when a typhoon hits the Philippines

This happens every November. I write for 31 days in October and then November comes and I have nothing to say.

But then a typhoon hit the Philippines and I can’t stop thinking about the people.

I think about walking through the streets of Manilla two springs ago and meeting the children there, one in particular: the child we sponsor through Compassion. Her name is Stacey.

stacey from the philippines

I walked through the zoo on a hot day in May with our team of bloggers, the children we sponsored, and some of their parents. I worked hard to avoid the orangutan dressed in human clothes who was allowed to roam free in the zoo. (A clothed monkey! Not in a cage!) You haven’t lived until you’ve visited a zoo in a third world country.

I met Stacey’s mom that day and she seemed well enough that spring, but in her most recent letters, Stacey asks me to pray for her mom who she says can no longer walk. I’ve asked why not, but with the delay between our letters I’ve yet to get a clear answer from her.

Now, I wonder about Stacey’s mom – if you can’t walk, how do you evacuate when there is a typhoon? I don’t know the answer to that or any of the other thousands of questions that swirl around when something terrible like this happens.


For those living in the Philippines, we pray for rescue. We pray for comfort. We pray for food, for clean water, for provision. We pray for protection – though I admit it feels too late for that, but we pray for it now anyway.

We pray for hope.

When I first heard of this terrible storm, I turned to Compassion International for a glimpse of that hope. They have been keeping sponsors posted on the condition there as best they can at this time, but I still don’t know for sure if Stacey and her family are safe. If you would like to help children and families affected by Typhoon Haiyan, one way you can help is to visit Compassion to donate to the Disaster Relief and Stability Fund today.

a whisper for peru

I’m watching Survivor this season. (Okay, I watch it every season. Leave me alone). But this season, they’re competing in the Philippines. There was a challenge this week where they had to crawl through mud, then a pile of rice, then dig in more mud for balls to shoot into a basket-type thing.

The winning team got to travel to a nearby village and surprise the kids with hula hoops and crayons.

In turn, the families made the contestants a beautiful meal.

It was a sweet picture.

But I couldn’t stop thinking about that rice from the challenge.

There was so much of it.

What will they do with all that rice?

I only spent a week in the Philippines with Compassion last year, but I saw enough to know that rice they rolled around in could feed a lot of people.

the part where I steal this banner from Layla & Kevin’s blog so I can tell you about their trip.

Compassion is on the move.

Sneaking in here for a rare night post to whisper a request that you pray for our friends in Peru?

This week, JenLayla and KevinShaun, and Angie (and her adorable twin girls) are bearing witness and burdens of children and families living in poverty there. They are meeting the kids they sponsor, loving the only way they know how, and telling us all about it.

They bring more than hula hoops and crayons. They even bring more than rice. They get a front row seat to watch how Compassion International carries the Hope of the world into the lives of these children.

And because they have a front row seat, we can too.

You can read all of their posts here.

Third World Symphony with Shaun Groves

Updated :: Giveaway winners will be announced Tuesday September 6. Still time to enter!

Shaun and I followed Kat up the ladder into the dark, one-room house made of cardboard and tin. Shaun was our team leader and he walked these streets and climbed these ladders in India and Guatemala and Kenya. But Manila was my first undoing and the grief came tsunami heavy. We crowded together in that small space, and the first thing I saw when we got there was toddler AJ asleep on the floor. He was so small and so like my son. I tried to hide my face behind the door, behind my camera, beneath my hand. Kat slipped me a tissue and I willed my body to stop shaking.

We stood silent as the Compassion volunteer sat with AJ’s mama and read from the Bible in Tagalog. I tried to distract myself by looking around the little room. That’s when I saw the matchbox car. My son has the same one. But this one here in the Philippines had no wheels. Grief.

Two days later we spent the day with four of the most vibrant, beautiful, confident young women I’ve yet to meet. They lived in poverty but were wealthy with love, grace, and compassion. They reminded me of girls in our youth group in North Carolina. They were lovely. Hope.

We flew home to the other side of the world. I quickly remembered how to walk in my own shoes again though I was sure they wouldn’t fit. I came home to a full freezer. An anxious seven year old. A basket full of matchbox cars. Cancer.

We had a birthday party and two weeks later, a funeral. Hope and then grief. And in the midst of all the brokenness and joy and living, I now stand torn between their world and mine.

It’s all pain, isn’t it? And the pain brought a tightening in my soul this summer, a folding in on myself in protection and a bit of fear. I wasn’t sure how to continue to process this world with that world and all that’s in between us. Then I started listening to Shaun’s new album. These words, they have brought a loosening within me. This music helps me see. This Third World Symphony brings these two worlds together like the wheel-less car on AJ’s table and those in my son’s basket; like the poverty on the streets of Manila and the death in my own family; like the hope of a bright future for young Filipino girls and also the ones in my small group. Shaun has seen things, and so has his music.

The words on this album remind me that Jesus is present when people are broken. And that it isn’t only all pain. It’s all grace. I wrote a book about grace, but still I forget. Have you watched this video of Shaun and Ann talking about his song, All is Grace? These two don’t just say truth, they believe it.

This album is an extension of that belief. And belief is what we are so desperate for, isn’t it? I don’t often recommend things, but might I recommend this? Shaun has found a way to sing theology. Deep truth. Gospel heart. If you want gentle direction on how to reconcile the third world way over there with our first world right here, begin with this. Come see. Want to hear a sample? Listen as Shaun sings the words on these pictures, the lyrics to Come By Here … (there is a video below – if you’re reading elsewhere you may need to click over)

So thankful to Shaun for staying up way too late and singing for us today. What a gift. Come By Here is track 2 on the album and I have it on repeat. And repeat.

