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Saturday, June 29, 2013

Courage and Grace

It is with sadness that I must say goodbye to my wonderful Filipino's 2 am here and the girls are all sleeping...I'm packed and ready to fly tomorrow...From Butuan to Manila to Guam to Tokyo, where I'll be spending a few days with Navigators missionaries!
The two things that stand out to me most from tonight are the themes of grace and courage. The Aneco Conference Hall was packed with about 300 people. The synergy between the worship band from New Life in Christ Fellowship, Michelle, the whole team of sound and light persons, volunteers running the event, and my music, could not have been a better fit. The enthusiasm of all the pastors, project workers, Compassion students and graduates, and other young and old alike in the audience, was something very stirring. I was overwhelmed and humbled to sing on the stage tonight, to meet so many beautiful faces, and to receive such love from the people of Butuan. May Christ be magnified by whatever I did or said on stage and off. That is my sole purpose for being here, and if that is accomplished, then the night was a success! 

Michelle's words were hard-hitting to the soul...what touched me most was her call for courage. I ended with "Charis" as the audience reflected...and I sensed the Lord whisper to my spirit: remember grace and courage. Both are so necessary to find our way in this world. Both, gifts, that point to the Heavenly Father. My prayer is that very person there tonight, every person at any of the Beauty for Ashes events over the past two weeks, would be filled to a greater capacity than ever before with the virtues of grace and courage. 
As I reflect on my last day here, and our last event...I am exceedingly grateful for more than I have time to write, but let me mention a few things...

For the children at God's Love Student Center this morning!

For Ate Mila's kindness and servant's heart (she does so much for this community! What a beautiful woman!)

For Raf's ability to laugh all the time and her gift for exactly the right words on stage.

For Charmaine's constant smile, humility, and non-stop eagerness to help.

For Michelle's long-time friendship and the dream that has come true of finally doing ministry together! 

For New Life in Christ Church...Pastor Jack's constant provision over everything, Jehoven's willingness to drive us anywhere and everywhere in Butuan, and the worship team's gift of music opening the concert tonight.

For new friends like April, Jonalynn, Jean Lee, and so many, many more!

For the whole group from
Caraga State University who helped SO much in pulling off the event tonight!

For Jollibee restaurant's spaghetti and the surprise of my CD playing over the airwaves (only in the Philippines! Ha!)

For fresh island mango.

For dinner with Raf's family tonight and the celebratory dance "after party" with her little nieces & nephews...gangnam style!

For ginger tea and sweet treats from Cebu!

For the beautiful bouquets of flowers which New Life surprised Michelle and me with after the concert/event tonight!

For tricycles, lizards, hotel hopping, prayers, laughter, photo snapping, and a bed to crash in after it all! I know I have so much to reflect upon after this Philippines experience...but that is all for now, my friends! It is such a joy knowing I have friends back home, here, and all over who have journey with me through this blog! More to come...and Japan is just around the corner! 

Salamat ("Thank You") God for Your many gifts. Please continue to grant me doses of grace and courage!


Friday, June 28, 2013

Come Like a Wind

I have to say, God has a way of saving the best for last. It's my second to last day here, and His Holy Spirit has moved today in a most remarkable, poignant way... We are trusting that tomorrow He will again come like the wind.
This morning we did an assembly for the Butuan Christian Community School. It brought back flashbacks of elementary school and high school days for me, when chapel speakers would come to Wilmington Christian School-the place I spent thirteen of my most formative years in learning.
All those smiling faces out in the audience...giggles as "the American" was somewhat alien to them. Little girls in the hallway would reach up and gently grab my blonde highlights, for some may never have seen such a phenomenon along with white skin up that close before. Their gentle strokes were like the hands of God. I always can see Him most in the warm glances and touch of little ones, for they are so authentic and unabashed.
It was an absolute honor to sing for these precious children and teenagers. (I especially get a kick out of the spontaneous Filipino applause mid-song. Now I'm prepared for it and it doesn't take me off guard like the first time, in Davao, when I thought the applause meant they were ready for me to be finished with the song, since they had cheered "Sample" beforehand...Did sample mean just part of a song? Is that why they clapped half-way through? Michelle reassured me they wanted a whole song, not half! Filipinos just love to clap!)
After I sang this morning, Michelle once again presented a power-packed message...this time on appetite. She shared the narrative of Genesis 25 and challenged the students to not be tempted to sell their royal birthright, given by God, for a measly bowl of soup. Wow! What an image to think often we sell out for something much, much less than the best God had intended for our lives! Thanks be to Him for His continual grace and redeeming love, which can teach us anew and draw us back, like the prodigal son, to our ordained and intended inheritance.

