“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.
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.
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.
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.
(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.
(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.
(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.