November Nightmares

It’s been a really long time since I blogged. My sincere apologies, I’d give you a great excuse but the truth is forgot all about doing it. However I’m here now, so let’s give this another go.

I arrived back in the Philippines last June 1st 2017, and its all been going pretty well, we’ve had great fun, teaching and feeding awesome kids an a particularly deprived area of Quezon City, joined a great Vineyard Church and stated teaching free English to struggling public school students in their new student centre. We’ve had an awesome and blessed few months….that was until November hit. Now I’ve had some pretty bad days during my 8 years as a missionary but usually these come in the form of one big shocking major incident and it’s over. This past month however has been a constant bombardment of minor issues which piled up until we were at our wits end.

It all stated with a visa interview, on November 8 we had our final assessment with an attorney for my formal preliminary residency, we knew that this would be quite an expense and had prepared as such, but with this extra expense on top of bills and rent, it did leave us with a very depleted budget. A few days later we took the laundry to the laundrette and as we’re tried to leave there was a giant crunch as the velocity joint under our car gave way. We called a mechanic and he informed us the shock absorbers would also need immediate attention. I no idea what we were going to do as the months budget would no where near cover the repairs. Gilbert had events booked in for the coming days which we were counting on financially. It looked like we would have to cancel. I was praying hard at this point. Thankfully we were incredibly blessed to receive an early Christmas gift in the form of money to fix the car. So off Gilbert went to the mechanic. Now we had made a promise to another ministry that they could borrow our sound system for an event, which they did however while setting up, someone decided to ‘help’….and plugged the wrong plug in the wrong outlet and everything short circuited, frying the mixer! So we then really did have to cancel Gilbert’s bookings and pay out again for repairs.

At the same time as all this the landlord decided then would be a good time to send contractors to do much needed repairs on our house. we had been praying for this for over two years and were so happy it was finally happening, however the timing could have been better. I was unable to leave the house due to the work being done which left poor Gilbert to sort out everything else himself.

Fitting a new bathroom door was harder than expected

By mid November we were pretty frustrated, but the car, the house, the sound system and visa were finally sorted and we could relax and get back to normal…or so we thought. On November 19th we were driving through the Roxas Boulevard area of Metro Manila when the car began to over heat. We stopped and topped up the water, but quickly noticed the water pouring out from under that car…the radiator had developed a hole! We waited 3 hours in a car park for the engine to cool and the traffic to ease, then got home by driving short distances to petrol stations and refilling the radiator at every stop. The next day it was back to the mechanic, and the bad news, no chance of repair, we’d need a new radiator. So we were was no choice left but to use our Christmas savings to repair the car for a second time!

The radiator was repaired just in time for the Gilbert’s busiest month of the year in terms of business and were incredibly thankful that we’d made it through. However November wasn’t done with us yet, a few days before the end of the month I began to cough, I took some over the counter medicines which seemed to help, but I began to develop a wheeze in my chest, this lasted for several days and I was struggling to breathe. I was borrowed a nebuliser machine by some incredible Vineyard friends, which really helped. Yet the wheeze continued, two days ago i finally decided to see a doctor, who advised that there was a lot of mucus on my lung particularly the left. So at the time of writing this I am on a 7 day course of antibiotics, two types of nebuliser, extra vitamin C and mucolytic capsules. Nightmare November has rolled over into December, but we are claiming in faith that at the end of this course of medication marks the end of our time of trials.

Though it all it has been affirmed to us again that our God is good, he meets our every need. He has been our source of comfort and support this past few weeks. We have also learnt a lot about ourselves, we have been pushed to our limits relationally, stress can really take its toll on a marriage, a few unkind words have been used, with voices maybe a little louder than necessary, but apologies and forgiveness and understanding have always followed. I could do nothing if it weren’t for my incredible husband. We have amazing family and friends who have been praying hard for us and helping us. Our Vineyard Manila family have been an amazing help to us throughout. Even in the midst of the storms we have so much to be thankful for.

Due to my recovery and Gilbert’s busy Christmas business schedule, we will be slowing down in ministry this Christmas period to take some time to consider and reevaluate before headind back out in full force in the new year.

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A little Mixed up…does the church have an alternative to popular music?

