The Mango Home

I have some exciting news to share that I briefly mentioned in my last blog and that is the opening of a new ministry, The Mango Home, which will help girls who are aging out of the orphan system here in the Philippines.

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In Bohol when my parents visited in August.

In the Philippines and around the world, children who age out of the orphan system, whether from foster care or orphanages, have everything against them. These children turn 18 and are expected to be able to provide for themselves and turn into adults overnight. But the reality of these children is heartbreaking. There are no statistics specific to the Philippines but a study done in Russia and the Ukraine by Heart for Orphans says that for children aging out of the orphan system:

  • Only 27% will find work.
  • 30% will become addicted to drugs.
  • 60% of the girls will become prostitutes and/or sex trafficked.
  • 70% of the boys turn to crime.
  • 10% to 15% will commit suicide.

These statistics are overwhelming. I have worked a lot with teenage girls living in children’s homes and orphanages and it breaks my heart to imagine those girls becoming a part of these statistics.

The Lord has put teen girls aging out of the orphan care system on my heart and he connected me with my friend Candace who has also felt the Lord putting the same on her heart. Once we both learned of our shared dream, we could not deny the Lord’s hand working in our lives. When we brought up the idea to our new organization, Agape Impact Ministry, they immediately said yes.

The Mango Home will be a small family home for girls aging out of children’s homes and orphanages. Our goal is to provide a family support system where each girl will be loved, cherished, and know the love of her Heavenly Father. The home will be a place to help prepare these girls to become independent adults through counseling, education, life skills training, and spiritual mentoring.

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Helping out at a kids program called A4J (All 4 Jesus).

All of the girls who join The Mango Home will have come from hard places, so counseling will play a big part in their lives to help them heal. I will be able to use all of my TBRI training that I received through TCU to help make the home a healing environment but we will also provide weekly counseling.

Education can change a child’s life so we will provide opportunities for each girl to be able to complete high school and hopefully college if they are able. For the ones that struggle in school, we want to enroll them in trade school or livelihood projects so they will be able to provide for themselves and their family in the future.

Children that grow up in institutions like children’s homes and orphanages often are not prepared with basic life skills to be able to transition into adulthood successfully. At The Mango Home, each girl will learn basic skills like cooking, cleaning, budgeting, grocery and market shopping, using public transportation, and all the other skills they will need. We are praying that we will be able to establish a staff of Filipino women who will play a big part in teaching the girls these skills.

The most import focus at The Mango home will be sharing Jesus’ love. Our core vision and my prayer is that the young women living at The Mango Home will recognize their worth in Christ as beloved daughters, so they can grow into strong and dignified women of God who do not need to fear their future. (Proverbs 31:25) I want each girl to know how precious she truly is and how much her Heavenly Father loves her. Through spiritual mentoring, I hope each girl will be able laugh without fear of the future because she will know how great her God truly is.

Time-line wise, we have submitted our paperwork to become a legal incorporation in the Philippines and are preparing all our documents needed to become a licensed home by the Department of Social Welfare. We are also getting the house set up and preparing to take the first girls in around March or April of 2019! I am so excited and nervous but I know this is the ministry the Lord has been preparing me to do over the past few years here in the Philippines.

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Candace, Mateo, and I after a TBRI training session with his parents.

Praises I would like to share:

  • I got the news that my missionary visa has been approved!! I have been waiting for this for so long and it’s finally approved!
  • We found a paralegal who will be able to prepare all our legal documents so that they are done properly. She seemed really sweet and after our second meeting with her, we found out she adopted her two daughters. It is just cool to be able to hire people to do something necessary for the ministry but know that they also have a heart for what we do.
  • I was able to finish training Mateo and his family in TBRI. I have seen a lot of improvements and it has been such a good opportunity to use my training to help educate and fellowship with this family.
  • I have been asked by several organizations to work with them to implement TBRI.
  • We have the opportunity to do some outreach programs with teen girls living in government homes. We’ll start with doing fun craft projects and see what other ways we can help. This will be a great way to develop relationships with government social workers who will be able to help advocate for us getting our license and potentially see if any of their girls would fit into our home.

