An Anniversary to Remember

I’ve been reflecting a lot recently on the circumstances that we went through exactly a year ago.

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Libby’s last night in her bassinet in Butuan City.

We thought we were headed back to the United States on Aug 9, 2015.  We were so excited to show off our new baby girl to our families and to see them after 10 months apart.  Matt was finished teaching at the Bible College and we felt that the time had come for us to return to the U.S. and then prepare to return for a new type of ministry in the Philippines.  After Libby was born had we waited the allotted month for our recovery and traveled to Manila to apply for her passport and amazingly we received it very fast and secured our return flight to our homeland. The rest of us filled out the necessary paperwork for our exit certificates, since we all had visas after living in the country a longer time. Little did we know the journey we would be be on the next few days.

It was midnight as we approached our departure gate in Manila, passports in hand. As we tried to pass through we were bluntly told that our sweet little Libby did not have the necessary paperwork to leave the country; that since we had visas she also needed one and the subsequent exit certificate. We were so confused since the officials we had talked to in the city we had lived had told us that Libby did not need said paperwork.  Matt did his best to try to persuade the airport authorities to let us on the plane while the girls and I waited, praying, in an office. (At which point, poor Chloe also let me know she had to use the bathroom. Thankfully that girl can hold it longer than anyone I know.) Finally, Matt came in to get us with the news that they were getting all 7 of our suitcases off the plane for us. (Thanks, I guess?!) We were denied boarding the plane and was told we needed to go to Immigration Office, across the city, the next day to get the necessary paperwork.

Airport baggage porters loaded up all of our luggage on two carts and started walking with us to leave the airport as we were thinking, “What in the world are we going to do?” and “Where are we going to spend the night?”  We did know some friends in Manila, but it was midnight and we had a 3 month old (who was thankfully sleeping the whole time in a baby sling) and a 3-year-old. We needed to think fast. The only place we knew of was a hotel we had stayed two other times in Manila that wasn’t too far from the airport.  Thankfully there was a concierge who was able to confirm a vacancy at the hotel for us. Once there Chloe and Libby crashed on makeshift couch and chair beds and it was wonderful to be at a place that we were familiar with.  Of course we then had to inform our families we were not headed home as we thought. Side note: We were so hungry and Matt ordered pizza and then we had to wait 2 hours for it to arrive. I went to bed but then, when I smelled pizza, wandered out and sloppily sleep-ate a slice. Is that a thing? Sleep-eating? 

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Chloe playing at Immigration.

The next day we set out for Immigration and thankfully it wasn’t too far from our hotel.  We also thankfully had a few extra copies of Libby’s passport pictures with us.  (Has anyone ever tried to take a passport picture of a 3 month old?  It’s really hard!) We spend 5 hours at Immigration, basically in one large room filled with chairs and 30 numbered windows. Matt was sent back and forth from window to window, filling out paperwork, paying money, and waiting.

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Libby sleeping on my lap at Immigration.

Praise God, Chloe and Libby were on their best behavior and somehow waited patiently in those hard chairs that entire time, only breaking for lunch at a small place next door.  Finally we were told that we could have the paperwork by the end of the day (for a fee), so we all left for the hotel and Matt went back later and miraculously, after waiting for another three hours, the paperwork was completed!

Back at our hotel for the night we started looking for flights back to the U.S.  Matt spoke with our travel agent who began looking for us also.  At that point the only flight leaving the next day was full, so we decided to go to the airport the next day at midnight to try to catch some tickets on standby.

August 11, 2015. Our 8th wedding anniversary! Since we had nothing else to do during the day, we figured we would celebrate by going to the nearby humungous SM Asia Mall. We enjoyed an Italian meal together for lunch as a family and Coldstone ice cream for dessert. (Can’t complain about that!)

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Our family date, August 11, 2015.

We went back to our hotel and took Libby for her first swim in a pool. I will truly never forget that anniversary! That night we left for the airport after dinner. The bellboys carried all of our luggage again down to the taxi and we waited at the airport, but it didn’t look promising. Matt spoke again the the airline supervisors and then to our travel agent. There were no flights for weeks. After a while our travel agent found us a flight on a different airline the next day. That meant we would have to forfeit our current tickets and buy new ones. Ugh. So, that’s what we did. On this flight we would have to fly out of Manila, then spend the next night in the Seoul airport (they have rooms to rent) before flying directly to Detroit. It seemed perfect. What a relief! Again we loaded all 7 suitcases back in the taxi to go back to our hotel for one more night.  The bellboys graciously carried our luggage back to our room. We’re so grateful for those wonderful generous bellboys and airline porters. I will never forget the feeling the next day as we passed though the security gate in Manila. We were headed home!  The rest of the trip was smooth sailing, including our stay at the Seoul Incheon Airport.

