Friday, December 26, 2014

Christmas Greeting 2014

Maligayang Pasko!  Merry Christmas!


It is that time of year again, when we reflect on all of our past events and blessings of this year that is quickly coming to a close behind us.  2014, in particular, has been full of blessings, moments to remember, new challenges, much creativity, new perspectives, and great adventure; but with a bit of sadness.  We will begin our review of how we personally feel blessed as we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, who was the greatest gift the world has ever received.


But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for YOU a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
Luke 2:8-11 NASB


This was our first Christmas in the Philippines. It was quiet and rainy.  We tried to make sure that we spent time doing the things that we always do at Christmas even though it was just the two of us.

We started out with an extensive look at the story of Jesus' birth.  We read the accounts in Luke and Matthew.  Then we read pages and pages of commentary about that scripture.  The commentary said that Jesus was born to die...at the appointed time.  It also said "If you are walking in God's will then you are immortal until your work is finished."  It was referring to Jesus and His ministry, but it applies to all of us.  There is no safer place to be than in the center of God's will.  We feel blessed to be here serving with Threads of Hope doing His will.  We don't need to worry about anything because we are in His hands.  In our absence in the States He is taking care of our kids, family, etc.

We also worked out, took a walk on the beach, made a cheese cake and started a puzzle.  We talked with some friends who are taking a family holiday here from Faith Academy in Manila.  We closed the night with a long skype call with my sister Pam in Colorado, and started the 26th with a long skype call with our sons, Ben and Will (and Sydney) after they returned home from Grandma's house for the Christmas feast.  We gave out some Christmas gifts and received some as well.  It was a nice Christmas.

We came here to help Pastor Al, Ate Marina and Jojo.  Our job was to take over the bracelet making business with all of it tasks and take over the books for the church.  Our presence here frees them up to be able to shepherd their flock of people better and to host guests and events like AWANA meetings or holiday celebrations or weddings.  They seem to handle large groups of people with ease and grace.  Hospitality is not our gift, so we are very thankful that it is theirs.  We made this little video clip for North Pointe Church in Iowa. We thought you would appreciate the message. It is very short and sweet.



We recapped the entire year inside of one paragraph per month in a separate blog post.  If you would like to read it,it is named "A Review of 2014".

If you would like to read more about the other purposes God has revealed to us for being here go to our blog post entitled "God Reveals His Purpose--The Lives We Are To Touch".  We are honored to be helping the people showcased in that post.

We also have another post that includes an overview of the diversity in the lives of the Filipinos.  It is called "The View from the "Thoughtful Spot"-Beauty and Poverty".

 We would say the year has been very productive here, like our previous 4 years of working with Threads of Hope but the location is very different.  We have continued many of the tasks we were doing in the States with the books and business systems.  As long as we have internet we are good to go anywhere in the world.  When we return to the States over the summer we will continue to carry out our normal tasks for Threads of Hope, but we will be adding a few things as well.  There are festivals we will attend in order to continue to spread awareness about Threads of Hope and raise support for ourselves.

We will also be visiting with current and prospective supporters while raising more support so we will be able to return to the Philippines to continue our work here.  We are about 80% funded currently.  So, if God has laid it on your heart to help us financially for the year 2015, there is still time to get a tax deductible gift in before 2014 ends.  We are about $10,500 below our annual budget. We feel blessed to be supported and prayed over by each of you.  We can't do this without you.

You can donate online by going to www.firstloveinternational.com and rolling down until you see the DONATE button and click on it. Click on Support a Missionary or Ministry. Enter Philippines as the Country, Full-time Missionary and the Work Type and Marsh for the Name.  Our name will appear. Follow the prompts from there.  Call the support number if you have any questions.

There is also another MAJOR project scheduled for the summer we think.  Both of our sons are planning to move out of state relatively soon.  Therefore, our house will be unoccupied.  We are praying about whether to sell it or rent it.  It is a beautiful property with nice landscaping and big trees.  We are trying to decide how much time needs to be dedicated to that project in order to accomplish that task before we return to the Philippines while taking into account all of the other things we need to be doing over the summer.  The answer to that question will determine when I return.  Jim would stay behind until May or June.  So your prayers about that subject would be greatly appreciated.  Any ideas you may have in that regard would be very welcome.  We don’t want the house to sit empty, and we would be interested in other ideas regarding renting short term as well. We have no mortgage on the house, so that is a huge blessing.

