Sunday, 10 January 2021

2020 the year we all want to forget!!! Except ...

2020 the year we all want to forget!!!
Except ...

What excuse can we give for being so remiss in sending you news from Cebu! Well it can’t be time because we’ve all had a good part of the year at home. The year we all want to forget. C19, the dreaded lurgy confined us to our homes, caused a new and strange isolation which brought fear and too often bereavement ... and it seems to be spilling into 2021 as we are currently isolating (again) for another 2 weeks (not allowed out at all after a few of us showed ‘covid symptoms’ and 2 tested positive who had been with us over Christmas.) Thankfully Alec has found a way to order food from a supermarket and we are adjusting... again.

Jo’s present to some of the
girls this year - a hug

Philippines have had one of the longest and strictest lockdowns in the world. With schools closing and under 21’s (!) supposedly under 24 hour curfew, our boys were confined to the house (and an area of concrete just outside the door) for 9 months from March till about November. Under 15’s are still supposed to be in 24 hour curfew! ‘Church’ life for so many around the world, has been online and many amazing and talented ‘techy’ people have climbed the steep learning curve to work out how to upload videos, do ‘live’ meetings and zoom calls. 

But this strange year has been a remarkable and exciting one for us in many ways.


Of course the confinement has been difficult, frustrating and stressful at times but it also gave us time to step back and get some things in place. As most of you know the reason for coming to Cebu was to work with children rescued from OSEC (Online Sexual Exploitation of Children) Although we have been engaged with lots of other things since being here, we always knew why we were here but often wondered when on earth it would happen. We questioned God a lot about it. After all we’re not getting any younger! However, some time in January 2020 we got to a point where, with the team here, we started making plans and thinking how to move forward. We even started looking for property and tentatively visited a few. One of them seemed quite promising. We allowed ourselves to get excited.

Then C19 showed up.

Through the long weeks and months though we have been thinking, praying and planning about ‘that promising house’, praying that we would have open hands ...but still being secretly super excited! Jo and Reuben started drawing room configurations and designing other houses for on the land and we read many books and articles on childhood trauma, eventually writing a short introductory course for those who will come and work with us. When would we have ever had the time before? It felt like the new chapter was finally birthing even in the midst of a pandemic.

In September we were able to visit ‘that house’ again thanks to a moment of relaxed quarantine regulations, and suddenly it seemed like it was all going to happen. Small groups of us went and prayed and worshipped on the site and in the area for over a month and then the finances suddenly and unexpectedly came!!! We really knew God was doing something special!  And suddenly at the end of October we were moving in!  It was a bit of a crazy time as Alec had to move into the property immediately (to avoid squatters) and we were going backwards and forwards dropping our stuff at the new house, cleaning and clearing the old house as well as transporting unwanted furniture from the new house to our other community houses. Alec was a superstar!  From then until now we have been working on getting this house ready. We’ve been busy in the garden - which is beautiful and packed with fruit trees and other edibles - painting, plumbing, changing locks, tiling and having endless fires (fun)! At the end of every day we feel like we’ve run a marathon!

We are so grateful for all your prayers and support and we feel amazingly privileged to be living in this paradise of a house. Finally the boys (and our dog, Bear...and our 3 cats!) have somewhere to run around. 

Before Christmas we also had a team of guys from one of our community houses come and help with painting our perimeter fence and other jobs. One guy has climbed all of our 15 palms to ‘clean’ them! Each time they went home with a feast of coconuts, papaya, jack fruit and bananas - all grown in the garden. How amazing.

We are so excited, and a little nervous, about opening our house to children. We are thinking to open initially for boys aged between 3 and 12 years old as there is very little aftercare specifically for boys. We still have a lot to do - especially paperwork- but we have had people from all over the world joining with us to pray every other week (30 minutes only!) for those children and families affected by OSEC. It has been so exciting to receive Bible verses and other encouragements from the U.K, France, Holland, France, Hong Kong and other places.  If you would like to join us to pray or would like more information about #END OSEC please let us know. Although the Philippines is a hotspot for this crime, the problems (customers) are global....and it is most probably happening in your country.

Back of the car filled with produce from the garden to deliver to the community houses ...

