From the monthly archives:

October 2007

Update on our Exodus from the Philippines…

by Original Author on October 13, 2007

Originally posted by Betty Jo Harter

I have often pondered the many miracles witnessed by the saints of the Bible. I have imagined how it would have been to have been there. Just imagine witnessing the parting of the red sea, watching as Elijah called down fire from heaven, or Jesus feeding the thousands with a few loaves of bread and fishes. The book of Hebrews tells us that there are better things reserved for us. These events or miracles happen daily in our lives. We either do not see them or we assume that they are just coincidental. No, they are miracles.

Seven years ago when we arrived in the Philippines our hearts were filled with an overwhelming feeling of adventure. We had so many questions that were yet to be answered. We knew that even though we had all the questions, that only God knew all the answers. He began in His time to reveal some of the answers.

The first question everyone here in the Philippines asks is, “Why are we here, and what mission board is sponsoring us”? We always smile and let them know that God in His providence directed us and that we do not have a mission board that sponsors us. They are always marveled that God has actually directed and tendered the hearts of people in America to support the ministry here among the children and the churches. I have to admit that many times I have wondered and marveled just the same. We have never ever, for one moment, doubted that if the work be of the Lord that He would supply the needs. He has…oh, He has!

And so…even though I was not there to witness the many miracles of the Bible, I have these past seven years been blessed to witness many miracles of grace. Every one of them as much a miracle as the parting of the Red Sea. I know, oh how I know that they have happened for His grace and His glory!

You have been such an integral part of these many blessings either through your financial assistance, your prayers, your packages sent through mail, your calls, your emails, etc. We truly wondered when we left America whether or not we would be forgotten by the Lord’s people in America. We were charting “new waters” to our people. As I pondered this past year over the timing to return home, the many “what ifs” have been quieted in my heart. Through this past experience with the Lord I know that He will continue to burden and tender the hearts of His people to support the work here. We do not need to be here physically for Him to know the needs of the churches or the children.

The emotional tug at my heart has been great. It usually occurs when I relive the memories of the children here and know that I cannot take them home with me. Even if the government would allow it I am more and more daily reminded that I cannot physically take care of more that the thirteen we have right now. Until this year I would not even entertain in my mind the mere thought of returning home. This was my home. I would rear all the children here. When someone would ask about the children, grandchildren, great grandchildren in the United States, I could not finish a sentence to explain without breaking down in tears. I would try and console myself by the hope that I would see my children one day in eternity. Now, I find myself doing the same thing since our decision to return home, but in reverse. When someone asks about leaving the children here I console myself by knowing I will someday see them in eternity.

Out family of adopted children here has been in a whirlwind of activities to prepare physically and emotionally for our exodus from the Philippines. All the while we are trying to do everything possible to make sure we prepare everyone here to be able to function without us being here. Some days we do not know which activities are the most important. Preparing for our return or stabilizing everything here.

We had no idea when we made our decision to return that we would have to follow so many rules and legalities and mounds of paperwork before acquiring a visa from the U.S. Embassy to take our six adopted Filipino children to the U.S. We thought we would just get them a passport and apply for a visa and just wait for it to arrive shortly in the mail. We were wrong! We have found it much more complicated to leave here than it was for us to come here. I feel burdened to explain some of the legalities to you so that you will have a clearer understanding of the length of time it is taking us before we can return. We first had to make application through Homeland Security. They would have to accept our legalized adoption papers from the courts here and then determine if each child would qualify as acceptable candidate for American citizenship. This is the step we were not aware that we would have to comply with for each Filipino child before our return, but the most important of the three required steps for each child. Of course, the embassy wants to make sure that we will be able to provide for each child.

We had to turn in our documents in groups depending on the date of the petition for adoption of each child. Last July we were able to submit documents for consideration to Homeland Security for John Mark and Lydia August. They were the first two Filipinos we adopted. We waited nervously for a package from the embassy telling us their status. We knew that if they were accepted for recommendation for citizenship that we could then proceed to the next two steps. Both steps required that we fly to Manila with the children to the embassy. The documents with their recommendation for citizenship finally arrived for John Mark and Lydia August. We were advised that the second steps in the three step process would require full medical exam complete with x-rays, blood work, immunization records, medical history, etc. We were to allow two days at the medical facility in Manila for this exam. The date and time was schedule for 6:00 A.M., September 25. In our packet was also the time and date for the final third step in the process, 6:30 A.M., October 2. Of course, we had to breeze through the medical or there would not be the third and final step which would be the finalization of an important interview to inform us whether or not they were accepted and would receive a visa.

