Betsy's Blog | Patience, Please

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Betsy's Blog | Patience, Please

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As we prepare to leave the Philippines and return to the states, part of us is grieving and the other part is thrilled and bursting with anticipation. We grieve as we leave my students and the Faith Academy community, Alex’s staff, our neighbors, and other missionary families. We anxiously look forward to seeing family and good friends when we return. When you see us, here are some ways you can be patient with us.

    • “Welcome back to the states” may be better than “Welcome home.” We have two homes now. One is Manila and when you see us, we’ll have just left that home. We’re not sure yet if we’re leaving it for a little while, for a long while, or forever.

    • If we say “salamat!” we mean thank you.

    • If we say o’o, we doesn’t mean “uh-oh something is wrong,” but “yes.” We also mean yes if we say nothing but quickly raise our eyebrows twice.

    • In fact, our eyebrows may seem weird. Here in the Philippines, people raise their eyebrows to greet one another. Raised eyebrows and a smile are the way to acknowledge others as you pass them on the street, in the store, or in the office. When we first moved here, it felt flirty/awkward/creepy; now it’s natural for both of us. (On a side note, Alex admits that when we met in the states with a missionary to the Philippines, he at first thought this missionary had an eyebrow twitch. ; )

    • If we make kissy lips, we’re not trying to flirt; we’re just pointing.

    • If we say “po,” we’re using a title of respect similar to sir/maam.

    • If we say “joke lang!” we mean “just kidding!”

    • If we say “wala” or if we make jazz hands, we mean “no more, nothing, none.”

    • If we say, “It’s more fun in the Philippines,” we’re not lost; we know where we are. This is the slogan the Philippines Department of Tourism is using in marketing to attract tourists to explore and enjoy the country.  It’s also the saying many expats here use when they’re trying to keep the right perspective after they’re pulled over for “swerving,” their sink falls off the wall, or they find out their favorite restaurant in the mall no longer exists.  Watch the PDOT's awesome video here:

The list could go on, but I think I’ll stop here. You get the idea. Although there are foods we’re looking forward to eating, we also, ahem, need to be active to try to get rid of the extra pounds we brought back (not just in our suitcases!). We’d love to bike, hike, walk, enter a 5K, swim, exercise with you, right Alex? :D

There’s something really crazy about living in and beginning to adapt to another culture. Things that seem so strange at first end up defining the new cultural experience and develop into beloved qualities. New behaviors are embraced and practiced to the point where they belong not just to the culture at large but also to the expat. Alex and I have now developed a third culture which is some combination of the culture we left in the Chicago suburbs and the culture in which we live in Manila. It’s weird how that happens. When we return to the states, there will be parts of suburban culture we’ll step right back into without missing a beat and other parts that feel extremely strange or uncomfortable. So thanks for your patience with us as we potentially (and probably at least to some extent) experience “reverse culture shock” during our transition back to the states. We’re so blessed by and thankful for each of you on our support team. We look forward to seeing many of your faces soon. :D

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Betsy's Blog | What I Will Miss

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Betsy's Blog | What I Will Miss

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Although I am by no means counting down my time left in Manila just waiting to “get home,” I am aware of the fact that 10+ months (of our “give a year and pray about a lifetime” commitment) in the Philippines means 1.5 months until we return to the States. I’m so thankful that school ends a month before we need to wrap things up to allow me to be completely present my last few weeks of school without trying to pack up and finish school all at the same time. May is a FULL month for Alex and me as it is! Nevertheless, in the back of my mind, I’m starting to think about the most efficient ways to pack our stuff as we return to the states, the goodbyes we’ll have to say on this end, and the catching up we look forward to doing on the other end. Here are some of what I will miss and what I look forward to:

What Betsy’s looking forward to: Seeing and catching up with family and friends (hint, hint ; ) Chipotle, Jimmy John’s, iKiwi Farmer’s Market fruits and veggies Temperatures below 80 degrees (more fall and spring than winter : ) Downtown Naperville Riverwalk, Wheaton Bible Church path, Herrick Lake paths, Hubble Middle School’s fitness center A bathroom sink that fits my huge hands, has water pressure, and in which i can wash my face without bumping it on a shelf ; ) Liberty Street lined with trees on both sides Driving an automatic car A trip to Chitown with a walk to Millenium Park

