Friday, December 28, 2007

Paul and Tracey were here five years ago to adopt Criza from another home in the southern Philippines; we picked them up at the airport last night, here to adopt Christian from the little children's home.

They came down to our home for breakfast this morning and met Christian here. Criza had been slow to warm up to her dad when they first met... it was relief and joy when Christian went very quickly to Paul--and clearly feels very safe in his massive arms.

We always would like to share as much of our children's home culture with families as possible, so it's been a full day of lunch at an art gallery, a visit to the petroglyphs in Angono, shopping at the market in Antipolo, and a visit to the church there.

Then it was back to the Gunderson's home for a nice visit and dinner.

Criza's an excited big sister...

...and an eager shopper, so I think tomorrow will likely include a trip to the mall.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas is for giving, and a lot of people have given to make it a special day for children and families in our area. Early in the morning, we had a give-away of food bags for families and toys for children.

We gave away more than 500 bags of rice and other food goods to families, and maybe twice that many presents to children. Until we ran out anyway, each child got a balloon with their present--so the street was filled with color and happy children opening their presents.

A mothers and darlings support group gave coloring books and crayons for the children, and mission-aries in the area pooled their resources to buy the food. There were also toys sent over from Singapore for the children.

My brother, who was visiting for the holidays, got to share the experience with us. He said, 'I wish I could live this way everyday.'

Saturday, December 22, 2007

It was not especially good news that the angel brought to Mary. She was going to be stoned to death. In the best case scenario, her life would be spared by our queasiness before the law. At the very least she would be shamed and bring shame to the ones she loved. This is not immediately, obviously good news. Something about Mary’s faith enabled her to hear good news in the message the angel brought, ‘The holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.’


Last night Kevin and I were coming home from the last day of classes before the Christmas break. It had been a pretty full day and we were both happily exhausted. But when we went to get on the motorcycle to come home we found a flat tire. There are no spares on a motorcycle, and all the vulcanizers nearby were closed. But after fighting the wheel off, we found a taxi who would take us to find someone to fix it.

That was when our rather mundane, late-night nuisance started to turn into something more miraculous. The vulcanizer we found was quiet. There was a party or family gathering going on around him, but he went about his business very professionally. I told Kevin, ‘It’s nice to watch someone who takes pride in his work.’

When he saw that the valve stem was sheered off he asked me if I had another tube. Of course there was nowhere to buy one so late at night, so he said, 'Ako lang gumagawa.' (I'll just make one.)

He put the stem back inside the tube, melted a piece of rubber over the old hole, and then hammered the stem through the patch—good as new. With just a few simple tools he had done what was totally impossible for me.


We had a hard time finding a ride back to where we had left the bike. We ended up walking, taking a jeepney and then a tricycle. The trike driver was a lot of fun, joking about charging us twenty-five dollars instead of twenty-five pesos because we were foreigners. I had just barely enough Tagalog to make the conversation camaraderic. And, again, there was a surprising confidence in his skills.

It was late so there was no traffic, and after how long it had taken us to find a ride, the speed he got the tricycle up to on Katipunan Avenue was thrilling. I had no good foothold on the side of his vehicle, and felt always like I was going to fall off—but the feeling was exhilarating more than terrifying.

When we got to the bike, Kevin and I both had the same unspoken fear. We’d had a hard enough time getting the wheel off—and no clear idea how to get it back on. When to be sure it was on right, when the brakes were set right. Maybe I shouldn’t have been so surprised when he offered to help, but I certainly didn’t expect it. I’m not handy with tools at the best of times, but things came into his hands just as he needed them and the wheel was back on in a fraction of the time that would have tortured Kevin and I on our own.


Our third encounter happened when we got back to the gas station where we had left the bike. I had locked away all the bolts and small parts we had taken off, but there was one large part I didn’t want to carry and couldn’t fit inside the locking compartment. So I had set it close by the bike where I hoped no one would notice it.

Well, it was gone when we got back. Our trike driver slash mechanic angel couldn’t even have helped us. And it just felt like the one-more-thing, turning our multiple frustrations into a global failure. It would have ruined not only the night but the next morning as well.

Not that I expected any help, but I started asking the gas station attendants if they had seen anything. I was surprised how long it took him to come forward, but one of the managers came over and told me he had hidden the part better, ‘Because there are many thieves.’

Even here the miracle had the face of an inconvenience. It was sickening to the stomach to look at the patch of cement where I had left the part, knowing it wasn’t going to reappear for all my hopefulness. But someone had looked out for us. Someone had seen to it that our misfortune didn’t turn into despair.

It’s telling this story the morning after when you begin to see these three men as angels, sent from God. This Christmas let’s grow in the faith to see miracles in our misfortunes the way Mary did.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Here's the trick: to photograph Senon he has to think you're taking someone else's picture. I've never been able to get a decent picture of him before, but when I was just playing with the kids, taking pictures randomly, I suddenly noticed I'd captured something of this captivating child.

Anyone will tell you that Senon's a special child. And I don't just mean his miraculous discovery in a garbage can some minutes after he was born and abandoned there. He has a winning, if reserved, personality.

He's in a room full of age-mates who are camera hogs. Try taking a picture of someone other than Nikka, and she'll grab the camera out of your hand. You have to do everything on the sly.

And Dennis and Jay are just so boisterous and charis-matic, Senon must feel like he's invisible sometimes. He's often a little melancholy, and his development is a little bit delayed, but his quiet charm is captivating.

Senon, we have to catch your smile off-guard; but that makes it all the more guarded a treasure.