<meta http-equiv=”refresh” content=”0; URL=/edwinlsamsonjr/posts/10211487813133832?_fb_noscript=1″ />(48) Cindy Wisner
LOVE & THANK YOU SO MUCH. SUCH A PRECIOUS HEART U HAVE!!!
This picture was taken by Ralph Coleman on the USS Denver as we deployed for Operation Enduring Freedom with MSSG-11 based out of Camp Pendleton. It brought bac…k some great memories. There are a number of reasons why people serve. For me, it wasn’t because I needed a college scholarship. I already earned several of those before I took the oath. It wasn’t because I didn’t have a direction for my life. I was already accepted to a few universities. And it certainly wasn’t because I needed a good paying job, or because I got in trouble, or I got kicked out of my house, or because I had delusions of becoming some war hero. It definitely had nothing to do with peer pressure because I was already going against the grain. Many of my classmates, relatives, and friends opposed the military.
Honestly, as cheesy as it may sound, I joined because I felt like I needed to serve my country. I thought it would be an honor to join and represent my family. Some called me naive, ignorant, and brainwashed. But I truly believed and wanted to give back to the country that had provided opportunities for my family to thrive. I wouldn’t exist had my parents not met in California after immigrating from the Philippines. They both got into work programs that helped them develop professionally and succeed. I went to a great public school system that ensured poor students had meals. I was educated well throughout high school. And I recognized how blessed a life we had growing up and heard stories of those in the Philippines who were struggling to survive. I’m proud of my service and the life long friends I’ve made and how that season of life changed and molded me. I would do it again if I didn’t have a different mission in life.
Living abroad and watching the state of the world through the media lens gives me a greater appreciation for America. I love it even more especially when people from other countries voice their disdain for the culture…kind of like when someone makes fun of the brother you torment and torture. We’ve got some major problems in the U.S., but let’s not forget that there are places in this world where people die from starvation, get killed for being addicted to drugs, and bleed to death at the steps of hospitals because they don’t have enough money to pay their bill. We’ve all got problems. It gets my blood boiling when non-Americans talk smack, but I admit that I do understand. I have reasons stemming from personal experiences for loving my country…and those experiences can’t be debated or argued against because they’re mine and, right or wrong, good or bad, can’t be changed. I learned about Jesus Christ in the U.S. I learned how to take care of the poorest of the poor and how to use the system to get someone up off the ground. I’m certain my dad wouldn’t be alive today without American healthcare…nor my grandfather. I met my wife there, had my first kid there. And the reason why the little tiny island in the Philippines where we currently serve at is enjoying a ton of community development projects is because of the generous Americans that support our work.
That’s a piece of my story that was fun for me to write. Happy Veteran’s Day to my brothers and sisters scattered all over the world!
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I see Diana almost every week. Though I’m one of the only people who can be near her, it doesn’t mean I like her. She makes fun of me for talking too much. She mimics me by chattering her teeth and copies my arm movements. And there’s debate whether I taught her how to flip people off. I didn’t teach her. She just so happens to be the only one in my line of sight when the bird is released. Today’s visitors at Mel’s house were deceived into thinking she was cute and nice. So u…nless I want to look like the crazy guy who argues with a monkey who eats with her feet I’m forced to keep this quiet war between the two of us. And I have to love her because Mel loves her and I love Mel…so much so that I helped him entertain and guide these important visitors to the ocean for some snorkeling and scuba diving, though my schedule today was packed. From helping each other out in our respective NGO’s to diving, we’ve developed a bond that transcends our religious belief systems. Though we may find commonalities with Jesus Christ and Isa and even Abraham’s offspring, we have vastly differing theologies. But he will always be one of the closest friends I have on this island and someone I can trust my life with. I hope he feels the same even when I wish that Diana would feel the call of the wild and just go back into the jungle!
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A few of the directors of the International Service Corps of Asia got together for fellowship, prayer, and updates. I love their passion to love and serve God and their commitment to community transformation. They’re all such high capacity people and I’m proud to simply sit in the same room as them. We were missing a half dozen others, but we were fine with it because of the abundance of pizza that went around!
<meta http-equiv=”refresh” content=”0; URL=/edwinlsamsonjr/posts/10209962939452943?_fb_noscript=1″ />(1) I’m not sure what it was. Was it being next to… – Edwin L. Samson Jr.<meta http-equiv=”X-Frame-Options” content=”DENY” />
I’m not sure what it was. Was it being next to the decaying corpse in that small, dirty room? It could’ve been the the cat I was allergic to clawing at my jeans, or the 90 degree heat while I sat next to the candles and burning incense. It could’ve simply been my raging 104° fever, or the men in the next room gambling, cackling, and drunk off their butts. Whatever it was, somehow I flash backed to my graduate classes at Fuller. Professors Bryant Myers and William Dyrness always talked about the “excluded middle.” This concept describes the existing spiritual beliefs of a culture that development workers tend to ignore or simply rebuke. “Don’t forget about it or your development work won’t ever be transformational,” they pleaded. But none of that sunk in back then, as a young, naive, theology student hoping to enter the world of missions and development. Not until now.
I was listening to the visitors sitting next to the lifeless body talk about how one of the neighbors purchased a curse against the man who had just died. This man was the father of one of my interns who is a new believer. Just three weeks ago, the man raced after my vehicle because he wanted his son to come along our adventure hike through a cave and up a mountain. He loved his son and showed it…an oddity in this machismo, paternalistic society. This talk of shamans and omens sent me off on a feverish rant. “He didn’t die from a curse! He died from a fish bone getting lodged in his throat. The doctors couldn’t do anything about it so he went to the faith healer to have it massaged and voodooed out. It got worse so he went to the hospital, but instead of treating it they pumped him full of antibiotics, put him in a room with other sick people, and then punched a hole in his throat once his airway closed up. He died of infection. He didn’t die of some curse! If anything, he died because he tried to get treatment from the people who dole out these curses!”
