Teacups in the Jungle

Life stories from a missionary mama

On February 1st, I sat in our little house in a mountain village in Northern Luzon, Philippines, and opened my Bible for my quiet time with the Lord. We had been living there for seven months and the continual noise right outside my window, no matter the time, was beginning to become familiar to me. The neighbour’s boys squabbled, the roosters crowed and the local school girls shouted in to see if Izzy and Judah were awake on their way past. I tried to tune it all out as I opened to my daily reading; Exodus 13. I smiled and nodded, this portion of scripture, a favourite of mine. 

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This was a chapter that the Lord has used at many pivotal times in my life and I had soaked up the words that particular morning, challenged by the thoughts the Lord brought to my mind, and shared them later with Danny. “I wonder what the Lord has for us in the weeks ahead?” I had asked him.

The next evening, Danny found a large, tennis ball size tumour on his hip. We emailed back and forth with a missionary doctor in Manila and as we answered his questions, he suggested that we go right away to Manila to get it checked out. 

At 10pm, on a Friday night, I packed a bag in the dark (so as not to wake the Izzy and Judah) and we prepared to leave on an emergency helicopter trip the next morning at 7am. We thought we would probably all be back home in a week. 

We woke the kiddos early the next morning, told them to take two favourite toys and we closed our door to our home and ran to catch the helicopter. We said goodbye to nobody in the village that morning since we thought we would be back in a week. 

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The following Friday, after a week of tests and doctor appointments, Danny had surgery in a hospital in Manila to remove the tumour. A few weeks later it was diagnosed to be a high-grade stage 3 myxoid liposarcoma cancer and we were suddenly on a very different journey than we had ever expected. We still thought we may be back in the Philippines after a few months and we were hopeful that this was just a “bump in the road.” 

We returned to the States a week later and, after visits with local oncologists and sarcoma specialists in LA, it was decided Danny would need extensive treatment; months of chemotherapy, followed by a few months of radiation and then, of course, there would need to be a time of recovery and lots of followup scans. As we listened to this news, sitting in a doctor’s office, my stomach turned, the year ahead blurred and our home in the jungle felt further away than ever before. The noises that were once loud and intense, fell silent. This was more than a bump in the road, the Lord was leading us on a roundabout way and we had no idea where it was going. 

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They started Danny’s chemotherapy right away and he has finished his third of six cycles of treatment. It takes 6-7 hours a day to receive the treatment with blood tests every morning. He has been tired, weary, nauseous and had a terrible bout of the hiccups for 6 days, which caused him to get no rest. He then has 2 weeks off between the cycles and it continues on that schedule as long as his blood work is ok, showing his body can handle another round. It is much more difficult than I thought and yet we have been carried along by the Lord’s grace and the answers to so many prayers from the precious family of God around the world. God’s Word has led us through the many emotions of the past months, giving us a path of peace and confidence to walk through some of the most difficult circumstances of our lives. We have been uprooted from a life and a ministry that we love and are passionate about. We are in a country where I cannot live (as yet) permanently. We have nothing to our name here, no house, no job, few possessions and a diagnosis that is obviously serious enough to cause great concern among the doctors to choose this course of treatment. And in the midst of it all, we are trying to give as much security to two little loves who have been dealing with their own fears and losses and missing the home they know and love very much.

And yet, friends, if we were sitting having coffee together, I’d let you know that, yes, it has been hard. We have cried, wondering when we will ever be “home” in the Philippines again and I hate to see Danny suffer, BUT GOD has been to us everything we have needed, moment by moment. We do not fear the road ahead, because we believe with all our hearts that He will go with us and He goes before us. 

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I have thought back to those verses I read in Exodus that morning and I see the Lord’s hand of mercy in them more than ever before. The children of Israel had just been uprooted in the most miraculous of ways as God has set them free from Egypt. They were beginning a new journey and through these chapters we get to see the story from the perspective of the children of Israel and, also, from the Lord.

In verse 17, we see that God did not lead them along the main road, even though it was the shortest way, but He took them on a roundabout way because He knew that they would not be able to handle a battle along the way. In His mercy and wisdom, He took them the longer way, the roundabout way. Then He placed Himself before them and behind them, so they would never forget He was right there with them. 

