From the monthly archives:

March 2008

ARE WE READY?

by Original Author on March 14, 2008

Originally posted by Betty Jo Harter

Are we ready? Oh, what a tangled web of details to be set in order before we can actually get on the plane taking us to America.

We have to pack our accumulated treasures we’ve collected over these past eight years, our household goods, including our furniture and over 3,000 books we have shipped to the Philippines from America, our office equipment purchased in the Philippines to expedite our work for White Unto Harvest and Beauty for Ashes and our clothes (mostly the same ones we took to the Philippines eight years ago).

We have made arrangements for a truck to arrive at our home to transport all these items to the port in order to be loaded on to the container. Of course the container is supposed to be in the Pacific somewhere now and arrive in Galveston from Davao City around the week of the 3rd of March. It will take about 30 days to transport.

The truck did arrive and I will spare you the “nightmares” detail! We ordered a 40 foot container and thought it would be large enough. It was not. We had to begin deciding what things we would leave behind. It had to be the beds for the children, the trundles were too bulky and took up too much space. And so… we pulled them off the container one by one…. We finally got it loaded, literally slammed the door on the container and hoped that it would hold.

Now the house is empty except for the beds. Thank the Lord because the next ten days before our appointed day to leave Davao, we had no furniture except for the beds and we slept on them. Staying in the empty house was cheaper than the money we would have spent in a hotel! The ten days we had after the container was loaded was spent in necessary special time with our church and the children of Beauty for Ashes…

I knew this time was coming and I refused to think about it until the container left. I must now tell the children at the Children’s Home (I still refuse to call it an orphanage) that I was going to America for a long visit with my birth children, grand children and great grandchildren I had not seen in all these years. I could not at this time tell them I was leaving to live in the U.S.

The day came when we were to visit for the last time (for a very long time)… Without the Lord I could not have been able to bear it. The very thought, while driving there to the property, made me choke on my tears. We pulled up on the property and the children had gathered in the church. I did not want to gather in the church. I just wanted to mingle among them as they played under the mangoes and hold them one at a time. I did just that… what mixed emotions I felt; so very thankful that, as I scanned the property, I knew that the vision I had for the children was complete. What a wonderful, beautiful, serene setting to grow up. The church, open so that we could view the foliage, the small birds gliding in at the ceiling as we worship… Everything a reminder of God’s creation.

The cottages for the children across the lawn are perfectly situated to the church, the farming, the livestock and the school. What more could a child want? Thank you, dear friends, for the money which allowed this to happen. We visited, pulled out of the driveway and I sobbed, but I did get through it without the children seeing me cry.

That day was on a Friday. We left Davao City that Saturday morning on a plane to Manila to stay for three days before boarding the northwest flight to take us home to America. We wanted to spend those few days visiting our churches there in Luzon before returning home. And so the day we had dreamed of, longed for, arrived. We were to depart at 6:30 A.M. from Manila to Tokyo. We knew that we had so much paperwork to attend to at the airport before departure that we would need to arrive at the airport by 2:30 A.M. And so, we had our wake up call, boarded the van necessary to carry us, 13 children and 32 suitcases and the crate with our dog (Duchess). What a sight we were! Everyone had their assignment; which little one to look after (we made name tags with flight arrangements hung about their necks in case they got lost). After we found a large enough courier for our suitcases, we proceeded to go through all you have to with check in and quarantine for the dog. A feat in itself to make sure we had accounted for all baggage and boarding passes. We had an assembly line going with the children. Every step required our passport and another document put together in the proper order for 15 people.

That accomplished, we had to proceed to custom immigration, which we knew would be time consuming because of the adopted Filipino children with their new documents. At the time they were calling for “final boarding on our flight”, how in this world can we make it? “Hurry, oh hurry” we kept saying. We left in the groups to run to the plane. Many, many corridors from customs (I can’t run, not even walk fast using my walker on wheels which is now my constant companion). Northwest ended up holding the door open forever after the time they should have so we could make it. We strapped in to our 2 rows of seats and were breathing as we “took off”. As always we pray before take off and thank the Lord upon landing for keeping us safe. And so we did…

