Monthly Archives: January 2015

All the things.

“All the things”: a phrase coined by my dear friend Reagan Taylor to be used when trying to describe emotions or experiences that are all over the map. For example- if someone were to ask me, Leah how are you feeling now that you are back in the Philippines?…instead of listing all my emotions- excited, busy, happy to be back with my people, missing my other people, hopeful, etc….I would simply say instead- “I’m feeling all the things”.

During my time in the States I was asked A LOT of the same questions everywhere I went. After living here in the Philippines for almost 2 years, I figure now is a better time than never to answer all the questions people ask about my life. So, if you already know all the answers because you heard the whole sha-bang 12 times while I was home then you can close your browser now. But for those who are asking- here’s all the things…


Where exactly do you live in the Philippines?
I live on an island called Mindanao in the southern part of the Philippines. The city I live in is Cagayan de Oro.

philippines_regions_map1 Do they speak English there?
Mostly no. A lot of people learn basic English in grade school but its not really spoken much.

Do you know their language?
Yes. The language for the island I live on is called Bisaya or Cebuano (same thing). When I first moved to the Philippines in 2013 I lived in the mountain for 6 months and studied the language basically all day every day. Then I moved down to the city and studied for 6 more months only for a few hours a day while we started the ministry. I can understand almost everything, but my speaking is only grammatically correct-ish. I’m still learning! The national language of the Philippines is called Tagalog or Filipino and I do not (yet) know how to speak that dialect because it isn’t the local language spoken here. So when I leave my little city here and go to a different place in the Philippines I can no longer communicate- kind of frustrating!

Is it harder than you expected it to be?
Absolutely yes. But I love it.

What does an average day look like for you?
Asking me about an average day is funny because literally no day is the same. Ever. But often I spend the morning answering emails, working on child sponsorships, meetings, or preparing things the drop in center needs for that day. The kids wake up and start to arrive at the drop-in center between 11 and 12pm. They take a shower, eat lunch, brush their teeth, and change their clothes. Then we have school for them at 2:00 for a couple hours. On Tuesdays and Thursdays we have bible study after school. Then they play basketball or do other activities until we go out to the town square to feed them and some of the other street kids dinner. I get home around 7:30 or 8:00 depending on the day.

IMG_0063 IMG_4344 What do you miss most from America?
Greek yogurt. Cereal. Grapes. Liquid coffee creamer. Pants long enough for my legs. Traffic Laws. Sallie my dog.

Why do your kids live on the street in the first place?
Every kid is different and the reasons are complex. Abuse, extreme poverty, and neglect are the main reasons. Combine that with the freedom, rebellion, and money on the streets and you’ll start to scratch the surface as to why street kids exist.

1466162_10101111729232912_499380856_n How did you know God was calling you to this? Did you always want to be a full-time missionary?
Haha no. I had big fancy plans in college to graduate, get married, and work at a camp in Colorado. Then during my senior year all those things pretty much fell apart right as I was supposed to enter the “real world”. So I got myself together enough (whatever that really means) to go on the World Race-an 11 month mission trip to 11 countries. And with absolutely no plans or anything holding me back, it was pretty easy to open-handedly pray for God to show me His will for my life. I basically said to Him- “I’ll go anywhere and do anything as long as it’s Your will this time”. And I truly meant it.

So in 2012 I went around the world and saw and experienced things that wrecked and changed me forever. Then I came to the Philippines and saw street kids. I’d been around them before in other countries but this time was different. Thoughts of them consumed me. They were constantly in my dreams, even weeks after I returned home to America. That’s how I knew God was answering my prayers. These were the people He was calling me to give my life up for. I had been given SO much. Now much would be required from me…

Thats the short version.

How long will you be in the Philippines?
Until these kids know and love Jesus. Or until God asks me to leave. But I really hope it’s the first one…

What’s the long-term vision?
The kids will start at the drop-in center then transfer into family style homes where they will detox from the drug, learn how to be part of a family, get an education, and counseling. We will work with their parents/family at the same time with the hope of eventually reuniting the families back together when they are healthy and ready to thrive on their own.

photo 1(some of the kids at the land where we are starting to build rehabilitation homes)

What is the weather like there?
95 degrees and humid every single day. With a couple random hours of rain to cool things off during rainy season.

Are you going to marry a Filipino?
I guess anything is possible. But I highly doubt it.

Are you going to get married at all? Are you worried? Can I pray for you?
I mean…I don’t lose sleep over it or anything. I genuinely enjoy being single. Maybe one day that will change…but sure you can pray for me!

