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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

My story - Part 1

My parents met in college, I'm pretty sure it was Central Michigan University.  They both were interested in missions and after they married, they attended a Bible school in Michigan.  My mom had wanted to be a missionary ever since she found out that missionaries weren't perfect from one who came and spoke at their church and really messed it up.  So God uses even times when we totally flop to continue to work His will in people's hearts.  Praise Him!

I was born 10 months after they were married and while they were still at Bible School.  Bible School at that time must have only been a year, because my little sister was born less than a year later in Florida while they were at the Missions Institute.  Our little brother came along 2 1/2 years later, between their times at Language School.  I'm sure it must have been a challenge to go through their schooling with three little ones underfoot, but God took them through it.

My parents went to the Philippines to serve as missionaries.  The story my mom told was that as we were getting off the plane, maybe in Manila (but somewhere on the journery), my dad was ahead getting the luggage.  She had my brother, who lost his first birthday on the plane somewhere, and my little sister and I who were 3 and 4 at the time. 

Getting off and on planes then was not nearly the same as it is now.  Narrow walkways which contain children are now in place.  There are no stairs.  But then, when we got to the door with my mom holding my brother and trying to figure out which one of us to trust alone, there was the stairway to the runway with a high thin railing.  Both of us were so little we could have fallen between the rail and the steps to the asphalt below. 

A businessman, impatiently pushed Mom aside and grabbed my little sister's hand, said to my mom, "Ma'am, this is not the way to travel."  Then he took my little sister down the stairs with him.  My mom always chuckled a bit when she told us this story.  She was grateful that a stranger was willing to help, though I'm sure at the moment she was terrified at where he may have been taking her little girl.

What a new place they had come to!  The smells and sights and sounds were completely different to anything Mom had ever experienced.  My dad, being the son of an Airforce man, had lived in other countries before, but probably wasn't prepared for a third-world country.  It was hot and steamy, I'm sure.  The traffic in Manila is always interesting and very loud.  I'm not sure what transportation they had that first day.  I believe someone met them at the airport.  They weren't going to leave the newbies to find their way through that huge city on their own.

What we found when we arrived was family.  A huge group of people all connected to the same cause and loved one another.  I saw it through the eyes of a little child.  I can't remember anyone who didn't bend down to speak to the little ones.  We were well-loved.  As I look on it now, I see older missionaries, whose children were in America, missing their own little grandbabies.  So they adopted us.  I loved it.  Conference time, which came once a year, was a blast.  We always had so much fun.

My parents moved to a different city nearby and there they learned the national language, Tagalog.  We went to Manila sometimes for paperwork and other things, but we had a house in the other city, that we rented.  I remember it, only for the one and only experience of being bit by a dog.  I can see the cement fence around our yard that sloped and peaked like mountains when it came to the next post.  I remember singing the little songs that were a mixture of Tagalog and English.  My sister and I clown around with it once in awhile still.  It was a good time.

After a year there, my parents decided to go on a new venture.  A couple were just opening up a work in the southern island of Mindanao and my parents were going there to join that couple. 

One story I remember vividly was when we first moved there. I don't think we were in our permanent housing yet.  I'm not sure exactly, but there were a few apartments that opened into a courtyard.  I remember that my parents told us not to talk with anyone who came into the courtyard until they could get to know them.  But we disobeyed and got into trouble.  Through our disobedience we met Ate' (Older Sister) Honey and Kuya (Older Brother) Ed.  They became a vital part in helping us learn the language.  If I'm not mistaken, they became believers through their relationship with my parents and others. 

In the process there was another couple that also wanted to go, so we decided to live in the same huge house together for Language study.  In some ways this may sound crazy, but I think it worked well for our families, though there may have been struggles, I'm not sure.  

All I knew was they had kids.  Their oldest daughter was not quite a year younger than I and a day younger than my sister.  I insisted that she should be my best friend as she was the oldest and my sister insisted that they were best friends because they were the same age.  No one ever thought that we could all be friends, but that's what happened.  Her little sister was my brother's age.  So we got along well. 

We must have because our parents decided to start a work together, which means that they would move to a tribal village and serve there together.  We lived there for three years, I think before my sister and I went to a place near Manila to go to boarding school.  I was in fourth grade and she was in third at the time. The best part was that our aunt and uncle served at this place.

Language study wasn't easy for my parents. Mom and Dad when they first moved to the village would study nouns for hours after they learned the questions "What is this?" and "What is that?" After learning the visible nouns, Mom and Dad had a few that they wanted to learn that weren't in sight at the moment.

So Mom started describing the thing she was hoping to get the word for. "It's long and thing and has a brush on one end. You put stuff on the little brush and clean your teeth with it. " After awhile of explaining and describing this tool, one of the little old ladies, who looked like they could use one, said, "Ahhh, tootbrus." Seriously?

Another day, Mom was looking for the word for someone who works in the house, helping out. In the Philippines, it was expected to have help so that you could get all your studying done. So for about a half hour she explained the duties etc that this person would have. Finally, someone figured it out, "Oh, maid". Trying to tell them that it was an American word just with their accent didn't matter, according to them it had been in their language since the beginning of time

 During that time my parents found that I had thyroid disease.  I look at the pictures now and see me with eyes bulging and a huge neck, little scrawny bony build, not pretty.  So after trying to care for me there, they decided to go home.  Not sure what caused them to take an early home assignment, but remembering my arm turning purple while they tried to find a needle to draw blood was probably one reason.  My mother was a trooper, and Dad too.  I would have to fast before these blood draws and they never drew blood till 10 a.m or so, so McDonalds, such as it was then, was on the menu for lunch.

All the cousins

Home assignment took us to my dad's home.  We lived near them that year and a half.  Then when we returned it was to my parents being dorm parents.   And so enter, two people I now call brother and sister, but that will come later.  I thought I had always had a wonderful life, but I think this year was my favorite.  I had a best friend who's name was Stephanie as well and her dad called us "Stephanie squared". She was quite a bit older than I and I'm thankful for her friendship.

I was the only girl in the fifth and sixth grade with five boys.  We had a spring on the property where we would go and swim almost every day after lunch and before school started again.  Paradise.  We would play games at night as a group.  It was just a lot of fun.  From this year on, I never went to the same school two years in a row.  Oh, yeah, and the pilot from our mission lived about a half hour to an hour away so his two kids came to school and stayed in my parents' dorm.  I love hearing them tease my dad now about the things we used to do.   They are now, brother and sister to me, as their mom married my dad.

After that year, there weren't enough kids for another year, so we moved back to the tribal group we'd been in but a different place.  There were lots of reasons for that, but I'm not sure what they all were.  Also our co-workers were no longer in the picture, and as a kid, I never wondered about that too much.  So we gained some new co-workers, some Aussies.  And those stories I'll save for a different day.

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