Monday, May 14, 2018

Last weekend I (Dan) had the opportunity to be a counselor at a summer missions camp put on by our national coworkers. It was a great experience and reminded me a lot of the missions trips I took to Mexico when I was in high school, except everything was in Tagalog. The days were long, 6am-10pm, but the fellowship was sweet. I really enjoyed a chance to do some hands-on ministry and use lots of the Tagalog that I have been working on over the last year. I was amazed by how much that I could understand and happy that I was able to have some input into our small group times. I even used enough Tagalog that by the end of camp some of the students were joking with me about my American-accented Tagalog. Generally, a student-teacher or counselor relationship here would be more formal so I was encouraged by their willingness to joke around with me a bit. I took it to mean that they saw me more as an equal than as an authority figure, which is good since I feel quite far from an authority on anything here.

Most of our small group and I, along with some actors for our cultural presentation.

Most of all I was encouraged by how the students were challenged to consider how they were going to be a part of the Great Commission. Around 20 of the 80 students committed to Go, and several of those are even pursuing the New Tribes training here in the Philippines with the goal of becoming an NTM missionary. Pray for the students that they will be able to follow through with their commitments and they will be a part of the spread of the Gospel here in the Philippines, whether it be in their backyard or deep in the remote mountains! Who knows…maybe I met some future coworkers last weekend!

Campers commitments 

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Language Check

Last week, almost exactly one year after arriving in the country, we had our second language and culture check. We were encouraged to see how we’ve progressed in our studies over the past year. The first part of the evaluation was hiking into the jungle for a cultural experience. We harvested the ingredients for and cooked a dish called ginataan. It consists of multiple root vegetables, brown sugar, sweetened condensed milk, and fresh, hand-squeezed coconut milk all cooked over a fire. When it was done, we ate it out of the empty coconut shells. 

The next day we were back at our house and we went through a number of different communication tasks with our language helpers and language consultants.  We would talk about different things like introducing our family, buying an item, explaining what our organization does and much more. The tasks got progressively harder as the morning went.

The following chart shows the different levels. For language and culture Dan scored in Basic high or progressing low in most things. Holly scored between Basic high and progressing mid with her highest sections being grammar use. For context, if Tagalog ends being the national language where we work Dan will need to reach Capable low in all areas and Holly will need to reach Progressing mid before we are cleared to begin our tribal ministry. Before beginning a teaching ministry, we will need to reach capable high.


We are encouraged by how far we have come and are more encouraged that our progress seems to be on track with what is expected for us after being here a year. 

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Ellery's Bed, Final Post!

“This could be the last day,” I was thinking. Everything was cut and sanded. All we had to do was screw the pieces together and assemble the bed in the room. The plans recommended using pocket holes. I don’t have a jig, and I’ve never done them before. After watching some YouTube videos, we did it by hand and it worked out great. We got the 2 house-shaped end pieces put together outside and moved them up to Ellery’s bedroom. The staircase was almost too narrow and it took some finagling, but we did it. Ellery’s room is tiny and it felt like we were working in a sardine tin. We got the bed supports attached which is a job that would have been best for 3 people, but we made due with 2 people (and some stacks of Ellery’s books to hold up the supports). At one point, we knocked one of the end pieces over onto my back but it narrowly missed both of our heads thankfully.

Once we got all the side pieces together, we screwed on the slats that go under the mattress and we were done. Over the weekend I put several coats of varnish on to help keep the wood from molding and to make the bed look awesome.

In the end, building this bed was a great learning experience. Even things I thought would be simple took lots of time and required a knowledge of the area. Making this bed was a great lesson in the importance of having good relationships with Filipinos and interdependence on the body of Christ. Without the help of Kuya Veevoi, I might still be out looking for 2.5-inch screws. Without his connections from church, we might still be looking for someone to sand down our wood. Someday, if we are ever building a house in a tribe, many of the lessons learned in this project will be very helpful. Because I did this project with my language helper, I learned 60 new words in the process too. I hope you enjoyed following along with us. Now you know what we mean when we say, “It’s more fun in the Philippines”!

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Ellery's Big Girl Bed pt 3

On Tuesday Kuya Veevoi came over and we began sanding by hand, but quickly concluded that it was going to take forever. All the 2x4s had deep ridges in them running the length of the pieces and it was incredibly slow-going. One of the other students here had a power sander we could borrow but he wouldn’t be home for a few hours. In the meanwhile, we cut all the pieces to the right size. The end pieces were a bit tricky as we worked out how to cut them in a manner that would hide those pesky blue ink splotches. In the end, we managed to get everything cut and ready to be sanded.

On Thursday Kuya Veevoi came over to work on sanding while we were doing class with our other language helper. We doubled our class hours that day so we ‘enjoyed’ the constant (and loud) hum of the sander in the background for 8 hours. By the end of the day, there were only 4 pieces done with just the rough sanding step! Even with the power sander, it was extremely slow-going.

The next day we decided that sanding like this was not going to work so we sent out to see if we could find someone with a planer to take the grooves out for us. The first wood shop we stopped at didn’t have a planer. The second shop had a planer, but it was broken. Kuya Veevoi had another idea. He knew that just up the road there was a guy who did wood working so we went to see him. He had a working planer but he told us it would not be good to use since it would take off too much wood. He said he could use his grinder to sand the pieces down.  We decided to try it and were led to his shop. We went through their store front, dining room, bedroom, and kitchen to a door at the back of their house. We walked across the roof, down a short ladder, and down a few more stairs to the open-air basement where wood chips and sawdust covered the floor. He grabbed his grinder, put a piece of sandpaper on it and went to work. Within 5-10 minutes he was done with the first piece (aka what took the sander about 2 hours to do). We brought him the rest of the wood and a few hours later I went back to collect it all.

