Sunday, August 2, 2015

meeting lyka: part 1

The internet signal's been too weak here in the hotel to post the last two days.  But today...we're in business!

Friday was a day we'll never forget.  Ever.  I'm just in awe of the grace and beauty of God's deep love for us.  He's constantly at work even when we think he's not.  When we're lost in the mundane; the monotony.  He's orchestrating blessing.  Too bad I don't see it or feel it most days.  This day was different.  It was humbling.

Meeting Lyka, who we've sponsored through Compassion since 2007, was beyond words.  It was that feeling we all have sometimes of being small, almost invisible, on such a large planet full of billions of people and then suddenly seen.  I've wondered how I can possibly matter when there are just so very many of us.  How can we all matter to God?  And then all of the sudden yesterday we were seen because God intersected our paths, over eight years, through hundreds of written words, and thousands of miles.

Our hearts have been knitted together not by the monetary transactions that have occurred over the years to Compassion (we're talking about a mere $38 a month!), but through the letters and photos exchanged between us.  I never thought we would meet in person!  Although I did dream.  I asked God so many times if he would bring us together.  I invited her to come live with us and study in America (which kind of makes me chuckle now -- I am such a dreamer at heart)!  I so wanted to hug her one day.  

I visited the Compassion website many times for information about joining a travel group to visit her in the Philippines.  $2000 would be the cost.  Per person.  It just seemed an unattainable pipe dream. But not for God.  Our dreams are his blessings.

Shortly after Christine stole our hearts, we made the decision to adopt her.   Not long after that, it occurred to me that we would one day be traveling to the Philippines.  Of all places.  I began to see that God was going to give me the desire of my heart, just like the Bible says he does.  Why do I doubt?  Could it be that we could actually plan a detour and go meet Lyka?  JD was game (love that man).  I started poking around and saw glimmers of hope.  Sure, it required extra logistics, an extra flight or two, but I knew it would be worth it.  

We were to be in our hotel lobby at 8 AM to be transported to the Compassion Center.  As I was asking the woman at the hotel's front desk a question, I heard someone call my name.  I turned and there was Jesse, the woman who would be our guide.  She then said, 'Here is Lyka' and *boom* Lyka stands up from the couch in the lobby and is standing before me in person.  I choked.  How could it be that I was actually looking into her eyes, not at a photo.  Watching her grow up from eight or nine years old to a beautiful young lady of 17 was through photos and updates from Compassion.  This time I saw her.  She saw me.  Together, He saw us.  Instinctively, my arms flew open and I wrapped them around her.   She is so shy; so very quiet.  But we looked at each other through misty eyes.  Mercy!

At the church/Compassion Center, we were able to review her file: see her progress over the years, how Compassion seeks to meet every child's physical (health, medical and dental), spiritual (devotions, teaching, fellowship), emotional (counseling) and educational (schooling and guidance) needs, and there were copies of all the letters I'd written her (!).  What an amazing organization!  There are over 200 children in this local program.  The need is great!  The odds are stacked against these kids without programs like Compassion's.  

And our kids groan about going to an 8:30 service!  Try having praise and worship before the service starts at 7:00 AM.  

Isn't it sweet to see Lyka and Christine standing next to each other?

After hearing how Lyka's thrived in this program, we requested to walk to her home to meet her family.  I wanted to experience her life a little and literally walk the paths she walks in life.  It was almost more than I could bear.  The sites, sounds, smells.  The reality that we are 1% of the world's population was staring me straight in the face.  I pleaded with Jesus to help me get through this time of entering deeply into this community, including going to visit Lyka's home.  I actually started to feel anxious.  Clearly, God has a great deal of work left to do in me.  I was ashamed at the struggle that was brewing in me due to my overly comfortable, plush lifestyle. 

We met this mama and her twin boys along the way.  I told her I too have twin boys and asked if I could take their picture.  She was happy to oblige.  Look, Brooks and Jackson!...these little boys like to play with toy guns too!  It's universal.  Aren't they precious?

We walked down muddy streets, passed a school with children running around, yelling out to us.  Lyka was as quiet as a mouse.  These were her friends, neighbors, family.  She was missing school this day to spend the day with her sponsors (this is what she told me).  She was excited -- although much more conservative with her excitement than me.  :)  As we strolled, I asked Jesse if it was common to have sponsors come visit the children.  I thought she'd say, 'Yes, everyone month or two' but instead she said they had two sponsors come once from Hawaii with a Compassion group and that was two years ago.  It became quickly evident to me how fortunate we were to make this trip.  It blessed us as much as it blessed Lyka and her family!

We tiptoed over boards that crossed over where the water from the bay had washed up debris and trash as it was high tide.  It was literally a creek or river running under the homes.  This is nothing to her.  This is just the way life is.  This is her community; her hometown.    

Lyka's father is a fisherman so they live on the water.  Lyka regularly asks us to pray for his safety.  He had arrived home the day before after being out at sea for weeks.  She was excited that he would be joining us for the day.  Her mother, father, older sister (22) and younger brother (7) and two caseworkers were our company for the day.  It was precious to be with them.

They warmly welcomed us into their home.  I was struck with a sense from her mother that they had been preparing for us.  It made me think of Martha from the Bible -- and myself! -- when guests are coming.  The simpleness of their home struck me.  Electricity is through a power strip that comes into their main room through an extension cord from somewhere.  No couch.  Just a wooden bench (Lyka's bed) and plastic chairs (patio) chairs.  Lyka and her mother sleep in this small room -- no carpet, no soft couch, nothing plush at all.  I'm not sure if they have running water.  But they're a family.  And they're together.

Lyka, her father, her brother, her mother and sister.

I was in Lyka's home.

The little girl from the photos.    

Who's not a little girl anymore.  

It felt like holy ground.  

The way they welcomed us, unceasingly thanked us, the tears (for me and them).  Her father is a very quiet man (she gets it honest).  And her brother!  Oh how I tried to break through to him.  He was the most beautiful boy I've laid me eyes on in a long time.  He would not crack.  Would barely look at me, let alone speak.  He wouldn't even agree to a photo with Lyka for my sake!  Precious child!


Lyka pulled from a drawer my letters and photos from over the years.  No words.

I didn't deserve this day.  

This opportunity.


The front of their home.

Jesse, the caseworker with Compassion who is part of the church congregation, said she lives behind them.  They're neighbors/friends.  Homes like theirs are traditional homes.  

A shot on the water before we headed out for the day. 

We learned while visiting with them that her older sister had become an entrepreneur and opened a shop called 'Wear Your Faith' selling silk screened t-shirts with Bible verses on them.  Oh, we knew we had to go and support her!  So we headed to her little shop which she'd closed for the day to be with us.  

But, first, I asked Lyka is she knew what a selfie was.  She did and she was happy to participate!  Look at her big smile.  And notice Christine's photo bomb!  :)

The outside of her sister's shop.

We moved on from there to our day's plans: to the Butterfly Garden & Palawan Tribal Village, lunch at Baker's Hill, to the Crocodile Farm & Conservatory, and finally to the grocery store to get their family some groceries (this is protocol for a visit through Compassion).  We were happy to do it! 

This was posted hear the butterfly garden.

JD's done many spear throws in his Spartan races, but this is a real spear.  


My internet's punking out on me!  The post won't update, so I'm going to end for now.  Praying this posts!  

I'll do a part 2 soon...

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