Sunday, December 18, 2011

Random Medley

Today I lost my perfect attendance score at my regular church to attend a Thanksgiving service at a church in the slums. Oh wait, I was never in the running for that perfect attendance...oops. Anywho, it was a fun and unique morning.

I've gotten into discussions with several missionaries about the Philippines love for celebrations. Do churches in the US really celebrate church anniversaries? Mine does, but not very many do. Here it is a BIG DEAL. Literally a marathon all day event with prizes, bands, food, several sermons, games, and the list goes on. There are also thanksgiving services which are usually different than anniversary services, but just as BIG a DEAL.

When I arrived at the town center's covered basketball court, the party was just starting. I was welcomed by a greeting committee of 8 ladies in bright pink and white shirts. As the sole foreigner and as the guest of the guest speaker (Philippines director of Compassion International), I was given a seat in the front row, much to my chagrin. I really dislike sitting in the front row because I stand out enough as it is...and I have to really watch my p's and q's in order to avoid making a cultural faux pas. But it is an honor so I try to do my best to be grateful.

Soon, we were serenaded by the local school's xylophone marching band. I was surprised to hear them playing the US Marine Corps Anthem, then tickled as they transitioned into Auld Lane Syne, then laughed out loud when it smoothly switched to My Heart Will Go On. Only in the Philippines!!!

It was such a neat service with all the different kids' groups performing dances, skits, songs, and even giving testimonies of God's provision for them. Because this church partners with Compassion International, many of the kids were sponsor kids. Let me just say once again how impressed I am with Compassion.

After the 4 hour service, the director of Compassion came with me to visit Shalom. There might be an opportunity to partner with Compassion to provide the prenatal care and delivery for women enrolled in their Child Survival Program. This is a neat program which follows little ones from in utero to 3 years old, at which point they are enrolled in the regular sponsorship program.

Right now there are no churches in our area partnering with Compassion, so please be praying for a nearby church to meet the criteria for Compassion enrollment. It would be so neat to be able to directly partner with this amazing organization to really impact our nearby communities.

Below is an example of the truly unique Pinoy xylophone marching band that I found on youtube. Awesome or what?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Josh & Neni

When they walked in the door for an ultrasound I had to do a double-take. We've seen young girls at Shalom before, but this gal was still a child! She was beautiful, but her body was definitely not fully-developed. Her face was innocent and she had a wide-eyed look about her. She was wearing pajama bottoms and a t-shirt, holding her medical record in one hand and a motorcycle helmet in the other.

Her boyfriend was with her and it was all I could not to stare at him in disgust. His hair was spiked, his guyliner was thick, his earring winked proudly, and he had this toughened, yet bored look about him.

I called Neni to the ultrasound room and Josh hung back. I firmly asked if he wanted to come, leaving no doubt to my expectation. He was going to see this new life he had helped create if I had my say. I took a bit of history and learned that Neni is 14 and Josh is 19. He was the one with the motorcycle...the same motorcycle responsible for breaking Neni's arm last spring. Neni is so young that her body hasn't had time to regulate her monthly cycles and so it was difficult to accurately date the baby. My job was to determine the gestational age so we could set a due date.

My heart was heavy, half-way hoping there was no baby for the sake of this girl. As I placed the probe on her belly, I looked over at Josh and he had this hardened expression on his face with his arms folded defiantly on his chest. The urge was strong to get up and smack him, knowing that in the US, his actions would land him in jail for statutory rape. However, I smiled at him, praying that God would soften his heart.

As soon as my probe touched her belly, a little beating heart showed up right away. Yes, there was a baby. It was still very small, but I showed Neni all the parts of her little one and her face at first showed disinterest, then slowly transformed to curiosity, then wonder. She hadn't felt the baby moving yet, so I'm sure she was in some sort of denial that she was pregnant at all.

I took the necessary measurements and estimated her due date, scheduling her for a repeat 4 weeks later. I tried to educated Neni as best as I could, but I could tell her heart still wasn't really in it and Josh was shifting uncomfortably in his chair. I asked if I could pray for them and Neni shyly nodded yes while Josh glanced furtively at the door. Afterwards, Josh moved the fastest I'd seen him walk to get out of there.

Today was the 4 weeks follow-up. I was somewhat surprised to see Josh back with Neni, but thankful. Perhaps his heart had softened? Or maybe he was her only transportation? Or maybe he was controlling? I don't know.

Without much ado, I started scanning Neni's new little bump and was happy to see an active, kicking baby. The baby was growing well and it's size confirmed my earlier guestimation of her due date. This time, while I tried to educate Neni, I included Josh as much as possible. Neni's blood test from earlier had shown a hemoglobin of just 9.0. In the US, that's nearly grounds for a transfusion! I discussed diet and put much of the responsibility on Josh to make sure he took part in caring for his girlfriend and new child. I closed once again in prayer.

Please pray for this young couple. Neni seemed more somber today, as if reality is sinking in. She had to drop out of school when she broke her arm, then opted not to go back when she got pregnant. I'll be honest, I walked out of the exam room fairly depressed, feeling like my head is uselessly beating against the wall. Josh seemed just as prideful, but I know deep down he must be terrified.

There is some hope, knowing that he has a motorcycle, which means that there must be some money in his family...though how he comes by it I have no idea. But please pray that God will continue to soften their hearts and prepare them for parenthood. Please pray for family support as well. Neni is now living with Josh and his family, a common practice here. And also pray for compassion and hope for all of us caring for her. Thanks.