They stared at me, nodded in agreement, and then continued to talk about the curse. How frustrating! But I’m used to it. No matter how devoutly Catholic people are, it’s still difficult to walk away from the animistic belief that paying enough money to a spiritist will solve problems. Another one of our volunteers was diagnosed with an ovarian cyst. We caught it because our organization paid and pushed for good healthcare. But her mother is refusing the operation even though the whole thing could be free. She’d rather go to the faith healer. Another member of our group already had a son die after seeing a witch doctor. Now her grandson is sick with the same illness and she still refuses to use the hospital but instead is pouring money into the spiritist. A few years ago a child died of a ruptured appendix. Apparently the witch doctor didn’t have the right oils at the time to treat it.
I’ve learned not to fight the system with mere words and visible frustration. As a missionary, it isn’t helpful to berate people or put down an ancient belief system. But those in our ministry who have been transformed by the Gospel have made healthcare decisions that have elevated their standard of life. It’s their testimony that does the talking…and the doctors and nurses are appreciative of it. In our development work, I’m trained to figure out ways to work with the local health care system and to even discover ways to support indigenous, culturally appropriate methods. But I have to say, life can change in the blink of an eye depending on where your faith rests.
The dead man’s son vowed revenge against his neighbors for placing the curse. He said that he would not rest until someone’s blood was spilled. It was a very normal reaction, the kind that perpetuates generational feuds. But my intern’s father’s last words to him were about forgiveness and letting go. He told his son to seek after God. That final message ended a disaster before it even started.
When it rains it hurricanes. Edwin is recovering; now I’m sick. I’ve just been alerted to hundreds of dollars of fraudulent charges on our credit card and now I have to try to call internationally from a cell phone (land lines aren’t accessible where we live) and hope that my cell phone will have enough minutes loaded to it to make the call. All of this after weeks of intense stress from culture and transition. If you believe in spiritual warfare, this is what it looks like. God has been blessing the ministry here. People are surrendering to Jesus. The International Service Corps ministry is moving forward. We are blessed indeed. The hurricane will pass and we will stand in the victorious Light with a winning Savior. In the mean time, please pray us through the storm.
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For those who are interested in the cultural experience that is >fiesta< in our community, here is a rundown of last night’s events (which we cannot escape because they are blasted right into our bedrooms):
-afternoon until wee hours of the morning, insanely loud music composed of sexually explicit lyrics and angry heavy metal screams that make my spirit ache. I awoke to this at 2:30 am and the crowd was still strong; finally fell asleep between 3 and 4 am, only to be awakene…d at 4 am by…
-4 am trumpet calls to wake people up because, It’s Fiesta!
-4:45 am firecrackers popping periodically because of previous reason
-5:45 am chapel service with very loud speakers and chanting
-9:00 am another chapel service…
And now we are leaving the house because we really don’t want to be at home today. Off for a hike!
as been celebrating fiesta. This entails nightly chapel services followed by processions through the streets in honor of the patron saint. And then copious amounts of dancing the cha cha. We live across the street from the plaza, where the chapel lies just beyond. So the daily schedule we have been living in the midst of for the past week looks like this: by about four, enormous speakers start blasting a mix of cha cha and club music. This …music is so loud it reverberates through and around our small concrete house, settling down in the chest cavity. From about five to about 8:30 the music is replaced with the droning of monotone readings and songs that sound like funeral dirges. But when that is over, the dance music comes back and blasts until at least one am (did you know “Twirking like Miley” could be put into a cha cha mix?). This has happened 5 nights this week, and there are more dances still to come before fiesta wraps up on Saturday. This picture shows a view from our rooftop of the plaza, lit up for the party. We joined the party last night, and tonight we have decided that, since we can’t watch TV or hold a conversation inside our house, we would have a private dance party on our roof. Edwin is currently doing the cabbage patch, because, you know, we’re old and we remember that dance move. It is nice to be hidden on top of our fishbowl house for a while.
<meta http-equiv=”refresh” content=”0; URL=/amyloysamson/posts/10209428824060428?_fb_noscript=1″ />(2) Amy Loy Samson – We’ve had a string of incidences, conversations,…<meta http-equiv=”X-Frame-Options” content=”DENY” />
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After the outreach we drove an hour and a half to the base of Binurong Point. It was an incredibly beautiful hike and the most spectacular view I’ve ever seen because of the naturally manicured grass, cliff and rock formations, and beckoning ocean. I love how Josiah has bonded with these friends and how these friends treat Josiah like their own. They’ve been great role models and have shown what it’s like to be a part of a loving community of faith. I’ve had the privilege of being there for almost all of them when they committed their lives to following Christ. So if you want to come out here and meet them and join us for an outreach or some adventure, you are certainly most welcome.
We’ve had a string of incidences, conversations, etc. the last few days that have reminded us of just how angry the enemy is that we are here. Edwin led three people to the Lord yesterday, all of them independently testifying to a physical experience of the presence of the Holy Spirit. One left our yard saying, “I am a different person than the one who entered here a few minutes ago!” We rejoice in these victories in the Kingdom work, and are reminded around every corner, it seems, that the enemy wants to distract us from the central work of sharing the Good News of Jesus. Please pray for protection for us, these new believers, and the work God has called us to do here.
