Rainbow and Beyond

Back Home for a While

IMG_0566 It was 25 years ago that my family and I moved across the world to the Philippines. It was my second time to travel there and their first. It was a new adventure of faith and we didn't have any grand plan.

God put a vision for serving in the Philippines in the heart of my wife and I. Two distinct visions for ministry. My wife wanted to care for abandoned babies, and I felt called to equip pastors and leaders.

Out of those two visions, God gave us the privilege of establishing two ministries—Rainbow Village Ministries and Calvary Chapel Training Center (with CC Bible College).

Back home at full speed

Last year, we realized it was time to bring Rainbow's ministry to a close after 23 years of fruitful ministry. You can read that story here. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Bible college I established in 1995. Susan and I still marvel at what God entrusted to us for a time.

This past week I taught the second year students. It's a course on applied hermeneutics for studying biblical prophecy, and we studied through the book of Malachi. This week many alumni will come, along with teachers and pastors who've served here over the past twenty years, to celebrate God's faithfulness.

Dumaguete City is still home to us. We lived here for fifteen years, and it's where we've had a church home for 25 years. Filipino culture embraced us and we gained an extended family of dear friends whom we enjoy fellowship with each time we are here.

 

IMG_4991

Still my passion

So, my schedule is busy with teaching and fellowshipping over meals, and I'm enjoying it to the max. It also rekindles my passion for world missions, also known as cross-cultural ministry. I'm reminded of the simple truth Jesus told His first followers in Matthew 9:37-38—

Then he [Jesus] said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

More than ever this is true. There are billions in the world who have not heard the gospel, and billions who do not have anyone to disciple them in the faith. Below are some previous posts regarding this reality. Please read and pray!

And... please share with others what encourages you and touches your heart! Thanks!

Previous posts—

MOTROW

Men of Faith

The World Has Changed

Beyond Rainbow

sun_palm_rvmOur last couple weeks were very busy with lots of goodbyes, rummage sales, and trying to tie up the loose ends of closing Rainbow Village and finishing well. There's a lot more to ending a fruitful ministry in a good way than you might expect. After building and developing Rainbow's ministry over 23 years, we had a lot to do, from legal paper work to liquidation of all that was accumulated from beginning to end. It was stressful and intense at times, but our interaction with dear friends and the extended Rainbow family evened things out.

Now what?

A couple inevitable questions came up over and over again. Will you return for a visit? What will you do next?

The first question is pretty easy to answer. Yes! We're not sure when, but we do plan a return visit. After all, Dumaguete City, not just Rainbow Village, is still home for us in many ways.

The second question isn't so hard to answer, but it's hard to answer completely at this time.

At present

First of all, we have regular jobs to return to. Susan works full-time at a church preschool, and she plunged right in the day after we returned. My work includes an assortment of roles.

I work with a real estate and property management company, assisting with maintenance issues and inspections. But I also serve as a corporate chaplain at a local restaurant chain. Corporate chaplaincy is a fairly new industry. My main role is serving as an advisor or counselor to the staff.

I also continue to teach and train leaders in a local capacity and beyond. Currently, I lead four discussion-based Bible studies throughout the week, in the Jacksonville area. I plan to continue with my online ministry with this blog, posting four times a week.

Writing is also a priority! I'm working on a new book, have another one in planning, and am in the final stages of a revision of a study workbook I've used for the past decade.

Ministry beyond Rainbow

Are there plans for future ministry? Probably not like Rainbow, but I'm working on new training resources and ideas. This is what's difficult to answer in detail.

I'm privileged to be included with a couple of pastoral ministries—Poimen Ministries and as a mentor with Calvary Church Planting Network. I've had limited involvement so far, but I'm open to see what the Lord may open up with these ministries.

I have standing invitations to return to the Philippines, Thailand, Myanmar (Burma), and Kenya, along with countries and regions I either haven't been to or have limited exposure to.

My priority, along with writing, continues to be what I've done for the past 25 years—training leaders. Although I love to teach and preach, my first love is discipleship.

Discipleship resources and training

For me, discipleship is a broader focus than one on one mentoring. Although I am mentoring others, I see a great need in equipping (Eph 4:12) leaders, especially in developing nations (overseas). The need for resources and training of pastors and leaders is huge, actually, overwhelming.

One vision I have is providing resources online for pastors and leaders outside the US, who don't have access to training but desire it. Funding is an issue for many, but the greater need is availability of useful resources. A great need exists for resources that work in cross-cultural settings, and with simple wording that can be translated into other languages.

One more thing

The day after our return to the US, I started treatment for prostate cancer. I'm committed to a nine week course of focused radiation treatment, five days a week. Through a biopsy in 2010, I was diagnosed with low-risk, slow-growing prostate cancer. I've been under the care of an oncologist, who's helped me monitor it, but the time has come to get treatment.

This will occupy my summer, so I won't be doing any traveling out of Jacksonville! But, I've got plenty to do right here, and will be waiting on God's direction once the treatment is completed. And yes, of course, I appreciate any prayer!

Well, that's what's happening beyond Rainbow. Thanks for reading!

Bye-bye!

I'll have to resume my normal posting schedule later this week. 

staff-us_despedida

We've been super busy with goodbyes, Despedidas (farewell parties, outings, and dinners), packing, and clearing things out.