And so…the time arrived for our trip to Manila for our September 25 medical appointment. John Mark and Lydia were so excited about flying on an airplane and staying in a hotel. We were so amused at how big their eyes were as they took in all the sights and sounds of this new experience. Remember, these are the children that have been isolated these six years at home with us.

I was very anxious, not knowing if I would be able to be mobile enough to do the things necessary for the trip. It is one thing to be able to walk around the house knowing that I could stop and sit in a chair when I hurt too much to stand, or hold myself up straight, it is quite another thing to be able to walk down a corridor to the airplane, stand in long lines, go through security checks and wait for a taxi. All the while trying to keep an eye on two little ones, my purse, our tickets, Gus’ briefcase with our legal documents, our cell phone, etc., etc. I want you to know that I flunked the course in every area. It would have been comical except the pain would not allow me to laugh. I kept hoping when people saw my teeth clinched from pain that they assumed it was just an “awkward smile”.

I wore my “dress up” tennis shoes (the children have named them) they are the ones without the hole in the sole of the shoe. All other shoes give me a tilt on my spine and I am unable to walk. Oh, how I remember my “grannie”, I dearly loved and her sparkling white tennis shoes. I would think to myself that I knew she had better shoes, but the tennis shoes must be special. She would wear them everywhere. Well, I am now that grannie and I now understand why she wore her tennis shoes. Maybe when I return to the States I can glue sequins and glitter on them to make them more appealing. Anyway, there I am with my tennis shoes; I am all stooped over using an umbrella as a cane. It serves a wonderful dual purpose. It rains all the time in Manila.

The first night upon our arrival in Manila, I had to stand in a long line in the rain to wait for a taxi. I knew I could stand no longer. It is more comfortable for me to move than to stand. After a long day with a different routine that I was accustomed to at home, neither option would do. We walked to two different locations on the street and found long lines waiting for a taxi. I was exhausted, hurting, and in tears. I motioned to a security guard to please help me get a taxi. He told me that he was not allowed to help me get a taxi. “What? Well I am going to just lie down in the middle of this busy street, let a car run over me and then you can call an ambulance”, I said. I knew at that moment I felt as though I would die anyway. I guess he believed me. He flagged down a taxi.

When I returned to the hotel I was angry with myself that could not move around better. Then, I thought how in this world am I going to make it through the many more trips we have to make to Manila for this process much less the long trip home. The next day, September 25, we appeared along with three hundred other anxious people for our appointment for the medical exam. Believe it or not, the embassy opened the doors to the medical facility at 4:30 A.M. to be able to accommodate all the people waiting. We did not arrive there until 5:30 A.M. thinking that we would be too early. When we arrived we then found out that three hundred other people had the same appointment. The appointments would be scheduled first come first serve. We were toward the end of the line. We had prepared ourselves and the children for a long two day ordeal. I am so thankful to say that the exams went smoothly; our paperwork was in order and we were finished in eight hours! Record time, I think.

Beatriz and Hope were staying with the other children in our home in Davao, Mindanao. Since they have both graduated from college, Bea in Nursing, Hope in Biology, they have free time to help us with work to be done for the Beauty for Ashes school or have helped to organize and teach the homeschoolers here. I have always said we have structured chaos! They have managed to eliminate some of the chaos. The children always have their proper uniform (I found that there is just something about putting on their school uniform that seems to help them focus on their studies) they have their structured schedules with goals the children set for themselves. Helena is only thirteen but she has completed her studies and helps the younger six children. What a blessing all these children are to us. Oh, how I do wish that everyone burdened by God to adopt, would adopt.