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Chloe posing with all of our luggage in our hotel room.

I tell you all of these details so that I don’t forget God’s goodness to us and also because I feel like it applies to the circumstance we find ourselves in today.  Throughout that whole ordeal I never once thought to myself, “We will never get there!” It was always just a question of when. Right now we are marking a year of fundraising in the U.S. to go back to the Philippines.  We’re not thinking, “We will never get there!” It’s just a matter of when. God will provide just like He provided a year ago. As we wait we can look back and remember that God is a good God who will provide. When He provides we will continue to thank Him and make our departure for the next journey. God is good!

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Sweet Libby, ready to board our flight home. 

 

Brought to You by the Letters “P” and “F”

by Christine Sauder
Today’s lesson is brought to you by the letters “P” and “F”. “P” is for patience and “F” is for faith. Teaching me some of those lessons are two little girls, Chloe and Libby. Although they may be cute, they are also very tough teachers.
As you may know, we have started homeschooling Chloe for the past few weeks and as you may also know, that takes a lot of patience. I have taught students in public school for 7 years and I believe that it is safe to say that it takes more patience to teach your own children. We have lots of fun with our “circle time” and reading lots of stories and I’m enjoying spending extra time with my kids. But I am forced to eat an extra dose of the fourth fruit of the spirit on a daily basis so that Chloe’s learning time doesn’t always result in a mean mommy.
Don’t let Libby’s wide and toothy grin fool you. She is a master at teaching patience. I would be the first to deny it, but we have a toddler on our hands. She has not quite learned the word “no,” or maybe she just hasn’t decided to let us know that she’s learned it.  I’ll give you a short list of examples: “No, don’t pull the cord out of the socket,” “no, don’t lick the wall,” “no, don’t stand on the coffee table,” “no, those are peas, not balls, and shouldn’t be thrown on the floor,” and “no, don’t brush the dog’s paws with your toothbrush.” (I promise, I threw that toothbrush away.) Some of these examples have been repeated more than once and therefore, teach me a lot of patience.

Walking hand in hand with patience is faith. I have faith that someday Chloe won’t need me to read to her all the directions in her lessons and she won’t need to spend an extra ten minutes (ok, I may be exaggerating) picking out the right sticker to decorate her schoolwork. I also have faith that someday Libby won’t try to eat sand out of the sandbox.  I will miss these trying days in the future and I know that they’ll soon grow up. These lessons about faith and patience have good timing because as we wait for God to show us when exactly we can return to the Philippines, we wait with patience having faith that He will provide exactly what we need.

Hebrews 11:1 says, “Faith is the confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” We have the confidence that God will provide in His own timing and we just need to wait patiently. Today’s lesson brought to you by the letters “P” and “F”.

Home is…

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We have all heard the phrase “Home is where the heart is.” Around the holidays both Matt and I gave each other a gift that centered around the phrase “Home is…”  I received a plaque that said “Home is where mom is” and Matt received a picture frame that said “Home is wherever I’m with you.”  I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we both were feeling that we needed a sense of “home” as we are currently living in transition. We have had a lot of changes over the past 8 months and one of those have included leaving behind our home in the Philippines and living with Matt’s parents.  We spend a lot of our time traveling, especially on the weekends, and a common phrase we hear from Chloe is, “Where are we going?” And after a trip to a different church somewhere, usually the response is “Home.  To Grandma and Papa Sauder’s house.” For some reason I feel that I need to clarify where home is.  Sometimes home is the hotel room or person’s home we are staying in for the weekend.  Sometimes home is Grandma’s house.  Sometimes home even feels like it’s in our car! (Although that would be a very dirty home!) We are so thankful to have wonderful places to call “home” during our stay in the U.S.

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Also recently I heard a phrase that many of you have probably heard before, perhaps when someone is looking for a house to buy, you might hear them talk of their ‘forever home.’ It is meant to refer to the home of your dreams; a home that you can see yourself and your family living in for the rest of your life. Personally, I don’t like this phrase and I hope that no one will be offended if I tell you why.  I don’t want to plan out where I will live for the rest of my life. I want to be where God’s plan is for my life.  To me forever means eternity and I want to spend eternity in the Home that God has planned for me.  As Christians we know that our home is not here on earth but in heaven. I don’t want to store up for myself treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But I want to store up for myself treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where my treasure is, there my heart will be also (Matthew 6:19-20).  

As I think about my heavenly Home, I know that it will be better than any earthly ‘forever home.’ Even though I may sometimes wish that I had a majestic mantle to decorate, walls to paint, and a permanent address, I know that the Home that God has planned for me will surpass anything I can imagine.