Keep your eyes fixed sweet Amy and Edwin. Love the work you guys are doing. 🙏🙏
Yesterday we celebrated Josiah’s kindergarten graduation (the school year ended in March) with a mini ceremony in our home. In keeping with the Filipino tradition of awarding medals for achievement, we awarded Josiah medals for improvement in reading, counting skills, and a service and swimming award (specifically, he helps in Service Corps projects and recently exemplified his bravery in the water by jumping out of a boat into the ocean (see Edwin’s recent post about a boat launch!)). We are proud of our little kindergarten graduate. On to first grade!
Mother, wait for us by the gate. We’re coming.
I have to wonder if Trump acted so blatantly obnoxious in order to turn half the Republican base against him to throw the election to his old friends the Clintons.
Don’t get me wrong… I WILL vote for the lowlife prick. I’m just wondering.
Now, who will be the first Trumpelthinskin to shriek and call me a traitor, Killary supporter, communist, etc…
I’m getting MARRIED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! June 1, 2016. I know it’s sudden, but we did not want everyone in our business, so please don’t take it personal if you did not know. Seeing as it’s right around the corner, I’m not planning a big wedding. I will be inviting some family and closest friends. I will be mailing out invites soon so I would really appreciate your presence on this day. Please don’t worry about any gifts since it is short notice, just bring someone I can get married to. Let’s see who reads this entire status. I found this hilarious. Get someone else and repost !! Lol
This is Melanie. It isn’t the first time I’ve taken a student under my care to the emergency room for stitches (this was taken at her house, not the hospital…thankfully). And it certainly isn’t the first time a parent has been angry with me. But it’s a first to experience what it’s like for an entire barrio to be upset and for Amy to do a house call to deliver meds, clean and change a bandage, and teach wound care.
Yesterday morning started normal enough. I had the Reef Ra…ngers gather students from our feeding program to teach them how to snorkel and dive for trash underwater. These children used to be the bane of my existence, begging for money, calling me baldy, and throwing stuff if I didn’t acknowledge them. Not gonna lie- I’ve been tempted to pray like Elijah did in my situation a few times. But now the kids volunteer at beach cleanups and other events and hang out with me often. The water was full of jelly fish but not bad enough to stop our work. Maybe I should have been more attentive to the parents who wanted their kids out of the water. Whatever, those kids can take a sting.
While we were in the water, the interns practiced a song they were to perform at our graduation in the afternoon. They did a great job as our team held a ceremony at Guava Hills for 39 students. There were 2 classes at the hospital that Tom taught and two evening classes that our staff member, Joy, was in charge of. You’d think riding on top of the jeepney getting whacked by branches on the way to the site would’ve hurt Melanie and the other interns, but she got cut up in the pool. Whatever, my interns can take a beating.
But I think why the day was amazing was because our community of believers exhibited the love and compassion of Christ. A bunch of us were by Melanie’s side as she cried in pain and fear, singing happy birthday over and over. We took care of her that night and then in the morning. She doesn’t get noticed much by her broken family who didn’t realize it was even her birthday. And when they punished her for getting hurt, we affirmed Melanie and our support as brothers and sisters in Christ.
I couldn’t fulfill my promise to the kids last night to do a Bible study because of Melanie’s injury. But as I began to think that those kids wouldn’t have showed up anyways, a mother on a small BMX rode to the house with her two kids. She told me that there were kids at the center waiting to study the Bible. This mother appreciated the programs we held for her kids and loved that her children wanted to learn about Jesus Christ. As long as one parent is ok with my tactics, I’m doing alright.
This is Joseph’s dad piloting the boat while his cousin cooks in the back. We were all out exploring islands and searching for reefs and fish. Joseph’s dad can hit 60 ft. free dives with no weights or gear and he can rest on a piece of rock for a few minutes to wait for fish. The rest of us hit the same mark for “record” day with fins and masks…so we’re still pansies compared to the old man. One day they’ll both join Joseph in studying the Word and surrender their lives to Jesus Christ. I’m sure of it. Until then here’s to fair winds and following seas…and large catches of blue marlin.
Another day, another beach cleanup. These are just a few of our students. Afterward we ate and people sang kareoke. While the rest played games, I took some of the guys to the dump site after loading the SUV with all that trash. We met a bunch of people rummaging at the dump for food and recyclables. So our volunteers are coming up with a way to serve them. These events give us a great opportunity to bond, build relationships, and share Christ’s love. Now, I would like to take this time to thank each one of you who use cloth diapers. My vehicle appreciates it too. #projectaware #missions #islandlife #beachcleanup #creationcare
My alarm clock (Amalie) woke me up on time to go through Proverbs with some of our Reef Rangers at the bar before literally diving into the ocean. We don’t pressure our Muslim partners to join us but hope they can see and feel Christ’s love through our ongoing relationship with them. After rowing past the strong surf on a raft and assisting the instructor conduct his scuba class, I realized that hours had flown by. I was running late so we hurried back to shore and then sped …over dirt roads, still soaking in ocean water, to drop off the volunteers. Some helped me load the truck with computers from our Center. We must’ve been a sight, dripping wet while hauling electronics. I had just enough time to put some pants on before starting my class for the teachers at the elementary school. I only got a few chuckles because of my sunburnt, bald head. After the lecture, I had them transcribe a modified version of the Prodigal Son using Microsoft Word.