Having completed our medical appointment for the first two children we returned to Davao to await our flight back to Manila, October 2. The trip for our interview and final step in Manila, October 2 turned out to be a much better trip for me physically. It consisted of showing up at the American Embassy for our 6:30 A.M. appointment along with the same three hundred people that we waited with the previous week. We waited our turn for finger printing and two interviews. By then, the staff at the embassy knew that our paperwork and legal documents were in order. We proceeded to the final interview. Really, it was not much of an interview. They just wanted to know if we wanted to return home and did we want to take John Mark and Lydia August with us. “Yes! Oh yes!” we said. That was it. They are accepted and told us that we would shortly be receiving their passport and visa in the mail.

Do you know that in the year 2000 a law was passed allowing foreign children adopted by U.S. citizens, (after fulfilling the legal steps required by the embassy) automatically become American citizens upon their first arrival through customs in the United States? We did not know that until now. We thought we would have to go through a long legal process again for them to complete requirements. The children are too young now to realize the great God given blessing they have just received. There are so many people now waiting years, sometimes forever, for that privilege.

Now…the next four children, Elizabeth 13, Rhea 3, Robert 8, and Angel 10, have been through only step number one. They have been accepted and recommended by Homeland Security for American citizenship. We are anxiously waiting for our packets from the embassy informing us of the dates for their appointments in Manila for the next two steps in this process. Taking four children instead of two to Manila the next time will be a little more interesting. But hey, I am a “pro” now and I have my dressy tennis shoes and umbrella cane. Mary Poppins I am not!

We still have another major legal transaction to complete, the sale of our home. We have these past years given away all our personal money to the work here in the Philippines. What we have left is tied up in our home. I did not want to buy a house here when we came I wanted to rent. I am so glad that Gus insisted on buying, because there is money in the house and we were not able to give it away. When you view and experience first hand the poverty here, you will give if you have anything. You must. John Mark always has his coins in pocket just as I do to give away to children who will come and press their face against the car or taxi window and beg. He will always save his food from a restaurant to give away to someone on the street before we get in the car to come home. We went to our special place to buy bread the other night and I just gave away the bread we had just purchased to a group of boys hungrily searching through the garbage where we were parked. You see the children we have adopted could have been those children. Except by God’s grace so could you, so could I.

I know that the Lord knows just the right buyer and the right timing for the sale of our home. It will most likely have to be a foreigner. Mortgages are difficult to get. I try not to get over anxious, however, once we complete the steps through the embassy with the children we will also have to complete the sale of our home before we can make reservations for home. I do covet your prayers in the matter.

As I try to complete this update of our circumstances to you now, my mind is also trying to prepare for a celebration tomorrow night at the property for Beauty for Ashes. It was six years ago this week when we received our license from the Philippine Government to operate as an NGO (Non-Government Organization) Beauty for Ashes. This will be our first celebration of that event since we have moved the children to the farm. Everything they need is there; housing, farming, the school, the church. Just as our vision, seven years ago. You talk about a miracle? Man could not have imagined it or completed it without the direction and provisions from the Lord. I am so humbled and thankful and yes, excited!

Tomorrow night we will gather to celebrate. I have requested that our food for the event only be what we have grown on the farm. Meat, fruit, vegetables, everything including cooking one of our pigs. I wish you could be there; you will be in a way. Your prayers and funding has helped make it possible. The workers and children have prepared songs, games, banners and food. What a joyous occasion it will be. Six years and the Lord supplied. May it be another one hundred and six years with many more abandoned, hurting children nurtured there. My heart is full to overflowing; I want yours to be also.

Thank you, thank you dear ones. The Lord willing we will be able to worship with you soon, give you a hug and share our memories and our vision for the future.

