Thursday, December 18, 2008

Thailand Youth Camp

“I came to know Christ as a university student. In my first year I had to work in my free time and study. I met a Christian person where I worked. They would tell everyone about God and no one was interested, but I was.”

During the last week of October I was in Thailand (I know, I know this is really late!). I was able to spend the first part of the week at the Thai District NYI camp at Bangkok 1st Church. There were near twenty campers who came from Bangkok as well as Chang-Mai, ten hours to the north.

I got to help with a relational evangelism workshop. This was a lot of fun as the youth shared the people that touched their lives for Christ. When telling about these relationships they were excited to share and passionate. It really re-emphasized with me that the essence of the gospel is not in just sharing ‘facts’ but rather stories of relationships, which direct our relationship with God.

The campers used tools such as evange-bracelets and evange-cubes to help tell their stories of how Jesus impacted their lives. The feeling of many of the youth was captured in this statement, “I was very nervous to go and talk to people I didn’t know about Jesus. But after doing it I felt a new sense of confidence. I can do this!” One young camper was so excited that he began holding his arm up, showing the multi-colored bracelet and asking the children, “Who wants to know about my bracelet? Can I tell you about my bracelet?!”

Late during the camp two people joined. The first was a 4th grader (which I’m not sure why he was attending) and his friend. At the end of the camp the friend shared with the group, “I am not a Christian. I am a Buddhist. I wondered how I could come to this camp since we are different religions. But while I have been here I have had a lot of fun and have made new friends. I do not want to be a Buddhist anymore. I want to be a Christian.” Opportunities to share the love and joy in Jesus, even when we didn’t know it, came from every direction!

It was a huge privilege for me to get to be in a context like this. It is here in local communities and local churches that life happens. This event in another country reminded me again of my responsibility to be intentional in my local setting, as normal as it seems.

Please pray for the young people of the Thailand district: for Nit, Goh, Pie, Gang, and the many others. Pray also for Belinda, the NYI Coordinator for the Southeast Asia Field.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Just wanted to wish all of our dear family and friends a very Happy Thanksgiving! Even though this was a normal week, we were able to get together twice this week with different missionary friends for fun and relaxing thanksgiving celebrations. It is always so wonderful to share special food together - Justin has fallen in love with sweet potato casserole and pumpkin pie - what a smart kid! :) We have so much in our lives to be thankful for - as I think about the past year, I'm amazed at the incredible gift of Justin, the extensive time we've been able to spend with our families, the continued opportunity to be living and studying in such a wonderful country, our amazing family of God that is found no matter where we are on the globe, and that same family of God who continues to pray for us and support us - Thank you so much for your prayers and friendship! We are so blessed by each of you! Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Fountains are cool!

Last Saturday, we spent the day with friends from the seminary and Brian's Uncle LeBron and Aunt Anne. LeBron and Anne are visiting for the 25th anniversary of APNTS, so we're so excited to steal them and spend time together whenever someone else isn't wanting them. ;) We went to Greenbelt, an open air shopping area in Makati. It's a gorgeous place to sit, drink coffee, and catch up. Justin got tired of sitting after a while, so he and I wandered around and found this really cool fountain. Justin had such a blast playing in it, he cried when we had to leave. Here are a few of our favorite pics. When you come to Manila to visit us, we can go here together! :)

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Justin at 9 months

Justin is continuing to grow and develop personality more and more each day. Now, he's crawling, pulling up on everything, finding mischievous things to do, trying to eat and drink everything we do, desperately wanting to walk and run, and the list goes on and on. Here are some pictures from the last month....

reading books

future gymnast

playing with Daddy while eating

Halloween Costume - Fuzzy Caterpillar :)
and Mommy was a butterfly...

and quite proud of himself for crawling to the door and trying to push it open :)

100 Years

On October 5 it was such a privilege to join our Philippine church family in celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Church of the Nazarene. We celebrated ALL day long and were amazed at the testimonies of God's faithfulness in the last 100 years and the hope of what will happen in the next 100 years. The church we attend baptized 100+ people and took in 100 new members on the day of the celebration - amazing! In the afternoon, the Metro Manila District met on the APNTS campus for continued celebrations. Despite the rain and mud, 2000+ people gathered to worship and commit to serving God for the next 100 years.... here are just a couple pics. :)

Taytay Church of the Nazarene:

Metro Manila District Celebration:

Long time, no blog!