One of the things we appreciate greatly is Skype.  It helps us stay in touch with people and makes it feel like we are right there with them.  Those 8000+ miles just disappear for a while.  We are thankful that God sent us to the other side of the world as missionaries during a time when technology is great and phone calls are free.  Our skype address is jim.julie.marsh if you  would like to catch up with us via skype.  We are 14 hours ahead of Central Standard Time.  Technology is yet another blessing.

If you would like to  contact us, you can do so by sending and email to jijumarsh@gmail.com.   May God's blessing be upon you as we start a new year.

We look forward to hearing from you.  Also please let us know if there is something we can be praying about for you.

We send you warmest wishes for 2015.














Julie and Jim Marsh

God Reveals His Purpose---The Lives We Are To Touch

Hello,

We wanted to compartmentalize our latest updates so you can read them at your leisure.  Thanks for taking the time to read this post.  Hopefully it will inspire you to look locally and see who you can help today even in what you think might be in the slightest way.  We never know how what we do will affect the lives of those around us who need our help.

Although our role in the Philippines is primarily business, God has chosen people for us to minister to in a few ways that we have been praying about for years.  Jim is much more of an evangelist than I am, so I have prayed that the way we live our lives would make a difference to the people who observe it. We have the opportunity several times a week to be amongst the masses here. It feels like we are living in a fish bowl sometimes.  We know that people are watching us everywhere we go and everything we do.  We have heard comments through the huge grapevine, and directly from the observer, that people are motivated by what they see in our marriage.  We are even the topic of the occasional sermon although just about all we understand of the message is our names.  Afterwards, we ask Pastor Al why our names were mentioned to get the English translation.  His first response is always entertaining.  Then he tells us the truth about our inclusion in his sermon.

There are also a handful of key people we spend time with that God has allowed us to minister to by being the hands and feet of Jesus. I must admit, sometimes it is them ministering to us as well.  A couple of them are vendors on the beach named Abdul and Gabby.  Both come from Muslim backgrounds.  Abdul makes and sells his own version of Gospel bracelets (as you can see on his wrist-->) and tries to share the Message of Hope with his fellow beach vendors.  Gabby has not made a decision for Christ, but he has heard the message and has people praying for his salvation.  He is a very sweet soul.

 Both men have families to support.  Abdul has 5 children and Gabby has 1 daughter.  They show up every day on the beach, rain or shine.  This week was rainy and they stood outside on the beach for hours hoping to find someone to sell their jewelry to.  We have been able to help both of them financially when they needed the help. Sometimes they ask for help and sometime the Holy Spirit tells us to help them today.  For Abdul he has needed money for rice and a headlight for his motorcycle when there were no tourists to sell to.  For Gabby he was building a house and we gave him money for building materials.  He gave us free Tagalog lessons when we first got here.

Around 6 months ago, Pastor Al introduced us to a gal named Marilyn who's husband, Ed, was ill. He was having heart and lung issues.  He was a Pastor without a church.  His medical expenses were high and he didn't always get the treatments he needed because he didn't have the money. We have found that to be a very common occurrence here.  It happens every day.  Ed was doing OK for a while and then he developed a sore on his leg and it started turning black.  Again there was no money for medical expenses and they contacted family members to help.

The family didn't send money, instead they sent for Ed.  So, we made a bed up for him in the back of the church van, drove to Calapan, which is 48 kilometers of switch backs over several mountains.  We then boarded a ferry to get to the island of Luzon.  We took him, Marilyn and baby Timothy to Laguna, to his family, which is on the way to Manila.  Lola (Grandmother) Choling had the two older boys with her here. By that point Ed was yellow and delirious. He passed away 2 days later, on September 25, leaving Marilyn, 39, with no income and three young sons with no father.  The oldest, John Jacob, is 7. (not in this picture)  The middle son, John Napthali, is 5 and the youngest one, John Timothy is 2.  They all live together with Marilyn's mother Choling.  Ed had previously already incurred a large medical debt with Pastor Al that still remains.  Choling forfeited the title to her land to cover the debt to pay his medical bills.  A motorcycle was forfeited to cover the debt as well.  The family would like to pay off the debt and regain the title.  They have not been able to make a dent in the outstanding amount and it has been over two years already since those medical expenses were incurred.  This is the property Pastor Al holds the title for.




