One Year in the Philippines

*I started this post over 2 weeks ago on the actual one year anniversary of living here but I just now got around to finishing it..enjoy!


One year ago today I landed in this beautiful place I now call home.


In some ways it feels like I’ve been here in the Philippines for years. I eat rice every day. I throw my toilet paper in the trash. I speak more Bisaya than English. I take my shoes off right when I walk in the door. I fall asleep to the sound of the neighbors chickens. I go to church outside. And I have a family of 16 beautiful kids.

But in other ways it feels like I landed here yesterday. The hole is just as deep as day 1 when it comes to missing my family and my people back home. The cultural differences still shock and confuse me at times. I still crave Subway and miss eating greek yogurt. I still whine about how hot it is and I miss consistent electricity. And my kids are still living on the street.

There is SO much to celebrate from this first year. And believe me, I have! I learned a new language. I moved into my first home. I gained the trust of 16 street kids who changed my life. We opened the drop in center. We started having accredited school every day. We employed a social worker and two teachers. And we started our sponsorship program.


Those are just the big defining moments I can pull from the top of my head.

But when I think back on this year, my mind doesn’t instantly go to the big moments. Instead, I like to think back and remember all the tiny moments in between that led to all the big things.

I think back to day one when I first arrived in Divisoria and met some of the kids. My Bisaya still wasn’t very good so our conversations were shaky at best. I learned their names and we ate some chicken and rice. I can still picture their hardened faces and closed off hearts. I remember thinking to myself, what have I gotten into here?






I remember when we first opened the drop in center and I seriously doubted any of the kids would even come. We had a short-term team here at the time and just as we were explaining our goal for the month- to get kids to come to the center on their own- 3 of the kids walked right in for the very first time! It was a defining moment for me on this journey to realize God can make things happen that I think are nearly impossible.


I go back to New Years Eve and think about how special that day was. The streets were barren and empty because everyone in the entire city was home with family. That’s just what you do. But for these kids, we ARE family and the streets are their home. So we lit off fireworks and danced in the open streets. I remember cringing at the sound of every bang, holding my breath hoping none of the crazies blew off a finger.


Christmas Day was just as sweet. For most of our kids it was their very first time to open a Christmas gift. We showered them with a new outfit and some random little toys. We told them about the true meaning of Christmas and about the God who loves them so much. It was a day I will never forget.


I remember all the chaos of the past year as well. Like the time one of the girls cut her toe wide open on a piece of glass because she lost her flip flops..again. And the time we rushed one of the boys to the hospital after the kids injected him with a random needle they found on the street. Or the time I had to physically hold one of our youngest boys in a body lock for half an hour because he was high and wanted to throw a giant rock at a kid who made him mad.

Thinking back on all that has happened in one year, my heart is so full! It has been hard. And busy. Full of questions with no easy answers. Heartbreaking and frustrating at times.


But more than anything, it has been exciting and full of every day miracles. The hard times have proved worth it. The impossible questions always get answered somehow. The heartbreak and frustration is simply a result of loving these kids so much. And I wouldn’t trade that for the world.

This year, God has been amazing. I had no idea what I was walking into when I moved here. Of course, it barely resembles how I pictured it would be. I simply said yes to Him and it feels like I’ve just been along for the ride ever since!


If I’ve learned anything this year, I’ve learned to trust Him. Moment by moment. In every impossible situation. With each kid. Every step along the way. He simply asks that I trust Him…

So trust Him I will.
Here’s to another year!  

Categories: Uncategorized | 13 Comments

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13 thoughts on “One Year in the Philippines

  1. Mom

    Oh, my sweet girl! So much to celebrate! Just so you know, my hole is still there too. I miss you so much, but I am so excited about what The Lord is doing in your life and in the lives of “your kids,” and I am so proud of your willingness to let Him! Continue to trust Him in every moment! Here’s to another year! Love you so much!!

  2. Greg Kaldahl


    I am just continually stunned by the love and devotion you are giving these kids every day. I know they help make you a better person – I get that. But what you are doing for them – all because of your unselfish willingness to follow God’s call – is beyond words. Plenty of us, myself included, are willing to talk about social justice. Few people that I know have put their words into action the way you have.

    You and your kids remain in our thoughts and prayers daily. Thank you so much for being a light to these kids and to all of us!

    Uncle Greg

  3. Austin Ulsh

    Love you Leah! You guys are doing an amazing Job taking care of and loving those kids. You are both an inspiration to me in your devotion and the way you follow the Lord. I hope to one day come see you guys. Squad leading may be in my future, so maybe there is a chance that I will see you on the field!

    Praying for you!

    • It would be so fun to see you! I hope squad leading brings you this way soon 🙂

  4. Sue Halsted

    What a wonderful work you are doing! We are so appreciative of what you are doing in the Philippines. Continue with your work and know that we are supportive and praying for your success.

  5. Rose Huber

    That’s awesome Leah! I loved reading this and hearing about how/what you and God are doing in the Philippines! 🙂

  6. Your doing God’s work – Get excited !

  7. Audrey Fox

    Thanks for sharing all this! I love reading your blogs, they’re so encouraging! Praying for you 🙂

  8. Cheryle Wright

    It all started with a dream that God put in your heart. Thank you for persevering through the moments of doubt and fear! For not letting discouragement steal the blessing. You are where God wants you and the blessings flow. Congratulations on your first year! May God use you and bless you in ways you could never think or imagine were possible for many more years. We love you. You are a great inspiration!
    Robby and Cheryle Wright

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