Thursday, February 28, 2013

Heartache Paradox

"For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ..." - Philippians 3:20

A while ago, I had a meaningful conversation with a good friend of mine. I also read a moving post by David Asscherick on the Lightbearers blog (which I highly recommend you read—go ahead, click on it).

Both left me with an increasingly familiar feeling:

Heartache.

But this is not the kind of heartache you might think. This is not missing my friends or wishing I was in previous places, enjoying previous times. This is not homesickness.

Yet...

it is.

We were talking about how awesome it would be if Jesus came back before the fall:
"Even if Jesus doesn't come in the fall, Val, He is coming soon. And probably sooner than we think."
"I know. I know so bad it hurts."
Oh, the longing.

The heartache.

Anything God-centered is usually a paradox. A beautiful paradox that makes no sense to the world. Take the cross, for example: "For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God" (1 Corinthians 1:18). Or the spiritual battles faced by every Christian—you've heard the saying: "You stand tallest when you're on your knees."

We overcome by obedience, we climb higher through humility. We forgive them that persecute us, and pray for them that spitefully use us. We turn the other cheek. We go two miles instead of one.

We love freely, we sacrifice more. Yet it does not deplete our joy, and we never lack.

We know that God died—just think of that!—for us.
We know that we are children of God. 

We know that He is coming soon to take us home, for this world—with its disappointments, sorrows, tragedies, strife, sickness, death—is not our home. It just can't be.

We know so bad it hurts. Our hearts ache for home.

The world thinks we're crazy.

Somehow, we have to tell them. We must show them what a beautiful paradox it is, this heartache. We must show them that there is more...

Beyond this dark world...
Beyond the farthest stars...
In our deepest heart...

Our aching heart.

Until their heart aches like mine and yours.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

This is not the end here at this grave 
This is just a hole that someone made 
Every hole was made to fill 
And every heart can feel it still-- 
Our nature hates a vacuum 

This is not the hardest part of all 
This is just the seed that has to fall 
All our lives we till the ground 
Until we lay our sorrows down 
And watch the sky for rain 

There is more 
More than all this pain 
More than all the falling down 
And the getting up again 
There is more 
More than we can see 
From our tiny vantage point 
In this vast eternity 
There is more 

A thing resounds when it rings true 
Ringing all the bells inside of you 
Like a golden sky on a summer eve 
Your heart is tugging at your sleeve 
And you cannot say why 
There must be more 

There is more 
More than we can stand 
Standing in the glory 
Of a love that never ends 
There is more 
More than we can guess 
More and more, forever more 
And not a second less 

There is more than what the naked eye can see 
Clothing all our days with mystery 
Watching over everything 
Wilder than our wildest dreams 
Could ever dream to be 
There is more
    
~ Andrew Peterson



Tuesday, February 19, 2013

It Doesn't Seem Quite Right to Say Goodbye: Part 2

Here is the update for the last Sabbath and also pictures from the entire trip. I didn't write a play by play, so I'll have to make one up...

Feb 16, 2013 - Iloco Sur Trip: Day 10

Can't believe it's the last day already. 

The students are put on a special newscast for Sabbath School. It's hard to understand their English (and the sound system isn't that great), so I'm not exactly sure what it is about. I think it has to do with a mission focus. Today is the hottest yet.

A quick lunch, and then get ready for the baptisms. We have to go down the mountain to the river.

Phew, what an awesome ride on the motorbike with one of the pastors! We were late to catch the jeepney. Rode in skirt and all.

I'm always touched to see young people give their lives to God and signify their commitment through baptism. I remember that one of the boys responded to one of my appeals this week (in the message about the cross and God's love), and very enthusiastically too when not many other students did. Praise the Lord!

Another ride up the mountain. Now we have an afternoon program put on by the Angel Force, with a small appreciation ceremony for the pastors and I and the tech guy we brought along. 

(NOTE: Many of the pictures below were not taken by me, but by the tech guy. I was so busy during the week preparing sermons, as I have described in previous posts, so he was able to get more pictures when I wasn't even around. He also doesn't prefer his name to be used online for some reason, which I think is kind of funny. Oh well.)