Well, it's been a very long time since we've posted any blogs... but when I think about the last month, I'm not at all surprised. :) So, this will be my attempt to catch up a little bit. October was super busy since it's the last month of our semester. But in addition to all the normal end-of-semester writing and cramming sessions, I (Julie) am attempting to finish my thesis proposal so I can (hopefully!) graduate in April, and Brian has been gone for the last 2 weeks, so he was trying to finish all his assignments AND prepare for his trip! Brian went to Singapore for regional meetings and then straight to Bangkok, Thailand for a youth leaders camp and meetings with field and global youth leaders. He's had a great time and will be home tomorrow morning, so needless to say, I'm quite thrilled that my 2 weeks as a single mom with a 9 month old is coming to a close! :) But, I can't really complain... Justin has been simply amazing since Brian left, and we have really amazing friends that take such good care of us. So even though I should be working on my thesis tonight, I'm too distracted and excited that Brian will be back tomorrow.... so, I'll post a couple more blogs and make Brian write about his trip and the exciting things God did and is doing as soon as he gets back! :)

hanging out with friends, Mami and Kenji, at the mall

our wonderful friends and neighbors, Yuri and Yasuki

playing with Isaiah and Ian and their grandfather visiting from the states! :)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas....

That's right.... in the Philippines Christmas anticipation begins with the first of the 'ber' months... Septem-ber, Octo-ber, Novem-ber, and Decem-ber. Last weekend when we went to the mall to do our weekly grocery shopping, we were greeted with the first few Christmas decorations and Christmas music playing. Some might say they don't like all the commercialism and the meaning gets lost when you start this early, but personally I love beginning to think about Christmas even now. I LOVE Christmas music and have always felt that only the month of December was not long enough to fully enjoy it. And I LOVE the anticipation for a wonderful time of year with family and friends. In Guam Christmas was special because of church plays, special parties, and bell ringing with our Salvation Army friends. This will be our 3rd Christmas in the Philippines (and maybe our last, sad), and even though our bank account suffers from so many pot-lucks and gift exchanges, I can't wait to go to all the parties and spend tons of time with friends and family. I love reflecting on how Christ came to earth and the significance of the life he lived. I love hearing about the birth of Christ through the context of so many friends' cultures and personal experiences. So, yes, to Brian's chagrin, I proudly sing along with the Christmas music playing in the store.... may the Christmas celebrations begin! :)

Monday, September 15, 2008

72 Hours of Prayer

We are requesting your prayers! We have had the privilege to help organize a 72 hour prayer room for our APNTS community. If you're not familiar with the concept of 24 hour prayer rooms, it's a focused time and location where people come together to seek God. But instead of just praying silently, people can do whatever they want - sing, play an instrument, draw, read the Bible, paint, etc. We were able to experience this at the 3rd Wave Conference in South Africa a couple years ago, and it was extremely meaningful. We've since been wanting to do one at APNTS, and here we are!

So, please be praying for our campus community for the next 3 days. It begins at 11:30 AM on September 16 and will continue until 11:30 AM on September 19. Our seminary's theme for this school year is "Out of Many, One", borrowed from the Church of the Nazarene's centennial celebration. So, the focus of this prayer time is unity, understanding, and community. Please keep us in your prayers, and we'll let you know how it's going. We're expecting God to do amazing things - things bigger than our dreams! Also, please enjoy the video Brian and our friend Junichi created. :)

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Choir Practice

So, most people don't think of me (Julie) as a singer. I am DEFINITELY more of an pianist than a vocalist. But, as some old friends remember, I had a music scholarship in college... and one of the requirements to keep my scholarship was to sing in a choir. This was not something I looked forward to, but it ended up being quite a rewarding experience. It was during my short choir career at SNU that I formed some of my closest friendships... amazing and talented girls who are still some of my best friends today. I was reminded of those choir memories this afternoon....