We had a great time with our staff at some fresh water pools up in the mountains. It was a sweet time. We also got together with some good friends through the week and into the weekend. We've been blessed with many great friendships over the past 23+ years!

Tomorrow will be a bittersweet time, as we leave Rainbow for the last time, and the sendoff at the airport. We'll be spending the next couple days in and out of airports, but that's been a part of our life for a long while.

This will still be our home in so many ways.

Too Many Goodbyes

Last staff dayOne thing we learned early on as long-term missionaries—you say a lot of goodbyes. So do the nationals with whom you build relationships. It's not something you get used to, but it comes with the territory of being a long-term missionary (for at least a year or more on the field).

You say goodbye to family and friends when you first go to the field. This is tough, but it's tempered by the excitement of "going" and ignorance of the separation you'll realize later.

Once you've settled into building relationships with the people you live and serve among, you have more goodbyes. When family, friends, missions teams, and other visitors come to see you, you'll have another slew of goodbyes—some tougher than others.

Family, friends, and furloughs

Pays-RVM_airportThen there's furlough time. The more traditional mission agencies require long terms on the field (3-4 years) before going back on furlough. FYI, furloughs are not vacations! They're often stressful and overloaded with meetings.

When you leave to go on furlough, you say goodbye to your friends on the field, both national and ex-pat. When you leave what used to be home to go back to the field, you say a bunch more goodbyes.

I'd like to tell you it gets easier the longer you're on the field, but that wouldn't be accurate. Well, at least not for us, and we aren't so different from most other missionaries.

There's a saying that goes, "The only time a missionary feels at home is on the plane (or boat) going to or from the field."

When are you leaving?

One of the first questions we get asked after arriving on the field is, "When are you leaving?"

At first, it may sound like they can't wait to see you go, but it's deeper than that. Nationals (of any country) who have known and worked alongside western and near-culture missionaries have their own experience with goodbyes.

This is easy to overlook by us western missionary-types, but it's a mistake to do so.

In the cultures of MOTROW, friendships are forever. It's not easy building long-term relationships knowing that one day you'll have to say goodbye.

It's not easy building long-term relationships knowing that one day you'll have to say goodbye.

Now

Ks_LoriAnd that brings us to our present time at Rainbow. We are saying a lot of goodbyes, and it's not fun. But... it's part of the territory and everyone knows it.

More than a week ago, we had our reunion-celebration at Rainbow Village. Now we are in Despedida mode. This is a word borrowed from the Spanish. It's a farewell celebration.

Our reunion was a Despedida for Rainbow's ministry. Today was the last official work day for the staff, and the giving of their last paychecks (sueldo). It was a tearful time, but of course, a time for pictures, and some laughter!

Last staff day_FreddyThis Friday we'll have a staff-only Despedida with Susan and I. It will be a special time spent with those we've had a special relationship with for so many years.

I told them no tears on Friday! Well... we'll see. At least we're going to a fresh water pool in the mountains, so tears won't be so obvious!

Then Sunday, we turn over the keys to Rainbow's compound to the director of the foundation who blessed us with the property. The next day we close the gate for the last time, as we head to the airport.

I try not to think about that now.

A Time for Tears, Laughter, and Rejoicing

RVM_reunion_062214

This past weekend was filled with lots of emotion—both tears and laughter. In the midst of sadness, there was rejoicing.

We had our reunion-celebration this last weekend, June 20-22. People had the opportunity to share some testimony, as we highlighted specific areas of Rainbow Village's ministry over the past 23 years.

It was a good time. A time of remembering, affirming, and closure for those gathered.

Opportunities to share from the heart

Bec_A-girlsThe first night was an overview of Rainbow's history where some of our missionary staff shared important highlights from their point of view. Then the woman who helped us establish our process for adoptions shared, along with some sharing from adoptive families and those adopted.

The Filipino staff got to share what was on their heart, and got to see some of the fruit of their labor all grown up.

My daughter closed Saturday evening by sharing an overview and highlights from our restoration program for abused girls. Some of them shared also, so you can imagine how emotional that was.

Trying to make sense of it all

praise-bandSunday morning was a time of worship with our international-Filipino praise band. It was sweet seeing these who had come to Rainbow as children, now leading as young adults.

I also brought a short message based on Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, 11, 14. The gist of it follows.

Life on this earth is neither a random string of things that just happen, nor a fixed chain of events sealed by fate. Each person has free will and yet, God is sovereign over all.

One person's free will can be exercised at the cost of another's—in the form of abuse, violence, and even slavery.

In these times it may seem as if God stands by and watches without caring. Or, so it seems to us with our limited view of life. If we have  a personal relationship with Him, we know He cares. Yet we still ask, “Why God? Why do these things happen?”

This is where ministries, agencies, and NGO's like Rainbow come in. We are God's hands of restoration. RVM is one small part of a much larger network of people who bring restoration—to heal those who are abused, and to bring hope in the midst of despair.

Some perspective

The great and wise King Solomon understood this. His poetic expression reminds us of the ebb and flow of life's events on earth. Life is not random. There is a season and a purpose for everything within God's creation.

