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!!