I made it home right before dinner as Amy was entertaining a guest. After cleaning up and lending our vehicle out, I made it to our first youth group session back at the office. We’re going through The Purpose Driven Life. A few students stayed behind for weekly training so they could lead “A Walk thru the Old Testament” with our church. Amy was still awake when I got home (because of Amalie) so we watched “Blackish” and agreed that we’re just like Dre and Rainbow. And now (1am) the internet is fast enough for me to do a few assignments (and this procrastinating post)…as I occasionally tend to my alarm clock (Amalie) who is sitting right in front of me waiting for me to doze off so she can start her nocturnal intervals of cute, loving wails of affection for me
Amy Loy Samson Dec.5, 2013
Yesterday I was having an awful time with pain in my side every time I coughed with this awful cold. I was at my physical limits, alone, and totally overwhelmed. Josiah heard me crying and came to comfort me. “It will be ok, Momma,” he said. Then he tried to figure out what it was. “Is it the baby?” “No, son, the baby isn’t the cause of this.” “Is it the storm?” (Ever since the typhoon he’s connected tears and fear with the storm because it was traumatic for him.) “N…o, son, it’s not the storm.” As I sat on my bed, reaching for my phone to call a friend to cry to, I heard him saying, “I’ll sing and pray for you.” Quieted by his faith, I looked at him through tears and said, “Thank you, son, I’d like that.” So he proceeded to sing one of his sweet, heartfelt prayers. In it he sang of a storm and the God of lightning, and my spirit was quieted. He didn’t know that his concrete understanding of a literal storm was a perfect analogy for the storm that was going on in my soul. But he did know, because he had experienced it in real life and heard of it in his Bible storybook, that Jesus calms the storm. And so he sang to God for his Momma. And by the end of his song, I was calmed and quieted in my soul. This is not the first time my tiny son has ministered to me, and I know it will not be the last. It is amazing and humbling to see the prayers we have prayed for this child coming to be right in front of my eyes. All praise to the God of Lightning, the Lord of the storm, the Lord of my soul, and the Leader of my child.
After all that waiting I finally got on the boat! I kept getting passed over because I didn’t know the right people or give out “cash incentives.” It was dishea…rtening to watch other drivers just arrive and get put in front of me. Another Christian brother who is related to a board member of our NGO just happened to run into me and he literally forced my vehicle through the gate with his SUV and the officials were too distracted by the commotion that they didn’t notice I wasn’t on the list. I did however happily tip the workers that guided me into that narrow spot.
The Waze GPS app works great in Manila to help navigate traffic and find shortcuts. But in the province, it simply finds the shortest distance with the least amount of vehicles. I wasn’t paying attention and was rerouted to an alternative “highway.” It was a rough road with nobody on it but me, Josiah, and horseback riders…oh and that unfortunate chicken. Why did you cross the road at that very moment??? Though the “faster” route tacked on an additional hour, at least Josiah thought we were on an adventure and even asked a few times if we were going to die.
This is the face I make when I hear an announcement at 5:45 am (when my flight is supposed to board) that although I woke up at 2:30 (actually, it was 1:45 because Amalie started fussing and I couldn’t sleep after that), and got through security by 4:15, and got Amalie to sleep right before the flight, which meant I was actually going to sit in peace for an hour, the flight has been delayed. New boarding time 7 am. Sayang (what a waste!)!
UUUMMM PASTOR SAMSON, to be or not to be? edwin had to have proof that he’s part of high & lifted up, LOY crew so his father in-law & he take a suspitious hunting trip to get deer. brutha del has taken pastor samson hunting a number of times, so trust had been built up between them or one may speculate things were apropriate because there had yet to be a del/edwin shooting accident & it was such kindness shown by edwin to overlook the copious amounts of deer urine del sprayed… on him even tho instuctions by the internet were to be liberal with the can. edwin felt like, there had been a few times he thot del was sighting his rifle on him and, with squinched eyes, mouthing the word “pow.” with all the trust edwin had built up in del, he had to assume del was zero’d in on a squirrel near his head or something…to be continued. just kidding…ya reckon? love ya’ll!
Proof that I’m still a part of the Loy Family: My father in-law and I have gone hunting together a number of times and there has yet to be a son in-law shooting… accident. And I will overlook the copious amounts of deer urine he sprays on me even though the internet says to be liberal with the can. And there have been a few times it seemed like he was sighting his rifle on me and then mouthing the word “pow.” But I just assume he’s looking at a squirrel near my head or something. I’m obviously kidding…or am I?
As a missionary, one of our jobs is to build loving relationships with locals. As a development worker, it’s to transform communities through capacity building.…..doing things like what we did today where we gathered info on the condition of reefs and identified its coordinates for potential tourism sites. As a diver…well, it’s to be one with the ocean. I love when all three come together in a single event. Two fishermen in our ministry are leading the “Ocean Conservation Team” for the International Service Corps of Asia. They received some training on how to use fins and snorkels which are far more effective than free-diving without. These volunteers, who started studying the Bible not too long ago, are being taught to love and respect God’s created earth, especially people, regardless of background…like our Muslim partners who led me down to depths farther than 100 feet today. I got hit with nitrogen narcosis and my system is still a bit loaded because I took my dive table to the limit… Everyone came over to the house afterward and we hung out until evening. I equipped this team with gear donated by Deep South Scuba and they are raring to get back out. When bonding, community service, and fun are put together, it’s addicting.
We started reading The Island of The Blue Dolphins with our students at the high school using Kindles and laptops. Interesting connection: The island mentioned… in the book (off the coast of California) was used as a sanctuary for the Spanish Galleons traveling to and from Mexico and Manila in the 16th century. One of those ships ran aground off of Catanduanes; the survivors subsequently settling on the island.
