Wednesday, May 25, 2016

2 Parties, 1 Day.
(Click the picture for photos)
Hope I don't get too deep on this one...
(The last day at Samaritans Place)
It was morning after another good night of sleep. Seems like waking up around 6AM is becoming normal here. After a good round of bacon and pancakes, we signed some legal documents for the adoption and headed into town to see the lawyer. It must have been around 9AM in the morning and this town was hopping man.  I have never seen people drive in all the lanes at the same time but somehow they make it work with less accidents than we have.  Kuya Joe drove Ate Ahyee and us to the lawyer to get our paperwork notarized. It was a small crowded office with signs and paperwork everywhere. Looked like something out of the movies. We signed the documents, got the notarized stamp, and met with the attorney briefly. Boom, done with that bit. We headed off to the SM Mall in Dasmarinas again to find Joshua a few more clothes, and also a couple cool shirts for dad and mom. 
 The malls are crowded and similar to ours, except very Asian in vibe. A lot of electronics, a huge emphasis on fashion, and probably more food stops than actual stores is what popped out at us foreigners. Got the shopping done and grabbed a quick slice of pizza and halo halo before returning to SP. We took a little downtime and then met with Ate Dulce, Ate Ahyee, Papa Joe, Mama Gena, and Solveig (a volunteer from the states). During this session we talked about concerns, personal behaviors of Joshua, and things he might need help with or that we should know about. Shortly after, Josh's birthday party was held in the play yard of SP with pancit, pancit, pancit! We also dug into the cake that we bought for the kids and staff. There was a lot of laughing and silliness, but then there seems to be that element always. This is quite possibly the happiest place I've ever experienced. I'll talk about that more later. 
There was more volleyball, jumping on the trampoline, and me playing "pig" at the basketball hoop with Joshua's neighborhood friend Alisa. Some time passed in between and we freshened up for dinner with Ate Dulce and Ate Ahyee. My stomach was still full from the "snack" we had before. I fear that I may have gained a few pounds on this trip. The food is so good and we have been eating a lot of it. Ate Daisy, who cooks the food here, is an excellent cook by the way. We sat down for tilapia (fried crispy with the head intact), lumpia, and rice. Again, everything was so good. I feel like I'm still stuffed at 4:11AM as I write this. 
After dinner the staff put together a presentation show for us at Joshua's going away party. All the kids piled over and the fun began. I had kids in every arm and on my lap asking me questions and checking out my rings and tattoo. This was much like other times we had been around the kids except even more interaction. I can't tell you how cute these guys are.  I can only show pictures, which don't capture their different little personalities nearly as much as in person. We watched a presentation with pictures of Joshua through the years; some singing and dancing from the kids; and thoughts from staff and the house parents of Joshua (Papa Joe and Mama Gena). It was a very happy and silly time with a lot of laughter and fellowship. It was also a time filled with many tears. Staff and kids were wishing Joshua well on the next part of his life. Liza and I were asked to sing as well. I played Joshua's favorite song "God Gave Me You" and my song "The World" to the best, loudest, and sweetest crowd I've every played to. The night ended with a lot of hugs and a big prayer with a circle formed around Liza,  Joshua, and me by the staff and all the kids.  It was a very powerful and emotional prayer by Ate Dulce.  I love the prayers in Tagalog... especially when Francis, the oldest boy prayed. They are very sincere and thankful to our Father.  It's a wonderful language to listen to and amazing to be a part of their prayers. If God is to hear any prayers, it would be these.  I don't know how anyone could hurt these kids or disregard and abandon them, seriously.  That is certainly one of the greatest examples of sin in the world. Being here in this place filled with love, strength, laughs, support, and the feeling of family shows the greatest example of God's power and love in this world. I feel that this is a preview into the next world when children of every color come together as a family again. 

Go here for the MUSIC:

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Day 2 @ Samaritans Place
(click the picture for photos)


We woke up around 6AM for breakfast and church at 8. We were so excited that Samaritans Place had their own jeepney and we were able to ride in it to church with the kids! Several remembered us from the previous afternoon of playing hoops and table tennis. These could be the cutest kids ever and we hope they all are adopted by good parents (seriously, I can't express it enough). 
Papa Joe, one of Joshua's house parents, drove a van while another one of the house parents drove us in the jeepney. We were excited to ride in one of these cool "tricked out" Filipino vehicles to church. Talk about riding in style... with a bunch of sweet kids. 
Church was a cool experience and very similar to one of our modern style services, only it was in Tagalog. Praising God is something that has no language or culture and we could really feel it that day. We met the pastor after the service and headed out to Yellow Cab pizza in Taygaytay. Now a pizza place overlooking an active volcano is a cool thing... A real cool thing. The ride there and back was great too especially because Papa Joe was driving and we were not. The driving here is an art form. Many visitors probably close their eyes. Next we were off to the mall in Desmarinas. 
A mall is a mall no matter what country. I wanted out as soon as we went in... seriously.  We were able to get most things that we went for but still need to buy Joshua a few other things to wear. Hey, we are starting from square one. No clothes man and this kid needs some drawers, shirts, pants, kicks, you name it. After returning to SP we took a walk around the neighborhood with a few house parents and kids. After a dinner of some awesome fish sticks, veggies, rice, and onion rings we watched Narnia with the kids. It was a special night night where they were allowed to stay up. Did I mention how cute they are? Tomorrow is Joshua's going away/birthday party. He has been here for 10 years and it will be both happy and sad. 
For the latest music visit:

