse, and ended up scrapping what I had planned to talk about entirely. The verses that turned up actually seemed to fit together quite well, and helped me relearn something that is important to Christian life: God has given us two needs that we often confuse, the need for acceptance and the need for approval. For one reason or another we often mix them up in our minds and the result is believers who are working in the hopes that God will notice them and accept them, but His love and provision are not based on what we do once we are adopted and born again as children of God. We do seek to live our lives in a way that God will approve, but we do it to make Him happy and accomplish the mission we've been given to bring more people into this family. And as 1 Thessalonians 2:4 says, the very fact that we have been entrusted with such a mission shows that we have a measure of God's approval, and the promise that He can work through us. This has been an encouragement to me lately, so at the expense of posting what amounts to a tiny sermon, I wanted to pass it along.
Summer is nearly upon us. Yes, I know for many of my readers, Spring is the season that is about to arrive. But throughout the Philippines, from mid-March to mid-May are considered the Summer months as they tend to be the hottest and driest. And right during the transition from our Summer to everyone else's is when the Euroclass team will arrive. Plenty of time to prepare, unlike last time when I arrived in the Philippines from my furlough mere days before they got here. There has been some progress in other areas, such as preparing to be more involved in educational projects, but lately the Rosemary feeding area has had much of the focus, especially for Cathy. What makes this project important is that it is very similar to our main location in Tancontian, where the church and missions base are located. When we started in Tancontian, crime rates were high, murders and the resulting funerals were almost regular experiences, and the children in the feeding program we started tended to do nothing but fight, use bad language, and break stuff. Some of these older children are now very helpful in teaching and looking after the younger ones in Tabitha: Food For Life, and we have seen a gradual change come over the community, although there are certainly still challenges. Bickering between the kids' mothers and church members in general seems to be disappearing as well. But this is not yet the case with Rosemary. Rosemary is one of a handful of new feeding locations we have started, on Saturdays only, and are hoping to make a weekly program at if staff and budget make it possible. Of these new locations, it is the only one without a local church to work through. The difference is readily visible, as there is constant quarreling between the parents of attending children over who has a sponsor in our sponsorship, who they think is getting special treatment, etc. and the children themselves reflect this as well. Cathy has recently been given additional helpers for this project, but it can be pretty tiring. Lets pray for this community that even with so little time and resources, God's love would be poured out on this community and hearts would be changed, and that God would reveal His provision to lift the burden of poverty as they seek Him, and also that Cathy and the other workers there would have their strength renewed by the Holy Spirit. And while you may have heard that we had a tsunami warning in relation to yesterday's quake in Japan, there has been no visible effect here. Japan, however, greatly needs our prayer.
It's Friday. I have usually been doing my updates weekly on Saturdays, but a schedule change is in order, as I really need Saturdays to prepare for Sunday School. I'm now leading the teens Sunday School class at All Nations Christian Fellowship, our local church in Davao, and will be for the next couple months. Somewhat as a surprise to me, the day before my first class I found out the books available were too far below teen level and I would have to more or less make my own lessons. This challenge has been good to me, and I'm thankful that the Lord has blessed me with very patient students, all Filipinos except for one Korean. In addition to Sunday School, I'm leading a small group Bible Study and led devotion at HFTN on Wednesday, so all in all, my new year's resolution of getting more involved in teaching the Bible is off to a decent start, and I'm working with High School and College students as well, which is what I feel I should be doing. In the meantime, I'm reformulating plans for other educational projects, and preparing for the Euroclass team. They don't arrive until May, but of course the work of hosting a team starts long before they arrive. Another thing that has taken my attention away from these updates has been a medical situation in the family. I didn't share the details publicly, but I know some of you have been praying, because in the end no hospital visit was needed, and even the doctor thinks it was due to the power of prayer. I have also decided to post these updates every two weeks, instead of weekly, and probably let myself write more in them.