What Betsy will miss: The Faith community, APMedia staff, neighbor Mao, and other friends we’ve made here in Manila The friendliness of Filipinos Having the grocery store in the mall Back porch full of beautiful tropical plants Faith pool for swimming laps and campus 1km route for walking Aqua kitchen cabinets with glass doors and full windows in the back Flowers blooming year round Lack of cold weather Filipinos’ gratefulness and generosity, as well as emphasis on the group and on relationships

For the curious, our plans upon returning to the states are flexible and often changing. ; ) It looks, however, like my parents and sister will come to visit us in the Chicago suburbs upon our return. (Thank you, Regenfi!!!) Alex and I plan to return to our townhouse in Aurora, I will teach at CUSD200 in some capacity, and Alex will be launching a new division of LyonTamer Productions. Have grace and patience with us, as we don’t know exactly what the transition back to the suburbs will hold. What we do know is that in the difficult times as in the mountaintops, our God is with us. He goes before us. He will never leave us or forsake us. He protects us from behind. He has a plan. And no matter what, we want to be in the center of His will for our lives! We will be taking the first few months back in the states to continue praying about God’s plan for our future. Please pray with us for wisdom and clarity.

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Betsy and Alex's Blog | Happy Horizons Children's Ranch

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Betsy and Alex's Blog | Happy Horizons Children's Ranch

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During Betsy's spring break at Faith Academy, we were able to visit three homes for children in the Philippines. The last home we visited was Happy Horizon Children's Ranch in Cebu, Philippines. Happy Horizons Children’s Ranch is dedicated to helping the “street children” of the Philippines. HHCR includes a residential program for at risk children who have been rescued out of prostitution and abuse. Founded in 1994, it has become a leading advocate for children's rights. Below is our impressions, thoughts and experiences from our visit. 2014-03-23-10.26.15

"This was by far the most challenging of the places I visited and shared my story. I felt very awkward being there at first. As a white male in my thirties, I really prayed that my presence at the home did not conjure up images or memories of the abuse that the kids there endured. But over the two days learning all of the schoolhouse games with the kids, the awkwardness melted away into love for the kids. While it was challenging to tell my story, I was honored to "preach" a whole Sunday morning service for the first time in my life. Preaching through an interpreter allowed me to collect my thoughts and gave me an opportunity to read the audience and speak in a way that was relevant to their background." - Alex

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"Here, we met many children who were rescued from human trafficking. The girls, from toddler age to adults, were full of joy and loving toward one another. Alex shared his story during the Ranch’s Sunday morning service through an interpreter in Cebuano. This morning was the best job he’s ever done sharing his story; he was anointed. The kids and teens identified with and were encouraged by Alex’s story. In the midst of a situation, it’s encouraging to hear another person who experienced a similar situation but has come THROUGH it. I love my husband’s testimony and I love that he can share his story as evidence of the hope, restoration, and healing power of our all things are possible God." - Betsy

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Betsy and Alex's Blog | My Father's House

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Betsy and Alex's Blog | My Father's House

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2014-03-21-17.08.37-HDR During Betsy's spring break at Faith Academy, we were able to visit three homes for children in the Philippines. The second home we visited was My Father's House in Alabang, Philippines. My Father's House is a private, non-profit child-caring agency that caters to children in need of special protection, ages 4 to 17; providing them with basic needs such as shelter, education, clothing, loving parental care and spiritual nurturing. Below is our impressions, thoughts and experiences from our visit.

Alex sharing his story with the kids at My Father's House.

"We arrived at My Fathers House in Alabang, a property that had amazing resources and staff to love on the kids there. More than half of the kids from the home end up becoming adopted before they age out.  I was able to share my story and connect with the kids during their pre-camp theme announcement party. The atmosphere and experience that I had playing basketball with the kids and dancing at their pre-camp celebration reminded me of the kinship I had with my group home brothers and sisters. Though we only visited this home in the afternoon, I left feeling that the kids were cared and loved for and that MFH will help them find a forever family." - Alex

Alex attempting to dance during My Father's House camp announcement party.