Better is one day in your courts
    than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
    than dwell in the tents of the wicked.

 For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
    the Lord bestows favor and honor;
no good thing does he withhold
    from those whose walk is blameless.
 Lord Almighty,

    blessed is the one who trusts in you.

Psalm 84: 10-12

How My Second Pregnancy is Different

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1. We live in the PHILIPPINES! For obvious reasons this may be the biggest difference from my first pregnancy and many of the reasons following this one may be a direct result of this reason.  For people in the United States, I want to share some differences that I have found so far.  Being pregnant here is not that different than being pregnant in the U.S.  Besides not being able to find maternity clothes at the store (thank goodness for belly bands that held my pants up for 7 months and great parents who send things from the U.S.) and perhaps being stared at a little more (white pregnant ladies are not very common here in Butuan City), I haven’t found a lot of major differences during my actual pregnancy.  Most of the differences will come into play when we actually have the baby.  We are having our baby at a private hospital here in Butuan City.  We were blessed to have a hospital tour this week which put my mind at ease to see the room where we will be staying and take a look at the nursery. Chloe enjoyed visiting the cute babies. Unlike in the U.S., Matt will have to act like my “nurse” during our hospital stay.  It is necessary here to have a relative stay with you in the hospital to help you get to the bathroom and help you sit up in bed, etc.  Since Matt will be staying with me the whole time, Chloe will be too! We will bring plenty of food and snacks and games to keep her occupied. I will be packing some food for myself so that I can have foods I enjoy while I am recovering.  We will have lots of things to bring the the hospital since here you have to provide a list of items for the baby like clothes, towels, blankets, rubbing alcohol, wipes, and diapers.  We will be packing lots of water since the water at the hospital is not safe for us to drink or even brush our teeth with.  Also, Matt will not be able to be with me in the operating room during my c-section.  So Matt and Chloe will be sweating it out in the hallway waiting for myself and the baby to come out!  They might be sweating literally because the hallways are not air-conditioned, just the rooms.  After the baby is born, they would like to monitor her for several hours because of the c-section, so she won’t be in the recovering room with me.  We are planning to have her in our room with us for the rest of our stay though, which is not quite as common here.  But we want to all be together after waiting so long to meet her!

2. We know what we are having! Chloe wanted a baby sister and she got her wish.  When I was pregnant with Chloe we only had 1 ultrasound and she modestly kept her legs closed so we had to be surprised when she arrived.  This time around, we have had an ultrasound every time we have had a doctor’s visit.  They are much cheaper here and we have been blessed to see cute little pictures all along the way.

3. We are having a planned c-section.  Since Chloe ended up arriving via c-section, we are having a planned c-section for baby #2.  She is actually breech currently so I may have ended up needing a c-section just for that reason.  This has helped for several reasons.  First of all, you read of all the packing we need to do, so I’m sure that knowing the exact day will help ease the stress of forgetting to bring something to the hospital.  Also, Matt’s parents are coming to visit for a week after the baby is born and it’s nice to know that she will be here and there is no guessing about when she will arrive.  We will be very thankful for their visit and help very soon after we get home from the hospital.  We might not get as much sight-seeing done, but the grandparents will really be here to see their grand-babies!

4. I have gained a lot less weight during this pregnancy.  My doctor was a little concerned about her growth at first but praise God, at our last appointment she was pleased with the baby’s growth. I have been trying to eat more and rest more. We welcome your prayers that the baby will continue to grow healthy and strong!

5. We will spend a lot less money on this pregnancy and hospital stay.  We have been blessed by a great Christian doctor who goes to our church who has blessed us during this time and also everything is just cheaper here.  This is a great blessing since our insurance didn’t cover this pregnancy.

6. We have a lot less baby stuff! When Chloe was born I was given several showers and I don’t think I even bought diapers for the first 9 months at least.  We saved a lot of things, but most of them are in the U.S.  We are having a few things sent here but since we plan to be back in the U.S. by the time the baby is 3 months old, we don’t really want to have too many things to pack up to send back.  She has her own bassinet in our room and a small little closet with a few clothes in it. We call this the “baby corner.”  I’m sure she will survive the first few months of her life without a nursery full of items but it does seem so different to not have all those things! As a nesting mother though, I still feel the need to go shopping in the next few weeks and make sure we have everything we need.

7. I’m much warmer during this pregnancy! Since it is currently summer here in the Philippines, it is very hot and humid.  Honestly, if I go outside, it’s not for very long.  We are very thankful to have air-conditioning here at our house, unlike many people.  I always carry water and a fan with me outside the house because I am sure I will use them!

