Ten Days in What I Believe to Be the Most Special Place on Earth
A week or so ago, Kim, Jodee, & I were having our first meeting together since Kim and I had been back from the Philippines. It was during this time we got to talking about the recap email to go out on September 15th—this very email that your eyes and brain are simultaneously reading and retaining. I offered to write the Philippines Recap email because I thoroughly enjoy writing and recapping & to be completely honest. This trip was my first time getting to witness firsthand what God is doing through this family and I can’t stop thinking and talking about it. So I thought, why not be productive and reminisce in the same breath? Win win!
It’s a few days before this email is supposed to go from my screen to yours, recapping the 10 days Kim and I had the honor and pleasure of spending in the Philippines. I know that I won’t be able to do justice to the time we were all able to spend together, but I am sitting here asking the Father for the grace and the words to communicate to you just how special our time was. I know this email update is a bit more personal—from me, Dasia, to you the reader—and I intended for it to be that way, so don’t mind if this feels like a one-on-one conversation. It’s meant to.
When talking about August 18th - 28th, I’ve found myself saying on more than one occasion that each day felt like an eternity long but our trip altogether felt like just a day or two. We touched down in Manila the night of August 19th. It was Friday around 8pm when 3 of the girls came to pick Kim and I up from the airport. We ate mixed fruit cups and talked about so many different things as we zipped through Manila traffic in Havana, one of the family vans—yes each van has a name & yes each name is pretty amazing. We stopped for a quick bite at McDonald’s for some BFF fries, which are a container of fries so large that you and your BFF—or maybe even 2—can share. A little while later we made it home and a welcome crew of at least 10 shining faces awaited our arrival, opened the gate, and helped us carry our bags to our rooms. This first night, Kim got to talking and catching up with Josie and some of the girls, and I ended up playing a game with a handful of others that resulted in baby powder all over our faces, clothes and seemingly enough, the floor. There was joy and laughter all around and I couldn’t believe after a 14+ hour travel day, we were finally there. Our days to come were long and full of so many different things that had our cups overflowing and eyes heavy by the end of the day. During our first 2 full days, we were able to travel to the homes of every Alam Ko Jewelry artisan. We were able to meet every woman for the first time. Each one, a family member to some of the girls in the CtL home. We were able to meet their children, and catch a glimpse of what life is like for them. We sat all together on couches and floors and got to know each of them. Angel and her husband welcomed us in their home with coca-cola and chocolate cupcakes, as we sat around chatting and playing with their baby girl trying to figure out which one of us could make her laugh first. Some of the girls were even able to come along with us and visit with their moms, aunties, and big sisters. This was a really special time; getting to see their faces and hear their voices in real life, not behind a screen but face-to-face. We hosted an Alam Ko lunch our second Friday, the 26th, where each woman was picked up from her home and taken to a fancier restaurant where we were all able to feast together. Awards were given out for their hard work, and each woman was encouraged, commended, and honored for who she is and how hard she is fighting for a bright future for her and her family. It’s safe to say, our Alam Ko visits were bitter sweet. Getting to see where these women come from, and what they are fighting for was both heartbreaking and simultaneously hopeful; because of how Jesus has made a way for each one of them, even if at one point they felt as if there was no way.
Following Alam Ko visits those first two days, we got to go to church together as a family 2 different times! Between both the Alpas and Amaris homes, every single girl was accounted for, and we all packed into 7 different vehicles and made our way there. Getting to worship as a family, with everyone, hearing the girls to my left and right singing at the top of their lungs:
“Rain came, wind blew
But my house was built on You
I'm safe with You
I'm gonna make it through -
Christ is my firm foundation
The rock on which I stand
When everything around be is shaken
I’ve never been more glad
That I put my faith in Jesus
‘Cause He’s never let me down
He’s faithful through generations
So why would He fail now?
