From the monthly archives:

April 2009

Journey to Beauty for Ashes

by Original Author on April 16, 2009

Originally posted by Donna Chambers
On Jan. 19, 2009, Darrel and I traveled with the Harters to the Philippine Islands. Sis. Betty Jo and I had planned to stay for one week and Bro. Gus and Darrel would travel and stay almost a week longer. The Harters are amazing people and it was quite an experience just traveling with them. Sis. Betty Jo is a most determined lady. She did have some difficulty on the longest leg of the flight from the U.S. to Manila. We parted ways with the gentlemen at the Manila airport and flew on to Davao to visit with the children at Beauty for Ashes.

Upon arrival at the airport in Davao, we were met by 22 smiling children and several workers from Beauty for Ashes. They had brought flowers and made a banner welcoming us. They were all so excited and anxiously awaiting Sis. Betty and this new lady from the states.

Unfortunately, there had been some misunderstanding as to the day and time of our arrival, and the whole group (all the children and workers) had traveled to the airport (which was quite a drive), stood out in the heat and anxiously awaited our arrival for 3 hours the day before. If you have ever taken your kids somewhere and experienced this kind of disappointment, you can sympathize with these caregivers. They did not complain, but when we found out how long they had waited, we felt badly for them.

After all the hugs and hellos, we loaded up and traveled to our destination. We (Sis. Betty and I) were carried to a hotel where reservations had been made for our stay and the rest of the group traveled on to Beauty for Ashes to await our arrival. Due to health reasons, Sis. Betty cannot take the heat (this was their cool season and it was still very warm) and so she had to take frequent reprieves from it.

A dear Brother, “Ray”, was very faithful and maneuvered us around most of the week. He had a nice little car. It had air conditioning and everything (which is a convenience most don’t have)!! He was very kind and thoughtful and of great benefit to us. ( Upon our arrival back home, we learned that the day after we left, Bro. Ray had an accident in his little black car, had totaled it, and fortunately not hurt badly. Sis. Betty had been on him all week about being careful – the traffic there is chaotic. I was thankful I didn’t have to drive. Thank you Lord for watching over Bro. Ray. I do hope he is able to replace his nice little car soon.)

Upon arrival at the property of BFA, we were again greeted by smiling faces that were so happy to have “Ma Betty” with them. The feelings were very mutual. We enjoyed a wonderful meal of rice and pork prepared by one of the caregivers (sorry I cannot remember the names of all the workers)—and spent several hours visiting with the BFA family. Indeed, that is the first impression that one gets of this “home”. The caregivers are so close to the children and genuinely love them. It is evident in the way the children seem to feel secure in their love and are not clingy. (In some of my experiences at home, I have helped several children whose parents have been unable or unwilling to take care of their children—there is a difference when kids feel loved and kids who are looking for love.) The children at BFA, for the most part, seem well adjusted.

Several of the children showed me around the property, which if you have seen photos, is like a small farm somewhere in the rolling hills of N. AL or GA. They have a working farm (much like a “truck patch” farm) and grow numerous vegetables and fruits. They were so kind (the workers) to let us sample several of the unusual fruits and vegetables from their gardens and even bought a few things at the market for us to try. As we walked, it was amusing to me—I was asking the children about the (to me very scary) snakes they have –I could just see them crawling everywhere, and in my silly mother-fashion was telling them how they needed to be very careful especially in the farming area (which was kept clean as well as they could keep it)—they were not all that fearful and explained how one of the workers had killed a boa constrictor (yikes) a while back-it was no big deal to them—and then one of the young boys (10-12) asked me about the RATTLE SNAKES we had in our country. I almost laughed at the contrast—I did tell them how, where we live-we did have rattle snakes, but it wasn’t like they were everywhere—and told them the nature of these snakes isn’t as aggressive as one would think—they give you a warning (the rattle) if they are disturbed and upset. One little boy ran and retrieved a book (a shipment we had sent them) that he had read about the rattle snakes. I was happy they had been reading the books and learning from them and encouraged them to read and take their education seriously.