Ate Mila prayed after the symposium and I had chills. Her prayers were filled with power and life, and the backdrop was the layered noises of typhoon rain pouring down, children in hallways chattering, and worship music over the sound was a snapshot of glory to my ears, and I was glad to welcome the blessings she spoke over Michelle, Raf, Charmaine, and me. 
The floods came again...and the school floor began to soak...we left there for lunch with our gang. In addition to various delicious dishes was, of course, the main dish...rice! And we topped it off with Halo, Halo
(See my "What is Halo Halo?" video on YouTube:

This afternoon we headed back to Caraga State University. The students from Salt Light Campus Movement welcomed us once again with smiles and hand shakes and blessings, while adorning our necks with gorgeous flowers.
The room was packed and many of those in attendance were newcomers, just there for the event! I shared my songs and spoke of eternity, healing and hope in Christ, pointing to their significance and worth as individuals who can make an impact on the world...It flowed right into Michelle's talk on calling. 
She was right there on their emotional & intellectual level- reaching into their hearts, drawing out the beauty of their stories, their desires, their design...I sat there thinking, "I don't know how anyone could be listening to this and not be hungry for a relationship with God!" I sang "Charis" afterward, and then Rafonzel came up to pull it all together, to give an invitation for students to receive Christ as Lord and Savior for the very first time. 
Somewhere between 5-10 students stood to give their lives to God! Pastor Jack prayed, and as he did, tiny tears welled in my eyes...I fought back, trying to not let a black stream of mascara run down my checks. I thanked God for those beautiful lives, being welcomed into the Kingdom for the first time. I also prayed for my dear friend Jeanne, who is fighting a serious infection in the hospital back home right now...This is a woman who financially supported my trip so I could fly here to the Philippines, and I had the honor of seeing the ripple effect of her giving- in those students' lives this afternoon! Rafonzel reminded me of the quote from Gladiator, "What we do in life echoes in eternity." Jeanne surely has impacted lives for eternity, halfway around the world...lives she probably won't meet until the great feast of Heaven. I ask for prayers from you, dear reader, for my friend, Jeanne...that God will provide healing and a miracle right now in her life.  She's a hero and inspiration of faith in my life, and I'm thinking of her while on this trip...Thank you for praying with me!

After our time at Caraga, we went to Aneco Conference Hall, where tomorrow's Beauty for Ashes Tour finale will be held. A group of us walked around the venue, praying over every corner, every life who will come tomorrow, every aspect of the program...God, come like a mighty wind!  Show Your power and glory! We are here to lift You high!
We topped off the night with a lovely dinner at a family's home from the church. Ate Nancy, Kuya Mervin & their family members...they served us Filipino delicacies. 
You won't believe it...I ate not one, but TWO fried frogs tonight! Somehow they talked me into it without much pressure! Did I mention that I pet one of those lizards I found climbing up a wall in the city earlier, too? I'm becoming very friendly with little critters it seems...maybe too friendly as I try to fall asleep and realize two frogs are sleeping inside of me tonight!

Goodnight & God Bless!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Big Daddy!