About an hour out, the pilot announced that there was serious difficulty with the plane and we would need to turn around and return to Manila. We clutched hands and tried not to show the children our concern. We were told that there was an electrical fire in the cockpit and it melted the windshield! Oh my, however they assumed they would try and fix it and get back up in the air. Oh no, I don’t want to get back up in this same plane I thought, and so we sat on the plane for five long hours, on the tarmac before they determined they could not fix it and would have to bus us back to Manila to a hotel for the night. Oh, the agony. Physically, I was already at my maximum and had no more strength to ever push the walker. We would have to return to a hotel (without the luggage) get up at the same dreadful time the next morning as we did this morning and go through the same process through immigration, check in all over again, “I can’t, I cannot”, I said. As I realized I would have to, whether I liked it or not, and the dog, we had to get him to the hotel if they would allow and re-board him all over again. I knew we should not have brought the stupid dog, I thought. But nothing was going to be alright with me at this point. I determined to take one of the assigned 4 hotel rooms to myself with our five little ones. Someone needed rest and I felt that, at this point, I was so numb it would not matter if I had them to care for them by myself. And so…we ordered supper, I turned on cartoons, got them bathed and their clothes that they were to wear in flight and put them to sleep. There were not many more hours left and we would just wake us and get back in the bus. The children were precious and helpful. What a blessing they are. John Mark said, “Mama, God did not answer our prayer that we prayed before take off”. I said, “Oh, yes He did, we asked him to keep us safe, and He did”. The pilots were able to return the plane back safely. I prepared them to get up again at 2:30 a.m.

Now, we start our process all over again, board the bus, check in for boarding passes, take the dog to quarantine, go through customs and immigration, and we are then informed that the “same plane” will be a little delayed. Oh, what just a couple hours more of sleep would have meant. Finally we board “same plane” and we pray, but this time I did feel more at peace. We had called all our contacts in Tyler, Texas who graciously, patiently had to delay their plans to pick us up at the Dallas airport. And so, we arrived in Tokyo, departed the plane there for awhile so they could clean and had to go through security checks with our carry-on all over again before re-boarding for our flight to Detroit.

I do wish you could have witnessed the faces of the Filipino children as their eyes beheld all the cleanliness and newness of the modern airport. What? The toilets flush by themselves? The faucet in the sink just turns off automatically. There are “walking sidewalks”, and on and on and on…
So we again boarded our “now fixed same plane” with the new windshield and proceeded toward our next stop… Detroit, where we were to change planes to Dallas… We arrived in Detroit, our very first stop in America! Oh, we were very tired but so excited and thankful. A gentleman met us seeing that I was using a walker and “lagging behind” and offered (at a fee) to take us to all the necessary stops before departing 3 ½ hours later for Dallas… necessary meaning this was where we were to present our documents for the Filipino children to immigration… the packets were very thick enclosed in plastic and a big note on the back packet which informed us parents NOT TO OPEN until we arrived in the United States. So we were nervous as we waited in line with the children and all the other immigrants… they first issued all the already American citizens through… that left 6. Oh, there were several steps and lines to go through. Fingerprinting and such…many questions.

Yeah! We passed!!! And we were informed how to secure their official citizenship papers (they did automatically become American citizen because of a new law enacted October 2000 upon stepping foot on American territory). What a blessings… Now we had some time to wait before departing to Dallas. We took in all the new sights, smells, white faces, people speaking English, all the enormous prices for food. “Water? What do they charge for water? Kids we can only afford one bottle, split it”, I said. What a rude awakening for us in regards to prices for everything. How are we going to make it? And then I am ashamed because the Lord has always provided for our needs. That is what living by faith is all about, isn’t it?

We boarded the plane for Dallas our final destination by plane… we were so tired that the children were almost all able to nap on the way, arriving Dallas about 10:30 P.M. What should have been a one day flight turning into two days. We were haggard looking, but we had our camera and asked a man if he would please take our picture. This was our first time to be in the States in 8 long years! (I am including the picture). We were tired, but the lovely people who greeted us with an open arms and “Welcome Home: looked glad to see us and refreshed. They looked like angels to us. They brought a U-haul for our luggage and presented us with our 15 passenger van. Contributors had donated the money for our airline tickets with enough left over to purchase us needed transportation. It is beautiful and oh, so comfortable. What a greeting we received and rejoiced over. And are still rejoicing. Thank you kind folks who helped in this effort!!!

After greetings, loading suitcases and getting “buckled up” we proceeded about a 2 hour drive from Dallas to Tyler and another 1 hour drive to the “lake house” graciously loaned to us by a Church member of Tyler, Carol and Todd Buchanan. We drove in to the adorable, charming 2 storey cottage in the woods. “Can you just imagine our feeling of being home and not having to stay in a Hotel?” Carol and Todd thought of every comfort we would need while we looked for a house to rent. Food, appliances, blankets, pillowcases for all with our names on them drawn by the children of the church. We are very humbled by it all.