All week, they were so gracious to fix meals for us (at least one a day) and were eating much better than they normally would. They have specific budgets and have to follow them stringently; if you give to BFA and wonder at all about the use of your funds, rest assured they are used wisely. While they were going above and beyond in their meal preparations, I knew that at least the children were also reaping the benefits of our visit. They eat rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Sis. Betty related that when they came back to the States to live, that she never wanted to eat rice again, but guess what—she says they have rice regularly.

It was humbling to see their facilities. There is a house for the girls and one for the boys with a home in between for the social worker and her family. The children were so proud to show me their rooms. They were quite plain and stark in comparison to US standards, but very nice compared to Philippino standards. They had beds, and clothing storage for each child. The walls were white. There were no frills, no rugs on the tile floors, no “pink” little girl things hanging around. The boys facilities were similar with very sturdy bunk beds made by Bro. Housley’s furniture company. They would withstand just about any abuse boys could give them. Way to go Bro. Housley!! They had white sheets on the beds and white walls. One thing we were able to do for them is purchase new pillows for all— the ones they were using were apparently quite flat. This was a nominal expense.

The living room of each home was large and roomy—mostly because they had little furniture in them. The walls were plain with one large picture the Harters had left behind (in the girls home). The girls home had a bookcase with books, a few pictures, and tape player/radio. They had a few plastic chairs and one settee (like you would find in the Walmart/Dollar store) to sit on in the living room. There were several baskets of toys (that always seemed to be neatly picked up and in order) and a small rug for the kids to sit on. There was probably a television in the homes, but I never saw it on or witnessed anyone watching it. The children were obviously accustomed to playing outdoors and seemed to be quite capable of entertaining themselves (even without video games and technology—just imagine.)

The kitchen was small and humble—a few cabinets (no doors), a sink (with running water), and a refrigerator (that was small compared to our standard refrigerators). Their customs (I observed) were similar to the ones my Grandma used when I was growing up (a long time ago) –they stored left-overs—which was mostly rice—not in the frig.—but in the oven—forget the seran that I think I can’t live without—or the aluminum foil—don’t think it was in the budget. The towels they were using were thread bare. They were not complaining—this was just the way of life. Their serving pieces were little melamine- type dishes that hold up well under the wear and tear of a large home—it was humbling to see how little they lived with in their kitchen—all I could think of was the tons and tons of kitchen utensils, plates, dishes, casseroles, pots, pan, toasters, mixers, trinkets, etc. that were literally crammed into my spacious kitchen back home.

One thing that impressed me right off was the way the caregivers were always cleaning!! There was one “Sis.”—(if you know me, I felt a kindredship to her because she was always cleaning up after all the children!!) who seemed to be glued to a mop every time I saw her, she was mopping the tile floors. Though they may have little compared to our standards, they seem to take very good care of what they have. There was a neatness and clean smell and the children didn’t seem to get dirty like most kids. I am sure they do, I just didn’t witness that side of their life.

On the front of each home was a lovely wide porch that served as extra “cooler” living space. We ate (plastic tables –again like you would find at the dollar store) and did most of our visiting on the porch of the girl’s home because it was cooler there for Sis. Betty. While we were there, we were able to purchase two sets of bamboo type study outdoor furniture – one for each home. It was very reasonable and well made—they can use it inside their living rooms or on the porch.

The other building on the property was their church building (open-air—like a park pavilion with room built into the front and back end). It also served as a school house on one end and books and supplies stored in the other. The children were so pleased to let us visit them one day while school was in progress. I was surprised to see that they were dressed in uniform –each with neat skirts/pants that matched. They literally had several yards to walk to go to school, but there was structure built into their lives. Many American children would benefit from the same kind of discipline and structure.