Prayer Requests:

  • Please pray for the girls we will be taking in. We do not know which girls will join The Mango Home but pray for them and for me and Candace to be prepared to serve the with whatever needs they will have.
  • Please pray for my health as I am still not feeling great most days.
  • Please pray for me as I will start fundraising for The Mango Home when I am back in the States in November and December. It is a big hurdle to tackle. Between tuition, counseling, staff salaries, and day-to-day expenses, the Mango Home is going to cost a pretty penny monthly.

Thank you for your continued prayer and support!

 

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Connections

The past two months have been slow and busy at the same time. It has been a lot of waves of busyness if that makes sense. So, I’ll just give an overview of what’s been going on.

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Eliana at her first birthday. She had a Moana themed party since that’s her nickname and she looks exactly like baby Moana from the movie.

In June I was able to visit Malaybalay again. I had not been able to go down for almost a year and a half and it was SO good to be able to visit my friends there, eat all the amazing food that I have missed so much and enjoy the cooler weather and mountains. I was even able to see many of my students and their parents from Paglaum Learning Center. I was there for my goddaughter’s first birthday and dedication. This was particularly special to me as I was not able to be there for her birth due to how unsafe Mindanao was last year.

At the beginning of July, we took a trip to Cebu. I had never been before, so it was really exciting to visit a new island here in the Philippines. While I was in the States a few months back, I was able to get connected with a therapist who works with children who have been affected by trauma. She lives in Cebu and I really wanted to meet her and learn from her. Candace, my roommate/co-missionary, and I thought since we were going all the way there to visit her, we should utilize this trip to see other organizations and learn from them as well.

 

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Island hopping was beautiful!

We were able to visit and talk with three other organizations while we were there. One was a children’s home that has their organization set up in smaller foster homes, another takes care of girls rescued from online sexual exploitation, and the other works on the preventive side of online sexual exploitation by educating communities, teachers, families, and children. We learned so much and each organization gave us ideas and advice as we start a ministry for helping girls who are aging out of the orphan system. Cebu is known as a great vacation spot, so we took some time to island hop and enjoy the sand. My friend Jonah and her daughter, Eliana (my goddaughter) were able to join us on the trip which made it extra special.

We were encouraged by the new connections we made in Cebu, but we have been specifically praying for more connections here in Manila closer to where we live. God has continued to answer these prayers by giving us multiple connections close to us. We were able to meet with the director of Philippines Without Orphans and it was so encouraging!

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Their organization is connected with many people all around Manila and had many ideas for us and people we should meet and learn from. They are connected with about 30 foster families and when the director found out I am a TBRI practitioner, he was thrilled! This is another thing I have been praying for, that my training in TBRI can be used to help those that are serving children that have experienced trauma and doors are starting to open up to do so! One of the foster families they work with has a 7-year-old son they are in the process of adopting and need some help figuring out how to help him the best. He has multiple special needs which will be challenging but I met with the family a couple days ago and they are eager to learn and I am looking forward to getting to know them and their son as I train them. I will also be meeting with the other foster families that Philippines Without Orphans works with this weekend at a get-together and they could potentially be more families that I can help train in TBRI!

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My dog, Pilot, is loving the front porch at the new house and I am too!

I also moved in July. My roommate, Candace, and I have been house hunting for months trying to find a house that met our needs. Houses kept falling through for one reason or another, but we finally were able to secure our new house and can see now what the Lord had planned and why all those houses would not have been as good as the one we have! It has required a lot of blood, sweat, and tears…and a lot of love put into it since it is older and a little run down, but it is getting there slowly. After three weeks of renovations and painting, we were able to move in last week. This house has the potential to be an amazing place of ministry. We wanted to find a house big enough to, in the near future, accept girls who are aging out of the orphan care system and have no family or support system in place to help them become independent adults. And this house has great potential to do this! I will write a blog soon going into more detail about this new ministry.

