Friday, September 13, 2013

The Vision Trip - Part 3

Welcome back to the continuing saga of our Threads of Hope Journey!

We began raising support for a trip to the Philippines to see if that was where God wanted us to be. One way to test God's will is to try to raise the funds through his prompting of other people, with no contribution on your own.

We initially set out to raise support for Jim and Will and I.  Ben was living in Tennessee at the time at Lighthouse Christian Camp doing an internship, so we weren't going to include him UNTIL we had enough funds raised for the three of us to go.  We were humbled and blessed by the amount of support that our church body and others sent to us to allow all four of us to go and see the people we would be serving if we went into the mission field.

With passports updated and visas obtained we set out for the Chicago area in three vehicles.  We parked two of them at the home of some of our Shaklee family and took the third one to the airport.
We met a gal who would travel with us at the airport.  Kelly was staying for three months.  While my guys were staying for 2 weeks and I was staying a month.

The first flight was very long. 13 hours. Will and Ben with their long legs were having a hard time sitting in those seats for so long.  We had a layover in Tokyo with a little time to stretch and get on the internet.  The next flight to Manila was around 4.5 hours, so much more tolerable.  I had a fever on the plane, so I couldn't wait to get back on the ground.

Chris and Alex met us at the airport and we all piled into the back of the brand new Kia van they had purchased for Threads of Hope.  Then the real fun began.  While driving to Faith Academy we were reminded how crazy it is to drive in some parts of the world.  I am very glad it was Alex driving and not me.  Manila driving reminded me a lot of Rome and Cairo.  In those places, the lines on the road mean absolutely nothing.  So a three lane road has four or more lanes of traffic.  Cars are driving on top of each other with cars a foot away from yours.  Rather insane.  Something that would be hard to get used to.

We all got to our sleeping destinations and turned in for the "night"? It looked like night outside, but our bodies were so mixed up we didn't know if we were coming or going.  But, tomorrow we go into Manila!

After broken sleep because we had traveled for 24 hours and we were in a time zone that is 13 hours different from our own, we got ourselves together to join Chris and Alex for breakfast and then to head to Divasoria.  No fever was going to keep me from missing this event.
All the Pretty Thread

Ben, Will, Kelly, Jim, Julie and Alex at the thread store.
Will and Ben looking at bracelets while Alex buy clips and rings.

Divasoria is a shopping area comprised of shanties, shops, wharehouses, and outdoor stands where you can buy anything imaginable.  Needless to say, the color of our skin and the height of my sons created some good entertainment for people.  It reminded me of our first day in England when we moved there.  Chris and Alex herded us through the shopping area with Alex at the front and Chris bringing up the rear to make sure all of her little chicks were safe and staying together.  We went to the thread store and purchase over 100 cases of thread that would be prepared for us while we did the rest of our shopping.  Next was the jewelry store where we purchased lanyard clips and key rings to bring to the island with us.

The day was completed by sitting around the pool and eating pizza.  All the comforts of home!  We were early to bed because we had to be on the road by 3 or 4 am to beat the traffic out of the city.  On to the island to see another kind of action.

Enough for now!  I'll be back with more pics and adventures.  Blessings to you!  See you later!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Getting Involved with Threads of Hope-Part 2

After talking with Jim about the comment that Alex had made about us being needed in the Philippines I was pleasantly surprised to see that there was no initial negative reaction to the idea.  We had been investigating going into full-time ministry several years prior so the concept was not new to us.  God just hadn't shown us THE ministry we were supposed to serve yet.

We began helping with festivals to spell Chris and Alex from the long hours that are required to man a booth.  We used the time we spent together as an opportunity to begin a long barrage of questions to learn more about Threads of Hope and how it works.  We were definitely intrigued.  We knew briefly what the operation was like and wanted to know more.

At these beginning stages Jim's common comment would be "God is going to have to show me that he wants me in the Philippines."  He was not jumping in head first, but wading in cautiously.  We continued to ask questions and get more involved in trying to solve current problems or work on places for improvement within the business process while keeping our eyes open for God sightings.