Each day, Sis. Betty and I would stay for a few hours, go back to the hotel, rest, and usually meet them or go back to the property to visit. We were able to call home everyday. My calls were usually quite short—talking with one of my kids (we have two at home, one at a small town near home, and one in Washington, D.C.) and making sure all were well. Sis. Betty had quite a chore just checking in with her children left back in Atlanta and working out details of “life” with the older children. She and Bro. Gus truly have a quiver full. What a blessing.

The children at Beauty for Ashes loved to sing. They have beautiful voices, and the attitude of singing was joyful. Bro. Briva had worked with the children and they were very good. They couldn’t believe that “I” knew some of “their” songs. I was singing along and they would look at me so funny.

One evening, we went to a park and out to McDonalds. This was a real treat for them. The park was nice and they enjoyed playing games with the caregivers. We were able to purchase hamburgers, fries, drinks, and ice cream for little more than $50.00 for approx. 35 people. See if you can do that in the U.S.! As we were leaving the McDonalds restaurant, several street children flocked around me (they know an American sucker when they see one!!) and began asking for money. I looked at Ray and Sis. Betty and asked them if it would be a good idea to give them 100 pesos to share, NO—Sis. Betty suggested if I wanted to do something, it would be better to go buy them food. So, I go back in—buy fries and cokes for 5 kids (which I had left outside the restaurant). When I returned with the food, the kids had multiplied to 9 or 10!! It was sad. They took the food and I told them to “Share” (bossy Mom coming out again) and had to leave—the rest of the group were patiently waiting on me to leave. I can’t say it really made me feel much better—there is no end to the poverty. The Lord told us that.

As I mentioned before, I have never been around anyone more determined than Sis. Betty. It was a miracle that she had made the trip(against her Doctor’s advice). Each day, we were able to spend a few hours, then rest, then maybe a few more hours and back to the hotel to rest and collapse. This was our routine. Well, on the final day (Sat.) before we were to leave the next—Sis. Betty planned a packed day of activity that would make the most able-person tired. I suggested that it might be too much—she refused to listen and said she would get thru it. Anyway, we started out the day with a trek down a long muddy path to the bottom of the “farm” area to see the ponds and the chickens, and the hogs. I didn’t think it was at all wise for her to go—it was too muddy to take a vehicle down there, and she really was not able to walk. Well, she did, and she made it. The children were proud to show us their chickens. The children help to feed and water and take care of some of the animals and crops. They have certain chores—especially the older ones. The ponds were very small water holes that were supposed to have fish in them—I am sure they did—but they were small and not the “ponds” you would expect to see in the U.S.

After our climb back up the muddy hillside, we took off for the “mall”. Sis. Betty told the children she would give each child about $2.00 worth of pesos to spend at the mall. It was crowded and comparable to American malls. Most of the girls wanted to go to the toy store—and most of the boys went to play in the video arcade—yes, they love the video games. Sis. Betty and I went with other workers to the toy store and each of us kept up (or tried to) with certain children—It was very much like a Kaybee toy store. The little girl that I ran after was so sweet—she had more fun looking at what there was to see—and finally picked out (very carefully) a magna-doodle type small toy. When we finally made our way out of the store (don’t complain about taking one child into the toy store!!) we made our way to the McDonalds again to get a bite. Sis. Janet back home had given me some money to spend on the trip and I decided (because I was tired, and hungry and knew the workers would have to go home, and COOK ) to spend her donation at McDonalds. Two trips to McDonalds in one week was a treat indeed. By the time we had made it back to the vehicles—even I was ready to retire for the day. But Sis. Betty had planned to take several of the workers out to eat at a “special” place on the mountain.

We went back to the hotel—refreshed—and made it out again to go across town (we won’t even talk about the traffic—this was Sat. night) to this place to eat. It was very nice, very unique and we had a good time. Annie, the social worker is a lovely person, and her sister (name?) and Bro. Briva and Annie’s husband all enjoyed an evening out. A rare treat, I am sure. Sis. Betty did indeed make the day’s events, she did get thru, and probably better than I.