I have been doing a Bible study over the book of Ezra and the Lord has really encouraged me daily from this study. It has helped me to be able to enjoy the times of waiting (always been a struggle of mine) and also embrace the victories, even if they seem small now, because I know He has great plans in the near future for my life and new ministry.

These are some of the things I would like to ask you to pray for. I have been experiencing a pretty bad flare up with my autoimmune stuff so it has been a painful and exhausting couple of weeks so prayer for my health would be appreciated. Please pray that I can help this new family be able to connect more with their child and give them encouragement. Our new house has a few renovations left, so pray that there are no issues with that. All the paperwork needed to take steps towards starting the new ministry is a lot of work, so pray that goes smoothly.

For those who give financially, I am officially switched over to Agape Impact Ministries. I am trying to get all of my monthly donors transitioned to give through Agape in the near future. To donate, go to https://agapeimpactministry.com/how-to-help/donate.html and fill out the needed boxes. Make sure to selected Madison Bennett under the ‘appropriate my gift to’ spot.

When you switch over and if you have already been supporting me through Kids International Ministries, please notify me so I can have that donation canceled. Please email me if you have any questions about this process and I would be happy to help!

Thank you for all the prayer and support you continue to give me!

May 2018 Update

 

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Post-season swim party with my volleyball team.

Many of you know there have been a lot of changes in the organization that I have worked for since I moved to the Philippines. I have learned a lot working for Kids International Ministries, but these changes have been often very hard on me and affected my daily life a lot.

Since moving to Manila, I have had the opportunity to live with and get to know a wonderful couple whose passion in life is to see orphans loved and cared for. They started their own organization, Agape Impact Ministries (AIM), to simply serve orphans in whatever way the Lord leads. I have decided, through much prayer and guidance, to work with Agape Impact Ministries where I feel like my education, skills, and passions will be used to help Agape accomplish their mission.

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I have had a lot of fun teaching the kids gymnastics and they love it!

I hope to continue to have a relationship with the kids at the children’s home that I have been working at, but this new ministry will give me the opportunities to help educate more individuals and organizations using the Trust Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) that I have been trained in through TCU. I was in the States doing an internship with Kansas Children’s Service League, helping them conduct parent trainings, which gave me the opportunity to practice what I learned from TCU in helping those who care for traumatized children and I now feel ready to apply what I have learned in the Philippines.

I feel God guiding me through every day and am praying for more consistency in my life and work. I cannot tell you how much it means to know you are praying and supporting me through all these changes. For those that finically support me, I will let you know when it is time for my finances to transition over to Agape Impact Ministries and I will help you get that set up.

 

November Update 2017

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Since being back in Manila from the States, things have moved pretty fast. The kids started school in June and it has been full speed since then. They attend Cuatro Christian School (CCS) which is also run by Kids International Ministries. With the start of school also came the start of sport seasons.

Since I have participated in sports since I could walk, I obviously enjoy that some of our kids from NFFCH love sports as much as I do. I knew that CCS did not have a volleyball coach for the high school team this year so I offered to help coach. Three of our girls from the Children’s Home play on the team so it was so fun to get to coach them and get to coach all their friends too! It was challenging to try and train 17 girls when I have never coached volleyball before but I loved it!

The first part of the season was pretty rough but it was great practice for the girls. They may not have won a whole lot but they learned how to work as a team, encourage each other through the tough times, play hard, have a lot of fun, and honor God through their sportsmanship on and off the court.

IMG_1118The last two tournaments were the highlight of the season! The girls placed 2nd in the Dan Landry Tournament and 2nd again at the Buhay Sports Tournament. For both tournaments, we had two girls each time earn a place on the All-Tournament Team which was a great honor and meant the world to them. Both tournaments were hosted by Faith Academy which is such a relaxing environment to play at and they even have wood courts! Since the girls usually practice and play on cement courts here, they love when it is time to play at Faith. It is pretty entertaining to see how excited they get when they walk into the gym!