Tonight we presented to strategic and key leaders in the community of Butuan- a small group of pastors, social workers, and teachers at various Compassion projects were invited to join us at Big Daddy restaurant, where Michelle presented another powerful talk, different from the other events which are geared more toward youth and awakening the "Gen Y". This was a night specifically focused on the 4/14 window (you can watch the video at, to encourage men and women who are  already dedicating their lives to impacting children. Over 80% of Christ followers decide to give their lives to the Lord between the ages of 4 and why is the global church spending so little energy and resources on these precious
children? She spoke passionately about the need to reach children during these years of growth, rescue them from the abuses of the world,  root them in Christ, and release them to great opportunities!  She shared about how they are the powerful "agents of transformation".  
Are we ready for what God has prepared for us to do? We are on the verge of something significant that is about to happen in the Kingdom...there is a great challenge, and we can play a significant role in the epic story of this age, where little ones are given a chance at hope. Can we maximize the opportunity of blessing children, and in so doing, bring beautiful glory to Christ? These are the challenges Michelle presented, and the response could be felt by the energy in the room. 
Before she spoke, I gave a mini concert! They were such a gracious audience. It was an incredible pleasure meeting these church leaders and project workers, hearing some of their stories and seeing the incredible passion in their hearts for the mission they carry out every day. Some of them have had such pain and challenges in their own lives, but are stunning overcomers by the grace and joy of the Lord. I feel so privileged to get glimmers of their stories, their deep journeys, and to see the way in which God has used their pain for glory, their ashes for beauty, their dry bones for new life...
It's been so much fun singing two brand new songs here- "Like a Star" and "Healed".  I hope and pray for the chance to record these in the near future, because they seem to really speak to individuals in audiences...
One of the treats tonight was meeting two beautiful LDP students. I got a chance to chat with Jonalynn for a while (in the photo with me). What a heart she has! She's studying accounting at the local university, in her 2nd year. She's still waiting for a sponsor, and I am praying God brings her one! This young woman shines like a star, for sure, blessing those around her and blessing her Heavenly Father!
I'm having so much fun with the girls. Charmaine has joined our team here in Butuan- she took the bus with Raf early this morning. Charmaine is one of the LDP grads in Davao, who now is back serving at her Compassion project, where she grew up! I got to hear a song today, which she wrote for her sponsor when he and his family visited last year. It was amazing! She's a talented songwriter with a rich, powerful voice. I hope she keeps creating music and using this gift! She has a contagious smile and is such a servant leader.

Time for me to say goodnight...we've had an adventurous evening, post-concert...never a dull moment! Tomorrow we go to a gig at a school bright and early in the morning, then to Caraga State University later in the day!

Peace and Love,

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Butuan...Carabao, Bananas & Pedicabs!