We went back to the hotel, had to pack up, get ready for church the next morning, check out of the hotel, meet our ride back to BFA and meet with the children before church! Sis. Betty and I were to leave as soon as church was over to catch our flight back to Manila to meet Darrel and Bro. Gus to go to church that night in Manila. The church services at Davao were very sweet. I was impressed with the children’s attentiveness and ability to sit still (all 22 of them) plus other people who came with children. After the services and a quick farewell, we were off again.

By the time we arrived in Manila, made our way thru the airport and found the men, I don’t have to tell you we were tired. Then off again in a vehicle crammed full of 5 adults in a small car and luggage to make it (late) to another church service. It was a sweet service; they had had a very big weekend, with an ordination on Sat. and this was Sun. evening. By the time we were thru there, I was really ready to lay down. We had about 4 hours to rest before we had to be back up again and catch our flight back to the States. I didn’t have to be coaxed to get up. I was ready to get on the plane. If I had known my son (16 years old) was having health issues at home—I would probably have swam across the water to get home to him. I was really glad that I didn’t know he was sick until I landed 45 minutes from home.

God really took care of us the whole way. Sis. Betty and I parted ways in Detroit, MI and I never thought I would feel like I was close to home from Detroit, MI—but it was good to be back on U.S. soil. If I learned anything—it is that we are so very blessed in this nation. We have taken so much for granted, and we, especially the Church, have been very slow to help our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world while we enjoy so many things of the world.

Everything with Ben turned out okay, but he had an attack of Bell’s Palsy on the left side of his face. This was quite frightening for a 16 year old. My Dad had taken him to the doctor on the day we were in flight home, she had ordered an MRI for the next day. I was able to take him and thankfully, everything turned out okay with the MRI. His Bell’s Palsy has cleared up since and was probably connected to a bad sinus/ear infection he has been dealing with for weeks.

The men stayed on for another 4 days and we were again blessed—as Darrel was traveling back to the States, Guy Hunt, his uncle, passed from this life. We were faced with the process of visitation, funeral and burial the next few days. I had been concerned that he might not live until we returned.

I would like to add that I don’t know who gives, and who doesn’t to the Beauty for Ashes cause. There are so many on-going needs, and (according to Sis. Betty) the Lord has blessed. If you feel impressed to give, I can assure you that every dime is spent wisely. The budget is met, but there is little if any to spare. The times are hard in our nation, but there is no comparison to the poverty overseas.

We have been blessed to be able to ship some things via Eld. Housley and a utility company in Kentucky (books, games, school supplies, etc.) with no shipping costs. This has been a joy of a project for me, but is very discouraging due to the time it takes for things to arrive at BFA. It has taken months and months in the past. If you would like to give funds, for specific needs –school supplies, costs, upkeep of the facilites etc., there are places to purchase things needed there. The staff in charge is reliable and able to make those purchases. These donations can be made to the Beauty for Ashes foundation. The budget is so tight from what I can tell—there is little money for repairs. There will be ongoing needs to fulfill as the children grow and face new stages of life.

I have heard people make comments about helping those in our own country—you just cannot imagine the difference in the situations. I am sure there are areas of our country where I have not been—where there is sad poverty and children doing without. Forgive me for being judgmental, but the lack in our nation seems to be more in the desire to provide for our own and not the ability. Of course there are extenuating circumstances that people get into—where they get into dire straits—they have to take help from the government and others. We may all be there someday—maybe today. However, I see the greatest needs in our country to be more centered around the dissolve of the family and the lack or respect for human life. Children are raising themselves because Mom and Dad are too busy with more important things—whether it be career or making meth—it is sad to see kids who have everything but still have empty hollow homes. May God give us the grace to repent. Are we too busy to find the time to sit quietly and seek Him.

Also, the things we were able to do extra on this trip (purchase of bamboo furniture, trips to mall, eating out at McDonalds, etc.) were funded by personal funds other than the BFA budget.

As we face many challenges in our dear nation, may we remember those who have much less and be able to continue to reach out to them. The Lord knows what is ahead for us and is faithful to his own who walk after Him and seek Him.

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