The pandemic of 2020 has closed the doors to return to our loved ones in the Philippines (Institute for Foundational Learning in Cabuyao, Laguna) where we have spent a third of our last 42 months. Every bit of news got worse in 2020 regarding our chances of getting a visa, then a flight, and finally a two to three month stay. We had checked many times. We had already imagined opening boxes with stuff we were either bringing or shipping, then helping the staff wrap presents for the little orphans, repeatedly hugging our friends on the staff, and getting visits in the morning from little ones. Our trip had been planned for several months. All our thoughts were evaporating in the face of forces much larger than us. We had told them we would come for Christmas, but we simply could not make it happen.
In October we decided to try to send a last box that might reach our friends by Christmas. One box. We found all sorts of things and planned to take it over nine ridges of mountains, visit our Virginia friends who had helped us find other stores to get things on clearance to reduce the costs, and attempt to get the last inches of the 20x23x17 inch container absolutely cram-packed. We had one day to make the trip, finish the box, and get it to the Virginia departure point. Then we got a call from the director. They were already hard-pressed for funds to keep the ministry going, and no gifts could be bought for nearly half the children. We called our Virginia friend and board member who is good on the phone. We gave him a few hours to find the best deals he could for summer stuff (the Philippines is really warm) and the last minute items at the director’s request. Most of those things in the US are impossible to find in October.
We had already gone to five stores in WV but came up short. Our Virginia friend called and checked in his location for what could be found. A lady called with really good children’s clothing, especially for young boys, and we needed it. Following our Virginia friend’s guidance, we found the rest of the items IFL really needed, which normally would not be on the shelves. One clearance section in one store, which seemed to have been overlooked and left just for us, finished the critical items. We only had a few hours to pack, and packing is not simple. We must strip the items of unnecessary boxes, paper, and cardboard to repackage everything, put little things within bigger things, compress the daylights out of every layer, and fill in nooks or crannies with smaller items. We crammed the little items in and topped off using little girl’s clothes from yet another lady. By the end of the day we delivered the three very heavy boxes to be shipped. Their cost of shipping plus the clearance prices for the items we bought meant that it was a fabulous Christmas set of boxes worth three times the cost at regular prices.
Would the boxes get there? With the pandemic raging and shipping companies having difficulty at both ends, we were not sure. The director called on Dec 20th, two months after our drop off date, nervous that IFL had not seen the boxes. No boxes meant a real shortfall. The boxes arrived at IFL’s doorstep on December 23. The staff and older children helped pack all the gifts. The director always oversees the work. As I write, they are getting the gifts, since our Christmas Eve is their Christmas Day. We sent audio messages tonight. The boxes also have letters expressing our love for them. We were part of the celebration without being there. We can see the smiles, receive their texts, and most of the children will never know what it took to make it happen — Virginia friends, the mad rush through 10 stores, the homework, the paperwork, the rushed travel through the mountains twice, and a good shipping company to finally make it all happen.
We are thankful. God was so gracious to us. Thank you Ron and Dot, Cris and Allan, the special ladies who donated children’s clothes, several friends who made contributions, and a shipping company that made it across the seas and got them to the door of IFL — just in time.