We made it to Butuan! I can't say our flights were uneventful, because the fabulous Michelle WON the game we played on Cebu airlines! She was the winner on our flight to Davao last week... and once again, she had the magical touch in the sky. It's more fun in the Philippines...c'mon- what other airlines in the world plays games and gives out prizes?
We arrived, landing on an airstrip surrounded by lovely Butuan palms and spacious fields. Rafonzel's brother, Pastor Jack, along with church leaders,  Kuya Jehoven, Kuya Elmer, and Ate Mila (the project director at God's Love Student Center) picked Michelle and me up from the airport. ("Kuya" is the name meaning "older brother" in Tagalog, just as "Ate" is for "older sister".  I love the warmth in which people address one another here, where even a perfect stranger is treated with respect when called by these kind, endeering titles.) They had a huge banner welcoming us! I must say, I don't think I've ever had a warmer airport greeting in all my travels (and I've been welcomed so kindly at many an airport)! 
We drove from there to a lovely Filipino lunch (rice and barbecue chicken and fish). They feed me so much here...the generosity is overwhelming! Then we has the great joy of visiting New Life In Christ Fellowship, where BCCS (Butuan Christian Community School) school was in session. We had quick exchanges with the teachers and students, trying not to interrupt class too much! I think my white skin may have caused a bit of giggles and excitement, though...uh oh! We'll be back for a symposium/chapel Friday morning, where we'll be doing a presentation for the students. I'm looking forward to that! 
Upstairs (steep stairs I might add), we met the Compassion staff for the project there and took lots of pictures...The same glee-filled atmosphere that I felt in the Compassion Philippines country office, I felt in this little student center office. I cannot wait to visit here on Saturday and meet the many children! There is a little girl waiting for a sponsor whom I've been praying over...please let me know if you'd like to sponsor sweet Marjay! She's in kindergarten and likes to play house, sing, and tell stories :)
We drove over to Caraga State University, where we met the student leaders for Salt Light Campus Movement- the Christian group at this university of 5,000 students . About 40 members are part of the regular group (they lost 30 who graduated recently). 
We will be doing an outreach event/concert on campus Friday evening, so we are praying for large attendance, many decisions for Christ, and students who desire discipleship with this group. The fellowship only started three years ago, and I can tell from the students we met that it is flourishing with the power and love of God. Their warmth, confidence, and maturity impressed me. 
On campus we got chocolate "ice candy" made from local frozen carabao milk, and the students led us on pedicabs to go check out the carabao! (These pedicabs are similar to the tricycles found in Filipino cities...Tricycles are run by motorcycle drivers on the left with a little seated covered area for passengers on the right...but these pedicabs are powered by a manual bike! Those drivers' calf muscles are STRONG!) We flew down the dirt road, as if racing our new friends on the other pedicabs, mud splashing, voices laughing, my chocolate spilling all over shirt and bag, while trying to hold on for dear life and taking photos of this rare ride experience for an East-coast American girl. I enjoyed the few minutes of pedicab turbulent "flying" immensely!  
We arrived at our destination and got off, looking out to our left over gorgeous rice fields, which will be ready to harvest with the Filipino-absolute-staple sometime in the future. The picture of these breathtaking rice fields with water hovering over them, draws my heart now to how this city is so ready for the great spiritual harvest. More than any other place I've been to so far in the Philippines, I can feel it. Not having been here even a whole day, it is so clear in my soul that Butuan is a land ripe for the harvest of life and light and Christ. After 18 years of praying, they have a mayor now who is a surgeon, a good man who has served and given much to the community, a Christian who offers religious freedom for Christ-followers and Muslims alike.  They say he is an answer to prayer...This year, probably more than ever in my life, I am realizing the beautiful, powerful, gift that prayer is in our lives as we can intimately speak with the Creator of heaven and earth! 
"Prayer allows you to knock Difficulty off its feet, even when you're on your knees. It's a power like no other, a great first option- not just a last resort. When you move into the future undaunted, miracles begin to happen. The impossible becomes the impossible." (Christine Caine)
I believe those miracles are beginning to unfold in Butuan: at this time, in this generation. The harvest is ready and God is awakening a city to His love!
After having some good laughs as I met Filipino carabao for the first time (they are quite the characters!), we climbed a little hill, walking narrowly along a bumpy ridge next to the rice field. Then we had our departure with the students- farewell to our new friends until Friday!
From Caraga State University, we visited the local market, where our church friends loaded us up with mangos and bananas-enough to feed an army! That's okay, I love fruit, so I'm sure I'll devour these tropical delicacies with ease :)
For those praying for our Beauty for Ashes Mission Tour, please keep in special prayer the next few days as we have 5 events in 3 days! Pray for open hearts to the message, especially at Caraga State University, and for hearts to be encouraged as we minister to local church leaders, Compassion staff, children at the school and the project, and other youth/young professionals in Butuan.
The following are some verses I am meditating on and would love to share with you:

"Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think." (Ephesians 3:20)

"But thank God! He has made us his captives and continues to lead us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume." (2 Corinthians 2:14)

"For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!” And through Christ, our “Amen” (which means “Yes”) ascends to God for his glory. It is God who enables us, along with you, to stand firm for Christ. He has commissioned us." (2 Corinthians 1:20-21)

I wish you could all meet the carabao and ride a pedicab! It's priceless ;)


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Coconuts, Ants, and a Gift

Ate Jane is the project director of Solid Rock Student Center- the beautiful Compassion project where she was once a registered child. When you meet her, you meet joy! She has been such a dear friend here- with her gifts of laughter and care. (By the way, Ate is the demonstrative prefix added to a female name, meaning "older sister").
        (Jane, Michelle, Rafonzel at Solid
Rock Student Center)