"Wow! This home was such a blessing to visit! From the moment we arrived, it was evident that the entire staff was one large family. From the guard to the admin to the social workers to the house parents to the director, to kitchen staff, everyone had frequent, positive interaction with the kids and everyone pitched in. What a blessing to see the family of God exemplified in this body of believers of all ages! We enjoyed playing with the kids during their free time, chatting with staff, and participating in their special evening service. The afternoon Alex shared his testimony was also the night they found out about their summer camp teams. The anticipation was tangible as students excitedly awaited the year’s theme, teams, and camp staff announcements. With each new piece of information announced, they cheered without abandon! One of the older students who was on the camp staff team helped teach the kids the dance to accompany this year’s camp theme chorus. Not only were these kids loved, they were given many opportunities to use and develop their gifts and talents. It was incredible to see the talented team work together to make sure each child, even the youngest, was able to perform the moves. Adults were encouraging and created an incredibly fun, safe environment. Alex and I learned the dance (or tried to!) right along with them. Those kids can dance! (Alex thought he danced pretty well, with his background growing up in the hood. Don’t tell him, but I think we both stuck out like a sore thumb as we danced amongst so many talented kids! ; ) Thank you to My Father’s House for loving us and inviting us to join your family! We think of and pray for you often and hope to return!" -  Betsy

Betsy posing for a selfie with a girl from My Father's House.

 

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Betsy And Alex's Blog | Kings Garden Children's Home

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Betsy And Alex's Blog | Kings Garden Children's Home

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During Betsy's spring break at Faith Academy, we were able to visit three homes for children in the Philippines. The first home we visited was Kings Garden Children's Home in Bataan, Philippines. During World War II, thousands American and Philippines forces were marched to their death in Bataan. Many memorials are erected to commemorate this important event in American and Filipino history in Bataan.

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KGCH was established in order to provide a Christian home life in the Philippines for the poor, orphaned, abandoned, abused and neglected children and those who have experienced a crisis situation in their family. Through Biblical principles and moral values taught from the Word of God, the home attempts to break that cycle of poverty by providing a vocational education and livelihood skills. Below is our impressions, thoughts and experiences from our visit.

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"I was a bit cautious before I visited KGCH, a bit scared and unsure about what I should expect. Would visiting a group home bring up issues in me? How would the kids react to me? Would they even care to hear my story? But as I walked into a building I never entered, it seemed very familiar. Our room had two twin beds similar to my group home room and the kids immediately jumped all over me. When I did begin to tell my story, I could see that the kids were very interested. I encouraged the staff and thanked them for what they did to love the kids in the home and I encouraged the kids that with Jesus, they can know that they are never alone. Some of the staff was in tears as I spoke, which was pretty humbling. I thought it was great that the kids had an opportunity to go to school and church outside of the home and experience 'normal' Filipino life.  The home is taking efforts to help kids as they age out from care. The maternal love and friendship that Amy shows the students reminds me of the special staff that I encountered during my life in care." - Alex

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"What could make me love my husband of three years even more? Hearing him share his life story in Taglish (a mixture of Tagalog and English) with a group of older children who have been abandoned, abused, and/or neglected. Watching him get dirty playing with younger children on the playground, pushing them, running with them, sliding in the dirt with them (safe!), holding them, listening to them, observing them poke, pull and push for his attention. Seeing his heart for the fatherless in action. Alex experiences a much deeper bond with those who grew up outside of a traditional family situation than I ever could. I am so thankful for this humble man of God being willing to share what God has done in his life with others who can hopefully be encouraged by his story, which is a part of His story.

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The kids jumped on us, yanked at us, yelled for us, and didn’t want us to spend time with anyone else. They were desperate for our attention. Isn’t that exactly how each of us should be with Jesus? Desperate for His attention? The major difference in this analogy is that unlike us mortals, His presence is unlimited. When we jump, yank, and yell, He is there. For us. He never leaves us or forsakes us. And when He spends time with us, it is not to the neglect of others. I am so thankful to serve a God who cares personally about me, about you, about all. Who loves us and is with us. There is hope, redemption, and joy in Jesus!" - Betsy

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Betsy's Blog | Home

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Betsy's Blog | Home

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After living in our rented townhouse in the Philippines for over nine months, this feels as much home as it ever has. I put up two new pictures today: one in the living room and one in the hallway at the top of the stairs. Alex and I are both adjusted to and fully enjoying our ministry responsibilities and the communities in which we work each day. Yet as we enjoy work here, we are starting to think about leaving this home and preparing to return to our home in the States. We will be taking the first three months in the States to continue seeking God’s direction for our lives; there are many parts of life that are very much up in the air right now, but we know that God will direct, provide, and clarify as we wait on Him.

