No Expiration Date

cs-_161111-_-2377_webEvery home we’ve moved into since we have been married, has had an expiration date. Each home was temporary and merely a stepping-stone to reach an ultimate goal, to serve in the Philippines and assist church planters and translation work. Now we are finally living in a home that has no expiration date as we hope to serve here for many years!

For the last several months, we have been in transition. We recently completed our formal culture and language study, packed up our house, and moved to an entirely different island. After waiting for several weeks of repairs, we are finally settling in our new home and are excited to not be living out of a suitcase!

Right now, I’m (Curt) busy preparing for my upcoming classes that I will teach at Faith International Academy. Kristin and Sadie are making friends and learning to function in our new community. As we have been getting to know various missionaries in our area, we are encouraged and feel privileged to support them in their ministry by providing an education to their children.

As we reminisce over the past five years, we can see God faithfully guiding and leading us to where we are now. Thank you for your support and prayers over the years. We are so thankful to be here serving the body of Christ. We look forward to what the Lord will do in 2017 and hope you have a Merry Christmas!

 

So close, yet so far away…

CS _160325 _ 0135_BWSOn Good Friday, I (Curt) witnessed a person literally have his hands and feet nailed to a cross. While the pictures I took may at first glance portray piety, this unfortunately could not be farther from the truth. The great irony of the mock execution I observed is the fact that the man portraying Jesus had no comprehension of Jesus’ final words, “It is finished.” (Jn. 19:30) Later, I learned the man crucified has been participating in this act for 20 years for the sake of his family’s health. To him, he was earning God’s favor through this annual sacrifice. CS _160325 _ 0122_BWS
His hope was in his own works rather than the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. As the gospel of grace teaches, grace is a free gift and cannot be earned. (Eph. 2:8-9) Just like many parts of the world, “religion” here can be observed masquerading as Christianity, but with closer examination, it could not be farther from the truth.

CS _160329 _ 0407As we dive deeper into culture, we are given more insight into the Tagalog language since language and culture are inseparable. Recently, we had our first language and culture evaluation. We were encouraged to see the progress we have made since the beginning of our study, yet realize we still have a lifetime of learning to do.

With temperatures soaring and children out of school, summer has already arrived. A few weeks ago, we were able to attend a number of graduations and ceremonies. One of our Filipino friend’s daughter received an award at her elementary school for academic excellence. As teachers, it was interesting to witness how a public school operates here in the Philippines.

In addition, we attended a graduation for our national co-workers. Just down the road is our national training program for Filipinos. These graduates will now begin the next steps necessary to reach unreached people groups in the Philippines.

Our Family:

We are thankful for many things! Despite major life transitions, Sadie is thriving and enjoying life as a toddler. She says a few words in Tagalog and makes friends wherever we go. We recently celebrated her second birthday and took her to see dolphins at a nearby beach.

On another note, we are thankful that the Monobo people heard the gospel for the first time in their own language a few months ago and many have believed! I was able to visit this people group here when we took our first trip to the Philippines in 2014!

We can always use prayer. Learning to function in a new environment is a never-ending endeavor. Even when we are at home, we still have random knocks on our door and leaky plumbing to deal with. As we continue to push ourselves out of our comfort zone, we are also learning our limits and the importance of Sabbath rest.

Thank you for your prayers and faithful support. We cannot be here without you!

What’s the story behind that abandoned neighborhood?

“What’s the story behind that abandoned neighborhood?” asked Curt. Our friend smiled and said, “That’s actually a cemetery and you’ll learn more about that in a few months.”

IMG_0230From a distance, as we passed this cemetery we noticed strange concrete structures covered in overgrown vegetation. It resembled more of an incomplete construction site, rather than what we would consider a cemetery.

After a few months had passed, the story of this strange place was revealed as we observed the national holiday of All Saints’ & All Souls’ Day. Just days before this holiday, we were amazed to see that this unruly site was transformed into a colorful and freshly groomed cemetery. The overgrown vegetation was cut and burned and the concrete structures were given a new coat of paint.

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Much like any religious holiday in the U.S., holidays here have a variety of meaning and significance for Filipinos. To some, this is simply a day off work and an enjoyable family reunion. (Filipinos are always looking for a good reason to get together!) For others, it’s more spiritual and a time to remember relatives and to pray for their souls to move out of purgatory and into heaven. We learned it’s very important to visit and clean up the graves of the dead because it’s believed they will show up in your dreams if they are neglected. After a few hours of weaving through masses of people and graves, we were exhausted and ready to go home.

As we were driving home, we noticed candles lit outside many homes. We later learned many believe that souls experiencing no rest often wander around unsure where to go. A household can avoid these souls that often bring bad luck by helping illuminate their path, thus guiding the souls to their proper destination.

IMG_9398_BWSEvents like this help us comprehend the wide variety of beliefs that Filipinos have. We are thankful that so many are willing to share their culture and beliefs so we can gain a better understanding of their worldview. Remaining open and eager to learn about this fascinating culture also helps reduce potential misunderstandings that cultural barriers often create. The more we are able to recognize and grasp what our Filipino friends value, the better we can connect, share, and create meaningful relationships.

