Surprise Visit

IMG_0938It’s early morning in your sleepy, tropical village.  The sun rises and glints off the tops of the nearby mountains.  It will be a hot day, but it isn’t yet.

Smoke from your cook fire is winding its way up through the slats of the rough wood wall of your house, finding its way to the sky above.  All around the neighbors are all waking up, too, starting their fires, drinking sugary homegrown coffee, chatting with each other, making plans for the day.

Your family is planning to work in the corn field today.  Since the weather has been so dry this is the perfect time to get lots of work done.  The harvested, threshed, dried and sacked corn will be taken to town.  Hopefully there will be a profit this year.  Hopefully the rains don’t come before it’s done.

The weather is unpredictable.  This is the way it’s always been, as long as you remember.  You’ve lived in this town your whole life, and now that you’re getting older, the younger people are taking over the harder work of the fields.  You still go though, to  help watch the babies, do some of the lighter work, and cook for the rest of the workers.

Today is Saturday, a good day for working.  You gaze out over the road that runs through town.  A few people are getting their motorbikes ready.  Maybe they are going  out to the city.  It will take them a few hours to get there on these dusty roads, but at least it isn’t muddy.  Other gather supplies to go to the field.  The children are playing, the dogs are busily searching for scraps.

Suddenly the dogs start barking.  You know that bark; it means someone new is coming.  What is this?  Two foreign ladies, walking into your village!  They look hot, like they’ve been walking for awhile.

You’ve heard that there are a couple foreign families who have settled into a nearby village, 45 minutes away.  You’re not quite sure why.  You’ve even met the men of the families and caught glimpses of their wives and children at some weddings and funerals.  One of the wives helped you when you were sick but you don’t see her here, just the wife of the other family and a companion.   What can they be doing?  They are so far from home.  They’ve never done this before.

A neighbor calls out to them, “Where are you going?”  They reply, “Just there and now to our home.”  You’re confused.  Why are they going the wrong direction?

Everyone comes out to the road to watch these ladies.  They walk along, talking to each other and laughing.  Other neighbors ask them, “Where are you going?” and some say, “Come have coffee!” They keep answering that it’s ok, they are just going home, but it is obvious that they are going the wrong way.  Have they come to visit someone?  You wonder how long it will take before they figure out that their home is not that way.  They move out of sight.

A few minutes later the dogs start barking again.  You look up to see the two ladies coming back up the road.  Ah, they must have figured it out.  They are laughing but one of them has a bright pink face.  It is strange how pink their faces can get.

You go out to the road to intercept the strange ladies.  “Where are you going?” You greet them this way even though you already know what happened.  They are laughing as they greet you too.  You reach out your hand in greeting and air kiss the lady’s pink cheek.  You feel sorry for them that they got lost, but you still can’t figure out why they are all they way out here, so far from home!

They explain that they made a mistake, that they were walking and had thought this road would lead them home.  To you it is so obvious that this doesn’t go the right direction, but you suppose that for them it isn’t very clear.  You mention that your neighbor will be taking their motorbike through their village if they want to follow them.  They take off, heading in the right direction this time.  You chuckle to yourself.  Hopefully they make it home!  At your age you thought you’d seen it all, but life is full of surprises!


A Beautiful Story

From my mom:

Forty-two years ago today, I said “yes” to John when he told me he loved me and wanted to marry me. No regrets! I look back on a couple of young adults, a first year teacher and a guy working 42 days @ 7 days a week, swing shift followed by one week off. Little did we know that Uncle Sam would have a letter in the mail a few short days later that would draft him into the military service. In spite of our plans to have maybe done it differently, the Lord guided in all things and we were married in June of the following year. It was a blessed privilege to be his wife. We have been thankful for our 4 children, 3 of whom we were blessed to raise. I’m thankful too for the grandchildren God gave us, 12 of whom John saw. I am grateful for the nearly 37 years we had together, for the love the Lord gave us for one another and first and foremost for the love of our Lord Jesus Christ who died to save us, and for that blessed day when we will be forever with Him. I’m glad I said “Yes”!

Y is for Yosselin and Yessy

Y is for two special little girls whose names start with Y; Yosselin and Yessy.  Yosselin came into our lives in 2006 when we saw her picture at a Compassion International booth.  Her birthday was the same month as our own oldest girl and so we picked her to sponsor.  She lives in Honduras.