It was a great season overall and was such a blessing to be able to coach! Some of my players have even asked when we will start training again and it has only been a couple weeks since we finished! It is very encouraging to see how much they enjoyed the season and how their love for the game is growing strong.

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Many of you know from reading my past blog postings that there have been a lot of changes within the organization that I work with, Kids International Ministries, but here’s a quick update from the past few months. Several months ago, we closed our Children’s Home in Malaybalay and moved the children from that home to join our New Faith Family Children’s Home in Manila. I made that physical move to Manila along with the children so I could help them adjust to a new family, and also so that I could work with our staff in providing a quality, loving place for all of the children to grow up together.

18901409_1532050690173514_1118593290_oDuring this transition, the decision was made to give responsibility for Paglaum Learning Center over to the local Filipino organization that I had partnered with in Malaybalay. Our hope was that they would continue to run Paglaum Learning Center with guidance from me in Manila and with financial assistance from donors in the States. They have decided to continue, and to expand, the Alternative Learning Systems where teens and adults work toward getting their elementary or high school diplomas. This is a great help to the families of our students because they can earn a higher wage with a high school diploma and can also help their children with school work. But, it was decided that they will not continue the preschool and kindergarten classes you partnered with me to start.

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In light of this, we were able to provide all of the previous students with new back packs, school supplies, medical supplies, tooth brushes and toothpaste, soap, rain jackets, and flip flops. The parents understood our situation and were so thankful that we were still able to help get their kiddos prepared to make the transition to their local public schools.

I am sad that Paglaum will not be offering preschool and kindergarten at this time, but I know that God has a plan and that the children you helped me serve were well fed, educated, and shown Jesus’ love over the past two years. I have already received many updates from parents saying how well their children are doing and most of our previous students are honors in their classes! It brings so much joy to my heart that these kids are doing well at school! Thank you to everyone who played a part in these kids’ lives for the past two years, what an impact Paglaum Learning Center had on their lives!

 

18870360_1532049860173597_1016795607_oOne of the responsibilities I have taken while working at the Children’s Home is writing a monthly newsletter. I am going to include you in the list of people who receive that because it will help you understand what is going on in my life and the lives of the children I help serve. Please feel free to unsubscribe or email me back if you would rather not receive the newsletter updates.

 

Thank you for praying for me and the kids. You do not know how much it means to me that there are people like you who are praying that my efforts here bring children closer to our Lord and Savior.

Reflection

As usual, I am playing catch up updating here on my blog. Now that I am Stateside for a few weeks, I figure I have no more excuses to put it off so here it is, a reflection of the last few months.

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Precious girl, I love you…forever and always.

I think I have put this off for so long because I did not want to write about this thinking if I would write about it, it will have actually have happened. One of the happiest and hardest moments of my life happened February 28th. My precious little Ruth met her forever family. I got the text that her parents would be in Manila 7 short days before they arrived! I immediately cried tears of joy and heartbreak. It was one of those moments where you don’t really regret praying for something but you almost want to take it back. Since this little 5-pound baby was put in my arms, I prayed for her forever family and now that this prayer was being answered, I just wanted a little more time.

Ruth had lived in our Children’s Home in Malaybalay since she was a week old but because of her passport being processed early, she had to move to Manila two months before her adoption which usually does not happen. Since she was already attached to me, we did not want her to have to go through the trauma of adjusting to the Children’s Home in Manila and then shortly after, adjust to her new forever home. So, I decided it would be best for me to unofficially foster her until her mommy and daddy came. These two months were some of the most exhausting months of my life. Two-year-olds are no joke! But, for every moment of ’oh my goodness I think this creature is sucking out every ounce of energy I have left in my body’ there were many more moments of ‘this child is the most beautiful soul there ever was and I do not know how I am going to ever let go of her.’ But I did.

We met with Ruth’s social workers and parents before they met her to sign paper work and for me to share with them about their child. It was so difficult to know what to tell the parents about their daughter when I had been the one to know every little thing about her from what food she doesn’t like to the made-up word she used for her flip flops. I told them everything I could think of, they signed the papers, and then I went out of the room to bring their daughter to them.