International Service Corps of Asia added 35 new photos to the album: Belmonte Relocation Area Outreach.
June 7, 2013 ·
Short Term volunteers from Corban University came to help with an Educational Camp we held in May. The children participating are Out of School Youth (OSY). They should be enrolled in school but due to hardship, they cannot continue their education. This community was once located on the beach, but years of calamities have pushed them inland. The government built houses for them away from the ocean, however, most of the men subsist through fishing.
Short Term volunteers from Corban University came to help with an Educational Camp we held in May. The children participating are Out of School Youth (OSY). T…hey should be enrolled in school but due to hardship, they cannot continue their education. This community was once located on the beach, but years of calamities have pushed them inland. The government built houses for them away from the ocean, however, most of the men subsist through fishing.
International Service Corps of Asia added 27 new photos to the album: Pagatpatan Outreach.
June 8, 2013 ·
To get to this community from the central part of town you have to take a 25 minute motorcycle ride and then board a fishing boat and sail for another 25 minutes. You can also hike up a trail that motorcycles can’t go up. And when you finally get to shore, if it’s low tide (which it has been every time we’ve been), you have to wade over 100 yards to the beach in chest high water or take a smaller boat. They have no electricity, potable water, or school. We brought a generator and laptop to show “The Prince of Egypt” and we played games with the children. We conversed with the parents and fed them rice and chicken for lunch and then porridge for an afternoon snack.
To get to this community from the central part of town you have to take a 25 minute motorcycle ride and then board a fishing boat and sail for another 25 minute…s. You can also hike up a trail that motorcycles can’t go up. And when you finally get to shore, if it’s low tide (which it has been every time we’ve been), you have to wade over 100 yards to the beach in chest high water or take a smaller boat. They have no electricity, potable water, or school. We brought a generator and laptop to show “The Prince of Egypt” and we played games with the children. We conversed with the parents and fed them rice and chicken for lunch and then porridge for an afternoon snack.
International Service Corps of Asia added 12 new photos to the album: Rural Health Unit Seminar.
June 8, 2013 ·
We conducted an English/Team Building Seminar for the healthcare staff of the provincial rural health unit in San Andres. We had fun giving lessons and engaging the participants in fun learning activities. And the resort made for a beautiful setting!
We conducted an English/Team Building Seminar for the healthcare staff of the provincial rural health unit in San Andres. We had fun giving lessons and engaging the participants in fun learning activities. And the resort made for a beautiful setting!
We don’t merely teach Microsoft Word, we empower people to push politicians to action; it’s not an Excel Spreadsheet class, it’s a way to budget your life to es…cape the oppression of debt; Powerpoint for presentations? No, it motivates you to tell the story of what God has done in your life; unlocking the internet just to use Facebook, goodness no… it unveils the mystery of the world; learning how to swim and snorkel to survive…better yet, a way to discover and care for the beauty of God’s creation; and we don’t just feed the hungry, we bring the Bread of Life. We are the International Service Corps of Asia
congrats, beautiful & I love ya’ll, amy & Edwin – missionaries in the Philippines doing work for our Lord
Our latest prayer card.
A picture is worth 1000 words and this one pretty much sums up the cost of living in El Salvador. Exact same Hot Dog from Costco/Pricemart. In US $1.50 with a 20oz soda and in El Salvador $2.49 and if you want the drink it will cost you $1.29 more.
I remember several years back speaking with a close pastor friend about a couple that was preparing to go the mission field. His church had just heard back from the sending agency the amount of money they would need to raise for their budget. He was aghast at the amount, remarking that it was almost equal to his salary.
I remember being struck by the two things this revealed. The first was that we American Christians expect missionaries to have a much lower standard of living than we would subject our pastors to. The second was that the majority of Americans do not realize how cheap things are in the US compared to the rest of the world. Most do not realize how much it would take to maintain their same standard of living, even in very poor countries.
Our work in El Salvador is primarily providing on- ground missionary care to long term missionaries. We see firsthand the strain unrealistic budgets have on the missionary families, and their ministries. Because we are bi-vocational missionaries (We go back to the US several months a year to run a seasonal business.) we are in a unique position to speak about this issue. Most missionaries will not bring these things up, because they don’t want their supporters to feel like they are ungrateful. Since we don’t need to raise support for our living expenses it is easier for me to be more frank about this issue.
While I want to mostly focus on why it is so expensive to live on the mission field, I do want to take a brief look at the first thing I mentioned.
Why do we assume that missionary’s families should live at a much lower standard of living than we would ourselves be willing to live at?
Missionaries leave behind their support network of family and friends often moving into a dangerous environment where daily life is so much more difficult. A place where a car that breaks down is more than an inconvenience, and living in a nicer neighborhood is not about prestige but being able to sleep with less fear at night. Where power and water outages make being able to buy fast food a life saver, and where shopping at a decent store is more about not getting sick from parasites than convenience. In a foreign land missionary kids feel lost and alone struggling to communicate and spending most their time locked in their homes because of safety concerns. They miss dearly the freedoms they had in their former life. There is no walking to meet friends at a local park and very few free opportunities for recreation as most has to be done in areas with security and high walls. For a missionary couple, having the financial flexibility to allow their kids to participate in an extracurricular activity is critical to the family’s survival. The above are just a few of the challenges missionaries face; there are many others (cannot flush toilet paper, no hot water, days spent in long lines trying to pay bills or get government documents, the list could go on and on.). So why when we send them out to face so many challenges do we also expect them to live at a level we would deem unacceptable in the US?