I sent an email to our missions pastor explaining to him what Threads of Hope was needing and that we were wanting to investigate further.  I gave him as much detail as I could about the positions Threads was looking to fill in the Philippines.  The response to the email made me laugh and feel a bit silly.  I found out I had been explaining all of this to one of the board members of Threads of Hope who was very aware of the needs of the ministry.  In fact, he informed me that they had been praying about someone taking this position for several years already.  :) We began to meet with him to discuss how the process of missions works.  He told us that God will increase the passion for the ministry and decrease our contentment with our current job if it is the right thing for us.  He had personally experienced that same thing when he moved from his prior job to his pastoral position.  We tucked those thoughts away and continued on in the process.

We were invited to a meeting that had been coordinated to create a database system for Threads.  Jim even took a little time off of work to join us.  We learned more about the process of creating and shipping orders and the accounting functions and who was responsible for those things.  We learned that the ordering system is totally operated through emails and we were seeing many places for improvement to reduce repetition within the current system and in planning for future growth.  The more we all talked the more Chris and Alex realized what our skill sets were and how good of a fit we were for what was needed.  The initial thought was that we were needed in the Philippines, but it was becoming pretty apparent that we were needed here just as much.

Then began a series of discussions over pizza and Chris and Alex's kitchen table to identify in minute detail how the process of ordering worked.  Our next step was to meet with a guy who was recommended by a contracting company who was working in Jim's office to do some work for his employer.  With the system defined in a pretty power point presentation, Jim wrote a letter to this man and told him all about Threads of Hope and what we were trying to implement.  We were asking him if he would meet with us to discuss the system that we needed and to get recommendations on how to proceed.  His response came quite quickly and like our missions pastor's response to his email, we laughed and again felt a little silly.  You see, the man who was recommended to us just happened to be the nephew of close friends of Chris and Alex.  He was very familiar with Threads of Hope and his children loved and wore the bracelets.  Once more, we saw God's hand in pulling together the resources He needed to continue His ministry.

The recommendations from our database creation meeting was that we should find an existing e-cart and plug into it and that we should change our Quickbooks from a personal computer processing platform to an online platform to integrate with the e-cart.  I started exploring e-cart options and Chris went ahead and transferred Quickbooks to the online version.  During a conversation at church shortly thereafter, Chris was expressing frustration with the online system and needed some help with getting it set up.  I suggested that she meet with Jim because he has an accounting degree.  That comment was another "light bulb" moment.  She had been doing the accounting all of these years, not feeling terribly confident, but being obedient,  and she had just learned that now she could get help with accounting issues from us on top of the other business solutions we had been working on.  That made her smile....big!  Another puzzle piece had fallen in place.

The next step in the process was to expand our vision of the ministry and entertain taking a trip to the Philippines... a vision trip.  Thanks for joining us on our journey.  Stay tuned for the next adventure!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Getting involved with Threads of Hope...Part 1

How did we get involved with Threads of Hope in the first place?

We have been asked this question many times so I will answer it for you in case you don't know.

We have been acquaintances of Chris and Alex for years because we attend the same church.  We knew they had a ministry that purchased bracelets made of thread from the people in the Philippines where they had already been dorm parents for years.  Being a lover of color, the bracelets had always appealed to me.  I had a collection started over the years as we saw Chris and Alex during the summers.

In January of 2011, my friend Doreen sent me an email asking for helpers to count bracelets at church.  We brought everyone living in the house at the time over to the church for the opportunity to serve in some way.  During those few hours we learned that there was a need for people to count bracelets periodically outside of that night as well.  I brought some bracelets home and started counting.

Shortly after getting involved with counting, Doreen asked me if I would be willing to back her up with the shipping of the orders when she went away.  I happily accepted, again looking at it as a way to serve Threads of Hope in some capacity.

Months later, when covering the shipping again, Alex was home from the Philippines for the summer and was bringing me product I was missing to complete some orders.  I didn't know Alex (or Chris) very well, so we chatted about many things. We talked about business functions and needs and organizational ideas, etc.  After one conversation about duplicating DVD's, Alex looked at me and said "We could really use you in the Philippines."  Hmmmm. "Interesting comment," I thought to myself.  "Let's see what Jim thinks of that comment.

Stay the story continues!