Philippines: Day 5

Well, today was our last day on the trip. Tomorrow morning, we wake up, head to the airport, and spend the day flying back to the Western Hemisphere. If all goes according to plan and we make all of our connections without delays, we should all be home safe and sound in time to see Tom Brady win his 4th Super Bowl (he’s a Bay Area kid, so I have to root for him). Yep… my mind is on America again.

It’s weird to think about the Super Bowl because it’s such a big event in our country. Everyone tunes in (even those who don’t even like sports, but love funny commercials) and we stuff ourselves with whatever various pieces of deliciousness that we can get our hands on. What makes it weird is that we’ve just spent the last week in the Philippines, feeding kids that don’t have any food. I don’t say this to make you feel convicted. That’s not my job. The Holy Spirit is the one who convicts. I’m saying this to make you feel grateful for what you have.

Enough of America. We had a busy day here in the Philippines and there’s much to share. The morning started off bright and early with a children’s program. We sang songs, worked on activities, and shared our Big Red Tractor story (complete with puppets and the return of the balloon tractor). It was a fun time. After that, we went straight to another feeding. This time it was in the middle of the projects. This was our third feeding trip and it’s interesting to observing the behaviors of the kids in each one. For example, the kids today were a lot more organized and well-behaved than the ones we fed yesterday on the trash mountain. It makes sense, though. The kids who live up on the hill are fighting for survival. In each place, however, the kids still need food and we got to be the ones to help provide it.

image

A couple hours later, we were back at the ministry center, holding another weekend youth group. Holly, Kara, and I led worship again before Damien went up to share his testimony. These Stasiewich kids have really stepped up to the plate on this entire trip. You should be proud of them. Once the son was done sharing, Papa Stasiewich (er… Brian) got up and shared. One of the great things about this trip has been that I’ve gotten to hear people share their testimonies and messages that I normally wouldn’t get the opportunity to hear. Each and every one of them has been great.

Directly after the youth group, we got to play some fun activities with the kids. For me, this meant playing basketball with the high school boys. It’s crazy how much this country loves basketball. You can’t go more than 100 yards without seeing a hoop of some sort and a group of people playing with it. It made me smile every time I saw one (you can ask my wife, I’m borderline obsessed with basketball… only she might not say “borderline”). It was quite the spectacle playing with these kids. I don’t think they’ve ever played with someone as tall as I am before. It was fun.

While that was happening, some of the girls played volleyball and did some other activities (I’ll be honest, I have no idea what they were actually doing). It was a time for us to get out and spend time connecting with the students (a good number of them were ones that we (YOU) sponsor. They loved it. We loved it. It was a grand ol’ time and a great way to end our time of ministry here.

It’s hard for me to write tonight without wanting to recap our entire time here. I’ll do that another day when I get a chance to really think about and process everything we’ve done. For tonight, I’m going to leave it at this (partly because it’s our last night and people are waiting for me to play some games with them).

I hope you all have a great day today. Enjoy the nice weather (that I’ve been told you’ve been having), and feel blessed, because you are.

God bless,

Chris Mac

Advertisements

Philippines: Day 4

Coffee For A Cause.

Honestly, whenever I hear that, I just think it’s that one thing that’s in the back of the church by the coffee. That’s basically been it. I knew what it was to a degree. People donate money. Money goes to good things on the other side of the world. How completely undervalued that was for me. Now that I am here, I see the dramatic impact that it has on these people. I think I’ve said this every day that we’ve been in the Philippines so far, but the life difference that comes from one child being able to go to school is beyond description. I’ve heard it from a logical, practical standpoint, and I’ve heard it from an emotional standpoint from the families themselves. The money we put into that box for Coffee For A Cause goes directly to the sponsorship for these kids and their education. I want to encourage you to get involved with that. Every dollar makes the world of a difference.

