Thursday, January 7, 2016

Christmas Greetings for 2015

Warmest Greetings to our family and friends!

 We would have liked to complete this before Christmas. We hope you had a Blessed Christmas and a Wonderful New Year.  We trust you had the opportunity to spend time with friends and family to reflect on the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. 

For easy skimming, we have posted USA/personal topics in Blue and have used Pink for Threads of Hope News/PI.

We are especially thankful for technology this time of year.  Using Skype or Facebook to talk to some of you has helped us to erase the 8000 miles between here and the U.S.  We did get a chance to Skype with both Ben and Will at the same time.  That was a family first.  We decided to make it a regular event.

We were not alone for Christmas here.  We, in fact, had dinner for 20 at midnight on Christmas Eve, complete with turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, cheese cake, pumpkin bread, salads, carrot cake and…and….and.  How we acquired the food is a story in itself.  I will include it in a blog post sometime if you want to hear it.  Just know that no one went hungry. 

Fourteen of our guests were World Racers.  They travel to 11 countries in 11 months.  The next stop for them is Viet Nam.  Many of them have sold Threads of Hope products to raise the money for their trip, which makes coming here especially meaningful for them. 

 Also, we want to thank you for your love and support; whether that support was conveyed through finances, prayer, encouragement through your Facebook posts or taking the time for Skype conversations.  It can get pretty lonely here at times even though we are surrounded by people.  Hearing from you helps us a lot.  We are also thankful that as of yesterday, we are no longer the only Americans living here.  More about that later.


Ben just finished his first semester of being a residential full-time student at Liberty University with a bang.  All A’s.  He made the Dean's List!  He had been taking only online Liberty courses for over a year already.  He decided to speed up the process by going there and taking a full load each semester to hopefully finish up in two years.  He had a double Associates degree in Digital Design and Animation, and Web Design complete in June of 2011.  Then he lived at Lighthouse Christian Camp and worked there for 9 months, then worked for a few different companies while taking online courses one at a time.  Now he is working on a Criminal Justice-Strategic Intelligence Degree and would like to be an attorney after some time in the military.  He hopes to graduate from Liberty in May of 2017.

Will moved to Nashville in April of this year to pursue a drumming career.  He is now living with my brother Joe and sister-in-law Karen who are/were empty nesters.  They happened to live next to a professional drummer as well.  The move has proven to be very beneficial for Will so far.  He has met MANY people from big bands in the Nashville music industry.  One person, whom he is good friends with, he met in a Smoke and Ale shop.  Which is humorous because he was a couple days from being 21 the day he met him and doesn’t smoke.  He had a little time to kill, looked around, picked that shop, walked in, asked God what he was supposed to be doing there, and then met the founder of a big award winning country band.  That same guy introduced him to a gal who won an award for New Artist of the Year in Georgia.  He is now her drummer and they are planning to start touring in March.  He still has the band he moved there with, but will quit when the tour begins.  Jim is extremely excited for him.  He is living vicariously through his son’s music career.  If you would like to see Will drumming you can go out to YouTube and search for Lauren Ashley and the Train Wreckers at the Wild Horse Saloon in Nashville.  The whole set they did that night is out there for public viewing.


When we finally moved in March of 2014 we had raised 75% of our monthly support.  We hoped to be able to raise the other 25% while we were serving Threads of Hope in the Philippines.  We knew we could cover the remaining amount for a period of time with the reserve money we had saved over the previous two years from selling Threads of Hope at festivals and previous donations.  As of November, that reserve money has been used up because we are still at 75%.  So now instead of getting 100% of our budgeted salary, we will get whatever amount is available in our account at the beginning of each month.  That could be 20%, or 75%, or anywhere in between based on the previous month’s giving.

This is where the prayer request comes in.  Almost all missionaries need to raise support to go to the field.  It is a part of the process.  For us, receiving support is a concrete way to see God’s will at work.  The amount and the source of the support is usually surprising and unpredictable. 

If you have thought about giving a year-end donation, there are still a few days left to get the tax deduction for this year.   If you have been thinking about supporting us monthly, but have not gotten around to setting it up, we would greatly appreciate your help.  If you work for a company that has matching funds for donations, please contact us if you would like to multiply your support that way.  We thoroughly believe that we are where God wants us to be.  We don’t want to have to return to the States due to lack of funds.  There is much to do here to help Threads of Hope as you will see by the blog posts.  We thank you in advance for your prayer and assistance.