Well, it's Saturday again, the day these updates seem to have settled on. This is also the day that Cathy handles the feeding program at Rosemary, which is a community not far from where Cathy's family used to live. The average number of children fed each Saturday is usually around 80, I think, but Cathy says this morning there was a turnout of over one hundred kids, some of which hadn't been coming for a while until today. This is a good trend, as we really want all of the children that have joined the program to be consistent. Speaking of programs for children, a lady came to our door today asking donations for a charity she said she works with here in Davao. This is something that happens occasionally here, and while the charity sounded familiar, I had to tell her that if I was going to donate, I'd prefer to do so at their office where I can be certain of where it goes. My mother-in-law later told me that it was good that I didn't give her anything, because that is a common tactic local cults, fringe groups, and scammers use. Davao is home to a surprising number of obscure religious groups that seem to have branched off of Christianity and come up with their own 'gospels'. One in particular is very large, and the founder is living here like a king while he claims to be the 'new appointed son of God'. I'm told his followers often ask for donations claiming to be students that need the money for school or some such thing, but even if they really do need it for school, it all goes to their new 'messiah'. These things impress on me the need to show God's love through how we live our lives. People have heard many different messages, but they will know the truth when they see our lives transformed by God. Our Father in heaven may even allow us to undergo difficult times so those around us can see His peace in us and want to know what makes us different. It's pretty clear I'm a guy who likes words (Galatians 6:11), but I still love the old saying, "Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words."
Another week of good meetings with people, and being the occasional computer hero when something isn't working. It looks like I'm set to be teaching Sunday school, leading an additional Bible study, and tutoring Tabitha kids in Science. At our Admin meeting yesterday it was reported that 4 more children have sponsors now in our sponsorship program, two of which are being sponsored locally. It's nice that we can find sponsors both here and abroad, as it helps to break the mindset that is prevalent here that Filipinos must depend on people from places like America to fund ministry. God is bigger than our economic differences, and wants us to be in unity in ministry. Speaking of breaking down economic barriers, we have a new project that I'm hoping will be successful - a fair trade initiative to employ some of the mothers of children in our programs in sewing items like nursing wraps and luggage tags which will be sold in America. The idea behind such fair trade projects is to cut out some of the middlemen, and enable these people to earn a wage that is closer to what the work deserves. Wages are amazingly low in the Philippines, like many other developing nations. I've been told that the average wage is around $5 a day, even if you have a college degree. Making it possible for members of the community to earn something that can really help their families without needing more than part-time hours will really benefit them. As with most of our ministry efforts, it may look tiny compared with the colossal need, but God calls us to things He can accomplish through us.
It's been a nice start to a new year, balanced between ministry and family time. Cathy of course has picked right up where she left off with sponsorship reports and the feeding program. I've been involved with some of that as well, but mainly I'm trying to lay out plans for new projects. My main goal for this quarter was to get a study center running as sort of a library and computer lab, using a room at our base that has been mostly used for storage for a while. That particular room, however, has found a use as a friend of mine has helped to start a fair trade project which we hope will give members of the community paying work that will help them break the cycle of unemployment and idleness, and let them provide for their families which are often quite large. This is something we've wanted to do for a while, so I think it's best to find somewhere else to start the study center. In the meantime, though, there is another ministry in a different community within moderate walking distance that has an empty computer lab. This is Oasis, a ministry that shares many of our goals and vision. I taught HTML classes there before, but the aging computers that had been donated to them eventually reached their 'retirement age', and now there is just one. While I am not directly involved in this ministry, I want to raise awareness anyway, in the hopes that someone knows of some old computers that might be donated to them (especially in Davao, as shipping can be difficult). They really make resources available to students, and I'd love to restart the classes I used to teach there. I also must mention that Cathy has been needing a computer of her own for work, since she is also on staff now and handles a lot of documentation. We've been looking at inexpensive netbooks like the Acer Aspire One, which is under $300. I haven't mentioned specific needs like this in a while as we were so concerned with just paying our rent, but I'd appreciate prayer in helping find a solution for this small need. Like I said, we've also found time for family, and it was especially fun to take Roldan to the Crocodile Park and Butterfly Garden now that he is older. He clearly got his smile and outgoing personality from Cathy, but I think he definitely got my love of animals and nature. Children are truly a blessing from the Lord.
Happy New Year! I know I'm happy that 2011 has arrived, I can just tell it will be a good one. I think one of the biggest challenges we face right now is looking at a lot of open doors for new areas of ministry, and needing God's guidance in how to manage our priorities so that we can be most effective. Considering how our situation seemed so discouraging a few months ago, I'm actually glad that was the time that I wasn't able to update my site - probably God's way of keeping me from writing anything that would look silly now. Well, since I just uploaded a "year in review" newsletter, I'll keep this short. I just want to thank all of you who are praying for us and supporting us. It's both humbling and encouraging to be able to see how interconnected we all are in accomplishing God's work throughout the world. God is good.