At the beginning of chapter 14 and further along in the chapter again, He lets us see His reasoning for the things that He is doing – to display His glory, so that they would know that He is the Lord. 

When we read the story with this in mind, it all makes so much sense. The Lord was their deliverer, their Saviour, their leader and no one else was to have the honour and glory for their salvation. He wanted the glory for the works of His hands and that meant taking it out of everybody else’s hands, so there was no doubt that God was God and He was the only One who could deliver them. Their trust was to be totally in Him because He was the only one who was worthy of it. He was going to display His power to the nations around them. 

And yet, as the story progresses and things become more difficult we can see it from the perspective of the children of Israel. They have been taken on this roundabout way, they have camped day after day on an unknown journey with no home in sight, being chased behind by the Egyptians and with the impossible situation of the Red Sea before them. So much upheaval, changing plans, confusion, unknowns and fear. It was not their ideal plan, it wasn’t what deliverance from slavery was to look like. 

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Can you relate a little to some of those feelings of the Israelites? Have you found your plans laying broken on the floor as the Lord has taken you on your own roundabout way? Sometimes, we find ourselves in places we never thought we would be. Hard places. Hopeless places. Fearful places. 

What was the response of the Children of Israel?

They panicked. 

As the Egyptians gained on them and, feeling no control over their situation, they turned to Moses in fear, and confusion, they questioned the Lord and what He was doing. “What have you done to us?” This isn’t how it was meant to be!

And then Moses tells them to just stay calm because the Lord Himself will fight for them. 

And God did just what He said He would do. 

In verse 22, the Children of Israel walked through the middle of the Red Sea with walls of water on each side. How must that have felt? What must that have done within their hearts to see God, Almighty God, their deliverer, make a way for them? And as each one of them safely arrived on the other side, the water came back down on their enemy and God, who had promised to rescue and deliver them, delivers and rescues them, again. He is always who He says He is! 

I love the last verse of chapter 14, after all that God had brought them through, what did they do?

Their response was that they were in awe of Him and they put their faith in Him. 

This was what the Lord deserved all along! Not because of all He had done for them, but simply because of who He is. He was always worthy of their awe, devotion, faith and trust and He had their very best, as His will, all along. His roundabout ways and leading them to impossible situations was not to make everything harder for them, but so that they would know that HE is the Lord. He was the only One worthy of their faith and trust and He was to be worshipped and adored for who His is. 

And friends, I have thought back to these verses so much in the past few months as God has led us on our own roundabout journey. We have had moments of fear as everything we have known to be “ours” has been taken away. We are on an unknown journey and we have no idea, as yet, where the Lord is leading us. But, He is the same God as the God of this story, and in His MERCY, He sometimes chooses to lead us on these roundabout ways. He knows us and He knows what we need so that we may know who He is – our Great God. 

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I am asking God to help me to live with the final response to who He is and not in reaction to the circumstances that we find ourselves in. I want to have that final response of the Children of Israel, not because the outcome is good and I have seen God split the Red Sea, but because I believe who God says He is in His Word. He deserves my awe, my love and devotion as we travel each step on this new journey. He goes with us, He goes before us and He will make a way for us through the seemingly impossible situations. I believe it with all my heart and soul.

He holds Heaven and Earth in His Hands and He owes us nothing. He owes us no reason for what He does, no explanation for the circumstances in our lives, no good outcome because we are following Him, and yet, He gives us something so much better – He gives us Himself. 

He will fight for us and we need only be still in the knowledge that He is God. 

If you find yourself on a roundabout way, let’s remember this together; God has a purpose. Instead of reacting, in fear, to the circumstances around us, let’s ask Him to help us respond in faith to who He is as we journey these unknown paths He has set before us.

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With love and thanks to each of you for your prayers, especially for Danny, during this time. We are so very grateful and we know God is answering those prayers according to His will.

Love, Philippa.

Judah says: “It has been hard that our Dad has cancer. Please pray for him. God made the earth the seas and the sky. There is nobody like Him. He is perfect.”

Izzy says; “We have a had a hard time traveling around the world again, but it is good that Dad has some good weeks. Judah and our family are praying for him and so we hope that you will, too. God  has taught me what it is like to live all over the world, to live in a new village and to now live here again in America – He is always with me wherever I go.”

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