Shaun Groves is a singer/songwriter, an artist, father, husband. He is also a friend. He advocates for children living in poverty around the world by traveling with Compassion International. His is a voice reminding all believers to remember that we weren’t just saved from something, but saved for something. His newest album, Third World Symphony, officially released yesterday. This is the second stop on the tour.

Want to win a copy for yourself? (You do. Trust me.) Leave a comment below and we’ll choose five winners to be announced Tuesday September 6.

when you pass through the waters

I wore my water-wading pants today. Not for ocean kind of water. But the ones I wore that hot day in Manilla, when we walked through the deep waters of poverty.

Every time I pull those pants on, I think of that day. I think of how I thought riding through the one foot high water in a pedicab was dangerous, until we got on the styrofoam boat. And I thought riding on a styrofoam boat was bad, until we put on the rubber boots. And it was there, walking through the water with my gray Old Navy pants on when it hit me how awful this broken world can really be.

And so today, I wore those pants again. Our family is walking through a difficult time with one who is close to us quickly moving towards heaven. And all we can do is watch as cancer takes what cancer wants.

The  song has been in my head all day, the one from the verse about passing through the waters. I’ve thought of the heartbreak in Manila and the heartbreak at home and how there often are no easy answers or ribbon-tied endings; just deep waters, feeble faith, and a God who holds all things together even as they fall apart.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.

Isaiah 43:2 ESV

she walks in beauty

When I left, my only expectation of myself was this: I will not close my eyes. And so I flew over a days worth away and went with eyes ready to see and hands ready to tell the stories. And knowing how crazy tired we were that week, it was a true miracle that the stories were seen or told at all. There was one night when I couldn’t lift my arms, couldn’t open my left eye. But I still, somehow, managed to write one last post, hit publish at 11 pm, crawl into the hotel bed, and wake up at 4 hours later to get to the airport in time to fly home.

Looking back at it all now, over a week later, I may have been at least seven shades of crazy to go at all. I kid. But we don’t say yes looking back, we only make decisions with eyes faced forward to the future. And looking back, I would still go again with my eyes open just the same.

I’m sure I’m having difficulty adjusting to being back home, but I haven’t the luxury of figuring that out yet. What is happening, it seems to me now, is that even though I had my eyes open while I was in the Philippines, I have had them tightly shut once I’ve arrived home. It is simply too much to bear. It isn’t just in the Philippines; the poverty is everywhere. I know so many of you have seen it in India and Guatemala and Haiti and Peru and the Dominican Republic and Mexico. And it’s also in its various forms in Florida and DC and Seattle and New York. So many of you have seen it so much more than I have. But seeing it once is all you need for a good shake up.

When I got the packet of information about the child I sponsor in the mail weeks before I left for the Philippines, the little paragraph under Stacey’s photograph told me she likes to swim and help her mother in the kitchen. I don’t know what I thought that meant, exactly. I guess I pictured them living in a house kind of like mine, only a lot smaller, of course. Maybe a Little House on the Prarie-like feel of a house; a one room cabin with a loft for the kids and a fireplace.

I know better now, because I have been there. I have walked down the dirty street to Stacey’s front door. Or at least, to her doorway. I don’t remember there being a door. I have passed through the “kitchen where she helps her mother”. As it turns out, Stacey doesn’t have a kitchen. She has some pots and pans, a few utensils, some rags. You can see it there in the photo – the mop is in her doorway and just to the right of it is where they keep their pots.

There isn’t a kitchen, and I can’t say I don’t know. And so since I’ve been back, I’ve read a whole book just for the fun of it. Also, perhaps, for the escape of it because “she helps her mother in the kitchen” is haunting me. Find me a fiction book. Lose me in a make-believe story, because babies are growing up in this world who have so little and I can’t take the knowledge of it. Slowly, I began to realize that Clara Carter, the heroine of my book, was making a discovery of her own, one that was uncomfortably similar to my own.

“And though I had never known this part of the city, I found I knew this place. I knew it from the pages of Mr. Riis book. This was how the other half lived. They lived here in this place that stank of overripe food and overripe flesh.”

-Siri Mitchell, She Walks in Beauty

It seems that God would not have me run too far away. It seems that He has ways of weaving truth and reality into even our most desperate attempts at fiction and pretend and escape. It seems He would not have me forget. And so I finished my book and I sat in the quiet and I realized I haven’t had much quiet since I’ve returned.  The quiet brings memories and memories bring tears. And then I realize all over again Great. I only have melancholy to share with my blog friends. Again.

But I cannot forget the sweet relief and the hope that showed up while I was there, the voice that whispered as I walked through the dirty street to Stacey’s doorway, Come. I want to show you what I’m doing. I want you to see where I’ve been. It was so clear, that voice, that I couldn’t help but smile as I walked. His Spirit brings beautiful into even the darkest places.

He sits with her on that bench while she works her word search filled with the names of the counties in Ohio. He watches her as she chases her dog Aang around on the always-wet pavement. He follows her as she walks into that dark house without a kitchen. He made her and He knows. He knows. She is not forgotten by Him. There is a grace that doesn’t give up and a love that does not turn away.

There is something really familiar about her, the way she is so much like my girls here even though she lives there. I continue to think of her as I peruse this lovely series my friend Amy is doing over at Playing Sublimely called The Mothering Daughters Experience. As I read these posts about what it means to mother daughters, I think of my girls and then I think of Stacey and how, in a very small way, I mother her as well.