It’s lent that time of the year where people try too give up something they like and make a personal sacrifice. However this year I went a bit out of the box and gave up secular music and have where I’d been my choice only listened to Christian worship music. This is partly because I do love music and am a huge fan of the lovely Ed Sheehan….whos new album I have not yet heard in its entirety and can’t wait to hear after Easter. However it’s also because the majority of secular music at the moment was driving me crazy! I got sick of being bombarded with bad language, themes of dug abuse, sex and negativity. It’s all I heard on the radio and I needed a break, to refill on good, soul nourishing, God honouring music! 

There has obviously been times when it’s been unavoidable, In other people cars, in shops, in TV adverts, but since taking a conscious effort to avoid as much as possible I’ve found myself even more sensitive to the negative themes. I was recently shown the latest video from Little Mix for their song ‘touch’. Honestly, its really not that far away from being soft porn….and this stuff is marketed at our pre teens! Even the previous track from them masqauraded as a positive getting over break up song, while the lyrics included ‘I hope she’s gettin’ better sex, Hope she ain’t fakin’ it like I did, babe,’. I can remember being appalled a few years ago at the content of the Beyoncé song ‘Partition’ and its subsequent video. 

Now most people who know me will know, I’m a pretty liberal Christian, I enjoy a good party, a pretty dress and a ocassinaly one too many alcoholic beverages. I’m a firm believer that despite popular opinion Christianity does not need to be the polar opposite of fun! However when it comes to the younger generation and what we teach them I’m pretty conservative. I believe if we teach them well now, they will be equipped to one day know how to have awesome fun without compromising their beliefs. 

It makes me sad that most of these things are marketed at girls, it’s cool for a guys to wear baggy jeans a flannel shirt and play an acoustic guitar, but if you are female…you need to be wearing less clothes and dance provocatively to make it. Even Taylor Swift moved from cow girl boot wearing teenage country singer to a sexualised pop icon. Is this what we want our little girls to associate with success!? However my question is, what have we got that’s a suitable alternative to give them? 

Sure there is Christian music, Hillsong Young & Free are doing a fabulous job of making worship music accessible to the next generation, but if our Kids are talking about music in school and they want to offer their friends an alternative To the  worlds Little Mixes…we’ve got nothing that stacks up! I’d love to see people passionate about producing music for the churches younger generation, that talks about their daily struggles, about relationships, school, depresssion, fun and friendships….in a culturally relevant but wholesome positive light. I’d love to see us raise up musicians and dance artists to be alternative role models for our children. Let’s be actively encouraging young people in our churches to write music, dance and create, if they want to start girl band or boy bands, we should let them!

In an age where everything is so instantly accessible, it’s difficult to really keep tabs on what our children are hearing and seeing, and it’s difficult to strike the balance between protecting them and forcing them to be unrelateable. How can we teach them to evangelise well, if from a young age they feel like being a Christian makes them feel boring with nothing to offer.

If anyone knows of any music alternatives that I am un aware of or stories of churches with projects in this area I’d  be really interested to hear about it, get in touch via the comments section below.

Married long distance?…they mustn’t love each other much!

I’ve been asked a lot recently about how I can live for extended period of time, without my husband and why I would choose to delay my return to the Philippines by another few months. Many people seem to struggle to understand how we cope. I am aware that it is regularly remarked when I’m out of ear shot ‘what sort of marriage is that? They mustn’t love each other much if they can live like that? Do you think they married for visas?….they probably won’t stay married for long!’

The answer to the question of ‘why we currently live separately’ is simply because we believe God has said that’s the right thing to do. When Gibs and I first decided that we wanted to be married, we knew that we would likely find ourselves living apart for certain seasons. We talked in depth and prayed about these things, eventually we made the decision that whatever, whenever or even wherever God directed we would do it. After we married we spent six month together in the UK and when it was time for Gibs to return to a Manila we knew it was right for me to stay behind. It has been important for me to be in the UK to grow relationships and ensure that we have good people supporting us as we plan to restart our projects in Manila. Although physically apart we are building important foundations for what we will in a few months build together.