God called us—our family and others—from America to the Philippines for a specific purpose within a season of life. It began officially in 1991, but God stirred our hearts for this in 1988. It was a combination of things that stirred our hearts.

We were foster parents of two Filipina sisters for several months, along with other foster children. I came to the Philippines for a short-term mission to teach with the ministry I would join two years later.  My friend with that ministry came to the US on a furlough. While visiting with us, his wife shared her heart with Susan. They adopted an abandoned child, Aaron. His story stirred her heart with a burden and vision for an orphanage for abandoned children.

The end of Rainbow's role in God's greater purpose

Rs_sharingOur role in God's purpose ends this year, but God's purpose continues.

Susan and I, our family, many missionary staff, and our Filipino staff were not the central focus of Rainbow Village. We were partners together with God.

The central focus was always the babies, children and young women we cared for, whom God brought to us. Their life stories continue on as a reminder of God's kindness and care—His love.

We saw many children reunited with their families, or placed in new families all over the world. Young women experienced restoration, and some started their own families.

A change of seasons

Will we miss the ministry of Rainbow and this place? And, our friends and extended Rainbow family? Sure!

But as we look over the last several months, we see Rainbow's season and purpose is completed. More work is to be done, but others will do it.

The seasons and cycles of life continue on. When we look at the bigger picture, as Solomon did, we see our place and purpose within it all.

Beauty and eternity

In verse 11 (Eccl 3:11), We are reminded that God makes every thing beautiful in its time. This is according to His time, not our time.

We are also told that God has put eternity into the hearts of people. God has put a longing in the heart of every person to play a part in His grand story. If, we choose to do so

We may not understand everything, but it's because we only see our part within the larger picture. We only see this within our season of life.

RVM_group_reunion

Frustration or fulfillment?

Whatever God does endures. Though things may appear chaotic and random around us, God's purpose prevails.

We need to see this bigger picture and respect Him. If we do not, our life will be filled with frustration and emptiness.

But when we see our role and purpose within God's greater plan, and understand it as one season among a series of seasons throughout the ages—we experience fulfillment.

Do you know your place within God's plan? If not, seek Him and ask Him to show it to you. He will if you're heart is sincere. He's given us a way to know this and to know Him, thru His Son, Jesus.

Looking forward in faith

When one season ends, another begins. Our responsibility is to find our place in God's purpose within each season. Rainbow's season has come to an end.

I don't look forward to the final closing of the gate. I will miss this beautiful place and the life we've been blessed to share in it with others. But I look forward in faith, because I've seen what God let us be a part of these past 23 years at Rainbow.

I hope you can look forward in faith also. My prayer is that you will always seek God through His Son Jesus, to know your place in His family and your purpose within His plan for your life.

Daghang salamat sa Ginoo!

There you have it. It was a full weekend, and it went too fast. It was a time for tears, laughter, and rejoicing.

We're thankful to have shared this time with those who were able to join us. And again, we're thankful for all those who served and supported Rainbow over the past 23 years.

As we say in our place in the Philippines— Daghang salamat sa Ginoo! (thank you so much, Lord!)

An Important Interruption

IMG_3290Sometimes there are people who just seem to interrupt things. Sometimes, people aren't an interruption at all, they're the main event! Living and ministering in other cultures teaches a person (if they're paying attention!) that relationships are more important than time and tasks. This is an important thing to learn for anyone visiting, working, or serving outside the US. We Americans often struggle with that.

Relationships should always have priority in life. After all, what else compares in value?

An interrupted schedule

This week my normal schedule of posting is interrupted with an important event—a reunion and celebration of 23+ years of ministry in the Philippines, at Rainbow Village Ministries (RVM).

So, I will try to resume my usual schedule of devotional studies after the reunion-celebration.

Family reunited

This week we have visitors from Australia, the US, and Mexico joining us for our reunion and celebration. They include families who have adopted children from Rainbow Village, some of the adopted children, and some of our missionary staff. We also have at least one Filipino adoptive family joining us too!

We are all part of one extended family here at Rainbow Village. Our Filipino staff and friends are part of the reunion and celebration, since we served alongside one another in this ministry.

Two families served with us as missionary staff and became adoptive parents, one from Australia and the other serving in Mexico as missionaries. One of our "Rainbow kids" came by himself, after visiting with family last year. Another adopted child came with his family, which includes his older sister who served with us for a few months also.

Relationships—the fabric of life and ministry

It's been great catching up with one another! In some ways, it's as if we haven't been apart at all, though it's been several years. The bonds of relationship we've enjoyed over many years are strong. As we learned early on in our lives here, relationships are everything.

Years ago I drafted a list of leadership maxims to pass on to my students and staff at our Bible College. The first one says— People are more important than the “work.” People are “the work”– people are “the ministry.”

I learned this simple priority while pastoring in the US during the late 70's and throughout the 80's, but it became more essential when I moved to the Philippines in 1990. It is easy to get caught up in the work of the ministry and neglect people in the process.

My Filipino staff at the school reminded me of this many mornings, as I rushed in with several things (tasks) on my mind. As I started to rattle off my priorities for the day, I would hear their lilting, almost song-like greeting, "Good morning Ptr Trip!" Then I would stop and return the greeting.

In a gentle way, they reminded me what the real priority was.

Thankful!

