Welcome Friends and Family!

Our hopes for this blog is to keep you updated as to how God is working in and through us as we serve Him by reaching out to children in crisis here in the Philippines. Please continue to pray for us regularly! Thank you!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

February 2012

Dear Family and Friends,
We hope that your transition into the new year has been a good one, and that the Lord has given you vision of what He wants to accomplish in your life.  Our lives here have been quite busy, and we are getting excited as we are nearing the end of language school.  If all goes well, we should be done with language school by the end of April.  By then, we will have hoped to have acquired language helpers that will continue to help us strengthen our language skills and continue to learn new things.  Pray for us in this as we are praying and thinking about who those language helpers might be.

Another thing that you can be praying about is where we will be in ministry.  We possibly may be able to work in  the church we are currently attending, or in a different church.  We had a chance to visit the street kid ministry at our current church and really enjoyed our time as we observed what they were doing as well as interacted with some of the children.  Possibly in March, we will have a chance to visit some other churches to see what their street kid ministries are like.  Of course, the advantage of staying at our own church is that we have already built relationships there.  Also, the ministry is small at this time with about 15 street kids, which we like because we would be able to get to know them on a personal level.  Still, we need a lot of prayer for this decision and ask you to join us in knowing God's will for us.

Another praise that we have is that we have all been very healthy for quite sometime.  We are thankful for this season of health that the Lord has given to us.  We have also altered some health habits for the children at the recommendation of their doctor, which has been a very big help.

This month, I (Matt) will have the opportunity to be a part of ministry to street kids and to those affected by typhoon Sendong (Washi for the international name).  On February 14th-16th, I will be attending a camp for street children.  I don't yet know to what extent my role will be, but this will be the first one I am attending and  being a part of.  Please pray for me, that I will be ready to serve in whatever way the Lord has me, even if it is scary or uncomfortable.  This is unknown and new territory for me, so pray that I will learn to depend on the Lord for everything.  I have learned a lot this past year that in my weakness Christ is strong.  The second event that I will be involved in is going to Cagayan De Oro in Mindanao where thousands were affected by the typhoon.  This is a follow up trip from one that was taken in early January, which I did not attend due to sickness.  We will be surveying again the needs down there, a couple in our group who are professional counselors will be training pastors to know how to respond to those who have been traumatized by the typhoon and lastly, we should also be doing some relief work.

Well, that is about it for now.  Please join us in prayer for the things that we have mentioned above.  Please feel free to share with us your prayer needs so that we can pray for you!  Thank you so much for the many ways you are supporting us!

Matt, Becki, Isaiah, and Elijah

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Dear Friends and Family,
We hope this finds you with joy in your hearts as you are celebrating Jesus Christ during this Christmas season.  This is our first Christmas here in the Philippines, and even though we are missing our families during this time of the year, we are thrilled to be here and making new memories here.  We hope that during this season that you will take the time to have a lot of quiet reflection and worship of our Lord Jesus.  This is my prayer for myself as I can get caught up in so much of the busyness of the season that I forget to worship Christ in a way that is pleasing to Him and increases my intimacy and love for Him.  Let's not be sidetracked this Christmas season!

In terms of our language training, we have both finished the second section of our studies.  What we have left is called "Bridge Course", which deals with learning how to do our ministry and learning how to read and use the Bible in Tagalog.  We should be finished with our language school by February or March.  Right now, we are in the process of figuring out what church we will be partnering with in ministering to street children.  There are a lot of decisions to be made and conversations that need to take place. We ask that you pray along with us, that we will seek the Lord diligently, and that we will patiently listen to his voice and direction.  We are excited about being able to partner with others in ministering to street children.  There will be a lot that we need to learn regarding how to work with street children as we don't have any experience yet.  Pray that we will have teachable spirits and humble attitudes.  Another item that you can be praying about is that Becki and I will be able to find language helpers.  After we graduate, we will need people to help us with the "consolidation" of all that we have learned and helping us learning to speak it better.  This is an important stage as we don't want to forget all that we have learned but learn to use it in an effective manner to build relationships with Filipinos and  to minister effectively to street kids and their families.

We thank you for praying for the health of our family.  We had about two months where all of us were very healthy.  Isaiah recently was sick, but we didn't need to visit the doctor and he is nearly recovered.

Recently, we were able to visit a Christmas party that a partner church of ACTION was facilitating.  We really enjoyed being able to connect with some of the street kids and talk to them and get to know them.  They really enjoyed being around our children, and thankfully Isaiah and Elijah were able to handle it well as they could have become overwhelmed.  To briefly describe the Christmas parties, these various churches will have games, a meal, give the Gospel presentation, and give a gift to the kids and their families at the end.  At this particular church, they already have an existing ministry to street children and their families every week, so  many of these kids will be back again in the new year.

