Saturday, February 26, 2011

Lantern Festival 元宵節

Last weekend we headed out to Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall to check out the lantern festival.

During the Lantern Festival, children go out at night to temples carrying paper lanterns and solve riddles on the lanterns. It officially ends the Chinese New Year celebrations.

In ancient times, the lanterns were fairly simple, for only the emperor and noblemen had large ornate ones; in modern times, lanterns have been embellished with many complex designs. For example, lanterns are now often made in shapes of animals.

New friends...

Kalan's new motto...

Friday, February 25, 2011

Going Green

My second favorite kitchen appliance (after our rice cooker) is definitely our blender. Thanks Grandma and Nanu! :)

Recently I've been experimenting with "green smoothies." Packed with nutrition and quick to make, there's no better breakfast-- especially after a long run. OK, I know some of you are crinkling your nose at the thought of drinking spinach (that's what I did before I tried one) -- but I promise, you won't even taste those leafy greens.

Ingredients: ice, soy milk, a ripe banana, a handful of spinach, and a bit of honey. Blend and enjoy!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

New Life Children's Home

Just a few more pictures from the orphanage in Manila...

New Life Orphanage not only cares for infants...they also care for around 50 children ages 5-12. Most are rescued from the streets. When some of them first arrive, the workers find them stuffing rice into their pockets during mealtimes. They are accustomed to wondering when their next meal will be. But at New Life, they always have a warm meal and a bed to sleep on.

At NLCH, these kids are loved and cared for, physically and spiritually. Many are in need of basic medical care, including lice/flea/worm removal. One child at the home had 2 pounds of worms removed from his body.

Each night before bed, the children have devotions together. They sing songs together, in English and in Tagalog. They take prayer requests, and one of the older children leads everyone in prayer. Then one of the volunteers reads a Bible story. They always beg for 'just one more!'

"Tell the one about the lions! Tell the one about the seeds!" They can't get enough.

During our time there, Beth and I ran a 5K to "break the cycle of poverty through education."

Some of the kids ran alongside us. It was great fun!

We pray that this cycle of poverty in the Philippines would continue to be broken, and we also pray that more and more children from the orphanage would be adopted into loving families. Finally, we pray that they would know God the Father who will never leave them nor forsake them. Will you please join us in prayer for them?

Thanks for letting us share our stories and pictures from our trip. We hope you enjoyed them.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Three Volcanoes and a Waterfall

Some of you may be thinking by, how did you guys relax on this vacation?!

Well, I'll let the pictures show you...

One day we did a little cliff-jumping at a beautiful waterfall...

Another day we hiked up Taal Volcano-- the only place in the world with a volcano inside an island inside another volcano inside an island inside a third volcano!

We took a choppy boat ride across the lake to get to the island...

Those bamboo extensions are what held our boat upright during the ride!

Once on the island we hiked up to the top...

And at the top, we enjoyed fresh coconut milk and an amazing view!

On our way back to Manila we checked out the American cemetery...

What a fun and refreshing week! :)

Friday, February 18, 2011

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Tin City: A Peek Inside a Refugee Camp

The "tin city" is a refugee camp built by the Red Cross for Filipinos whose rickety ramshackle shelters in the inner city were destroyed by the last typhoon. About an hour outside the city, in a huge dirt field, hundreds of uniform wooden tin-roofed shelters sit in neat rows, hiding the chaos and despair of the families surviving inside.

As soon as our van pulled into the "city," flocks of refugees--mostly women and young children--swarmed to the feeding station, with worn plastic bowls and bottles in hand. They waited under the sweltering sun in a long line, eager for just one bottle of clean water and a scoop of rice soaked in canned tomato sauce and corn.

I helped another young woman take out our first aid kit. Within minutes we were surrounded by hurting people. It was overwhelming. One of the young men stepped up to help us translate. He would name the ailment--cough, fever, rash, toothache, pink eye, etc.-- and I would start looking through bottles as I asked, "For how old?"

