A CCS staff member guides RJ, our high school senior,
in changing a diaper of a fed, washed & very happy baby.
I walked into the baby room and RJ was in there all by himself
getting lovey eyes from this little beauty.
In addition to serving as home for 15 babies, toddlers, and kids, CCS also has an after school program for street kids. A church member named Heather donated a bunch of VBS-type crafts for us to use to keep the kids busy. They absolutely loved making these beaded cross necklaces with Chloe and me, and many returned the next day still proudly wearing what they had made.
I love this picture because each of our youth look so proud to be holding one of these precious little ones. They were so innately enthusiastic about the opportunity to hold and play with every baby and toddler. They loved getting their pictures taken together, and I think everyone would agree that the only hard part of the day was putting each baby in his or her crib for a nap and saying goodbye until we could return again.
In addition to coming and playing with the babies and teaching the street kids, part of our ministry there involved the months prior that we spent collecting supplies from CCS's wish list to donate to them. Here our two mom workers Sandra and Lynelle spent part of the morning sorting and counting all of the socks, undies, toothbrushes, shampoos, baby powders, books, toys, and shoes that church members back in Guam donated for us to bring. Many of the supplies will stay at CCS, but those we brought in excess will be given to the street kids who can use them just as much. It was so awesome having the support of our entire church behind us on this trip, not just in getting all of us to Manila but in increasing our group's impact once we were there.
Sixth-grader Travis and his loving admirer
I looked across the room and caught sixth-grader Wayne playing peek-a-boo :)
Travis becoming fast friends with the street kids
The kids LOVED stickers. My sister donated over a thousand stickers and kids like Bobby went crazy with them. Now I know what to bring heaps of if we go again next year.
Cheyenne and Coleman proudly hold their little ones while our trip orchestrator Sean makes an appearance in the background. Sean is the missionary who works for the Lutheran Church in the Philippines. His primary job is to bring people and resources together to help strengthen programs and ministries in the region. He and his counterpart Deling were absolutely essential in helping this trip come together. I am so grateful to have gotten to work with him and have learned so much from him along the way. Whenever I would start to get too overwhelmed with the details of the trip, he calmly reminded me that our only purpose was to (1) show love and (2) to build relationships. That's it. It was a great reminder of the big picture, not just for the trip, but for why we're here in general.
When the babies were napping, our group gave CCS a bath. Doug, Kevin & Richard were outside in the rain and mosquito dens scrubbing the windows.
The rest of us were inside dusting everything in the playroom. Coleman and Travis took on the extra dirty job of sweeping the dust off the brick column.
Speaking of extra dirty jobs, Mike and RJ spent several hours installing a new toilet flush system that didn't leak. Hopefully this will result in a lower water bill for CCS and more money in the bank for the remaining months they are at this location.
Here Chloe and Ashley tediously took every book off the bookshelf and dusted it.
Back to crafts! On day 2 with the street kids we made Bee-leiver magnets.
Doug and Kevin did an amazing job bringing joy through song and dance.
The kids absolutely loved Kevin's guitar playing and Doug's goofy songs.
In addition to singing, dancing and crafting, these kids LOVED being read to. Ashley read this great book called Stone Soup, a story where they start with just a couple of stones and all of the townspeople each add one ingredient until, together, they have made a delicious soup that everyone can share. Another great recipe for harmony.
We worked at CCS Monday and Tuesday, then moved on to teach at Gloria Dei School for Wednesday and Thursday. Thursday afternoon at the end of our last workday, we returned to CCS one last time for an extra special last visit. Here our brother-sister team of the trip, Ashley and Coleman, enjoy some last minutes with some of their favorite little ones. So hard to say goodbye but grateful these little faces are in such a good place.
Playing with the babies was a blast, no question, but in terms of impact, perhaps our biggest contribution was in the donation we were able to leave. On Easter Sunday, our youth hosted a breakfast that was a fundraiser benefiting CCS orphanage. I was completely floored at the end when we counted up the total: $1,201 in the basket. Nearly half of that, $600, came from one single check made out by a Navy couple younger than me an Nick. I was so blown away by everyone's generosity and thought it was another great example of harmony. So many church members had lovingly cooked and donated food for the brunch so all of the proceeds could go straight to CCS. And so many church members opened their hearts so that two months later, we could create this huge smile on Ate Beth's face.
In her talk to us on Monday, Ate Beth emphasized that her 20-year tenure here at CCS has been one of faith. Each month she doesn't know where the donations will come from to keep this place running. They have no consistent monthly donors nor government funding. They no longer have income from some consulting services they used to provide. And with the economy down, donations are down as well. There was joyous celebration as we surprised everyone with our gift, plus a 50,000 peso gift for the unbelievably hardworking staff. And just like that, our small team of randomly joined individuals of all ages and talents from a tiny island in the Pacific joined forces with our loving congregation to create a most welcome gift. Together we somehow became the answer to one of Ate Beth's most faithful prayers. And seeing the joy in her face here, I can't help but wonder what more we might be called to do.
Ironically, Concordia Children's Services is currently somewhat of an orphan itself. The property they are renting is for sale and the government wants to eventually put a road through part of the compound, forcing them to move in the near future. Luckily the week we were there, the board of Gloria Dei Christian School down the street met to discuss moving CCS onto the school's property. This would be a huge victory, as CCS would not have to worry about property fees. The downside is the building needs massive renovations to transform from an abandoned building to a home fit for all of these precious little ones.
If you have any interest in helping this wonderful place, please let me know and I will include you in our future fundraising and supplies drives and potential future trips (possibly a work trip once their move is made). I know there are a lot of worthwhile charities out there, but I can vouch firsthand that Concordia Children's Services merits every dollar and every peso that comes their way. It's only through individual donations that they can afford to hire more staff and take on more babies that need loving homes.
Of course, it isn't just about money. It's about showing love and building relationships. And it's about harmony. And when we all come together for God's precious miracles, it's a beautiful thing. A beautiful thing indeed.