Continue to pray for us as we also seek to understand people in this culture and learn their cultural ways.  It is still easy to impose our American cultural values on the culture and be judgmental, and we need prayer that we will allow the Holy Spirit to mold us and our attitudes so that we reflect Christ in a biblically and culturally appropriate manner.  Pray that we will be able to stay humble and not be arrogant and remember the verse, "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble."

Well, that is about all for now.  We all have about a two week Christmas break, so it will be great to be together as a family.  I will still be trying to continue some of my Tagalog studies by way of conversation, watching Tagalog TV, listening to the radio, and reading the Bible in Tagalog.  This will take great discipline in doing as we want to balance it with spending time with the Lord, with our family and even by ourselves.  Pray for us in this endeavor.  We love you all, and we thank you for your prayers and support toward us!  Merry Christmas!

Matt and the family

Thursday, September 8, 2011

September 2011

Dear Family and Friends,
Recently a colleague of mine told me that he had heard someone recently preach, and that he talked about our responsibility as missionaries to tell those who are praying and supporting us what God is doing.  I have been convicted of this and realize that I need to more frequently, at least once a month, be letting you know what God is doing.  Please don't be afraid to say something to me to help me to be more accountable.  That being said, God has been very faithful to us.

About a month ago, Becki took her first major Tagalog (Tu-ga-log) (long o sound) test and did quite well on it and has continued on in her studies.  Just this last Tuesday I took the same test, and the Lord helped me to do well and to not be so afraid, although I still have so much to learn.  He has been teaching me that it is all about Him and giving Him the glory, and that I don't have to worry about "making it" in learning the language here.  He has given me courage as I go out into the community to practice the language and build relationships with Filipinos.

One thing that has been difficult is that we have been sick quite a bit these past couple of months, especially Isaiah and myself.  It can be quite discouraging at times, and also frightening, as here when someone gets sick, it could be more than the flu, such as dengue fever, typhoid, or some type of amoeba.  We don't want to live in fear, but at the same time, it is an adjustment in terms of trusting the Lord again with our children on a different level.  Pray for Isaiah that he will gain wait as he recently had a bad bout of diarrhea along with the flu.  He was already skinny and didn't gain any weight in the last 2 months and even lost a little.  I don't usually live in fear with health related issues, but here I've had to trust the Lord in a different way.  Pray that both Becki and I will be able to do this.  Also, pray for a season of health for all of us, especially Isaiah.

Recently, I, Matt went on a retreat with the Street Impact Team, missionaries with ACTION that are doing street kids ministry in Manila and also outside of Manila.  Even though I am still in language school, they graciously invited me, and I really appreciated the invitation.  Much of the dialogue was in Tagalog, which was really good listening practice for me.  They talked about the various ministries that they have been involved in and how they have been going.  In addition, we also spent time praying together for each other and sharing our burdens.  I felt like I was able to get to know them on a more personal level and see their hearts for Christ and for children in crisis.  One thing that the Lord did in my heart during this time was to lead me more into what our work or roles will be here in working with children in crisis, both in the near future and several years down the road.  As I heard different people speak about different ways of serving children in crisis here and one particular story about a failed reconciliation of a child and family, the Lord confirmed in my heart what He had been leading us to do, and that would be to help children find healing from their trauma and reconciliation with their families through counseling and therapy.  I was tired when I went bed, but my heart was so heavy with how much these children are hurting that I couldn't sleep. However, I believe that they can find healing in Christ through Christ-centered therapy and counseling. Of course, right now, I do not have the training to do that, nor do I have the experience with working with street children.  However, it is definitely a seed that God has planted.  After we have finished language school, Becki and I would like to work with a church that has an existing ministry to street children, to support and work with them in a community-based setting.  We don't know all of the details of this, but that is all right as the Lord will lead our steps, and we have a great support team here that I am confident will help us through the process.  I have come back home here refreshed and encouraged.  Pray that we will both continue to persevere, as sometimes we can become weary.  Pray that we will finish strong in language learning, and that we will always have the attitude of being learners, not only of language, but of culture.

In terms of our adjustment here, we feel like our adjustment to the culture recently has been a little easier.  I think we have learned about having realistic expectations, i.e.when we go somewhere and have to wait a long time, and learning just to be patient in general.  It is a daily task of realizing how easy it can be to have a negative attitude and to come before the Lord and ask Him to help us in our weakness.  That being said, our love for the Filipino people continues to increase.  We are building relationships with people in our church, in the community, and at our school, which we are really enjoying.  We are so glad to be here where the Lord has called us, and ask for your continued prayers for us.  Thanks again so much for your love and support!  If you have time, drop us a comment on here!  Bye for now!