The General Church of the Nazarene is celebrating its 100 year anniversary on October 5 of this year. Anniversaries are a REALLY big deal in the Philippines. So, on October 5, every church will have their own special service in the morning, and then all the churches on our district will gather on our seminary campus for more celebrations that will probably last into the night. As part of these celebrations, our church and a few others are forming a 100 voice choir that will perform. Last year, Brian joined our church's choir for their anniversary celebration, but I was pregnant at the time, and it didn't quite work out. So, even though singing in front of people is not my most favorite pastime, I promised Ate Enzy (our choir director) I would join for this special occasion.

We went to our first practice today. Some of the members have already been practicing, but we weren't able to join together with them until now. One of the songs we are singing is the 'Hallelujah' chorus from Handel's Messiah. Let me first explain that this is not abnormal for Nazarene churches in the Philippines. While growing up in the states, it seemed the only time anything from Messiah was performed was at extremely large churches, colleges, or by professional musicians at a concert. But Filipinos are quite ambitious and indescribably talented musically, so this is something people have definitely sung and heard before in a small church setting. So, back to the story.... We started practicing the 'Hallelujah' chorus, and I was immediately flooded with memories of my freshman year of college... sitting in choir practice with Shelley, Jeanna, Stacy, Shelly, Rachel, and Jessica, my fellow Music major and minors..... laughing at Dr. Alexander's antics as he guided us in our vocal practice and played all parts on a grand piano.... singing my part over and over and over and over again until I actually remembered it.

Today's experience was quite different.... there was no piano... Ate Enzy simply gives each group their starting pitch... without any assistance! This amazing woman knows the song so well, she can sing all the parts, direct a huge choir, and hear when a few people are off and need more practice. :) Everyone has music in their hands, but the majority of people don't read music... they can simply hear their parts and memorize when they come in. Thankfully, I actually remembered my part from 10 years ago (Thank you, Dr. Alexander!)... or I would have been in a lot of trouble. ;) And today I was singing with friends from seminary and church - Linda, Jana, Emz, Ate Marnie, and Ate Nenita..... amazing ladies that have also become close friends and will be for life.

As we sat there sweating (no air-con) and singing our hearts out, I was overwhelmed by how God works in our lives. Ten years ago, when I was complaining about having to sing in a choir, who knew that that experience would open the door for me to have this experience right now... making new friends and memories and being so amazed at our surprising God. In my English class the other day, one of my students from Myanmar was talking about the gift of music. He said that in his opinion, the music made by instruments is quite remarkable because it needs no translation. Anywhere in the world, we can use instruments to praise God and it doesn't matter if we speak the same language. So, thank you God for the gifts of music, of choirs, of friends old and new, and exciting adventures that exceed even our wildest dreams! :)

This is our choir director, Ate Enzy, when she came to visit Justin and me at the hospital. :)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Basketball with the Boys

This is Brian writing. I am aware that I rarely post, but am trying to discipline myself to get better in this respect!

A year and a half ago I felt strongly that God was calling me to interact with some youth who live across the street from our campus. This is a squatter area of small shanty-houses constructed of loose boards and tin. The young people here have typically limited English because of limited education.

I began conversations with them, which started with me learning Tagalog slang that they thought was hilarious! Slowly I began to learn some of their names. Last year some other students invited them on campus to play on our basketball court. These guys love basketball! Most of them are not in school and are unemployed, so basketball is a welcome diversion. We played 3-4 days a week last school year!

This school year some students left and others have schedules that limit their ability to sponsor these guys to be on campus to play. I was busy with work and school and for the first few weeks I did not see or talk to them often. But God continued to lay on my heart the critical importance of being in the community where I live and among non-believers. To be honest I gave excuses to God. "I'm so busy studying and my job with NYI is my ministry," I told him, but when I was honest these were smoke screens for my own laziness. So I put in my schedule to finish work early and play ball with the guys every Tuesday.

While I feel like I have a good relationship with these guys, it is a somewhat superficial one. I have quickly found that to discuss issues of the heart, issues that deal with emotions typically don't make their way into less-than-conversational-english conversations! I've struggled with this but Julie continues to remind me that as long as I am there and care for these guys God will do the rest. One thing I have felt God leading me to do is be intentional to pray for them both in my quiet time and also when I am playing with them or watching them play.