Some of the kids that we sponsor come from the trash mountain (technically called “smokey mountain). The first time we went up on top of it, I didn’t really notice how bad it was because we were walking on a dirt trail. Today, Richard pointed out to me that there are actual layers of trash that comprise this hill. The whole thing is literally one giant trash dump and people have made their homes and lives on top of this garbage.

image image

We were up there today to hold another feeding for children. This one was a little different from the last one because of the location and the condition of these kids. When they started running out to where we were, I noticed that these kids were seriously the dirtiest (most dirty?) kids that I have ever seen in my entire life. One kid didn’t even have any clothes. I could see the dirt streaks going across his body. That didn’t stop any of these from participating in the songs, motions, and activities, though. They loved to be there. Now that I think about it, it might be the only time that these kids are able to come out and have a group of people love on them (not this one specific time, but any time┬áthis YWAM ministry goes up there). We played with them, filled all the bowls and plates they brought, and made them balloon animals. Can you imagine that being the highlight of your child’s week? Being given a bowl of food and a balloon animal? It’s hard, isn’t it?

imageimage

After dinner, we went to the projects to have what I gathered to be their equivalent of youth group. Something I’ve noticed about the people here is that when they sing, they SING! There’s no half singing or murmuring in worship. It’s an all out, who cares if the person next to me doesn’t like the way I sound, I’m going to praise God with all that I have, kind of singing. Good for them. That’s the way it should be. After all, we’re not just singing songs because someone a couple hundred years ago decided that would be a cool tradition to have in church. When we sing, we’re declaring the truth of who God is and we’re responding accordingly. We’re declaring our hearts to God and together, we’re proclaiming that He alone is worthy of our praise. I hope I never, EVER, forget that.

Kara shared her testimony. Holly did a book-reading (“The Big Red Tractor and The Little Village” by Francis Chan). Krista shared a message and when she was done, we had a time of prayer. About half (maybe more) of the kids there came up to the front to be prayed for and our team was able to lay hands on them and pray for them. It blows my mind to see how God is moving in these different places. These kids are so passionate about God and are eager to learn how to be more like Him and you can visibly see it on them (and it’s a great look!).

After everyone took their seats again, Damien taught them how to make a certain type of paper airplane. It was pretty fun watching them all fly through the air at once. Then we handed out some snacks and gave each one a gift bag that contained some article of clothing and some school supplies. They were so thankful to have them. I could see all of them pulling out their shirts and dresses and showing each other. Before we left, they wanted to take tons of pictures (mostly with our teenagers. all the girls love Damien out here. it probably doesn’t hurt that we call him Justin Bieber everywhere we go). They also were able to use the wireless microphones that we were able to bless them with. I don’t know how in the world they would be able to communicate without them. It’s such a small room with absolutely no acoustical treatment. It’s basically concrete all around, filled with fans and a bunch of teenagers.

image

Tomorrow is our last day here and it just so happens to be our busiest one yet. Go big or go home, right (well… more like go big then go home)? We have a children’s ministry, another feeding, another youth group, then different fun sports activities, all before dinner. I guess that means I should probably go to sleep, then.

Please continue to pray for us. We are all pretty tired, but we don’t want to fizzle out. We want to finish strong and God still has plans for us here. Let’s not short-change that. Pray for our continued health and rest. Pray that we have the energy to go with all our hearts tomorrow. Pray and ask the Lord whether or not He wants you to contribute to our Coffee For A Cause ministry. And finally, pray and thank the Lord that we (collective we, including YOU) that we get to be a part of something life-changing for others. Thank Him that He has given us the opportunity to be His hands and feet. Thank Him for the blessings that have enabled us to be a blessing towards others.

God bless,

Chris Mac

ps. Sorry this is later than usual. The internet stopped working right when I was about to publish it.

Philippines: Day 3

Oh how blessed the mornings are when you get to sleep in. So far, and maybe this is my opinion alone, it seems like we’ve been going out less hours each day here in the Philippines, but each task is taking more out of us. I don’t know why it feels that way, but it does (again, maybe that’s just me). This morning, the staff here were super gracious towards us and pushed breakfast back an hour to 8am instead of 7am. It felt pretty awesome considering we didn’t get back home last night until almost 11pm, which means I didn’t finish typing last night’s post until past midnight. I felt refreshed and ready to go for ministry today.

Today, we broke up into 3 teams of 4 and each team had a different ministry they would be serving at. One team went back to the daycare and ministered to the mothers there. The second team went to the projects and held a bible study there. The third team (the team I was a part of) held a bible study right by the trash mountain for the parents of those whose kids we sponsor (by we, I mean the “kingly” we, which includes YOU). We sang a couple songs of worship with them and Trevan shared a message about delighting in the Lord. He nailed it. As he was teaching, you could see the people there so eager to take it in. They were attentive, engaged, and responsive (I love it when people say “amen” at different points in a sermon).