Something else I know is that as a six foot tall pale white woman, I will never fit in here in Asia. Alex feels like a Foreignoy (meaning Foreigner-Pinoy; Pinoy=Filipino) who fits in better than the average foreigner but who will never truly be Filipino. And after spending a year in Manila, we don’t think we will ever feel completely at home in the States. Living in a different culture does something to a person. The way I’m used to doing things is neither the only nor the best way. In fact, some aspects of culture that I’ve taken for granted aren’t even Biblically sound. I’ve learned so much from Filipinos, who are friendly, gracious, relationship-centered, generous, hard-working, humble, and grateful. Compared to life in the States, some Filipinos have so much less “stuff” yet much more joy. In fact, one of Alex's coworkers just lost everything in a house fire. Yet he continues to show up at the office each say full of joy and his family continues to minister to their community, generously sharing with others whose homes burned down as well.

It is a blatant reminder that stuff doesn’t make us happy, content, or fulfilled. Stuff doesn’t make us more fortunate or more important people. All the stuff we have comes from God, whether we have much or little. And all we have from God we are commanded to share with others. To feed the hungry. To clothe those needing clothes. To look after orphans and widows. To care for the sick. To bring light into darkness.

I feel intense tension in my heart and mind these days. On the one hand, I am planning how I can make our townhouse in the suburbs feel like a home, and I’m looking forward to certain little luxuries that we’ve been without these past few months (Chipotle, Meijer, Goodwill, Marshalls, you get the idea ; ). On the other hand, I am desiring to give away stuff I don’t need. To meet my needs but intentionally sacrifice more of my wants. Because the stuff God has given me is not meant for me, but to be used for Him. Instead of looking out for myself and how I can make my life easier and more comfortable, I want to give generously--of my time, of my interests, of my possessions. I want to remember that Manila is not my home. Chicago is not my home. Earth is not my home. I am a foreigner here, created for my home in heaven.

So this not feeling at home, it’s really a gift. A reminder of the purpose for which I’m created. A gut-check to convict me when I’m investing in the wrong things. Stuff cannot make me feel at home. No place or even people can make me feel at home. Christ is to be my only home.

1 Peter 2:9-11 “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul.”

Father, help me to spend so much time with you that you are my home. To hold what you entrust to me with an open hand and allow you to do all that you desire to do in me, through me, for me, and around me. Place people near me to stretch me, to grow me, and to show me grace. Help me in my thoughts, words, actions, and attitudes, to reflect your love.

 

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Alex's Blog | Taipei, Taiwan

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Alex's Blog | Taipei, Taiwan

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Recently, I had the opportunity to work with the APMedia Taiwan and Hong Kong staff in Taipei, Taiwan. While there, the team APMedia team and I was able to film a short youth forum program for APMedia's Chinese language website, "ZGTAI".  The question and answer style program allowed students to an opportunity to ask pastors and leaders tough questions about Christianity.  Here is a short video highlighting the trip. Screenshot 2014-02-18 19.24.28

APMedia staff and Youth Forum Participants.

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At night, I was able to visit the Taipei Night Market and was able to try the world famous "stinky tofu". Here is a video my reaction. 

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Betsy's Blog | Outdoor Education

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Betsy's Blog | Outdoor Education

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Preparing for Outdoor Education (OE), I prayed that my ten 6th grade girls would be overwhelmed by God’s love for them personally, would grasp the value He has placed within them, and that they would desire to read God’s Word daily to cultivate their personal relationship with Jesus. We prepared as a squad for OE by rehearsing our squad introduction, planning the review game and play time of our ministry day, having squad devotions together, answering questions about the week, and praying for one another. But nothing could have prepared any of us for the experiences we enjoyed together over the past five days.