We have looked forward to this time of greeting one another, eating together, rejoicing together, and remembering God's goodness and kindness to this ministry over the years.

We are thankful—for each other, and for the blessing of serving together at RVM.

I'll catch up with things on Word-Strong when I can, until then, I'm busy with people!

An International, Cross-Cultural Father's Day

  Photo credit: lightstock.com

Father's Day is an American celebration. The cynical say it was developed by greeting card companies. Whatever.

The idea of honoring dad's is not novel, and is a good thing. Of course, being a dad you'd expect me to say something like that. But honoring parents is a biblically embedded tradition. It is the fifth of the Ten Commandments handed down to Moses.

This year, I celebrated Father's Day in the Philippines.

fiesta boundOver the past 23+ years, I've spent many a Father's Day in the Philippines. Some years most of my children were with me, but it always included our extended family at Rainbow Village.

Where it's celebrated and whatever the day includes isn't the primary focus. It's people. This year it included children who were adopted from Rainbow Village, and my daughter, Becky, who served here for many years. It also included walking one of our "adopted" daughters down the aisle for her wedding.

IMG_3145This month is our big Rainbow Family reunion and celebration, as mentioned in a previous post. We greeted one of our early missionary staff, Lori, at the airport on Thursday. We didn't let Lori settle in much before heading off with some of our Rainbow family to a fiesta. It was in a neighboring town at the home of our long-time cook, Neng. We had a great time!

Friday, we got together with a family from Chicago who adopted Michael 12 years ago. We started the morning getting Andrew from the airport, who was making his second visit back to his Rainbow home. He and his mom visited last year from Ohio. We had a nice little pre-reunion time at our house Friday night.

IMG_3151

Saturday was an all-day affair. Prep and set up for the wedding. The wedding was scheduled for 4:00 pm, with a reception on our nearly-famous, thatched-roof patio. It's the last wedding under Rainbow's ministry, and it was a sweet one. The bride's name is Honey!

IMG_3233

IMG_3242

Father's Day, started off with an early power outage, we call them brown-outs here. Not a welcome start, but not unusual.

Then we headed to the airport to pick up our daughter. Seeing her made up for the early brown-out!

Bec_meBecause it was so hot, we headed for the air-conditioned mall. Of course, several thousand other people had the same idea! It was packed, but we walked around, ate a nice lunch, walked some more and shopped a bit. Shortly after we got home the power was restored... ah, relief!

As Sunday came to the US, my children sent me texts and tried to Face Time. Hey, things don't always work the way we want, but I'm blessed that we can stay in touch, even thousands of miles apart.

It's likely a very different Father's Day celebration than most dads had in the US, but maybe not. Though I miss my other kids and grandkids, it was a good day, and a good weekend.

Gabe_parents1Today is Monday, the day after Father's Day, but we have an extended celebration. The last child to be adopted out of Rainbow got to meet his new family today! Bittersweet for us, but overflowing joy and excitement for this newly bonded family.

It's been quite a weekend, and it will only get more full of special memories and blessed relationships this week.

Home at Last, for the Last Time

sunrise_porch3We’re home. We’re back in our cottage at Rainbow Village. This is where we lived for several of the fifteen years we lived in Dumaguete City. It’s still been home over the past several years, though we reside in Florida now.

But this is the last time we will come to this cottage.

A special place

It’s special to us in many ways. Many friends helped build what Susan and I designed. We found a floor plan in a magazine and modified it, rather, we made it fit our Filipino environment.

A-girls_porchBut it’s not just the cottage, as much as we love it. It’s the memories attached to it. These memories, built out of relationships and events, are what make it special.

Memories built out of relationships and events are what make it special

It still feels like home with all of its eccentric elements, including the heat and humidity of the tropics. When it’s hot, we pray for rain. When it rains and rains for days on end, we hope for dry weather.

The elements are intense

storm_rvmUV rays penetrate everything that is exposed to them. And the insects! It is a never-ending battle against mosquitos that bring disease, flies that multiply faster than imagination, and the onslaught of wood-boring insects too numerous to mention. They even eat through drywall (gypsum) board!

It’s a tropical paradise with coco palms and unusual fruit trees, ultra-salty and warm seas that ripple onto varying colors of sand. The seas are full of fish and coral and other creatures found only in tropical aquariums in other parts of the world.

A bittersweet time

But this is a bittersweet time. This will be the last time we are able to watch the sun rise and set from our bamboo and thatched-roof porch.

devo_porch2Many a morning has begun with reading devotions, greeting the staff as they come and go, while planning for the day ahead.

This cottage has hosted board meetings—times when we’ve reflected on God’s faithfulness to this ministry for more than two decades, and made important decisions. Those on the board are our kind and gracious friends. They’ve helped us and encouraged us many, many times.

It’s been home to our two daughters, as well as us, and also to other guests over the years. Though it’s called the Kimball Cottage, it’s not ours. Never was. And it, as with all the buildings and property, will be used by others after us.

Our privilege

sunset_porchBut we had the privilege to design, layout, and build these buildings. Even after a tragic fire in 1997, where we lost five children, God enabled us to rebuild and build more than we imagined at first.

