Saturday, May 10, 2014

Saturday, April 19, 2014

That Moment

As of today, April 19, I have had the privilege of being at twenty labours/births since arriving in Olongapo. Sixteen of those have occurred in the past nineteen days. Most have been straightforward, uncomplicated births. Others have required a bit more intervention to ensure the well being of mother and infant. A couple have made me seriously consider a career change to waitressing at Denny's. But each one has resulted in That Moment. That Moment is observed when the mother doesn't know that you are watching her taking in every detail of the new life cradled in her arms. She is etching every minute detail of this brand new little person on her heart. Tracing the creases of the skin, the tiny fingers and nails that gently grasp her own. The infant is likely gazing up on her face, bonding by her touch, her smell, the sound of her voice. Oxytocin is being exuded like perfume, the essence of love thick in the air. Nothing else exists at that moment for either of them. They are both consumed by each other's presence.

I have never been particularly comfortable with women and babies and had never intentionally stopped during my clinical rotations at the hospital to watch That Moment.  I have been much more comfortable finding something to be charted, cleaned or straightened. Perhaps I haven't even been aware of That Moment, consumed with my own insecurities and perceived importance of the tasks at hand. Or perhaps I have intentionally avoided it, not wanting to intrude on such an intimate exchange of knowing and being known.  But since being here, I am being taught to take a conscious and deliberate pause; to acknowledge the miracle of birth and life and this bond between two unique individuals that goes beyond words. Without even knowing it, my own heart has been softened and enchanted by the exchange between mother and newborn. I am learning to love something that goes beyond my personal experience and understanding; to deeply appreciate something that has absolutely nothing to do with me.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

March Update

Greetings from Olongapo on this lovely Saturday afternoon! Once again, time has flown by and my intention of sharing a monthly update is pushing the borders of tardiness as we are already moving in to the second half of March! 

It has been brought to my attention that I have not introduced the organization that I am volunteering with here in the Philippines. Although I have chronicled personal experiences and involvement with them over the past year - starting with the Maternal/Child and Disaster Preparedness Seminar last April, then the three month academic intensive midwifery school in Boise in the fall, followed by joining their team in response to the Yolanda Disaster in Dulag, and finally here in Olongapo as a volunteer nurse at their lovely clinic - I have not formally explained their work and ministry. I encourage you to visit Mercy In Action’s website at for more information. Also, please view the video at the bottom of this post.   

The past 6 weeks of living in Olongapo have clipped along very quickly as I have been occupied with various organizational tasks and activities at the clinic. Every Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday morning, we have a prenatal clinic and an average of twenty women come in on each of those days for their checkup. Laboring women come in at all hours, as we are open 24/7 as a birthing center. The numbers vary, but we have had an average of twenty births a month. Following delivery and discharge, each woman receives several postpartum visits either in their home or at the clinic. We also have regular  outreach to the local landfill, slum, or village and hand out prenatal vitamins and offer transportation to the pregnant women for prenatal visits. 

I want to share about my daily life here, but because of privacy reasons I am cautious to share any  details about anyone I have met or built friendship with. That being said, it is difficult to accurately portray what goes on each day, but I will try to share a snap shot of my day. I can’t say a “typical” day because they are always so different! 

Today! (Saturday, March 22)

  • woke at 5:30am to the sound of a million roosters crowing. There are chickens everywhere here, but I live particularly close to a rooster farm and have no need for an alarm clock!
  • Made a cup of coffee - I’m getting accustomed to the instant granules and powdered creamer that is standard here, although I have friends that readily share from their stash of beans with me :)
  • I move outside to sit on the Kubo porch, watch the sunrise over the river and prepare my heart for the day
  • At 7ish, I walk to the clinic, which is about a 3/4 mile stretch of road that follows the river, then rural housing, passes “Zombieville” (an abandoned/vacant area of apartment type housing) and then up a shady neatly paved road that leads past the clinic
  • Once at the clinic, I help set up for prenatal visits and assist with whatever is needed. Today it is mostly paperwork. 
  • After prenatals and a quick lunch, I walk with the 4 interns and one of our Filipina nurses to a remote village to find “buntus” (pregnant women) and pass out vitamins. This particular village was of interest to me because it was the one I visited nearly a year ago when our team laid pipe for them to have a nearby fresh water source. The pipe was still there but I couldn’t get a straight answer as to whether it was still a reliable water source...
  • Enjoyed interacting with the interns during the long walk and learning about their backgrounds and plans for the future. 
  • Arrived home in early evening and found my Canadian neighbor playing with her 3 girls. I hung out and assisted in creating a “fort” for the girls to play in. 
  • This evening, I am attempting to write an update. The gnats are attracted to the bright screen and I am continuously batting them away as I try to hint at the geckos that instead of supervising me, they should get to work and eat the bugs! 
  • My heart is full of thankfulness and gratitude that the Lord has brought me to this place and I have such an opportunity to serve and sow in to the lives of others. 

Thank you so much for your prayers and support! I know I am not very good with updates yet, but it is important to me that you know what your investment is doing in and through me. Pray that I become skilled at being able to easily and freely express what I need to! Thank you!