If you are on Facebook you may have seen the two posts from October that review the events from the majority of the year.  We forgot to send an email letting everyone know about those.  They covered the events from January to October.  God has been answering prayers for Threads of Hope in very big ways recently.    He is answering prayers for us personally as well, although I must admit I would like different answers to some prayers.  BUT, we are certain He has everything under control and I am forever thankful for that.

The information below is listed in reverse chronological order from the most recent to the oldest information.  So much is going on at the same time it was hard to decide where to begin.  Each topic has a caption and a link to the blog where you can see pictures and get more detail when you have time for a “cuppa”.


We have now experienced our 3rd typhoon. 
On December 15th we knew that another typhoon was coming. This time we stayed in our apartment and went about our business UNTIL we noticed that water was coming in the window in our office….on the 2nd floor. 

Click here for the rest of the story.


What would you do if you had been praying about starting a clinic for years and suddenly you receive an email from an old missionary friend and she asks you if you would accept her donation of all of the necessary equipment and funded staff to run a birthing clinic?  All we need to supply is the building.  

Click here for the rest of the story.


A few years ago Threads of Hope had been praying about building a school in the community.  Our initial thought was to build an elementary school.  But after visiting the schools in the area it became clear that we were to build a high school instead.  We built the school and God gave us two teachers, one of which will be the administrator for the school.  The other is his wife.  They arrived two days ago.

Click here to read the rest of the story.


Our previous construction list is incomplete. Next we will add living quarters for the Coltrane family.  We have a spot on the hill picked out for that building already.  That building would include quarters for guests who come for a month at a time, like our World Racers.  We also eventually will build a new store and storage room for Threads of Hope thread, finished goods, components, etc.

Click here to read the rest of the story.


For those of you who use the website to follow the latest Threads of Hope news, you will see some changes made there soon.  Unseen Ministries, a ministry that helps other ministries have a better online presence has been working with us for many months to rebrand and give us a new fresh look to our website.  They will also help us behind the scenes in the future to handle our business functions more efficiently. 

Click here to read the rest of the story.

Thanks for taking the time to review the updates.
Again, blessings to you all for the New Year!

Julie and Jim

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

God Even Cares About Dowels

You may think that the above title is a little odd, but you won't after you hear this story.  I love God's sense of humor and how every little thing matters to Him; how He answers even the seemingly insignificant prayers.

The story begins in about February of 2015.

I had been cooling down on the beach to the left of Tamaraw after walking/running on White Beach.  I do that on a semi-regular basis.  The shells seem to be more plentiful on that beach, so I look forward to the treasures that will be discovered with every walk.

On that particular day, I came across a nice amount of driftwood.  That is something that is not so regular.  After having visited Pinterest months before and seeing the wonderful ideas posted there on how to make a driftwood table top Christmas tree I was excited to pick just the right pieces of driftwood to make my dream a reality.  The pieces were selected with care but quickly because it was starting to get dark.  Once home again, the collection was put into a plastic bag in our apartment for safekeeping until Christmas became much closer.

I was usually looking for just the right shells to make clear acrylic ornaments. The balls would be slightly filled with beach sand, then with an array of shells to imitate a beach scene.  The collar of the acrylic ball would be decorated with a ribbon or a piece of jute tied into a bow.  This was another Pinterest idea that intrigued me.  Simple and inexpensive, yet elegant and meaningful.  Just my style. Both projects should be easy to complete, right?

While back in the States over the summer, I wandered into a Hobby Lobby in search of clear balls.  They had only glass at that point in time.  Considering the million pieces they would most likely be in by the time they reached Manila on our return trip to Puerto Galera, I chose against buying the glass version.  A clerk informed me that the acrylic ones would start to be stocked closer to Christmas.  I therefore left the store thinking that I might be able to get some before we returned...BUT, I forgot. 

In late November, early December I started thinking about Christmas projects again.  We had some visiting missionaries here who did some mini conferences for the men and women.  The gal had a myriad of craft supplies.  She told us she could get anything near where she lives south west of Manila in the garment district.  I asked her about acrylic balls.  She already had some that she would give me!  She sent them to me via Pastor Al and family because they have a house near her.  I was so excited to have those balls so I could get started on making some ornaments this year.

When I did a little studying of how to make the ornaments and went to the box and closely scrutinized them, I realized that the opening to fill the balls was less than a half inch in diameter.  There went my dreams of getting some ornaments made. Only the tiniest of shells would fit through that opening.  That would not suffice. My hopes of having tropical Christmas ornament for 2015 Christmas were suddenly dashed.