I know I’ve made this connection before, but I really feel like I’ve been walking through the world through the eyes of the book of Acts and Paul’s letters. It’s as if I can hear his narration being said while I’m seeing the things I’m seeing and hearing the things I’m hearing. People are hungry for the Word and show up to hear it. We didn’t offer them any food or snacks. We didn’t play games or have an activity. We didn’t provide coffee or child’s care. People still showed up. They engaged in worship in a language they’re still learning (if they’re learning it at all) and they wanted to know about the goodness of the Lord. That’s it. That’s church.

When Trevan was finished, two of the moms thanked us for supporting their children’s schooling. Each one had prepared something to say but found some difficulty getting through it because they were so filled with grattitude that tears started streaming down their faces. I don’t think I can adequately explain just how much it means to these people that we are giving their children the chance to be different. We are giving them a chance that they would never otherwise get. One of the moms mentioned how much she gets on her son about getting good grades because she knows the importance of making the most of our support.

image

After we left there, we came back to the base for dinner, then had a base meeting (we rode a trike back – they are somewhat similar to the tuk-tuks, only a lot less fun, a lot less comfortable, and a lot more terrifying – so basically nothing like a tuk-tuk. you can see how small it is in the picture… and we had 7 people on/in there). For the base meeting, I got the privilege to lead worship and I was glad to have the opportunity. I’ve probably led worship in the most widespread contexts than I ever have in my life. I’ve done it on a street corner at night with people who don’t speak English. I’ve done it at a home with some who do. I’ve led it at a Bible study with some who are learning English, And I’ve led it for two missions teams and the YWAM staff. The common denominator has been the presence of the Holy Spirit. It’s easy to forget that the Spirit can be present and people can abandon themselves in worship with the music as simple as one acoustic guitar. They aren’t picky. They simply love to sing praises to God.

It’s weird to think that we only have 2 days of ministry left. At the same time, Cambodia feels like it happened so long ago. These trips are no joke. They are exhausting. It’s a good reminder that our strength comes from the Lord and the joy of loving and serving Him. I’ve never relied on that as much as I have these 2 weeks. On that note, I’m going to sign off for the night and let you go do your devotions and pray.

Goodnight,

Chris Mac

Philippines: Day 2

Last night, I was talking to Brian while we were both getting water out of the kitchen and I asked him what he thought the chances were of us getting french toast for breakfast. I wanted to have a familiar meal again and the thought of french toast took be back to my parents’ house in CA. Well, I must have said that in earshot of the cook because when I came down for breakfast this morning, guess what it was? That’s right! French toast! It was blissful (although, how funny would it be if I went through all that set up and ended up telling you would had something completely different?).

After breakfast, we went out on a prayer walk around the slums. In all honesty, I don’t particularly enjoy going there. I also don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. It’s important to see how people are forced to live, often times without it being a fault of their own. It’s uncomfortable, but it’s also reality. It would be a lot easier for me to stay in America and never know about the lives of these people and their living conditions. However, now I know and I can’t go back in time and claim my own naivity anymore. Jesus told His disciples not to hold the children back from Him and that the kingdom of heaven belonged to them. The children in these places need help and I’m glad I get to be a part of it, even if it’s just for a coule days.

We prayed in several different parts of the community including the hillside that was basically a large dump site. A handful of years ago, they started dumping trash somewhere else, but this mountain of garbage still existsin the middle of the slums with people actually living on top of it. What’s I thought was interesting was that when you climb to the top of this mountain, you can see the city skyline of Manila in the not-too-distant background (more on that to come).

