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A letter from Paul Matheney in the Philippines

November 2013

Our home is a place where children gather and play.  We did not plan it that way.  It just happened.  Although I enjoy children, it is my wife, Mary, who loves kids.  Children have a way of picking that up, and they take advantage of it.  Mary does not mind; in fact she looks forward to it.

Every Saturday we have a bevy of kids come by to pretend to work.  Instead of doing chores, they end up doing all sorts of fun things, such as creating art and making pancakes.  Since the two who are regulars are very poor, making pancakes is a big deal.  I don’t mind, because I love pancakes.  Eating is an important part of their visit.  We have to do a special shopping day before each Saturday in order to make sure that we have enough.  These children do not live in safe homes.  Their roofs are liable to disappear in one of our typhoons, and their neighbors often are just released from prison.  Their fathers have a difficult time finding work and some have not worked in years. 

The children in our backyard

One does not have running water or a toilet.  Their kitchen is a charcoal stove sitting in the open.  When they come to us, they are dry and well fed.  Parents also show up, but this is a place and time for children.

Poverty crushes the spirit, but our children have not yet learned to be crushed.  They know they are loved and cared for, even when they have to evacuate their homes or go without food for the evening.  One family has no bathroom.  So the church allows them to come and wash early in the morning.  Living in a home with a dirt floor is not just an inconvenience, but also a health hazard.  After church on Sunday we take a couple of girls to buy them vitamins for the week.  They need them to stay well.

The main thing that these children do is have fun.  They draw with crayons, watch Disney movies, and cook.  Eating is part of the fun, because they are not accustomed to having that much food.  It is a delight. 

Several Sundays ago our home became the playground of all the kids from our church.  When they play together, they just celebrate, the stable families with the unstable, the poor with the financially comfortable.  It certainly lifts the spirits.  Enclosed with this letter is a photo of the kids in our backyard.  They just finished worshipping and singing songs.  They were having a great time.  Notice one thing, though.  There is only one boy, and he does not look happy.

Boys and men do not attend church very often.  The joke is that women go to church and men go to cock fights.  Unfortunately, the joke is true.  All the churches in the Philippines are trying to overcome this problem.  Most churches have special programs to strengthen marriages and teach men the virtues of self-control and faithful commitment.  Taking care of kids is one way that that can happen.  We are glad to be able to touch their lives and give them a sense of stability and that they matter. 

Hopefully we will have time to do just that.  Beginning in June we will return to the U.S. for our interpretation assignment.  We hope that you will invite us to come and spend time with your families.  If you would like us to visit, contact me at my email address paulmatheny@mac.com (or use the link below). We would love to see you.  Thank you for your support and prayers.  We appreciate you.  

Sincerely,
Paul Matheny

The 2013 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 211
Read more about Paul Matheny and Mary Nebelsick's ministry

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