Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Third-World WORLD -- Philippines

Market place at my hometown -- Castillejos, Zambales

Tricycles: personalized transport -- Castillejos, Zambales

School-yard snack shop -- Baguio

Quick-dry, sunshine fresh -- and free!

Market-place cat napper -- Zambales

Fancy-mancy burial grounds -- Olongapo

Fast food stand -- Zambales

Washing machine woman -- Castillejos, Zambales

Catholic souvenirs

Impromptu clothes line

Mobile ice cream shop -- Olongapo

Hardware shop for everything but the kitchen sink!

But as it is written: "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which GOD has prepared for those who love Him." (I Corinthians 2:9)

Were it not for GOD's gracious orchestration, i would still be in this Third-World world.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

NASELESELE Village Primary School & LUKE 18

Naselesele kids ready for meke (traditional Fijian dance).

Then JESUS told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.

He said: In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared GOD nor cared about men. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, 'Grant me justice against my adversary.'

For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, 'Even though i don't fear GOD or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, i will see that she gets justice, so that she won't eventually wear me out with her coming!'
(Luke 18:1-5)

Before the louvers...

Here's a story about a kavalagi (foreigner) who stubbornly refused to accept "no" for an answer... who presented her cause before the person in charge, no matter if she seemed too zealous and that it was none of her business -- she was insistent, even brash, because her heart burned for "her" kids.

The kavalagi had a soft heart for the village kids. These children went to the village school, which was made mainly of corrugated iron. When it rained, the center sections which served as windows and walls were closed, making the rooms dark inside. When tropical storms included thunder and lightning, the smaller children would cry from fear -- being in the semi-dark, with the rumble of thunder and the corrugated iron windows/walls making a racket as the winds whipped against them.

Open-air classroom under the mango tree.

This kavalagi had the gumption to go before the Rotary Club and asked why they haven't used some of the money already collected (for building the new school) for louvers that can be opened and shut during hot or rainy days, allowing more comfort for the kids so that they may better concentrate on their studies. Well, the one in charge of the funds hemmed and hawed...

Posing for rln.

So the kavalagi decided to take matters in her own hands and used "GOD's money" to buy the louvers and a couple of the village men installed the windows in two classrooms (the money provided by GOD was enough for just two classrooms).

But GOD must have touched the hearts of the powers-that-be because later, the rest of the classrooms received louvers too.

Fifth and sixth graders doing yoga with Madam Maria.

GOD, in CHRIST JESUS, has a soft and tender heart for children... and He must've heard that kavalagi's unspoken prayers.

Madam Makarita with happy teachers!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

NASELESELE Village -- Traditional FUNERAL

Hand-made florals and hand-made masi
completely covered the casket.

No matter whether the person who died was the chief of the village, or related to the chief's mother, or just regular folk related to the chief's mother's sister's son -- any funeral at Naselesele Village is a big event. And every family who's related to the dead person's clan is obligated to show up, or at least have some body show up as a representative of that family. Even if that representative has to come from the smaller outer islands (Viti Levu is the main island and the biggest, then Vanua Levu, and Taveuni -- where Naselesele is located, is third largest)...never mind the expense.

Susi mourning for her aunt.

Since every family is related to one of the four or five clans which make up Naselesele, it ends up that almost everyone is related to each other in some way or another.

The women elders -- pray-ers and mourners --
"guarding" the dead.

During a funeral (or traditional wedding), each clan is assigned a particular task to help feed the sometimes hundreds of people who will come during the two- to three-day ceremonial duties and feasting.

A solemn procession to the village cemetery --
Virgin Mary banner, courtesy of rln Art.

Farmers (which all the village people are to some extent) are mandated to contribute dalo (taro) to feed the crowd, as well as to give to departing guests. Monies are collected to buy a cow (or two or three, depending on the wealth of the dead one's clan), pigs and chickens...and most also contribute some side dish. The funeral feast becomes a humongous pot luck!

At the village burial grounds...

Cooking and clean up crews are given little direction, as everyone seems to know his part, having been raised to do this type of gathering since childhood -- tradition ingrained for several generations.

Bundles of dalo contributed by most of the village farmers.

There are even "professional" pray-ers and mourners -- this task delegated to the older women... usually led by the chief's wife, Matawalu.

These women probably caught up on the latest
as they did their assigned task.

The grave site is usually within the village perimeter, which has been prepared the day before by a clan responsible for such also constructing the casket assigned to the clan or family who has traditionally done so in the past.

The feeding crew...with Beta as one of the many servers.

Sometimes, if the dead is a chief of a village as well as chief over an island, the show of respect (more cows killed) may run the village into debt!

The women elders were honored by being served first,
along with the chief and others of higher authority.

Having worked at Glen Abbey Mortuary as a part-time file clerk, i discovered how expensive it is to die in San Diego (and maybe in most parts of the U.S. as well). A casket alone can run into the thousands. i've told my Mom to do away with my body in the cheapest way possible -- cremation -- if i died here. Then to use my ashes to fertilize the kalamansi tree in the backyard.

Last duty...clean up. No washing machines here!

Absent in the body, present with the LORD. And when i join other believers in receiving a glorified body like JESUS did when He resurrected, it doesn't matter what method would used to return my body to dust. GOD -- Almighty and infinitely wise and Who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all i could ever ask or think -- can certainly put together this body again... and even much better than the original model.

