A Day at an Orphanage

Our homeschool group Team L4 decided to have our Christmas party at an orphanage so we can teach our kids the value of sharing to less fortunate children. Working with a group of moms who not only love their kids but also God has been a great privilege for me. I was blessed to see how each one contributed their ideas, time, effort, and skills. We met and brainstormed after each homeschool M.A.P.E. class and updated each other via our Facebook group and email. Everyone was committed to the task assigned to them. Even our kids were fully engaged, too! 🙂 We decided to have a puppet show depicting the Christmas story and have our kids perform a couple of songs for the orphans.

St. Rita Orphanage

St. Rita Orphanage

We chose St. Rita Orphanage in Sucat. They house kids ages 0-2. However, with the adoption process taking so long the kids grow old up to 5 or even 6 years old. I was able to talk to one of the caretakers and she said that each child should first be officially declared as “abandoned” before they become eligible for adoption. It broke my heart to hear that every child in that orphanage is labeled as abandoned. 😦 No kid deserves to be abandoned much more be officially labeled as one. But then again it had to be done. She said that the DSWD needs to touch base with radio and TV stations if there are people who will claim the child. They have to give it some time if in case the parents or relatives of the child want to take back the child. If no one claims him or her, the child will have an official document that he or she is abandoned and available for adoption. The DSWD will then look for interested parents and screen them accordingly.

Our kids playing while we set up the place :)

Our kids playing while we set up the place 🙂

Maligayang Pasko! (Merry Christmas!)

Maligayang Pasko! (Merry Christmas!)

Parents and organizers :)

Parents and organizers 🙂

We all saw God’s faithfulness from our preparations to the people and companies who gave donations (special thanks to Del Monte, Unilever, and Unilab). Our kids even practiced and memorized the John 3:16 song and Joy to the World. 🙂 I’m not sure if we can post photos of the kids but to protect their identity I’ve decided not to post them. When the kids came down, one girl ran up to me and gave me a big hug! She has the sweetest smile and brightest countenance. 🙂 She even helped one of the moms identify the names of the other kids when she was preparing the name tags for them. I hosted the party and I asked my husband to start the program with a prayer. We then played some games to break the ice. 🙂

Doing my hosting duties :)

Doing my hosting duties 🙂

The host and official photographer :)

Behind me is our official photographer (one of the devoted dads who helped out) 🙂

My husband leading us in prayer :)

My husband leading us in prayer 🙂

Games! :)

Games! 🙂

For the puppet show, one of the moms graciously volunteered to write the script. 🙂 We had it narrated in Filipino so that the kids will understand it easily. Our children were also working behind the scenes holding the pictures while the story was being told. 🙂

The kids and moms in action :)

The kids and moms in action 🙂

Our little boy is the official caretaker of the puppets Danny and Debbie :)

Our little boy is the official caretaker of the puppets Danny and Debbie 🙂

Narrating the Christmas story with Debbie's voice :)

Narrating the Christmas story with Debbie’s voice 🙂

Meet Danny and Debbie!

Meet Danny and Debbie!

Danny narrating the story :)

Danny narrating the story 🙂

After the puppet show, our kids performed their song number and we sang with them, too! 🙂

Joyfully singing for the orphans :)

Joyfully singing for the orphans 🙂

Singing for Jesus! :)

Singing for Jesus! 🙂

And then of course, it’s eating time! 🙂 Some of the kids from the orphanage needed to be spoon fed because they’re still too small to eat on their own. The youngest was 1 1/2 years old while the oldest was around 4.

Time to eat! :)

Time to eat! 🙂

Hooray for supportive husbands! :)

Hooray for supportive husbands! 🙂

The boys having fun :)

The boys going all goofy and having fun! 🙂

The children of St. Rita had to go back to their rooms by 5:00 pm. They are pretty rigid with their schedule, which is good because kids that young need routines. We weren’t able to formally say goodbye to them, though, because they were rushing to get ready for another Christmas party. We turned over the gifts and donations to them and cleaned up our mess before leaving. 🙂 One of the dads closed us in prayer. His prayer was very moving and emotional as we prayed for these kids to have parents who will truly love them and care for them.

Lifelong Learners Who Love the Lord (Team L4 kids!) :)

Lifelong Learners Who Love the Lord (Team L4 kids!) 🙂

The families of Team L4! :)

The families of Team L4! 🙂

Personally, it was a great and humbling experience. It was a privilege to serve these kids who have never experienced how it is to be held and nurtured by their own mothers and fathers. I couldn’t help but imagine what it would be like to discover that your parents abandoned you. Every child in that orphanage will have a different journey. Some will have an easy time adjusting to their new families while others will take a while to fit in. Some may even try to learn who their real parents are just to come full circle and tie that loose end in their identity. Seeing these children opened my eyes to the reality that the best thing a child could ever have is a parent’s intangible love. The kids in the orphanage receive gifts and donations regularly but that’s not what they yearn for the most. When that little girl hugged me, I was reminded that what kids need are affection and nurturing. My son will outgrow his toys, clothes, and other material things but the things that he won’t forget are the times we played together, spent quality time with each other, and all those moments when he felt loved, cared for, and appreciated.