Matt and Becki and the boys

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

June 2011

Dear Friends and Family,
Wow, it's been two months since we wrote a blog!  I guess we're not very consistent at writing these blogs.  Nevertheless, God has been doing so much in our hearts and minds over the past couple of months, and we hope to be able to convey that in an open and honest way how He has been working in us and changing us.  I will just start by listing a couple of verses that the Holy Spirit has used a lot and that signify the work He is doing in us, and then go from there.  Romans 5:3-5 says, "Not only so, but we glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; character, hope; and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us."  Another one, II Corinthians 12:10, says "That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong."  One last one, one we all know, talks about what  happens when the Holy Spirit fills us up with His power to do His work for His glory.  Acts 1:8 says, "For you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
In relation to those verses that we listed above, God has been doing difficult but amazing things in us.  One thing that both Becki and I have experienced since arriving in the Philippines is how incredibly weak and vulnerable we feel in relation to all the adjustments to culture and language that we face multiple times on a daily basis.  We cannot begin to describe how utterly useless we have felt at times with the language, with not knowing how to do things, not knowing how to figure people out because of the barrier of culture and language.  I don't think I realized how difficult it would be in making all the adjustments, but it has been the hardest thing by far that I have ever done.  I find myself getting angy at different situations that arise, having negative thoughts towards some Filipinos (something of course that I shouldn't be doing) and this country, and comparing the Philippines to the U.S.  We feel so weak in terms of controlling our emotions and having the attitude of Christ.  I think it is easy to throw around the phrase "having the attitude of Christ" (as I have done in the past), but I am finding out that it is a whole different "animal" in living that out in the middle of difficult situations.  It is in these incredibly difficult situations that God is teaching us what it means to be weak, to fully depend on him, to let go of our own confidence and put our confidence in Him and trust that the Holy Spirit will fill us up and give us what we need, for HIS glory and not ours.  I'm learning that it's really not about us.  Being weak and utterly dependent on Christ is exactly where God wants us to be!  Not only this, but we need to be in a place where we delight to be in a place of weakness so that God is glorified.  I am definitely not at that place yet, but that is where God is directing me.  For awhile now, I have been so concerned about how others viewed me as it relates to learning Tagalog.  The Lord showed my that I had been motivated to learn the language out of fear- fear of failure/ineffectiveness in ministry, fear of not being good enough, fear of being viewed by others as "not very good at Tagalog."  The Lord has shown me clearly that it's not about me and my self esteem; it's about putting my confidence fully in Him, knowing that He called us here and that He is going to use us here for His glory.  Furthermore, He is able to help us learn Tagalog so that He can use us here.  There is an old Keith Green song, "Trials Turned to Gold", in which Keith sings about "He's brought me low, so I could know, the way to reach the heights.  To forsake my dreams, my self esteem, and give up all my rights."  This part of the song communicates what the Lord is doing in me.  I'm not saying that having some confidence to do something is a bad thing, but to lean on my own confidence and abilities is something that the Lord doesn't want me to do.  So, how should you pray for us?  I recently read in Deuteronomy how God told the Israelite people "do not be afraid, do not be discouraged."  You can pray against fear for us, that we will be motivated by love to learn the language and culture and not by fear of the things I previously listed.  You can pray against discouragement, and that when times of discouragement arise, that we can immediately look to the Lord to help and to mold us through the situation instead of complaining about it.  Pray that our love for the Filipino people will continue to increase.  We do love the people here and have already made some good Filipino friends, but pray that God's love will abound in us beyond our own love.  Continue to pray for the boys as they have started school (preschool for Elijah, kindergarten for Isaiah) that they will be able to adjust quickly and that they will make some good friends.  Before I end this blog, I want to return to the end of that verse in Romans.  "Hope does not put us to shame, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts."  All of these things that we are learning and journeying through together with Jesus Christ, they will result in an amazing hope in Christ that won't disappoint us!  Thank you so much to everyone for your prayers and support- keep them coming!  Take care, we love you all!

Matt, Becki, Isaiah, and Elijah

Thursday, April 21, 2011

April 2011

Dear Friends and Family,
We hope that this message finds you joyful in the Lord and enjoying this week as we think about
and act on Christ's death and resurrection.  We had hoped to post some pictures on here, but we are having difficulty knowing how to do it.  This past month since we wrote to you has been a busy one, but we hope to give you a good summary of what has been taking place. We will be writing another newsletter soon, so look for that in the next month or so.