It seems ironic that the corporate world sees the necessity of paying people who move overseas to work a larger salary, while the church does the opposite. Corporations do not offer higher salaries overseas because they just want to be nice. They do it because they realize the extra hardships and costs their employees will face, and they want to make sure they have the resources to be successful. Does it really make sense to do the opposite for our missionary families?
The myth of a cheap life overseas
“I heard that the average person in xyz country makes $300 a month so if we give you $1500 a month your family you should be able to live like kings.”
People have heard how low the salaries in xyz country are, or read articles about how it is so much cheaper to retire overseas, or know you can get an hour long massage for $5. Therefor, you must be able to live on next to nothing. There are a number of reasons why a poor country that seems cheap when you visit can be so expensive to live. Since we serve in El Salvador I am going to use examples from here, but the same principles hold true regardless of the country your missionary is serving in.
The first thing you have to wrap your mind around is that the situation in the US is an anomaly. In the US things (food, clothes, electronics, building material, ECT) are cheap and labor is expensive. In most of the world it is the exact opposite, things are expensive and labor is cheap. That means in most poor countries luxuries like a massage that you indulge in on vacation are cheap, but day to day things you need are often more expensive.
Below I have outlines what I feel is the minimum budget for a missionary family of 4 in El Salvador to operate in a healthy way. As a reference point this budget would allow them to live at the same level as a family of 4 living in San Diego making $65,000 a year.
Costs for things like cars and furnishings are taking the average over a 5 year period. It also assumes that at this income level they will not owe any state or federal income taxes, but only social security and Medicare.
The budget comparison is a family of 4 in Escondido California (low cost suburb of San Diego) with a combined gross income of $65,004. It also assumes employer provided health insurance and matching 401k. Those who live in San Diego area know that $65,004 a year is far from living a life of luxury. You will notice that besides rent, for comparable items most things are more expensive in El Salvador. I explain why these things are more expensive in more detail towards the end.
Monthly amounts for items like furnishings and car are averaged over several years
San Salvador Escondido
Rent (1100 square foot apt) $800 $1300
Furnishings $200 $100
Water $75 $37
Electric $200 $100
Internet $50 $30
2 cell phones $160 $80
Total House and Utility $1485 $1647
Groceries $770 $700
Eating Out $100 $75
Household Items(Soap, shampoo, etc) $110 $100
Car expense (5 year old base model compact SUV) below are costs for 2 vehicles
Depreciation $366 $250
Insurance $150 $150
Gas $275 $250
Repairs and Maintenance $350 $250
Tuition and school fees 2 kids $900 $50
Entertainment $100 $100
Misc. $250 $250
Retirement contributions $400 $200
Emergency Savings $200 $200
Total $5586 $4754
10% tithe $559 $432
Total Net monthly income needed $6145 $4754
Medicare and Social Security owed $940 (15.3%) $363 (7.65%)
Heath Ins not paid for by employer $1000 $300
Total Monthly $8085 $5417
Yearly $97,050 $65,004
Airfare and travel expense to US $4000 $0
Visa and Lawyer Fees $500 $500
10% fee for sending Org overhead $10155 $0
Total Needed $111,705 $65,004
So a missionary in San Salvador needs to raise $111,705 to have a similar standard of living as a family of 4 living in San Diego making $65,000 a year. This does not even cover any funds to be used for ministry. Remember a big portion of this is for things most employers pay for and people don’t consider part of their salary (the employer’s share of SSI and Medicare, health insurance, matching 401k, airline tickets, and admin fees) and $10,000 is for school tuition that they would not have to pay in the US.
If you look at our sample budget there is not really any fat to cut. Unfortunately most missionaries we work with live on budgets much lower than the one I have outlined. Sometimes this is because they have struggled to raise funds, but often it is due to the living allowance allotted by their sending church. This means that all the stresses of living in a foreign land are compounded by finances. Unfortunately this often has dire impacts on marriages and families causing many to leave the mission field. Even from a purely financial perspective it is more expensive when we do not support our missionaries properly. When a missionary leaves the field after only a couple years because of financial stresses it means tens of thousands of dollars of wasted investment.
We would invite you to have an honest conversation with the missionaries you partner with. Are they operating on an adequate budget like the one we detailed? One that allows them to focus on the ministry task at hand? Or are they in a situation where more effort goes into keeping their head above water than pushing forward in the ministry.
Below is a further explanation of all the line items
Just as in the US, in El Salvador rents are all over the board. Most missionaries in El Salvador live in the capital city of San Salvador because that is where their ministries are based. Wanting to live in the nice part of town has an entirely different motivation when your host country has the highest murder rate in the world, and gangs control most of the city. A 3 bedroom cinder block apartment with security in a safe area of town can be found for about $800 a month. This would be a simple but clean 1100 square foot block construction with old window unit AC units in some of the bedrooms. We know missionaries paying from $400-$2000+ but around $800 would be the norm. A similar apartment in Escondido (inland San Diego) would probably rent for about $1300 a month. We are talking something livable, but nothing to get excited about.
Because of import taxes and less competition new furniture and appliances are about 30% more than they are in the US. Used furniture is at least double what you would pay in the US if you can even find something used. Also due to the harsh environment and erratic power, appliances last about 1/3 as long as they would in the US. We are on our 3rd brand new washing machine in 8 years
While rent is cheaper in El Salvador utilities are more expensive. The US has very cheap electricity because it has access to cheap coal and natural gas. Water is cheaper because US has more efficient infrastructure and cell phones are cheaper because it is a bigger market with more competition
Non drinkable piped water averages about $12 per 1000 gallons in San Salvador. In San Diego it is less than half at $5 per 1000 gallons and it is even drinkable. Most missionaries pay $50-$100 a month for piped water in San Salvador. This does not include the bottled water missionaries must buy not just for drinking, but also washing produce, cooking, and even brushing teeth.