After the program I played my violin for some of the students. They had only heard me play improvised hymns all week. They got really excited over the fiddle songs.

Another quick meal, and Social Night starts soon. They want me to play three songs: Canon in D and some fiddle songs. Not sure what else will go on other than games and such.

Just participated in one of the games, which was fun. Interesting though, because even though I only graduated 2 years ago, I am 4 years ahead of these kids, since their high school is grade 7-10. 

Wow some of the village kids put on a cultural dance, and they are really good! I was watching the boys bang the dongy things, and it takes certain hand technique and skill to get them to make the different sounds. Later the big kids did some cultural dances, but they weren't near as good. 

Just got pulled into the cultural dance! In their culture, if they give you one of the blankets used in dancing, you have to join the dance. Haha I haven't done a Filipino cultural dance since I was little. The kids got a kick out of it. They said I was good though. Must be in my blood I guess.

Now it's the marching. I've been warned about this, so I'll just stay put...too many guys were crushing on me all week (which was quite annoying. Someone said I resemble Jessica Sanchez. Ugh). This would be Adventist or "veggie" dancing as someone called it.. You go in pairs, boy and girl, and "march." Ate Marlin, the principal, leads with the whistle. 

Haha, Pastor Imai is with one of the girls, he is so funny! He also joined the cultural dances earlier, and boy was that a hoot. What a cool guy. Did I tell you yet that he is a Hiroshima survivor? The only one in his class. He was 6 years old, and not a Christian yet. But he knows God saved him because he had a plan for him. He is a retired pastor, but now his wife is working as a nurse. 73 and doing the work of 5 nurses! It is because of her work and his senior pension that he can afford to go on mission trips to preach and build churches, all on his own money. He and Pastor Panghulan started the "NIPPI Caring Foundation" which helps underprivileged students go to school etc.

There were some songs, and now the end. Ate Marlin is giving her last speech, and we will too.

They gave us each an Angel Force album. During my farewell speech I played this song by Melissa Otto, See You When We Get There for the students. It pretty much sums up everything, and it definitely encapsulated our feelings on that last night. I will never forget these people, this place, or this experience.

It doesn’t seem quite right
To say goodbye my friend
But there’s a work to be done
To tell the world that He is love
If I don’t see you here again

My brother
I’ll see you when we get there
God’s great mercy be forever with you
Courage, courage until we get there
We are here for just a little while

My sister God surely gives beautiful gifts
You are dear to my heart 
Reminding me of His caring love
Fellow pilgrim 
We’ll still be taking the same way home
Even though oceans apart
We’ll still be fighting the same fight together
If I don’t see you here again

My sister
I’ll see you when we get there
God’s great mercy be forever with you
Courage, courage until we get there
We are here for just a little while

For the blessed hope we have
Has to be known by all our family
So our Father can finally take us home
I’ll be praying for you
That He will hold and keep you through
Until He comes and He is coming soon

Brother, Sister
I’ll see you when we get there
God’s great mercy be forever with you
Courage, courage until we get there
We are here for just a little while

We are here for just a little while

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My room at our stopover at an Adventist College on the way to Concepcion.

 Out in the middle of nowhere...

Tricycle got stuck while crossing the river 

 Welcome to G. Del Pilar, Iloco Sur

Windy, bumpy road. This part has concrete at least


Greeted by part of the marching band on our way up the driveway 

Angel Force sings to welcome us

 Guest rooms, where some of the girls live. My room is the second door.

My humble abode for the week


Boys' dorm, I think

The fairly new church building

Library and school building 

 I think this is the kitchen.

 Pastor Imai preaching and Pastor Panghulan translating


My first Jeepney ride (that I can actually remember). Rode every single day to the evening meetings (except for once on a motorbike with one of the pastors)

 The students sit in columns, not rows

A view inside one of the offices


Very long, very high, not so scary at night when you can't see anything...I never tried it during the day

This is where we had the evening meetings 

It's an outdoor hall

The basketball court, stage, and mountains in the background 

The library. I didn't even get to see this. 