The church members have a specified freezer at Church that contain meals the members have cooked and frozen just for us to draw from our meals…. Their labor of love provided our own grocery store but costing us nothing. Oh my, how they have outfitted us in clothing and shoes. Here we are fresh from the Philippines with our flip flops and thin blood in 20 degrees weather. As a matter of fact when we landed in Detroit through the “tunnel” from the plane, the ice had blown in the ramp. John Mark in all seriousness said very seriously, “Oh, who opened the freezer?” Robert said, “What happened to the leaves on the trees”” Robert also asked on the way from the Dallas Airport to Tyler, “Oh Mama did they clean the streets just especially for us?” We are not used to clean streets. Their expressions have been priceless. There is so much adjustment to be made.

Sunday morning we anxiously attended church. The members were so gracious in the reception of us. “Welcome Home”, “Welcome Home”, we heard over and over. I will have to say “that yes, we know that we are home, but most of our hearts are still in the Philippines. Everything here is so perfect. That is the only way I know to say what we feel. We are not used to perfect. Everything is in place. We are anything but perfect people. We have so many faults, so many inner longings. We seem to take the off beaten paths. How will we fit in? Only the Lord knows our future desires in the ministry. One thing I know as we all walked down the aisle to join Tyler Church that Sunday morning is that we will do our very best to be faithful members and do them good and not harm.

And so we boarded our beautiful new van and started calling on ads in the paper for houses to rent so we could settle down. I prepared the children as well as I could for our return to the States but I did not prepare them for rejection from the American public. Oh, there have been many instances these past 2 weeks but I won’t and cannot go into all of them, most of the rejection has been because we are too many or too dark. That’s the truth. It has become obvious that after many rejections we will not be able to rent a house. Oh, if it had not been for the wonderful non-conditional acceptance of Tyler Church I think I would have hopped on a plane with my babies and returned to the Philippines. One of the children said, “Mama, we did not know that this would happen”. Well, this is life. We are Americans and we will with the Lord’s help make it.

Brother Vernis had sent us an email of a plot of land not far from the church while we were still in the Philippines. We decided that we had better look at it, to put a mobile home, a barn, something to live in til our home sells in the Philippines. You see that is the problem, our house is still not sold. I don’t know why. Only the Lord knows and He is in control. Our money is all in our home except… for the donations sent for our transition. Thank you, thank you, that, and our retirement allowed us to put a contract on the piece of land. We are at the moment today looking for a Mobile home to put on the property to live in until our home sells and we can build.

That is so much better than living in a subdivision anyway. We have been so confined behind walls and security guards and soldiers. Only the Lord knows how we need to be out where the kids can throw a ball and be safe. Now physically I am doing well with the cold weather. The heat drains my strength and energy which is common with Lupus. I do have some serious other concerns that have to be addressed us soon as our supplement insurance for our Medicare takes effect March 1. However my energy level is so much better. I am drained emotionally because of leaving my children in Beauty for Ashes. I love them so, I miss them. My heart hurts! I call them 3 times a week on our Vonage Atlanta line. I set up a telephone for them where they can talk to me and they can all hear me talk. They will sing “surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life” or “God’s still working on me”. Always “mama, mama when you coming back? We miss you mama see you” they say. “Sure”, I reply, “I will see you”.

Only the 13 adopted children with me now and the Tyler Church has made this bearable. I have not been able physically to visit with my birth children yet. When we do, I know it will help my focus. Please don’t forget the support you have been burdened to give to these little ones in the Philippines. They are dependent on their daily needs from us from now on. You have been so faithful and the Lord has blessed these little soldiers for the cause of Christ in the Philippines.

…Since starting this journal of events many things have been happened. I was hospitalized several days for cellulitis in my foot, a condition that started before we left the Philippines. And… we did find someone to rent to us! After being dismissed from the hospital we stopped by the church for lunch. I expressed to Gus my desire to visit the property we had put a contract on, just because it is beautiful and I needed the encouragement. Right across the road sits a very small house, typical in this farming community. People were working inside. I asked Gus to please step inside and see if it would be possible if it would be half big enough for us to rent. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be right across from our property for the children to play and for us to be able to observe the building of our home if and when our home in the Philippines sells?