Monday, May 23, 2016

Meeting Day!

 I was awakened by sirens, constant barking dogs, whistles, and crazy traffic horns.  This is at 6:15 AM mind you...  ah Manila. We had quite the view of Manila bay but apparently there was some kind of running event across the street for The Day of Valor,  a new holiday to us Westerners. The jeepneys, motorbikes, taxis,  and even a few bikes were out in full force. This is the same place that was still boomin 4 hours ago in the dark right? This place is absolutely unreal. This seriously is a city that never sleeps. I'm looking forward to seeing more of it but probably won't catch much rest here. 
We grabbed breakfast at the Hotel Jen buffet  (not too bad btw) and checked out the hotel pool before Ramon picked us up for our big day. On the way to Samaritans Place Ramon told us about Th Day of Valor, some facts about Manila and the area of Silang, and facts about traditional Filipino life. 
We stopped at a Korean restaurant, yes we've been eating more Korean food than anything, before entering the gated community where SP is located. 
The gates were guarded by some serous looking security guards, and that's good. We pulled up between 2 large gated buildings and Ramon said,"We are here".  Liza and I were pretty nervous and I'm sure that Joshua was too. We met several members of the staff and they seemed very friendly and caring.  There were cameras out and people taking video of the big event as we walked into the area where Joshua and his "house parents" were.  There were hugs, tears, and lots of awkward excitement. It was a strange but wonderful thing to meet our 14 yr old son do the first time. We all knew that it would take time to get to know each other but we were finally together after almost 2 years! 
We spent the ext few hours in the play yard with Joshua, the other kids, and the rest of the staff. Everyone was playing volleyball, basketball, Ping pong, and anything else in sight. It was an amazing experience playing with all these cute kids that we wish we could take home as well. There are so many good kids at this place and the Samaritan's Place and staff are such an amazing blessing. I really can't say enough. They really are a family and take very good care of the children. I'm finding that I really love Filipino values, food, culture, and everything I've encountered. We  had Joshua's favorite "American" dinner of fried chicken, mashed potatoes & gravy, and fresh mixed veggies with a few staff members. We were so tired that we hit the sack around 9 in our specially prepared room. Joshua had his own bunk bed in the room. What a day. We were all exhausted.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

A little bit of Seoul

Here goes (long series of adventures in the Philippines, sort of real time):

An early morning limo ride to O'Hare started our day. 
Man... just a little bit of nerves but having a driver was a killer way to get to the airport. The Korean Air counter area was filled with people but everyone just seemed really chilled out and relaxed. This was a good thing because I know that I wasn't. Our trip through ticketing was also easy and even through security. We were wondering if we were in fact at O'Hare. Weird man, But cool. So as any international flight we got there several hours early. This was going to be a VERY long day. Actually, I don't know if it's day or night as I'm writing this.
 The food has been amazing. Man, give me some bi bim bap any day. I'm all over it and it's my new favorite dish.  Not bad for airline food. So anyway, I think we are flying over Russia. That is not something I can usually write in these adventures.  Can't get any sleep on the plane yet. 6 more hours to Korea. We should be in rare form for our 4 HR layover in Seoul. 
The Incheon airport was hopping. It was clean and pretty nice, but busy.  A lot of duty free stores and food just like many other international airports. We couldn't read a few of the names but found a Taco Bell that served beer. Interesting idea but it's still Taco Bell so we kept walking to a little pub by the gate. Tried a Korean beer called Kloud that tasted pretty much like an MGD. Enough said. The time was around 6pm and for the first time this trip we saw it getting dark.
We were exhausted and already up for 21 hours. We hopped on the plane for Manila, just 3 more hours away. At this point I can't tell what day it is... Or night now. Our guide, Ramon, picked us up after a hot and slightly confusing outdoor traffic/pedestrian system. Their immigration and customs were surprisingly easy to move through although it was 11:30 at night. Down the hot humid brightly lit traffic filled streets to Hotel Jen. It's late at this point, 1AM but we gotta unwind after the day plus work of travel. Man, this is crazy. Off to Silang Cavite tomorrow to meet our son...