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At least one of us forgot a swimsuit, a sleeping bag, a pillow, spending money, or lunch at some point. During our five days & four nights straight with one another, my amazing girls shared with each other, hurt one another, extended forgiveness, were flexible when circumstances didn’t work out how we thought they would and we needed to make last minute changes, included each other, were challenged and stretched as individuals and as a group, prayed with and for each other, encouraged each other, looked out for each other, held one another accountable and much, much more.

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Although I enjoyed the entire experience, my favorite day was Wednesday. That was our ministry day. Seeing my girls feed, clean up after, sing/dance/pray with, and explain salvation bracelets to local Filipino students blessed my heart beyond the ability to express in words. Some of my girls were able to lead someone to the Lord for the first time in their lives on this day.  The joy in my girls’ hearts and on their faces was unforgettable. After leaving the site, we talked more about how to lead another person to the Lord. (Two days later, one of my girls was able to talk with a man who worked at a snack shop about being a Catholic and being a Christian. She was able to pray with him and gave him her Bible!) Wednesday afternoon, we killed a chicken and prepared our own dinner. For some of us this was a stretch and for some of us it was a blast. Wednesday evening, the speaker’s message was exactly what I’d been praying over my girls leading up to OE. Each girl responded to God’s voice in her life and sensed God’s presence with her. Some from our group made Christ their personal Savior and wrote 2-5-14 in their Bible as their spiritual birthday. Some were challenged to give something up. Some committed to serve God no matter where He took them or what He asked of them.

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Some of my girls introduced themselves to a Filipino they’d never met for the first time. They all hiked and hiked and hiked and hiked and hiked on a volcano for the first time, seeing hardened lava flow, volcanic ash, and active fumaroles. They swam in a sulfur lake. They bathed in a lake. They slept outside on the ground twice. Some girls made Christ their personal Savior this week. Some girls had their first opportunity to lead another person to the Lord. Together, they killed a chicken and prepared chicken, veggies, fruit, and dessert for dinner. They participated in a table decorating contest. They rode a banca boat. They dissected squid. They snorkeled, went scuba diving, and lived away from family for five days/four nights. Way to go, girls!

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Watch our OE video to experience some of these firsts with us. Pray for us, that when we’re back home in our routine surroundings we would not doubt what God spoke to each of our hearts, but would continue to seek Him. Thank you for your partnership with us. You are making a difference in the lives of these MK’s (missionary kids) and TCK’s (third culture kids). I can only imagine the impact each of these girls will have as they obey God and use the gifts He’s given them to serve Him across the globe.

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Betsy's Blog | Looking Back, Looking Ahead

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Betsy's Blog | Looking Back, Looking Ahead

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I think that in the back of my head, I expected to live in the Philippines during my “give a year and pray about a lifetime” while life in the States was on pause. At the end of the year, Alex and I would return, slip back into old friendships and old positions “just like normal.” Halfway through our term in Manila, our professional, church, and friend communities in the States have experienced significant organizational, administrative, and policy changes. New administration is in place. New requirements have been added. Engagements have officially coupled some friends. Weddings others. Still others have given birth or announced firstborns on the way. Friends have moved to new homes. To different states. Friends of friends have passed away. Much has changed. And so these seven months have been a reminder that I am not in control. That there are no guarantees. I must follow the Holy Spirit’s direction to invest in the people God has placed around me right now, without pining after the past or the future. Besides, this Earth is not my home. Not the Philippines. Not Metro Manila. Not America. Not the Midwest. Not Chicago.

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God continues to challenge me to be where I am. Where He has placed me. In my classroom, that may mean answering the same question a fourth time. ; ) During the passing period, it may mean listening to a student’s story about his dog instead of rushing to prep for the afternoon’s class. Praying with a staff member instead of making copies for later in the week. At home, that may mean acting as a sounding board for Alex as he processes a new project. In our neighborhood, that may mean spending time with the little girls incessantly ringing the doorbell and calling out our names. They, like me, long to be known. I long to be known by my Father. The One who never changes. The One who will never leave me or forsake me. The One who longs for me to turn off my phone, shut my computer, and be His. The One who wants to know and be known by me, you, all.