Most of those suffering were children, many under two years old. We simply did not have any medicine for children so young, so I had to turn those mothers away as they looked at me with pleading desperation. The others I tried to help as best I could. I applied bactene to flea-bitten arms and legs, visine drops to red gunky eyes, and dressed a deep gash wound on a woman's thigh. For fevers, coughs, and toothaches I prescribed over-the-counter painkillers.

There were so many people that I could only give out 1-2 days' dosage, maybe 3 if it looked severe. We had no bottles or containers to put the medicine in, so I started cutting the fingers off our extra plastic gloves and using them as miniature baggies.

Little did I know I would soon see much worse suffering.

One of the Filipino pastors took the two of us and the first aid kit to one of the homes. It consisted of one room, maybe a 15x15 foot square with a dirt floor. In one corner was a single wooden cot. In another corner was a small stack of plastic dishes and old water bottles.

In the corner nearest us was a middle-aged woman slouched on a plastic tarp. Her coarse, gray streaked hair was pulled back in a loose ponytail. Her thin gray cotton shirt did not quite cover her distended belly or the gauze bandage protruding from her neckline. Her swollen limbs, hands, and feet were spotted with blistering sores and wart-like growths. Her sunken yellow eyes told us of her excruciating pain, though her slightly parted lips said nothing...only breathed raspily.

Standing nearby were her four or five children, the eldest a girl of 19. She told us her mother had been suffering like this from breast cancer for about a year. She had received no medical care besides the Christian mission teams that sporadically come to the camp.

We sat on the mat next to the woman. Unsure of what to do, we layed hands on her and prayed. We prayed for healing, for comfort, for relief from the pain. We prayed that she would know Jesus. I don't remember what else we prayed was one of those times I felt so overwhelmed that I almost could not pray, but in His grace the Holy Spirit must have given me some words.

Next, we prepared to change her dressing. Krystal prepared the supplies while I tried to maneuver the woman into a sitting position. However, she clutched my arms and made silent groans, pleading with me to let her remain upright. So I did.

Caution: the next paragraph is a little bit graphic. If you get queasy at the thought of blood, don't read it.

Using gloves, I carefully removed the tape and bloodied gauze. Yellow pus and blood encrusted the old bandage to her wound, where the cancer, completely unchecked, had eaten away her left breast, leaving a bloody mess. When I finally got the old gauze removed, I used clean gauze to apply pressure to stop the bleeding. I went through several sheets, all soaked in blood. Krystal prepared a new dressing with ointment and we taped it on. The whole time I talked and prayed with the woman, who was too weak to cry out or make any response.

Finally, we gave her brave daughter all the painkillers we had left, with basic instructions.

Then we left.

Meanwhile, Kalan was with the rest of the team distributing blankets, toiletries, and toys. No one wanted to wait in line, no one wanted to share. It reminded us that physical needs are only the beginning of the solution. What they ultimately need doesn't come in a first aid kit. They need hope. They need redemption. And that only comes through a person-- Jesus Christ.

Kalan's Construction Crew

More stories from Manila...

While I was holding babies and playing with kids at the orphanage, Kalan was hard at work under the hot sun. He helped lead a group of Korean high schoolers from an international school in China in some construction work at the mission base.

Here they cleared a seven-foot high pile of trash. Then they dug holes and began preparing supports for a new shed.

Mixing concrete for the supports:

Old homes in the squatter village:

KIM is working on several construction projects in the village. They are building stable concrete homes to replace the temporary shelters that cannot withstand typhoon season.

Many people are displaced each year when their homes are destroyed by typhoons. Sometimes the government moves them to refugee camps outside the city. In my next post, I wll give you a peek inside one of these camps.

Cars, Motorcycles...and Jeepneys!

In the next few posts, I'll share some more pictures and stories from our time in Manila.
So far, you've heard a little about the ministry we did there. Well, we also had a few adventures in the city...

One night, Kalan took one of these motorcycle carts into the city for a date night. There was a total of SEVEN people on this thing!

Our hosts were also gracious enough to let us borrow one of their cars for the week. Kalan did a great job of driving in heavy traffic without lanes, lights, or stop signs. If I had taken the wheel, I'm not sure we would still be here today. Kalan drove us to a karaoke place in an open-air building overlooking Manila. It had a beautiful view, and we sure had a blast belting out some English tunes with our friends!