Even though San Diego has some of the highest electricity rates in the US they are still about half the cost of El Salvador. The US has plenty of cheap coal and natural gas giving it some of the lowest electricity costs in the world. At our house in El Salvador we pay about .30 per KWH. This is 3 to 4 times the average rate in the US. I remember being shocked when we got our first electric bill. Our house in El Salvador is only about 900 square feet and our electric bill was over $500 for one month. In San Diego we had a 2600 square foot house and our bill was usually around $200. Most missionaries spend between $100-$400 a month on electricity.
If you live in an area with fixed line internet it is a little higher than prices in the US. We have to rely on cellular internet which is $90 a month for enough data for emails and normal web use but no videos.
Cell phone plans with about 300 minutes of call time and 3 gigs of data is about $80 per phone. No unlimited calling here. It is about 2x what you would pay in San Diego for a similar plan. It is a necessity for the family to have a minimum of 2 cell phones for safety.
We spend about 10% more on groceries here than we would in San Diego. If we tried to eat the same here as we did in San Diego it would be significantly higher than that. We just don’t really buy things like cereal or chips that often, because they are crazy expensive. They also don’t really ever have sales on things. In the US you can often find nice steaks on sale for $5.00 a pound where here those same steaks would be about $12.00 per pound. I love steak, but we wait until we go back to California to buy it. There is also not really any advantage to buying in bulk. If the package contains 10 times as much it is usually 10 times the price.
Fast food is more expensive here than in the US if you are trying to get a cheap meal. You can get a Whopper for about the same price as in the US, but there are almost no $1 budget menu options. Also if you want a drink you have to buy it. There are no free cups of water and if you buy a soda. no free refills. Mid-range restaurants are about the same as the US. High end restaurants are cheaper than the US.
If you are really on a budget in the US you can go in and feed a family of 4 for $10 off the dollar menu. You do not have that option here. Pricesmart which is the Costco of El Salvador is a prime example. At Costco you get a hot dog and soda for $1.50. At Pricesmart the exact same hot dog (they actually use Costco’s hot dogs) is $2.49 and it is another $1.29 for a soda. So a hot dog and soda at Costco is literally 2.5x as much in El Salvador. Things like saline solution, feminine products, laundry detergent are about 30% more expensive than in the US.
Because of high import and sales taxes and less competition in the car market, new and non-salvaged used vehicles are about 30% more expensive than in the US. This is further complicated by the fact that if you do ministry outside of the capital you need an SUV or truck due to the road conditions. Gas is about 10% more expensive. Having a decent car is much more critical in El Salvador than in the US. Breaking down in the US is a hassle, but breaking down in El Salvador can put you in serious danger. Also the driving here is very aggressive and you are much more likely to be involved in a high speed head-on accident. For the first time in my life I care if my car has airbags. Average cost in El Salvador for a 3 year old non-salvaged Honda CRV is $22,000; the same vehicle in US can be bought for$16,500. Some families make due with one vehicle, but this is very difficult especially with kids. Usually means the wife is stuck at home quite a bit and can be very isolating.
School for the kids
This is an area that a lot of people do not think about because school is free in the US. Some missionaries home school, but often times this winds up being just as expensive as private school. Other missionary families feel it is best for their kids to have some semblance of a normal life by attending school. In El Salvador private schools range from $300-$900 a month per student. For a mid-level school it would average about $450 per month per student or $900 for a family with 2 kids. Most of the time public schools are not even an option as the education is at such a low level.
It is crucial for families and marriages that missionaries budget for fun time together. Some things like going to the movies are cheaper in El Salvador, but this is offset by the fact that there are very few free options. Even going to the beach usually means paying a fee for access.
This covers clothes, gifts, birthday parties, haircuts, kids karate classes ECT
Retirement is an area that most people neglect to even think about. For some reason people think missionaries will not need any retirement. The fact is they should be saving even more than people back home.
Home equity is usually the biggest asset of people when they retire and most missionaries don’t own a home because it is hard to get a mortgage overseas. Missionaries should be saving significantly more than average to compensate for the fact that they will be paying a mortgage or rent during their retirement years. They also do not have any matching 401K plan so it is all on their shoulders. The last thing you want is to put people in the position where they cannot leave the mission field in their later years because they have nothing saved to live on. I would guess that at least 80% of those we work with are not putting anything into retirement accounts. Unless their sending churches plan on supporting them in their old age they need to make sure their missionaries have budgeted enough to contribute to an IRA or other retirement plan.
It is always wise to set money aside for emergencies. It is more critical on the mission field than anywhere, as most missionaries jump from one emergency to the next
Missionaries should be able to participate in the joy of giving. Not only are they members of local churches that need to be supported, but they also are continually presented with dire needs that they are compelled to help with. We expect that our pastors give back a portion of their salary and we need to make sure our missionaries have this opportunity also.
Medicare and Social Security Taxes
Many people do not realize that they only pay half of the Social Security and Medicare taxes and that their employer pays the other half. Because missionaries do not have an employer they are responsible for both the employer and employees share. This is a 15.3% tax and there are no deductions at all. If your salary is $50,000 your Social Security and Medicare taxes due are $7650. There is no way to lower them. This catches many missionaries by surprise.