When we came back, we had a time of worship and intercession before loading the “jeeper” with food and heading back to the slums. This time, we went to an old rundown baseball field and got the chance to minister to the children in the community. We sang songs to them and they sang a bunch of songs for us, complete with dancing. It was so good to see that these kids are coming and learning about Jesus through both stories and songs. Each child came with their own bowls and plates and at the end, we were able to fill it with food and a toy (donated in large part by YOU). There were about 70 kids in all. 70. Each with dirt all over their faces, running in from every which direction just to get some food, and YWAM feeds them every week while sharing about Jesus. Now THAT is ministry.

image

I know the contrast may seem weird, but after that, we had a free evening and took a trip to the Mall of Asia in Manila. It’s a pretty big mall (as it better be, judging by the title). We were in the same part of town that you could see in the distance from the dump site. Only we were eating a good meal, laughing with friends, and shopping in a very clean area. It’s weird to think that it’s not actually all that far from the dump. If you visited Manila, you would never know that it exists. I think that’s part of the problem. How can we help those in need if we don’t know who or where they are? Even in my own life in Billings, are there needs in people around me that I am unaware of? Are there people nearby that I see quite often who are struggling and broken? It’s in those moments I have to remember that we are the missionaries in those situations. If a coworker or family member is lost and needs Jesus, we’re not going to support a missionary to come in and meet their needs. We are the missionary. God’s people were chosen to be a light to the world. People need Jesus and I need to stop hiding behind the church walls and start sharing His Gospel.

Then what does that look like? That’s a good question. I think it at least starts with the determination to stop hiding Him.

Chris Mac

Philippines: Day 1

This morning started just a bit earlier than we were used to. That was a combination of breakfast being provided on the YWAM base (where we are staying) at 7am and because we are an hour ahead of Cambodia. We ate breakfast with the staff and a group from a church in Las Vegas who are also staying here while they’re on a missions trip. We didn’t do anything with the Vegas group outside of orientation this morning. That was when we got to hear from the different team leaders here at the Balut base about what each of their ministries is doing. It was pretty neat to hear how many different things they are doing with only a handful of people.

When orientation was over, we were able to briefly walk around the middle/high school where a lot of the kids that we (YOU) help sponsor. Word of Life is currently sponsoring over 40 kids and allowing them to get an education that they might otherwise not be able to receive. Then our contacts took us to a house/room where they hold their programs for children, youth, and adults who live in the slums. Those who were on the trip last April were able to see the building as it was back then. Word of Life had given them a financial gift that was used for the buildling and they have since finished it and from what I’ve been told, it is a lot more functional for their needs (that’s a bit of an understatement). Behind this building is another small one that is used for their daycare. This is where they rescue kids from the slums who are malnourished and/or sick. They currently have about 17 kids there.

image

After lunch, we broke off into 3 different groups and visited the homes of several of the kids that we sponsor. Most of the kids were still in school, but we were still able to meet their families and pray for them. Most of them live in the government housing projects and their homes are about the size of a lot of kitchens back home. We were able to lead 3 people to Christ. It was pretty awesome (also an understatement. after all, all of heaven rejoices when one person comes to Christ). In one of the homes, we prayed for the family and afterwards, Holly shared the Gospel with them, from creation to the sacrifice of Jesus and what that means for us today. As she was sharing (and our contact was translating) I could see tears starting to form from the young man. That’s when I realized how great the Gospel truly is (again, so full of understatements).

image

I’ve been reading through the book of Acts again recently and you can’t get too far through the book without seeing hundreds and thousands of people coming to Christ through the preaching of the Gospel. It was amazing to see that actually happening right in front of me. I think it’s easy to forget that that’s what it’s all about. It’s not about our music or our building or our style. It’s about Jesus. It’s about bringing souls in to spend eternity with God. We encouraged them to pray and listen to God and to read the Bible then we went about our merry way. We also invited them to church. One thing I found interesting is that after they had just accepted Jesus, we didn’t tell them to find a church that fits them. What I mean from that is that we didn’t tell them that there are certain churches with certain temperatures. We didn’t give them options of different styles of music, different service lengths or different snacks. It seemed… well… cheap to me at that point. It was simply about a relationship with Jesus.

Don’t take that the wrong way. I’m not saying that the fact that we have a variety of church is wrong or irrelevant. I’m just saying that sometimes we (myself included) can have a tendency to become unnecessarily picky about our means to worship. It was nice to get back to the root.