This driveway is verrrrryyyyy steeep 

No explanation necessary


 Panorama of the campus from the stage

Side view of the guest rooms

 My bathroom. What a cultural experience. To flush, you pour water in the toilet with the bucket, which is about 1.5' high. To bathe, you pour water on yourself. It's soooo cold! Many houses are like this in the Philippines, except that they would have tile covering the floors and walls and a divider between the toilet and bathing area.


A picture one of the grade 7 students drew, copying the background streamer on the stage

On Friday morning they put on a small show for us. This is the marching band. Pretty impressive. 

 Shot taken at the last week of prayer meeting

Praise the Lord for these seven girls who responded to the appeal to give their lives fully to God and follow His plan for them, knowing that He needs them to finish the Story! 

After every afternoon meeting we broke into groups to pray. Notice how they hold hands around the circle by crossing arms. One of the few "CAA" things that make it special. 

"WE NEED YOUR HELP" Most of the students are not well off, and the teachers only get paid about 3000 PhP (about $75) per month. They do it to serve the Lord. If you would like to help, contact me and I can put you in touch with Pastor Panghulan.


Riding the motorbike in a skirt. Fun!


Baptisms at the river on Sabbath. Praise God for 15 souls, mostly students and three kids. A group of the students are not Adventist. But that group has now shrunk by one!

Only in the Philippines.... 


Certificates of appreciation


Angel Force, the full group of 4 official members and 11 trainees

 Pastor Imai brought boxes of clothes for the students and staff


Kids doing a cultural dance at Social Night on the last Saturday night. They were really good, especially the younger kids!


Last goodbye at Candon...

It doesn't seem quite right to say goodbye, my friend...

Saturday, February 16, 2013

It Doesn't Seem Quite Right to Say Goodbye: Part 1

Feb 17, 2013 - Iloco Sur Trip: Day 11

8:13 am - Driving down this bumpy mountain once more. God-willing, this won't be the last time.

It's hard to describe what it feels like (not the bumpiness). Perhaps it's because it is a familiar yet new feeling at the same time.

I'm getting used to this business of saying, "I'll see you in heaven" -- it's more meaningful and less painful than, "Goodbye." Ever since I graduated (which was the first time I really had to bid a tearful farewell to close, life-long brothers and sisters in Christ), the time I've been able to spend with people has gotten progressively shorter: one year as a dean, 3.75 months at ARISE, and now 9 days at Concepcion Adventist Academy. Yet each time, I've found my heart inevitably bound up with the hearts of the people I've been with.

I think it's only God's love that can bind hearts in so short a time.

(By the way, it is now 9:02. We are down the mountain in one of the towns now. A group of students with CAA's singing group, "Angel Force," is accompanying us on a Jeepney as far as Candon. They have a singing appointment later. It has been much fun to see them on the road in the mountains and wave and take pictures of them.)

Even though this poignant experience is familiar in the sense of bidding farewell, something about this one sets it apart. This week, I believe I discovered, in a deeper way, this great truth: when seeking to be a blessing, you receive a double blessing. Ministering through music and preaching was a blessing in itself, but when you pair that with beautiful people who reach out to you in friendship and love and gratitude -- nothing else compares.

I wish I could have spent more time with them. I wish that we never had to say, "I'll see you later." But praise the Lord that "later" means Heaven, if not sooner.

When we all see Jesus, we'll sing and shout the victory!

9:32 am - Arrived in Candon (I think that's where we are). We are going to say a last farewell to the kids now.

10:25 am - Finally on the road again. I will miss them so much -- especially Ate Marlin, the principal and music director, and Judy-Ann, because I got to spend a bit more time with her as my roommate for a few of the nights. It's a wonder how a friendship can be built on mostly smiles. She also was kind of my "assistant" and proud of it. She and Raichel would always carry my violin and other things for me, and they loved to do it. They were all such a blessing to me, and to us. I only pray that the legacy we've left would glorify God and would be a lasting blessing. I pray they have seen Jesus. I feel like I was an imperfect vessel (still am), and that I could have done so many things better, but God is good and faithful and we have all been blessed. I have left this place a better person.

On a more technical note, I'm facing a small quandary. I deactivated my Facebook account months ago because I decided it took too much of my attention and time. But now it seems like it is the ONLY way to stay in touch with some people, namely, the students at CAA. Including Judy-Ann. They don't even use email. I wonder if I can sneak back on and not attract too much attention... I'll still have to decide on that one.