I picked her up for the last time that day as her mother figure and explained that her new mommy and daddy were downstairs waiting to meet her. I walked her downstairs and held her tightly the whole way. We walked into the room and when she saw them for the first time, she joyfully said “Mommy! Daddy!” like she was surprised they were actual people and not just pictures that we said goodnight to every night before bed. It was the cutest and most heartbreaking thing ever. We read books and played with a puppet until she was comfortable to sit in their laps and I slowly created the distance needed to let her go. Let’s just say, I held it together pretty well until this point, slipped out of the room, and sobbed.

Adoption is beautiful and it is hard. Knowing that Ruth was able to healthily attach to me and not develop an attachment disorder like so many children do in her situation, made it all worth it and I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.

On a much lighter note, things are going great in Manila! I am slowly adjusting to city life and loving my new job as Home Life Manager of 51 kids. We were finally able to close the Children’s Home in Malaybalay and it feels so good to have all my kiddos in one place.

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Beach Day!

It is summer time now so we have been trying to create activities to keep all our kids busy and out of the house some. We enrolled 21 of our kids in a parent-run basketball program which is like a 2-month tournament every Saturday. I coach one of the 7th/8th grade teams which has been a blast! It is so cool to see our kids stand out as individuals on their teams instead of being a ‘Children’s Home Kid’ which is what they are often referred to at school and in the community they live in. We went to the beach two weeks ago and the kids LOVED IT! Never seen more tired kids than in our bus on the way home from a day of swimming in the ocean.

We also had our first Kindergarten Graduation at Paglaum Learning Center in Malaybalay at the end of March! We had 11 graduates who are ready to enter 1st grade!

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Paglaum’s Graduating Class of 2017!

It was so fun to see the joy on all our kids’ faces as they received their awards and certificates. I am so proud of each and every one of them and am excited to see what God has planned for their lives.

I am home (Stateside home) until May 18th. I will be speaking at churches, going to a lot of doctors’ appointments, going to a training in Texas, and spending as much time with my family (especially my little nephew) as I can. Thank you to everyone that supports and prays for me, allowing me to do what I love to do in the Philippines.

P.S. Thanks, Candace for the picture of me and Ruth. 🙂

Some Big News

 

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One step closer to adoption for my little girl. Only a couple more months or less!

Some big news….I am moving to Manila!

Kids International Ministries has gone through a lot of changes in the past few months which, in part, made it necessary to close the Children’s Home in Malaybalay on the same property of Paglaum Learning Center. This was a difficult decision but one that I think will be better for the children and for our ministry as a whole. Once I knew that it would be final that the home was closing, I started praying about what God wanted with me. I have become very involved with the care of the children in the home and have started to realize that God wants me involved in the care of orphans, especially these orphans who I have come to love. This made the decision to move and help in the Manila Children’s Home clear. My role in Manila will be working at our Children’s Home of 50 plus kids as the Home Life Manager. I’ll be in charge of staff development, program development for the kids like sports and arts, visiting teams and volunteer coordination, and whatever else comes up that I can help with. I have already been filling in this role part time these past couple weeks and so far I love it.

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Fun day at Manila Ocean Park.

Pagalum Learning Center will continue to serve the families in Malaybalay with the help of some amazing Filipino friends who are very capable of operating the school day-to-day. I will continue to serve as director; my plan is to fly down to Malaybalay every month to have staff meetings, catch up with people and, of course, see the students.

These are all a lot of big changes for me and for those around me. Please pray for this transition for me as I move, for the kids from Malaybalay as they move to Manila in a month or so, for those accepting our kids in Manila, and for those in Malaybalay that have been our children’s family over the years from house parents, volunteers, friends, and all who care about our kids. Pray for a sense of peace and comfort for all during this process.

