Help Provide Safe Drinking Water to Thousands in Africa

For only US$ 33, each of us can help provide clean, safe drinking water to tens of thousands of people in Africa.

I just received an email from BirthdayAlarm. They have teamed up with the non-profit organization charity:water . The vision of Charity: Water is to help provide clean, safe drinking water to billions of people all over the world who don’t have access to it. Its founder, Scott Harrison, had the inspirted idea to celebrate his 32nd birthday in September last year by asking for donations of US$ 32 each from concerned individuals to help benefit needy people in Kenya, particularly a hospital which sees about a hundred patients a day, but out of whose taps can come only muddy water.

92 people responded, and most gave more than $ 32 each. They were able to raise $150,000. They dug a well which gave that hospital and the community around it access to clean drinking water.

The idea worked. So this year, they’re aiming to raise ten times that amount, in order to help provide water in Ethiopia. They want to provide wells to at least 300 villages in that country.

For his 33rd birthday this September, Scott is asking for $ 33 from people whose hearts are moved to help provide this very important resource. Most of us take water for granted, but there are tens of thousands in less-developed places who don’t have ready access to it.

Thirty-three dollars. It’s worth it. Give a gift of life. Let’s give a gift of drinking water for thousands of our fellow human beings.

Check it out here:

http://www.charitywater.org/birthdays/intro/trailer2.html?MID=15

or at

http://borninseptember.org.

 

God bless you, Scott!

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“A Bad Smell”

God is good!

Our project was enthusiastically received by our client’s transformation officers (TO’s). These TO’s would be in charge of training the project officers who, in turn, would lead the organization’s tens of thousands of clients in Bible studies all over the country (the organization is a coalition of 11 Christian microfinance organizations with branches all over the Philippines).

They all agreed that the Bible study materials/devotionals which Perry developed would be very helpful in enabling them to provide a holistic ministry to the micro-entrepreneur clients—not just helping them in terms of providing loans and business and management skills training, but also in terms of sharing spiritual blessings with them.

The TOs’ enthusiasm was further boosted by reports from field tests, where random samples of clients were asked to read and study the materials, which we have entitled Gawaing Bahay (Household Work).

A great majority of the clients are mothers who are borrowing money in order to set up small businesses that can augment the family income.

One mother said that, in all her 43 years, she had never read the Bible. She thought that it had nothing to teach her. Besides, she thought that she could never have the time. But when she read the Gawaing Bahay material, she realized that the Bible was very relevant to her life, and could actually be appreciated even if read for only short chunks of time in the midst of her very busy schedule as mother, housewife, and microentrepreneur. Now she is motivated to study it along with the Gawaing Bahay as guide.

Another said that the Gawaing Bahay materials, which draw lessons from ordinary household work such as doing the laundry, cooking, sewing, etc., gave dignity to her routine housework, a perspective which she never had before.

Our client has already bought 30,000 copies of the Tagalog version for distribution to their microentrepreneur clients. We are now in the process of translating the Tagalog into Ilonggo, Cebuano, and Ilokano, three other major Philippine languages. We are also polishing the English version, which we will also print soon.

Below is an excerpt from the English draft of Devotional #4 of Gawaing Bahay (the Bible verses are taken from Today’s English Version):

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A Bad Smell
(Devotions 4)

If clothes are not washed well, they will have a bad smell. One day, I was folding the clothes that had been washed. While doing this, I smelled the clothes. One sock didn’t smell good. I asked myself, “How come? This is the only one that doesn’t smell good. All the others are okay.”

Probably it was because the sock was thick and black. Maybe I didn’t scrub it well, thinking that it was black anyway and any remaining dirt wouldn’t be noticed. But I was wrong. Maybe the dirt couldn’t be seen, but the uncleanness can be smelled! So I soaked it again in laundry detergent, and this time I scrubbed and rinsed it well. When it was dry, I held it to my nose and smelled it again. “Hmmm,” I said, “Now that smells good.” Since then, I have been more careful in washing black clothes to make sure that they will not smell bad.

Dirt in dark clothes may not be noticeable. But you cannot hide it even if the color of the clothes is dark, because it will smell. Sin is also like that: it smells bad even when it is not easily seen. This is why we cannot say that we can hide our sins because no one knows what we do in secret anyway. We should be more careful of secret sins because some day it will smell—and then what a shame it will be!

The Bible says that we ourselves are the ones who suffer when we know that we have done wrong and yet refuse to admit it.

But you know, God “does the laundry” very well. He knows everything about us—even sins done in secret. If you will only listen to Him, He will make you realize those sins so that you can allow Him to wash them away. He does not want to leave you smelling bad!

Things to Think About or Do:

(1) This is very personal, and you do not have to share this with anybody: Is there anything in your life which you know is wrong but which you do not want to let go?

(2) Would you like to spend some time, maybe 15-30 minutes, talking to God about it?

 “Hmmm, newly washed clothes really smell good!” That’s what we want, right? That is why we look for detergent soap and fabric softeners that will not only clean our clothes, but also leave them smelling clean. We feel good when our clothes smell clean, and we feel confident when we wear them.