I don’t think I can adequately express the importance of these kids being able to go to school. Their current living conditins are so poor. They sometimes have 8 or more people living in such a small space. Their dads are out working all day, sometimes all day in the garbage, and their moms are trying to find ways to make additional money from their homes while taking care of multiple children. They aren’t lazy or reckless. They work hard to try and provide. What’s great about us being able to send some of these children to school is that they get the chance to break the cycle of poverty in their families. One of the kids that we support grew up in the heart of the slums and is now one of the best students in the entire school. He has a future set up for success because of the support that YOU were able to give him. It doesn’t stop with schooling either. These kids are also growing up in the knowledge of the Lord. They are learning about the character of God and are reading the Word. In fact, one of the moms that we visited today said that her son reads the Bible literally every night. That same mother also gave her life to Christ today. Hallelujah.

This is the difference that YOU are making in the world. I want that to encourage you because it’s easy to see numbers or names on a page, but to see the lives that these children have had and see the potential for a brighter future changes everything. We’re not just donating to a school. We’re giving to the Kingdom of God and that value is immeasurable.

Thank you for everything you do for these people.

Chris Mac

Travel Day

Today we traveled from Cambodia to the Philippines.

The End.

Please… do you really think you’d get off that easy? I like to talk too much to keep it at that. I was going to use today’s post to talk about some random other things regarding our time in Cambodia, but I honestly can’t remember what those things were right now. It’s late. In fact, it’s always late when I post these things and it’s pretty obvious by all of the missed words and various grammatical errors. In my defense (as if it being late wasn’t already one of them), someone told me before the trip that they would proofread all of my posts before I submitted them. That person (whose name I will not mention… even though she’s my wife) has fallen asleep before I’ve finished typing literally every night. Still, though, I don’t know how I’ve missed full words. Thanks for being patient with me.

Last night, I was a little bummed out when I learned that we were taking vans to our last couple places. That meant that I had already taken my last tuk-tuk ride and didn’t even know it. However, we decided to put our luggage on a tuk-tuk to take to the airport, so I was able to sit with all the bags while everyone else took the van. It was nastalgic and I loved it. Since I was the only one in it, it gave me a chance to reflect on our time spent there, pray for the people, and ask God what in the world I was supposed to do with everything that I had learned. I think that’s an important question that I don’t ask often enough.

Every Sunday morning, I hear Pastor Alex or Rob teach something from the Bible. That’s all fine and dandy, but it can be too easy for me to hear it and leave it there. In fact, it can be too easy to do that anywhere I am, whether it’s at a camp, a church service, or reading my Bible at Off The Leaf. It’s important to find that life application.

The last person that I talked to in Cambodia was a guy named Theo. I believe I mentioned last night that he and his wife were from India and had moved to Cambodia about 6 months ago. They’re the ones that cooked us dinner. Anyways, he added me on Facebook (as all good friends do, of course) and we were chatting on that a little bit and the last thing he said to me was an encouragement to keep praying for each other. It was then that I realized how much everybody we met values prayer. Not only did they value it, but they were excited about it. They were excited to have us pray for them and they were excited to be able to pray for us. You would think that that was the greatest honor that we could bestow upon someone and honestly, I don’t really think that’s incorrect. We’re lifting each other up to the Living God. What could be better than that?

So while we are on that subject, please continue to pray for us. A couple of team members aren’t feeling all that great and we don’t want to start our new week out that way. Also, pray for our rest. I could tell through our travel day that a lot of us are just tired. Pray that we find rest and strength in the Holy Spirit and the joy of the Lord. Finally, pray for our time here in the Philippines. Pray that the people we will be ministering to will be open to whatever Jesus is putting in their hearts and that we will be open to however He wants to use any of us.

Thank you and goodnight.

Chris Mac

Cambodia: Day 6

Today was our last day in Cambodia. Tomorrow, we wake up, check out, and spend the whole day traveling to the Philippines. It’s weird to think that we’re still going to a whole other country to do this all again (and by “this” I really mean whatever it is we’ll be doing).