Ate Jane surprised Raf, Michelle & I with an incredible gift...I'll tell more about that, but first let me catch up on the latest travel plans. Today was our day to rest between events in Davao & the coming events in Butuan, where we fly to tomorrow. (That was a miracle in itself, as our flight got pushed back from Thursday to Friday, meaning we would miss two of the main events that we've been preparing for! But God blessed us with an answer to prayer- Raf's friend who works with the airlines got our flight moved up to Wednesday! I offered to take a bus, but Michelle looked at me with a serious face, "Cait, we can't risk it...we just don't know." But I tried to insist, "Raf is taking the bus- I'll be fine!" Michelle reminded me, "Your white skin...we just can't be sure...Your Mom and Dad want you home alive." "Okay, okay..." I consented.)
So, because we had this day of rest, Ate Jane gave us the most marvelous gift- tickets to Pearl Farm! We got to travel by boat for 45 minutes to an exotic island resort, to just soak in the wonder, the sky, the birds, the sunshine, and the food! A few days ago, when we found out we were going, Michelle and Rafonzel were jumping up and down, squealing in Tagalog. I had no idea what was going on, until they told me in English about Pearl Farm-how this was a place where they had always dreamed of going. I became equally thrilled!
When we arrived, we spent a couple hours just resting. Honestly, it was hard for me to be still and not feel guilty...I have this complex at times that I need to be productive either with my body or my mind. To be soaking in the paradise around me was difficult (I know that sounds silly), but making myself relax and enjoy it was well worth it! I think especially after seeing everything I've seen in the last week, it feels like I need to be doing, doing, doing...but God is disciplining me to first BE in His presence, then GO and DO in His will.
I picked up a book on St. Teresa of Avila which I had brought with me from home, and this is what I read as I lay there under the pacific sky: "...Our contemplation is not for our own enjoyment but to give us the 'strength to serve'" (Tessa Bielecki) Lord, may this stillness refresh me, to then be a refreshment to others.
Teresa of Avila prompts a paradoxical thought, "Love turns work into rest."
So I soaked in the simple things, while just being and resting. Simple things like the ants next to me, as they devoured the corpse of the bee I squished (I'm sorry to confess I murdered the little guy, but his stinger was getting so close to me, I couldn't risk the pain of his looming attack ruining my lovely day!) The ants were so determined to get their lunch!  Then I opened my book again and read more simple words of wisdom from Teresa, "...I believe that in each little thing created by God there is more than what is understood, even if it is a little ant." I was amused, and enjoying watching the tiny creatures.
When I looked up into the sky overhead, I was moved by the glory of the coconut trees. "Lord, You are on the earth and clothed with it," proclaimed Teresa of Avila. I could not agree more as those swooping palms swayed overhead, moving with grace in the wind.  And then I had a great laugh as I shared with the girls the words off the page of my salmon-colored reflective book, "The sisters were delighted to see the coconuts, and so was I. Blessed be He Who created them: they are certainly something worth seeing." One would think this Teresa from over 400 hundred years ago was hanging out with us on Pearl Farm today, giving a play-by-play narrative of the paradise so large about us, creation's treasures abounding. This is precisely why I love reading the spiritual heritage of those who've  walked this earth and lives by faith in centuries past...I must admit, I, myself, felt small like an ant, in comparison with the wonders of the far-reaching ocean and sky painted with clouds and beams of sun rays on this marvelous day! 
Before leaving, I ordered "Buko Juice," not realizing I would be be literally drinking coconut water through a straw right from the green shell of the coconut, totally pure and fresh! This was such a treat to top off a wonderful time at Pearl Farm.
Finally it was time to board our little boat, while our weathered captain in his cola shirt navigated the sparkling, foaming waves. As we headed back to Davao, almost everyone fell asleep with waves of salt splashing our sun-kissed faces. We felt like this adorable little boy...
It's funny how a day of rest can wear you out...

I've been so blessed by my time here in Davao! I await expectantly all that I will witness and experience in Butuan...Lord give me ears to hear and eyes to see!


Monday, June 24, 2013

City of Lights!

"For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm! God reigns over the nations; God sits on his holy throne. The princes of the peoples gather as the people of the God of Abraham. For the shields of the earth belong to God; he is highly exalted!" Psalm 47:7-9
Tonight we went to Jack's Ridge, to a sweet outdoor coffee shop. My friends Richard & Rafonzel showed us where they got engaged...such a beautiful place, a hilltop covered in magical lights overlooking the city. A rain came upon us comes here without much notice, and it comes hard. Hearing it fall as we stood under shelter, looking out over Davao, was a beautiful moment. I quietly prayed for the city, for all the people, for the transformation of hearts, for hope...