One more for good measure! :) And this time with the official photographer in the mix! :)

One more for good measure! 🙂 And this time with the official photographer in the mix! 🙂

It’s my prayer that more than anything they will each discover about the love of our Heavenly Father. God’s love extends to everyone and reaches out to every individual. In Psalm 68:5, God is known as “Father to the fatherless.” It also says in Psalm 146: 9 that He “sustains the fatherless.” In Psalm 10:14 God is called the “helper of the fatherless.” He even commands us in James 1:27 to “look after orphans and widows in their distress” and in Exodus 22:22 God says “do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan.” Our visit to the orphanage may just be for a few hours but it was an experience that we will all remember for the rest of our lives. I admit that orphans are not part of my usual prayer list but seeing them stirred something in me and prompted me to pray for them regularly. As we celebrate and commemorate the birth of Jesus this Christmas, I hope that we all take time to pray for orphans (and widows, too) that they may experience the love of Christ not only this holiday season but all throughout their lives. Their journey ahead will not be easy but with God’s love sustaining them through, they can overcome life’s hurdles. 🙂

Before I end this blog, I just want to send a special shoutout to Team L4 families (husbands, wives, and kids)! Thank you for your love and commitment to our homeschool group! 🙂

Have a blessed Christmas and wonderful New Year, everyone!!! 🙂

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Named for a Purpose

As I was reading the Christmas story this morning, something about what God said to Joseph struck me. In his dream, an angel told him, “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-21).

joseph in a dreamImagine what it would be like if your child’s name will reveal the kind of future he will have. It will probably take a toll on the child and the parents because they will be pressured to live up to that name. As a mom, if my son will be named for a specific purpose I want it to be something grand with a huge impact on the future, philanthropic even. I want his purpose to be clear so I can help him achieve that.

Joseph must’ve felt honored and confused at that time. Honored because he will be the foster father of God’s Son. Confused because he didn’t know what “save his people from their sins” entailed. Save meant Jesus will do something noble and great but sins meant trouble. It meant dealing with people whose main preoccupation is doing all things wrong. As a parent, it must’ve been difficult to reconcile those words and make sense out of it.

nativity sceneI wonder how Joseph and Mary went about raising Jesus knowing what His purpose was early on. Were they surprised that Jesus loved to hang out with corrupt tax collectors, healed the servant of a violent centurion, and spent time with people no one really wanted to be identified with? Did they worry and plead with God that Jesus doesn’t get killed because of the miracles He did and the things He taught?

Modern-day parents like me would probably have anxiety attacks everyday if I knew that my son’s future will be closely connected with thieves and criminals. It doesn’t only take courage to let go of one’s child. It takes something greater, something only God can give. It takes love. Love that I could never understand from a parent’s point of view. Love that prioritizes other people more than your own. Love that chose me over His blameless Son.

jesus_friend_of_sinnersJesus knew what He came here for. From the time He was born in that manger to the moment He started ministering to other people, He already knew the end. It took more than courage to face that suffering and agony. It took selfless love for sinners to make a sinless Savior give His life to save us. And that’s the very thing we celebrate every Christmas, year after year.

It’s a celebration of gratitude for the One who was named for a purpose and we were part of that. We were the “people” referred to in that phrase and it was our “sins” that He needed to “save” us from. When Jesus walked on earth He had Your name and mine in mind. It was personal. It’s like Jesus was saying, “I’m here because of You, ______ (put your name there). I’ll give my life so you will be reconciled to the Father and won’t be separated from Him. After my death and resurrection, nothing will separate us anymore. Your sins will be forgiven and paid for.”

electrifying-jesus-crucifixion-pamela-johnsonJesus was God’s gift to mankind. He’s the giver and the gift. The magi may have brought Him the finest gold, frankincense, and myrrh but He already gave Himself to us from the time He was born. This is the reason why Christmas is all about giving. We were given so much when Jesus came here to save us. We were given a Savior. We were given a second chance. We were given exclusive access to the Father through His Son. We were given forgiveness and grace. And most of all, we were given eternal life.

As we celebrate Christmas, may we all take time to just thank our Savior for loving us with a kind of encompassing, inexplicable love that none of us deserve. I know my sins and I most certainly know that I don’t deserve Jesus’ love and sacrifice. But He did it anyway. And I am floored with the grace and forgiveness He extends to each one of us.

JesusHe was named Jesus BECAUSE He will save His people from their sins. Jesus was named for a purpose. He lived doing everything aligned with that purpose. He suffered, died, and rose again because that was what He came here for. And at its very core is His people—we are the WHY behind that WHAT.