I had expected to rejoin him sooner than now, however God has continually said ‘wait’. Has this been hard? Of course it has! It’s been one of the hardest periods of my life, but out of obedience to God we persevere. During this extra time we have managed to gather enough money for a vehicle (as mentioned in the previous post) and Gibs has been able to establish his business and a regular client list without the pressure of a regular busy ministry schedule. I have been able to build strong friendships here in the UK, which will ensure we never feel as alone as we have the last few years. I believe this season has laid foundations for bigger things to come and for new lasting partnerships in ministry. 

We endure this time of separtion to secure the future of our ministry and our marriage. It’s bigger than just us, it’s about what’s conclusive to building the kingdom. If God has asked us to stay apart for a while longer then we can trust him to sustain and hold together our relationship. It’s a decision we made together, in light of what we believe God was asking of us, yet knowing he would not force us if we chose not to. We talk via video call almost everyday, and share the tiniest details of our day with each other to ensure we stay connected. We still pray together, make decisions together, laugh, joke and cry together. While we may miss physical proximity and intimacy this is not what our marriage is built upon, it is built on love, trust, mutual respect and a shared faith in Jesus. We look forward with excitement and anticipation for our reunion in a few months time, and for all that God has for us to do together in Manila.

I believe our marriage survives this testing season because of our faith and it is strong because we love each other enough to do so at a distance. 

 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

Romans 12:12

Feeling Forgotten

We all go through periods where things seem hopeless. Over the last 12 months since we arrived in the UK I began to feel increasingly as if God had simply forgotten about me. Having gone out to Manila the last time just after losing our home Church in the UK and having no time to fully feel part of another, we arrived in England a bit apprehensive about exactly where we belonged. 

Slowly over the past year all but £10 of our ministry financial support disappeared. We prayed earnestly for more to come but it didn’t seem to happen. We also knew that if we were to really make a diffence in Manila, grow our business and be generally more fruitful in helping people, we were going to need a vehicle. After Gibs returned To the Philippines the time seemed to drag on and our prayers still weren’t being answered. Time and time again God seemed to say ‘just wait, everything you have asked for is coming, just be still’.

This frustrated me, I began to get angry with God I asked ‘are you just saying you’ll provide in time, just to shut me up? Do actually plan to do any of the things you’ve promised?!’ This was not a great attitude! However it is a fairly normal human response and I can see now that God has continued to love me through it.
Gibs continued to look at vehicles within our budget, but was consistently dismayed by the state of the things he was being offered. cars with holes in the bottom, vans that didn’t lock. I had the money put aside to buy them…but they just weren’t right! 

One day last month I  was telling some wonderful friends of mine (who’s adventures you can read about at Four for the Road) about my predicament. They told me the story of their miracle car and declared in prayer that we’d find ours very soon too.

Then last week out of the blue Gibs sent me several pictures of a large 7 seater car, he had text the seller enquire and arranged to meet up to view…when he arrived at the meeting place he was surprised to be greeted by an old friend from the same village as him! He was offered a sizeable ‘mates rates’ discount and the car was much much better than any he’d viewed previously! I couldn’t believe it, I knew instantly that that was the one we’d been waiting for, the money was wired and the deal done! Within 48 hours the car was his! 


A few days later, we had the offer of half the support we would need to return to ministering in Manila and my flight costs (more on this in upcoming posts). So here I am humbly admitting, that despite my toddler like tantrums…God had never forgotten about me, he always planned to give me the things I needed! I have learnt much, made incredible friends and developed a deeper faith, while I’ve been waiting. It is often in these times that God is refining us, it’s often not comfortable or easy but it’s always worth it. 

We will be looking to do some fundraisers soon! We’d love to here if any one has some ideas! Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

An Early Loss

This is only blog Post Number Three and I’m already about too tell the toughest story of my mission experience so far. I arrived in Manila In September 2012 and by the first week of October we had started two programmes for Children in the Local area. One of these was with the Children of an area called Dona Isidora’. This community all live in very close proximity too each other, in mostly makeshift housing and an some families even sharing communal bathrooms. As you can imagine the children of this area have strong bonds with each other some being almost like siblings.

During our sessions we would always learn a bible verse a week and there would be prize for who could remember the most. There was always one boy who won, he had an amazing memory and could recite without fail every verse we had learnt. He even won the big prize of a large transformer toy at the Christmas Party for reciting them in order at the front. 