Most people get health insurance from their job. Even those who have a large amount taken out of their paycheck every month still have the majority of the costs picked up by their employer. It costs most companies anywhere from $12,000-$30,000 a year to provide health insurance. Of course missionaries do not have a company picking up most of the tab for their policy. Usually it is cheaper to get insurance outside the US even if they have to pay the Obamacare fine, but most missionaries also have higher medical expenses from tropical diseases and injuries.
Airfare and travel expense.
Most missionaries return to the US every few years to see family, report to supporting churches, and to fund raise. In addition to airfare they need to pay for housing and travel expenses. This is in addition to their expenses in the country they are serving in. They usually keep paying rent and other expenses so that they can return to the same home.
Visa and Lawyer fees
This is for ongoing visa issues. First year expense would likely be much higher
10% fee charged by sending Org to cover overhead
Most sending agencies have a 10% service charge for handling all the logistical and regulatory issues of taking in donations. This usually also covers the fees involved when people make donations by credit card.
GOOG JOB DADDY-O
This week I’ve been teaching 5 classes, some of which are at the vocational education center. This picture is of our computer students enrolled in an electricia…n’s course offered by the center. The ones in the very back are also our students who are in a bread and pastry making course but take our computer class every Tuesday. When I told my classes that Josiah would be with me, the bread and pastry students wanted to make him the official taste tester. So he had a slice of everything they made fresh out of the oven. Josiah thinks I have the coolest job ever and that I’m the best dad for allowing him to eat all those desserts. Amalie thinks I’m cool too because I’ve added peanut butter to all of her meals…even that fried eggplant with rice and soy sauce dish. I also taught her how to ride with me on the motorcycle with no help from another adult. Can we say super dad?
Good discussion of LaVoy’s murder:
U GO BROTHER, MORE POWER TO YA
By the way, this is my wall and no one else’s !!!!! I am US Army Retired guarded the Panama Canal with a M60 Machine gun and two ammo bearers….Went to college… on the Gi Bill and made friends to last a life time. Loving father, Loving Son, best friend to many in Real life and here. Cooked for a living, worked my way thru college cooking at Kens at Copley . In Boston Massachusetts, 6 chefs on two shifts. I was on the grave yard shift 9pm to 3am, worked all positions in the kitchen…Johnny on the Broiler….Graduated Emerson College and made films documentary’s…Radio announcer at WERS….Through tragedy ended up in the made in USA Fabric industry.. DID 29 YEARS NYC. At my desk at 8am went home at 7pm after Rush hour and had 2 week vacations every year and built an empire with an initial investment of $20,000. Built a many million dollar empire thru hard work in my family. Had a knitting mill in North Carolina. That got gutted like a fish in 4 years by Made in China that is still in America raping and pillaging our products and stealing land and resources…. I want my revenge, Supporting Donald Trump.
Where have you worked in the past?
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After one of our teammates handed out roses to the women in our ministry, they decided to surprise us as well. Last night, I ended up running out my door with the kids because I thought there was an emergency. It was just the girls. They were singing in the rain wearing beautiful dresses and they came bearing Valentines gifts. They spent a significant amount of time expressing their gratitude to us. It was awesome….until I realized that the kids and I were still in our underwear
LOVE when the heat index is almost ten degrees above the actual temperature. I’m thinking, “It’s really heating up…”, check the temp and it’s 84. What!? Then I see the “feels like”: 93. Ok, that makes more sense. The upcoming hot season is either going to kill me, or the lack of a regular “cool” season is going to have me acclimated by the time it hits. Optimist Amy is hoping for the latter.
Almost four years ago, Amie was assigned to be my liaison between our NGO and the local government when we first started serving in San Andres. She was also a computer literacy student. She ended up volunteering with the organization and subsequently joined our first small group studying the Purpose Driven Life. That group turned into a Bible study. A year later she surrendered her life to Jesus Christ. The next couple of years were a series of ups and downs but as our team journeyed with her, she persevered and ended up hosting the first house church launch. And today, she became the first believer in our ministry to get baptized, plowing the way for others to follow in obedience to Christ. What a great day!
Believers from two of the house churches came together to celebrate and rejoice with Rachel and Amie as they got baptized today. This area is where we conduct some of our reef awareness events, our spiritual retreats, and this Friday, a training for the disaster management office . A very special place for a very special day.
Movie outreach at the disaster management office with the rescue swimmers. Watching the Guardian. Last time we used this Costner/Kutcher movie was at a Louisiana state penitentiary with Happy Miller where we led a bunch of inmates to the Lord. Appropriate for these Filipino swimmers tonight is the opening of the movie that talks of a mysterious “fisher of men” who saves lives but is never seen. Also relevant is the motto “so that others may live.” Jesus Christ saved me from a death I truly deserved by sacrificing His life for all of humanity. By faith I believe in the God who created me. He is my rescuer and I now serve empowered by the Holy Spirit so that others may live.
No, the emergency response unit isn’t just swimming into the middle of the ocean because they were inspired by that Kevin Costner movie. They were ordered to check the condition of the reef after their search and recovery training. Our lead ocean instructor tore a new one into the gov’t employees tasked to monitor the marine reserve and sanctuary after we discovered dynamite blasting on a dive to the coral. So the swimmers didn’t hesitate to get back into the water to take pi…ctures and be witnesses to the destruction to lodge an official complaint to the municipality. The local gov’t spends a lot of money staffing the area 24/7 and even provides a fancy speed boat to apprehend violators. If you think environmentalists are just peaceful tree huggers, meet Master Diver Mel and you’ll learn never to cross a man that passionate about the ocean.