Do you live at the drop-in center?
Goodness no. I live in a house with Meagan and two Filipino friends. I’m at the drop-in center with the kids basically all day but praise God for those few hours of peace and quiet to come home and sleep in my own bed.

FullSizeRender(its the best picture I can get haha. This is my house)

Do you drive there?
Yep. I have a scooter and love to drive it around the city. The gas is super cheap, traffic is easier to navigate, and I get a free tan. Win win win! But I hope to save enough money to buy a car soon. It’s just safer when I need to drive long distances.

Who else is there with you?
There are 4 of us Americans or putis as we are affectionately referred to here- Meagan (my teammate and bff from the World Race), Natalie and her fiancée Daniel and me. And a rockin Filipino staff- 2 teachers, a social worker, a family coordinator, male and female house parents, and an administrative assistant. Plus an abundance of volunteers.

IMG_0561(me and Meagan with Lyn Lyn, our girls house parent)

Can we come visit you?

Does your family miss you?
I would hope so…

Do you have internet access? A fridge?
Yes and yes. Internet is sketchy and slow but we have it at our house. And we are thankful to have a refrigerator because lots of people here don’t.

What do you wear?
Jeans and a tshirt because the Christian culture here is pretty conservative. But I change into shorts as fast as I can once I’m inside my house.

What are the hardest things?
Loneliness and missing my people back home. Not being able to speak English most of the day and just communication things in general. Constantly pouring out without anyone around to pour into me. Cultural differences. Learning how to not carry all the problems of the world on my own. My stomach not being able to digest rice- literally it doesn’t break it down just clumps together in my stomach for weeks at a time. Ouch.

What are the best things?
There are very few distractions- I’m literally able to focus all my time, energy, money, etc. on the things of God. The food is delicious and natural and healthy. I get to witness His miracles. It’s beautiful here. I’m with the crazies every day and watch God change their lives and give them a future. 4 dollar haircuts. And bubble tea.

What have you learned after being there for a while now?
1. God’s timing is different than mine and there’s always a good reason for that. 2. God’s grace is the same for everyone…no one is more deserving than anyone else. 3. Only God can change a person’s heart. I KNOW this in my head, but when the needs here are endless I still try sometimes to “fix” everything and everyone. I’m learning that I literally can’t do that…it’s all on Him. 4. The more I step out in faith the more space there is for God to show up and do a miracle. If I hang out in my comfort zone then there’s no need for Him.
5. And most importantly- a pot of coffee and a cold shower makes everything better.

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I can’t do it.

It took me all of about 24 hours to remember what I love most about my life here in the Philippines.

And it’s not the kids (affectionately referred to often as the crazies).
Its not the weather either- although its suuuuper nice to not be freezing my face off anymore.
It’s not the Filipino people and their constant smiling.
And it’s not the food- even though I have missed a good home-cooked adobo and rice.IMG_0305

The thing I love most about my life here is this: I need God…constantly.
And if He doesn’t show up, if He doesn’t come through, then I fail. Every time.

Going home to America was good for me on so many levels, but it was hard on my soul.
I stopped relying on God to meet my needs because suddenly my life was ‘functioning’ without Him…

Everything I could possibly need was available to me as long as I was willing to pay the price.
Any advice I needed or situation I wanted to talk through- I had an abundance of my best friends right there.
My fancy space car I was borrowing gave me step-by-step directions to anywhere I wanted to go.
If I needed an answer immediately, I just looked it up on my phone and Google came through every time.
If I wanted to learn how to start my own business-there’s a book for that.
If I wanted to learn Spanish- there’s an app for that.


America is abounding with resources and opportunity that most of the world doesn’t have. And with the right mindset and perspective, that can be a huge blessing. Education, wealth, access to medicine and healthcare, and Google on your iphone to answer life’s biggest questions are all good things…until they aren’t anymore.

With all the things of the world literally at my fingertips during my time at home,
I forgot, in a way, what it’s like to really need Him…

There are 16 kids counting on me to provide all the things- food on the table each day, school, their clothes and shoes, and trips to the doctor. And without God miraculously multiplying the money (I promise, it happens), or leading someone to send a check on the exact day we need to pay the teachers that month, or making sure a shipment arrives just hours before the kids need new shoes, then none of what we do every day would happen.


When the teachers need more pencils and the center needs more rice for lunch and the volunteer team needs more toilet paper and one of the kids needs to see a doctor- all before noon- I know I need Him.