On the morning of December 23rd, I was getting ready to do the laundry before Christmas when several Children burst through the garden gate and started yelling that there had been an accident…He’d been hit by car and was critically ill in hospital. He had been coming home at 5am from the traditional Christmas ‘night mass’ with his family and a friend. It was dark and seemed quiet, he released his friends hand and ran into the road. He was hit by a reckless underage driver going 120mph believing there would be no one on the road. His body was dragged along the road, he suffered extensive internal injuries and trauma to the skull. The young man who hit him thankfully did not run but drove him to the nearest hospital.

I threw on some clothes called Gibs and we rushed to the hospital. When I arrived I was shown to the emergency room and what I found there broke my heart. He was lying motionless on the bed with a nurse manually pumping air into his lungs. I asked the nurse what the prognosis was and she said his heart was working, but his brain was so damaged he could no longer breathe for himself. I sat in the chair next to his bed, took his hand, told him we were there and began too pray. As I was praying someone behind me exclaimed ‘he’s crying! Look!’. As I looked up I saw tears streaming from his eyes, and realised he could hear us. We assured him we loved him and would do everything we could for him. Only three people were allowed in at one time so we left to allow other members of his  family back in. 

As I left I asked about the medical bills, which as we were in a private hospital would be very expensive, it transpired that the driver was from a very wealthy family and they had offered to cover all the costs, including the impending move to an intensive care unit. That evening he was moved to the ICU where he was placed on a ventilator. He remained there for Christmas Eve whilst they continued attempts to get him to breathe for himself. Eventually after some scans the Doctor informed the family that in his view there was no chance of recovery and that they should consider removing the life support machines. So on Christmas Morning 2012 at just 8 years old his parents lost their only son. 

In keeping with Filipino tradition his body as brought home, as their house was so small it was displayed in an open top coffin under a marquee on the street. We went daily to visit the family and held a service in which the other children sang and shared memories of their friend and brother. He was buried in the new year with his beloved transformer toy and none of us have ever quite been the same since. 

It was this experience that really solidified our determination too keep supporting families in that community, to be a light when things get dark. I remember thinking how different things might have been if they had occurred in the U.K. An ambulance would have been called and been there within minutes, to avoid having to move the body and risk worsening the injuries. Medical bills would not have been something too be concerned about, no pressure to turn off life support until you are ready to do so, because it isn’t costing a years wages everyday. I see on the news the crisis in the NHS and the reports that It might fail. We need to support our Doctors and Nurses, and continue to petition our leaders to take care of our  national health service. 

 

A Long Walk to Nowhere

As promised in this blog I would tell some stories of times I have made a fool of myself and got it wrong. So here we go…

A few years ago when Gibs and I first started dating, we were attending a Church that needed a new building due to a growing number of attendees. One morning I declared ‘Honey…We need to go for a walk! I think God has told me we are going to find the new Church building today…I can feel it!’

Please note this was in the hight of South East Asian summer and I was proposing we walk around in 35° heat without knowing what I was looking for, or even what it looked like! However he responded immediately with ‘okay then, let’s go!’.

So we put on some sun hats and off we went, we walked, and walked, and walked….and walked some more. I was adamant that I’d know it when I saw it! After 3 hours, Our feet were filthy with the dust, our clothes were damp with sweat & and despite buying water along the way, we felt pretty dehydrated. We finally decided it was time to turn around and go home. We caught a bus back the way we came and I felt very silly. It’s the willingness and enthusiasm that counts right?

In view of my mistake you would expect that at some point Gibs would have said too me ‘I can’t believe you made me do that for nothing’ but he never did! That day was one of the first times I really knew that this was the man I wanted to do life with. He has never doubted me, even when I have crazy ideas he’s always ready to jump into the adventure. Even though I’ve been wrong in the past, he still believes in me everytime. 

If I could give advice to anyone who’s planning to do something they feel lead to do, it would be find someone too do it with. It could be a friend, a sibling, spouse, but someone who it’s safe to get wrong with. There is a saying “If you want too go quickly go alone, if you want to go far go together”.


Despite us being 6000 miles away from each other, Gibs still supports me in everything. Today happens too be his birthday, and he deserves to celebrated. So Happy Birthday Honey! Here’s to many more failed adventures together, and a few successful ones too!