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Typhoon Update | The Effect of Yolanda: Part 1

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Typhoon Update | The Effect of Yolanda: Part 1

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Reports on the full effect of Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines are still coming in. We are safe, okay, and pretty much unaffected here in Manila, but other areas of the country are not. Pray for the islands of Leyte and Samar-cell lines, power, and airports up and running to allow communication, full assessment of damage, and more relief; for local churches who will be beacons of hope as they distribute aid to their communities; for God's sustaining strength, peace, joy, and hope to permeate the weeks, months, and even years of recovery from this once-in-a-lifetime storm.

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To consider donating to the relief efforts, visit betsyandalex.com/YolandaPH to give directly to AGWM.

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Special Update | Typhoon Yolanda

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Special Update | Typhoon Yolanda

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Please pray for those affected by Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan is the international name). It is the strongest storm ever to make landfall in recorded history and the fourth strongest storm recorded. 25 million Filipinos were affected by the storm's rain and 195 mph winds. Pray for the local churches and ministries who are helping people pick up the pieces after the devastation caused by Yolanda. To support those affected by Typhoon Yolanda, visit betsyandalex.com/YolandaPH http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iQRu3NU0JMs

UPDATE: While Betsy and Alex have been unaffected (minus a power outage for a few hours), most of the central portion of the Philippines was affected. Here is a summary from one of our AGWM missionaries:

"Many Christians across the Philippines and the world were praying that Yolanda would weaken with minor destruction and that there would be few deaths. An earthquake comes suddenly without warning but a Typhoon gives a few days of warning to give Christians an excellent opportunity to pray earnestly. The complete report on the destruction that was caused by this storm but the silver lining is that there were few deaths and the total is not expected to be high. Yolanda did weaken from a maximum wind gusts of 379 km per hour to 268km per hour according to the Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center. This typhoon did not bring extreme rains and the people heeded the warning as 748000 people sought shelter in government evacuation centers. Many expected that this worlds strongest storm of 2013 would bring a higher death toll. TO GOD BE THE GLORY that the death toll was low. The Philippines suffered the world's strongest storm of 2012, when Typhoon Pablo left about 2,000 people dead or missing in southern Mindanao. There was one death recorded so far in Bohol where the recent earthquake 7.1 magnitude has left 350000 still living in vulnerable temporary shelter. Yes, God did answer our prayers but we need to be ready now to help the victims of Yolanda even before the final report comes in. It is a great privilege for me to work with the PGCAG and AGMF team!

Let us pray now for: 1 Restoration to complete health for victims who are injured 2 Sufficient resources that would be more than enough 3 For wisdom to know God’s priorities in the distribution of relief goods. 4 For sufficient help for buildings and other property damage. 5 Pray also for 1000’s of Filipinos to come to Christ as AG members and churches become God’s shining light to bring hope to those living in fear and help especially to the helpless and most needy."

Here is more information from AGWM Communications Director Randy Hurst:

"No doubt you have seen on the news that horrific devastation is taking place in the Philippines because of typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda)that struck the Philippines last night. With sustained winds of 195 mph and gusts as strong as 235 mph, Haiyan may be the strongest tropical cyclone to hit land anywhere in recorded history. Knowing this typhoon was going to hit, our AGWM personnel in the field had already contacted us and AG World Missions advanced $20,000 to the field yesterday for purchase of relief supplies, anticipating the need. Convoy of Hope has already deployed an assessment team to the Philippines and has meals for their children’s feeding program on hand in the Philippines that can be utilized immediately for relief distribution. Many members of your congregation will want to help the many who are suffering in the Philippines. Please let them know that the Assemblies of God and Convoy of Hope are already engaged on the ground in relief efforts together in the Philippines. Please have your congregation pray for our fellow AG believers in the Philippines. Many are suffering greatly because of this crisis. It is too early to have adequate communication concerning how many have been affected. Also pray for our missionaries, relief workers and Convoy of Hope personnel who are participating in relief efforts t help thousands of suffering people."

 

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Update Video | Hong Kong

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Update Video | Hong Kong

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Alex gives an update from a Mass Transit Railway station in Hong Kong to talk about how ministry in Asia Pacific is all about relationships. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Prpq6j3mmQ

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Update Video | Singapore

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Update Video | Singapore

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Alex gives an update from Singapore about how Asia Pacific Media Ministries plans to minster to Overseas Filipino Workers.

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