A life surrendered to Christ smells clean. When we allow Jesus Christ to cleanse us from our sin, and specially when we serve Him, our lives “smell good” not only for God, but also for other people:

God uses us to make the knowledge about Christ spread everywhere like a sweet fragrance. For we are like a sweet-smelling incense offered by Christ to God, which spreads among those who are being saved and those who are being lost.
—2 Cor. 2:14-15

God is so good to cleanse us. He knows that we will only be truly happy when we are clean. You might want to use the following Psalm as a prayer to God:

Be merciful to me, O God,
     because of your constant love.
Because of your great mercy
     wipe away my sins!
Wash away all my evil
     and make me clean from my sin!

I recognize my faults;
     I am always conscious of my sins.
I have sinned against you—only against you—
     and done what you consider evil.
So you are right in judging me;
     you are justified in condemning me.
I have been evil from the day I was born;
     from the time I was conceived, I have been sinful.

Sincerity and truth are what you require;
     fill my mind with your wisdom.
Remove my sin, and I will be clean;
     wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear the sounds of joy and gladness;
     and though you have crushed me and broken me,
I will be happy once again.
Close your eyes to my sins
     and wipe out all my evil.

Create a pure heart in me, O God,
     and put a new and loyal spirit in me.
Do not banish me from your presence;
     do not take your holy spirit away from me.
Give me again the joy that comes from your salvation,
     and make me willing to obey you.

Then I will teach sinners your commands,
     and they will turn back to you.

Spare my life, O God, and save me,
     and I will gladly proclaim your righteousness.
Help me to speak, Lord,
     and I will praise you.
—Psalm 51:1-15

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God is so good and gracious to allow us to participate in a great work that He is about to do among our countrymen. All praises, thanks, honor and glory be to Him!

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Kudos To My Beautiful Wife

Happy New Year!

I hope you all had a good holiday, and you’re all having a good start to the year.

Perry and I are having a GREAT start. We’ve been offered an opportunity to join a project which will benefit tens of thousands of Filipino micro-entrepreneurs. We had to create the proposal and some samples last week, and over the weekend, for submission this week. We really are praying that God will grant us this project. All praises and thanks be to Him!

My wife is truly a blessing. She is not only very loving, caring and understanding, dealing with all my baggage, but she’s also very wise. I always learn so much from her, most recently in connection with the offer regarding this new project.

Courting my wife at Keukenhof

Courting my wife at Keukenhof, the Netherlands, 2004 

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It was possible for us to join the project because she was never idle during the 22 months that we were in the Netherlands, when I took up my Masters in Theology at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam. She tried repeatedly to apply for a work permit but was never granted one all the time that we were there. Still, she kept herself busy. She wrote books and devotionals and children’s activity books and coloring books. She even started plans for other, much bigger projects (which she doesn’t want me to talk about now, because she’s still developing them).

Well, I finished my studies and we came back to the Philippines two years ago. She was recruited by a local partner of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, and now works both for that local partner and for the Philippine Bible Society. We set up a publishing company last year and published one of her coloring/activity books. The other projects were shelved and put on the back burner.

Until the last week of December. An old friend called her up and said that their organization was looking for some material for use in a new development which they want to begin this 2008. The friend knew that Perry was interested in such projects, since Perry was involved with microfinance NGO’s before we left for the Netherlands. The friend asked if Perry and I could develop something, even just a draft, which she could present to the decision-makers this first week of the year. Well, guess what? my incredibly gifted wife had already written something which fit perfectly with the project—two years ago, in Zaandam, the Netherlands! All we had to do was polish it and tailor it to the organization, and prepare a project proposal—which we all did in one week, last week.

It was still a bit tough, specially given the time constraints. But it was much easier than starting from scratch. We were able to submit something because Perry never allowed herself to be idle during the almost two years that she was not allowed to work. If she had not continued developing new materials and new projects all the time that she was being kept from working in the Netherlands, we would have been unable to take advantage of this opportunity when it knocked.

A great lesson from a great wife—a true woman of wisdom. Don’t just wait for opportunities, or be alert to them. We must also keep ourselves ready to take advantage of them when they do come. Never be idle! Continue developing yourself, continue developing new ideas, projects, and products, so that when the opportunity, contacts, and resources come, you will be ready.

Beauty at Swan Lake, Keukenhof

I love my wife! After 17 years of marriage, my love and admiration for her continues to grow. I love her even more than before. And I don’t just love her, I admire her—I’m a die-hard, life-long fan. God bless my wife! God bless Perry!

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How to Help Improve Philippine Society?

This week I came across this question from Francis Kong, posted at Yahoo! Answers. He asked:

What can we do to help make the Philippines a better place for ourselves and for our children?

It is not only the government’s job to improve the future for our children.
It is the responsibility of every Filipino to create a better Philippines for the coming generations. All of us must think about how we can contribute.