The men working on the house said he would “fetch” the lady who owned the house. She appeared with her dogs and I told her our plight and the rejection we had received. I asked her to please give us an opportunity to prove we will take care of a home and be able to settle down. She was very merciful and after meeting the children one by one as they come out of the van to greet her, agreed to rent to us. I told her that these thirteen children helped save the lives of over 400 children in the Philippines. They deserve a place to live!

How much better this is? Out in the country right across from our property… Now this is the better way to end. THE REST OF THE STORY.

In Christ,
Mom Betty

Photos We are going home!!!

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Thank You!!!

by Original Author on March 6, 2008

Originally posted by Elder Gus Harter

This is a letter of thanks to some wonderful loving friends who have sacrificed and aided us in our work of mercy in the Philippines. We are grateful for your assistance in returning home to our beloved America. Sufficient funds have been sent to pay for our container with our furniture, books and household items, the airline tickets for 16 passengers (my wife and I and 14 children), and enough over to purchase a used 15 passenger van. Thank you! Thank you!

Please forgive our delay in sending updates of the progress of our work. This has been the most exhausting time of our lives. We have been diligently attempting to sell our home, but at this time it is not sold. Because the visas of some of our adopted Filipino children would expire Feb. 3rd, we had to come to the United States or rework all our visas with the American Embassy. Added to these details, we had to pack a forty foot container, prepare a large home for sale, choose a realtor we both trusted to sell our home, give instruction to over 100 pastors to make our moving as smooth as possible and insure that our children’s home, Beauty of Ashes, had enough necessities and workers to function without Betty Jo. We left many loose ends that we will have to tighten by phone, email and letters. Please pray for this good work and the sale of our home.

Our travel home with 32 suit cases, a sick wife and 14 children was most challenging. Betty Jo, in her enclosed letter, will give the details. We arrived at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport at 9:30 p.m. after 24 hours in flight and changing planes at several different airports. However, it was such a delight to see Elder Stanaland, his wife, Iris, and Brother McGee, a deacon of Tyler Church. They gave us a warm Texas welcome. Brother Todd Bucanan, a member of Tyler Church, has provided a small lake house for us to stay while we try to find a place to live. The rest that night was most welcomed. The church and Brother Vernis have been most gracious and extremely helpful in our transition. They, daily, have prepared food for us. Coming from the Philippines, we had no winter clothes or even long sleeve shirts. They have given us an abundance warm clothing for every child. These blessing we both need and they are very appreciated.

We left the congregations in the Philippines in a growing circumstance enjoying the blessing of the Lord. The Lord willing, it is my plan to continue to travel among them. I will also encourage others ministers to make an annual visit to strengthen and encourage our sister churches. As it is true of individual members so is it true of churches, without the fellowship of other churches a church will soon die. In each area where our Lord has blessed us to raise up a witness of First Century Christianity, the ministry and churches are working together. The ministers meet monthly for encouragement, sharing, and fellowship. The churches have annual meetings like our fellowship meeting in America to promote unity and to encourage the membership. The most successful method of evangelism in the building of individual churches has been home Bible studies. But added to that I have been invited by ministers from many areas to hold meeting and present the doctrines of grace. While Elders Darrel Chambers and Shannon Whipp were with us, we held this type meeting in Manila where over 150 ministers of different orders were present. We gave each of them several books and pamphlets written by Primitive Baptist. It proved very profitable. We have baptized two ministers from that meeting and taught many the truth of grace. Upon returning I will hold many similar meetings in several areas of the Philippines. I am thankful for the encouragement that the expansion of churches in the Philippines has been for the Primitive Baptist. Let us continue to pray for their growth. Thank you for your support and prayers.

Beauty of Ashes, our children’s home, is a bright spot in our labor. Our dream and vision was to secure several acres of land to build a compound with homes, school and farming to provide a place to rear abused and abandoned children. That dream has been realized. To view these precious children, that were in the past in our home, playing or laboring in these spacious and beautiful 7 acres is sufficient to bring tears to the eyes and joy to the heart. We have provided an excellent staff that cares for them, a school to educate them and church to give them spiritual truth and council for life. They are also learning a work ethic and knowledge of growing crops to sustain themselves. Thank you for your sacrifice to help meet their needs. Your continued help is both needed and appreciated. Oh, how we miss our babies.

We are elated to be back in America. It is our desire to visit many of our churches with our large family. If you would desire our visitation to your church, please let us know and we will try to schedule a visit with you.

Your Servant in Christ
Gus Harter

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