Moments like that remind me of how big God is and how small we are, when you can see all the tiny lights below representing the lives of thousands of people. To think...God has created each person with worth and purpose and a heart after his own image. My mind went to Psalm 74 verses 12 and 16:
"Yet God my King is from of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth...Yours is the day, yours also the night; you have established the heavenly lights and the sun."
What a beautiful picture of God's sovereignty and holiness. What a reminder that HE is working salvation throughout the earth, throughout countries and cities...and especially throughout the farthest reaching corners of the human heart.

I encourage you to find a hill and pray over your city. The rich and the poor, the young and the old, the rulers and the citizens...see how it moves you. If you live in a flat area, well...maybe find a tall building and climb some stairs ;) or take an elevator!

Blessings & Goodnight!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Worship in Davao

One of my favorite things when I travel is to worship in a local church. It's always so beautiful to see how the body of Christ lives and loves and spends time together in God's presence in various places around the world. My memories of churches in Nepal, Uganda, Germany, and Canada, as well as churches across the United States, bring to mind such beauty, variety, creativity, and unity.
This morning flooded my heart with these feelings.
I'm learning that Filipino style is a bit fun with time...8 means you can arrive sometime after 8, depending on weather, taxis, jeepneys, or tricycles ;) Now, Filipino time isn't as stretched as African time, for sure, but definitely more relaxed than in the States...which I can handle just fine, because I enjoy taking my time and soaking in the moment without the rush of getting someplace. So we walked in a little after 8 to Davao Bible Community Church, everyone relaxed and ready to praise God together.
 The first service was in Cebuano. It's funny, but I truly enjoy hearing people pray and read Scripture in different languages! I think it is something exquisite to see the diversity of Christianity across cultures- how the Word remains true, but is expressed in so many beautiful tongues!  The second service was in English, with a Wycliffe missionary named Allan preaching. The message encouraged my heart- emphasizing the idea of blessing God and blessing others.  I always need that reminder, as my flesh can be so self-oriented, even while my spirit desires to be a giver of blessing and life to others. During both services, I had the opportunity to share my songs with the congregation, which was such an honor! They welcomed Michelle & me with love and hospitality. (This is the same church that runs the Compassion project which we visited first yesterday- PH 529 Precious Light Community Transformation Center). I instantly bonded with the keyboard players from both services-Cathy and Iva, such lovely young women. I enjoyed meeting so many kind and joy-filled people from the church, but three precious little girls stood out to me most. I learned, again, that at this project the siblings and community children are truly impacted and blessed by Compassion's program. Some of these children are not sponsored themselves, but they come every Saturday to sit in the classrooms and learn. One little girl even comes alone, without family, but with a missionary on Sunday mornings, because she is so eager to hear the Word of God. I was blown away by this delightful little one. 

Christ shone in their eyes, and when I remember them, it will be filled with joy for their faith. The hugs I received from the girls blessed me immensely...I have carried their smiles, etched in my mind, all day. The Lord is up to something special in their lives- I look forward to seeing where He leads them, whether I find out here on earth or at the great reunion in Heaven one day!

I feel blessed beyond measure to have worshipped alongside these passionate Christ-followers at Davao Bible Community Church today. God is so good!