Labor of Love from Join the Lights on Vimeo.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Morning Commute

Got in a bit of a traffic jam on my work this morning...

Saturday, March 15, 2014


I have become very jumpy over the past few months, as there are a variety of critters that appear suddenly out of nowhere when I am least expecting their presence. I’m using the term “critters” with a bit of sarcastic endearment, as most of these encounters have occurred with a certain, rather large, arachnid species that send a shiver down my spine every time I see one. When I get up each morning and again when I walk through the door in the evening, I make a general service announcement and warn all creepy visitors that I am home and taking up residence again.  So, for the most part, after several public displays of the death penalty, word has gotten out that all spiders will be destroyed on sight…no questions asked. (And don't expect much better if you're a rat..)

Geckos, on the other hand, have total disregard for personal space and have generously populated the kubo. (I saved a naive baby gecko the other day from going down the drain and I am pretty sure that encounter is what endeared me to their heart?) They have taken great satisfaction in keeping my company and even go so far as invite themselves for dinner on occasion. They are curious little creatures of lightening speed and funny high pitched chirping sounds. Lucky for them, their “non creepy” nature has earned them entrance in to my abode. (I talk as though I have control over what comes in my house…I really don’t, but it’s nice to pretend…)

As I was preparing dinner the other night on the propane stove, I turned around to get a plate. I caught a movement out of the corner of my eye. Turning back to the skillet, I jumped back because a large gecko had decided to inspect my cooking up close. “Get out of there!” I scolded and promptly flicked him with my fork.  In lightening speed, he was out of the skillet and back on the wall supervising my dilemma. I decided to fire up the burner again, heat the food well and eat it anyway. There are some things you just have to live with here, and curious geckos are just one those things…

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Life in Olongapo

Dear Friends and Family,                                                                         February 9, 2014

            It has taken me a couple of weeks to transition from disaster relief effort in to a routine of some normalcy in Olongapo. I apologize for the delay in getting this letter to you. First and foremost, I want to thank you from the depths of my heart for your investment of prayer and support over the past two months, especially since I was out of contact for the majority of that time. I know that I was protected and empowered with grace because of the prayer covering of those interceding. I cannot thank you enough for your faithfulness. Our outreach had significant impact for the individuals affected by the disaster in that area. These are Mercy In Action's grand totals during our disaster response to Super Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda from November 28, 2013 through January 31, 2014: 

- Total Deliveries: 116
- Primary Health and Wound Care: 1,532
- Total Breastfeeding women fed in ongoing feeding program: 648
- Total pregnant women examined and fed in ongoing prenatal care: 367
- Total Documented Medical Encounters: 3,616 patients in 65 days!

            I am now in Olongapo, Philippines as a volunteer nurse with Mercy In Action. I love it and my heart is at home here. I am so grateful for the blessing of being able to serve during this season. I have been involved with Mercy In Action at various levels since just before my initial trip to the Philippines last April and I have been so blessed by their heart and ministry. I have personally witnessed them walk through various situations with genuine grace, love and integrity. I am so happy to work along side of these people as they operate as the hands and feet of Jesus to the poorest of the poor in this area, making this verse a reality: “Open your mouth for those who are unable to speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are left desolate and defenseless. Open your mouth, judge righteously, and administer justice for the poor and needy.” Proverbs 31:8-9

My life here is very simple, although I have been keeping busy and always have something to do. I have my own living space, known as “Sky Lodge” on Mercy Land. After six months of community living and 2 months of camping, Sky Lodge has been a place of recharge for me. The Mercy In Action clinic is less than a mile away and I love the walk to work. People are so friendly and converse readily. I have been trying to learn Tagalog by practicing a new word or phrase everyday, although most everyone also speaks English so I tend to default to the familiar. I am learning how to get around on the local transportation – tricies and jeepnies. I took a bus to Manila recently to learn the routine of picking up interns. We always have between two to four interns living at the clinic and they rotate through every few weeks. The clinic is home to several Mercy In Action Filipina midwives. I have a lot of fun hanging out and working with both the midwives and the interns. I have also been deeply blessed with the friendship and family that I have found with the Penwells and the community that exists here – meek people walking in radical simple obedience.
            I am reading a book by Brennan Manning called “Ruthless Trust”. I love his description of becoming a trusting disciple. “The way of trust is a movement into obscurity, into the undefined, into ambiguity, not into some predetermined, clearly delineated plan for the future…the life of a pilgrim leaves what is nailed down, obvious, and secure and walks into the unknown without any rational explanation to justify the decision or guarantee the future. Why? Because God has signaled the movement and offered it His presence and promise.” I launched out on this road with some trepidation and anticipation of many unknowns but with personal instruction from the Lord to “Do it afraid”. It is not always an easy path, but He has proven His faithfulness over and over again and I am so grateful. 

            Thank you for investing in my journey and into the lives of the people I touch. I am doing this with you and know that I am praying for your personal journey as well. Now that I have internet, I will occasionally post pictures and updates at

With Love and Thankfulness, 


Monday, February 3, 2014

Mercy Land

Captured this photo just out my front window this morning. I realize that I am in the honeymoon phase of living in a different country and culture, but I really do love it here. So, so grateful for moments like these...