One of the things that was on our minds recently was figuring out Isaiah's schooling for next year.  Since the school year here begins in June, we needed to find a suitable school for him.  We visited several Christian schools, which were recommended by the director of our language school.  We were praying that God would show us clearly which one would work for Isaiah.  We found one school in particular that we were really drawn to.  Almost immediately the teachers connected with Isaiah right away, and he with them also.  We really felt like the teachers were knowledgeable, as well as showing an ability to connect with Isaiah.  For those of you that know Isaiah, he is a more reserved type of child and doesn't always speak up.  However, after being at the school for awhile, he said outloud without prompting from us, "I choose this school!"  That was really significant for us to hear, especially since we don't always know what Isaiah is thinking.  It can be an anxious time when a family is looking for suitable schooling in a foreign country, but God gave us peace in the process.  We also liked the classroom because they will be teaching the kids about Jesus, and there are also parts to the day in which they will be learning in Tagalog.  We feel that it is important that Isaiah learn some Tagalog so that he can connect with those in this culture as he grows up here.  This will be stretching for him, but we know the Lord is with him as He is with us in learning Tagalog.  All we have to do now is to give our official "yes" to the school and register him.

Another thing that took place this month is that I ( Matt) was able to return to the U.S. for my brother James' wedding.  It was wonderful being able to be there to celebrate that with him along with my family.  I am thankful that God provided the money for me to be able to go.  God also took care of Becki and the boys while I was gone and kept them safe.  It was the longest I had ever been away from them (9 days), and it was on the other side of the world!

Becki and I have been attending a local church close to us since we moved into our home.  It is a small church, but the people have been very friendly and welcoming toward us.  We feel it is important for us to attend a Tagalog speaking church so that we can build relationships with Filipino Christians, as well as learn to speak Tagalog.  They already have a ministry that is dedicated to meeting the needs of squatter families and street children, so that was another indication to us by the Lord that we should continue to attend this church.  Pray that we will continue to build strong relationships with people there, and that we won't be afraid to use our Tagalog.

Becki and I have also been able to develop some relationships with some Filipinos in our neighborhood and community.  I (Matt) have been able to connect with some men my age in my neighborhood.  It is common for men to sit around and eat and drink (unfortunately alcohol) outside.  Thankfully the Lord gave me courage to join them lastnight as I brought out some candy for them to enjoy and a Coke for myself.  Even though I don't know much Tagalog yet, the Lord still provided opportunities for me to connect with them.  They said that it was good thing that I was trying to learn Tagalog.  I told them I welcomed their correcting my Tagalog if I didn't say it correctly.  They also asked a lot of questions regarding my religion, family, practices, etc.  I am now a part of a "barkada", which a group of guys that are friends.  For Becki, she was able to meet a Christian lady at a local park.  After texting back and forth several times, Becki was able to attend a birthday party for someone in the family at this lady's request.

Lastly, we have also been able to be in contact with street kids when we are with our children.  It has been neat seeing Isaiah thinking about what it means to share our food and clothes and other items with them.  Pray that the Lord will continue to soften his and our hearts to those that are in need here in the Philippines.

Thank you to everyone for your prayers and support!  We pray that you will take time to reflect on Christ's death and resurrection this week, and that it will change the way you think and live.  We love you!

Matt, Becki, Isaiah, and Elijah

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Just Returned From Field Conference

Dear Family and Friends,
It has been a couple of weeks since we have written, so I apologize for the delay in updating you.  On Wednesday we just returned from our annual field conference, which was in Rizal, a couple of hours south of Manila.  It is much cooler there, so it was a nice break from the warmer weather here.  It was on a great piece of land that was full of green grass and dozens of coconut trees.  There was also a pool there and other recreational activities.  Some of the time was spent worshiping together and listening to various missionaries speak about God's calling in our lives.  We really gleaned a lot from what was said, and the Lord really used it to help us make some changes in our hearts and lives.  We also had many opportunities to meet and get to know our colleagues from around the Philippines.  We had some wonderful conversations with so many different missionaries and heard many stories of their coming to the Philippines and the adjustments they had to make at that time.  We are so thankful for the ACTION Philippines team and look forward to working with them in the future.  We also had a great time as a family swimming together and being together and in general just having fun together.  We left field conference encouraged and ready to continue language school and life back here in Manila.
     There are still some important things that we are needing to take care of here.  We both have to get our Filipino driver's licenses, which is a different process here and can take a couple of hours.  We have learned that in general that everything takes longer to do here, and that we are constantly needing to be flexible and patient.  Pray for us as we need to get this done, that we will have patience and wisdom in the process.  Fortunately, the Lord has already provided some missionaries who will be assisting us in this process.
     Continue to pray for us as we parent our children in this new culture and as Isaiah continues to adjust to life here.  Pray that we can provide consistency in the schedule and discipline, compassion, understanding, and gentleness toward Isaiah and Elijah.
     Continue to pray for us as we learn the language.  I (Matt) have very high expectations for myself, and I need have grace for myself and not expect my language skills to be perfect.  My language teacher today basically said that I need to not put so much pressure on myself.  He said that right now they want us to focus on listening, and that if we can say some things, that it is a bonus.  Thanks so much for your prayers, we would love to hear from you!

Matt, Becki, Isaiah, and Elijah