Abandoned babies and children have been restored, grown up, and placed into their own families around the world. Girls, and young women, abused and without hope, have found love, restoration, and eternal hope. Each of them came to the cottage to visit, or when they needed special attention.

This was our privilege, this was our work, and it’s been fulfilling beyond expectation.

We did not do the work alone.

We partnered with Filipino staff who became family to us. We watched their children grow up and have their own children. We also saw most, if not all, become members of God’s family.

A reunion and celebration

wedding_porchSoon, we will welcome some of the families who adopted children from Rainbow. Many are grown up now. These families, and some of our former missionary staff, will join us and the present staff to celebrate. We will rejoice in God’s goodness, together.

Fittingly, our reunion weekend will follow a wedding, one of many held on Rainbow’s property. This wedding features one of the young women who went through our program for abused girls. This is a treat for us, and it is part of the enduring fruit we’ve seen over the years.

Last December, God made it clear to us that the time had come for Rainbow’s ministry to close. He gave us Eccl 3:1–

cottage_sunriseTo everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.

But, as sad as that may seem, we rejoice—not for the ending, but the completion of a mission given to us almost a quarter century ago. Our mission was one small part of a much greater mission given to all the church (Matt 28:19-20).

In a few short weeks, we’ll gather together in a reunion of our extended Rainbow family to celebrate.

What can I say, God is good, and we rejoice in Him.

S-bday-serenadePS— In the early darkness of the morning, we were greeted by several of our staff and Rainbow family with a serenade.

This is a precious Filipino tradition of greeting the birthday celebrant at the beginning of their day. It includes songs and testimonies, and of course, food!

Since this is probably the last time Susan will be serenaded here, it was a very special time.

These Are a Few of Our Favorite Things

©tkbeyond / word-strong.comIn the Philippines, celebrating Christmas starts early. We joke that celebrating Christmas begins in the "Brrr" months— Septembrrr, Octobrrr, Novembrrr. Of course, the temperature doesn't fall below 75°F too often, so it's more of a mindset than reality. Here in the Philippines, we don't worry about offending people when saying, "Merry Christmas!" Most everyone celebrates Christmas with lots of activities.

This week we've enjoyed two Christmas parties, a baby dedication, and renewed fellowship with our Rainbow and Dumaguete City family. These are a few of our favorite things.

If you're familiar with popular Christmas music, you know the tune, maybe even the words, to the song, "These are a few of my favorite things." It mostly revolves around cold weather experiences.

Our favorite things in the Philippines aren't things but people. As mentioned in last week's post, most of the rest of the world values people over things, and events over tasks. This post is a simple reflection of that.

©tkbeyond/word-strong.com

Our first party was at CCTC where I shared a Christmas message to the staff and students. We had lots of fun and food! A Filipino tradition is secret gift giving dance called Manita-Manito. It includes random styles of dancing and making people guess who will receive our gift. It is pure and simple fun! There were also songs, dancing, and skit performances, which are the usual fare for most Christmas parties.

The next day we had our annual Rainbow Christmas party for our children, girls, and staff and their families. It takes a lot of preparation, but it's well worth it. It's a high-point of our calendar.

©tkbeyond/word-strong.com

We have a children's presentation of the Christmas story, games, songs, presentations, gift giving, and food. This year we were blessed with having Freddy, one of our Rainbow kids adopted several years ago, joining the festivities and sharing a song. Sponsored students also shared in the fun, along with the children, girls and staff.

©tkbeyond/word-strong.com

This Sunday we were blessed to witness the dedication of the newest addition to one of our Rainbow families. After church, we enjoyed a celebration lunch with extended family. It was a full-packed weekend to start our time here in Dumaguete!

Although we miss our family in the US, we really enjoy all the people and events that are part of our Christmas celebration here. It's still like home to us after so many years.

May your Christmas celebration be filled and blessed with people and events celebrating the birth of Jesus. He is indeed, the Reason for the Season.

The Longing of Belonging

IMG_0627Why is it so important to belong? What drives a person to want to belong to someone? To be included within a family or relationship? My wife and I, along with our family and staff, have seen a couple hundred or more children go through our ministry in the Philippines. These children are either reunited with their family of origin or adopted into a new family. Every child longs to belong to a family. Each child wants their own father and mother. It is a longing of belonging. This longing exists within every person. It is seen in its purest form in a child. The need for nurture, and the need for love and acceptance. We saw this when children, whether abandoned or surrendered by their family, came under our care at Rainbow. The need to belong trumped the fear of a new place and new faces. A sense of abandonment, even rejection, was overcome with love and inclusion into our (Rainbow's) surrogate family.

This past year we've seen several adult Rainbow children, those who were adopted into a family of their own, return to their roots. They seek information and connection. They want to know their origin, where they came from and, if possible, their family of origin.

This is a longing on the part of every person, but it often gets stuffed, denied, or diverted in some way. Not just to be a part of a family or to know our family of origin, but something more.

I believe this is at the heart of space exploration, the quest of anthropological research, and genealogical searches. Where did we come from? Why are we here? What is our purpose in life? It begins in early childhood and carries on into our twilight years.

IMG_0675While looking at family photos before their birth, a child queries, "Where was I?" Remembrances of childhood and earlier years flood the thoughts and conversation of people nearing the end of their journey on earth. The child and the elder both have a longing to be with family. As a child, we try to catch up with the rest of the family. As we age, we reflect on the vibrancy and expectant life of the young and years gone by.