For lunch today, we were able to take one of our YWAM contacts out to one of his favorite places to eat. It’s called “Mike’s Burgers.” It’s pretty much the closest thing you can get to an American burger joint out here in Phnom Penh. It was actually pretty good (though it also had American prices, which means it was more than what we’ve grown accustomed to paying). I’ve never been so happy to eat a burger and fries in my life. I’m a very picky eater (just ask my wife), but I think the food here has been pretty good, yet for some reason, even if I like the taste, I can’t get myself to eat very much of it. It’s as if my body is cautious because it’s so unfamiliar. Anyways, that’s why I was happy for the burger and fries, especially after I just posted something about Red Robin (to which my dad, of course, told me that he and my mom would go there in my honor… thanks…).

image

After that, we went and visited a YWAM ministry called Children at Risk. They are children who are from the slums who are at a high risk to be trafficked. The people from these slums were originally living in slums inside of Phnom Penh, but the government said they would relocate them to a better place outside of the city. Instead, they took them and dumped them in the middle of nowhere, without shelter, plumbing, and water. Through the years, YWAM has helped them build shelter and teach them ways that they could make some money. They’ve done a lot more, but you can ask someone else that at another time.

Since these children come from places that are so poor, a lot of them end up getting trafficked because the families are promised that their children will receive healthier living conditins and better chances for education. Children at Risk was started to provide a better life and future for them. They started a school support program that enables families to send their children to school and maintains a high level of accountability to ensure that they are growing in their educattion through graduation. This allows them the ability to learn and succeed so that they can have a bigger impact on their future and stop the cycle of poverty and trafficking.

We got to participate in both a children’s after school program as well as a youth one. For the children, we sang a couple songs and taught them the motions. Then we played a couple games and Candi made a giant red tractor out of balloons to go with a story we read (I don’t know where in the world skills like that come from, but that woman has some talent!). It was fun to see the kids get into all the activities. They were laughing and giggling and we had a great time with them. At the end, we sent each one on their way with a bag of bread and a Beanie Baby (who came from you guys! them loved them… except for the firefly that I kept trying to give out that kept getting returned to other team members. I don’t blame them. it was weird-looking).

image

For the youth program, we taught them a couple games, then did a couple songs of worship. They are in the process of learning English, so they were able to sing the songs with us. The songs were familiar so some sang in English and others in their native language of Khmer. Kara and Damien both shared their testimonies and both of them did such a fantastic job. I was very proud of them and I can tell Brian was too. I love it when kids learn how to share Jesus with others at a young age. In fact, that’s what we’ve been seeing in an lot of people here and I hope that my (future) kids learn the same. Krista then shared a message based on 2 Timothy 1:6-7. She’s got this Bible teaching thing down. It was already her second time doing it and both times were fantastic. Trevan and Richard did a little skit in English to help their comprehension and they were great as well. Their English is so good. The youth then pointed out different words that they recognized in English and Holly helped them with how to say it. It was neat to be used to educate them both in the Lord and in their schooling.

When we arrived back in the city, a married couple (with one on the way) from India wanted to make us dinner. They had just moved to Cambodia 6 months ago and were living on the YWAM base. They are such nice people and we were happy to get to spend that time with them. After that, we debriefed our week with Monica, the YWAM leader in Phnom Penh. We each got a chance to share different experiences with her and exchanged contact info so that we can continue to pray for each other after we leave.

Honestly, I don’t know why we don’t do that more often (or maybe you do, and I’m just saying “we” so I’m not ashamed if I’m the only one). Prayer is such a large part of our relationship with God and it is such a large part of the Bible. I think I feel selfish sometimes if I ask several people for prayer, but through my time here, I’ve learned that that’s pretty stupid. The apostle Paul write in Ephesians 6:18 to, “Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” He then asks them to pray for him twice in the next two verses. Prayer should be as natural to us as watching TV or listening to music. Somehow, I’ve lost the magnitude of this and I desperately need to get it back.

It would be so easy for me to talk so much more about our time here in Cambodia, but if I do that tonight, I won’t have much to write about tomorrow. That is, unless you want me to tell you all the weird things I see while traveling. There are always strange people in airports. For example, during our layover in Seattle, I saw a group of people singing kids songs and doing little dances and hand motions in the middle of the gate area. There weren’t even little kids in that group!

Oh wait… that was us…

Pray for our traveling tomorrow (or today, depending when you read this). We have a layover in Malaysia before flying to the Philippines. Like always, we would like to get there safely and without problems. Then continue to pray for all the people here in Cambodia, from those who need Jesus to those who are sharing Him.

Thanks,

Chris Mac