I think I'll post in two parts today. I still need to update on yesterday's happenings (it was a VERY full day, and a wonderful Sabbath). For now, I think I am going to rest because I got less than 5 hours of sleep last night.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Last Sermon

Feb 15, 2013 - Iloco Sur Trip: Day 9

4:27 pm - Just finished taking pictures with the students in front of the main school building. Can't believe the week is nearly over.

Before the pictures I preached my last sermon. I can only praise God for it because I truly was not ready. I had gone to bed a bit late last night looking at pictures with my roommate and helping her put some on her iPhone (she wanted some as memories). It was really good to spend time with her, I believe, but this whole busy week caught up with me today and I was so tired. On top of that, the morning was full with a special program they put on with the gymnastic team and marching band. Then, they moved the start time for the afternoon meeting 45 minutes earlier (for Sabbath prep's sake)!

So I was not very prepared. I had some (sort of confusing) notes and a powerpoint, and the message in my heart, but I knew I could only trust God to give it. I didn't feel worthy; I was totally in a bad state of mind. I had learned in Homiletics class at ARISE that the first important thing when preaching is to be true to God. This means that you need to be assured of your spiritual right to preach because you are standing in Christ's righteousness alone. When you kneel before God, you can stand before anyone. As the song service started, I still did not feel I was in this position. But I reached out and clung to God's mercy and promises, as we learned yesterday through my testimony and Jacob wrestling with the Angel. I prayed and I prayed, and I gave it to God. I prayed that He would make the message what He knew it needed to be. Whether it was perfect or imperfect in my opinion, I trusted He knew exactly how the message needed to be in order to reach those who needed to hear it.

Just before it was my turn to speak, He reminded me of two promises:

" 'My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest on me" (2 Cor 12:9).

"Be anxious for nothing..."

Right then, it was my turn. But God had given me peace, and throughout the sermon I found myself praying for the words more consciously than at other times. It was far from perfect, but God still spoke to the students through my faltering lips, and a number of the girls responded to the altar call to give their lives to God, small as they may seem, realizing that He needs them in order to finish the Story. Because we want to go home. And we can't until the world hears about God who is Love, as we learned this week.

I had been thinking about sharing the song "Heaven" on Help in Daily Living, and was trying to get it to work in the PowerPoint during the song service. It didn't work. I prayed about it, and concluded that God didn't want me to use it. I wasn't sure how to end the sermon with an appeal, but I trusted God would help me. Instead, I inserted the song, "I Want to Go to Heaven" by Ethan McGrath on piano as appeal music. And I praise Jesus for the girls who responded. Then we broke into groups to pray, as they normally do each afternoon, before the closing prayer. The song kept playing during our prayer, and I began to feel impressed to do something I never thought I would do. The kids have been saying that they want to hear me sing, so at first I didn't want the idea to be a people-pleasing thing. But I believed that the words as well as the music were powerful, and emphasized the message, and God inspired me to sing the song for them! I thought I was crazy, but I sang it with all my heart, faltering lyrics and all.

All in all, God is faithful. This has been quite the experience, and I have a lot (emphasis on A LOT) to learn still, but it has been a tremendous blessing. Thank You, Lord, for Your faithful love!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

God is So Good

Feb 14, 2013 - Iloco Sur Trip: Day 8

5:51 pm - Sitting on the stage watching CAA's (Concepcion Adventist Academy) marching band practice. My ears are throbbing from the drums and glockenspiel. They're pretty good. Especially some of the drummers. I posted a few pictures on Instagram. One of the girls plays the three tuned drums and has a lot of solos. She's really good.

Today I shared my testimony with the students. If you read my last post then you know I have regretted sharing barely any personal element in the first three sermons. But today I am praising God for the message He brought out of Jacob wrestling with the Angel and how it parallels my experience. I sure learned a great lesson myself! "What is your name?" -- God's question was a question of identity: "Who are you?" Jacob won the victory through surrender, by holding on and not letting go until God blessed him and forgave him and fulfilled His promises to Him. And God gave him a new name, a new identity. God knew Jacob's great sin against Esau ("Before I formed you in the womb I knew you") but He loved him anyway and promised to fulfill His plan for his life. But it was Jacob's choice to surrender. Used Josie's song "I love You Anyway." God knows all our ugly self. But He loves us anyway and wants to fulfill His plan for our life. Surrender = victory. Saying yes to God and letting Him have control. And there is peace in surrender. It was good to learn and be reminded, and I know it reached hearts in a way the first three sermons could not. Praise the Lord!