Is it just a need to belong or something more? Is it a stirring of the heart for what's ahead or what lays beyond this life? Others have observed the similarities in the way children and the elderly act. I believe it's more than behavioral likeness. Something inside drives it. But what?

Humanity is fascinated with origins. Many asian and ancient civilizations hold to ancestor worship, or at least ancestral veneration. But if God is not central to this interest, the picture remains fuzzy. A major piece of the puzzle is missing.

What are your first recollections of God? Did you experience something as a child that revealed God's existence or stirred up interest to know if He exists? Think back to your childhood, what do you remember?

I'd like to hear your story, your childhood recollection of God. Would you share it with me?

I'll share mine with you next time.

A Hope and a Future

The two shall become one. This is a fascinating truth of the marriage bond. The first man and woman, created and bonded together by God in the garden, were of one flesh—literally. The woman was created from a rib taken out of the man (Gen 2:21-24). Nowadays, thousands of generations later, we see this as figurative rather than literal. Yet, it is still true, and for me, a fascinating truth. wedding-6

A little over a week ago, after months of planning and a week or so of intense preparation, we had a double wedding at Rainbow Village. It's a wedding that began with a restoration of hope in the lives of two young women in their young teens. They were the victims of sexual abuse and brought to Rainbow in need of safety and hope for a future. Their life situation was dire and hopeless in their eyes.

The oft quoted verse from the prophet Jeremiah to God's people, in Jeremiah 29:11, is taken as a personal promise by many people today. It was given at a major low point in Israel's history, when they were exiled from their homeland and in bondage. The idea of having hope and a future seemed beyond their present reality, but God gave them this promise of restoration.

And so, this promise of future restoration, of having hope, became relevant for the young girls and women brought to Rainbow under our care. They had no hope of breaking the cycle of abuse and poverty they had known. They also had no hope in God. Many came with little to no education, nor a sense of anything good to come in the future.

A major element of our program for abused girls and young women at Rainbow is guiding them into a personal relationship with God, so they have an enduring hope, a living hope. Over the years, this is a primary factor in the restoration and redemption in their personal lives.

wedding-1The double wedding was a lot of fun and a great blessing to these young women and their husbands. It has not been all smooth sailing for them since they left our Agape program at Rainbow, so we rejoice that, once again, we are blessed to be a part of further restoration and hope in their lives.

Many people in the Philippines, and other developing nations, don't get legally married because of poverty. Sounds strange to a western mind-set, but it's true. I once did a multi-couple wedding many years ago (I think there were twelve couples). It was sponsored by a benefactor with strong ties to the city government. It's a whole story in itself, but the joy and fulfillment of the wedding and legal marriage was evident.

Over the past couple years we (at Rainbow Village) have helped three of our former Agape girls get legally married. It is quite a process in the Philippines. There are legal papers and seminars required. Just getting all the legal papers in order is a major accomplishment. It's a project that takes time, but so worth the time and effort.

It was a great day of celebration and the whole staff participated. They decorated, cooked, cleaned, took photos, and set things up. Then, of course, they served and cleaned up afterwards. The joy and fulfillment for these couples is satisfying to us all.dec_patio

These young women who had no hope of a good future when they came to Rainbow, are blessed once again. Being an abused single woman, especially single mothers, without education and embedded into a cycle of poverty is discouraging. Marriage does not mean everyone lives "happily ever after." But it does provide these young women with a better sense of hope for the future. We're glad to be a part of that with them.

Updates from Alicia for Jan/Feb 2012

Here's some quick updates from Alicia Heinz, our new field director. Enjoy the photo collage she made (at end of this post) & please keep her in prayer, she's our only missionary staff on site at Rainbow. Thanks!

We started the month by celebrating New Year’s Eve, and my birthday (Jan 1!)

The Kimball’s finally left and returned to the states. (I really do miss Susan.)

We took in 2 new boys: ages 7 and 2 (or so we estimate); they’d been abandoned.

A staff member of 16 years retired and we had an all-staff despedida (a going away party) for her.

We have several construction projects planned for the year and have just completed having the office roof painted and are now just starting to replace the damaged flooring on the outdoor patio. Next is repair work and painting of my house.

Had a birthday party for one of our little boys who just turned 1 year old!

Planted several new trees on the property (3 in front of my house =D) ‘cept now it looks like 2 died!!

We provided the money and supplies to install a water line for one of our past agape girl’s family. (She had to walk for 30 mins. just to get water in a can and then take it back to her house!) Now she, her husband, and 2 little babies can get clean water!!

We gave out over 90,000 pesos in relief money (over $2000) to staff and school sponsorship students whose homes and belongings were damaged during the Sendong flooding.

Started up a staff bible study (we meet 2x’s a week), and a missionary ladies’ prayer meeting.

A group of sorority/fraternity college young people came for a visit and brought snacks for our children and stayed and played and read stories to them.

We hosted visiting members from ABSNet, a country-wide organization, who oversee the standards and licensing of NGO and social welfare organizations; and then also hosted their 1st Quarter yearly meeting. (This was really great because I got to meet several of the administrators of other local and regional ministries).