On yet another night, we experienced another typical Filipino form of transportation...a Jeepney. Instead of a subway or bus system, the people of Manila travel by Jeepney. You just hop into the back, pass some pesos up to the front, and holler when you want to get off. An added bonus: the inside is often decked out with a booming stereo system and colored lights. It's extremely inefficient but such great fun!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Doctor's Orders

Two things we love about Taiwanese medical care:
1. It's CHEAP. Last week, Kalan's doctor visit and prescription medications were a total of $5 US. Unbelievable.
2. You can get many "prescription" medications over the counter, just by going to the pharmacy.

Well, tonight I went to the pharmacy because I've had a bad cough for about a week. Usually, the medicine labels are all in Chinese, so I'm not quite sure what I'm getting. However, tonight, I was fortunate enough to have this English label:

I wonder who gets the one with opium?

How to Make Cake Without an Oven

Impossible, you say? No way!

Last night I made gluten-free cake in my rice cooker!

My recipe needs a little tweaking, but it was pretty good! This was the first time I ate cake since leaving America...mmm, delicious. :)

My next rice cooker challenge? Homemade bread!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Night Shift at the Orphanage

Our first night in Manila, Beth and I took the night shift at the orphanage. When we arrived around 8:00 pm, two wonderful Filipino women showed us around, and introduced us to the eleven babies/toddlers we would be taking care of for the evening.

The nursery was clean, bright, and relatively organized (considering they care for eleven small children each day!) Soon our new Filipino friends left to get some rest, and Beth and I were alone with the babies.

We had hoped to catch a few zzzz's...but ended up sleeping a total of 30 minutes over the course of the night. (All you moms out there--I'm sure you saw that one coming!) Even though I was tired, I enjoyed every minute of caring for these precious babies. Meet a few of them:

John: two weeks old. He captured my heart right away.

Colleen: six months old. The missionaries cared for her mother before she was born, providing her with nutritious food, clean water, and prenatal vitamins. As a result, she is a very healthy and happy baby.

Cedric: six months old. Cedric was born prematurely, and his mother from the village did not get adequate nutrition before his birth. He is very small and has health problems. However, with all the good care he receives at the orphanage, he has a bright future.

Yuki: how can you not love him with all that crazy hair?

Jacob: we celebrated his first birthday with him.

By the time 8:00 am rolled around, Beth and I felt exhausted. Yet, I felt joyful and content at the same time. We met our husbands for breakfast at the mission base and then headed to our apartment for a long nap. We had to rest up for our first night out in Manila...

Friday, February 11, 2011

From Taipei to Manila...and Back Again

About a week ago, we returned home from our one week vacation in the Philippines. Our time in Manila was the perfect combination of volunteer work and relaxation. In the next few blogs, I'll share a few stories and pictures from our time there.

Our journey started early Saturday morning...really early. Our flight left at 1:30 am. We were glad to have Ben and Beth as travel companions!

Our short flight arrived in Manila around 3:30 am. We camped out on the airport floor for several hours.

Around 7:00 am we took a taxi to Kids International Ministries, a mission base located in a squatter village outside of Manila. Upon arrival we met Jeff, the man in charge. Over coffee and eggs he shared about KIM and some of the different ministries they run: an orphanage, transitional housing for orphaned teens, a home for teenage mothers, two schools, a library, an educational magazine, and a trade school.

They also feed 10,000 people each week, make sure the villagers receive clean water, provide basic medical and dental care, build homes, and recently finished rebuilding a church and seminary. They do all these things in conjunction with local churches. "KIM is like the wind in the sails...we work behind the scenes. We give local churches the credit and God the glory."

After breakfast we went into the village to help with the morning feeding. Kalan and Ben served up some rice and vegetable soup while Beth and I played with the many children who immediately converged on us with worn plastic bowls.

The poverty was jarring, as I had become used to all the comforts of Taipei. I was thankful to be there.

That morning, Jeff had asked Beth and I to work the night shift in the nursery part of the orphanage. Eleven sleeping babies? How hard could that be, really? In preparation, we took naps that afternoon. We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into...