And when one of the girls, 11 years old, gives herself away to men at night to make money, and the 9 year old comes to school completely high and wants to fight everyone, and the government captures one of the girls and shaves all her hair off to shame her- oh how I need Him on those days.

When it’s sweltering hot outside and the mosquitos won’t stop biting and the chickens are fighting with each other so loud and the dogs are barking and my laundry is taking 2 days to dry and I just want to curl up with friends and watch a movie- I need Him to intervene or the result is embarrassing haha.


I know my weaknesses and flaws; I’m well acquainted with my limits. Every day I am more and more aware of my own inadequacy. And I honestly consider that a huge blessing because it keeps me constantly dependent on Him.

I wish I hadn’t let myself get away from that while I was home. I know it’s harder to live this way in America- but it can’t be impossible. I hope that my mistake can be your reminder that we all really need Him. Sure, if you’re smart and you have enough money and you’re disciplined then you can probably get pretty far on your own. But eventually you will fail. Or at the very least, you won’t experience the “immeasurably more” that He’s promised… (Eph. 3:20)


What are your flaws and limitations?
Where are you holding back in your life because you’re scared you might fail or you can’t see all 10 steps ahead?
I pray you find yourself in the middle of more than you can handle today and I pray that it leads you to Him…

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Counting the Cost.

I’m sitting here in my tiny airplane seat on my first of four flights over the next two days heading home to the Philippines. I miraculously lifted my carry-on suitcase over me and into the overhead bin without too much of a struggle so as not to give away the secret that I managed to shove over forty-five pounds into that tiny thing (that is very much against all airline regulations in case you’re wondering). Now that I can breathe again, I close my tear-stained eyes for a minute and work my way through some of my favorite memories of the past seven weeks.


Because of the way I’m wired, if I’m not intentional about pausing to reflect and remember, then I can all too quickly close doors and transition all of me into what’s ahead. And I don’t want to do that quite yet-at least not for the next few hours while I’m still in US airspace.

Coming home this time was a whirlwind of support raising, traveling to different churches, holidays with my family, sweet reunions with friends, and countless encouraging heart conversations over delicious coffee. It wasn’t necessarily restful at all or resembling of a vacation in any way-but it was exactly what I needed.


God blessed my short time in the States more than I could have ever imagined. The people He has put in my life are nothing short of incredible. I am loved and provided for on a practical level by more than one “mom”. Multiple people have helped me fundraise and advocated for me in a variety of different ways. And my friends- I cant even put into words how good they are! Most of my friends and my family too, admittedly had NO idea how to handle me. And yet throughout the entire seven weeks, they each held me up, asked me questions and listened to my long stories about kids they’ve never met and a land they’ve never seen, encouraged and prayed and bought my meals, and made me laugh so hard I cried on multiple occasions.


And all those things are part of what makes the actual act of leaving and saying goodbye SO hard. My eyes are actually still recovering from my cry-fest outside of airport security check a few hours ago. We were those people!

I so desperately miss my new home and family in the Philippines. I can’t wait to hug my sweet girls’ necks and then fist pump all the boys because most of them are way too cool to hug me. And yet as much as I look forward to getting back to my life and ministry in the Philippines, I still have moments when I want to live near my family and go out for dinner with my best friends and marry someone tall dark and handsome. I don’t want to give up everything I’ve come to love in the Philippines; I want all of that- just with some American perks added to it.

And yet I know this- no one can serve two masters. Following Jesus means making a choice. And sometimes for me, on days like today standing outside airport security, that choice feels heart wrenching.

God did A LOT in my heart during my time in the States. He filled me up after 18 months of nonstop pouring out. He humbled me through the continuous flow of financial support for the ministry. He taught me so many lessons and poured a supernatural amount of strength and energy into me during those jam-packed weeks.

But more than anything, He revealed to me so clearly each day that this life in America is
not what He has for me. And when my life looks so vastly different from the people around me at home, I can take comfort in the fact that this is His will for me.

I LOVE my family deeply. And I told you already-I have some of the best friends in the world. I love snuggling deep under the soft covers and waking up to my puppy staring back at me. I love washers and dryers. Great water pressure and constant electricity. I love the 500 different flavors of ice cream and endless breakfast options. I love Subway, and Mexican food, and tubs of greek yogurt. And I really love how fast the internet is.


But I love His will and His calling more. I so want to follow Him in this crazy adventure of a life, and I want that over everything else. Everything. I have to get back to the Philippines- to reunite with the place and the people that God allows to make me come fully alive. The cost is high for sure. But the Reward is so worth it.

I’m ready!


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