“Firm Foundation” by: Maverick City Music
It was such an overwhelming moment of gratitude and awe, and the only way my mind and heart and body knew how to respond, was in tears. Hearing the girls claim their victory, their inheritance—something that no one in or out of the world, could take from them—with their voices. Song rising up to the heavens saying, ‘I know things get shaky and hard, but Jesus I trust you with my life.’
It was so powerful, and something that I barely have the words for.
Throughout the rest of the week we were there, we shared meals together, made friendship bracelets, and swam A LOT. Kim, Josie, Ana Rose (a good daughter, sister and friend, the Executive Director of CtL & a counselor of the Amaris home), as well as Annie (an also incredible daughter, sister, friend, and head of a home, also known as “mommy” at Amaris) and I went to Tacloban, just southeast of Manila, an hour flight away, to check out a potential home #3. We talked about a number of things and got some good quality time in while we sipped on some fresh Buko (coconut) and enjoyed the view of the ocean from the straw hut we sat in for a few slow and restful hours. After our short day trip, we got home to Manila the next morning and went to visit the Amaris home. The homeschool program was in full motion and there were girls learning everywhere! Education happened all around the home; as the smell of the yummy lunch that was being prepared danced around in the air, the sound of a few of the girls singing on the front porch with teacher Rommel, as they learned interjections, filled our ears, and our hearts were full.
There is so much to say about the ten days that we all got to spend together bearing witness to what it is that Jesus has established within the Consider the Lily family over the last 11 years. There were so many in-between moments and big and little conversations that happened over bracelet making, game playing, and spa night happenings, on train rides to bead shop, and long rides in Havana and Thanos (the family vans), that led me to arrive at the place that: I really think this home is one of the most special places in the world. There is no denying that CtL has learned by trial and error how to sustain and uphold a family of currently over 70 girls between both the Alpas and Amaris homes. Not to mention EVEN more girls than that, including those of which have grown up and are now either pursuing their dream careers or serving back in our home. Seeing the ways that Josie has lovingly walked through each girls story, compassionately and humbly fighting for her justice, future, well being, and heart—to this day has me in tears, over how graciously she’s let Jesus love and pursue her, in order to extend the same love and pursuit to each girl that joins the family.
Along with a very stable, consistent, and structured game plan on how day to day things work in the home, Jesus is the one that has completely sustained this family. Through every season and circumstance, He has remained faithful and true to His promises. He has been sustainer, provider, deliverer, healer, redeemer. He has exceeded every expectation in what it’s looked like to have a safe place to land and heal and find solace. He has been teacher and it is evidently Jesus, that is head of both of these homes. Josie, and Annie, and Ana Rose, and Kim and Brian, and each staff and board member have taken the humble position of a student, under the authority and leadership of God and it is for that reason that we get to do what we get to do. For me, it’s been one thing to hear the stories of redemption and hope in the lives of girls, to see photos of their faces laughing and playing, and on hikes and in the sala, but being able to be in person with every single one of these resilient and brave young women—to see the lives they lead and fight for—was something, like I mentioned earlier, that I barely have the words for.
When I think of the way Jesus intended family to be, in the way that we were meant to support, encourage, and love one another, I think of what I got to experience and see during our 10 days in the Alpas home. Don’t get me wrong, each girl has her own struggles, and some days are hard, and some cases have been active for years, and some abusers are still out there on the run and in hiding, and this home is still established in a broken world. But the way that Josie parents under the leadership of Jesus, the way He carries this special place, speaks volumes to what it really means to “hope without worry of tomorrow.”
I will never be able to articulate fully what being a part of this family in the small way I am means, or what getting to see it all unfold up close has meant to me, but what I will say is that it is a deep and true honor to be here, and I am grateful to Jesus and to all of you who have supported Consider the Lily up until this point. You have no idea what the prayer, and finances, and support to whatever capacity you’ve been able to give means, and all I can say is:
“May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you. May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.” Numbers 6:24-26