My recent trip to North Carolina had it’s ups and downs. I mean that literally one of my tires kept going down and I had to fill it back up! Thankfully the rental place swapped… More
What a difference a year makes! This time last year I was preparing to celebrate Christmas in the Philippines with Candy and Viola, Bethel’s Chinese teachers. They wanted to experience a real American Christmas, just like on TV. Well, it wasn’t just like on TV. It was better!
This year I am home, in Connecticut, celebrating with my family and friends but, something is missing. I realized today what that something is. Last year, I saw the magic of Christmas through the eyes of two young women who had recently decided to follow Jesus. They spent our holiday sharing their faith with their Chinese friend and on Christmas night, she decided to follow Jesus too. For them, everything was new and exciting. The story of Jesus’ life, the decorations, the presents, it was all so magical.
This year I am home, I have my traditions and the people I love, and I am happy. I am doing a reading at our Christmas Eve service and I sang in our concert; I am participating in all the things I missed last year. But I realized I am missing the magic of last Christmas. The magic that came from sharing their first Christmas. I plan to spend the rest of this Advent season focusing on the wonder of the first Christmas and on the baby in the manger. My wish for you this Christmas is that you are having a wonder-filled Christmas!
My church here has a retreat of sorts for new believers called Encounter God Retreat. To lead a life group, you have to have attended an EGR. Several reasons, 1 so the rules are the same for everyone 2, so every new believer learns some import things and has a deep encounter with God. I me not exactly a new believer so why did I need to attend? Because it is good for me to see how the church works and to see how God uses these retreats.
Confession: I didn’t want to go. I was feeling a bit grumpy about it, but I also felt God clearly telling me to so I went.
I invited 3 people to join me, and they said yes. Typically as a youth worker, I plant a lot of seeds, but I don’t often get to be there when the person makes a decision to follow Jesus but this time God blessed me by letting me be there and a part of that particular moment. Right there, it was worth going, before the retreat even began. I obeyed, and God showed up in a big way!
The retreat was intense for an introvert like me, but I survived and grew closer to God through the experience. I also made a new friend and bonded with the 3 who attended with me.
The following weekend I was about to pray for someone at the Waray Waray retreat. The very end of the retreat I watched as bemused husband moved chairs as their middle-aged wives pulled all of the participants into what amounted to a mosh pit for God. It was amazing to stand back and watch all that was going around on around me. I couldn’t understand anything anyone was saying, but I got the message. These people were connecting and rejoicing of their love for God in a big big way!
Our teacher’s life group has restarted after a false start, but we are all committed to being a group and growing in our faith together.
Some have asked me what is different this year from last year. I would have to say it is the friendships. This year I am not trying to make friends, I have them. The Chinese teachers and I are really growing close, and this week when I was unwell, one of the teachers brought me chicken soup. I miss home, but at the same time, I am home. I see God at work and see how he uses me, and I am blown away by how blessed I am.
Candy and I are both under the weather today, and so the three of us decided to do church at home tonight. I think we will sing some and watch a video about the Passion and the Prophecy then have a good talk. It is still strange to live so closely to others and yet it has also become more comfortable.
The three of us along with 2 Filipino friends went on an adventure our first road trip without any Varberg’s along for protection or guidance. I was responsible for getting us there, and I was responsible for getting us home. We went to the place where you can take the put-put boat around the little islands. (Yes Dad, I wore the life jacket you gave me. Surprised the guy trying to get me to put on one of their life jackets anyway. Someone had to explain my fancy one to him.)
The week before break was Spiritual emphasis week; with a day of suspended classes for both the elementary and the high school. Instead, we had activities, VBS style, with a theme of Identity. Our theme song was, Hello my Name is… The kids really enjoyedit and my homeroom really connected with the song because I have used it with them for weeks. Making them sing it or write it when they say negative things about themselves. During the high school day I shared my testimony about identity and how God changed my name from stupid to smart. Several kids come up to me later to talk more about it.
Will add a photo slide show with pictures from some of the events I mentioned.
Often in life, we are so busy worrying about the details we miss the majesty of God’s beautiful creation. I realized this fact once again as I was worried about adjusting my respirator and didn’t notice the frogfish sitting right in front of me. Thankfully Klaus my dive instructor made sure I noticed all of the wonders of the deep that were swimming all around me. It is the same way in life when we are hyper-focused on the details we think are important we need someone to point out when we are missing the wonders around us.
After the stress of getting mid-quarter grades submitted before the deadline, a quick trip south for the weekend was just what I needed. I was able to teach one of the Chinese teachers how to float well enough for her to be pulled over the reef for her first peek at what lies beneath. I also made my second dive and saw some pretty amazing things like sea turtles, lionfish, and a sea cucumber. The Chinese teachers and I made our reservations for a week-long trip in December. We are excited about our future adventure but we have our work cut out for us because they don’t know how to swim yet…
The past three weeks have been short weeks due to holidays which has been great from the student’s point of view and from mine as well, I really enjoyed our Friday away, but from a progress in class point of view. Well, all that missed class time is not so great. We returned to a full week of school this week but it is also the fun run week and foundation day for Bethel. More missed classes for the Elementary Run yesterday and for the program honoring the founding fathers today. Tomorrow is another day of missed classes because of the high school run. In essence what I have learned is God is still helping me learn how to be more flexible. 😛
Little Rainbow Joy made it to school this week and helped out with the run yesterday. She insisted on having her picture taken with some of the students. I have also included a couple of pictures from the weekend and the kids racing their hearts out! I hope you enjoy!