Our support letter from earlier in the year can still be downloaded here, and we also have a color brochure here. Some of the info is outdated but they are still useful.
Merry Christmas! This December has of course been much more focused on ministry than shopping or even resting for us, but we've been able to catch up a bit now. Our parties for the children in Tabitha and the sponsorship program ran pretty smoothly and we were able to give them a nice meal of spaghetti and fried chicken, apples (as rare and valued for them as mangoes are for us), and new flip-flops to wear. The party itself was fun for them and each age group prepared a song and/or dance to present. Many of their parents also came, including those that otherwise don't attend the church services, and heard of the love of Christ. The Malikongkong trip was even more exciting, at least for me, as it has been a couple of years since I had been up there and even longer for Cathy, as we couldn't bring an infant on those trails. Roldan, however, took to mountain climbing this year like a pro and hardly needed to be carried, especially once one of our Matigsalug friends brought a horse for him to ride on. Roldan loved that, and wanted to ride on every horse he saw afterwards. He also got along really well with the other children of the village, and enjoyed chasing ducks and goats around too. Cathy and I, along with the rest of the team, spent the afternoon preparing the food, and I personally cubed several kilos of pork with a machete. At night we had our Christmas meal around a campfire with several hundred tribal people, and then I was asked to give a short message (with no warning in advance so I could prepare). I simply spoke about what we can learn about God from the Christmas story, in the fact that he came into our world at a time when it not only wasn't made ready for Him, but didn't even recognize Him. He was born among farm animals in a dirty stable, and the first to hear about it were shepherds. While this meant that He would have no problem visiting a place like Malikongkong, the real message is that He is ready to come into our hearts, even if they are dirty and unprepared for Him. And for the next 30 years, before He began His ministry, Jesus was content to make tables and chairs for people who had no idea their new furniture was created by the same One who made the heavens and earth. God isn't only interested in our lives on Sunday, or when we are trying to accomplish something great for Him, but even the seemingly mundane and unimportant parts of our lives are things He want us to share with Him. The only real question is whether we will invite Him in and give Him our attention, and allow Him to transform our lives. It's my prayer that we will all experience the transforming power of the Holy Spirit afresh in the coming new year.
Our support letter from earlier in the year can still be downloaded here, and we also have a color brochure here. Some of the info is outdated but they are still useful.
This has been another week of mostly the sort of planning, purchasing, etc that precedes the second half of December where all the interesting stuff happens. That's not to say there weren't any highlights. I got to lead our staff devotion a couple of days ago, and while each of us usually takes a turn at least once a month, this time went well despite a lack of sleep and it was encouraging to have the Holy Spirit to turn to for strength - most noticeable when you run out of your own. I've had good talks with other people in ministry that I don't see often, as well as some former interns that managed to come back for a vacation (although I have tried to trick them into getting back to work anyway) and happened to both show up right before Christmas. One has taken the time to try to teach me a new kind of programming, which is great because I find myself encouraging younger programmers in Agdao fairly often and could stand a little more training myself, though actually applying it will have to wait until we get our Christmas break. Another highlight, earlier today, was stopping by the Tabitha program in Rosemary to help Cathy set up a sound system for their dance practice, and then afterward hearing that the moms helping out there were impressed at me speaking Bisaya with Cathy. That always makes me feel good. But you know life isn't all highlights, and we've had some stressful moments lately too - especially with ATMs and our debit card, which seem to have had every random problem possible. Probably the banking system is just straining under the load of all the holiday commerce going on. But the highlight here is knowing that we don't depend on a system, but on a Father in Heaven that already knew what hiccups we might face and is fully able to supply all our needs. A few months ago I wouldn't have thought that we would be so close to hitting our support goals by the end of the year.
Our support letter from earlier in the year can still be downloaded here, and we also have a color brochure here. Some of the info is outdated but they are still useful.