Family News

 Our children, Samuel (17) and Reuben (14) are still doing distance learning and are doing very well. Both are now taller than Jo! The move hardly affected them, it was so smooth and, after praying every day for the house they have, once again, seen God’s faithfulness and amazing timing. Also amazing was that some friends who moved back to Australia around the same time gave us almost all of their furniture which meant we could make it feel ‘homey’ very quickly. We even have comfy sofas which we haven’t had since England! 

The difficulty now is getting the boys to move!  Since moving house our daily lockdown exercise routine has gone out the window  - getting back into it is proving quite difficult...the screens are winning! (Boo boo). Although we have the amazing garden it is currently quite public as anyone who walks past the long perimeter fence can see in, and foreigners get a lot of attention! For Alec and I it’s been great to start getting to know the neighbours who love to stop and chat and laugh at our attempts at conversing in Cebuano but it can be overwhelming for teenage boys. We are working on painting and screening the fence it but it’s a long job. 

Samuel is currently doing International Baccalaureate and is talking about going to university in the U.K. or Canada in 2023. Scary! Reuben is in his first year of I.G.C.S.E.’s. We don’t know what our changing world will look like in a couple of years but we are confident that God knows so we don’t have to fear. Throughout the last 6 and a half years, since leaving the U.K. He has definitely been our anchor. 

So after all that we are sooo thankful to God for his faithfulness, and to you, our family and friends all around the world for support, love and constant friendship as we continue our crazy journey here in Cebu.  

Hopefully we will be able to go back to England this year as we haven’t been back since coming to Cebu. Maybe we’ll even be able to hug????? But for now we send love and huge virtual hugs from us to you!

Prayer points:

* Please do pray for: our work on the house; for the paperwork and admin to get the social services to allow us to open; and for the team we need (the team is ‘starting’ to come together, but we still need guards, a social worker and one more key worker).

* Please also pray for the Philippines. This crime of OSEC has perhaps worsened during the pandemic. Some reports say that 1 in 5 children are vulnerable to this crime in the Philippines. Do pray to #EndOSEC!!

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Another Year!

Downtime in Moalboal
Dear Friends, Family, Having left the U.K. in August 2014 we are into our 6th year away!!!  In many ways it feels that it has gone in a blink and yet our boys are evidence of the passage of time.  Samuel (15) towers above me (Jo), is shaving and has the beginnings of chest hair!  Reuben, now a teenager, will be the same height as me in the next 6 months.  What a journey they have had so far with many ups and downs and challenges. Apparently they are called third culture kids, living in a country which neither they nor their parents are from, thus merging things to make their own third culture! They are also in a strange cultural mix as we work with the very poor and yet most of their school mates are very rich.  One thing we know for sure is that the challenges have knitted us closer together and we are so grateful for that.  Maybe one day Samuel and Reuben will look back and see the benefits …

Two years in Cebu, Philippines.......   CULTURE AND PEOPLE
Flamboyant Festivals
The majority of Filipinos that we meet are very friendly and open, willing to share, hug, laugh, cry, and everything else in between.  Music, singing and dancing are very popular, it seems as though it’s in their blood! Being white in the Philippines gets you a lot of attention!  We are often stared at, waved at and spoken to and they LOVE it when they find out you can speak their language (Cebuano). Given that Filipino history is riddled with foreign takeovers (Spanish, Japanese and American), some Filipinos are a bit scared of ‘foreigners’ and often think themselves as lower. Unfortunately, many white people, men particularly, still come to the Philippines today and use that, plus the huge problem of poverty, to their own advantage. It is revolting to see.
Sunrise Worship in Lorega

In the poorer areas people live in close community.  Many live hand to mouth and some of the kids we know are definitely malnourished. Unlike the west people are very happy to invite you into their homes without a prior engagement and also join in with things at the drop of a hat.  As someone who likes to plan ahead I’m not quite there yet with ‘last minute.’… I’m trying! (Jo)


This spring we were so excited to have both our mums visit. We are so grateful for their love and support and for all the ‘treats’ we received including special meals out, a boat trip and a day at a resort! We tried to show them all the sights of Cebu – the good, the bad and the ugly 😆

This year the team who originally came from Hong Kong celebrated their 20th anniversary of being here. Visitors from near and far came back and shared stories over a week of celebration. God is good! 20 years later He is still showing his love and faithfulness to the people in our community and further afield as they continue to serve others.