Took almost a week but I finally found a place to have our Rainbow newsletters printed in color.

One of our new piggies died =( We have no idea what could have happened to it! It had not been sick, no fever or diarrhea…but we think it may have been a poisonous snake or insect bite because it was so sudden.  We are hoping to buy 2 more this month.

Give and Share

This year we have much to be thankful for as we begin 2012. There were some lean times for Rainbow this past year, since many of our supporters have gone through economic difficulties. But the Lord has continued showing usHe's our provider.

One of the ways we were blessed this past year, reaching into this new year, is through a special project in Norway. One of our adoptive families helped organize a "Give and Share" open market. It was sponsored through the Julsundet School in Norway. They held what we call in America a rummage sale, in the Philippines it would be called ukay-ukay—selling various things from clothing to toys to food for raising funds.

36522576-Julsundet_Sch

They wanted to give from what they have to help us care for the children here at Rainbow. We are amazed at the incredible amount of funds they raised, and we are very blessed with their care and generosity! Here are some of the ways we've utilized these funds for the benefit of the children— a new TV and DVD player for the children to watch videos, a new washing machine (our staff wash a lot of clothes!), a new CD player for the children to hear their music, some wonderful toys for Christmas, and a long overdue remodeling of our kitchen (sink and counter) where a lot of delicious and healthy food is prepared.

36520060-Rainbow_Blog1

Something wonderful about all this is how a link with an adoptive family in another country blesses our children (and staff who care for them), while providing work for a pastor friend and his crew, helping them and their ministry. God is good and we are blessed! Thank you Lord for all your blessings!

36520072-Rainbow_Blog2

Back to Normal?

After only two full days of being a quasi refugee center, of sorts, life is returning back to normal at Rainbow. However, is it ever really normal? Not really. I brought the few families staying with us back to their homes today, but none of them are back to normal, as you can see from the photos here and in this album (http://goo.gl/5GzdV). 

35788171-MJ_fam

Once the shock and fear of the flooding subsides, there is an understandable desire for things to return to some kind of normalcy. A couple of observations after our short stint of temporary sheltering some of our extended Rainbow family— home really is where the heart is—

35788172-B-H-walls

and the Filipino Bayanihan spirit is alive and well. Even though things are not in a good state—no power, mud all over, broken walls and torn up roofs, no sewer system and so on—everyone wants to be in their own place.

35788155-R-M_house

One of the Filipino cultural traits is called Bayanihan, which (loosely) expresses the idea of helping one another in a time of need. I realize it's not just a Filipino trait, but it's still extraordinary to see those whose homes are destroyed or damaged assisting others in the same situation, along with those not in the same situation helping those in need.

35788152-Em-Em

 When I went to visit one our Rainbow family's home (orphans, but grown up now), the boys were off to another area devasted by the flood to help some friends clean up.

35788154-Juvy

I'll not say much in this post, I'll let the photos do the talking ("a picture is worth..."). But one of the ways we are looking to help is with the rebuilding necessary for the families connected to Rainbow. We have no specific plans, although some initial assessment has been done, so we want to set aside funds as they come in for doing some rebuilding.

35788168-DSC_0247

Most of the homes need new roofs (some were torn open to climb up on getting out of the water flooding in), and there are a few walls that need rebuilding.

35788165-L-roof
35788142-Fe-wall

 Another dilemma is the sewer (drainage) problems, and rewiring and reestablishing power to homes.

35788146-Fe_house

There's a lot to be done in the coming weeks and months. How it will be done and who will be helping (many of our usual workers are invovled with their own homes or surrounding homes already) is not clear. So, we would appreciate prayer for wisdom, guidance and provision as we look for ways we can help.

If you want to help out in some way, please donate through our account (Rainbow- #511) at Shepherd's Staff, put a memo for "RVM Relief Fund". Thanks!

 

An Unexpected Reunion

We were anticipating a fun celebration with over 160 people connected to Rainbow Village's ministry, at our annual RVM Christmas party where families and sponsored students would join us for some food and fun. But... a strong storm interrupted our plans. Instead, we woke up on the day of the party to strong rain and wind, and no power. As the morning progressed, we saw water gathering around our buildings, but we knew it would be much worse in other areas. By the afternoon, we had cancelled the party, but many coming from far away were on their way already. Two of our families were stuck in a no-man's land—in a bus. They couldn't get home because of a washed out bridge, but there was no place to stay and no money to do so anyway. Back to Rainbow they came to stay with us for the night.


We heard that many homes had been destroyed and there was widespread flooding in the mountains above us and near the swollen rivers in our city and surrounding areas. Knowing there were families we knew in the flooded areas spurred us to check on them. It's hard to put into words, and even pictures don't convey how devasting it is to lose everything you own. We know the feeling having survived a major fire at Rainbow in 1997, but this time we were on the other side of the loss.

The damage and loss of life is much worse farther south from our island in northern Mindanao, but even here there is loss of life and many, many homes lost. Of course, surviving it all is great, but during the crisis it's terrifying and unsettling. Many of our friends and extended Rainbow family spent the early morning on their rooftops watching the flood that had woken them up. When a flood comes, it comes fast with little time to do anything but seek higher ground, somewhere safe. After the initial shock, comes the clean up and tedious task of sorting through what's left. What can be salvaged is and what cannot must be accepted.