Well, December is here at last, and Christmas music and decorations are everywhere. I've also seen my first carolers at the gate this year, some of which carried the traditional stringed instrument known as a kuglung, and played it far better than I can play mine. The local government has tried to reach out to the tribal people of the nearby mountains by giving them aid during Christmas for years. While they have nothing but good intentions, this has encouraged these indigenous people groups to enter the cities, and while doing so, accept the role of beggars in mainstream Filipino society, dependent on the people of the lowlands who can give them rice and other aid. This is a holdover from the mindset of the colonial period, and many here never stop to think about how disturbingly backwards it is - the tribes may not have SUVs or new cell phones or money in the bank, but they carry the rich cultural traditions of the Philippines that have become watered down, and sometimes abandoned, in the cities. They should be respected and valued, and if we are to help them, it's better if we can go to them, rather than making them come to us. This, I am told, is the inspiration behind the Christmas party organized each year though Tribal Mission Foundation and Simbahang Kristianong Lumad. Cathy and I have been a part of this for several years, along with friends from our church, and have at times been able to contribute to the budget for food. This year, we are bringing clothes that have been donated, which will give our friends in Malikongkong's SimKris church the unenviable task of distributing them in a non-chaotic way. We hope you will pray with us that this will be used by God to be a blessing, rather than sparking quarreling or envy. What we want most is to share with them the love of the Father that sent Jesus into our world to rescue us. That is what all the fuss over Christmas is about anyway. And this year will be interesting as we are bringing our son Roldan with us, too. If it goes well, we might be able to start doing things like this more often again.
Our support letter from earlier in the year can still be downloaded here, and we also have a color brochure here. Some of the info is outdated but they are still useful.
Things are winding up for what is probably our busiest month of the year. Pasko (Christmas) is a huge deal in Filipino culture, and I've written before about the unique way it is celebrated here. And as I have said, Filipinos excel at parties, and it's something we can use to build relationships with the community and find opportunity to share the love of God with them. We also have a staff party, of course, and the party in Malikongkong, which I must admit is the one I am most excited for. We've decided to bring Roldan with us this time, as he did well when we went hiking at park in the mountains recently, and perhaps we can start visiting the tribes regularly like we used to now that he is such an active toddler and isn't sick nearly so often as he used to be. Cathy has been busy with our year-end reports to people sponsoring students, and several new students have sponsors. Our current sponsorship program is a new approach that grew out of a desire to respond to the needs we saw in the lives of older children in Tabitha: Food For Life, and a bit different from our aid to college students in the past. We have seen so many elementary students struggle to remain in school, or just give up, because although the public schools are free, they have many associated costs nonetheless. Families must be able to pay for the required school uniforms, transportation costs, meals, school supplies, and sometimes field trips - add to that many students paying for tutors in order to get help with subjects challenging to them, and occasionally teachers who will fine students a peso each time they are caught speaking their own language, usually Bisaya, rather than the national language which is Filipino, closely based on Tagalog. Students in our sponsorship program are ones we have found dedicated sponsors for, a process that involves case studies of their children and their families. The sponsorship covers all of these associated costs of schooling, and for our part we (especially Cathy) spend considerable time following up with the students to see how they are doing in school and at home, reviewing their report cards, and of course talking and praying with them and their parents. The sponsored students, as with Tabitha, also have tutoring provided by our staff and volunteers, many of which are young Filipinos who grew up in Agdao and have been reached with the Gospel through HFTN Philippines and our House of Jubilee church.
Our support letter from earlier in the year can still be downloaded here, and we also have a color brochure here. Some of the info is outdated but they are still useful.