As you read this, I hope you remember to pray for all of us over the next month.  Baby #2 is scheduled to arrived May 25th and I’m sure that especially the hospital stay we will need lots of prayer.  Matt will be very busy taking care of all 3 of us! Pray my recovery is quick from my c-section so that we can enjoy our newest family member!  I thank God for the many differences that we have experienced and the new experiences that are on their way.

Smothered In Love

Have you ever had that feeling of weight being pressed on your shoulders? And this time I mean in a good way?  I felt this feeling at a church in our hometown of Indianapolis when I was surrounded by a group of small girls who were praying for me before we departed for the Philippines.  This feeling was duplicated numerous times as we visited churches to ask for support and prayers before we left.  I never imagined that this feeling of being loved by the Christians who have promised to pray for us would be such a weight, a feeling of being smothered in love.  As we start this new month of November, of thankfulness, I want to take the time to say thank you to everyone who is praying for us.  We feel those prayers. We felt them as we traveled on long flights to make our way here.  Yes, I even felt them when Chloe decided to throw up IN MY HANDS on the 14 hour flight. We felt them as we visited in Manila for a week when we arrived here.  Again I was overwhelmed with the love that the fellow missionaries there showed us as they pampered us for a week.  I felt the love of the members of the church there who prayed for us and gave us advice before traveling to Butuan City.  And yet again I was overwhelmed with love as we got off the plane here in Butuan City and was greeted by members of our church here with flowers to put around our necks.  We feel the love of our new church as they teach us their culture and language.  I feel the prayers of everyone as I take on this new adventure of pregnancy in another country.  (P.S. Pinterest is not a good place to stare at recipes that involve food that they do not have here in the Philippines. I WILL be attempting to make my own bagels.) We are so blessed and thankful to have already an Ob/Gyn who attends our church and church members who are willing to show us where the clinic is.  So again a big thank you to everyone who is praying for us.  Keep it up!

Every time you cross my mind, I break out in exclamations of thanks to God. Each exclamation is a trigger to prayer. I find myself praying for you with a glad heart. I am so pleased that you have continued on in this with us, believing and proclaiming God’s Message, from the day you heard it right up to the present. There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.

Philippians 1:3-6

A Beautiful Reminder

by: Matt Sauder

Today it finally hit me. I was with my family at Crossroads Evangelical Church, the church I grew up attending as a child. The first song they sang was “Oceans”, by Hillsong United. You can click here to listen to the song. What a wonderful song! I sang the words,

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever you would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith would be made stronger
In the presence of of my Savior

As I uttered these words the Lord spoke to me and tears ran down my cheek. We are being led by Jesus into the deep waters, the unknown, and He is strengthening our faith and He has called us to do His work. It was just a beautiful reminder that He is with us and will continue to lead us, strengthen us, fill us and mold us in His will. I was just filled to the full this morning and have no doubt that He will always be with us and give us the strength to tread and walk on water if only we we have a grain of faith. Thank you Jesus!

Growth Requires Loss

“Growth requires loss because you have to let go of the old to grab hold of the new.”

Rick Warren

I was struck by how appropriate it was that I noticed this quote on our new Asia Area Director, Eric Spangler’s Facebook page this week. As I said goodbye to my students, fellow co-workers and my classroom, it was filled with bittersweet moments.  It wasn’t so hard to tell my students I was leaving or say goodbye to them, because students come and go and it didn’t really seem so different than any other year.  I left my classroom like any other Friday afternoon.

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It was Monday that was a different story.  It started out like any other with a meeting and grading papers.  But it was when I started packing up that I had to start fighting back the tears.  As I went through my desk I found small knick-knacks that reminded me of moments and people and students.  I found wads of paper behind my college diploma.  I took down every poster and cleaned out every drawer.  I found two calculators under a shelf that I had been missing.  For a place that held such challenging moments it was still hard to say goodbye.  I had been in the same classroom for that last six years, working with the majority of the same people.  I was blessed to work with a wonderful team of teachers and co-workers. For every challenging day that I had in that building full of hormonal teenagers, I also had pretty good ones too.  Ironically the most challenging students were the ones that gave me the biggest hugs.

This quote kept bouncing in my head.  I had to let go.  I had to give hugs to students, teachers, teacher-aids, and custodians.  I let the tears fall because I know that I need to grow.  God has called me to change my path and I will follow.