To me, death is but the door to the real adventure! The wonderful GODventurez our Father in Heaven has blessed me with thus far are but mere shadows of the real thing. For followers of CHRIST, death is not to be feared for we believe in an afterlife that is gloriously beyond our highest expectations. As children of GOD, we are assured of our place in Heaven by our faith in JESUS. Best of all, those who trust in CHRIST have the breathtaking hope of seeing Him face to face -- this GOD/Man who laid down His life for sinful mankind. The Reality of being enveloped in His loving presence makes death lose its sting.

Psalm 23

The LORD is my shepherd; i shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake.

Yea, though i walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
i will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

Psalm 23 is a promise from GOD that whatever kinds of valleys we may go through during the seasons of our lives, we can be confident as GOD's children that He walks with us through any and all difficulties that will arise, so that we need not fear any evil (worldly temptations, natural catastrophies, the certainty of death). GOD, our Father, in CHRIST, protects and comforts us through each storm.

This promise is the confidence for those who trust in JESUS CHRIST as LORD and Good Shepherd of their lives, today and forever.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The DOOR to Your Heart

JESUS at this very moment is knocking at the door of your heart.
The CHRIST, the Son of GOD, is standing outside your heart's door, patiently and lovingly waiting for you to turn to Him.
But only you can choose to open the door, for only from your side can the door be opened...there is only one door knob...and it's on your side.
JESUS awaits tenderly and graciously...He will not barge in without your say-so. Though He has the unlimited, infinite power of GOD -- power so indescribably mighty as to speak the heavens and earth into existence -- He will not force you to open the door. The LORD merely spoke, and the heavens were created. He breathed the word, and all the stars were born. (Psalm 33:6)
CHRIST has already offered Himself for your transgression -- He has paid the ultimate price for your very, very steep fine -- by His own blood on the Cross.
You are free to be truly free -- if you but choose to accept JESUS as LORD of your life.
Only He has the authority to forgive sin...and only He can wipe out your past record and give you a clean slate. I will prove that I, the Son of Man, have the authority on earth to forgive sins. Then JESUS turned to the paralyzed man and said, Stand up, take your mat, and go on home, because you are healed! (Luke 5:24)
Only He can make you new. Therefore, if anyone is in CHRIST, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (II Corinthians 5:17) Only He can bring you home to the Father. I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one can come to the Father except through Me. (John 14:6)
Buddha can't take you home to the Kingdom of GOD. Mary can't save you either -- and she herself will tell you this truth -- that she was saved by her own Son. Mary did know.
Muhammad is not The Way. Joseph Smith is not IT -- and ET is not it, either. Even Oprah 's spirituality -- without the cross of JESUS -- is a lie from the father of lies...satan. There were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the LORD who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. (II Peter 2:1)
Most assuredly, I say to you, I AM the Door of the sheep. (John 10:7) The Door to the Father is JESUS...but you hold the key to the door of your heart.
If you were to die today -- struck dead by lightning, by a DUI driver, by a massive heart attack, by a cancer, by your own angry kin whose Superbowl team had just lost, by a robber with a gun at the 7-11 or am/pm store, by a lethal fall because your bungee or parachute you have peace of mind now, this very moment, that confident assurance that you will go to Heaven...that paradise "pie in the sky" that is every CHRISTian's Reality? GOD will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. (Revelation 21:4)
I AM the Door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. (John 10:9) But...only you can open the door to your heart.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

La Jolla -- The JEWELed Life

La Jolla is a ritzy part of San Diego, where a Gucci brand handbag of a designer-dressed, manicured and spa-pampered woman wearing matching Gucci leather boots -- probably cost more than 150 bags sold at The ShoppE at Rose's!

What does a CHRISTian backpacker-style traveler bush farmer have in common with the rich and semi-famous folks of La Jolla? Not very much at all -- except maybe the love for an ocean view and the ocean itself, with its majestic and roaring waves. And, of course, in La Jolla, the ocean view (as almost everywhere else in the USofA) comes with a very steep price tag, if that view sits on prime real estate.

GOD, the Potter and Master Craftsman of this person that i am today, has made me in such a way that the stuff of La Jolla does not beckon to me -- it's too "civilized" -- to put it nicely. The day Ann and Shelley, with 92-year old Thelma in tow, and i drove to La Jolla, it was only to view the few seals beached at the Children's Pool at the Cove. We made no time for the glamour shops (read: tourist traps) or gave even a second thought to Hard Rock Cafe, etc.

GOD's nature called to us...and we satisfied ourselves with His handiwork.

In Fiji, at Beverly's Campgrounds, i stayed in this tent for only F$10/night, on prime ocean-front real estate, with the reef waters just yards away and the waves crashing too loudly for my ears (i had to wear earplugs to sleep).

As Paul wrote in his letter to the Philippians (4:11-13) --

"i have learned how to get along happily whether i have much or little. i know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. i have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.

For i can do everything with the help of CHRIST who gives me the strength i need."

i, too, have learned to be content with much or with little. As long as i'm "glued at the hip" with my utterly precious Constant Companion and LORD of my life -- i am at ease in His rest.