Happy Thanksgiving! We may not be eating turkey, but we do have a great deal to be thankful for. I was just thinking that as Believers, one of the best is knowing Who we are thankful to. This week has mostly consisted of making preparations for our Christmas programs, including the Christmas party for the families of children in the Tabitha: Food For Life program. A Filipino party always means good food, and we'll also have games and such, but the party is also a way for us to reach out to the families and get to know them, and give glory to God. Many people and ministries do some sort of feeding project around the holidays in Davao, but Tabitha: Food For Life operates year-round, and has an entirely different strategy than most. Children become members of TFFL, after being screened and showing clear signs of malnutrition. There is a great need, because rather than children starving to death, what we encounter is lots of children whose families can only afford to eat small amounts of rice, and therefore are not getting the nutrients they need to grow. Each child in the program gets not only food, but also a growth chart showing their progress in reaching a healthy weight for their age, case studies of their family situation, regular house visits from our staff so we can follow up and reach out to their families, and events like the aforementioned Christmas party. During the week at our primary location at our missions base, the children have a daily program that includes preschool and Sunday school level educational activities, crafts, supervision during play, stories read to them from our small library, and other wholesome activities, mostly before meal time. When the food is ready to be served, they first wash their hands, as part of our focus on teaching hygiene; they brush their teeth (with toothbrushes given to them by us) after they eat. At times, through our follow up we become aware of medical situations that we can help in some way with, and we do what we can to make sure they are given the care they need, sometimes by partnering with other ministries in Davao. This has been probably our most successful program so far at HFTN Philippines, and we have plans to expand it. For me, it's not so much the charts showing the children have attained a healthy weight, but the joy and good character I see in the ones that have been in the program longest, that gives me a sense that we are accomplishing something in Agdao.
Our support letter from earlier in the year can still be downloaded here, and we also have a color brochure here. Some of the info is outdated but they are still useful.
It's good to be back. I've switched web hosting providers, as the old one lost all my updates since June 16th, said they would get them back, and then left me waiting for over a month, unable to update my site. You'll notice some minor changes, and there are probably things here and there I still need to fix, but the important thing is I can update this site again - although it doesn't hurt that the new web host is half the price of the old one, either. Cathy and I have been just as busy as ever, as she is now a full-time member of HFTN Philippines herself, and is in charge of the student sponsorship program, as well as managing the feeding program at one of the new locations on Saturdays. I have been working on HFTN Philippines' web site, HFTNPH.org, which you should check out. Other than that, I've hardly had any computer work to do, which is good, because I'm helping Cathy revise student sponsorship profiles for children we are seeking sponsors for, looking after our two interns, who have really been a blessing as they share our heart for children and have been very closely involved in our ministries, and Cathy and I are both leading small-group Bible studies now. If you read some of our previous updates before they were eaten by the old web server, you might wonder when I'm planning to return to America and if I found a job yet. We've been through some trying times financially, but came to a point where we decided to fight to stay here, because we both know we still have work we are called to do, and finances will have to just get out of our way. Right about that time, we found a new house to rent which is much cheaper, situated near a jeepney route, and in a much cooler area at the edge fo the city, so we don't need to run our aircon as much (I'm writing now with only an electric fan on, and not dripping sweat on the keyboard). This has reduced our monthly expenditures by around $150, which is a lot for us. At the same time, we've received gifts from new sponsors which helped us get out of the red. God is good! And as we put our trust in Him, our excitement for ministry has returned as well, replacing the weariness that grew from our uncertainty. We are making exciting plans for next year, but for now, the focus is on the special projects we got to do over the holidays, including distributing donated clothing to tribal villages, the Christmas party in Malikongkong, and likely our late-night delivery of meals to the street children and homeless families on Christmas' Eve.

Our support letter from earlier in the year can still be downloaded here, and we also have a color brochure here. Some of the info is outdated but they are still useful.
We started this month by saying goodbye to the Euroclass team, and having a small birthday celebration for Roldan, on his actual birthday, although he had also had a party in America before we left. But Cathy and I had also had a plan for a while to give the children in the Tabitha: Food For Life program a party as well. We were able to make that happen on the 12th, after having some of our friends from Agdao come over and stay up late baking over 200 chocolate chip cookies with Cathy the night before. I'm not entirely sure how many of the kids knew it was Roldan's party, because they all got cookies and ice cream, and we were able to give out school supplies we had left over from a another project as well. Roldan, of course, was up on the stage dancing and trying to sing into a microphone. Just the kind of chaotic fun we usually expect during the feeding program. The past couple of days I've also been able to help with coordinating with other ministries in expanding the feeding program to some new areas, try to get some of issues with our office network sorted out (some of it was replaced while I was on furlough after power outages damaged some equipment), and prepare for the interns, who arrive early tomorrow morning. I guess we're getting back up to speed on things.

Our current Support letter can be downloaded here, and we also have a color brochure here.