I recorded the first two sermons. But these last two I brought my iPhone up to record, then forgot to hit record once I started. I don't mind; I was actually glad it was no longer foremost in my mind to do so.

This has been such an awesome learning experience. Thank You, Jesus, for teaching me, strengthening me, and breaking me. I love You. But only because You first loved me.

7:31 pm - Some of the girls here are quite mature for their age. I guess that's what you get when you start high school in grade 7 and go to school at a boarding academy in the high mountains.

9:36 pm - Oh, and they know three languages: Tagalog, Ilocano (dialect), and English. So cool.

Evening meeting over. It was powerful, praise the Lord! I think I know a bit more Japanese now too -- Pastor Imai has been teaching us.

Well we're just getting ready to go back soon. I'm tired. Praising God for a beautiful day He gave us today.

We're walking now :)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Midweek Reflections

Feb 13, 2013 - Iloco Sur Trip: Day 7

9:36 pm - Really been neglecting my play by play. Most of my days are spent preparing sermons and eating, at least before the afternoon meeting. Afterwards I've been just hanging out, until supper, and then the crusade is at night. Quite a busy time!

Today was a good day. God really blessed the message today...I totally did not feel ready.

(Note: All last week I was praying over and wrestling with the message. It was also a struggle because I hadn't been in the practice of studying something for the purpose of sharing it in a sermon. It was easy to get distracted, especially as I was in a different environment than I'm used to. But God had to bring me through a certain trial before He could give me the message. I had to experience it first. So when Thursday came (departure day) I only had an outline for the week, most of the first sermon prepared, a bunch of random notes from studying, and no power points made. It was a faith-building experience, that's for sure, and it still is, as I've been having to prepare a sermon and powerpoint during the day and then preach it right away.)

Yesterday I had felt much more ready for the meeting (it was a close call though!) and God truly blessed. If you read my last post then you know how utterly I felt my I capability to do this, and the prayer in the post was what helped me hold on to faith in God, and He proved Himself faithful.

Today He also blessed. Like I said, I really felt so unprepared. I think the power point was literally made in the last 20 mins before the meeting. I laid it before God and pleaded with Him to in mercy intervene and supply my need as He promised. I didn't know if there was time I had spent doing other things that should have been devoted to the message, but what was past was past, and I knew God had put the message in my heart. He gave me peace that He would give the message.

And He did! Praise God. I didn't have as many illustrations ready as I wanted to or even an appeal, but God brought things to mind at just the right time. He is also making me more bold, preaching with some spice, as David Asscherick calls it. (See "Broken" post about ARISE preaching practicum) Thank You, Lord!

I am so thankful for this experience. It has really made me realize my incapabilities and weaknesses. Even now, as I look back on the past three sermons and the past three days, I see so many things that desperately need improvement. One thing that is really bothering me is that I didn't use any personal element in the past three sermons. I don't know how I could have forgotten that personal context is half the life of the sermon. It makes it tangible and real. Perhaps I didn't think about it because I was planning on telling my testimony tomorrow and Friday, so I was in a way "saving up." But I realize that my sermons lacked that personal power. And there definitely could have been a personal element in those topics: God's promises, temptation, and the cross, in the backdrop of the Story. Why, Lord? Why did I forget? Ugh. I still praise You for using this imperfect vessel. I know I won't always have all my ducks in a row all at once.

I wish I had told the students more about myself at the beginning is the week. Now they are going to get it all at once tomorrow, and the week is already more than half over. Sigh. I know that You are still blessing, as well as teaching me so much.

And now, tomorrow. The students want me to visit their classes, but I haven't had time because of sermon prep. I really would like to. But I still haven't laid out tomorrow's message yet. Whenever I give my testimony You always bring something new out of it. And I'm still not exactly sure how it plays out yet. I know it has to do with Jacob wrestling with the Angel; I believe that is what You have given me so far. Other than that, I'm not sure yet.