 

December 2016 Update

img_86302016 has been a very full year for Paglaum Learning Center. Since the last time I wrote a blog, a lot has been going on…I know it has been months since I last posted an update but my goal for 2016 is to be more diligent about updating my blog to share with all of you! I won’t call it a New Year’s resolution since that title for me seems like it is just set up for failure, so a goal seems like a more manageable term to accomplish.

Anyways, the school is doing great. We currently have 56 little kiddos in our Kindergarten and Preschool classes and they are all growing and learning so beautifully! It is so cool to be able to see the students mature and have deeper conversations with them. They are the funniest little humans and it is such a joy to be in their lives. Whenever I pull up to the school or the kids walk by my office they all yell, “TEACHER MADI! TEACHER MADI! TEACHER MADI!” on repeat. It is for sure a great self-esteem booster even if it is slightly disruptive to their teachers. 🙂

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Our Preschoolers gathering materials for an art craft. 

Since I am not teaching this year and am in the administrator role of the school, I am not constantly in the kids’ classrooms so I love to sit in from time-to-time or play with them on the playground during their recess. It is just amazing to me how they are little sponges that soak up everything. It is so fun to listen to our Kindergarteners ask deep questions about their Bible stories and their want to know more about the Word. We are fortunate that our school has the freedom to be able to share, openly, about Jesus and the Bible to all our students and families. I love seeing their art work everywhere and their seedlings on the sidewalk. Our school is on a beautiful property with lots of natural learning resources so our kids’ Science is very hands on from nature walks to pick leaves for painting to planting little bean seeds in cups on the sidewalk. My teachers are so creative and I am very proud to have them teach our kids in such a fun, hands-on style that I know is very important.

 

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Our parents revived these beautiful quilts made and donated by Nancy Shuler as rewards. 

We had our first Family Sports Day in October. It was a great way to get the families involved and let our kids show what they have been learning in their P.E. classes for the first half of the year. Each class preformed a cheer/dance/gymnastics routine, we had a soccer tournament, fed everyone lunch, played tug-of-war and had sack races (even the parents had their turns which was hilarious for all). We ended the day with prizes and special rewards for families who have had no absents on their volunteer days at the school.

 

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The Preschool tug-of-war game got pretty intense! 

After having our sports day and hanging out on our playground with the kids (we have five swings and a little climbing gym) I have been thinking about how beneficial and fun more playground equipment would be for the school. I would love to get a nice playground set with monkey bars and plenty of things to climb on so the kids can continue to develop their gross motor skills and imaginations. If anyone would like to contribute to the playground or has any leads on some good deals, please let me know! You can send in a check to Kids International Ministries (P.O. Box 1369 Lawrence, KS 66044) and just stick a note in with it saying it is for Paglaum Learning Center playground or something like that. Or go to http://www.goestores.com/catalog.aspx?storename=kidsinternationalministries&DeptID=252799&ItemID=10285817&detail=1 to make a one-time donation; just select Paglaum Learning Center on the drop down box.

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Having ‘tea time’ with some of the Kindergarten girls.

 

Thank you to everyone who prays and supports the school! We are so grateful. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

August Update

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Classes started June 21st. We have 60 preschool and kindergarten students! Our staff has grown from 2 to 6! This year we have three teachers, a cook, an administrative assistant, and a volunteer P.E. coach. The school would not be the same without any of them. God has blessed the school greatly with a staff who truly loves all our kiddos and show Jesus’s love to them every day. This is one of the things that I prayed for…not just for a good staff with respectable credentials and experience but a staff that truly cares for our kids as much as I do.

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Our parents working hard on finishing their education. 

This school year has begun with a lot of change and a lot of new. We are in a new, beautiful building with three classrooms! This has allowed us to have a Kindergarten room, a Preschool room, and an office/parents’ programs room. On top of adding Kindergarten this year, we also added a program for our parents to obtain their elementary or high school diplomas and we have 13 moms and dads enrolled! It is so cool to walk from one classroom where I see the mom’s studying and then just right next door, their little kiddos are studying too! We were also able to build a small kitchen, storage room, and a covered eating area behind the school. These may seem like simple additions but they make a huge difference in helping the school run smoother and keeping the classrooms clean and organized.