The question is posted at this link:
http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index;_ylt=Al63Ma4yNZfqjJqZbeLsyxjsy6IX;_yl

I posted my two cents’ worth:
Wow, this is like a chicken-and-egg question. My suggested answer is: SHORT-CIRCUIT THE CHICKEN-AND-EGG SITUATION.

We definitely need better leaders to set examples, implement laws correctly and justly, set the right environment for the proper growth of the populace (economic, political, etc.) That’s the chicken.

Problem is, we also need an electorate that’s better educated and motivated to put the right leaders in place. That’s the egg.

Theoretically, without the right leadership, the environment will not be conducive to breeding healthy eggs. Corrupt leaders simply keep the environment contaminated by maintaining the masses’ dependency on them through bribes and the patronage system; by taking advantage of regionalistic preferences (i.e., he may be a devil but he’s OUR devil,,,and our devil will always take care of his own); through fear and intimidation, etc.

Because of this, the eggs, er, people, will always put into office the wrong kinds of leaders. And the right kinds of leaders will be disillusioned and opt out (e.g., Mrs. Monsod, if I understand a recent TV interview correctly).

The process must be short-circuited by a force coming in from outside. This force would include business leaders, educators, and everyone else willing to contribute and actively participate in helping Philippine society.

The process of short-circuiting would involve (but would not be limited to) the following:

1) Subsidizing education for the children, to train, equip, and support capable teachers who would not only teach CORRECT skills, but also right and godly values. (Note regarding skills: have you seen the essays and answers to simple questions submitted in many job interviews nowadays? These indicate how much our educational system has deteriorated, and has been simply a huge collective diploma mill for many years now.)

2) Include ENTREPRENEURSHIP as a core subject in childrens’ and youth’s education. For so long, our educational system has trained children to aspire to be employees (a company prexy is still an employee). A successful entrepreneur who has right godly values will have more positive impact on society—not the least of which are providing income to more people, and imparting godly values to many through his or her godly example.

3) For the older people, setting up businesses and cooperatives in the provinces, and train the people in entrepreneurship. Hopefully, this would have two effects: (a) encourage the people to stay in the provinces and stop migration to the “dream” urban centers; and (b) teach them to fish, and not just feed them with fish for the day.

4) IMPORTANT: The training in entrepreneurship should not be just the old “Livelihood training programs” such as soap-making, candle-making, detergent manufacture, etc. These have been tried for years and found wanting, with very few exceptions. This is because the people who are trained in these livelihood skills all start producing soap, or processed meat, or candles, or whatever, all at the same time, and compete with each other and ultimately kill each other’s businesses quickly (while the NGO’s and mission organizations which conducted the livelihood programs feel self-satisfied with finishing their targeted programs for the year and send self-congratulatory reports to their foreign partners and supporters, complete with numbers and photos, to ask for money for more programs next year—while the people they have “trained”, and who have killed each other’s businesses, look for other “skills” and other NGO’s from whom they can borrow capital again, to try again and again…). The help should include the provision of solid and actual marketing contacts, establishment of cooperatives, etc. Through cooperative ventures, the people band together instead of killing each other (one possible setup would be for certain persons or families to take care of the soap supplies, another of the processed food supplies, another of the garments supplies, etc). Through marketing contacts (if possible, marketing CONTRACTS), the people are enabled to actually sell the products or services which they have been trained to provide. A big problem with current livelihood trainings is that the beneficiaries have no contacts, means, training, or skill to properly and profitably market their products and services, and they all compete and kill each other selling within the same community.

5) For big business to altruistically share in the improvement of the community by providing marketing outlets and sharing their marketing infrastructure with the small entrepreneurs; setting up scholarship foundations for competent children from poor families; subsidizing hospitals, health centers, and drugstores for the poor (usually, small entrepreneurs are stopped dead in their tracks by illness in the family); setting up housing programs in the provinces and opening marketing and production ventures or small branches of their firms near these settlements. These need not lead to losses for big business. It should be possible to figure out population sizes which could be resettled in given areas and where the company’s branches could be set up profitably, which would provide marketing outlets and business and employment opportunities for the resettled people.

These are only a few suggestions. We could come up with many more possible ways to short-circuit the chicken-and-egg process of corrupt politicians always being elected and supported by a beholden electorate. The point is to achieve two important goals:

1) instill correct, godly values in the youth who will be our future leaders and electorate, and

2) break the hold that politicians have through the patronage system, which is made possible by the dehumanizing poverty of many of our countrymen.

Such actions would also hopefully neutralize the growing hostility and resentment felt by the poor towards the rich. This would lead in turn to a more stable and manageable environment in which it would be easier for the two sides to communicate with each other and appreciate one another’s points of view.

Well, just a hurried and abbreviated answer to a very complicated question. I have many more ideas, but space and time are limited in a Yahoo! Answers context. We can talk further, if you want, through email or even personal conversation. I would certainly love to explore this question further, and join forces with others who want to do something solid and practical for our country.

Shalom! Peace and wholeness to you!

Mel

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