Since being introduced to Marilyn and Ed we have tried to come up with creative ways for her to help us so that we could pay her for her services.  She started by making Gospel bracelets, and for a short while she was giving us Tagalog lessons.  Now she cleans our apartment (very well I might add).  We also order bracelets from her to create some more income. Recently, we starting having her come clean the Threads of Hope store and storage room.  She is also wanting to restart a business that her family used to do making rice cake and banana chips.  We bought her a couple of essential tools to get the business going again as a Christmas gift.  This is a little stove they call a kalan used for steaming the rice cakes.  They are not like the rice cakes we are used to in the States.  They are like mini rice muffins I think.  We are waiting to try them.

Please pray for Marilyn and the boys.  She is trying to find a job.  She is even considering going overseas so she can make some decent money.  That is another common occurrence with the people of the Philippines.  The wages are not good so they are willing to break up their family if it means a chance to improve their financial situation for a while.  If the Holy Spirit moves you to make a donation to their family you can go to the Threads of Hope site and make a donation in Marilyn's name.  It would be awesome if we could help her pay off that debt to get the title to the land back!
See the link at the bottom to make a donation.

The needs are great here, as you can see.  They are not so great in the fact that they require a large sum of money.  They are great in the sense that there are MANY who have needs.  That is why Threads of Hope is such a vital part of this community.  Everyone wants a roof over their head and food to eat, a bed to sleep in and clothes to wear, of course.  This livelihood project helps provide for their basic needs.

We have found that we are doing a good job, but can do it better.  So we are gathering the data that we need in order to provide more fully for the families who have Threads of Hope as their only income. We are working on starting extra funds for medical expenses and also for school expenses for the high school and college student.  We will also be revamping the criteria we use for handing out orders starting with the widows and working down the list through single moms and those married with no other income, etc.  Those changes will go into effect gradually.

Time to sign off of this post.  Thanks for tuning in.
Blessings,
Julie and Jim

The link is www.threadsofhope.com.ph/payment.htm
 to go directly to the payment/donation page.  Please put "Marilyn-Land Debt" in the memo/purpose for donation area.


Monday, December 22, 2014

A Review of 2014

Hello again,

Ok, so I have come to the conclusion that blogging is not my strong point.  In fact getting myself to prioritize correspondence is quite difficult.  We are always in the middle of something that seems to take precedents over being still and documenting/journaling our lives.  But the holidays seem to help me every year to reflect on events and blessings that are noteworthy.  So, here I go straining my brain to recap the year.

The year 2014 held some life changing events.

JANUARY
*January was spent focusing on my dad's health issues. We were trying to work with doctors to see if we couldn't keep him from another amputation.  He had already had a toe removed on one foot and a cadaver vein used for a bypass to feed what was left of the foot.  That was 2013.  Now he had another sliver(?) which created a wound which again would not heal.  They removed another toe on the other foot only to go back and remove the leg below the knee because he would not stay off of the foot.  He also had dementia so was not able to grasp all of the doctor's orders.

*We had been waiting for God to release us to set a date to move to the Philippines.  The day they announced they would remove the lower leg and foot was the day we felt it was time to set a date for departure and move forward.

FEBRUARY
*February was spent packing, organizing 15 month's worth of supplies, purchasing tickets, raising support, and visiting my parents and family.  February was also the month that they amputated my dad's left leg below the knee and he moved to a nursing home.  We were to depart in early March.

MARCH
*On March 8th we left our son, and my son's friend who had already been living with us for 3.5 years, in our home in Neenah and headed for the airport to finally make this journey we had been working towards for a few years now. We arrived in Manila on March 9th.  We stayed with Chris and Alex Kuhlow while we started the process of acquiring our retirement visas. We spent some time shopping and then headed for Mindoro to begin our work.  We had one month to get acquainted and acclimated before the Kuhlows left to go back to the States.

*Our eldest son Ben turned 22.