Please, Lord, over and over again I've realized that I have nothing of my own to give, except that which You give me to give, so I plead with You to please show me what to do with Your message, and how to share the experiences and lessons You have brought me through.

I need to be vulnerable, Lord.

I need to be unashamed to tell who I was and who I am, which really is wrapped up in who You are. Please open me up. Perhaps there has been a sort of personal barrier between me and the people that has prevented me from using personal stories so far. I don't know what it is exactly. I just know that this week has been like an intensive in preaching and learning from mistakes -- like ARISE Preaching Practicum: the Sequel. Not to mention an intensive in praying and preparing and power-pointing. And in utter dependence on Jesus, my only Sufficiency.

Well, it's getting late and I've learned that I really need sufficient rest in order to have a clear mind to commune with God and prepare the message. This has turned into quite the interesting post. I'm still waiting for my roommate. Maybe she's not coming tonight. That's a bit sad. She is really nice and I was looking forward to spending time with her...

Thank you to those who have been praying for me, I believe that God is blessing the students and giving me the experiences I need, even if they are not always pleasant. The place and the people are beautiful, and even more so because I know God wants me here.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Sincere Prayer

Feb 10, 2013 - Iloco Sur Trip: Day 4

8:12 am - Eating breakfast. Pastor Jorge enjoys singing his feelings in opera style at random moments. Haha. "I like this mango..."

5:02 pm - Mostly been at the basketball court all day, where there is a more reliable signal for Internet. Preparing sermons and talking with my parents has kept me busy. Now the boys are all playing, and it seems some have some sort of crush on me or something. Kuya Lyndon, one of the guys who came with us, just told me (since he is paying attention to the game and I am not) that one of the guys said, "I love you Valerie" before taking a shot. Sigh.

6:58 pm - Another bumpy jeepney ride. This time the meetings are at the proper venue. Now I am sitting listening to one of the students lead the children's program. She sounds like quite a good speaker. Of course, I don't know about the content, since it is all Tagalog. The kids are paying pretty close attention. Now they are repeating a verse with her. Tonight I think I'm playing two songs.


Feb 11, 2013 - Iloco Sur Trip: Day 5

(I had something written for this day, mostly an apology for not writing much, but it seems like Simplenote has lost it somewhere in the cloud. So much for secure files.)


Feb 12, 2013 - Iloco Sur Trip: Day 6

10:25 am - Morning meeting over. Some of the girls just brought me a snack: noodle soup and buko (coconut) juice. It is so nice of them, but unfortunately I am still so full from breakfast. I think I can make it through the juice (it's really good!) but as for the noodles...

Praying for the message today. After yesterday's message I realized my complete inability to be a "good" preacher. I know it comes with practice, and it is not by might, nor by power, but by God's Spirit. I just don't want anything of "self" to get in the way -- whether self-dependence, self-pity, self-sufficiency, or pride (even the spiritual kind). I cannot rely on anything of my own for this. I simply don't have anything to give, except what God gives me to give.

I must go beyond self-depreciation and look to Christ.

Jesus, help me. You who won every victory for me...for us...You who promised to supply all our need -- I need so much right now. I need You. I lack faith, Lord, but You are teaching me to simply trust in Jesus' faithfulness. Please, unlock my mind to see Your beauty. This is the only way I can communicate the message to others. Sometimes I wonder why You would choose me for this when I am so incapable. But You Yourself said that Your grace is sufficient for me, for Your strength is made is made perfect in weakness. That makes me speechless, Lord.

Lord, please give me strength, physically, mentally, and most importantly, spiritually. Cleanse me from my secret faults. And my known ones too. I give myself to You -- or rather, I ask that You would "take my heart, for I cannot give it. It is Thy property. Keep it pure, for I cannot keep it for Thee. Save me in spite of myself, my weak, unchristlike self. Mold me, fashion me, raise me into a pure and holy atmosphere, where the rich current of Thy love can flow through my soul" (COL159).