Around the same time I acquired the clear acrylic balls I started contemplating what I needed to acquire to create my driftwood, table top tree.  All of the driftwood that I collected in early 2015 was taken out and arranged on the floor to create the shape of a Christmas tree.  

The only thing I still needed to complete the project was the dowel.

During a normal trip to Calapan (someday I will do a blog post on that weekly event) to do some banking and shopping I started visiting the hardware stores asking for a wooden dowel that was 1/4 inch or 1/2 inch in diameter and maybe up to a meter long.  I started sensing I was in trouble when the people didn't even know what a dowel was.  This little acquisition could be harder than I thought.  Of course, what I am used to is finding them in abundance of size and length in every hardware store in America.  But that was a quick reminder that "I am not in Kansas anymore, Toto!"

Because taking "no" for an answer is not my strong suit (sorry Lord!), I decided I needed to step up the search and take it to Manila.  Being determined to find this lonely little dowel I took a shot at searching online to see if any options surfaced at places that I shop when we go there.  To my delight, there was a store that looked like it was near the train station that we get off at when we go to Divisoria.  Marina was heading there in a matter of days and it was only a couple of blocks off of her normal path.  I explained to her what a dowel was and she agreed to go to that store and check when she was shopping for gifts and food for the Christmas party the next day.

In the meantime, I would try to check hardware stores that I came across while Jojo and I went in another direction to do some business errands and stock up on things we can't get anywhere but Manila.  We had some World Racers coming in the next day that we needed to pick up at the airport, so we had one day to shop.  We checked the hardware store at Mega Mall.  No deal.  We checked Ace Hardware at Tiendasitas. No deal.  We stopped at Wilcon, which is the biggest hardware store around.  It is similar to a Menards or Home Depot or Lowes.  The cabbie pulled over while I RAN in to see if they had them.  The stored had CLOSED 20 minutes earlier.  Bummer!  We had just exhausted all of the options for this trip because our time was up to shop.

The next day, while retrieving the World Racers from the airport and trying repeatedly to find our way back to the southbound side of the expressway to get back to Batangas to catch a ferry to Ballatero or Calapan we drove past several Wilcon stores.  All of them were already closed for hours by then and with a fully packed van with duffle bags on the roof and very tired Racers in the back, it wouldn't have been the appropriate thing to do anyway, even if we could find our way into the parking lot.  Each store we drove past was a constant reminder that I still did not have a dowel to make my tree.

My only hope was if Marina was able to get one at the store she was checking.  I wouldn't know the result of that attempt until she returned via bus and bangka the next day.  So, again, we wait.  When she returned she told me that she did indeed check that store and that they didn't have any in stock (we have determined that OUT OF STOCK is the national motto).  And because of the holidays and them having many orders to fill they didn't have time to MAKE me one. At least now we know where we can get one in the future, perhaps? "Curses, foiled again!"

I think by now you can already determine the results of this search.  NOW I was willing to accept the fact that I was not going to have ornaments or a driftwood Christmas tree before Christmas.  I didn't go down without a fight.  Then I thought, "Perhaps, Alex and Chris could bring one with them from the States when they return in January".  Better late than never, right? I didn't ask them to do that because it didn't seem practical to carry a long skinny 12 cent object with them on an 8000 mile journey.  I guess I will work on it when I go to Manila next time and see if we can have a few made near Divisoria.  If I am going to order them I should have a few extra for the next project.  Lord willing.

We have WAY too many things that need to be accomplished to be spending any more time trying to find a dowel in this country, at the moment.  So onto more pressing things.  I give up! 

In light of that, this is what my Christmas decorations consisted of this year...and last year. Actually these were gifts from last Christmas, except the wreath on the door which we purchased this year.

Then...yesterday, while walking across the parking area on the newly laid layer of stones; leftovers from what the sea spit out onto the beach, during a storm, 

Can you see it?

you guessed it...there was ONE 1/4 inch wooden dowel just the right length to make my tree.  

It seems that I was just looking in the wrong places all along.  God wasn't saying "NO" he was saying "WAIT".  

Now can you see it?

He loves us so much that He will lay dowels in our path in the most unexpected places.  THANK YOU, LORD!

I laid the dowel next to the staged tree to see the length of dowel I needed. I don't even need to cut it!  I guess you know what I will be doing, hopefully, in the not too distant future.  At least now there is no rush to get the project done. God is good...all of the time.

Thanks for tuning in to Marsh Mission Memos and sharing the journey with me. It is an adventure for sure.

A thankful servant,
Grateful for His love and provision,