 

Our Words | 2014

Our Words - 2014

We decided our theme for our 2014 partnership building tour.  It’s “Our Words”.  We really want all that we say and all that we do to be completely pleasing to the Lord.  We’ve been picking people’s brains lately trying to learn as much as we can about the Philippines and the great Filipino culture.  We were talking recently to a couple who said that the people in Butuan City love games…especially Scrabble.  They said they could whoop you any day in Scrabble.  And we just happen to really enjoy Scrabble too. We were thinking since Scrabble is a word games and we wanted to focus on our words, why not combine them to make our theme. We’ve been having fun thinking of Scrabble themed things to do.  We’ll be giving out Scrabble tiles as we travel around so that people can remember to pray for us.

To go along with our theme we have a verse that fits perfectly.  Our theme verse is Psalm 19:14:

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We are truly excited to share with churches and people what we’re preparing to do and why God has interrupted us and put us on a new course.  If you’re interested in having us come talk to your church please contact us and we’d be happy to try to find a time to visit.

Tomorrow morning we will be sending out our first edition of our e-newsletter, “The Scoop on the Sauders”.  It has been fun writing and we’ll continue to send out a new one every month.

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Looking forward to writing more, growing more and get more excited as we get closer and closer to leaving.

Have a great week!  Happy Cinco de Mayo!

A Great Light of Hope in the Darkness

Great-Light-of-Hope-in-the-Darkness-bannerThis is an article I wrote for Free Methodist World Missions on January 28, 2014.

http://fmcusa.org/fmwm/2014/01/28/a-great-light-of-hope-in-the-darkness/

” January 9, 2014

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I’m sitting here in the airport in Yangon, Myanmar, waiting to depart. I am filled with great sorrow and a burden for the world. I’ve seen the great poverty that floods the streets of Myanmar, and I’ve seen the extreme oppression of religions and politics during my time here. To be a Christian in Myanmar is not easy. Yet, I’ve also seen a light … a great light of hope in the darkness. I’ve seen a side to Myanmar that most do not see. I see this beautiful hope. I’ve seen churches that are working hard to provide education, care and love to children and college students. I’ve seen the Spirit of the Living God shine brightly in neighborhoods clouded by the haze of the evil one. I’ve seen Christian leaders who are bringing good news of great joy to the people. I’ve seen a place of great hope for a great future. I have a burden in my heart for the people of Myanmar – a beautiful country filled with rich resources whose people will learn this truth: someday every knee will bow in Myanmar and every tongue will confess in Burmese that Jesus Christ is Lord of all. Amen.”

Matt_Riding_ElephantI was given the amazing opportunity to travel this past December and January to both Thailand and Myanmar for VISA Ministries’ Global Studies Intensive (GSI). I visited many places and even had the chance to ride an elephant. But the best part was meeting and becoming friends with 40 Christians who came from 13 different countries from around the world. I learned so much about ministry and faith from our conversations. On top of that we had world-class teaching from great leaders around the world. What an amazing opportunity this was. I sat and soaked it all in. I heard people talk about true persecution that happens almost every week. I sat in awe as I heard stories that could make you just cry. God taught me a lesson in being bold. He taught me a lesson in living out my faith. I was given a new passion for sharing the Gospel … a new passion for missions.

Myanmar_2I gained a better understanding of Asia, and I saw a glimpse of my family’s future, as we soon will be moving to the Philippines as missionaries. Most of all, I acquired a burden. A deep burden that sits at the bottom of my stomach. A deep burden for the people of the world. A burden to love more than I ever thought I could love. I also saw that in the midst of darkness there is a light – a great light of hope. I plan to make a difference. I plan to share the light. I plan to shine it bright. I plan to not let it be extinguished. I am a Christian, and I am on a mission: to shine the light of Jesus to the world. The great light of hope in the darkness.

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Happy New Year…twice!

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As we start this new year, it was the first time our family was able to celebrate the new year, twice. As you have seen, Matt had the previlage of celebrating the new year in Thailand while Chloe and I celebrated with his family in Ohio.  He is off preparing and learning about misssions. On this first day of the year I am refectling on the decisions that we have made in 2013 that will change our lives in 2014.  We have known for some time that God has called us to serve in some way in missions but just lately He has opened doors for us to be able to serve in the Phillipines.  Some people ask me, “Aren’t you scared to move to another county away from family and friends?” and my response is no.  But I am scared.  I am afraid of how my life would turn out if I say no to God’s call in my life.  I have prayed about it a lot and the only response I can think of to God’s call is “YES.”  I am excited about many things about this upcoming adventure but mostly I am excited about what God is going to do through my family as we are supported by friends and family to travel to the other side of the world to minister to others.  So as you think about what 2014 holds for you and your family, please think about ways you can say “YES” to God’s call in your life.  Happy New Year!

Matthew 4:19-22

“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him. Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.