Lord, thank You. I don't know what else to say. But I want to exercise faith. I believe; help my unbelief. Bring me to the cross, and break me again. Crush my pride. Then renew me in Your Spirit, not my own. Jesus won the victory for us over sin, and He will give us that victory moment by moment if we simply trust that fact. Cleanse my heart and mind, and fill me. This is my earnest plea. You have reminded me of so many promises; now it is time to claim them and move forward.

I have just this for a specific request: please fill me with Jesus' love for these people, and help me balance sermon preparation time with spending time with people, like Jesus did.

Thank You, Father.
I love You, because You first loved me.

In Jesus' precious name,
Amen

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. - Philippians 4:6,7

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Sabbath, Day 3

Feb 9, 2013 - Iloco Sur Trip: Day 3

7:00 am - Time for a very cold bath. 1,2...........3!

9:39 am - sitting in church....

12:45 pm - church just done. It was a blessing. Pastor Imai preached with Pastor Jorge translating, which was powerful and also humorous. Now Judy-Ann, my roommate this week, is waiting for me. The students delight in serving us and carrying our things and showing us where to go. They are such a blessing to me. But I better go now to lunch.

2:30 pm - Had a short rest time after lunch. Now I'm in a jeepney (for the first time!) with some students, Ate Marlin, and Pastor Jorge, headed for a meeting of some sort. Pastor Jorge is speaking and I am playing violin. Hmm...what to play......

4:02 pm - Just headed back now on the jeepney. I'm praying that God will keep inspiring me with songs to play that will bless the people. Looks like I'm going to play a lot!

4:27 pm - Just an hour's rest/sermon prep before supper, then the crusade. Need to pick another song.

6:59 pm - Actually happy to hear that the meeting is on campus tonight instead of in town. Just for tonight. We don't need to drive on that bumpy road...

Wrap-up: This Sabbath was surely a blessing. New experiences, getting to know new people (I'm finally starting I get some names down), worshipping at church. God is my strength; even though I'm a bit tired, I pray He continues to work through me. I want people to see Jesus.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Friday Night Wrap-Up

Feb 8, 2013 - Iloco Sur Trip: Day 2 Part 2

6:11 pm - Just had sundown worship with the students on a pretty high rock. Blessed by the spirituality and friendliness of the students, though they are shy to talk much because English is awkward for them. the students, though they are shy to talk much because English is awkward for them. Now I'm waiting in my room for supper, and using some time to prepare sermons. Judianna (I'm trying to learn names) just came and told me that Ate Marlin wants to me to play my violin for vespers tonight. Should have figured. What shall I play?

9:17 pm - We had a delicious supper. So nice they have veggie meat here. Right after supper, I changed for vespers and one of the girls (Raechelle) came with me to the meeting. Tomorrow someone is going to show me how to use the bucket as water for bathing. Nope, no running showers here! Typical Filipino style....and VERY cold water I anticipate.

Once at the meeting I realized I forgot my violin. Raechelle kindly ran and got it for me while Ate Marlin had me giver her my name, what I do, and where I'm from. I wasn't really sure what to put for "what I do," because right now I'm...here. So I put: Ministry/Bible work/Musician -- just that I can do Bible work, not doing it right now. I am currently engaging in friendship evangelism (fancy term for building relationships and witnessing) with my family at home, and then I follow God to other opportunities. Like this one.

I played "Ancient Words/Before the Throne of God Above" as an improvised medley. I'm praying God helps me get better at on-the-fly or short-notice improvising, because I've been getting asked to a lot while in Flipland. Not so I look good, but so the people can be blessed by music played skillfully for God's glory. The Levite musicians were "skilled" musicians, I believe.

Well, it's getting late and I need to go. I don't know when I'll post this, we'll see if it works right now. Happy Sabbath everyone!

A Running Play-By-Play

I have decided to try something I tried when we went to Hawaii with Fountainview. At random moments throughout the day, I will write a short update of what is currently happening, and when it is compiled I will post it for you all to see! It is like a running journal, a play-by-play of my trip here, each day. I will try to leave it as unedited as possible so you can get a feel for the moment as it was, unless there is anything too sensitive or personal to share in public.