When you start off with little it may seem small to lose everything, but that's not the case. Many of these same families went through the harrowing experience of a flash flood only 3 years ago. But the hardest thing is the loss of life, especially the little ones. After showing up at Rainbow drenched and cold, one of our staff told of their neighbor's five-month old baby being washed away. Our long-time, faithful cook, Neng, told me of a one-year old baby floating just outside her home. These are the difficult things to handle.

Last night we housed many who were once again at Rainbow, after moving on with their lives and moving out of Rainbow. This morning we had a time of worship, then prayer, then some breakfast. Three of our families were able to return home today, but there are several who will be back at Rainbow tonight, after working to clean up from the flood. Please pray for the many affected by these devasting floods. If you want to help out in some way, please donate through our account (Rainbow- #511) at Shepherd's Staff, put a memo for "RVM Relief Fund".

Our New Field Director

We haven't properly introduced our new field director, Alicia Heinz, so here's her first newsletter sent from the field. Alicia arrived in mid November and has jumped right into the work flow. We're glad she's here and partnering with us at Rainbow Village!

Alicia served at Rainbow several years ago, and filled in as an interim field director for us when Susan and I needed to return to the US, in the spring of 2005. After her time at Rainbow, she went to India where she served for a few years with a church near Chennai. She has been living with family in Northern California for three years, where she's been in fellowship with Calvary Christian Center in Alameda, CA.

We're glad she's at Rainbow once again!

Blessings

One of the great blessings of Rainbow's ministry is seeing children united with families. Over the years, we've often been asked if it's hard to say goodbye to the children when they are adopted. Of course, when you get to know someone and care for them, there's a certain amount of sadness in saying goodbye's. But one of the core beliefs Susan and I have held since the beginning of Rainbow's ministry is this—every child needs to have a family of their own, their own dad and mom (and siblings too!).

35196853-SAM_1185

Over the years we've seen this inherent need in every child, young and old. Right now there's even a label put on a generation of young people in America that makes this point—"the fatherless generation." I'm not sure who is included, but this has been a problem in the rest of the world for years, decades, even centuries. What we do at Rainbow is a very small part of what is done throughout the world. And we're glad to play our small part in it.

35197504-DSC_0024

A few weeks ago, we had two wonderful families from Norway come to meet their new children. The bonding of the children went very well, and it was a sweet time hearing the testimonies of these two couples. One family had two daughters, with one adopted from China. The other couple have waited several years to become a family. Both couples had been waiting for 3+ years for this moment.

35197867-DSC_0027

Being a part of the process of seeing families bond with abandoned or surrendered children is sweet. We count it a privilege and it's one of the blessings Susan and I enjoy while here. One of the ongoing prayer requests we have is for good Christian families to adopt the children in our care. Now you have a little background for that request.

35199948-DSC_0037

Adoptions aren't just one of the things we do at Rainbow, they're at the core of who we are as a ministry. It reflects our heavenly Father's heart—"You have been the helper of the fatherless" (Psalm 10:14). This is expanded on in Gal 4:4-7—

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. (ESV)

So, at Rainbow, adoptions truly are blessings—for the children, the adoptive families, and all of us in the Rainbow ministry family.

Another Season

As the early morning quiet gives way to the start of a new day, Susan and I sit on the porch of our former home of many years. In the background children's songs play as the babies are brought outside to enjoy the morning coolness. The chatter of the yaya's (caretakers) is preceded by the cacophony of pedicabs (motorcycle-taxis) and thousands of roosters in the pre-dawn darkness.

34352592-DSC_0735

We are blessed with living in two beautiful places on opposite sides of the world. In northeast FL, we live by the beach and are surrounded by beautiful wetlands for miles. We also enjoy having our four grown children and their families (including 2 grandchildren!) living close to us. At Rainbow, we have an extended family reaching around the world, and friendships of 20+ years.

In Dumaguete, life is much simpler, although it has changed much in the past decade. Twenty years ago, there were few choices available for food and phones—now there's a plethora of possibilities. Everyday life at Rainbow has gotten much simpler and quiet. Three long-term missionaries have just returned to the US (see previous post), and there is half the number of children from times past. King Solomon said, "For everything there is a season..." (Eccl 3:1).

We are enjoying a quieter season for now, though still busy with many daily concerns. We've learned before that quiet seasons are usually short-lived. Looking back over the past twenty years we've seen many lives changed from despair into hope. We've also seen many changes—some very difficult and challenging—all are part of the fabric of Rainbow's story.

34352780-DSC_0056

For now, Susan and I are going to enjoy this quiet season while it lasts. We are looking forward to what the Lord's direction will be for the next year. One of the things often considered is the idea of writing the story of Rainbow. The thing is, it's not just one story, but hundreds of stories—the stories of all the children and girls, and those who have served at Rainbow over the years, not to mention all the adoptive families.

If you've got a story to share, please send it to us— directors@rainbowvm.org — we'd like to start compiling some stories and even post some on our FaceBook page [http://goo.gl/AtoDr]. Also, keep checking for our relaunch of Rainbow's website...hopefully it will happen this week.