Last Tuesday I had a meeting that ran late. I hadn't gone out and reminded them that I would be at the gate at 4:30 to play, so I thought I wouldn't play ball that day. However, I told Julie I should go check just in case. As I walked towards the gate I saw one of the guys and he looked at me, smiled, and made a dribbling motion with his hand. They had been waiting! Five minutes later 25 guys were filling the court playing or watching. Since I wasn't in playing clothes I decided to just talk with the guys.

As I sat next to one boy, U-choy, a unique thing happened. He began really talking to me! He was asking questions, struggling to find the English words with his limited vocabulary. This is rare because often we are content to let my limited Tagalog ability and his limited English be what they are and just hang out, but not really talk. But here we were having a meaningful conversation. It was a huge encouragement to me, a sign that our relationship was growing, even if it was a slow growth.

I have to continue to pray and trust that God can and will do the work that I can't do. I want to make myself available completely no matter the results that I see or don't see. I want to be bold when God leads me to be, but also to be consistent when I don't see anything happening. This is hard for me to do because I feel my value as a missionary rests in results. I have to be reminded on the one hand, that one plants, and one waters, but only God makes things grow. And I must be reminded, on the other hand that I must be ready to be obedient whenever God provides the opportunity to be more direct about Jesus.

Please pray for U-choy, Jerky, Ivan, Rene, Jun, JR, Din Din, Doods, Andrew, Edward, and all the other boys who play basketball on the APNTS campus on Tuesdays from 4:30-6.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Justin's new friends

Justin has many friends, but we thought we would introduce you to a few special friends that have become more and more important in the last month...
Justin absolutely LOVES playing with his rubber ducks in the bath. He simply can't get enough of them - chewing them, splashing with them, throwing them... really, I think he could stay in there for days and be totally happy. :)

When our good friends Daniel and Melissa (Nazarene volunteer missionaries) found out we were having a baby, the first gift their family gave Justin was a very special giraffe stuffed animal. Their middle son, Ian, had a puppy from the same company that he slept with as a baby, and 'Puppy' still remains a very special character in his life. I would tell you the name of the company that makes these great stuffed animals/blankets, but Justin is currently hugging 'Giraffe' right now while sleeping, so I dare not take it away! ;) Anyways, Justin loves sleeping with 'Giraffe'.... in fact, he doesn't sleep that well without it! We highly recommend one of these great stuffed animals for any baby! :)

One day a week we have class at the same time, so God has blessed us with a wonderful Filipina woman who watches Justin all day. Janet has 2 children of her own, so they also come with her to spend the day with Justin. This is a picture of Justin and EJ.... Justin loves EJ SOOOO much! He is so thrilled to have a playmate and EJ is really good at interacting with Justin. Any time Justin sees EJ around campus, he immediately starts smiling and laughing, no matter his previous mood. We are incredibly thankful for God's gift of Janet, EJ, and Joanna and the incredible friends they are to us and Justin! :)

Thanks for your prayers!

Thank you so much for your prayers for our trip to Boracay! We had a great time! God answered our many prayers by giving us safe travel, keeping our group safe and happy, and every minor problem being quickly solved without too much stress (forgetting ID for the airport, losing ID in the ocean, you know, the expected when you're traveling with a group of 27 people and a baby!).
Since it's rainy season, it was cloudy most of the time, but we actually didn't have too much rain. It did make the ocean and pool water pretty cold, so Justin wasn't too sure how he felt about it. I'm sure next time he will be ready to jump in no matter the temperature. ;)
We had a wonderful time relaxing with the students and our friends, Dick and Mary Ann, the other couple who went as sponsors - thanks again for your prayers!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Prayer for this weekend...

We have the privilege this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday to accompany Julie's English students from Korea to the island of Boracay (in the Philippines) for a weekend of sun, fun, rest, and relaxation. Yeah, yeah, we know... 'suffering for Jesus' on a beautiful tropical island is really tough... haha. :) But seriously, please pray for us this weekend! As we mentioned before, many of the students are not Christians, so this is a great opportunity for us to interact with them on a more personal level and build deeper relationships. There are 21 students, and we will be going with them, along with another couple. This will be our first time to do something like this with Justin, so we're also praying that he will adjust to yet another crazy part of our lives. :) So, we covet your prayers for safe travel, meaningful interaction, and a fun final weekend for the students before they return to Korea. We'll let you know how it goes - thanks so much!