I've tried in vain to upload pictures, so they will either have to wait, or you can check out: instagram.com/vjac47 I think to see pictures. For some reason that works sometimes for me, depending where I am.

Enjoy! And praise the Lord for this experience....


Feb 8, 2013 - Iloco Sur Trip: Day 2

9:46 am - Driving in the second van of our trip on our way to Concepcion Adventist Academy. After we picked up Pastor Imai in Manila last night at midnight, we drove another 4 hours. We stayed for the night (4 am-9:15 am) at Northern Luzon Adventist College.

2:02 pm - Just finished lunch at Chow King. Now we have switched vehicles into a rather dusty, rickety van. The door doesn't close, and we are going up on a treacherous road in the mountains with a deep ravine. "It's roller coaster time," says Pastor Jorge. Now we are getting ice cream.

2:34 pm - We are now on the bumpy road. It comes in patches though. Back on the pavement. I wish I had worn shorts.
And now on the bumpy again.

3:05 pm - We've crossed the river 4 times now...back and forth. Now for the final up I think. Soooo bumpy I feel like my vertebrae are going to fall out of my spine...

4:33 pm - We arrived probably almost an hour ago. Luckily I was taking a video of the super steep driveway, because when we reached the top a glockenspiel/drum band was playing on either side of the road! (Just what Val needs to be happy). They were really good. The principal, Ate Marlin, said there are more than 40, and one day this week we will see them play in uniform. After they finished and we took pictures, we put our stuff in our rooms. I am staying in the dorm and two girls will stay with me to keep me company. Then we went to the place where the pastors and other two guys who came are staying, and were welcomed with yet another musical group -- the "Angel Four" I think. They have a lot of musical groups here. We drank coconut water from the coconut, an ate star apples.

Afterwards Ate Marlin showed me her cottage and around the dorm (I think it's not the only building for the girls, because it is quite small). Soon we will have supper, and then later will be vespers, presented by Pastor Jorge.

Now I am resting on my bed with all my dead gadgets charging, thinking about the coming week. It is really exciting to be here. I didn't realize it would be such an adventure too! More in the wilderness than I expected. But more than that, it has been good to meet the people here, even though only briefly so far. I believe it will help me more now as I further prepare for the week of prayer. It's given me a feel for the kids, their life, their worldview, and an ever growing desire to share with them what I have learned and experienced. Along with that comes a familiar feeling of inadequacy (not to mention how blessed I am), accompanied with peace, knowing that God still uses broken vessels, and He is my Sufficiency. The harvest is great, the laborers few, but I say, "Here I am, Lord, send Me."

And He has.

And He is with me.


Thursday, February 7, 2013

Headed North

Toothbrush? Check.
Clothes? Check.
Mosquito repellent? Check.
Toilet paper? Check.
Laptop? Check.
Notes? Check.
Bible? Check.
Violin? Check.
Jesus? Check.

My thumbs tap on the iPhone screen. I try to keep my balance as I'm jiggled around in the van on a dirt road. Good thing there's spell-check.

They say it's a shortcut. I hope it's worth it.

We're headed over the mountain to another city, to meet a pastor at his house. Then we will head out tonight to Manila to pick up a Japanese pastor from the airport.

Aside: it's so hard to take pictures with an iPhone in a van on a dirt road. Sorry for the repetitive dashboard view. But the dirt part is over now.

Now I can type much easier. Where was I? Oh yes...a dirt road :)

After we stop at the airport we will take an overnight journey north. I think we are stopping somewhere along the way for a rest.

So why am I leaving "home" (in the Philippines) for 10 days? The two pastors are going to hold a week-long evangelistic series as well as a week of prayer at the SDA academy there. Through a divine appointment, the local pastor, after having learned I was a recent graduate of a school of evangelism, met with me exactly one week ago. I had contacted him at just the right time, as he was in our city for a meeting that same day. A couple hours later he visited me and invited me to go with him up north, and instead of him presenting the afternoon meetings at the week of prayer, he wanted me to!

It has been a story of it's own preparing for the messages. And I'm so excited about how God is leading: we will dive into the theme "Victory in Jesus" using the backdrop of The Story! As in, ARISE curriculum, Great Controversy...

Well, we're here. More later! Prayers appreciated.














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