Hi from the Philippines! We arrived May 14th, but we barely had time to get back to a normal sleeping pattern before the Euroclass team arrived, and then it seemed I was always falling asleep whenever a free moment found me. This year I had the benefit of previous experience, though, and I think everyone had a great time during their visit. I was especially blessed by how well these Danish teenagers were able to jump into our Tabitha: Food for Life program and build relationships with the kids. These children need that kind of mentoring and I wish they could have stayed longer, tired though I might be. Perhaps some of them will come back as interns, as I did - and then end up on staff as well :). Speaking of interns, we will have more than average later in the summer, starting with five arriving on the 17th. I'm also excited to see our feeding program expanding again already to a few new locations in the coming months, possibly reaching out to some of the different people groups that have formed their own communities in this diverse city. Cathy and I also can be thankful that our support level is back up to something we can live on for the foreseeable future. A lot of people here I have talked to have been feeling, like us, that they don't want to always have to be thinking about money, but rather focus on God's work. I've been seeing God make that possible and I'm very thankful!

Our current Support letter can be downloaded here, and we also have a color brochure here.
Hard to believe we have been in the 'States for almost 6 months. Roldan has grown a lot here and learned quite a few words. Tonight we will be flying out on our way to Manila, although we won't get there until Thursday, and then we will fly to Davao on Friday. It's a long journey, especially with a toddler on your lap, but we are excited to return to our home and ministry in the Philippines. It's also a very expensive trip, and we are amazed at the outpouring of finances we have seen in the last couple of days that have made it possible. We also found better than average prices for the tickets - our tickets from here to New York City were only $41.40 for the three of us! God let us get to the point where all we had was our trust in Him, and has now supplied all our immediate needs. The first month in Davao will probably be a little tight because of our travel expenses, but our monthly sponsorship is now significantly better than when we arrived in NY in December, and we will be able to get to work on a lot of projects that we have been wanting to start now. First order of business, of course, is the team of 18 young people from Denmark that will arrive on the 20th. I'm sure we'll have beaten jet lag by then, enjoyed some mangoes, and gotten ready to jump in!

Our current Support letter can be downloaded here, and we also have a color brochure here.
We have been on furlough now for quite a while, and are planning our return to Davao. It has been nice to be encouraged and refreshed by our visits to different churches in the area, and reassuring to have some new supporters as well. While we do need to continue to work on having enough monthly support to sustain our work once we return, we also need to be thinking about plane tickets to get there. Prices are better right now than they were on the way over, but they will get more expensive the closer we get to our target departure date of May 7th. We've been traveling quite a bit lately, in particular with our long road trip to San Antonio to visit my grandparents. Grandma is in the hospital and it was really important to me to be there and to finally introduce them to Cathy and Roldan. It has been impressed on me lately that, as important as one's call to ministry is, it doesn't supersede our call to our families. Cathy and I have known for a while that eventually we'd have to take some years off and work on her citizenship so that, in the event things don't go as planned, it wouldn't separate us. We've been praying about it and feel that we should aim to do that in two years after we've wrapped up this current phase of ministry. I'm very confident we would return to missions work in the Philippines after that, but as for how soon, we don't know yet. I would be building a career in IT at that time so that as a family we would have a solid foundation. While that new adventure is becoming visible on the horizon, it doesn't change our immediate plans; in fact, it gives us more motivation and focus. Our current Support letter can be downloaded here, and we also have a color brochure here.
As we continue to do our fundraising so we can return to our ministry in Davao, we have visited a bunch of churches in the area and reconnected with people I haven't seen in years. I will be speaking in two of them within the next month, which is something that goes with the territory as a missionary but still makes me nervous sometimes. Nevertheless, I do look forward to the opportunity to share what God has been doing through our ministry and about our heart for Filipino youth and their families. I've also been finding odd jobs here and there, mostly fixing computers for friends. I'd really like to find some more formal work as well so we will be set when it comes time to buy our plane tickets. Our trip to New York City went well, even with the slippery winter roads, and we can be assured that Roldan will have his passport when we are ready to leave. When exactly that is has yet to be determined, but within the next couple of months we will either succeed or fail to raise our goal amount, and either way Cathy cannot stay in America later than the end of May because of her visa. This means I could potentially be left behind to continue the campaign, which is an unpleasant thought. As always we greatly appreciate your prayers as we seek God's will and try to discern the plan He has for us. Our current Support letter can be downloaded here, and we also have a color brochure here.
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