Wednesday, September 30, 2009

We were trying to keep the floodwaters out of the little children's home on Saturday morning when Helen came running up the hill, "There are children trapped, and sparks in the water."

We ran down the hill with hammers and crowbars, hoping to break something open and get people out, but the little creek you can't even see in this picture was swollen and surging up above where I'm standing here. There was no way across, so Jorge (our driver) and I took the vehicle and tried to get around to the other side.

It's a long story, but it was many hours before Jorge and I were able to make it around. In the meantime we had heard that our staff person, Benita, had been able to escape and was holed up with a bunch of others in a chapel on the other side of the hill. They were safe, but soaked and hungry. Look at the video below for a sense of how they escaped through the roof of their house and up over a rock wall.

Just up the river from Benita's house there is a long, improvised stairway up to another group of houses. Malou Mantos was watching the flooding below from her doorway, and probably thanking God that she and her family were safe, when a culvert behind their house broke loose without warning.

She had time to yell, "Run" before a landslide of mud and water burst over their ravine and crashed through the back wall of their house. She and their other children were far enough into the house to avoid the collapse, but their youngest, Ruvie Mar, was sleeping in her crib right next to the back wall. They got her to the hospital as quickly as possible, but she passed away on Sunday.

Rescue efforts morphed into housing and feeding people who had no homes to return to. I'll have to tell this part of the story again somewhere, but so many of our staff (and others) worked so hard help people in need. This is Helen, our home supervisor at Shiphrah Birthing Home, pulling broken glass out of Rose's hands and feet while her son sleeps, exhausted. If ever a case could be made for sainting a person before they pass away, I could make that case for Helen in about 2 minutes.

On Monday, Union Church of Manila brought out a dump truck full of relief goods. Here's our beloved Pastor Scott helping to unload the truck. A proper list of the volunteers who have contributed and helped would be a mile long and counter-productive. All of us feel privileged to be the Lord's hands and feet.

Yesterday we shifted our focus again from feeding and housing people to helping them put together a home, even temporarily, where they can eat and sleep. Many are still sleeping at our birthing home or in the chapel nearby. We're trying to get beds, but were able to supply some materials (a sheet of plywood and hollow blocks for bedposts) for make-shift beds just so people can move back into their homes. I carried the materials to Dexter's house, so he is helping someone else.

Our heroic Helen has worn many hats these last few days, but below you can see her handing out cooking utensils to people who have lost everything. All of us feel very fortunate to be safe and to be able to help others.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Analisa is Justin's mom, and I love her passion. She loves her son, and you can see her concern for him in her every facial feature. It is because she loves him that she has had to give him up. She wants a better future for him than her family situation can provide, so she has surrendered him to the little children's home, in the ultimate self-sacrifice, for his own welfare.

We met Analisa at the town hall yesterday, because she needed to take us to the hilot's house to get a signature for Justin's birth certificate. Mingay is the traditional birthing attendant (we might say untrained midwife -- 'hilot' in Tagalog) who delivered Justin before he was surrendered to the little children's home.

Mingay had a fever so we had to go to her house for the signature. This is how we got there.

Then, when we couldn't walk any further, we got a boat. This is in the street of the village, but six months out of every year, their streets turn into channels.

Mingay is an old- fashioned match- maker and midwife, busybody and recognized community leader. While we were signing paper work she started to tell us about another baby she had delivered who might be in danger.

The empathy between Mingay and Analisa is palpable, and you could see Analisa lean into her words--caring for her own son in the story of another little newborn in need. Her facial features are harsh, but don't mistake them. It's the ferocious love of a mother who would do anything for a child in need.

We finished up the paper work, but in between signatures we talked about the other family. Mingay said it was a long ways away, and that the water comes up to your neck. She said maybe we could come back when the water goes down, or that maybe she could talk them into coming to the home for counseling.

But she also said that they had already received an offer of P5,000 ($100) for the child. We said there was no way we were leaving without seeing them. So off we went.

Here's proof that I was the one behind the camera. Despite the seriousness of the issues we were dealing with, the people and their faith were beautiful. Mingay was hilarious, joking about getting married and moving to Canada together. There's a levity in the way Filipinos deal with hardship that is not incommensurable with forthrightness. And, besides, it's not every day you get to see a vista like this.

Since Joy, our celebrated social worker, had my camera (actually, Aubrey's camera) -- these pictures were taken with my cell phone.

Out in a field of kongkong, a vegetable grown in water, a few tiny houses float above a kind of marsh.

Helen, do you remember that Mother's Day we spent all those years ago out in Angono with Dennis and Jeri? You can see the tower we were near from Len-Len's house.

From another millennium can look out over the Makati sky line.

Arriving at their home, we found Len-Len and her mother, Mila, watching over Ivy and the newborn during their afternoon nap.

They have a diminutive, little place. One bed for (at least) five of them; a little kitchen outside, and a little cooking area inside. The kitchen/washing area outside is just a sink set in the floor that drains into the swamp under their house.

The cooking area inside is just a pot with a concrete container for burning charcoal underneath it.

But they have a dog to bark at strangers, locks on their doors, and a mark of dignity in the way they live.

Before Mingay had finished introducing us they had already asked us to take the infant, who didn't have a name yet.

It wasn't jovial, but it was very matter-of-fact. They confirmed that they had been considering selling the baby, but were very happy that we would find a good home for him--even though it meant they wouldn't make any money out of it. It's not that they didn't care about him, but situations have conspired against them so that they cannot take care of him.

While we were talking, the grandfather came home. Joy encouraged them to give the child a name, and they chose the grandfather's name, Leonardo. The grandfather's nick name is Mani, but he joked that if your name is Mani there's never any money.

As I said, they were ready to make the decision before we came all the way through the door. But Joy explained it to them very carefully. I invited them to come see the baby home and to take some time to consider their decision.

This is our farewell from the Leonardo ('Mani') on our way back to the baby home.

The did come to the home to visit. Deborah talked with them again at length. We prayed together, blessing the family and asking for God's grace to go with Leonardo.

Sleep tight, Leonardo.

Friday morning we got a call from the Department of Social Welfare in Angono. ‘Can you take a little girl we rescued into the little children’s home?’

Deborah said, ‘Yes; of course.’ But we haven’t seen a baby in Cindy’s condition for a long time. When she arrived she was caked in black grime. It took three baths and gentle soaking with baby oil to loosen up the filth around her tender eyes.

She is two months old, but feels like a premature baby in your arms—only 4# 9 oz. Her eyes stare blankly, but she is responsive and feeding well. We've had awesome responses for collecting breastmilk for her. She wasn't handling the formula very well because she's probably never had it before. But the breastmilk will make a huge difference for her.

Yesterday, Joy (our social worker) and I, went back to the police station who rescued her, and they took us to where her mother is living with her grandparents. Again it was a difficult situation. Maricel, Cindy's mother, is mentally unstable and will need psychological evaluation. She answered right away, as we had been told by the police, that she is 15. But she's actually 24. And their living conditions are pretty rough.

Fortun- ately, they live near to family who have been helping them out somewhat, but neither Maricel nor her parents have any source of income besides begging. Materially, many Filipinos live much worse off than Maricel is, but with her mental challenges thrown into the bargain, I don’t know how long Cindy would have survived with her. Like us, the family is very grateful that she is now at tlc.

We have found that the best way to support the children in our home is to establish a fund in their name for the expenses during their stay at the little children's home. Cindy needs our prayers and support as the work of rebuilding her life has only just begun. Send me an email if you would like to contribute to Cindy's care, or look for me on FaceBook for more pictures and information on Cindy.