The next Monday we spent some time sanding the grinder marks out and following up with the fine paper to. I had about another hour of sanding to do after our Monday night language meeting. The sanding was finally complete after about 15 hours of work between everyone involved! When we started out, I thought we could have it completely assembled in a week, but now at the end of week 2 we were ready to start assembling Ellery’s bed.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Ellery's Big Girl Bed pt. 2

The next Monday we set out to get the wood that we would need. This should be a simple task since one of the biggest lumber yards that I have seen here is only a few kilometers down the road. We were led to the lumber stacks to find some 8-foot 2x4’s. They didn’t have any 8 footers, but they had some 10-footers. I figured they’d work fine so we started pulling them out. That’s when I noticed they looked kind of funny. It turns out they weren’t 10-foot pieces…but two 5-foot pieces joined together. We finally found a pile of 2x4’s that would work. Over ¾ of them had some kind of defect; cracks, rotted parts, holes from knots, warped pieces, large ink blotches, or they weren’t actually a 2x4 (but a little bit smaller). We got through the pile and still hadn’t found the 9 pieces we needed so they went to cut some for us.

Then we went to find some 2x2’s and some 1x4’s. They were much easier to find. By the time we had those pieces pulled out, they came back with a few fresh cut 2x4’s for us. They all looked pretty good except for the big blue ink splotches. We asked if they had any pieces of wood without these ink blotches, but they didn't. It wasn’t ideal as we were only planning on varnishing the bed, but I figured out how we'd be able to hide some of the ink blotches against a wall or under the bed.

The final count was:
(9) 2x4x10ft
(5) 1x4x10ft
(2) 2x2x8ft
for a total of $61. 

We loaded the car with our expensive lumber and headed home.

To be continued

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Ellery's Big Girl Bed

Ellery has been growing up. How dare she?! While she still fits in her faithful old pack n play we were facing 2 problems. First, she discovered that she can climb out of it. Second, Holly has been getting in the pack n play with her at night to do bedtime stories, singing, praying, and snuggles. It’s a tight fit, and frankly, it might break. We started talking about transitioning to a big girl bed and Holly found some free plans online for an easy frame. We figured that making a bed would be an effective way to ensure quality and would also be a great culture and language learning experience as most of the process would be done with one of our language helpers, Kuya Veevoi.

We set out one Friday afternoon with high hopes to buy everything we would need. Our first stop was the supermarket to get Ellery’s mattress. It was 20% off which was a pleasant surprise since things are rarely on sale here. Then, we went to a home goods type store where we found some sand paper and some 2-inch screws, but they had no 2 ½ in screws. Next, we went to my favorite hardware in town and found some clear varnish and brushes, but no 2 ½ in screws. From there we walked to another hardware/home goods store in the market area and once again there were no 2 ½ in screws so we decided to drive out of town a bit and find another store.  We quickly found out they don’t have any either and we went to leave. Only to discover the van wouldn’t start…not even a sound. We asked around and were led to a guy who was 10 times more covered in grease than I have ever been. He grabbed a battery and headed to jump our car. We got it started right away and then had to figure out a plan.

At this point we were about an hour away from our mechanic and half an hour from home.  I was afraid if we shut the car off it wouldn’t start again. We decided to drive home and unload the car without turning it off, and then head straight to the mechanic. When we got to the mechanic he quickly figured out it was the starter, and I added a few other maintenance things to the list for him. From the mechanic, we walked to the nearby mall and headed to yet another hardware store where we found 2 ½ wood screws! Although they were close to $18 for 55, I was just glad we found them.
From there we hopped on a Jeepney to the bus terminal to catch a bus home. Things took longer than I thought, but I was just glad we got everything but the wood we would need for the bed. I was also glad that the car seemed to be a simple fix.
To be continued

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Want to know what about our recent evaluation?

In a nutshell…nothing ever goes the way you planned. There were plans, they changed, they changed again, and then they changed again. In the end though, it all worked out. Our evaluations happened and as a bonus it took less time that it originally would have. They gave us a good idea of where we’re at in the language/culture learning process and what we can change/do to keep moving forward and progressing. Another bonus was that the change in the schedule allowed Dan and I to have a date on our 4th anniversary. 

We still have a long way to go here. We’ll be learning language for quite some time…it just may not be this one depending on where we go next. I’ve really been struggling lately with the thought: Can God really use me?! I know He can and will since He got us to this point. Lately, I feel like I’ve really been struck by my own immaturity and how far I still have to go. There have been challenging situations we’ve heard about just since we’ve been here that different coworkers are dealing with and it begs the question: Do I trust God? Part of it is our youthfulness that adds to my thinking and part of it is my own non-rose-colored view of my own failings and character flaws. I feel utterly inadequate. I know then my focus is not where it should be. I should be focused on God and His power to work in my life. I have a constant feeling that God’s purpose right now is to do a much bigger work in me than He has planned for any people we might potentially minister to because let me tell you…there is a ton of work to be done in my heart still. However, I was encouraged by this word in Psalm at church recently:

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place; when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
                                                                                                                        Psalm 139: 13-18