At the Davao airport we were greeted by Rafonzel Pabunag, who is the co-founder, with Michelle Tolentino, of "Beauty for Ashes" events here in the Philippines! A new friend, Kenny, drove us to get lunch...I ate chicken feet for the first time, oh my! Among my favorite new foods are buchi (a chinese dessert with a crushed bean center) and hot milk tea :) I can tell already that I am going to like Davao. The frantic rush of Manila with its population bursting at the seems can wear one out for sure. I loved my time there, but I have a new respect for these missionaries who live among the urban poor. Being there long term would be draining to the body and spirit for some.
We are staying at a sweet little guesthouse across the street from a church where a Compassion student center is. This afternoon we went over our tour schedule, and it is packed! That's a good thing, though! I think I operate best when there is a lot to be done, and during my short time here I want to give as much as I can to bless these beautiful people who are already such a blessing to me! Over the next 10 days, I will have 7 singing engagements, and Michelle will be speaking at each event. These are schools, churches, and other large venues in Davao and Butuan. In-between we have Compassion project visits, etc. Raf is running the behind-the-scenes show, and she is an angel, treating us like royalty with love and grace since we first arrived today. Her husband is so kind, too. It's amazing how the bond of Christ can make an instant friend for eternity. That's how I feel about Raf and some of the other young women I've met so far on my journey, and I'm filled with gratitude for unity in the body of Christ around the world.
I'm so impressed with the maturity and vision that Michelle & Rafonzel have. These Beauty for Ashes events began last year in these two cities, and this year the events are expanding to reach even more in Generation Y. We are speaking the gospel and sharing a message that this generation can truly be change-agents in the culture and time we live in. We are calling forth lights for Christ who can impact this world for good in areas of abuse, poverty, hopelessness, trafficking, and more. I am so blessed to take part over the course of the next week and a half, and I pray that God uses the songs I sing to touch every life present.
Tonight we had pizza! It felt more like I was in Italy than in the Philippines :) We are having some good laughs about the way in which many folks stare at me, surprised to see an "Americana"...I feel like I came from another planet at times, but they lavish on me many smiles and greet me with respect! At the hotel in Manila, they referred to me as "Avril"...apparently they thought I was the new Avril Lavigne? I'm not sure if that's a compliment? Just more reason for us to have a good laugh.
So a lovely surprise ran around my feet and up and down the wall next to my bed this evening...a cute little lizard that made me squeal. Michelle looked at me with eyes that said, "Really?" Oh no, did I fail the missionary test? If I can deal with lizards crawling near my head at night, then I think I should get some sort of prize :) Just hoping he doesn't decide that cuddling is a good idea...I'd prefer a little personal space while getting my beauty sleep!!
Please keep us in your prayers over the next several days. Tomorrow night is the first event, and I really hope we can kick-off to a great start!
Love & Joy,