And then…..
On the last day of the week long events and celebrations, just as everyone was anticipating a rest, one of our leaders came off his motorbike and suffered a serious head injury.  This threw everyone back into a flurry of activity, providing round the clock care whilst he was in hospital and then later after he was discharged. Medical care is very different to the U.K. There is no NHS, no hospital food, no cafes and no free treatment.  It took days to get the results of a scan (during which time he could have died!) and then the doctor read the results wrong saying that there was no bleeding on the brain when actually there was.  Scary!  He was even discharged before he had the results of his second scan.  Thankfully he is recovering well.

At the same time a young woman in the church who had not been well for some time and had had many tests found that she had an aggressive form of leukemia and once again several of the team were by her side, with her family, helping them through a very difficult and horrible time.  She sadly passed away about a week after the celebrations even before she could start treatment. We really saw the realities of life here for many and the unfairness of it all.  Had she been in another country …

In July we had an unexpected guest! A lovely little 18 month old boy. For confidentiality reasons we cannot post his picture but he is one cute and cheeky baby.  It was an emergency placement which was supposed to last 2 weeks which turned into 2 months!  Suddenly we were back to sleepless nights whilst tag-teaming as we still had our other responsibilities.  Samuel and Reuben were amazing big brothers to him and had to make lots of sacrifices over the summer. As we’ve known the baby since birth we were hoping that he would be placed with us officially as we have been in the process of applying for a foster licence but sadly he was placed with another family. It was heart breaking to hand him over to strangers but we trust that God has the best for him. It was lovely, if exhausting, having him around.

We hope to be licensed as a foster family soon.  We’ve had to jump though a lot of hoops so far but IF we get approved we will be the first white couple in Cebu to have a foster licence.  In many ways we are pleased that the social services are being so strict particularly as we have asked specifically for kids rescued from OSEC (Online Sexual Exploitation of Children) which is prevalent in the Philippines.  Many children with the help of International Justice Mission, social services and the police are rescuing children, but most of those kids will end up in an institution, especially if no other family members will take them.  We’re hoping and praying to be part of the solution!

Lorega Listening Bible
Kids Club Art
Kids Club Worship
Meanwhile, Alec and I continue to help in the community houses. Sometimes we look at the Bible, sometimes we do art and games, exercise or baking. It is never dull!  As well as that we do a kids club once a month for the local kids. Our age bracket is 2-5 years. A lot of them really love Alec as he runs around with them, throws them around and has lots of fun.  In fact last month when Alec was the first person ‘out’ in a game, they also wanted to be ‘out’ so that they could sit with him! So cute! The mum's are also supposed to come but often just send the little ones with an older sibling.  We would love to make stronger connections with the families and engage them as well but it will take time.

We are so proud of both our boys (I’m sure we say that every time!)  Obviously we have our moments and they often drive us crazy with moaning, grumpiness and other adolescent behaviour but we are trying to be their biggest cheerleaders. Samuel is off to Manila this Friday to take part in the global round of World Scholars Cup. Apparently 1,500 students from 30 different countries will be there. They debate, write etc.  Samuel’s worked really hard for it. 
Hopefully his computer-like brain will swing into action for the event.  He’ll be doing i-GCSE’s this academic year.

Reuben is also doing really well. School is not his favourite thing but he’s doing well and is turning out to be pretty good at maths, a natural in fact.  He’s decided he wants to be an architect. His two favourite things at the moment are watching bush-craft videos and fitness. He is very musical and loves playing his ukulele at bedtime….when he’s supposed to be sleeping.  Super cheeky but hilarious. 

  • Amazing team of people here - Please pray for good relationships
  • School fees for our boys which came at the perfect time.
  • Our foster licence application is moving forward. Hallelujah! Please pray it comes through soon and for our next steps. Please also pray for good standing and relationships with Social Services (DSWD) and other agencies.
  • We really felt that Mark (the leader of the guys house) was saved out of the jaws of death. Please pray that his recovery is complete
  • It has been amazing to see how God has provided the right people at the right time for the guys and girls houses. Please pray with us for more long term helpers.

Thank you so much for our interest in what we are doing. Please stay in touch (sorry we have not been great recently at sending out updates)!

Loads of Love,

Alec, Jo, Samuel and Reuben