Friday, February 23, 2007

Hannah is eight and she says she wants to work at the little children's home when she grows up. She is the third child Terje and Asa have adopted from us, and they're here visiting their birth-land.
Isaac is thirteen, and they were here picking him up the week of our wedding in 1993. Their brother, Ilias, is eleven.
Right now the family is on their way up north to see the rice terraces. We've had a great couple of days with them. See a new blog we started about places we take families when they come here for a write-up about the trip we took yesterday (

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Today is the first day of Lent. This is an important period in the liturgical calendar for remembering the Passion of Jesus. Here is a collection of photos that we took together as a family last year, challenging ourselves to find something in nature that reminds us of each of the Stations of the Cross. We offer it to you here, wishing that in some way it might become a devotional aid to you.

This first image is not properly a 'station,' but is Aubrey's impression of the Way itself. Imagine Jesus walking along it on the way to the cross.

First Station: The Last Supper

These flowers are common in our area. The cluster suggests the comfort of friends together, something all too easily taken for granted until it is the 'last' time. Photo by Darren.

Second Station: The Agony in the Garden

Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, "Sit here while I go over there and pray." He took along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to feel sorrow and distress. Then he said to them, "My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here and keep watch with me." He advanced a little and fell prostrate in prayer, saying, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will." When he returned to his disciples he found them asleep. He said to Peter, "So you could not keep watch with me for one hour? Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak" (Matthew 25:36-41).

This picture, taken by Deborah, depicts the way fear and anxiety will have eaten away at the insides of the Lord, long before he will have faced any physical discomfort.

Third Station: Jesus Before the Sanhedrin

When day came the council of elders of the people met, both chief priests and scribes, and they brought him before their Sanhedrin. They said, "If you are the Messiah, tell us," but he replied to them, "If I tell you, you will not believe, and if I question, you will not respond. But from this time on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God." They all asked, "Are you then the Son of God?" He replied to them, "You say that I am." Then they said, "What further need have we for testimony? We have heard it from his own mouth" (Luke 22: 66-71).

Jesus comes before a judiciary that simply hasn't a category for his virtue and vibrancy. He is simultaneously restrained and bursts through the restrictive categories of their righteousness. Photo by Darren.

Fourth Station: The Scourging and Crowning with Thorns

Then Pilate took Jesus and had him scourged. And the soldiers wove a crown out of thorns and placed it on his head, and clothed him in a purple cloak, and they came to him and said,"Hail, King of the Jews!" And they struck him repeatedly (John 19: 1-3).

Jesus was beaten and disfigured for our benefit. Photo by Deborah.

Fifth Station: Jesus Receives His Cross

When the chief priests and the guards saw [Jesus] they cried out, "Crucify him, crucify him!" Pilate said to them, "Take him yourselves and crucify him. I find no guilt in him." ... They cried out, "Take him away, take him away! Crucify him!" Pilate said to them, "Shall I crucify your king?" The chief priests answered, "We have no king but Caesar." Then he handed him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus, and carrying the cross himself he went out to what is called the Place of the Skull, in Hebrew, Golgotha (John 19: 6, 15-17).

This is the first picture that Aubrey took. And I thought it was kind of random. But I asked him, 'Why did you take that picture.' And he said, 'Because it reminds me of how heavy the cross was.' I was encouraged to see him so engaging the exercise at the age of four.

Sixth Station: Jesus Falls Under the Weight of the Cross

This is the only 'traditional' station that we have included in our version of the passion; there is no biblical passage for this event, but it so evocative of the suffering that Jesus went through. Jesus bore our sickness and sin in his body to the point of breaking. Photo by Darren.

Seventh Station: Simon of Cyrene Carries the Cross for Jesus

They pressed into service a passer-by, Simon, a Cyrenian, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross (Mark 15: 21).

Sometimes the support we can lend one another is almost menial, but it can make a profound difference. Photo by Deborah.

Eighth Station: Jesus Meets the Pious Women of Jerusalem

A large crowd of people followed Jesus, including many women who mourned and lamented him. Jesus turned to them and said, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep instead for yourselves and for your children, for indeed, the days are coming when people will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed.' At that time, people will say to the mountains, ‘Fall upon us!' and to the hills, ‘Cover us!' for if these things are done when the wood is green what will happen when it is dry? (Luke 23: 27-31)

This photo by Darren is of some of the popular piety of the day in the Philippines. One of the things that strikes me about Jesus is the way he honors even our meager piety.

Ninth Station: Jesus is Nailed to the Cross

When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him and the criminals there, one on his right, the other on his left (Luke 23: 33).

This photo by Deborah graphically portrays the brutality of the nails used to kill our Lord.