 

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Our kids LOVE their P.E. class!

Probably our kid’s favorite addition (and maybe mine) to the school is P.E class! Each class has a 30 minute outside play period everyday so we decided to have P.E. twice a week during this time. A good friend of mine who has volunteered and worked at our orphanage in the past asked me if we needed help at the school with anything and he brought up the idea about having P.E. class and I loved the idea! When I was in school, I lived for P.E. class. It was my time to shine and I want our kids that might struggle with the academic part of school to be able to have an outlet where they are the kids that are having an easy time. It has been amazing to see our shy kids come out of their shells and run around the soccer field yelling and laughing. Like me, running and laughing is therapy for our kids.

 

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My sweet girl hanging out in my office at school.

A prayer request that I have shared before has been answered; my sweet precious baby girl is getting adopted! She was matched with a family in Sweden! It Is not completely official but if everything goes smoothly, she will be with her forever family in a few months. I have been having some pretty bitter sweet emotions about this.  I am so thankful that God allowed me to love her for her first two years of life. I have been there for a lot of her ‘firsts’ and it breaks my heart knowing that I won’t be there for the rest of her ‘firsts’ in life but I am so thankful that God has answered my prayers by providing this family to be her family.

 

I am currently in the States for a month for health problems. I have shared a little about how I have been sick with Lyme Disease for a few years 13510812_1071084276297215_3108695151556988224_nnow but after seeing all my doctors in May, they decided I needed a more aggressive treatment to try and get the bacteria out of my body. So long story short, I had a PICC line placed in my arm beginning of June while I was in the Philippines. It is so wonderful how it all worked out in God’s timing. I knew that this treatment would make me feel sicker before it made me feel better but it held off for the beginning of the treatment and I was still able to function pretty much full speed when we were setting up the school for the beginning of the year. Now that I am in the States, the treatment has been making me feel not so great, but it just shows me God’s hand and timing in everything and I am so grateful for this.

I want to thank all of you who pray for our ministries, for our kiddos, and for me. Our big prayer request right now is funding for the school. We are in need of more student sponsors to keep the school running. And please also pray for my personal health.

13654377_1095695467169429_6774851508705281083_nA few sponsors have asked me if they can send their student gifts or packages. If you wanted to do that, I am in the States until September 8th so you can mail me something at my parent’s address in Kansas and I can take it back with me. Just email me (madibennett11@gmail.com) to get the mailing address and so I know to expect something. I also have a ‘wish list’ of items/school supplies that the school is in need of if anyone is interested, I can get you that list.

What I Have Learned

IMG_8737First year of school complete! We had our end-of-year closing program last week. It is amazing to see the growth in all of our students. When we started school in June, after the first day of class, I was so overwhelmed. I’ll be honest, it was pretty much chaos those first few days. We had to establish more rules than I thought we would with the parents and the students and I really did not know how the school was going to work. After a couple more weeks, though, as the children adjusted, things started to look more like a real school…with some type of organization. If you know me at all, I like things to be organized and under control which is funny that I chose to start a preschool since both of those things are often impossible.

It is clear that God has taught me so much through these past nine months, really since I have moved to Malaybalay one and a half years ago. I have been stretched and challenged which has helped me grow in many areas.

IMG_8773I have learned a lot of the local language. I am for sure not fluent yet and that will take time but I can converse pretty easily and my vocabulary is growing. I have also learned a lot about the culture of the community here. This is also something that I think will take years to understand and learn but I am working on it.

I have learned how run a school. This is not without the help and hard work of many so thank you all! I am still learning but it is kind of insane to think about me running a real school since four years ago I did not want anything to do with any type of job that was related to any form of school let alone start and run one. My plan was to be a nurse but God’s plan is always perfect and I love my job now.