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Birthday Blessings

My birthday (Julie's) was last week and I just wanted to share some of the special blessings that surrounded it.  We are still very close to the couples that live in our old apartment building on campus (married without children), and many of us have birthdays in the month of July, so we had a combined party with food, funny games, and blessings for each other.  Since Brian serves as Regional youth coordinator, we're also included in regional staff activities.  They also have a lot of July birthdays, so we had another combined party at Tita Gen's house with hamburgers, hot dogs, and more fun games!  We fit in well here since Filipinos love to have parties and so do we! :)
My birthday happened to fall on a Friday, one of the days my APNTS 'English Development' class meets.  I'm not a person who makes a big deal out of my own birthday, so I was super surprised when I walked in the classroom and all the students were waiting with birthday messages written on the board!  They sang 'Happy Birthday' and we shared snacks together that they had prepared.  I cried as we prayed together - I am so overwhelmed by their love and compassion.  No job is perfect, and many times it's easy to complain about administrative issues surrounding my teaching positions.  But recently, I've started to realize how much God has blessed me with my students.  They are all very serious with their studies, and we have a lot of fun in class, but more importantly than that - every day when we finish and are about to leave, they ALWAYS say, "Thank you, Julie." Why do they say that?  We never do anything life-changing or extremely important... we just work on pronunciation. But they always say thank you.  And every day I'm touched by how much they impact my life... I should be the one thanking them every day!  So, here are a few pics of my amazing friends in 'English Development'.....

Brian gets an award this year for being such a great husband on my birthday!  He arranged for a babysitter, so he and I actually had a real date!  Those don't happen too much these days. ;)  He also got me a very exciting gift that I have been wanting for a really long time! After college, I fell in love with baking, but ovens aren't very common in the Philippines, so our apartments don't have them.  After we had been here one year with no oven, we finally splurged and bought a toaster oven that I use for my baking.  But, it's hard to find baking pans to fit in it! :)  So, Brian bought me silicon muffin cups!  I can bake just the number I need since they are separate.... and they are so easy to use!  The muffins literally fall out and the muffin cup is practically clean!  They are great - I highly recommend them! 
my first batch of muffins :)
my precious oven :)

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Singapore reflections

In May I (Brian) had the privilege of attending Nazarene Missions International (NMI) Re-visioning meetings in Singapore. NMI has been a hugely successful way the Nazarene church has emphasized and supported missions over the years. Yet as our times are changing so quickly there has been an increased awareness of NMI’s need to also re-focus for a successful future. I was invited to represent youth, along with a friend from Australia. We met together over three days representing 10 countries across Asia and the Pacific.

We looked at the three times in Matthew (9:1-6; 10:1-7, 17-20; 22:35-37) where Jesus sent out his apostles. As we looked it became evident that in every passage, though the circumstances changed, there were consistent themes: God was with them, they experienced suffering, they were proactive, and ultimately they saw success from their labor. While God has been doing exciting things within Asia-Pacific we could and should be seeing more fruit and doing more. We were told “You are here so that the God who lives in you will splash out on the people around you.” It made me examine my life. Am I intentional in the ways I interact with people, so that they would see Jesus in me and hear Jesus from me? These apostles in Matthew had no church membership or buildings. They went out to share the good news that God has come near in Jesus and real life was offered! The key is that they went out. Jesus sent them out. God’s heart is always ‘out’, out to the communities where we live, out among the people that we pass by, out in the schools we attend. Many times our church buildings lead us to believe that people meet Jesus by coming in, but this is not what we see in scripture. Often, in my life, church has become a bunker, a safe defensive haven in a frightening and sinful world. But this is not salt, this is not light. This is a light hidden under a basket.

