I’m still terribly jet-lagged, which means I’m wide-eyed at 2:07 am. Well, I’m almost never wide-eyed (I was reminded of my smallish eyes countless times while in the Philippines) but please accept the euphemism.
I thought I’d give some thoughts about our marvelous team. I love ’em.
1) Hannah Speiller – Our youngest member at the tender age of 17, I often had to remind myself that she was only 17. She has a precocious presence about her, and an unfading energy that loves to tell fabulous stories, make funky music with her mouth, and make kids smile. It was such a joy to have Hannah on the trip, and she was always up for fun… anytime, anywhere, laughter would follow her wherever we went. I told her that when I was in high school, she was the friend I would die to have – cool and popular, kind, bookish, and godly.
2) Mike Favilla – People joked that I had a man crush on Mike, and quite frankly, it’s true. Mike is a giant teddy bear, in addition to being a guy’s guy. I can easily hang out with him for hours on end. Not a day has gone by when I’ve mentioned to Tina, “Do you remember when Mike…”? She’s a little worried. Loyal, dependable, flute-playing, hilarious, easy-going, servant-hearted – that’s Mike Favilla. He also won the contest of most friendship bracelets from the kids, I believe. He even pointed the kids toward me when he noticed I didn’t have any. How can you not love the guy? Ladies, the man is single.
3) Rosy Kandathil – Rosy is an amazing woman. She is super fun, smart, insightful, wise, and so much more. I had the utmost respect for Rosy going on the trip, and my opinion soared even higher. Rick said it well one night – when Rosy is with people, she’s with them. It doesn’t matter who the person is – a child, teenager, or adult – Rosy is with people. That takes incredible maturity, folks, especially when someone of her natural gifts and status can be intimidating. Also, have any of you heard Rosy preach or teach? You really should. And if you haven’t seen her paint, you really should. And if you haven’t heard her sing at karaoke, you really should. And, I’ll stop.
4) Joe Philip – I’ve already mentioned Joe in my previous post, but man, this guy is the man. What struck me most on this trip was his willingness to serve, even-keel, joyfulness, and passion for Jesus. He led Spirit-led worship for us, fended off lizards, slayed spiders, and oh by the way, he’s also a doctor who tended to sick team members. He did this while sick, ladies and gentleman. I didn’t even know the brother was sick! He’s the type of person that people move toward – I think it’s because he’s one of the least judgmental fellows I know. I know this sounds crazy, but the fact that Joe is a Yankee fan almost made me one too on this trip. Almost… until Mike would parade around with his Yankee gear.
5) Anna Philip – Anna is such an inspiration to me. She made a profound effect on the people she met, and I noticed this most on our last night, when kids would line up to embrace her. I admire how she wears her emotions on her sleeves, whether it’s pure joy at the sight of coffee, fearful yelps at over-sized bugs, or compassionate tears for a family in need. There seemed to be a seamless intersection of Anna’s stories and peoples’ stories that brought about deep connection, and I was moved many times when I saw or heard these encounters. Plus, she’s got this toughness and tenacity that’s hard to describe – her team would win all these games and I wouldn’t get mad – weird, right?
6) Christina Park – Any time I get to gush about my lovely wife, I will :). I’m so thankful she went on this trip, and we had an extraordinary time together. I appreciate so much how she’s strong where I’m weak, and how she leads with great care, service, and decisiveness. Every night we would discuss the day’s events, laugh at all the silly occurrences, remind each other of how grateful we are, and fall asleep with great joy and contentment. There were a couple of disagreements we had, but in usual Tina fashion, she was super gracious and beautifully differentiated. In almost 90% of the letters I received, they read, “Dear Kuya Drew, Ate Tina is lovely and beautiful.” I get facebook messages regularly that are not asking about me, but about Ate Tina and if she’s free to talk to them. I can get used to living in my wife’s shadow. I am a lucky, lucky man. My wife is the best.
7) Josh De Castro – An honorary guest on our trip, Josh is a student in Manila who was also with the Harners for two weeks. I appreciated Josh’s eager willingness to grow and be challenged as a person. He made a commitment to be a whole-hearted follower of Christ while on the trip! We talked many times in the evenings and I would notice a deep desire to love God and others, and that really struck me. He’s back in Manila, and hopefully feeling better after battling a headache for the past few days.
8) Rick Harner – I can’t say enough about Rick. I absolutely loved spending time with him. Aside from having me rolling on the floor a few times with jokes he would make here and there, he has one of the biggest hearts I’ve come across. Meanwhile, he’s a visionary leader who has seen the fruit of his dreams come to reality in that community. I marveled at how much they had done in just four years. Kuya Rick is a household name in Nangka. Meanwhile, one of Rick’s head tutors described him this way: 1) Faithful to God, 2) Good Father, and 3) Strict (in a good way). He didn’t pay her to say this… this is just who he has shown himself to be for four years.
9) Jiji Harner – Jiji has an infectious smile and spirit, and she’s a tremendous visionary leader too. These guys are a power-packed couple. She’s wise and fun, so people kinda flock to her – as in, the whole neighborhood. If you’ve heard her testimony, you’d know why I call her a hero. The same tutor described Jiji: 1) Faithful to God, 2) Good Mother, and 3) Fighter (in a good way). I am amazed at her courage, her giving heart, and her leadership. She’s making an indelible impact on leaders in the Philippines, people in their community, and young women throughout.
10) Josephine and Alicia Harner – These girls, three and two, respectively, are to die for. I become putty in their hands when I’m with them, and I’m pretty sure they know this.