*We moved into an efficiency apartment at Tamaraw Beach Resort on the island of Mindoro in Aninuan (ah-nee-new-on).

APRIL
*In April the right leg that had already had a toe amputation and a bypass started to fail because Dad was  sitting in a wheel chair 20 hours a day.  Lower leg number two was amputated.

*We worked on systems to handle the creation of orders for the bracelet makers.

*Our personal property arrived via ship and we retrieved it paying a huge customs fee because our retirement visas were not yet done.

MAY
*Early May we moved to a 2 bedroom apartment and had the guys from the church help us paint.  We started acquiring furniture and appliances we needed from missionaries who were returning to the States.  We made trips to Manila with the church van to retrieve our acquisitions.

*On May 19th my Dad passed away.  The second amputation wouldn't heal.  That very same day there was a stunning wedding here on the beach and they sent lanterns up to heaven like they were going to my dad.  Jim was in Manila picking up a videographer that came from the States to make a new Threads of Hope video for us, so I was here by myself.

*We spent a few days helping the videographer take his footage.

*At the end of May our youngest son, Will, turned 20.

JUNE
*June was business as usual with the bracelet makers and we worked on making furniture for our apartment.  We went native and had the guys make a bamboo bed and cover cabinets and other furniture with sawali (woven panels).  We learned quickly that we had a problem with humidity in our back bedroom.  Everything was molding, so the search began for a dehumidifier.  One would think they were fairly common in a warm humid climate, but most people didn't know what we were talking about.  We found one on the internet.

*We spent part of the month trying to get a wire transfer completed properly for our retirement visas because our last name was misspelled.

JULY
*July was when we survived our first typhoon.  Glenda came in unannounced and took away our entire beach.  The level of the sand at the break wall dropped approximately 6 ft.  But the sea returns most of what it took so in a month or so the level was up again but not quite as high as it had been.

* We received our dehumidifier and were done with treating the bamboo for bugs and mold.

*I turned another year older at the end of the month but we won't talk about how old I am.

*We still weren't done with our retirement visas but the wire transfer debacle came to an end.

AUGUST
*Early August we renewed our tourist visas for the last possible time.  The same day, we submitted our retirement visa package.  We were told it would take 10-15 days to process.  We checked on our visas after the allotted time and were told it would take 21 days.  After 21 days...you guessed it..we had no notice that the process was complete and we could not get in contact with the person we were supposed to be calling for the information.

*At the end of the month, Jim turned another year older.

SEPTEMBER
*Early September our tourist visa expired and we were notified that there was a problem with the addresses on our tourist visa and our application.  So more money needed to be spent adjusting the address BEFORE the package was submitted to the Department of Immigration.  But now we have an expired visa AND we have been in the country for more than six months.  Based on the difficulty we had every step of the way, we expected to be required to leave the country for 24 hours so we could start the clock on our tourist visas again.  But they have had our passports for over a month at that point.  But FINALLY on the 17th of September, while we were in Manila, we were notified that we could get our visas.  We picked them up and reviewed them only to find that they had a wrong address as our primary address and they misspelled Jim's name on our wire transfer.  But we said thank you and got out of there with our visas as fast as we could.  We can correct that stuff online later...we think.  Drama over for the moment.

OCTOBER
*October was pretty quiet, with business as usual.  We are tweaking our business systems again to refine the ordering and payment process, automating more and more of the process as we go.

*We finally seemed to be able to get a work out in on a regular basis and have move time for devotions.  It think we are finding our new normal.

NOVEMBER
*November brought 7 World Racers to the ministry center.  Their month serving with us was month 3 on their 11 month tour.

*Chris and Alex returned to Mindoro for the first time since April.

*We had an American Thanksgiving dinner with Pastor Al and wife Marina, daughter Jojo, the 7 World Racers and the folks that work so hard to keep the ministry center cleaned and cared for.

*We had been going to Manila once a month but are finding that things can be picked up in Manila for us and delivered to us without ever leaving the island now that Chris and Alex are here on a semi-regular basis again.

*We have been doing more music than normal with the church because Christmas is approaching.

DECEMBER
*This month, December, started out with the World Racers leaving us and going back to Manila to meet the rest of their team and move on to Thailand for the month.