We have entered into our first exams of SY 2017-2018. One day of exams are done and the students are beginning their second day as I am typing this. Exams have allowed me a quiet morning of contemplation and headache recovery. I decided to take a few minutes of that time and say hello to you.
A few weeks ago I learned a new word, solane, Bebing had asked me for money so she could order more of it for the house I live in. I asked, ” what is solane?” After all, I do want to become fluent in the language! She struggles for a moment and ends up saying, “you know gas, solane.” “OH!” I said, “for the stove?” she tells me, yes and I learned that the word gasoline has been morphed into the Waray language as solane. 🙂 I love finding these words where I can clearly see how they came to be!
I feel like a broken record because every time someone asks how I am doing my answer is the same, ” I am tired and overwhelmed”. I am often tempted to say fine but I know that my friends and family back home love me and are not looking to hear, “fine” they are looking to hear how I really am. I am loving being here but I am basically trying to work 2 full-time jobs and it is exhausting.
I have talked things over with Margie and she is helping me get my keel righted in the water. If I can get it right, or should I say once it is righted, I will be fine. There are just some beginning of the year things that overwhelmed me. Added into that a huge pile of late work from my kids and you have a capsized Ms. Camarro.
I started off this school year learning that a friend back home lost her battle with Cancer. It isn’t that I wasn’t expecting the news, I was, it is I just wasn’t expecting it so soon. I am thankful she is with her husband again and my prayers are for her family to find comfort in the arms of the Lord. I will miss our little chats and can’t wait until our next one.
I am blessed by the support system I have here and the friends that have lovingly encouraged me through this season. I so often see how God uses others in my lift and through seasons like this, it is so clearly visible to me.
On a completely different note
Due to the changes in admin fees and the differences in the way things work less money than expected ends up coming to me. I do suspect that some of that will come to me in the form of a tax refund. I also suspect that I needed to line item items out that are not strictly for “salary”. Right now everything is listed as salary and I have nearly the same amount of money per month as I did last year.
My friend Melissa has asked me if I want her to have a Trades of Hope facebook party to help raise money. I said yes because I would like to have funds to draw on to help people and right now the amount over and above what I need is small and leaves little for things I might want. Like, taking someone out to eat, buying a book, or providing lunch for a student that would go without. Melissa will be raising funds for other worthy organizations besides helping me. Please consider visiting her page for your Christmas shopping needs 🙂
Can you believe it is almost time for Mid-Quarter Grades? This means I am half way through the first semester already! I feel like I am still getting my feet under me and it is time for progress reports.
The Learning Lab is getting up and running and my 5 classes are also well underway. The juggling has begun! I feel a bit like I have two full time jobs but I am juggling it all. My goal is to be able to document correctly this year for The Lab and I have been busy setting up the necessary forms. It is kind of nice to be the one that decides what hoops I have to jump through instead of being obliged to fill out stacks of paperwork. I can put the needs of the kids above the paperwork.
Little Rainbow Joy has decided that she wants to work in The Lab with me. This week she was helping the students learn about the part of speech
I have started a Social Skills Club for the upper elementary and my goal is to do the same with the lower elementary. I am also in the process of doing reading assessments on the elementary school. I have identified a few students that need some support. I am also excited that I have started helping a student that has working memory damage learn how to retrain his brain.
These school related things are all good but the things that I am really excited about are the things I see God doing in me and through me. I am doing a Bible study with one of the 12th grade students and she is so eager to learn how to keep God at the center of her life even after she leaves Bethel. Over the summer, she learned how hard it is to stay connected to God when you are not connected to people who share your faith.
Some of the teachers and I have started a Purpose Driven Life group. I am the Grandma Moses of the group but that is intentional. The Chinese teachers are eager to learn about God as are some of the new young teachers. I intentional invited people in their age range. Tacloban Bible Community has started a PDL campaign and Paul Varberg is making videos to aide understanding and facilitate discussion. Our first meeting was a lot of fun. We learned a little more about each other and about why we need to know our purpose.
One of the first things I did when I arrived was to plan a teacher fellowship night. We played games and music. We laughed together and enjoyed each other’s company! I also have taken some time to show Candy and Viola around the area. Buko by the beach is a must as is a trip to see the MacArthur memorial.
Because my supports have been generous with me I have been able to be generous with others. I helped someone cover part of a hospital bill after an accident. I was also able to help someone who lost his job over the summer. His daughters needed a few things for school and I purchased them. I learned today that he has found a new job and our prayers for him have been answered! I have also set up and lunch tab for a student that was not eating lunch due to lack of money. I also met up with a former student that left Bethel last year. She agreed to come visit me when Paul was visiting her father. I took her out for a meal and a long talk.