Saturday, June 22, 2013

Jeepneys & Childhood Dreams

Last night was the realization of a dream and prayer from my childhood. It didn't hit me until I returned to our guesthouse, exhausted and ready for sleep. We had our first Beauty for Ashes event in Davao for a large group of young students and professionals. It was such a beautiful evening. Ted opened the night by playing saxophone with such dynamics and emotion, I was almost brought to tears. He's an LDP (Leadership Development Program) sponsored student trough Compassion, graduating this year in civil engineering. 
Then another young LDP graduate, named Praise, and her brother sang a few beautiful worship songs I'd never heard before. She just radiates and truly lives up to her name with praise and love for Jesus. Rafonzel was ourfantastic  emcee/host/organizer/behind-the-scenes hero. She rallied enthusiasm from everyone in attendance as she spoke in the native dialect here. Then it was time for me to give a concert. A sweet student named Jessel decorated the stage creatively with hand made decor. Kenny was innovative and found a way to lift the keyboard stand higher using the tips of tables so it was high enough for me to worked! Everything was set to go...I had a captive audience filled with gorgeous Filipino faces. I sang my little heart out and shared things of faith, hope, and love between songs. And then the concert was over before I knew it. 
It was time for Michelle to go up. She did a more-than-excellent presentation on the 4/14 window...the urgency of the church in this generation...for the youth to take to heart the call of Christ and follow after Him, carrying our crosses with passion and courage. It was incredibly compelling. How amazing to see the way in which my friend has expanded her message, refined her speaking, and matured in reaching her audience (even though her message and delivery were always beyond powerful and eloquent, it's just wonderful to see God give her more and more grace in her gift of communication). The evening wrapped up with a video about Made in Hope. It touched hearts, for sure. The response was extremely positive, with young people picking up books and resources, and finding ways to connect with ministry opportunities, so they can be the generation that reaches out and changes their communities, their nation, and this world for good! 
I have to tell you, the light in their eyes, the energy and confidence shown by these young leaders, gives incredible joy to my spirit. I know without a shadow of a doubt that God is up to GREAT things here, in and through their lives. Even just a few minutes of conversation with one of them, and the maturity and willingness to give of themselves to serve others is so evident. Thank you, Lord, for allowing me the honor to meet such wonderful people, most of them only a few years younger than myself!
So the hit me. It's like God said to my heart, "Remember?"  Yes, I do remember. I remember being in just grade school and praying. I had two deep desires for my future, dreams I felt God had placed inside of me that could not be squelched. I was torn, though, as a youngster, because I didn't know these two dreams could go hand-in-hand. I thought I had to choose one path or the other. One was music. One was missions. They were so clear to me, visions I could not escape...but I remember praying, "God, which one do You have for me? I want to honor You, but I don't know which dream is the right one." Well, last night, in a more tangible, evident way than ever before, I was able to see these two dreams come together so clearly and perfectly. I'm amazed at God's faithfulness. The desires which He writes upon our hearts are there for a reason, it just may take about 15 years, sometimes even longer, to have that epiphany moment when we realize how He alone can fulfill the vision! 

The Compassion Children! 
Today has been an absolute blessings...Michelle, Rafonzel & I visited three Compassiom projects. At the first one, I sang for the children, and then they did a beautiful presentation for us with music, ballet, and even rappers! (Watch these creative kids here: This was an exquisite example of how sponsorship not only blesses the child, but entire families. These awesome little rappers are the siblings of sponsor kids who hang out at the project when they
drop their brothers and sisters off, and so decided to come up with this music to praise God and give back to the project!
The second project was a wonderful time of seeing children in their classrooms and learning about the scholarship program which that church has set up for students. They really encourage college and offer unique funding for those who have potential for further schooling, but are not LDP students. This project has been around something like 30 years I believe. Seeing children at both projects made me wonder, "What dreams do they carry? What incredible destiny does God have planned for them to follow? What potential for greatness do they have locked inside, waiting to be released into the world?" All those precious faces, little lights in this world. Truly, the greatest in the Kingdom!
At the third project, we got to sit in on a family seminar for the CSP parents (Child Survival Program for mothers & babies, pre-natal up to 3 years old). They were such adorable babies! It was great to see not only dozens of moms there, but dads too! The pastor was the speaker and his wife, Jane, is the director of the CSP program. I had the opportunity to sing there, also, and they presented me with a beautiful gift. It was a joy to see these babies thriving and their parents eager to learn more about how to raise strong, healthy families.

And then...I got to do something I've been waiting for...RIDE A JEEPNEY!!!! Squished in with almost 20 Filipinos in a colorful vehicle found nowhere else in the world, it was a delightful little adventure. Michelle wouldn't allow me to ride one in Manila, looking out for her younger American sis ;) But here, she felt it was safe enough without me getting knife slashed or anything. That's comforting :)

I am thankful for the ways I saw God's glory on display today...looking forward to another day in Davao tomorrow!