Yessy we came to know more recently.  Last fall we took Button and Winnie aside and let them each pick out a little person to sponsor.  Button picked Thea, a little girl from here in the Philippines and Winnie picked Yessy, who is from Nicaragua.
Compassion International is amazing.  They partner with local churches to bring the children the eternal solution to poverty, as well as ministering to their unique physical and emotional needs.
From their website:

Sponsoring children in need is breaking the cycle of povertyCompassion International exists as a Christian child advocacy ministry that releases children from spiritual, economic, social and physical poverty and enables them to become responsible, fulfilled Christian adults.

Founded by the Rev. Everett Swanson in 1952, Compassion began providing Korean War orphans with food, shelter, education and health care, as well as Christian training. 

Today, Compassion helps more than 1.2 million children in 26 countries.

Although we sponsor through Compassion Canada we were able to tour the main office of Compassion Philippines and I was so impressed as I saw the thousands of letters being processed and the effect that has been made on the children.  

An effect has been made on my children too!  Every night we pray for ‘our girls’ and as we talk at the end of our day my children sometimes wonder aloud what their girls have eaten that day, what they are doing at that time, etc.  Their pictures are up on the wall in their room so we are reminded of them, and sometimes I get them to help me write the letters we send.    
Lives are truly being changed through Compassion.   Maybe you would like to be a part of it?  

X is for X-ing

When I was in kindergarten I remember watching flabbergasted as my teacher demonstrated how to jay walk.  She walked across the middle of the road at an angle, then crossed back and proceeded to tell us all that doing that was against the law and that we shouldn’t do it.  We should always cross at the corners and if possible, use the crosswalks.  Even my five year old mind knew that something was wrong with demonstrating the wrong thing to do!

Now I’m actually really glad I know how to jay walk.  This talent has served me in good stead in a place where it is really “to each his own” when it comes to space.  Crossing the street here takes some steel nerves and it took me several weeks before I attempted it on my own.  I’m good at it now- and have almost been hit only a handful of times.

Here’s a video I found on youtube of crossing the street here in Metro Manila.  No joke, I’ve done this a hundred times now.  Exactly like this.

Thank you to the video owner (I did not take this video)!

V is for, well, V!

I have always loved the letter V.  How could I not, with a name like Valerie Van Essen?  It seemed like my very own letter and if anyone else had a V in their name it was usually just one, so I definitely had claim to the letter in its entirety.

Now I have a few kids who have the same sort of infatuation with their own letters so I’m relieved to know that it is somewhat typical to feel that way.

Growing up, I never knew another Van Essen outside of my own family.  But when I moved away from Nebraska to Ontario for college I started getting asked if I was the daughter of two people with the same last name as me that I’d never heard of.  So that’s how I discovered there was another family with the same last name as me.  They spelled it the same way, with a space and a capital letter on the second half.  It turned out that they were really nice people and we had lots of mutual friends and contacts and I actually didn’t mind at all that people wondered if I was their child.  I hope I didn’t cause them to get a bad name either!  (Nothing like a 19 year old you didn’t raise running around with the same uncommon last name as you!)

When I got married I dropped one of my V’s but of course I still consider it my favorite letter.  🙂

U is for Umbilical Cord

I almost forgot about blogging today, and of course it had to be the day with the letter U.

So I will just tell you about a little trick I like to play.

When our second daughter was born her little cord stub fell off one day while we were out.  I didn’t know what to do with it, so I put it in a small zippered pocket in my purse and forgot about it.  I like to change purses quite a bit so I didn’t run across the little thing for awhile.  And when I finally did I decided to just leave it in there for some reason.

So occasionally like once a year or so when I use that purse I like to find that little stub which is of course all petrified like a little rock now and put it into Dennis’ hand to watch his reaction.  Really, it’s the reaction that compels me to place it back into the zippered pocket for next time.

A Date with Daddy

Dennis likes to take his girlies out on a date every so often. Now, when I take the girls on a date we usually just go and have a little treat while I go grocery shopping or something. Daddy is definitely the better person to date because not only does he buy them a treat, they often manage to come home with a little present too. Oh, spoiling daddy!

This time it was Button’s turn. They had sorbetes (Pilipino ice cream- tastes a little different) and Button came home proudly displaying her new toy.

I took a good look at it and noticed that they had unwittingly purchased more than what they had bargained for: a bug plastered between the cardboard and the plastic. Hmm. I wonder if it is an extra peso for the bug?