As you read this, I am currently in Manila with a team of 18 other people from our church in Guam who are going on this service trip over their spring break. We are 8 youth, 4 children (K-5), 1 college student, and 7 adults, one of which is actually joining us from Manila. We have four workdays at CCS Orphanage ahead of us, as well as a day at a youth summer camp. There are a number of projects lined up using the specific skills of the people we are bringing, which I will share more about later in the week.
Among my mom's many repeater sayings is this gem: "Experience may not be worth what it costs but we can't seem to get it for less." So true. Preparing for this second trip to Manila has been such a different road from last year. Last year I spent the three weeks leading up to the trip in a flurry of worry and overthinking and busyness and self doubt. This year I have cruised along, tackling things on my to do list a little here, a little there, trying to retain a calmness and joy that a woman of simplicity might have... always knowing that if I needed help, help would be found.
The unintended but very prevalent theme for our preparations has been building... as in, building on what we learned last year, building in scope of what we plan to do there, and building in effectiveness through the extra support we have recruited to take with us. Our fundraisers were bigger, more effective, and smoother this year. Our planning was more efficient. Knowing our Manila accommodations and work sites, our focus on travel and trip logistics was minimal, leaving our focus where it should be... on our service projects and the relationships at our work sites. Overall the road to Manila has been quite smooth, yet another answer to prayers.
In fact, my only real worry for this trip has been about going back to the orphanage and seeing some of the same children who have been there all this time. The good news is that I cannot imagine there being a better place for them to wait than in this precious little haven full of exceptionally caring staff. But I anticipated it might be a little sad to go back and see some of the same little faces... still waiting.
One of my prayers for this trip has been that God would use our time there to surprise us. I have noticed that God tends to speak to me very clearly though coincidences and crazy timing. Dare I say I received my first surprise before we even left, which even more prepared my heart for the reason we are making this return journey to Manila.
I came back from grocery shopping on Good Friday, and when I sat down to check my email, I had a completely unexpected message from a foreign family, subject line: Our daughter, Mia Claire. Read on and be amazed...
"We started an adoption process a few years ago with the Philippines and have just been matched with a little girl. Her name is Mia Claire and she lives in Concordia Children's Services, an orphanage in Manila. We are waiting for the final paperwork to be completed, and hope we will be able to go and fetch her in a few months time.
Researching the Internet, we had an immense joy to see our daughter in your arms when you visited this orphanage.
We were wondering if you would be kind enough to share with us anything you know about our daughter: how she is, health, interaction, development, plays, what she likes, what she doesn't like, etc... As you can imagine, it is very hard for us and our kids to feel so much related to her while having so little information. Anything you can tell us will be great. We can't wait to hear from you."
For those of you who aren't sure where this is going... Mia Claire is the little girl in my arms to the right of this and every page of Peyt's Island. Yes, she's the image I chose to represent the "everything in between" of our entire two year experience in the Pacific. Her smile and sparkly eyes stole my heart when we were there last year. She has been very much on my mind since we left. In fact, one of the reasons I wanted her picture up was to remind me to pray for each of those little ones who still wait. My heart was finally at peace in February when Sean (the missionary in Manila) on his visit to Guam said her adoption was in the works. She would have a mom and a dad soon.
And here, two days before leaving for Manila, I received such an incredible reminder that all of the children we are going to love on are in fact someone's daughters and sons. It makes my heart burst with joy a little bit to know that, just as I suspected, God has already picked out families for these little ones (Mia Claire will have a brother and sister too!). Like many answered prayers, there remains a season of waiting and preparation before that promise can be fulfilled.
So as I write this (during yet another season of waiting between Good Friday and Easter Sunday), I ask one final request for our time in Manila... prayer! Please pray that God would use this trip to surprise us in sweet little ways... pray that our service would somehow be a blessing to those we are going to serve... pray for the health and safety of our trip members and that the faith of our young people would grow.
And please, if you would, say a little prayer for Mia Claire and for the family who will receive her in just a few months time :) I don't know why I got to find out about this little matchmaking when and how I did, but there is no question the immense joy is intensely mutual.
"We had an immense joy to see our daughter in your arms."