Fall has come to the Philippines in the form of Typhoons, one after the other, that pummel us with epic porportions of rain and tree-bending winds, high flood waters, land-slides, and 18 hour black-outs. We look forward to this season slighty differently than you do your autumn, but I (Leah) have decided to make pumpkin pie, light my spiced apple candle, tell stories to little girls by flash-light (we are also treating patients and delivering lots of babies by flash-light) and enjoy our fall anyway.
Our two lovely littles are astounding us more every day with how they dare to disobey by growing up so fast. Julia will be three years old in five days, and is a girl filled with strength, beauty, compassion, tenacity, and humor. Avea is a sassy One and a half years old and likes to jump off high things and attempt to defy physics. She is funny and beautiful, mighty, determined, and smiley. Sometimes I think our hearts may explode with all the love we have for these two. They are incredible gifts.
Here is the part of the letter where I confess to you-- It has been mentioned to me that I most often write to you when we are in the middle of an emergency, some crisis probably involving near-death, or one of our arms falling off. This is true, and I am very sorry for it... I know that it is super important that we write regularly, letting you in the small details and victories, the concerns, the threads of everyday life. Here is the raw truth of it: I, the designated update-writer, have a problem with messiness, and our life is sometimes dripping with it. I sit down at the computer multiple times each month, fully intent on newsing-it-up for you. I end up shutting the laptop and walking away, not sure at all how to condense into words what life looks like. Sometimes we are overwhelmed with life. Sometimes when I try to think of words, little moaning sounds come out, and those are hard to type.
No excuses- Just honesty. I struggle with a strong desire to tie up all the loose ends and smooth them into a bow, to dress up the jagged edges and help them beautifully make sense for you. But sometimes that is not possible. This is me letting the colors that are underneath be unveiled---makeup scrubbed off, all the messiness and rawness speaks for itself as the wrapping paper falls to the floor....
Life for us often feels like a battlefield: There are many days when we have tried again to resuscitate another dead child who has been carried in our door, and then sat on the floor, weeping with wailing parents who will never hold their baby again. Right now we are in the middle of fighting for justice and love for a twelve year old girl who has been raped by her father for two years now, constantly. Every neighbor, family member, and government official has looked the other way and shushed her because her family is in politics and it would look bad for them for the abuse to come to light. They try to shush us too, but we won't be shushed. She sits in our living room and we cry with her and vow that we will walk beside her and fight for her. She will be heard, and rescued. She is loved.
Another girl, Chrystal, ten years old, was brought to us this week... she said she wants to be a prostitute, because her step-mother is and is advising her that it would be the best life for her. Men already line up outside her gate waiting for her. As we spent the day listening to her heart and loving her, she told us of the sexual abuse at the hands of her father. I wept as I realized she has no idea her worth, her value, her identity. Francis and I spoke to her of the intense love of her daddy God for her, and that she was made with purpose and she has value beyond her body and sexuality. She is still a child--- giggling as we took her swimming, talking about Barbies and Hannah Montana... and thinking of becoming a prostitute. She was never told that she was worth anything, that she is loved or that her life means something, never told that her body and sexuality is a treasure to be respected and guarded, not to be stolen or sold, that her mind and heart is valuable and she can have hope for a future.
Her eyes lit up.... "Oh. I did not know these things. I think I want to be a teacher. Can I become a teacher?"
I believe that this little girl, this heart, this life is being turned before she enters a life of selling herself. That God spared this one just in time. We are usually on the other side: walking women through intense healing of broken spirits, hearts and bodies after being prostituted. Not this one.
There are victories in this messy life too... all around us, beauty rising up from the dirt.
A muslim man and his wife have been coming to us for years now, learning to trust us as we build relationship with them and love them. Along with a good friend of ours who is a Colonel in the miliatary, we have been having some Muslim Bible studies, using the Injil (New testament) and what they already know of Isa Al Masi (Jesus Christ), and pointing them to the truth of who God really is, and how He sent His son to die for them. Two weeks ago, the husband, who is about to become a Imam (religious leader) in the Mosque, and his wife put their faith and trust in Jesus and prayed to accept Him into their lives. "This really is the truth!" they said, astounded.
We are now doing Bible studies in their home to disciple them. We have a growing Muslim community migrating to Puerto Galera from down south. God has given us a deep love for them, and urgency to share the great love of our God for them. They are, like us, God's children who need reconciled to the heart of their father, and like any other person, wonderfully made and worth pursuing with love.
Two weeks ago two different toddlers were brought to us within days of each other, unresponsive and seizing, their eyes life-less and seizures wracking their little bodies for several hours straight by the time they were brought in. In the first case, it looked like Meningitis, and we were not sure that the little girl would live long enough to be brought to the hospital. We did what we could for her, and put our hands on her tiny body that shook every few seconds. We prayed healing and life over her.
The next day we called the family and they said they were being sent home from the hospital because she was completely well, before antibiotics were even given to her.
The second child was healed also before even going to hospital, and his father is wanting to know more about God and His love for them.
Francis continues to work beside the local pastors and is now uniting them in passion for reaching the Muslims all around us, abandoning fear and hatred and being love like we are called to be. Love changes things. They are beginning to meet together to learn how to reach our Muslim brothers more powerfully.
We are still without a home or clinic prospect, and are to be out of our home within a few weeks at the most. We are continuing to trust God's heart and thanking Him that He knows exactly where He wants us to be, and will give us what we need. Please pray for our new house and clinic to be shown to us soon, for the two young girls who are being abused and wisdom for us as we pursue justice for them, and for the huge scope of ministry here.
In all of this, the pieces of our lives, I realize something: most of the time, Jesus comes and meets us most intimately when we are in the deepest puddles of messiness and raw humanity, when tears are dripping off our noses and blood is all over us, and we are not sure how to go on. He picks us up and holds us close, and then He begins making all of this into something beautiful. He gives grace that is more than sufficient---it is astounding. I cannot make things beautiful, but I can trust the heart who holds us and turns ashes into beauty. We may not be, or feel, like amazing missionaries most days. We are just a couple of people who are learning more of Jesus' heart, tripping, falling, and being lifted up by His grace again to begin the next day. We are learning to love with abandon, give with everything we are and have, and to cling to Jesus for our next breath. He really is enough.
Thank you for your grace for us, your continued love, patience, and support. We would not be here if it were not for all of you, continuing to pray and love us. We are humbled by your love!
In the hands of Grace,
Leah, for all four of us.