Across the Asia-Pacific region there are 2.6 billion people. Roughly 104,000 are Nazarenes, a number which has not changed significantly for the past few years. Half of the region’s population live in cities. There are currently 135 cities with over a million population, 108 of which have less than 3% believers in them. By 2023, including the rise in population, two-thirds to three-fourths of the total Asia and Pacific population will live in cities. The challenge is clear. There is a huge need for missionary-minded believers across the Asia-Pacific. It made me reflect, if we are being who Christ calls us to be in our world, would the Nazarene Church look like it does right now? I do not say this to be critical or to lessen the tremendous commitment on the part of believers, but this is a critical question. We are known by our fruit. What is the fruit of my life? Who is encountering Jesus through me? Is my heart moved by these figures? Is my heart moved by the hundreds of faces I see as I walk through Manila every day? Second Corinthians 5:14 says “The love of Christ compels us.” May I be compelled more. May Christ’s love open my eyes and ears to what He sees in the faces, the lives of these people that surround me every day.

As we began to honestly discuss the challenges to Jesus’ command to make disciples in the nations I was shocked to discover that most of the issues were internal to the church rather than external. Things like busyness, lack of prayer, fear, lack of discipleship, the exodus of young people from churches, these things were derailing churches from their mission from the inside. External factors, such as government opposition, issues of communication (language, culture), and resistant people groups, were not the primary challenges. This was so revealing to me. Yet it was also a word of good news, because we all have the ability to address the internal issues!

Despite our range of ages, differences in language, culture, and country, and our backgrounds we discovered that as we center ourselves in prayer God will give us his heart. The issue was a heart issue, and the solution is a heart-response. As we spend time with Jesus he makes us more into his image. As disciples grow closer to Christ they develop as leaders. As we focus on Christ together, and share His heart the church is united in purpose. This moves us out into our neighborhoods and workplaces with an entirely different mindset. Because Christ’s love compels us we are willing to learn a new language and culture, even if it is with non-believers in our own country. We are willing to be uncomfortable and challenged by the pain of sin in people’s lives.

As I have thought about these few days over the past weeks God has continually been speaking to my heart. These issues are not exclusive to Asia or the Pacific but are experienced in every country because these issues are fundamental heart issues among believers. I have been praying that I would stay alert in all situations, especially when I am ‘out’ for where God is working in the hearts and lives of people around me. I have been praying that God would continually let me see people through his eyes.

Justin at 6 months

It's so hard to believe, but Justin is already 6 months old!  Here are a few pictures from the last month... enjoy! :)
Falling asleep while eating.... he's still learning the significance of naps... :)

always ready to play...

Justin's friend Elanor had a princess party for her 3rd birthday... meet Prince Justin!  Prince Justin had a wonderful time watching the other princes and princesses blow bubbles, eat cake, and open presents. :)

having coffee in the morning with Daddy....

so happy about life....

beautiful Manila sunset! 

Monday, July 28, 2008

English Classes

I (Julie) would like to introduce you to some of my new friends! God has blessed me at APNTS with the opportunity to become certified in teaching English as a Second Language (ESL). Every semester, college students from Korea Nazarene University come to our campus to study English for 6 weeks. This semester we have 21 students, so they are divided into 2 classes. I am teaching their "Spoken English" class. We work on pronunciation and speaking confidence... really, we just have a lot of fun. :)Not all the students that come are Christians, so it's a great opportunity for our campus to show them the love of Christ. Please pray for them while they are here and for us as we make new friends and minister to them.
I also have the opportunity to teach a class throughout the semester. All APNTS classes are in English, so students have to obtain a certain score on an English exam before they are allowed to register for graduate classes. If they don't get a high enough score, they may take undergraduate English classes in order to improve their score. This is the 3rd semester I've taught "English Development." We also work on pronunciation and speaking confidence. It's so meaningful to get to know our new students and their stories as we study English together. My class this semester is very dedicated to their studies, so I'm afraid they will all pass the English exam at semester and I won't have anyone next semester! ;) Please pray for us as we get to know each other and learn more about Christ and his love througout the semester. Our class this year represents Philippines, Japan, Korea, and Myanmar - we are learning a lot about each other's cultures! :)

Monday, July 21, 2008

More Family Pictures

Just one more story from our U.S. vacation.... :) One of Julie's friends from high school is an amazing photographer and offered to take our picture while we were visiting. We had SO much fun walking around Breckenridge Park in San Antonio with Sara snapping pictures. It was great to catch up and share this fun time together. There were so many beautiful pictures, but here are some of our favorites. If you live in South Texas, we highly recommend her for any special event! Thanks so much, Sara!