God Bless,
Mom Betty

P.S. I have now enclosed pictures of our six-year celebration. Enjoy! (click the link below)
Beauty for Ashes 6th-Year Cellebration

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Update. Letter for the Contributors

by Original Author on October 12, 2007

Originally posted by Elder Gus Harter

Thank you for your continued support, love and encouragement. We delight in receiving letters, calls and emails from you. Our whole family is anxious to return to America. But we are facing two difficult problems that have cause a delay in our return to the States. First it is time consuming to go thru the paperwork to obtain visas for our adopted Filipino children. I have been to Manila four times working with the American Embassy and I am sure I will be going four more trips before it is complete. That alone will probably take another two months. Betty Jo in an enclosed letter explains in some detail what we have been going thru with this process, so I will not give those details. Secondly, we must sell our home. Most of our assets are tied up in this house and in order to secure housing in America we must find a buyer for this home. For years our home was a temporary orphanage. We have housed as many as fifty abandoned children. We purchased a large home from the bank. The owner had gone bankrupt. He had torn out bathtubs, light fixtures, doors and left it in shambles. However, we remodeled and added to it. It has been a comfortable place to live and serve our Lord’s children. But because it is so large it limits the number of potential buyers. Please pray for our Lord to send just the right purchaser our way. We must accomplish this task before returning home.

Though saddened by this delay I have tried to use this time profitably to stabilize our work both among our many churches and the children’s home. By the blessing of God and your generous support we have completed the building of Beauty for Ashes. Perhaps we can make additions in the future. We have sufficient room for the children we have now and some room for expansion. To view these children at play, working in the fields or learning at school with both adequate facilities and excellent loving caregivers, it fills my heart with joy and eyes with tears. I wish you all could witness this sight. May our Lord bless them to one day be wonderful soldiers for Christ and responsible industrious Filipino citizens.

Regarding the churches many have expressed sorrow that we are leaving. But in the long run the Filipino must build and expand this work with the providence of God. The national ministry will shoulder greater responsibility. However, I will with some degree of regularity visit from America and aid in building churches and evangelism. There is some good news from several areas. In Manila the last church constituted Gilgal Primitive Baptist Church served by Elder Vic de Guzman, received nine new members. Brother Vic is also working with three ministers whose memberships are rejoicing in the truth of grace. I visited with them and they are all near the Kingdom. I have brought from Manila Elder Manuel Briva who is an excellent preacher and theologian to help at Providence Church in Davao. He will be the director of the school at Beauty for Ashes. At Providence Church we had an excellent communion and feet washing service and ordained three deacons. On the island of Negros this month we will be ordaining three new ministers and constituting three new churches. The Lord’s blessings are still abundant.

We are very much looking forward to the visitation of Elder Darrel Chambers from North Alabama and Elder Shannon Whip from Nashville, Tennessee. These two men have been generous supporters of our labor here and I rejoice that they are coming among us. They will arrive on October 25, 2007 and remain for about 13 days. I will take them to several different islands. Among the many tasks during their visit will be the ordination of 3 ministers in the Island of Negros near the City of Bacolod. Please pray for the Lord’s blessing on these men as they come exalting our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This will be the second trip here for Brother Darrel and the first for Brother Shannon.

In the month of December arriving on the 22nd, Elder H.D. Fulmer from Arkansas and a young minister Lic. Phillip Green from his church will be spending almost two weeks among our churches. I will schedule their appointments. Our people are excited about their coming. Elder Fulmer has been effective in his labor among the Filipino churches and we welcome him among us. If still here (and I probably will be), I hope to spend some time with them. For the visit of these four men please remember to pray for both success in their service and for the safety in travel.

During these seven years of laboring in these beautiful islands I have not allowed myself to think on returning back to America. I came for the God called work of planting churches. I did not desire to be hindered by the disease of home sickness. But now my mind and heart is homeward bound. I look forward to working with the church at Tyler and again with regularity visiting our churches in America. I have included some pictures and notes of a personal nature and article about one of our ministers. Thank you again for both your love and support.

G.H.

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Diligence in Serving God

October 12, 2007

Originally posted by Elder Gus Harter Brother Dave Bergman and his Filipino wife Gema have been a wonderful help to the ministry in the Philippine work. All the contributions sent to White Unto Harvest, he receives and forwarding them to the Philippines. Dave is an internationally known creation scientist and works in the area of […]

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The Harter Tribe

October 12, 2007

Originally posted by Elder Gus Harter Our children are excited about our return to the United States. This is a current picture of our family and was casually taken in our side yard. I desire them to enjoy the blessing of being citizens of the United States and being reared among the Primitive Baptist in […]

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