Update on the Tagalog Language

IMG_1730Before we left for the Philippines, a veteran missionary told us, “Whoever makes the first million mistakes wins when it comes to learning a new language.” We can now relate to this all too well, especially after Curt on more than one occasion accidentally called a Filipino friend a cucumber. Sometimes you just have to laugh at yourself and realize making mistakes is part of the process of learning. We jokingly say we are 20 months old in the Tagalog language as we relate to our 20-month-old Sadie in her language development.  We now have roughly 500-600 words in our vocabulary and are just now able to form a somewhat complete sentence. IMG_1354Here is an example of Tagalog: Kadalasan, mukhang mas magaling o matalino si Sadie kaysa sa magulang niya! Which means: Most of the time, Sadie is proving much smarter than her parents! Like Sadie, we can understand much more than we can communicate. We even use her books and puzzles for practicing our new vocabulary words.

Our Family

IMG_9997We are doing well. We have remained healthy. We recently received our first care package and mail from America, and are very grateful for the generosity and support from family and friends. Sadie was very excited as you can see!

Please Pray For:

– The Holidays:  Please pray for us as this will be our first Christmas away from family and friends.

– Relationships: Please pray for a few new relationships we have (we will go into more detail in a later update). Pray for wisdom in how to interact and show Christ’s love to them.

Album: We’ve been able to make a few trips to the ocean which has been a much needed break from 8 hours each day of Tagalog. Sadie and I love playing in the water while Curt enjoys his hobby of photography.

Alive & Well

IMG_9786Although we’ve been in the Philippines for only a little over a month, it seems like much longer considering all that we have experienced and accomplished. As we are discovering, Filipino culture is relational, not time-oriented, which means everything takes much longer than what we are accustomed to. Despite this adjustment, we have managed to check several things off our to-do list.  We started our visa application, moved cities, located, rented and turned a bare house into our new home.  On top of our to-do list, we have been learning to live more like Filipinos by hanging our laundry to dry, living with an intermittent water supply, taking public transportation, and coping with high humidity and heat. IMG_1445 In the face of all these changes, we finally feel like we are now out of survival mode and able to focus on all the reasons we are here. Experiencing the Filipino culture firsthand, we have been blessed by their hospitality and willingness to help us despite language and cultural barriers. Many of the store clerks greet Sadie by name and entertain her while we shop. We have felt so welcomed by the friendly Filipinos everywhere we go.

Transitioning to different cultures also comes with challenges.  Because very few things can be completed quickly, a simple task such as buying groceries or making a trip to the hardware store often become an all-day event. To put it into perspective for an Oklahoman, imagine living in Owasso and having to take a bus into Tulsa to buy basic necessities for your home.  After a 30-45 minute commute through winding roads, you eventually make it to 71st street. However, you still must hop on the back of a jeepney (see picture below), which takes you to the mall when the bus route ends.  Toting a baby, stroller, and anything else purchased along the way doesn’t make the trip any simpler, although Sadie does gain many adoring fans wherever we go!

IMG_1159Not purchasing a car for the first several months will allow us to truly immerse ourselves into the Filipino culture, learn the public transportation system, and build more relationships with the local people.  While this has made purchasing groceries and items for our home a much bigger challenge, we have found systems around it such as stockpiling bags near taxi terminals while one of us guards and the other purchases remaining items in another store.  We repeated this process daily until our house was set up.  Needless to say, by the end of the day, we were all exhausted and thankful for an easy taxi ride home.
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In order to maximize our interactions and relationships with Filipinos, we have begun our formal study of the Tagalog language. This includes 6-8 hours each day, which will be explained in our next update.

As chaotic as life has been, we are extremely thankful to be here and have experienced God’s grace in big and small ways since we left Oklahoma. We have remained healthy, Sadie has adjusted well and is happy, and we found a home across the street from other missionaries who have been a huge help and encouragement in our transition.

Thank you for being a part of our team, we could not be here without your prayers and support!

Prayer Requests:

  • Patience through language learning: The Tagalog language is challenging for English speakers.
  • Balancing responsibilities: Curt will be responsible for 40 hours of language learning per week while Kristin will be responsible for 30 hours. Taking care of Sadie, managing the home, and building relationships will become a balancing act.

 

We’re Leaving on a Jet Plane…

IMG_4910Four years ago today we married desiring that God use our lives together to help spread the Gospel to people who have never heard. By God’s grace, He has guided our steps and provided the means to do that in the Philippines. Today we are happy to announce that we have purchased one-way tickets and will be departing for the Philippines July 20th. It has been an exciting four years and the adventure has only just begun!

Last month we shipped 8 large boxes to the Philippines and they “should” arrive via containership a few weeks after we arrive in Manila. Given weather, truck bans and port strikes, we aren’t sure when we will see them. This will be a good introduction into life in a new culture and being flexible!

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If you would like to say goodbye to us, we will be participating in both services at our sending church, Fellowship Bible Church, on July 19th. We will be sticking around after both services.

Thank you for your prayers and support. We would not be here without the body of Christ!