Tenth Station: The Repentant Thief

Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, "Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us." The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, "Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal." Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." He replied to him, "Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise" (Luke 23: 39-43).

There are two possible position for us in a situation of crisis: either we are leaning toward those around us, or we are leaning away. Sometime our angle of repose can make all the difference. Contrast this picture with the next one depicting Jesus, Mary and John, huddled into one another in their hour of despair. Photo by Darren.

Eleventh Station: Mary and John at the Foot of the Cross

Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son." Then he said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother." And from that hour the disciple took her into his home (John 19: 25-27).

Photo by Darren.

Twelfth Station: Jesus Dies on the Cross

It was now about noon and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon because of an eclipse of the sun. Then the veil of the temple was torn down the middle. Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit"; and when he had said this he breathed his last (Luke 23: 44-46).
Isaiah says, 'He was cut off out of the land of the living' (53:8). Photo by Deborah.

Thirteenth Station: Jesus is Laid in the Tomb

When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea named Joseph, who was himself a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be handed over. Taking the body, Joseph wrapped it [in] clean linen and laid it in his new tomb that he had hewn in the rock. Then he rolled a huge stone across the entrance to the tomb and departed (Matthew 27: 57-60).

Photo by Deborah.

Fourteenth Station: Jesus Rises from Death

It's maybe not surprising that the most miraculous part of Jesus' passion is the easiest to photograph. Anywhere we see new life emerging out of death we see the power of Jesus over the tomb. Photo by Darren.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

We’ve just had a surprise visit from a dear, dear friend. We first met Zo Ram Pari five years ago, when she was pregnant and came to the birthing home for checkups. She was here from Myanmar with her husband who was studying at a nearby seminary. Sadly, they suffered a miscarriage, but Pari became interested in learning midwifery to help other women in Myanmar when they went back home.

Midwifery is a key element in a developing country’s healthcare system, especially if it is to meet the needs of the poor. I just want to quote from a recent World Health Organization (WHO) document:

Every minute a woman dies somewhere in the world and many more are left disabled due to pregnancy-related complications, because they lack access to skilled midwifery care. Evidence shows that a midwife or other healthcare provider with midwifery skills offers the most cost-effective, low technology but high quality solution to achieving safe motherhood, a central component of reproductive health. In addition, midwives are crucial to help ensure newborn survival, improve maternal and newborn health and therefore reduce the estimated 7 million perinatal deaths that currently occur each year (

Pari comes from a poor family and has a passion to serve the poor she still lives with and finds herself a part of. Her husband teaches every day and she takes care of their three children (pre-teen to toddler). A meal takes three hours to cook because they use the stalks of rice plants for fuel.

But at night they have knocking on their door, and she whisks away in the dark (she took a flashlight back with her this time to make these night journeys safer) to care for others.

Studying the art of midwifery with us was a bit of a challenge for Pari since she was also learning English at the same time. She spent three years with us and then returned home to Myanmar with her family. We thought we would probably never see her again.

But the seminary her husband studied at brought her back for a women’s conference to speak about how God was using her as a midwife in Myanmar. It was lovely to be together again for more than a week. She told us her stories and her struggles. And we were able to stock her up with medical supplies, thanks to many generous hearts.

At our going-away party for her we had pizza; she’s grown to love it here and can’t get it in Myanmar.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Here's something special: the Wisconsin couple who is here right now to adopt John from the little children's home has brought with them not only their six-year-old son, also adopted from the Philippines, but also John's new grandparents.
Sandra and Ed also came along when Dean and Stacy came four years ago to pick up Roy. It's a delight to serve such a close and loving family.
Every parent knows that it takes more than two people to raise a child.
Today was a special day in the history of the little children's home. Lucy Simbulan celebrated her 20th anniversary working with us and for our children. She has been a lavendera, washing diapers all this time. Probably the hardest job we have, and always with a smile.

She's had health, family and financial problems--but she has never (never!) let us down in the laundry. We've had water shortages and poor, broken equipment (most of our laundry she has done by hand), but she has been absolutely faithful. Her missing-tooth- but-constant- smile is one of the first things that greets everyone who walks into the home.
With high drama we told her that she needed to be available for an interview with the Department of Social Welfare and Development on her day off. Then, today we went to her house and said that they wanted to interview her at the baby home. She came, a little perplexed and a little worried--but without a clue.
When we arrived, everything was set up and everyone cried, 'SURPRISE.' Lucy stammered and cried in amazement; it never would have occurred to her that we would celebrate her special day in this way. Her family was in on the surprise too, and she was incredulous with them for keeping it from her.

Thank you to all the tlc families who sent notes and pictures to make her day extra special.