*While everyone was in Manila the threat of being hit by Super Typhoon Hagupit/Ruby started so Pastor Al and family stayed there until the storm passed.  It was moving so slowly that there was much time for prayer and evacuation. God performed His miracle and by the time it reached us it wasn't even rated as a typhoon, it was just a tropical storm.  It turned out to be less of a storm than Glenda was in July and we didn't have any notice about that storm at all just because we don't have a TV.

*This month, we have also completed more automation of our systems just in time to start changing the way that we pay people in the next couple of months.

*We still have been playing more music due to the Holidays.  The past couple of days have been filled with Christmas parties.  Tomorrow everyone leaves, and Jim and I will hold down the fort over the holidays again.  There are Americans that work in Manila at Faith Academy coming this way for their Christmas break, so we are excited for the company during the week.  It is always good to hear an American accent.

Thanks for reading our blog.  We also have posted 3 other blurbs.  There is "A Christmas Greeting for 2014", "A View from the "Thoughtful Spot"-Beauty and Poverty", and "God Reveals His Purpose-The Lives We Are to Touch".





The View from the "Thoughtful Spot"-Beauty and Poverty

Hello,
Thanks for dropping into this blog post.  I hope you enjoy my observations.


I would like you to come and join us on a journey of contrast and comparison.  Grab your cup of coffee and have a seat while I draw you a picture.  I'll use photos to help as well.  I am currently sitting in the place that I call the “Thoughtful Spot” here at the Ministry Center.  I am perched up on a hill with a very old mango tree where I have a 360 degree view of the beauty of the Philippines and specifically Aninuan on the island of Mindoro where we live and serve Aninuan Christian Church with Threads of Hope.

To my right I can see the sea in the distance peeking out through the palm trees. All other angles of my view display mountain peaks standing majestically over the tree tops and hovering above the bright red roof of the ministry center.  The houses scattered below me range from bamboo huts with palm leaf roofs, to plywood houses with tarped or corrugated metal roofs to nicer homes constructed of cinder blocks with metal roofs and cement railings.  Some have painted exteriors and some show the blocks with no finishing coat. The bamboo and plywood houses typically have shutters that cover the window opening, while the cement homes typically have glass slats that keep out the weather.

The view from this spot is a perfect example of the diverse range of affluence in all of the Philippines.  Most are extremely poor with a diet primarily of rice and very rustic creature comforts, while others have cars and plenty of food, electricity and running water.  Almost everyone regardless of income level has access to television and a cell phone however.

Motorcycles and tricycles (a motorcycle with a covered side cab built on it) are the very typical modes of transportation here in the province.  But Manila is like  many other big cities we have seen, but more chaotic  There are people everywhere, endless traffic, many homeless, squatters shacks stacked on top of each other; right, left, above and below.  Vendors can be found everywhere selling anything from a single cigarette to a broom as they walk between lanes of traffic all day long to sell whatever motorists will buy, while they breathe in the exhaust from unregulated emissions from Jeepneys (old Army style trucks with long benches in the back), motorcycles, cars and trucks.



There are vendors here on the beach everyday who sell everything from pearl necklaces they string themselves, to model flag ships with lights inside, to guitars and fairly authentic looking US Silver dollars that are stamped from 1802; which would be worth a fortune if they were real.  Our bracelet makers stay on the beach as well and offer massages, braiding, and bracelets to tourists.  They make bracelets for us during the times when there are no tourists to sell to or serve.  They all appear on the beach shortly after the sun comes up, hoping to catch any available tourist who is willing to buy a souvenir. They remain until dusk, which is somewhere around 6 pm all year long, give or take 30 minutes. Seven days a week the routine remains pretty much the same.  Many days during the slow season they sell nothing. 

Sometime this country seems very backwards and odd but it also is a place of great beauty. The beauty is revealed in both nature and its inhabitants.  Life is hard here for most, but at the same time it is paradise.

If you would like to read more about the other purposes God has revealed to us for being here go to our blog post entitled "God Reveals His Purpose--The Lives we are to Touch".  We are honored to be helping the people showcased in that post.

Thanks for coming on the journey with me.  I hope you enjoyed the view from the "Thoughtful Spot".
Blessings,
Julie