Bethel is growing! While I was in the States Paul purchased some additional land adjacent to the school. The new land will eventually be more classrooms so we can have more than one of each grade level. It will also have a larger cafeteria. The parents are happy to hear that more parking is also in the plans.
My class took a few minutes to wish my dad a happy birthday!
I have arrived, recovered from jet lag and set up my classroom all in the span of less than 3 weeks. I have also sort of unpacked my room so that it is livable. Everything is away and off the floor if not unpacked from its bag or box. I’ll take it at this point. 🙂 The important places are unpacked and ready, my classroom and The Lab.
I have also resumed attending my life group and was able to celebrate my birthday with them. I also celebrated with my co-workers. The custom here is for the celebrant to provide a treat for their friends. I asked my friend Adette to cater a simple lunch for the teachers and staff of Bethel on my actual birthday. It was actually very welcome because we all worked very late due to parent orientation that night.
I am getting to know my housemates. We are from very different cultures and we have had fun exploring together and learning about each other. They have shared an interest in learning about God and we have had several good conversations about Him. We are going to read Mere Christianity together once things calm down and settle into a routine. We did have fun watching War Room together too.
August is the month of language and so in these pictures you will see the students wearing traditional costumes. I am wearing a shirt made out of pineapple tree.
After a few small delays and a lovely time hanging out in the Doha airport for 8 hours I arrived in Manila. Exhausted but happy to have the bulk of my trip over. I was picked up by my friend Andy and greeted with the warmth of friendship and lively conversation that I have come to expect from him. I can’t tell you how nice it is to be met like this after such a long journey. After a good night sleep I took my last flight and finally arrived in Tacloban. Margie met me at the airport with the words welcome home. Words that I have heard a few times since I arrived and words that are so true. While I am not looking forward to tasks like unpacking I find that it has been easy to slip back into my life here. Like I have just returned from a short vacation. The long layover in Doha was worth it because it meant I was able to be with my church one last Sunday.
For the benefit of friends and family that are unsure when in July I will be back in the Philippines, I am still in the states and safe. There was an earthquake that affected the school a few hours ago. I understand power is out and people are shaken. I have not heard of anyone who is hurt or damage to buildings. Praise God! Please lift those affected in prayer.
I love these people last year they were stranger and then they became co-workers and now I can proudly call them friends. You have all blessed my life and I am so thankful for each person in this picture!
School ended and I arrived state side in May, 3 days later my friend Kim had back surgery. I am staying with Kim and her family to help them get through this time of healing. My two favorite short sticky have enjoyed having me with them full time and I certainly have enjoyed catching up on hugs!
Kim is doing better and able to be left alone, which means I am starting to catch up on my work and start preparing for next year. Which leads to answering the question what is my plan for next year. I do plan to return to Bethel International School for school year 2017-2018. The plan is for me to teach 4 classes, have a homeroom and to continue developing a program to meet the needs special needs of some of our students.
Last year was a crazy crazy year and parts of it were overwhelming but it was also so amazing in many ways. I loved seeing what God did through me. By the end of the year I could really see the fruit of my work and I also was sad to leave because I have budding friendships that I cannot wait to see what God does with them.
My budget for next year is $14,500.00 and my church has already held a big pocket and raised most of my support. Last count I was at $10,500.00. There are some changes to how to support me which will be outlined below. The reasons for the increased budget is to account for somethings that were not included in last years. Teaching supplies and portable internet for my classroom have been factored in. I have also added language lessons for me. My attempts to learn Waray were not as successful as I had hoped. I think having a teacher and someone dedicated to practice with will help! I look forward to being able to converse with my the families and my friends in their language. I also would like to have some discretionary funds to help people in need.
The big change is in how my support money will be handled. Last year First Love International handled my support and while they have been great there is another option now and it is one that makes sense for me.
Converge has created a short term missions track for teachers going to BIS. This track takes into account the unique needs of people willing to make a one or two year commitment to BIS and Converge has reduced their fees to make it a viable option for missionaries. There are two reasons why this is the best option for me. The first is my intention is to commit to a much longer service at Bethel and will go through Converges training to become a career missionary. The second is that my Church is affiliated with Converge, as my Pastor said, “it is better to keep it all in the family.” My church is more comfortable having my support handled through Converge. They are also more comfortable knowing my well being is in the hands of people they know and work with on a regular basis.
PLEASE DISCONTINUE ANY AUTOMATIC PAYMENTS TO FIRST LOVE INTERNATIONAL
My project number: 210128 should be included on all payments made to Converge for my support. Payments can be sent to
First I would lie to thank everyone who is contributing to my support for this next school year. I can’t tell you how much it means to me that people are stepping up and praying for me and helping me answer this call. I will be setting up a web page through Converge and payment can be made through there but it will be a couple of days until that is set up.
I have done a fair bit of supplies shopping and I had the pure joy of spending some time with the owner of Linda’s Storytime in Monroe. She helped me create a wish list of book. I plan to ship a couple of boxes with supplies and books. If you would like to help fill the book wish list let me know!