IMG_9046I have learned to live on my own. From living in my parents’ house to moving half way across the world to live by myself, I have learned many things like how to pay my bills (which is quite interesting in the Philippines since you cannot just mail in a check or pay with credit card but you actually need to go to each company to pay each bill with cash) and how to cook (well, still working on that one but I can survive now food wise and have learned a lot of local dishes and how to cook with local ingredients that I have never seen before).

I have also learned how to be a part time mom. I expected to help with the babies at the children’s home a little but I did not expect to have strong attachments with them. The first baby that came to the children’s home after I moved here was only a week old. I named her and she is very attached to me. IMG_8982I buy her diapers and milk, take her to the doctor, stay with her in the hospital the times she has been admitted, and spend the night when she is sick. She is the most precious baby and I pray every day for the adoptive family that will get to take her home to be theirs. I have also become close to a few of our older kids. As we are making changes in our children’s home, they will be transitioning to other homes or moving back with family. It is going to be hard for all of us but I know I will still be able to stay in contact with them. I will be moving one of our girls up to Manila tomorrow who I am closest to, it often feels like she is my daughter. I will get to visit her but please pray for her as she makes this big move to a new home and for me as she will be so far from where I live.

I am so thankful for all the things God has taught me and all the things I am still learning. I am excited to see all the things He will teach me during this next school year.

I will be heading back to the States from April 7 to May 23! I plan to visit friends, family and churches in California and Georgia so I will be traveling some during my time home. I am excited to be able to spend a lot of time with my friends and family in the midwest…especially my precious nephew :). Hopefully I will get some time to rest too.

Thank you again to everyone who has made this first school year possible! I could not have done it without you all!

January-February Update

Well it has been a while since I have posted my last blog. As always, I have been extremely busy the last two months so this blog will be kind of an update on what’s up here in Malaybalay.

The preschool is still going great! IMG_7289Last month, I spent hours upon hours putting together a portfolio/ application to have Paglaum Learning Center accredited for kindergarten this coming school year that starts in June. And praise God that the Department of Education said everything looks good and they would submit it to the region for the final stage. We have been working on this for 6 months so it is a relief to finally have it out of my hands and with DepEd. They said the regional DepEd will visit sometime in March to see our building and give the final go ahead.IMG_8165

Speaking of the building, it is almost finished!! Thank you to all who prayed for the finances and construction of the classrooms. When we talked about how much it would cost to build, I was very stressed out and didn’t see how I would be able to raise more than $40,000. But the funny thing was when I finally accepted that I could not raise the money and that I just needed to trust God, HE provided in a way that I could not imagine.

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The kids were very excited to see their future classrooms!

An Australian team of more than 20 came for two weeks in January and practically built the whole school. When they were here, I would go out to the property where the school is and every day there were major progresses on the building. It was just amazing to see how hard this team worked literally from sun up to sun down. I am so thankful that they were willing to spend their time helping build this building that will be used to serve the children and people here for years to come. I cannot even begin to imagine all the purposes God has in store for this building that so many have had a part in completing.

Another team from Ohio came two weeks ago on a medical mission. They spent a few days in Tacloban (the city that was hit the hardest by Typhoon Yolanda in 2013) and then they came to us to spend two days diagnosing, treating, and loving on our people here in Malaybalay.  We are so grateful that they came; it was very eye opening to see how sick our people actually are and how even if they have somewhat serious cases, they simply cannot afford to go to a doctor. The team left a bunch of medications that we can use to help our people in the future.

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Sibling Love

One thing that has been going on, that I cannot give much detail, is that we have to make some big changes at the children’s home here. The government evaluated our home and had some issues with how some of our children have been with us for too long and that they have not been adopted. Some of our kids have complicated cases that make adoption very difficult making it take a long time to process all of their papers. Because of the government agency concerns, we have to move some of our older children to homes that are meant for long-term living for older kids or find foster families for them. This is obviously very hard on the kids since this is their home and it has been for a long time. It is also very emotional for me and the other adults who work for the home or help run it. I am trying to trust God that He has a perfect plan for these kids but it is none-the-less very emotional for me. Please pray for our children, God’s timing, and for me as these changes occur in the coming months.