Today, we remember that we have been given the greatest gift God could give us—His Son, Jesus Christ. You may have heard it time and again that He is the reason for the season because that’s the truth. Without Him, there will be no reason to celebrate. There will be no concept of gift giving. We wouldn’t know what it means to give to those who can’t give back and to receive something we don’t deserve.

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Thank You, Jesus. Thank You that You lived out Your purpose for us from the time You were born. I am forever grateful to be redeemed and saved by You. Thank You for giving us the reason to celebrate Christmas. I’m not really sure about the date You were born but nonetheless, I want to greet You HAPPY BIRTHDAY! I’m pretty sure that if there’s one place where people really know how to party, it’s in Heaven. 🙂 I know You can have a cosmic celebration anytime You want but I just want You to know my life is Yours and that’s the only thing I can give as a form of gratitude for the salvation and eternal life You’ve given me. Merry CHRISTmas! I love You! 🙂

What’s your first Christmas like, God?

I wonder what it feels like to be in your shoes on that first Christmas. Sure the heavens were rejoicing when Jesus was born. The angels were probably in awe at the sight of their God in human form. For the longest time, they were blinded by the brightness and grandeur of Jesus that they can’t even look at Him. Then all of a sudden they witnessed His transformation—He became flesh and blood, conceived in a woman’s womb, born naked and helpless—just like any human being. It must be astounding and even incomprehensible to see the Majestic One become an ordinary man.

How about You, God? How did You feel? Now that I’m a mom, I can only imagine how difficult it must have been to be separated from Your Son for the first time. Did You experience separation anxiety? You probably had a bittersweet Christmas. I guess that’s it. Bittersweet. You had to sacrifice being separated from Your Son in order to achieve something greater. You sent Him for one reason as it says in Your Word—to save His people from their sins. You know, I even checked different Bible versions of Matthew 1: 21 to see if that’s really the only translation for the meaning of the name Jesus. This is actually the first time that the translations I read said exactly the same thing: “She will give birth to a son and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.

Jesus could’ve come to restore justice on earth, to promote peace, to show people how to love, or even to teach Your good and perfect commands. But those things pale in comparison to the gravity and urgency of dealing with our sin—the very thing that destroys us and pulls us away from You. It is for this reason that the first Christmas had to happen. It is for this reason that Your first bittersweet Christmas had to happen. I can only imagine how much You wanted to cradle baby Jesus in Your arms to keep Him warm; how You wanted to pacify Him when He was crying; how You wanted to make things easier for Him—but then again, You exercised divine restraint and allowed things to unfold in accordance to Your appointed will and time.

That’s unfathomable love, God! I can’t wrap my mind around it! It must’ve killed you inside to see one door shut after another when Joseph and Mary were looking for a place to stay for the night. You could’ve easily created a palace or a five-star hotel in the middle of Bethlehem and show everyone how a King is supposed to be treated. But You didn’t. You restrained yourself so that people can see that their Savior was born in a lowly place and that their Savior knows what it feels like to have nothing. He can empathize.

You thought of us when we weren’t even thinking of You. You loved us unconditionally and You wanted us to be reconciled to You. But You had to get rid of that sin barrier that separated us from You. You bridged that gap through the birth, death, and resurrection of Your Son, Jesus Christ. He was Your precious One. You sacrificed all the comfort and protection that Your Son could’ve had while he was here on earth. All because He had to fulfil His purpose “to save his people from their sins”.

You didn’t want to be Jesus’ Father alone, You wanted to be our Father as well. With Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, You opened the door for us to be Your children. All we need to do is believe that what He did is the only payment for our sins and that He is the only way for us to be reconciled to You. With that faith comes the assurance that we’ll be in heaven someday and that You will be there to receive us not because we were good enough but because Someone loved us enough to sacrifice His life for us. We will stand before You stripped of any merit but only with the merits of Jesus Christ. We can’t boast about anything because we didn’t do anything. Your Son did everything.

On that first Christmas, You set the greatest example of giving the BEST GIFT for mankind—the life of Your Son. You celebrated that Christmas with a sacrifice. You celebrated it with so much love for us that the mere thought that we’ll be reconciled to You marked Christmas as the new beginning for mankind. It must be really tough, God. I can never thank You enough for making that exchange gift for us—Jesus’ birth and death for our eternal life. Thank You that the significance of Christmas is far beyond the gifts, food, and merrymaking. Christmas is rooted in Your heart where all love and acceptance abound. It is found in the life You gave and the life we gained.

Thank You, God that Christmas is here because of You. Thank You for putting CHRIST in the center of the celebration. Merry Christmas, Jesus. I can never love You the way You love me. Nonetheless, I want to let You know that I love You more than anything else in this world. You are the ONLY REASON for the season. 🙂